Saturday, October 22, 2016

Darkest Journey by Heather Graham

Heather Graham takes readers back into the world of the Krewe of Hunters in Darkest Journey. As a fan of the series, I enjoy the return to the paranormal investigations of an elite group of FBI agents, as well as the romance. And, Graham knows the setting well, Louisiana and the Mississippi River with its connection to the Civil War.

Charlene "Charlie" Moreau is back in her hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana, acting in a movie. It's there, when she was in high school, that Ethan Delaney rescued her from a high school pledging in a cemetery just before a serial killer attacked. Now, when Charlie finds a body in the middle of filming, she remembers Ethan is with the Krewe of Hunters, and, with connections, requests that Ethan be put on the case. The two have an uneasy history, but they'll find that sparks fly once they're together.

Charlie, like Ethan, can see and hear the dead. It's a connection that causes complications when one of the dead mentions Charlie's father, a historian and cruise director on the Journey, a riverboat now owned by the Celtic American line. Charlie's convinced her father is not a killer, and she'll do anything she can to protect him.

Graham intertwines local and Civil War history, and Civil War ghosts with the contemporary setting. That works well, and this novel is as atmospheric as the author's other works. But, this is a weak link in an ongoing series. Charlie herself hides too much, and keeps secrets from the FBI, after she called them in. The story of the Civil War dead rising to protect Charlie seems familiar, as if Graham has used it before. And, the Celtic American line has now appeared in three books with a connection to killers. It's enough to make a reader not want to go on a cruise.

Seriously? I love the paranormal and romantic aspects of Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters books. Darkest Journey just isn't the best in the series.

Heather Graham's website is

Darkest Journey by Heather Graham. MIRA. 2016. ISBN 9780778330134 (hardcover), 315p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, October 21, 2016

Winners and Popular Title Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the copies of Ann Cleeves' The Moth Catcher. The copies are going to Angela L. from Murphy, TX and David C. from Berrien Springs, MI. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I have two titles that have been popular lately. One is a psychological thriller, while the second one is historical fiction with tension and suspense. The first title is Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10. Lo Blacklock, a journalist, has been given the assignment of a lifetime, a week on a luxury cruse with only a small number of passengers. When she witnesses a woman being thrown over, no one believes her. All passengers are accounted for. It's only the start of Lo's nightmare.

The other title is one of the current hot books. Paulette Jiles' News of the World is a finalist for the National Book Award. The back jacket of the ARC refers to it as a "morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust". After the Civil War, seventy-year-old retired Army Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels northern Texas reading the news from Eastern and European newspapers to paying audiences. Then, he's paid to take ten-year-old Johanna home to relatives. She was kidnapped after a raid by Kiowas, and lived with them for four years. She no longer speaks English, and she longs to return to her Kiowa family. The Captain and Johanna have a difficult journey on the way to Johanna's family, and they learn from each other along the way.

Which title would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win The Woman in Cabin 10" or "Win News of the World." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Oct. 27 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

If I had ever read any of Anita Hughes' novels before reading Christmas in Paris, I might have known what to expect. I was enticed by the idea of Christmas in Paris, and star-crossed lovers, thinking it would be a lovely story. Oh, it has a happy ending. Don't get me wrong. But, there's a little too much luxury and brand name-dropping for my taste. I'm sure others will feel as if they were pampered when they read the book, though.

Isabel Lawson's dream honeymoon to Paris at Christmas was not supposed to be by herself. Just a few days before her wedding, she calls it off. But, her fiancé suggests she take the trip, staying in one of the honeymoon suites at the luxurious Hotel de Crillon. When she steps out on her balcony to admire the view, she locks herself out. It's only by throwing her shoes at the next-door neighbor's sliding doors that she can get his attention, and get help. Alec Braxton, a children's book illustrator, is there in another honeymoon suite, after his fiancee deserted him for an Australian cricket player.

You can see where this is going, don't you? Isabel, is a financial advisor, only child of doting parents from Philadelphia's Main Line. She has the money to spend on numerous designer gowns as she flits from one event to the other in Paris. And, Alec is there to rescue her when she's almost hit by a taxi, fulfilling a fortune teller's prediction that she'll almost be killed. Because that prediction comes true, Isabel, a practical numbers person, firmly believes she'll find her true love in Paris.

