Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Katharine Schellman, Author Interview

I don't always have a book trailer to share for a debut novelist. Since The Body in the Garden is one of my favorite books of the year so far, I'm please to share it. I'm even more pleased that I had the opportunity to interview Katharine Schellman. Thank you, Katharine, for taking time for the interview.

Katharine, would you introduce yourself to readers?               

Thanks so much for having me on your lovely blog!

I’m a former actor, a trained dancer, and a one-time political consultant. But my husband once said he should have known I was meant to write murder mysteries because I'm constantly killing our houseplants. The Body in the Garden is my debut novel, and saying that out loud still feels surreal!

Without spoilers, tell us about The Body in the Garden.    

The Body in the Garden is a historical mystery. There’s a dead body, a few red herrings, and an amateur sleuth who is determined to find the truth.

It’s also the story of Lily Adler, a young widow in early 19th-century England who is trying to rebuild her life. She lives in an era where being widowed granted women a lot of social and financial freedom that they wouldn't have otherwise had (which is a perfect situation for a sleuth to be in). But for her, it came at the cost of losing someone she loved deeply. 

Lily is trying to find out what comes next for her, and she (almost literally) stumbles over an answer to that question when a stranger is found murdered at her friend's home.

Introduce us to Lily Adler, please. Would you also talk about Captain Jack Hartley?

Lily was an interesting character to write because her circumstances require a certain suspension of disbelief. The average person struggling with grief doesn't find purpose again by solving a murder! But she's also someone standing at a big crossroads: the life she planned fell apart, and now she has to create a new one and isn't sure how to do that. 

That feeling, I think, is something most people can relate to, and it's what I hope grounds her as a character.

And I love that you asked about Jack! Jack was the childhood best friend of Lily’s husband, and he becomes an unexpected source of support through her grief. 

Like Lily, Jack is a bit of an outsider in London society, partly because of his wartime experience in the navy and partly because of his Anglo-Indian family. Unlike Lily, though, Jack isn’t very bothered by that. He’s very extroverted and enjoys being charming and popular. 

My goal was for them to really balance each other out — each one helps the other grow in ways that seemed impossible at the beginning of the book. The tone of my original draft was more darkly comic and tongue-in-cheek. Though subsequent drafts changed, a bit of that playfulness remains in Lily and Jack’s friendship. They were so much fun to write together!

Why did you pick 1815 London as the time and setting for your first mystery?

One of my main characters was inspired by Miss Lambe from Jane Austen’s Sanditon, so setting it in early 19th century England happened naturally. That was a place and time that I had read a lot of fiction set in or written during, so I thought I was really familiar with the era. When I started writing, though, I discovered how much I still had to learn.

I hope the final book gives readers a new look at an era that might already think they know everything about. I wanted to show a bit of how much was going on beneath the surface of a world that was superficially very placid and elegant.

You did such a beautiful job with the descriptions of society, social classes, and London of this time. Please tell us about your research and sources.

I had to research everything, from checking maps for the names of landmarks to reading letters and court records for a sense of colloquial speech to studying fashion plates to learn about nuances of dress. I especially had to do a lot of research into what life would have been like for people who were not upper class, or not white, or not wealthy. 

Fortunately, there are lots of amazing historians out there whose books and research I could use. I listed many of them in my author’s note at the end of the book, but the most fun to read was probably Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester. I’d recommend anyone interested in the time period pick that one up!

For me, research isn’t a one-and-done thing: I was looking things up and checking details all the way through my last pass with my editor. Of course, only about 30% of that research actually makes an appearance in the novel, but it informed everything I wrote.

But in spite of all that, the book is still a work of fiction. My goal is to try to create as realistic a world as possible but still tell a good story. So there are certainly moments where I’ve made the decision not to worry about historical details! They just might not be where you expect.

I’m not looking for spoilers for the next book, but can you tell us anything about the next book in the Lily Adler series?

My editor and I are still working out some details, but I can say without spoilers that there are many familiar faces and Lily will be asked to help catch another murderer. Readers will also meet her father and get a peek at that tumultuous relationship. Lily might discover that he knows a thing or two about the person who was murdered! 

