Thursday, July 28, 2016

Once Upon a Wine by Beth Kendrick

Who doesn't need a book to make you smile and laugh right now? Beth Kendrick's novels always make me smile. They feature strong women, witty conversations, and romance. And, you won't find any harder-working woman than Cammie Breyer in Kendrick's latest book, Once Upon a Wine.

Cammie had dreams. Her dreams at twenty-two would lead her to California to open a restaurant. She left behind Ian, the farmer who loved her, but also loved the farm that had been in his family for generations. Seven years later, when her cousin, Kat, calls, her restaurant is gone, she's broke, and she comes home. Her aunt, Ginger, bought a vineyard in Black Dog Bay, Delaware, and needs the help of family.

None of these three women know anything about growing grapes to make wine. When Ginger overcame cancer, she cashed in her retirement and bought her dream, a vineyard. Kat, a professional skateboarder, hasn't told her mother or cousin that she is taking a break from her marriage. She's going through a personal crisis, and doesn't know what she wants in life. And, Cammie? She's without an apartment or a job. So, she's determined to make the shabby-looking vineyard profitable. Cammie knows a farmer who might give her advice.

Kendrick's stories are always romantic and fun. The women are strong and hard-working. And, there's always an adorable dog. Jacques, the French bulldog, was a former champion turned farm dog. Like all the women he lives with, he has to change his life. And, Jacques is the first one to accept the change with joy and alacrity. He not only symbolizes the changes, he comes to symbolize the entire vineyard.

Witty conversation, humor, a cute dog. And, for those who don't know Black Dog Bay, "Black Dog Bay is the 'best place in America to bounce back from your breakup'." Once Upon a Wine is all about bouncing back in life. It's fun. It's joyful. It's perfect for this summer.

Beth Kendrick's website is

Once Upon a Wine by Beth Kendrick. New American Library. 2016. ISBN 9780451474193 (paperback), 324p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to participate in a book tour, with no promises for a positive review.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Circle

I'm not going to talk here about the Presidential race.  But, I am going to end with a note about politics. It comes from a circle of belief. I'm reading Beth Kendrick's novel Once Upon a Wine right now. It's a romance, but it's also a story about three strong women of different ages who come together when one buys a vineyard. Although I say on my blog that there's an emphasis on crime fiction, I also read and review women's fiction. And, in both crime fiction and women's fiction, I tend to read more books written by women than men. Why?

Strong women. My mother tells me how proud she is of what I do. My father, the father of three daughters, always pushed me to do my best. Although he was kidding, he used to say he hoped all three of us were successful in life so we could support him in his old age. He didn't live to see the three of us succeed in our chosen fields.

Strong women. Why do I like Nora Roberts' books? She features strong career women. Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters are the same. Julia Spencer-Fleming's Rev. Clare Fergusson is former military and a priest. Everyone knows how much I love Louise Penny's books. Armand Gamache would not be the person he is without the support of his wife, a librarian. There are strong women in Penny's books. I rave about Steven F. Havill's books featuring Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, who holds that job while handling motherhood and daughterhood. And, how many cozy mysteries feature women who step up to find a killer? My favorite fantasy novels are Tamora Pierce's books with women as heroines. Meg Wallace in Madeleine L'Engle's books was a favorite, the girl who went to rescue her brother. Even Belle in Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney character. She went off to save her father.

I believe in, and respect, strong women. My grandmothers were strong women. My mother is one. I admire both of my sisters. My friends, beginning with my college roommate to my best friend here in Evansville, my female friends across the country are all strong women who have overcome obstacles. It's a circle. I was encouraged by strong women and a father who supported them. I read about strong women. I firmly believe that women can change the world in positive ways.

So, all of my background, my family, my reading, my profession leads me to support and want women in office. It's why I gave to Emily's List when I watched all those women on stage yesterday. We need strong women.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Speaking of Murder by Les Roberts with Dan S. Kennedy

I've been a fan of Les Roberts' Milan Jacovich mysteries for years. They're set in Cleveland, and it's evident from the details about the city that Roberts loves Cleveland. And, Milan will remind mystery readers of Robert B. Parker's Spenser. It's been fascinating to watch the changes in Milan over the years. Now, Roberts utilizes Dan S. Kennedy's expertise to bring a motivational conference to town.
Speaking of Murder is a mystery, but that conference is perfect fodder for dry humor.

