REVIEW: RAINY DAY WOMEN, BY KAY KENDALL

 

Kay Kendall’s RAINY DAY WOMEN is the second book in the Austin Starr Mystery series. In 1969, during the week of the Manson murders and Woodstock, the intrepid amateur sleuth, infant in tow, flies across the continent to support a friend suspected of murdering women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. How much should Austin risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby’s life in danger?
My Thoughts: Having enjoyed Book One in this series, I was eager to rejoin amateur sleuth Austin Starr. Following along in her adventures in Vancouver, I loved how the reader is introduced to the early feminist struggles via a women’s group.

As a backdrop to Rainy Day Women, the vernacular of the 60s, the music, and the Woodstock festival, along with the Sharon Tate murders, offer up a real taste of what life was like back then.

Austin is an interesting character, determined and skilled at following clues. She was also a little bit naïve, but she made up for it by pushing ahead fearlessly. Her husband, David, opposed to her activities, seemed to take on the thoughts and feelings of a lot of men back then, worried and overly-protective.

Larissa, the daughter of a Russian immigrant, Professor Klimenko, was different in this outing. Previously, while in Toronto, she had been awed by Austin, but in this setting, and probably because she was a suspect in her friend Shona’s murder, she seemed brusque and irritable.

As Austin accompanied Larissa to the women’s lib group, she met other friends of Shona’s, and also a few rivals in the group. How did Shona’s former roommate Mia fit into what happened to her? Were her brashness and her violent ups and downs a factor? How does Becky, another woman in the group, recently separated from her controlling husband, add to the questions Austin has? Did Shona’s ex-boyfriend Jack have a motive to have killed her? Or would the answers lie closer to home in the chemistry lab, with the graduate students?

I did enjoy watching Austin zero in on the killer, and in an exciting finale, bring justice for her friend and the other women in the group. In the end, there were also unresolved threads in the form of an ex-US Senator who had been tailing her. I can see a Book Three on the horizon. 4.5 stars.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “RAINY DAY WOMEN”

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Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Wow, Friday already!  I’m excited to celebrate with a fairly recent download:  Rainy Day Women (e-book), (Austin Starr #2),  by Kay Kendall.   “An exciting jaunt back to the days of flower power and Women’s Lib, Kay Kendall’s RAINY DAY WOMEN explores serious issues that still resonate today, nearly fifty years later. “

 

 

 

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Beginning:  I stood, careful not to make any noise, afraid to waken the sleeping ogre.  If his constant twitches were any indication, he was only dozing.  If he woke up, he’d be a real beast and leave me no peace.

My bare feet inched along the floorboards.  I knew where the squeaky spots lurked and avoided them.

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56%:  A tear trickled down my left cheek.

“Are you okay, Austin?”  Mia’s voice was gentle.  “What’s bringing you down? You seemed happy and spunky only minutes ago.”

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Blurb:  Kay Kendall’s second Austin Starr mystery will have you believing it’s 1969 all over again. In a book where the musical references mean you’ll find yourself humming tunes now known as “classic vinyl,” Kendall peppers her work with references to the times which make the decades disappear – and she respects her readers enough to not overdo it. Her sense of place as she allows the mystery to unfold within Vancouver’s University of British Columbia, beset by the rain for which the “wet” coast is known, is pitch perfect. Hot diggity – a thoroughly enjoyable read. Now I’m off to dig out my Bob Dylan albums and find an old bra I can burn.”
– Cathy Ace, Author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries, and the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries

“Feminism, the ’60s, murder, and a friend in big trouble. Austin Starr is back to help, leaving her husband behind but bringing her baby along. Rainy Day Women is an entertaining and fast-paced mystery set in a turbulent time. Right on!”
– Bill Crider, Anthony Award-winning author of The Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery Series

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What do you think?  Would you like a flashback to the 60s?  Do the “changin’ times” resonate with you?

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REVIEW: DOLLBABY, BY LAURA LANE MCNEAL

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New Orleans in 1964 was still steeped in traditions, but all of that was about to change.

And for Liberty (Ibby) Bell, a twelve-year-old girl from Olympia, Washington, it was the time when her mother dropped her off, literally, on her grandmother’s doorstep.

A short time before, Ibby’s father Graham had died after a freak accident, and now her mother Vidrine had just told her she was here to visit her grandmother Fannie.

But all Ibby can remember about her grandmother, whom she had never met, was how much her mother hated her. So why was she leaving her there?

We follow Ibby’s sojourn in this unfamiliar Southern world, at the same time that the country is changing to accommodate the new Civil Rights Act. Sit-ins, protests, and racial tensions would be commonplace for the next few years, along with the Vietnam War. But in Fannie Bell’s household, tradition still reigns, and her home is run by her black household helpers, Queenie and Doll (also called Dollbaby), who are like a part of the family. Their delightful and warm personalities and the way they enfold Ibby as if she were one of their own made me feel right at home with them, too.

Dollbaby: A Novel is a story that wraps itself around the reader, revealing the historic moments in the life of a family that unfold much as the country’s historic moments have done. It spans almost a decade, from 1964 to 1972, but we also are gifted with moments from the past, revealing much about Fannie and the life she led before she became a mother and grandmother. Secrets, betrayals, violence, and the unconditional love that Ibby learns to accept as her due, are part of her heritage, even as her life follows a path dictated by her grandmother. Learning her grandmother’s secrets was also a gradual process, and this story made me laugh, cry, and remember how much history each family contains. Unforgettable story. 4.0 stars.

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REVIEW: DANCING IN THE STREETS, BY STEVEN UNGER

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For those of us old enough to have “been there” during the 60s, the memories of that time can probably be seen through a haze—Like the bumper sticker that proclaims: “If you remember the 60s, you weren’t there!” The author of Dancing in the Streets is able to recall those times, because he “took notes.” So we have before us a fascinating display of life in those colorful days, with the author’s alter ego, Steven Strazza, whose journey takes us to various parts of the US, including New York, Alabama and Detroit, among other cities, before we also follow him to France. We rejoin him in the states, back in Michigan before he heads west to territory that is familiar to me: San Francisco, the Santa Cruz mountains, and Nevada City.

Protests, literacy projects, and work in a psychiatric hospital were some of the highlights of his journey, and as I read our narrator’s stories about the psych hospital, I was reminded of the downside of that time. Our freedoms have been hard won in our current day and age, and perhaps we have the activism of the 60s and 70s to thank for some of that.

But Steven has an all-consuming desire to experiment with different living arrangements, and after trying various such configurations in cities, he follows another desire to be part of a rural commune. He is drawn to one such place near Vacaville.

Themes of social experimentation, drug use, and the quest for a chosen familial unit drive many of the stories in this fascinating tome that spans the 60s to the late 90s, and takes a departure into the distant past and what happened to some of the MC’s ancestors during murderous times.

The story begins in Brazil in 1996, sweeps back in time to the 60s, and ends back in the place where the Summer of Love happened, thirty years later: Golden Gate Park. Where our MC has the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends and to look back at his life…the high points, the search for belonging, and for love. A very colorful and visual portrayal that kept me reading until the very end. 4.5 stars.

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