Leaphorn & Chee – Books 6-10 // by Tony Hillerman

  • The Ghostway (1984)
  • Skinwalkers (1986)
  • A Thief of Time (1988)
  • Talking God (1989)
  • Coyote Waits (1990)

While the first five books of this series were an average of 3.5*, the next set moved firmly into the 4* range.  In Skinwalkers, Leaphorn reappears on the scene, and throughout the next four books, both men are involved in the mystery solving, although not always as a team – it’s interesting to have them sometimes almost opposing because of their different styles of detecting, and their different beliefs about the old ways.  The personableness of both characters vastly improved during this group of books, with more about their family lives and backgrounds, leaving me a lot more interested in them as people as well as interested in the mysteries themselves.

The actually mysteries were solid and did a decent job of wrapping things up.  Hillerman does a good job of talking about nuanced topics without it feeling preachy.  For instance, the entirety of Talking God is about ancient Native American artifacts and bones and managed to present varying viewpoints on whether old bones belong in museums or should be returned to modern Native Americans (even though in many instances there is not a direct oral history between them), and how archeological sites should be handled.  It was all very interesting and thoughtfully done, but never came across as polemic or divisive.

All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying these.  The next five are in the pile waiting to be read, but that probably won’t happen until January as I am intending to fully embrace Christmasy reads all throughout December!!

Leaphorn & Chee – Books 2-4 // by Tony Hillerman

  • Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
  • Listening Woman (1978)
  • People of Darkness (1980)
  • The Dark Wind (1982)

I read the first book in this series, The Blessing Wayin June, but for various reasons wasn’t able to get to the next few books until the end of July/early August.  When I read the first book, I really enjoyed the setting and thought the concept was interesting, but the mystery itself was a little weak, and I also struggled with the fact that we aren’t really given any personal information about the protagonist, Joe Leaphorn.  However, I decided to give the next books a chance, and I’m glad I did, as they have steadily improved.  Hillerman does a great job giving us plenty of context and background information to create a unique and engaging setting.  In Listening Woman, there is a whole subplot involving the AIM (American Indian Movement), which was very current for the time the book was published.  I was a little concerned as the books pushed into the 80s because so many crime writers seemed to think during that decade that you couldn’t be a real crime writer without lots of weird sex (I’m looking at you, Ed McBain), but these books have actually stayed pretty clean, greatly adding to my enjoyment of them.

I got a little confused because in People of Darkness, the protagonist abruptly changed from Joe Leaphorn to Jim Chee.  We’re given a little paragraph of reference to Leaphorn now being Lt. Leaphorn and working in an office in the norther part of the reservation, but both People of Darkness and The Dark Wind completely focus on Chee.  I really like Chee a lot, so it wasn’t like this was a bad thing, but it felt really weird and abrupt to suddenly have the stories focus on a completely different guy with a very different method of solving mysteries.

About halfway through Dance Hall of the Dead I finally found a map of the Navajo reservation and printed it off.  Reading these books without a map was just incredibly frustrating because the characters are constantly driving around to different places – everything is very spread apart out west – and Hillerman uses names without a lot of explanation (for instance, getting the map made me realize that Mexican Water is actually a town, not a lake or river, and Window Rock is both a town AND a mountain).  Finding the map increased my enjoyment of these books a LOT.  I’m just a super visual person, and being told things like “they drove from Albuquerque to Shiprock that evening” without any concept of how far apart those two places are was driving me batty.

Hillerman does a great job introducing aspects of the Navajo culture with respect.  I love how Chee really embraces his family’s traditions and is interested in becoming a Singer, learning many of the healing ways.  I’ve just finished the next five books in the series, and both Chee and Leaphorn (who returns as a protagonist later haha) have become a lot more personable, so that’s been lovely.

All in all, this has been a really worthwhile series that is getting steadily better as it goes.  These were all 3.5* & 4* reads for me, and the second batch were all 4*, so I’m quite excited to continue on!

June Minireviews – Part 3

Should I just give up on this project???  I’m weirdly stubborn about someday actually being CAUGHT UP on these reviews without skipping any. I may have a problem haha  And yes, things are still chaotic at the orchard!! However, the gardening season is winding down so hopefully the actual amount of work that needs to be done around the house will calm down a smidge.

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston – 4*

//published 2019// And that picture is from last year, not this June haha //

I read this one last year and really enjoyed it, so when a loose sequel appeared, I decided to reread this one first.  I enjoyed it just as much the second time – maybe even more.  The family is just so warm and loving in this story, which make all the dating scenarios fun and funny instead of weird and creepy.