Jacovich has a two-person security company with a younger employee, Kevin O'Bannion, K.O. They're hired to provide extra security at the Renaissance Hotel while VIP motivational speakers are in town. But once a top-rated speaker is killed, Milan and K.O. are out of a job. And, then Victor Gaimari, godfather of the Greater Cleveland Mafia hires them. He and Milan have a history going way back. But Victor has interests to protect, and he wants Milan asking a few questions.

Milan and K.O. aren't investigating the murder. That's up to Milan's significant other, homicide detective sergeant Tobe Blaine. But, they have a full cast of characters to talk to. There's the television doctor with the trophy wife, the talk show host who has a laundry list of people she puts down on her radio show, the actress who now talks about her reincarnations. Milan and K.O. have a number of people to antagonize.

Milan and K.O. take turns talking about the investigation. It's fascinating to hear the viewpoints. Milan is an aging investigator, streetwise, and with an edge. K.O. is thirty years younger, a man who did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has an attitude. He's good at what he does, but he's quick to anger. "Whatever he said aloud was either sarcastic or angry - or both."  Roberts is astute in giving Milan a younger assistant, a different viewpoint.

Speaking of Murder has dry humor, a little politics, an interesting mystery. The portrayals of the motivational speakers is spot-on. And, for me, the book still has that special love of Cleveland.

Les Roberts' website is

Speaking of Murder by Les Roberts. Gray & Company, Publishers. 2016. ISBN 9781938441844 (hardcover), 257p.

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Other Blogs and Tributes to Great Mystery Authors

I'm interrupting my regular blogging to link to several blogs that are important to me right now. Many of you may already know the news about author Bill Crider. He shared the news of his cancer on his own site, Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine. Here's the link: 

Bill's not going to be able to tour for his August Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Survivors Will Be Shot Again. Please keep his book in mind as you plan your August purchases.

For a wonderful tribute to Bill Crider, please check out Janet Rudolph's website, Mystery Fanfare.

In recent weeks, I've had fun posting "Every Summer Has a Story", on The Poisoned Pen's blog. Those were posts by authors in which they picked three to five crime fiction titles to recommend for summer reading. This past weekend, Carolyn Hart had two posts that were perfect with that theme. The Mystery Writers of America Grand Master wrote a lengthy piece in which she picked some of her favorite clever mysteries. It's always an honor to post one of Carolyn's pieces. I admire her knowledge of the mystery field. If you'd like to check out the two-part piece, go to, and then click on Blog.


If I hadn't wanted to share the news about Bill Crider, and ask for prayers or good wishes for him, I never would have mentioned all of these sites. Many of you know my husband died six years ago from cancer. Let's send all our support for Bill. We need miracles in life, and he needs our support.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Killing in Amish Country by Gregg Olsen & Rebecca Morris

What do you look for when you read true crime? I seldom read it because I read some that went into too much graphic detail as to the crime itself.  If I read true crime, I guess I want it to be like Law & Order, the investigation followed by the trial. Authors Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris do not go into graphic detail in A Killing in Amish Country. In fact, the book is almost a treatise on the Amish lifestyle, or at least on the sect called the Andy Weaver Amish. One man couldn't stand the rules, but couldn't stand life outside the sect. The result was murder.

Before Barbara Weaver's murder in 2009 in Apple Creek, Ohio, "There had been only two reported murders among the Amish in America in more than 250 years." When the young mother of five was shot in her bed, the first question asked by those who knew her was, "Where was Eli?", her husband. Although those in their community didn't know the extent of his sins, he had been shunned twice, and forgiven twice. He had moved out, ran around with other women who he met on the Internet. The men who went fishing with him didn't know he'd had a long-running relationship with Barb Raber, the taxi driver he hired regularly. Eli Weaver, who called himself the "Amish Stud", just found his wife in the way.

It was the text messages and computer searches that caught the attention of the investigating officers. It wasn't too long before two people were arrested for aggravated murder. But, the authors and others question whether the person who received the longest sentence was actually guilty. And, through the victim's letters to family and her counselor, Barbara Weaver's voice is heard as it wasn't heard in the courtroom.