Everyone takes a different path to publication. How did you become a published author?

I first announced that I wanted to be a writer when I was about six years old, and I was fortunate to get a lot of encouragement from my parents, who are big readers. I wrote my first novel when I was 15, and it was thoroughly terrible. It, and several others, are saved on my hard drive and will never see the light of day again! But each one was really good practice. 
The first draft of the book that eventually became The Body in the Garden was not good (and that’s a generous assessment). But when I read back through it, I knew it had potential, and I was still really excited about the characters and the story. So I started editing.
After five drafts and input from some very generous readers, I was ready to start querying. That was a surprisingly wonderful and encouraging experience! I signed with my agent four weeks after I sent my first query letter. We spent the summer revising, went on submission that fall, and sold the book to Crooked Lane in April, just under a year after I started querying. Publication was scheduled for April 7, 2020, just under a year after that.
So from starting to write that very first draft of the book to my pub date will be about five years. It felt very long at the time. But I’ve discovered that, in the grand scheme of traditional publishing, five years isn't much time at all!
What mysteries did you read that led you to want to write a historical mystery?

I didn't realize it when I first started writing this book, but I really grew up with mysteries. I read many mysteries for kids that my mother had held onto from her childhood; Mystery at Laughing Water by Dorothy Maywood Bird was one of the first I fell in love with. And I used to watch Masterpiece Theatre with my parents, so lots of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot stories. 

When I got a little older, I started reading all the Agatha Christie books those shows were based on, which eventually led me to more modern crime writers. So mysteries — especially traditional and historical mysteries — were something that I spent a lot of time with and really loved.

It never really occurred to me to write my own, though! All my "novels in a drawer" are in other genres. Before I started writing The Body in the Garden, it wasn't a genre I had ever pictured myself writing in, even though it was one I loved reading. I generally start with characters, rather than plot. So for a while, I had these people in my head, and I wasn't sure what would bring them together in this setting. When I finally realized it was a dead body, everything just clicked: "Oh, that's what they're doing here!"

Of course, once I started writing I discovered that reading and loving mysteries does not translate to knowing how to write one. I had to spend several drafts learning how to structure and develop a mystery. It was — and is! — a fun challenge.

If you had to recommend 5 books to a person so they could get a feel for your reading taste, what 5 would you pick?

Only five? That’s going to be tough. Let’s go with:

1.    Persuasion by Jane Austen
2.    Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
3.    A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
4.    The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
5.    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

That’s four genres between five books — my reading taste is very eclectic! If I could list ten, things would start to get really wild

Katharine, I’m a librarian, so I like to end with this. Please tell us a story about you and a library or librarian.

One of my formative experiences as a reader was with a librarian. I think I was about five or six years old, and I had just signed up for my first solo library card. Which meant I got to pick out my own books and check them out myself, rather than having my parents do it! 

But I was a very shy child, so I went very timidly into the children’s reading room and finally worked up the courage to ask the children’s librarian how many books I could check out. When she told me, “As many as you want,” I was so excited and overwhelmed I didn’t even know where to begin. 

When I finally rejoined my parents, I had a stack of about 20 books that she had helped me pick out. And that’s generally how my library visits go these days too!

Thanks again to you and your readers, Lesa! I hope you enjoy The Body in the Garden.

Thank you, Katharine, and good luck!

Katharine Schellman's website is https://www.katharineschellman.com/

The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman. Crooked Lane Books, 2020. ISBN 9781643853567 (hardcover), 336p.

Monday, April 06, 2020

The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman

Crushed. I was just crushed when I went to review Katharine Schellman's debut mystery for a mystery column, and someone else had been assigned to the book. They better write a good review, because I loved this debut, and I'm looking forward to the next one. But, in the long run, you and I won. I have an interview with Katharine Schellman for tomorrow's blog. I hope you stop back to "meet" her.

The first Lily Adler mystery, The Body in the Garden, introduces an intrepid heroine, and beautifully describes Napoleonic-era London and society.

