Sunday, March 01, 2015

April Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

I hope you found some appealing titles in yesterday's April Treasures in My Closet. Hopefully, there are more books that you want to read in this second part.

Clifford Jackman makes his fiction debut with The Winter Family, a novel that traces "A group of ruthless outlaws from the its genesis during the American Civil War all the way to a final bloody stand in Oklahoma". The "Hyperkinetic Western noir" spans almost three decades, and a group led by a hardened leader, Augustus Winter who resists the rules of society and has a gift for butchery. The group serves as political thugs in a brutal Chicago election and bounty hunters in Arizona. The characters are killers, and dangerous. (Release date is April 14.)

A Desperate Fortune is Susanna Kearsley's novel of two women separated by centuries. For almost three hundred years, Mary Dundas cryptic journal has remained unread. Now, Sara Thomas, an amateur codebreaker has been sent to Paris to crack the cipher. Jacobite exile Mary Dundas longs for freedom, adventure, and the family she lost. When fate opens a door, she steps forth on a path that is more dangerous than she ever dreamt. As Mary's gripping tale is revealed, Sara is filled with her own challenges. "Though divided by centuries, these two women will be united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the coincidences of fate." (Release date is April 7.)

Ed Kovacs' The Russian Bride is a thriller set in the world of counter intelligence. Major Kit Bennings, an elite military intelligence agent works undercover in Moscow. Then, he's forced to marry a Russian woman with mob connections. With little to lose, "He goes rogue in the hope of saving his kidnapped sister and stopping a deadly scheme directed against America." (Release date is April 14.)

In her latest thriller, You Can Trust Me, Sophie McKenzie asks if you can really trust the people closest to you. When her best friend's death is ruled a suicide, Livy Jackson refuses to believe it. And, when she looks into the death herself, she discovers evidence that forces her to consider a terrible possibility. Julia may have been murdered by the same man who killed her own sister eighteen years earlier. And, that killer might be closer to Livy than she ever suspected. (Release date is April 14.)

The internationally acclaimed author Jo Nesbo brings us a stand-alone thriller, Blood on Snow. An antihero, an Oslo contract killer, draws us into a meditation on life and death. (Release date is April 7.)

Spanning twenty-five years, Marian Palaia introduces an unexpected casualty of Vietnam in her debut novel, The Given World. Those left behind suffer as well. Riley travels from the Montana plains to 1970s and '80s San Francisco, and on to Saigon, searching for her brother who went missing in Vietnam. Along the way, she meets members of a lost generation searching for ways to trust the world again. (Release date is April 14.)

Humor might not come to mind when you think of rabid killers, but the blurbs mention that element about Emily Schultz' The Blondes. There's a strange illness transforming blondes, CEOs, flight attendants, students or accountants, into rabid killers who are randomly attacking passers-by on the streets of New York. (Release date is April 21.)

In Emma: A Modern Retelling, Alexander McCall Smith presents his take on Jane Austen with a modern retelling of one of her classics. The summer after she graduates from university, Emma Woodhouse returns home to the village of Highbury, where she will live with her father until she's ready to launch her interior design business. In the meantime, she'll do what she does best; offer guidance to those less wise than she is in the way of the world. (Release date is April 7.)

All the Rage by Courtney Summers is a powerful story of a girl who spoke up and was rejected in a small town. Romy Grey woke up on the side of the road and can't remember how she got there. She can go on with her life, but when another girl disappears and she has ties to the same young man who assaulted Romy, she has to decide if she'll fight in a community ruled by men, where adults turn a blind eye, and authority figures are corrupt. (Release date is April 14.)

Maori detective Tito Ihaka returns in Paul Thomas' Fallout. The unkempt, profane and overweight cop has been demoted due to insubordination. When he's sent to inquire into the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl at an election night party in a ritzy Aukland villa, he becomes embroiled in a more personal mystery. His father, a trade union activist, did not die from natural causes. (Release date is April 14.)

