Monday, April 23, 2018

The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston

Caroline Preston, author of Jackie by Josie, takes a unique look at a World War II marriage in the fascinating "novel in pictures", The War Bride's Scrapbook. Using historic pictures and captions, clipped art and illustrations, she tells the story of a couple who met and married quickly during the war, and the follow-up when the man came home. It's a sad story, but very revealing of the times and attitudes.

Two adult women correspond after one finds a scrapbook in a suitcase in their mother's closet. They had never seen the scrapbook, and the story it reveals is not one that they had ever heard nor understood. The scrapbook is divided into four sections, "Life Before Perry - 1921-1943", "Our Romance - 1943", "Life Without Perry - 1943-1945", and "Homecoming - 1945". The scrapbook ends there. Fortunately, the daughters reveal the story's ending.

Lila Louise Jerome graduated from Sweet Briar College in Virginia, but failed to graduate with the "Mrs." her parents hoped she would achieve. She was fascinated by architecture, but women couldn't get an architecture degree in Virginia at the time. So, after graduation she worked for her father in the insurance business, and, once the U.S. entered the war, she worked for the University of Virginia running the Bond Drive office. Then, she met Perry Weld for the second time, when her roommate left. She advertised for a roommate and Perry answered. He was a sergeant, a combat engineer getting ready to go overseas. He'd graduated with a degree in architecture, so they shared an interest. Fifteen days later they were married in what was called "a furlough wedding". And, when Perry was sent for training, and then overseas, Lila Weld put together a scrapbook, a keepsake for when "a husband returns home".

What happens when a man comes home, a husband that you only knew for a month before he left? What happens when the man comes home injured, no longer the man you married? This marriage, and Lila Louise Jerome's experiences were unusual. And, her daughters questioned why Lila and Perry didn't divorce. It's a fascinating question, and Lila's future is revealed only in her obituary years after the war.

Preston's book brings the war years and this marriage to life, using all the little details of the scrapbook. It's a unique way to tell a story. And, it works so well. It's a moving book, with a powerful ending with that obituary. Preston, an archivist who has collected historic scrapbooks for years, puts them to excellent use in this unusual story.

Caroline Preston's website is

The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston. HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780061966927 (hardcover), 223p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Reading Corner & Promises, Promises

Today's Sunday Reading Corner, Promises, Promises, isn't quite what I would have hoped. It's been a while since Jinx was in a video chat, and he was a little too eager. But, here it is.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Antique Blues by Jane K. Cleland

I have to admit that I read so many mysteries that, over the years, I've dropped some series that I used to enjoy. They no longer seem fresh or the characters haven't changed. But, I always look forward to the next Josie Prescott Antiques mystery. Author Jane K. Cleland continues to explore the antiques and art world. Best of all, Josie Prescott continues to evolve while her friendships and loyalties remain steadfast. Fans of Josie and her world will enjoy Antique Blues, and welcome the heartwarming ending.

Josie and her fiancé, Ty Alvarez, are at a party for Mo Shannon when Josie overhears a troubling conversation. Mo's parents fear Cal Lewis, boyfriend of Mo's sister, Lydia, may be abusing her. Josie's suspicions are aroused even more when Mo asks Josie to appraise her newly acquired Japanese woodblock print. Cal sold it to her, and he protests that it's not worth appraising for insurance purposes. Then, Mo is murdered, and Cal disappears on the same day.

Naturally, Josie offers assistance to her friend, Police Chief Ellis Hunter. She's the one with the knowledge and staff who can work on tracing the history of the Japanese piece. It may provide a reason for murder. Josie also knows Mo's family and some of her friends.

Although the Shannons are in mourning, Mo's father, Frank, shows up at Josie's, and asks her to appraise a Martin guitar he owns, but he can only provide vague details as to its history. While tracing the provenance, Josie begins to add some of Frank's own story to the account of Mo's murder.

There are so many reasons I appreciate Jane K. Cleland's mysteries. Although Josie does have one tstl moment in this book (too stupid to live), that's an exception in this story. Josie respects her relationship with Police Chief Hunter, and she shares her knowledge and her suppositions with him. At times, he's able to shoot down her ideas. Cleland does not treat the police as idiots. It's only Josie's specialized knowledge that allows her to find clues the police might not discover.