In 1815, eyes in the neighborhood notice when Mrs. Lily Adler moves into a rented house in Mayfair. By her dress, it's obvious she's a widow, no longer in the first stages of mourning. And, she must have the money to afford to live in Mayfair. What isn't so obvious is that Lily Adler has a strong sense of right or wrong, and she'll be determined to find answers when she hears a murder.

Lily's best friend from school, Lady Serena Walter, invites her to a ball at her London home. Because she's still in mourning, she can't dance. That doesn't stop a man from making improper advances, so Lily escapes to the gardens. It's there that she hears two men, one threatening blackmail. She's still sneaking away when she hears a gunshot. Lily escapes to the house, finds her late husband's best friend, Navy Captain Jack Hartley, and the two return to the garden. They're the ones who find a body, and report it to Lord Walter. When Lily sees Lord Walter bribe the investigating magistrate, she decides to take matters into her own hands. With the help of Captain Hartley and a mysterious debutante from the West Indies, Mrs. Lily Adler undertakes a murder investigation.

Schellman has introduced two intriguing heroes in her first mystery. Lily Adler is the hero of her own story. She's "obviously intelligent and level-headed and not prone to wild imaginings". While still mourning the husband she loved, she knows it's time to move on with her life. And, the murder investigation, while exciting, might not be quite proper. That's one strength of this book. The author emphasizes society's rules and expectations, and shows how uncomfortable people are when they don't fit within those expectations. "Lily, for all she could be unconventional from time to time, had no desire to lose her place in society. Was it really worth risking so much?" Through Lily's eyes, Schellman shows just what could go wrong.

Captain Jack Hartley is actually a secondary hero. He was Freddie Adler's best friend, and he starts out by trying to help his friend's widow. But, he grows to respect Lily as her own person, an intelligent, stubborn woman, determined to find justice for a victim. Jack's career as a captain in the navy will allow him to come and go in the series, if that works with the author's plans. His career also allows him to move in several circles in society.

Schellman's debut is a complex story of London society with its social classes, racism, and politics. Readers of historical mysteries should relish this new entry in the genre. At the same time, fans of historical romances set in this period might just want to take a chance on the book. Schellman's details of balls, the theater, concerts, and the social life of 1815 are too good to miss. The Body in the Garden is an outstanding debut.

Katharine Schellman's website is https://www.katharineschellman.com/

The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman. Crooked Lane Books, 2020. ISBN 9781643853567 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book from a journal editor.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

I've admitted that I hadn't been able to read much lately. Even the previous book in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series, An Offer from a Gentleman, didn't entice me. I've never been found of the Cinderella trope, except for Rodgers and Hammerstein. But, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the fourth in the series, drew me in and I sailed through this historical romance with its likable protagonists.

Penelope Featherington has been a minor character in previous books in the series, a young woman who has been a wallflower for more than four seasons in London. Very few people were kind to her over the years, and the gossip columnist Lady Whistledown even said one of her gowns made her look like an overgrown citrus fruit. But, the Bridgerton family has always been kind to her. And, Penelope has been in love with Colin Bridgerton, the third son of the family, since she was sixteen. Now, at twenty-eight, she's still in love with him while he is still nothing more than kind.

Colin Bridgerton is just back from his recent trip to Cyprus. He's thirty-three and his family, especially his mother, believes it's time he married and settled down. Although everyone in the ton loves Colin for his smiles and charm, he's never been in love. Even Lady Whistledown refers to him as charming. He's never seen Penelope Featherington as more than his sister's best friend.

This year, though, Penelope seems much more comfortable. She views herself as a spinster who will never marry, and she'll certainly never marry the man she's loved all these years. When Colin suddenly sees Penelope with different eyes, she's afraid to tell him her greatest secret. Penelope has a hidden life that could ruin their friendship, let alone anything more. And, Colin has secrets of his own.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton has elements of the ugly duckling trope. The characters and their interactions are delightful. Quinn's usual witty conversations are on full display in this book. And, it's hard to imagine too more likable protagonists. Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton deserve their happily-ever-after.