David and Aimee Thurlo bring back Charlie Henry in Grave Consequences. The former Special Forces operative is now a pawnbroker, hoping he has the quiet life he's always wanted. A young Navajo man tries to retrieve a turquoise necklace with a suspicious story. When that doesn't work, he returns with reinforcements and guns. That necklace becomes a pawn, with multiple parties trying to get it, as Charlie and his allies try to find the truth. (Release date is April 28.)

I'll end with another debut novel, Gwendolyn Womack's The Memory Painter. It's a thriller and timeless love story spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history. It has so many elements including an internationally famous artist whose paintings stem from his vivid dreams and a brilliant neurogeneticist who tracks him down. There are visions of a team of scientists killed in an explosion, and a deadly enemy watching as the scientist and artist search for answers. And, you'll have to wait until April 28, release date.

April looks like an exciting month for books, doesn't it? What are you waiting to read?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

April Treasures in My Closet - Part 1

Is it just me, or did February seem to go on forever? Snow, cold, ice. Bah, humbug. One more reason to anticipate all of the books coming out in April. Spring! Will it ever be warm enough to open a window and smell spring while we read? I have a ton of books to suggest for April reading, including a few nonfiction. (We all know it's usually fiction on my TBR piles.) So many books, that, once again, the treasures are split in two posts.

Cynthia Barnett is an environmental and science journalist. Her book, Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, is the first book to tell the story of rain. The account begins four billion years ago, and builds to the storms of climate change. Along the way, Barnett shows rain as a unifying force, telling the history of rain, and using the book as a travelogue. (Release date is April 21.)

OK, speak up if you love the cover of Rebecca Barry's book as much as I do. Recipes for a Beautiful Life is "A Memoir in Stories". Barry and her husband moved to upstate New York to start their family, but, as always with those who move to an old house, their dream didn't turn out as expected. The book "blends heartwarming, funny, authentically told stories about the messiness of family life, a fearless examination of the anxieties of creative work, and sharp-eyed observations of the pressures that all women face." (Release date is April 7.)

In Lori Benson's The Wood's Edge, cultures collide on the New York frontier of 1757. It's home to the Oneida tribe and British colonists. When Major Reginald Aubrey swaps his stillborn son for the white son of an Oneida mother, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of everyone involved. (Release date is April 21.)

Kate Bolick's Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own examines the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. The book combines memoir with cultural exploration to examine why the author, along with over 100 million American women, remains unmarried. (Release date is April 21.)

I don't have time to review every book I receive, but I will be reading and reviewing James O. Born's Scent of Murder. I'm looking forward to the novel that W.E.B. Griffin calls "A gritty, realistic look at the men, women, and dogs in police K-9 units." Deputy Tim Hallett was tossed from the detective bureau after using questionable tactics while catching a child molester. Now, assigned to a special K-9 unit with the best partner in the world, a Belgian Malinois named Rocky, he uncovers the scent of a predator, one who seems connected to the case that destroyed his career. (Release date is April 7.)

Susan M. Boyer's first Liz Talbot mystery, Lowcountry Boil won both the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and the Daphne du Maurier Award. Lowcountry Boneyard is the third in the series. The twenty-three-year-old heiress to a Charleston fortune disappeared a month before her father hires private investigator Liz Talbot to find her. Liz and the Charleston Police Department believe she left because her father was too overbearing. But, family secrets and a ghost may reveal the truth. (Release date is April 21.)

A June of Ordinary Murders is a mystery debut that brings 1880s Dublin to life. Conor Brady, the former editor of The Irish Times, introduces Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow, investigating an "ordinary" crime. The Dublin Metropolitan Police classified crime in two classes; political crimes were seen as "special", and theft, robbery, and murder were "ordinary". But, it isn't long before Swallow's murder investigation suggests high-level involvement, leading to the navigation of political waters. (Release date is April 21.)