The hunt for information about the antiques and art is fascinating. Cleland involves Josie's staff. Josie isn't the only one who works on these searches. Her staff knows experts, calls and communicates with them, and passes information on to Josie. She doesn't work in a vacuum. The information about the Japanese art work and the Martin guitar comes as a result of teamwork.

And, Cleland has one strong point going for her, from my point of view. Once Josie began to date Ty Alvarez, the two remain a couple. There is no romantic triangle, no cheating. That romantic triangle element that lasts forever in some cozy series is one of my pet peeves. It's a pleasure to see the strength, the humor, and the love in the relationship between Josie and Ty. And, it's a relationship supported by a close-knit group of friends.

Josie Prescott has grown over the course of the series. She embodies, and believes, that people change. "We get better. Stronger. More capable. At least, we do if we want to." Josie Prescott has grown, personally and professionally, over the years. Antique Blues is the perfect example of Josie's growth, culminating in a wonderful ending for those of us who have followed the series.

Jane K. Cleland's website is

Antiques Blues by Jane K. Cleland. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2018. ISBN 9781250148742 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Winners and "P" = Murder Mystery

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Lisa W. from Rochester, IN won the copy of Becky Masterman's A Twist of the Knife. Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler will go to Sally S. from Antioch, CA. The books will go out in the mail today.

Today, murder mysteries deal with poison and puzzles. I have a copy of Parnell Hall's latest Puzzle Lady mystery, The Purloined Puzzle. Amateur sleuth and crossword expert Cora Felton is asked to solve a puzzle, only to find that it's been stolen, and a murder weapon, a blood-stained knife, is found in its place. And, Cora's least favorite ex-husband is in town pulling a real estate scam. And, he may have purchased the knife.

A Crime of Poison by Nancy Haddock is a Silver Six Crafting mystery. The Silver Six are known for their arts and crafts. Every business along the town square in Lilyvale, Arkansas will benefit from the Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale. That includes Nixy's store run by her and the Silver Six, a group of retirees. But, when a local troublemaker is found dead, two members of the Silver Six are accused of cooking up a murder plot. Nixy and the group don't want their group reduced, so they have to find a killer.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win The Purloined Puzzle" or "Win A Crime of Poison." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 26 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I just discovered a new mystery series that fits my interests. Cora Harrison's Reverend Mother mysteries are set in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s, not long after the Easter Rising of 1916. The series contains politics, social and cultural issues. But, at least in the one I read, it's also a straightforward traditional mystery with the Reverend Mother of the convent St. Mary's of the Isle as the amateur sleuth. She's a woman with a deep understanding of people. I've just started the first in the series, after reading the latest for a review. The first book is A Shameful Murder.

What are you reading or listening to this week? Anything that particularly piques your interest? We'd love to know!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Have You Heard? Killer Insight by Victoria Laurie

Today is my review deadline, which I will make, but that means I didn't read anything else last night. So, I'm glad Sandie Herron wrote a review of the audio book of Victoria Laurie's Killer Insight. Thank you, Sandie.

Killer Insight                                        
Killer Insight: Psychic Eye Mysteries, Book 4 | [Victoria Laurie]Series: Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye #4
Written by: Victoria Laurie
Narrated by: Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins 
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: 03-02-10
**** stars

Abby Cooper, psychic intuitive, has been dating FBI agent Dutch Rivers for many months.  That they love each other is clear, and so is the fact that they are both stubborn.  They end up in a fight with many misunderstandings, and Abby takes it to mean they've broken up!
An old friend of hers is getting married, and one of her bridesmaids went missing several days ago, so she asks Abby to be her attendant.  With a desire to “get out of Dodge,” Abby agrees and hops on a plane bound for her old neighborhood in mile high Colorado.  Her visit is anything but pleasurable though.  From the moment she arrives, she joins with the group of old friends and tries to find the missing bridesmaid.  However, Abby's usually clear visions are quite foggy.  That is compounded by dealing with the high altitude, a different environment, and so many close friends, including ex-boyfriend Duffy McGinnis, now the town sheriff.  He is still handsome, charming, and seductive.  Believing she is single and unattached, Abby flirts back with Duffy.

Friends keep disappearing one by one.  They find one woman outside a shack, shot in the center of her chest three times.  There was no way she would have survived that wound.  The shooter must have either been clumsy or the victim of a set up because they find one man's wallet outside the shack by the victim, looking just like evidence. I found the audiobook so compelling.  It puts the story in your face and fills your senses so you, as the reader, are almost another character in the story who observes everything.