Julia Quinn's website is www.juliaquinn.com

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. Avon/HarperCollins, 2002/2007. ISBN 9780062353689 (paperback), 408p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

A Star is Dead by Elaine Viets

I had never heard of a death investigator before reading Elaine Viets' latest Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery. According to the web site, Coroner Talk, "The role of the medicolegal death investigator is to investigate any death that falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner or coroner, including all suspicious, violent, unexplained and unexpected deaths. The medicolegal death investigator is responsible for the dead person, whereas the local law enforcement jurisdiction is responsible for the scene." That explains why Angela Richman took charge of the bodies in A Star is Dead.

Angela Richman, death investigator of Chouteau County, Missouri, outside St. Louis, only attends Jessica Gray's last performance because of a friend. Mario Garcia, Angela's hair stylist, was hired to style the diva's hair. Jessica Gray had starred in two classic films from the 1960s. Now, she's touring with a stand-up performance that draws the wealthy, elderly crowd that remembers her. Angela is so appalled at Gray's performance that she almost walks out. Angela saw it as a bitter, caustic humiliation of three homeless women when Jessica brought them on stage. But, Mario had begged Angela to be there for him, and to go to the after-party. Both the performance and after-party leave a bitter taste in Angela's mouth.

Jessica is the one who actually suffered that bitter taste. She ends up in the hospital that night due to pneumonia. When she insists on checking herself out of the hospital, she and her staff, including Mario, head to the airport in a limo. On the way Jessica dies of poisoning. And, it's Mario Garcia, a Hispanic immigrant, who the police detective picks as the primary suspect. Angela knows Mario didn't kill anyone. She's even more suspicious when one of the homeless women from Jessica's performance ends up dead. But, she has to be careful as she tiptoes around the case so she doesn't lose her job for interference in a police investigation.

Viets shines a light on issues of homelessness and bigotry in an intriguing mystery. Although there were times I rejected her methods, I found her job as a death investigator to be fascinating. Anyone interested in forensic mysteries might want to try A Star is Dead. Better yet, start with the first in the series, Brain Storm.

Elaine Viets' website is www.elaineviets.com

A Star is Dead by Elaine Viets. Severn House, 2020. ISBN 9780727890160 (hardcover), 224p.

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

Friday, April 03, 2020

Suzanne Chazin, Guest Author

Suzanne Chazin is our guest author today. I'm grateful that she was able to find a subject in these difficult times when it's not easy to concentrate. I'm going to let her introduce herself before her post because I enjoyed her biography. Thank you, Suzanne, for taking time to write for us.

Suzanne Chazinis a former journalist and the award-winning author of two suspense series. Her latest stars Hispanic homicide detective Jimmy Vega, an upstate New York cop wrestling with the new suburban melting pot and his own complicated place in it.  
   The series has received glowing reviews for its authentic portrayal of immigrants and its timely and realistic storylines. Suzanne drew inspiration for the books from her volunteer work with immigrants and her own childhood as a first-generation American. Voice with No Echo, the fifth and latest installment, was released March 31st. 
   Suzanne’s prior mystery series stars Georgia Skeehan, a New York City firefighter-turned-fire-investigator solving arsons in the macho world of the FDNY. USA Today called the series, inspired by her husband, an FDNY veteran, “searing and emotionally explosive.” 
   When she’s not writing, Suzanne can be found burning dinner, helping with homework and trying to find her muse beneath two feet of laundry. Find her at: www.suzannechazin.com