In Susanna Calkins' historical mystery, The Masque of a Murderer, a printer's apprentice learns a dangerous secret. In 17th century England, Lucy Campion is now a printer's apprentice. When she accompanies the local magistrate's daughter to the home of a severely injured Quaker to record his dying words, the man reveals he was pushed into the path of a horse because of a secret he recently uncovered. When Lucy and her friends search for the truth, they may find their investigation more dangerous than any of them had imagined. (Release date is April 14.)

Cold Trail is Janet Dawson's eleventh mystery featuring PI Jeri Howard. Her current missing persons' case is a personal one; her brother, Brian is missing. She thought his life was in great shape. But, she discovers there were problems in his marriage and with his job. And, two police detectives think Brian may have been involved in a homicide. It's time to find her brother. (Release date is April 7.)

Brendan Duffy's House of Echoes is an atmospheric debut thriller. When Ben and Caroline Tierney moved to the village of Swannhaven in upstate New York, they thought they were starting a new life with their eight-year-old son, Charlie. But, it isn't long before strange things begin to happen, and the family's dream is about to become a nightmare. (Release date is April 14.)

Eli Sharpe is an ex-pro baseball player turned private investigator who investigates cases related to his former profession. In Max Everhart's latest mystery, Split to Splinters, he looks into a case of family dynamics when Jim Honeycutt's baseball commemorating his three-hundredth career win goes missing. And, an anonymous note points to six females, Honeycutt's four daughters, their mother, or their mother's best friend. Even Eli, familiar with human treachery, isn't prepared for what he finds in this case. (Release date is April 1.)

Viper Wine, based on actual events, is Hermione Eyre's first novel. Venetia Stanley was the great beauty of seventeenth century England, inspiring Ben Jonson and Van Dyck. But, now that she's married, she's no longer adored, and she seeks a remedy. When an apothecary sells her "viper wine", a strange potion that is addicting and powerful, the ladies of the court of Charles I soon look unnaturally youthful. But, there's a terrible price to be paid, as science clashes with magic, and puritans clash with the monarchy. (Release date is April 14.)

Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice, now examines Huntington's disease in her latest novel, Inside the O'Briens. Joe O'Brien, a respected Boston police officer of only forty-four is also a devoted husband and father. But, his strange episodes of disorganized thinking and uncharacteristic temper outbursts lead to a diagnosis of Huntington's disease, a lethal disease with no treatment or cure. And, each of Joe's four adult children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease. While Joe's symptoms worsen, and he struggles to maintain hope, his children have to decide to take the simple test that will reveal their future, or live their lives "at risk". (Release date is April 7.)

Margaret Grace sends her characters to my favorite city in Manhattan in Miniature. Gerry Porter and her granddaughter Maddie go to New York City for a huge crafts fair. They get to work on making miniatures, solving crimes, and seeing Rockefeller Center and Radio City. But someone doesn't want to see them make it safely home to California. (Release date is April 7.)

What You Left Behind is Samantha Hayes' latest thriller, a story that explores the devastating aftermath of suicide. The rural village of Radcote has just begun to heal two years after a terrifying rash of teenage suicides. Now, it appears that that nightmare once again threatens the community. When Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher takes a vacation to Radcote to visit her sister, she becomes determined to discover the truth behind the deaths, and find answers that might help her own nephew. (Release date is April 14.)

Reykjavik Nights is a prequel to Arnaldur Indridason's series featuring Inspector Erlendur. The tenth volume in the series finds Erlendur a young, inexperienced detective walking beat on the streets in Reykjavik, encountering routine traffic accidents, theft, domestic violence, and an unexplained death. When Erlendur is the only one who cares about the death of a tramp, he's dragged into a strange, dark underworld. (Release date is April 21.)