A Killing in Amish Country has an introduction by crime fiction writer Linda Castillo, who writes about the Amish. It has an Afterword by  Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, Professor of Anthropology who also writes about them. Olsen and Morris point out that the Amish practices may have kept Barbara Weaver in a marriage when she should have left. It is a fascinating study of the Amish way of life and beliefs. This murder and the subsequent trial shook up a few people in the community, and there may have even been a few changes as a result. But, was the right person found guilty? The authors don't seem convinced.

A Killing in Amish Country: Sex, Betrayal, and a Cold-Blooded Murder by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris. St. Martin's Press. 2016. ISBN 9781250067234 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Margherita's Notebook by Flumeri & Giacometti

I'm usually not a fan of translations. Quite often, I feel as if something was lost, and the book doesn't resonate with me. But Margherita's Notebook by Elisabetta Flumeri and Gabriella Giacometti is translated from the Italian, and it's beautiful. It's lush and atmospheric, filled with life and food. It's a richly detailed, romantic novel, just what it should be.

Margherita Carletti's bad day came in threes. Her horoscope warned her. She didn't get the job her husband, Francesco, set up for her. And, when she went to get the mail, she found two unpleasant notices. The first was an eviction notice from their apartment in Rome. The other was Meg, who she thought was her husband's English tutor, but turned out to be more than that. Actually, it wasn't such bad news. "Why does Francesco always come before everything else?" No more. Margherita was able to make Francesco's favorite meal, pack her car, and leave him with a light heart.

Heading home to Roccafitta was the best thing Margherita had done in years. Rome wasn't for her. Instead, she could cook with a light heart, hoping to reopen her mother's restaurant someday. She just has to find the money to do it. When her best friend, Matteo, finds her a job as an on-call chef, she thinks it's perfect. But, then she discovers she's cooking for Nicola Rovelli, a wealthy entrepreneur. And, she already had a run-in with the man she sees as too ambitious and egotistical. Worst of all, he can't appreciate good food if he buys frozen items. And, Margherita is through with men who think they come before everything else.

Margherita's Notebook was everything I hoped it would be when I saw the cover. It's a sensual story about food and romance, Italian life, the countryside, the music and dance. Margherita is a spirited woman with a goal and determination, but along with that spirit comes passion. The book includes an extensive collection of recipes, recipes Margherita prepares for Nicola. The food sounds wonderful, but it's Margherita's passion for food, for cooking and good ingredients, for savoring food and life that makes the recipes sound wonderful.

If you can't pack your bag and head to Italy, Flumeri and Giacometti will introduce you to the Italy you expect, romantic, sensual, full of food and life and love. Margherita's Notebook is called "A Novel of Temptation". Oh, it is.

Margherita's Notebook by Elisabetta Flumeri and Gabriella Giacometti. Washington Square Press. (2013,2016). ISBN 9781476786025 (paperback), 308p.

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Winner and Thomas Waite Post and Giveaway

Congratulations to the winner of Terrence McCauley's A Murder of Crows. Diane K. of Darien, IL will get a copy of the book.

This week, I have a Q&A from author Thomas Waite, an excerpt and a giveaway of his latest Lana Elkins thriller, Unholy Code. Thank you, Thomas.

Tell us about Unholy Code.

In my latest Lana Elkins thriller, former NSA operative Elkins confronts white supremacists and Islamic extremists who are launching devastating attacks against the U.S.  As each side incites the other by targeting innocent Americans, murderous threats to Lana and her family arise from Golden Voice, a cruel and mysterious denizen of the Dark Web. Definitely my edgiest novel yet.  

For readers who are discovering your work for the first time: What can you share about Lana Elkins?

Lana Elkins is a strong, smart, tough woman who founded the cybersecurity firm, CyberFortress, after outstanding service as a cyber spy for the NSA. But Lana is also the loving mother of a challenging teenage daughter. Their sometimes-contentious relationship is put to a great test when the country is under attack from its most fanatical enemies — attacks that become very personal. Lana also suffers from an addiction that threatens her professionally and personally.