Christmas in Paris was a little too predictable for me, and a little too much with the glamorous lifestyle. Isabel seemed to lack depth, with a eye for name brands and marriage to a member of the French aristocracy. Alec seemed to lack courage. And, Alec's best friend and lawyer, Mathieu, seemed to drop in whenever Alec needed a push, and then drop out again.

There is a happily-ever-after to Christmas in Paris, so if you appreciate the city itself, the shops and names, you might enjoy the novel more than I did.

Anita Hughes' website is

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes. St. Martin's Griffin. 9781250105509 (paperback), 277p.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Interviewing Anne Cleeland

I discovered Anne Cleeland's books at the end of last year, and her Acton and Doyle mysteries totally
hooked me. As I said when I gave away a set of them, they're not for everyone. They're sexy and obsessive, and I'll admit I'm obsessed with the books themselves. I was so happy to meet Anne at Left Coast Crime, and then have time for lunch with her at Bouchercon. I admire her for sticking with her characters, and not allowing a publisher to change them or the direction of the series. She'll tell us about that in today's interview. Thank you for taking time, Anne.

Anne, would you start by introducing yourself to my readers?
Thank you, Lesa!  I’m a lifelong Southern California resident, and I was an attorney by trade for many years. I’ve been reading mystery stories since my Nancy Drew days (I still have a copy of The Secret of the Old Clock!)  and I especially love Agatha Christie, and the other Golden Age British mystery writers.  My Doyle & Acton series features two Scotland Yard detectives, and if you are a fan of Masterpiece Mystery, you might enjoy these stories.  
I also write historical books set in 1814, because I love the Regency era. Being a romantic at heart, all my stories have a strong romantic element.
I have four grown children, and one nutty dog who somehow managed to get herself stuck under the house this morning, chasing a cat—cobwebs everywhere!  
I love your Acton & Doyle mysteries, but, before we talk about them, tell us about your other books. I know Caroline Todd, part of the mother-son team that writes under Charles Todd, raved about your book, The Bengal Bridegift.
Caroline is amazing; she made a special effort to tell me she reads my books, and I was thrilled to hear it.  She and Charles write two different post-WWI series, both of them excellent.  
The Bengal Bridegift is one of the historicals I mentioned, and it was actually the first book I ever wrote.  It never sold, so I dug it out from under the bed and serialized it on my website last year, one chapter each week, and I think a lot of readers enjoyed it.  After I’d finished posting the entire book, I put it up on Amazon.  It’s a fun story—a timid heroine, thrown into extraordinary circumstances.  I have some other unpublished historicals, so I think I’ll choose another one to serialize—it was so much fun, and a great way to connect with the readers.
Would you introduce us to Acton and Doyle?

The story is narrated by Doyle, a young Irishwoman who is a rookie detective with Scotland Yard.  She has been paired up with the renowned Chief Inspector Acton, who is brilliant and reclusive—so much so that the other detectives call him “Holmes,” behind his back.
Although Acton is a well-respected chief inspector, Doyle soon realizes that he’s actually a vigilante, manipulating evidence behind the scenes, and making sure the villains don’t get away with murder. Fortunately for London’s general population, he loves Doyle, who tries to steer him toward the straight-and-narrow, with only mixed results.  Although they’re an unconventional pairing, the relationship between the naive Irish rookie and the dangerous aristocrat is every bit as intriguing as the murders they investigate.

Would you tell us about Murder in Containment, without spoilers?
In Murder in Containment, Doyle realizes that several apparently unrelated murders are actually “containment” murders—murders to contain an ominous scandal that could reach into the highest levels at the CID.  In the process of tracking down the killers, however, she comes to the unsettling realization that Chief Inspector Acton has committed a containment murder or two of his own.
You don’t need to say more than you said on your Facebook page, but tell us why you decided to self-publish the continuing series. (And, thank you for continuing it!)