From the beginning of the book, Abby states that she died; that's no spoiler.  She does get to the scene of another killing just at the right time for the killer, someone she knows and is shocked to see with the gun in her hands, to shoot Abby in the chest.  Abby meets with her deceased grandmother who takes her on a tour of her life via pictures so she can know the ramifications of staying in what is perceived as Heaven, or she can know how many people she will help if she returns to Earth.

You will need to read this tense psychic thriller among friends to get the full story and see if you can figure out "whodunit" before the author reveals that fact and to find out what happens to the killer next.  Is there ever a wedding?

Each book in the Abby Cooper series is a bit better than the last, and this is no exception.  This book took "normal" thriller circumstances and tips them on their ear.  Everything is a bit off kilter, or a lot in many areas.  You will enjoy tracing the abundant clues and chasing down a murderer.  I am not the least bit worried about running out of Victoria Laurie mysteries.  Don't miss any highly recommended Abby Cooper mystery. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shot in the Dark by Cleo Coyle

The seventeenth Coffehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle, Shot in the Dark, was one of my favorites. It's timely, and the authors are acutely aware of the relevance of social media in our daily lives. Fortunately, Sandie Herron enjoyed the book, too, because she had already signed on to review the book. Today is release day for Shot in the Dark. Thank you, Sandie.

By Cleo Coyle
Berkley Prime Crime, April 17, 2018

The Village Blend coffee shop has a new distinction – best hookup hot spot.  A new dating app has smartphone users swiping at possible dates faster than Clare Cosi and her baristas can keep the coffee flowing.  Clare’s ex-husband Matt fills them all in on the finer points of the Cinder app where Cinder-ellas meet Cinder-fellas.  Special ring tones signal when a candidate arrives in the man’s pumpkin box, and it is up to him to take the chance by swiping right or rejecting the young maiden by swiping left.  All the presenting and choosing are done quickly, making way for a new round of candidates.  Once the decision to meet occurs, much of the in-person side of dating takes place in public places, like the coffee house we all love.

One evening shots sound at The Village Blend.  While everyone ducks, Clare springs to action and climbs to the second floor lounge.  A young woman has a gun pointed at a man cowering in his seat.  She is spewing the sordid details of their Cinder love match gone terribly wrong.  Clare talks her down just as police arrive.  The publicity kicks in just as quickly as nine different videos of the event go viral, turning this hot spot into a dead spot.

Before Clare can turn her thoughts to how to recapture her audience, she meets her former mother-in-law Madame for a late dinner, saving her from abandonment from her own over-65 dating service beau.  Clare can’t avoid further trouble when she sees a dead woman floating in the Hudson River.  The floater turns out to be an executive from Cinder!

As their way of fighting back against the bad publicity, the entire Cinder staff cooks up an event to be held at The Village Blend with an audience of paid party goers to guarantee excellent attendance.  While Clare agrees to the stunt, she cooks up her own side event.  She has a picture drawn of the offending male and passed from barista to barista so they all know who to look out for.  Then she fires up her own cell phone to join Cinder and hunt him down herself.

A series of rowdy events full of mischief and mayhem follows, events not to be missed in the history of The Village Blend coffee house.  Barista Esther hosts a poetry slam in the second floor lounge that is wildly popular.  The crowd spills onto the outside sidewalk.  Thanks to Cinder’s initiative, The Village Blend is back in business.  But more occurs at this party to beat all parties than meets the eye.  One very dead body sends Clare down a new avenue of espionage, betrayal, and undercover acts that undermine several companies and individuals. A possible new suspect is found when Clare pieces together many of the new clues. 

I enjoyed the build up to the big comeback party when it seemed everything took off in many directions.  Clare was determined to find who put the woman in the Hudson River and make sure he was punished.  In doing so, she becomes entangled in discovering several corporate crimes.  She takes dangerous chances to track down a killer.  Many people become involved in the treachery that is uncovered, and I admire Clare’s persistence. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this 17th entry in the entertaining Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle (real life husband and wife team Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini).  It began with an event that caught my attention and touched a note in my own life so I was invested in following along on Clare’s quest to find several criminals.  I was glued to the pages when we came to the conclusion that was complex yet well explained.  An excellent choice in reading. 

Cleo Coyle's website is

Shot in the Dark by Cleo Coyle. Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780451488848 (hardcover), 352p.