Unholy Code touches on a number of issues we currently hear about on a daily basis, including racism, immigration issues, religious conflicts, political pressures, and, of course, terrorism. Given what is going on in the "real world" is it becoming easier or more difficult to write this series?

We live in challenging times, to be sure, but from a thriller author's perspective, the very issues that we confront as a nation contribute to the richness of these characters and the ruthless obstacles they face.  Unholy Code, like the others in the series, takes place in the near future in a recognizable world, and a major reason that world feels so real is that the conflicts that threaten to tear us apart as a nation are based on what we can glimpse of the world around us right now. 

Readers and reviewers often remark on the relationship between Lana and her daughter, Emma. Why do you think these characters resonate with people?

What I hear from readers all the time is that they love Lana because there's nothing comic book about her.  She's grounded in trying to balance motherhood and career, a multi-dimensional character who has strengths and flaws. She's blessed—or cursed, maybe—to be raising a daughter a lot like her: strong-willed, smart, and long on grit. They have their tough moments, but for most of Emma's life she had only Lana to raise her. That's a bond that can't be broken, even by those who want nothing more than to kill them both.

Given the sensitive nature of Lana's job, not to mention other characters in the book, how do you approach research? Have any of your inquiries lead to questions about you? Please share more details about your professional background.

I do a mix of primary and secondary research. As noted in my acknowledgements, I’ve consulted directly with experts ranging from the head of the FBI’s cyber division to a retired U.S. Navy Admiral. And, of course, not all my sources wish to be named. I also do a lot of research online. I’ve had readers ask if anything I write about is classified, and the answer is no. Of course, the government can’t do that to an author’s imagination, so most of what I deem “top secret” I use in my books.  A few friends have expressed concern that my research might raise suspicion with authorities.  I tell them not to worry, the name of my Wi-Fi is “FBI SurveilVan3.” But seriously, I’m quite certain that the FBI or DHS know that I’m writing fiction. I also have worked in the technology sector and still do some advisory and board work and that helps.

Unholy Code may feature your scariest antagonists to date. Can you shed light on the inspiration for "Steel Fist" and "Golden Voice?"

As you know, we've been seeing the rise of nativist sentiments throughout the western world, including here in America.  While Steel Fist's views are repugnant, he does embody the white supremacist movement.  So when the wide extent of America's vulnerability unveiled itself at the beginning of Unholy Code, it made sense to me that the country would be besieged not just by radical elements from outside its borders, but from citizens who would actually welcome the resulting demonstrations of U.S. weakness.  That’s because acts of terrorism against Americans would make their own twisted ideas about power and strength stand out in sharp relief.  

With Golden Voice, it was very different.  The antagonist was much more mysterious, speaking in first person present tense right from the start, with all the intimacy that suggests.  I heard the voice first, and then followed its dictates.  Never once did I plan ahead with Golden Voice.  I didn't have to. Golden Voice took over and I went along for the horrifying ride.

Malinois play a role in Unholy Code. What inspired you to add JoJo and Cairo to the cast of characters? Did you meet with real-life dog trainers while researching the book?

I don't feel as though I added Jojo and Cairo to the cast; they added themselves. I'm not kidding. I knew next to nothing about Malinois when I started writing this book, only that they were the dogs preferred by a lot of military and national security services.

Very quickly, though, I realized that in a country getting ripped apart by terrorist attacks, and with a character like Lana under threat, a security dog would be a smart sentinel to add to a household.  When each dog came on the scene, he had his own personality. I discovered that as readers will. It became clear that Cairo, who's in his doggy dotage, would never suffer fools gladly, so I went along for the ride to see what that would mean. Jojo's a very different dog, in no small part because he's a lot younger. I developed a great affection for the breed in doing my research. 

What are you working on now?

I'm listening to my inner Lana, seeing where she wants to go next.  She's one very restless pro, always deep in cyberspace, so I'm spending time in the Dark Web; she's my co-pilot on these trips.  I have some ideas—or I should say she has some ideas—about where this series is
headed. It's a dark place, scary to be sure, and very human—just like Lana herself in Unholy Code.

Here's an excerpt from Unholy Code.