                He said/She said: Why I love male and female leads in mysteries 

     I’ve been binge-reading some of my favorite mystery series while we’re in lock-down here in New York: Dennis Lehane’s old Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro novels, S.J. Rozan’s Bill Smith/Lydia Chin books and the Russ Van Alstyne/Clare Fergusson series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Notice a pattern? All of them have both male and female protagonists. Just like my Jimmy Vega series, which features a homicide detective and his immigrant-activist girlfriend solving crimes in upstate New York. 
     Some people read a mystery series for the breathless action, the bravado of the main character or the cleverness of the crime. I’ve always been drawn to series where the crime is almost secondary to the sexual tension between the main protagonists. It doesn’t matter whether they end up romantically involved or even stay romantically involved. Just having these sorts of questions running through a story keeps me turning pages and waiting impatiently for the next book in the series. Will they sleep together? If they do, will they regret it? Will they stay together? Will someone or something come along to break them up? 
    Here’s my favorite story arc (and one I use in the Jimmy Vega series): the two main characters each have a stake in the crime. They start off actively disliking each other. But as the action moves along, they find they have more in common than they first realized. Dislike slowly evolves into grudging respect and finally, romance (or at least, a sense of romantic connection). There are often a ton of false steps in between and often, over the course of a series, their relationship moves up and down with each new crime or moment of self-discovery. 
     In Jimmy’s case, he’s a 43-year-old county homicide detective in upstate New York, wrestling with the death of his mother, the estrangement of his teenage daughter and a sense of rootlessness from abandoning his Puerto Rican heritage in favor of his (now ex) wife’s Jewish culture. He’s called in to a small town in his jurisdiction to help investigate the death of a Hispanic woman found in a reservoir. In the victim’s handbag, he finds a photograph of a young child and a note: Go back to your country. You don’t belong here. Was this a hate crime? And if so, where is the child? 
     To solve the mystery, Jimmy needs help from the Hispanic community. He turns to the head of the local immigrant advocacy center, a Harvard-educated attorney named Adele Figueroa, a woman as fiery and complex as Jimmy. Adele, like Jimmy, is New York born and Hispanic. But their backgrounds differ. Jimmy is the child of a Puerto Rican single mother. He knew poverty and discrimination growing up, but he never lived in fear of being deported. Adele’s parents, by comparison, were teachers in Ecuador who came to the United States without papers and worked themselves to death to give her and her sister a better life. She wants to solve this crime and find the perpetrator as much as Jimmy, but her background makes her naturally suspicious of the police.  
     Of course, the sparks fly. That’s where the fun comes in. Jimmy and Adele don’t share the same politics, world view or faith in the law. There are things Jimmy, as a cop, can’t tell Adele and things that Adele, who feels an allegiance to her (often-undocumented) clients can’t share with Jimmy. Yet, they must work together, not just in one book, but throughout my whole series. 
     Writing about Jimmy and Adele is by far, the most fun I have with each of my books. (My fifth just came out and my sixth is due out next year). I love writing mysteries full of red herrings and action. I love when readers write me that they never guessed the ending. But for me, the relationship between my main characters is what always keeps me going. 
     The challenge for a series writer of course, is to keep it fresh. If two characters fall in love, then what? I solve the dilemma by creating new dilemmas. Is there a decision Adele must make that will impact Jimmy? Is there a secret Jimmy is keeping from Adele? For instance, in my second Jimmy Vega novel, Adele has an opportunity to take a new job in Washington, DC that might potentially take her out of Jimmy’s life forever. In my third book, Jimmy makes a tragic mistake that threatens to imperil not only his career but hers. There are tough decisions in each book that characters have to make—with repercussions that will follow them throughout the series. Sometimes, even I don’t know the outcomes until I write them. 
     Just as our real-life relationships are always evolving, so too, do fictional ones. How do characters cope with changes to their personal lives and careers? Does one crave intimacy more than the other? Is one more secretive? Is one more daring? A satisfying relationship in a mystery series grows as the series grows. That’s what makes it fun to watch. 
     Life is challenging right now, I know. We need our friends and families to help keep us sane. But 

what we also need right now is escape. Suspense, thrills, and yes—romance. 

Voice with No Echo is the latest Jimmy Vega mystery. Here's the description of the new release.