10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston – 3.5*

//published 2021//

I did enjoy the follow-up but not quite as much as the original book, mainly because there isn’t as much big family time as their was in 10 Blind Dates.  Still, there is a lot to find entertaining here and the characters are all so likable that the overall book was fun.  My biggest issue – the core group of friends/cousins have had a life-long feud with two other cousins, and I would have really liked to have seen some better resolution with their relationship.  A few times it felt like they were on the cusp of a breakthrough of realizing how the “Evil Joes” could have felt left out so maybe the “evil” wasn’t all on one side… but it just never quite happened.  Still, this one was a lot of fun and I can definitely see myself rereading these again.

Emma by Jane Austen – 3.5*

//published 1815//

I reread this one as a chapter-a-day read with the PemberLittens group on Litsy.  Emma is by far my least favorite Austen, although I will say that I found it more readable in small doses – this is the highest I’ve ever rated this book haha  Emma is just soooo annoying and bratty.  I spend all my time wanting to smack her.  I also still am not a big fan of the romance here, mainly because, besides Frank Churchill, Emma has never had a chance to even MEET anyone else, having spent all her days in Highbury.  So while I do have a fondness for Knightley in general, there is also an inevitability to their relationship because really… who else does she have??  Every time I read Emma I think it’s the last time I’m going to read Emma.  Maybe I’m serious this time??

The Other Typist by Suzenne Rindell – 2.5*

//published 2013//

This book has been on my TBR since it was published in 2013. At the time, it got a lot of positive buzz from several bloggers that I follow. Since then, I’ve read one of Rindell’s later books (this one was her debut), Eagle & Crane, and loved it. All that to say, I was anticipating something a little creepy and intriguing, but ended up honestly being bored most of the time. Hardly anything happens for long swaths of book, other than the narrator constantly telling us that she’s unreliable and giving us a LOT of incredibly heavy-handed foreshadowing about where she ends up, meaning that there honestly weren’t a lot of surprises. The ending answered zero questions, which in this case just kind of felt like lazy writing instead of intriguing. It wasn’t a horrible read, but if this had been the first Rindell I read, I would never have bothered to pick up another. In Eagle & Crane she doesn’t try nearly as hard to be mysterious and it works so much better.  I can still see myself trying another of her books based on the strength of Eagle & Crane, but this one didn’t impress me.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1955//

I really enjoyed my chapter-a-day reread of this classic as well – it’s one of my favorites of the series and I still do NOT think it should EVER be read as the first book, despite being chronologically the first.  It’s so much richer and more meaningful when read after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I absolutely love reading about the creation of Narnia, the establishment of the kingdom, and the challenges that the children face.  It may be my favorite of the series overall.

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1934//

This isn’t my favorite of Heyer’s books, but it was June’s traveling book club book, and I actually enjoyed it more as a reread than I did when I first read it back in 2018.  Some of the scenes are honestly hilarious, and it does make use of the marriage of convenience trope, which is definitely my favorite.  As before, I found myself growing steadily more annoyed with the female main character’s stammer – something that doesn’t bother me at all in real life, but was q-q-q-quite annoying t-t-t-t-to r-r-r-r-read after a while.  Still, if you’re looking for just some relaxing fluff, it’s hard to go wrong with Heyer.

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman – 3*

//published 1970//

This is the first book in the next mystery series I am hoping to read – Leaphorn & Chee.  Set on the Navajo Reservation in southwest US, the main character of the first book is Joe Leaphorn.  There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about this one.  The setting was great and Hillerman does a fantastic job helping the reader understand the complicated jurisdiction lines when something as serious as murder occurs with the boundaries of the Indian reservation.  The mystery itself was engaging and the pacing was good.  However, Leaphorn himself was not a particularly knowable character?  We read the entire book and I never even found anything about where he lives or what is home life is like.  There is a casual reference to a message being left for him by his wife – but we never meet her.  Does he even like her?  Does he have children?  I don’t have to know ever nitty-gritty detail about a MC’s life, but Leaphorn ended up feeling a bit more like an outline of a person than someone I knew.  The mystery itself went a bit off the rails at the end as well, leaving me with a lot of questions, and this book undeniably NEEDED a map in the worst way – Hillerman was constantly and casually talking about driving from here to there without any real indication as to what that distance meant in real time (1 mile? 10 miles? 100 miles?).  Still, it was a good enough story that I felt like I wanted to give the second book a try – even if it didn’t come in at the library until the next month haha