Well, it’s a cautionary tale, as Doyle would say.  After Kensington declined to publish any more books in the series, Severn House contracted for books four and five.  Strangely enough, it seemed clear that Severn House was not very familiar with the story. (For example, they thought Doyle and Acton shouldn’t have a servant, because it was too “demeaning.”)
Severn House insisted on making wholesale changes, and it was a continuing struggle.  The end result was that two months before the first book was to come out, they abruptly told me they were terminating my contract.   But then, when I took them at their word, they tried to backpedal, because apparently they were only hoping to scare me into submission.  All I can say is we’re lucky that authors today have another option, if things don’t work out with a traditional publisher.

Now, Anne, a few questions that are not book related. Other than author, what’s the most interesting job you ever had?
During my high school and college years, I worked as a nurse’s aide in Labor & Delivery.  I loved each and every day I went to work, and I loved being a part of such a happy time in people’s lives.  Who can resist a wrinkled-face newborn, or a dazed new dad?

After reading about Lord Acton, this question strikes me as funny. Neil Gaiman said, “Trust your obsession.” Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into a story? What was it?
I think my obsession is listening to people, and the way that they speak.  You can see that it’s an obsession, because in every story I always attempt to write an accent of some kind.  It may not make much sense for someone like me, who’s lived in California her whole life, to write a story narrated by an Irishwoman and set in England, but that didn’t stop me!  I hear from Irish readers who wonder where I heard certain idioms, and I have to confess that I looked it up on
I love language, and all its variations, and I hope that affection comes through in my stories.

What’s on your current TBR pile?
My poor neglected TBR pile grows higher and higher every month, but I tend to like light and clever stories—nothing too grim!  G.M. Malliet, M.C. Beaton, and Rhys Bowen are perennial favorites.

You can invite one author and their protagonist to dinner. Who would you invite, and why?
Well, some sharp-eyed readers have noticed that there are multiple references to Pride and Prejudice in the Doyle & Acton series, so you may think I’d choose Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet.  Or, since Acton is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, you may think I’d choose Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective.  You’d be wrong, though—I’d invite Diana Gabaldon, just so I could sit next to Jamie Fraser.  

And, the question I end my interview with since I’m a librarian.  Would you tell me a story about you and libraries or librarians?
Hank Phillippi Ryan tells a wonderful story about how she and her sister would saddle up their ponies to ride to the library in their rural hometown, and bring the books home in their saddlebags. As for me, I’d ride my bike, every week, and fill up the basket with books—whenever I smell that “library smell,” I am transported back to those wonderful hours.  When I was a youngster, the local librarian was the one who introduced me to Edward Eager’s books, and I think you can see their influence, even to this day.   
Nowadays it seems that libraries are also serving as community centers, which is a wonderful way to keep us all connected, in this age of the impersonal internet.  A special shout-out to four librarians-by-trade who were friends first:   Janet Schneider of  New York, Mary Carter of Sierra Madre, Sean Gates of Yo San University, and Merrily Taylor of Brown University.  
And a million thanks to you, Lesa!

Thank you, Anne! - Anne Cleeland writes a contemporary Scotland Yard series that features detectives Acton and Doyle, and she also writes a historical series of stand-alone books set in the Regency period.  A member of International Thriller Writers, The Historical Novel Society, and Mystery Writers of America, she lives in California and has four children.; @annecleeland.

Anne's offering a copy of Murder in Containment to one lucky winner. To enter, email me at Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Saturday, October 22 at 6 PM CT.

Here's the link if you'd like to buy a copy of Murder in Containment.   And, if you're with a library, there will be separate ISBN 978 153 9464334, so libraries can buy the book through Baker & Taylor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Long before Paulette Jiles' News of the World was nominated for the National Book Award, I agreed to participate in the book tour for the novel. It's a small book, only 224 pages, but it's a powerful story with sections that will remind readers of today's political climate. Texas in 1870 was as tumultuous as today's United States, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

Seventy-year-old Army Captain Jefferson Kyl Kidd had seen three wars in his lifetime. Now, he travels through northern Texas doing live readings from East Coast newspapers to paying customers, people eager for the news, or, often ones who can read it for themselves. But, Texas isn't the easiest place for travel after the Civil War. There are men on the road, eager to make money by holding up travelers. There are restless tribes attacking small communities. And, the disputes between the rival political parties have brought out the worst in people. Now, Captain Kidd has an added burden. For a fifty-dollar gold piece, he agrees to return Johanna Leonberger to her family in San Antonio. The young girl of about ten was captured four years earlier when her parents and sister were killed in a raid by the Kiowa. Now, Johanna no longer speaks English, and only wants to return to her Kiowa family.