A long-buried family secret and a chance encounter with an estranged sibling force police detective Jimmy Vega to confront his deepest fears in this gripping new mystery by award-winning author Suzanne Chazin . . .
It's spring in Lake Holly, New York, a time of hope and renewal. But not for immigrants in this picturesque upstate town. Raids and deportations are on the rise, spurring fear throughout the community. 
Tensions reach the boiling point when the district attorney’s beautiful young bride is found hanging in her flooded basement, an apparent victim of suicide. But is she, wonders Vega? If so, where is her undocumented immigrant maid? Is she a missing witness, afraid to come forward? Or an accessory to murder?
Vega gets more help than he bargained for when Immigration and Customs Enforcement sends an investigator to help find—and likely deport—the maid. It’s Vega’s half-sister Michelle, the child who caused his father to leave his mother. Now an ICE agent, Michelle tangles with Vega and his girlfriend, immigrant activist Adele Figueroa. The law is the law, Michelle reminds Vega. And yet, his heart tells him he needs to dig deeper, not just into the case but into his past, to a childhood terror only Michelle can unlock.
While Vega searches for the demon from his youth, he discovers one uncomfortably close by, erecting a scheme of monstrous proportions. It’s a race against the clock with lives on the line. And a choice Vega never thought he’d have to make: Obey the law. Or obey his conscience. There’s no margin for error . . .

Thursday, April 02, 2020

What Are You Reading?

First, the most important question - how are you doing? I hope everyone is staying home, staying safe and healthy. Are you still sane, or relatively so? If you can answer the following question, you're probably okay. What are you reading? Or, is it too hard to concentrate right now?

It's taking time for me. And, yesterday was my birthday, which was a terrific distraction. I spent most of the day on Facebook, thanking friends for their birthday greetings. But, I have read 100 pages in a nonfiction book this week. It's a beautifully written book by CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Conor Knighton. It's called Leave Only Footprints...My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park. Unfortunately, I have an ARC, and I know the actual book has pictures in it. I'm going to have to look for the book eventually when the library reopens and we're out in the world again. I'd like to see the photos.

So, tell us. How are you doing? How is your reading going this week? What are you reading?

And, take care of yourself!

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

May 2020 Treasures in My Closet

Who would have thought a month ago that we would all be isolated in our homes? And, while some of us are reading more, I know I'm having a hard time concentrating. There are some excellent May releases coming out, though. If you can't place holds at your local public library, mark your favorite books from this list for future consideration when libraries reopen. Or, pick one or two to purchase from your favorite independent bookstore. Here are the May treasures in my closet. If you'll notice, May 5 is going to be a big day in the publishing world. But, take these publication dates with a grain of salt. Even while I was writing this, I found four books whose publication dates had changed.

Raise your hand if you're ready for Mary Kay Andrews' latest novel. Who isn't right now? Hello, Summer introduces Conley Hawkins who left her family's small town newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, years ago. After ten years of hard work, she finds herself right back where she started, working for her sister at the family newspaper. Even worse, she's in charge of the local gossip column, "Hello, Summer." But, news in the town turns it into a scandalous hotspot after Conley witnesses an accident, and the story behind it gets dangerous. Add in some romance, and it's time for a terrific escape novel. (Release date is May 5.)

Amy Jo Burns takes readers to a West Virginia mountaintop trapped in time in her novel, Shiner. An hour from the closest West Virginia mining town, Wren Bird lives in a cloistered mountain cabin with her parents, the only visitor her mother's lifelong best friend. Every Sunday, Wren's father delivers sermons in an abandoned gas station, where he handles serpents and praises the Lord. He's convinced of his divinity, and he has a strange hold over the community. Then, one summer, a miracle performed by Wren's father turns to tragedy. As Wren's world shatters, she learns the truth of her family's harrowing history, and searches for a different future for herself. (Release date is May 5.)

I recognized Caroline B. Cooney's name because of her book, The Face on the Milk Carton. Her new thriller is Before She Was Helen. Clemmie goes next door to check on her unlikable neighbor Dom, but he isn't there. Something is, though, something so stunning and beautiful that she photographs it on her cell phone, and makes the mistake of forwarding it. When the picture hits the Internet, Clemmie realizes fifty years of carefully hiding under names not her own could be ruined by one careless picture. And, while she found a work of art, the police find a body, along with Clemmie's fingerprints. Now, her quiet life comes crashing down as her dark past returns. (Release date is May 5.)