Enough for today? Come back tomorrow for the second half of April Treasures in My Closet. In the meantime, let me know which of these books appear to you to be true treasures.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Winners and A Give Me a "B" Giveaway

I thought it was funny that both this week's winners are named Lisa. Lisa G. from Pensacola Beach, FL won the copy of Vicki Delany's Under Cold Stone. Jeffrey Siger's Sons of Sparta is going to Lisa W. from Rochester, IN. I'll put them in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries with authors whose names begin with B. One Potion in the Grave is the most recent Magic Potion mystery by Heather Blake. Carly Bell Hartwell's love potions are always in demand in Hitching Post, Alabama. But, when a childhood friend returns to town to settle a score with a senator, and ends up dead, Carly Bell vows to find her friend's killer.

Or, maybe you'd like to win M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin mystery, Something Borrowed, Someone Dead. Gloria French was a jolly widow who moved to the Cotswold hills. But, she had a nasty habit of borrowing things and not bringing them back. When she ends up dead, the Parish councilor hires Agatha Raisin to lead the murder investigation. And, as Agatha's investigation goes on, she finds herself a killer's target.

You can enter to win one of the titles, or both. I need separate entries, though. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win One Potion" or "Win Something Borrowed." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will enter Thursday, March 5 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

Gumption. A marvelous, old-fashioned word, isn't it? And, it beautifully describes the strength of some of the characters in Kate Alcott's novel A Touch of Stardust. Julie Crawford may be a green newcomer when she arrives in Hollywood with dreams, but a couple friends help her on her way, including a star who becomes a role model, Carole Lombard.

1938 and 1939 were magical years in Hollywood with the making of Gone with the Wind. Fresh from her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana after graduating from Smith College, Julie Crawford lands a job in the publicity department at the Selznick studio where Atlanta went up in flames, and David O. Selznick was searching for his Scarlett O'Hara. Julie isn't there to be an actress, though. Her ambition is to be a screenwriter. She finds her own touches of magic on the set, though. She meets Andy Weinstein, an assistant producer, and Carole Lombard. When Lombard takes Julie under her wing, and hires her as an assistant, Julie finds herself with an insider's view of the truth behind the glamour, a view of Carole's love for Clark Gable, and an unexpected mentor.

It wasn't all stardust and magic in those years, though. For a time, Lombard and Gable waited for his divorce. There were tears and tension on the set of Gone with the Wind, as Selznick fired directors, and shut down filming. The novel shows racism, racial and religious prejudice. And, all of the tension extends into the relationship between Julie and Andy, as he works on the set, and worries about his relatives in Europe. But, Julie continues to fight for her dream, and with Carole Lombard's guidance, to fight for her relationship with Andy.

Kate Alcott's novel contains clouds, with the overshadowing war, and, the future of the Lombard/Gable relationship for those who know Carole Lombard's fate. There's sorrow mixed with stardust for Julie as well. The book itself is quietly magical, as it brings Hollywood in those years to life, as seen through the eyes of an ambitious young woman. Her starry eyes grow to see the realism behind the glamorous sets of Gone with the Wind, behind the scenes in other studios, and behind glamorous Hollywood relationships. Alcott's characters are well-rounded, created in vivid detail, particularly her two females, Julie Crawford and Carole Lombard.

A Touch of Stardust is a perfect title. Julie's life is touched by all the magic surrounding Gone with the Wind, all the magic surrounding Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, and the magic of Hollywood. There's romance amidst the day-to-day life of the studios in 1938 and 1939. And, there's truly a touch of stardust in that beautiful connection between Julie and her mentor, the woman who steered her through a relationship and the hullabaloo of the studio world, Carole Lombard. It's that relationship that makes this book stand out.

Kate Alcott's website is

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott. Doubleday. 2015. ISBN 9780385539043 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snow Way Out by Christine Husom

Here's an unusual premise. Christine Husom's mystery, Snow Way Out, features  a snow globe shop in a small town in Minnesota. It will be interesting to see how this series develops, with a snow globe representing part of the mysterious elements in a crime in this story.