Captain Kidd is a courageous man, determined to deliver Johanna to her family. Along the way, he does his best to teach her a little English, and re-teach her the way of living in a "civilized" world, eating properly, dressing properly. He takes his charge seriously, and knows he must protect the child along the way. Together, the two take on an arduous journey, one that will change both of them.

Jiles was interested in what happened to all the children who were kidnapped, and how they failed to assimilate when they were returned to their homes. She discusses Johanna at length, and her author's note mentions other sources. But, she also has other messages, and other purposes in the book. Captain Kidd himself, based on a real person, spreads the news of the world throughout Texas. "Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says, it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed."

Paulette Jiles' News of the World has a mighty message for such a small book.

Paulette Jiles' website is

News of the World by Paulette Jiles. William Morrow. 2016. ISBN 9780062409201 (hardcover), 224p.

Here's the purchase link from HarperCollins -

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book in order to participate in the book tour.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Good Taste by Jane Green

If you recognize Jane Green's name, it's probably as the author of novels such as Falling and Summer Secrets. Now, the busy wife and mother of five children turns her hand to a cookbook, Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends. Accompanied by beautiful photographs by Tom McGovern, it's a luscious treat for cooks and for those (like me) who appreciate an entertaining cookbook.

I'm not a cook, but I enjoy the stories that accompany recipes. Green compiled a collection that has "a strong leaning toward my childhood in England and is both delicious and easy. It makes you feel nurtured, comforted and loved." That's the aim of the book. With Green's large collection of soups and comfort food, she does attempt to make everyone feel nurtured. The book is broken into three sections, "Beginnings" with starters and soups (lots of soups), "Middles" with main courses that are easy to prepare, and "Endings", the desserts. And, admitting she follows fads, she includes gluten-free desserts, and a decadent sounding Salted Chocolate Mousse.

As I said, I'm not a cook. The lists of ingredients for some of Green's recipes look formidable until you realize they are usually basic ingredients. And, that Salted Chocolate Mousse? Four ingredients at the most.

The photos are lovely, and the food is enticing in Good Taste. As I said, I read cookbooks for the accompanying background stories. And, I'm always searching for the perfect gift. I know just who should get Jane Green's Good Taste for Christmas.

Jane Green's website is

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green. New American Library. 2016. ISBN 9780399583377 (hardcover), 180p.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

If you're the type of reader who appreciates Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope's style, the "challenge of labyrinthine investigation", you might want to check out Ann Cleeves' latest police procedural, The Moth Catcher. The story is intricately plotted, developing carefully as the mystery and the investigation unfolds.

Valley Farm is a small quiet community in Northumberland. When the most influential people there, the major and his wife, go to Australia to visit their son, they hire a house-sitter, Patrick Randle. But, Randle is found dead in a lane, and DI Vera Stanhope is the first to respond to the call for police. She's joined at the crime scene by Joe Ashworth, and the two walk to the big house to check it out. It's there they find another body. Now, they have a tangled mess on their hands. Two murders, different methods, and two men with only a loose connection. Vera and her team will have to dig for answers to this one.

And, in digging, they'll realize that Valley Farm isn't quite as peaceful as it seems. The three couples who live close to the crime scene may seem straightforward, retirees who enjoy a quiet life. But, Vera has a weird feeling about them, as if they all have "A kind of desperation".

Vera Stanhope is a fascinating character herself. "There was something ghoulish about her passion for her work, for suspicious death and other people's tragedies." But, those of us who appreciate the step-by-step unfolding of police investigations may be of the same mind, with a passion for these stories. Vera's methodical plodding, her astute questioning of witnesses, and her unusual manipulation of her team, make her an intriguing character. Readers of Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope mysteries return to watch Vera in action, as much as to watch the unraveling of the case. The Moth Catcher is Vera at her best.

Ann Cleeves' website is

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur Books. 2016. ISBN 9781250105424 (hardcover), 400p.

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