I'm a fan of A.J. Devlin's Cobra Clutch. It went on to win the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Devlin now brings "Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead back, taking the pro wrestler turned private investigator into the cutthroat world of women's roller derby in Rolling Thunder. When a team's coach disappears, the women hire Jed to find him. It's a witty, violent mystery, just as good as the first one. (Release date is 5/15.)

The cutline for Tiny Imperfections by All Frank and Asha Youmans says, "All's fair in love and kindergarten admissions." At thirty-nine, Josie Bordelon is no longer the "it" black model of the '90s. She's director of admissions at the most sought after San Francisco private school, single, and determined to keep her seventeen-year-old daughter from making the same mistakes she did. But, Etta is supported by the family matriarch in her passion for ballet. Meanwhile, Josie's best friend thinks all Josie needs is to get back out in the dating world. (Release date is May 5.)

Laura Hankin's Happy & You Know It is described as "A dark, witty page-turner about a struggling young musician who takes a job singing for a playgroup of overprivileged babies and their effortlessly cool moms, only to find herself pulled into their glamorous lives and dangerous secrets. (Release date is May 19.)

What's better for a beach read than a romantic comedy called Beach Read by Emily Henry? Augustus Everett and January Andrews are polar opposites. He's an acclaimed author of literary fiction. She's a bestselling romance author. But, they do have something in common. For three months, they're living in adjoining beach houses, broke and bogged down with writer's block. Then, they make a deal to force themselves out of their creative ruts. He'll write something happy, and she'll write the Great American Novel, taking field trips to expose themselves to the other person's world. And, they'll both finish a book. Maybe. (Release date is May 19.)

Fans of Kate Carlisle's Bibliophile mysteries will want to check out Harper Kincaid's Bookbinding mystery, To Kill a Mocking Girl. Quinn Victoria Caine returns to her hometown of Vienna, Virginia to start her new life as a bookbinder in her family-owned bookshop, Prose & Scones. Maybe it's not comfortable bumping into her ex, Scott, or his fiancee, Tricia, Quinn's former high school nemesis, who shove their recent engagement in her face constantly. That doesn't mean Quinn wanted to find Tricia dead in the road, or become the prime suspect in the police investigation. (Release date is May 12.)

Rigged is the fourth in the Jake Longly series by D.P. Lyle, but I hadn't read previous ones and still enjoyed this book. Tommy "Pancake" Jeffers' first love was Emily Patterson who he hasn't seen since middle school. But, she's on the verge of divorce and Longly Investigations is looking into the finances involved. When Emily doesn't appear for her meeting with Pancake, he goes looking, only to find her body and that of her boyfriend. Pancake calls on Jake and his team to investigate the murder. (Release date is May 19.)

Susan Mallery's The Friendship List may be just the story of friendship and support we need right now. It sounds like "The Bucket List" for women. Two best friends realize they have to change their life after single mom Ellen Fox overhears her son say he can't go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she's living hers. So, she teams up with her best friend Unity Leandre who creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone, everything from "go sky diving" to "wear a bikini in public". But, Unity doesn't need to change. What's wrong with a widow in her thirties still sleeping in her late husband's childhood bed? Somewhere along the way, the two friends discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon. (Release date is May 26.)

The Tourist Attraction is Sarah Morgenthaler's debut romantic comedy, and it just looks fun. When Graham Barnett named his diner in Moose Springs, Alaska The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now, he's stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless string of resort visitors who couldn't interest him less. And, he's definitely not interested in the enthusiastic tourist in the corner. He has a strict "No tourists" policy. Two weeks in Alaska is the top and only item on Zoey Caldwell's bucket list. And, she falls in love with Moose Springs at first site. And, there just might be more to the grumpy owner of a diner than meets the eye. (Release date is May 5.)