Cami Brooks is back home after a scandal in Washington, D.C. Now, she's managing the snow globe shop owned by her parents, one that's connected to a coffee shop run by Pinky, one of her best friends. Together, the two set up a class for people to learn how to make snow globes, but the class ends on a low note. It seems a man who broke into their friend Erin's house is back in town. And, a few too many people in the class had ties to him - his ex-wife, his girlfriend, and, of course, Erin. But, that wasn't the most unusual part of the evening. After everyone leaves, Cami finds a snow globe she's never seen, a scene of a man on a park bench. Then, when she leaves the shop, she finds that same scene in the park, except the man is dead. And, Cami and all of her friends could be considered suspects because the victim was the newly released burglar. When the assistant police chief seems a little skeptical of Cami's snow globe story, she decides to do some investigating of her own.

Sometimes, the first mystery is a series seems less mystery and more set-up for future books. That's the case with Snow Way Out. This book serves to introduce the characters, the setting, and a possible love interest. Cami seems a little too impulsive, and at times, acts in ways that I would normally call "TSTL", "Too Stupid To Live". But, I'm willing to give her a break, and wait for the next book. When an amateur sleuth is the primary suspect in the first story in a series, they often act rashly. We'll see what happens in future books.

I liked Cami, her friends, the assistant police chief, and Cami's family. I'll be interested to see further developments in the Snow Globe mysteries. Snow Way Out shows potential, provided Cami is more cautious in future books.

Christine Husom's website is

Snow Way Out by Christine Husom. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 978042520806 (paperback), 292p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Are You Reading?

Hmmm. Talking to Mom for an hour and a half, or finishing my book? I went with talking with Mom, which I'd always do. (I told her the other day she could call in the middle of a Duke game, and she wouldn't ever be interrupting.) So, I'm halfway through Snow Way Out, the first in a mystery series by Christine Husom. The manager of a curio shop that specializes in snow globes finds a snow globe on her shelf, picturing a man on a park bench. After she locks up and walks through the park, she finds a man dead, posed in the same position as the snow globe showed.

Did you finish a book last night, or are you partway through one? Let us know what you're reading.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer by Krista Davis

If you're looking for a cozy mystery series with a charming setting, you can't do any better than Krista Davis' Paws & Claws mysteries. The setting in pet-friendly Wagtail, Virginia is fun and appealing. And, The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer, the second in the series capitalizes on all of the fun with the "Howloween" celebration and the ghost-seeking Apparition Apprehenders.

Holly Miller hasn't even unpacked from her move to Wagtail, but her grandmother, her Oma, needs her help at the Sugar Maple Inn. The lobby is swarming with people as the Apparition Apprehenders Ghost Team arrive, hoping to tape some ghostly appearances in town, particularly at the creepy Wagtail Springs Hotel. Before they can even settle in, there are some strange lights at the Sugar Maple Inn, lights that skeptic Holly can't explain. She can understand, though, why no one seems to like Mallory Gooley, who claims to be an author and girlfriend of a local resident associated with the Apparition Apprehenders. But, Mark Belinski doesn't seem to have a romantic interest in her, and all of the ghost team seem annoyed by the intrusive Mallory.

There are all kinds of ghost stories in Wagtail, including the story of Becca Wraith, who once lived in the house that became the Wagtail Springs Hotel. But, no one expected Mallory to be found drowned at the hotel, dressed as Becca. While the local doctor proclaims it an accidental drowning, Holly and local police officer Dave Quinlan, aren't so sure. There are too many people who were angry at Mallory. Holly, sympathetic to an orphan who had no one to demand answers, teams up with her animal friends and hotel staff to find a killer.

The "Howloween" celebration adds to the atmosphere of this enjoyable mystery. But, it's Wagtail itself, along with the pets that are welcome everywhere in the town, that makes this series shine. And, it appears that the animals are nothing more than dogs and cats behaving normally, but they aid Holly Miller in the search for answers. The town, and the Sugar Maple Inn, are quaint settings that will appeal to animal lovers. And, this time, in The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer, the search for ghosts and ghost stories will appeal to readers as well. Krista Davis' Paws & Claws mysteries are engaging stories.

Krista Davis' website is

The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer by Krista Davis. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425262566 (paperback), 301p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.