“Look at the water, boy.”
Vinko peered at its smooth surface and saw his reflection.
            “Your face is white as the clouds, isn’t it? Just like everyone else you see around here.”
            Vinko understood. He’d never known anybody who wasn’t white.
They’d fished until sundown. After gathering up their gear, his father told him to look at the water again. The blood-red colors had appeared, darkening the boy’s face.
           “You’re no longer white. That’s what’s going to happen if we let the sun set on America. The white will disappear, and we’ll pay for it with blood.”
His father had been right. The men in his family had all known that the most important threat of all wasn’t a gun or a knife, or even the mongrel races raging to get everything that belonged to whites. But it was all about blood.

* * *

A seventeen-year-old is impulsive.
A seventeen-year-old feels immortal.
A seventeen-year-old doesn’t understand that death can come in a whisper.
Emma. I imagine my hot breath on her ear. I can help you.
So her parents will be right to shudder at the fact that Em is now vulnerable to the scores of terrorists stalking American cities and hinterlands, hunting for ever more horrors to visit upon the nation.
But don’t worry about all that.
Those are the exact words I would tell them if I could. They need only worry about me. And it’s too late for that. Their only child is trying to free herself of too much too soon, and all she’s really done is seal her fate.
The one I’ve planned for her.
And you shall share it, Lana.
The chainsaws are oiled and calling. Can you hear them? Here, I’ll start one.
How about that? Can you hear it now? The blade sounds angry, doesn’t it? Like it could cut through skin and bone and the last scraps of hope in a dying girl’s heart. I won’t let you die without seeing that, Lana. I promise.
That’s how a mother gets to die twice.

Excerpted from UNHOLY CODE © Copyright 2016 by Thomas Waite. Reprinted with permission by the author. All rights reserved.


The “Summer of Blood” explodes. The U.S. is under siege from foreign jihadists and domestic terrorists. When a brilliant exploit strikes at the heart of the National Security Agency’s own network, former NSA operative Lana Elkins discovers that it came from within the United States itself. More surprising still is the attacker: “Steel Fist,” a cyber-savvy radical white supremacist whose legions feed on his anti-Islamic exhortations. His popularity only grows when a jihadist team carries out a bold, but baffling, attack on the Louisiana coast, bringing ashore a lethal invader no one can see.
Most mysterious of all are Golden Voice, a hacker of unparalleled skill with a murderous agenda and a secret past, and Tahir Hijazi, a Muslim refugee from Sudan with his own shadowy history. When Tahir’s young nephew starts dating Lana’s daughter Emma, Steel Fist calls upon his fans to embark on a new mission: assassinate the entire Elkins family.
As extremists battle each other—with Lana fighting both ends from the middle—the conflict becomes deeply personal, the stakes tragically high.
In Thomas Waite’s edgiest tale yet, battles savage the American heartland, shaking the very foundations of the world’s mightiest nation.

Author Biography

Thomas Waite is the bestselling author of the celebrated Lana Elkins thriller series. Lethal Code was declared "Taut, tense, and provocative” by Hank Phillippi Ryan, the Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author, who quickly added “…this frighteningly knowing cyberthriller will keep you turning pages—not only to devour the fast-paced fiction, but to worry about how much is terrifyingly true." Trident Code followed in form. “Scary good,” according to King Features columnist Dale Dauten: “The science and technology are as convincing as they are chilling, with an original trifecta of cyber, nuclear, and environmental terrorism all worked into one wild ride of a plot.” Unholy Code now finds Elkins fighting enemies of all stripes in the heart of America, battles that rage on the ground, in the air, and in the ever-escalating violence of cyberspace.

Waite’s first novel, Terminal Value, reached #1 at Amazon. One reviewer wrote, “Terminal Value is to the corporate world what John Grisham's The Firm is to lawyering: a taut, fast, relentless thriller. A most impressive debut novel."

Waite is a board director of, and an advisor to, a number of technology companies. His nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, the Harvard Business ReviewThe Boston Globe, and The Daily Beast. He lives in Boston.

Here are links to Waite's website and other sites.:


Author Website





If you would like to win a copy of Unholy Code, email me at Your subject heading should read "Win Unholy Code." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 28 at 6 PM CT. Entrants from the U.S. only, please.