Kate Morse's sequel to The Burning Chambers is The City of Tears. The historical novel reunites readers with Minor Joubert and her husband Piet as they travel to Paris to attend a royal wedding intended to finally bring peace between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Despite the celebrations, within days of the ceremony, thousands will be dead in the streets and Minou's family will be scattered to the winds. (Release date is May 26.)

In The War Widow, Tara Moss takes readers to post-World War II Sydney. The war may be over, but journalist Billie Walker's search for a missing young immigrant will plunger her right back into the danger and drama she thought she'd left behind in Europe. She's happy to be home after years spent as a war correspondent, but the rejoicing at the end of war is tarnished by the loss of her father, and the disappearance in Europe of her husband, Jack. And, the newspapers are sidelining her, giving jobs to returning soldiers. She's a survivor, though, and reopens her father's private investigation agency. Eventually, the women of Sydney turn to her, first for divorce cases. Then the son of immigrants goes missing, and Billie's new case turns dangerous. (Release date is May 5.)

A Full Cold Moon is the latest intriguing police procedural by Lissa Marie Redmond. Buffalo police detective Lauren Riley is working Homicide while her partner on the Cold Case team is laid up. One night, a visitor from Iceland is killed in an alley just feet from his hotel. Before Riley even has a chance to investigate the Buffalo connection, she and an FBI agent are sent to Iceland, following the trail of an influential businessman who may know the secrets behind the death. (Release date is May 5.)

Francesca Serritella is known for the nonfiction essays she writes with her mother, Lisa Scottoline. Ghosts of Harvard is her debut novel, the story of a sister grieving the loss of her brother. Cady Archer arrives on Harvard's campus to begin her freshman year, looking only for answers to the question, what really happened to her brother, a schizophrenic savant, the night he died? Eric left behind a secret blue notebook, and Cady's determined to investigate. Her amateur sleuthing turns up clues that grow increasingly sinister, and she begins to hear voices connected to ghosts of Harvard's past. If Cady listens to those voices, will they lead to the truth about her brother or down a path to her own destruction? (Release date is May 5.)

Anna Solomon, author of Leaving Lucy Pear, now brings us The Book of V. The story intertwines the lives of three women across three centuries as their stories of sex, power, and desire finally converge in the present day. Meet Lily Rubenstein, a Brooklyn mom in 2016, Vivian Kent, a senator's wife in 1970s Washington, D.C., and the Bible's Queen Esther. Their lives are connected in surprising ways that deepen their individual stories. (Release date is May 5.)

In Exile Music, Jennifer Steil takes an unexplored slice of World War II history to tell the story of a young Jewish girl whose family flees refined and urbane Vienna for safe harbor in the mountains of Bolivia. Orly had an idyllic childhood filled with music when she grew up in Vienna in the 1930s. Her father plays the viola in the Philharmonic and her mother is an opera singer. But, when the Germans arrive in 1938, Orly's family price refugee visas for La Pax. Even as the number of Jewish refugees grows, her family is haunted by the music that was once their livelihood. Orly and her father adjust, but her mother only grows more distant. When the war ends, Orly must decide between the love of her new home, or the pull of her past in Europe. (Release date is May 5.)

There's quite a bit of buzz about Elisabeth Thomas' debut, Catherine House. The author's years at Yale inspired the seductive, gothic-infused novel of literary suspense. It's set within a secluded, elite university, and follows a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students...and the dark truth beneath the school's promise of prestige. (Release date is May 12.)

There are some other treasures here that might appeal to you as well. Just a reminder, again. Check for changed release dates.

Carrey, Jim and Dana Vachon - Memoirs and Misinformation (5/5)
Danler, Stephanie - Stray (5/5)
Guzlowski, John - Little Altar Boy (5/21)
Masad, Ilana - All My Mother's Lovers (5/26)
Mayne, Andrew - The Girl Beneath the Sea (5/1)
Panowich, Brian - Hard Cash Valley (5/5)
Stivers, Carole - The Mother Code (5/5)
Swarup, Shubhangi - Latitudes of Longing (5/5)
Walker, Harriet - The New Girl (5/19)

And, these six books arrived today from HarperCollins, May releases. Jinx is claiming them as his.