Sunday, May 28, 2017

Have You Heard? - Braking Points by Tammy Kaehler

It just seems appropriate today to post one of Sandie Herron's reviews of Tammy Kaehler's audios in the Kate Reilly series. After all, the Indianapolis 500 is today. Both Sandie and Tammy are race fans. And, what can we say about Kate herself?

Braking Points AudiobookBraking Points
Series: A Kate Reilly Mystery, Book 2
Written by Tammy Kaehler, Narrated by Nicole Vilencia
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 10 hours and 37 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio (April 2, 2013)
**** stars

It is abundantly clear that Tammy Kaehler has done her homework when following auto race driver Kate Reilly.  Kate relishes her team’s role racing Corvettes, but during a practice session at Road America, she tangles with a popular NASCAR driver landing him in the hospital.  Kate ends up the butt of nasty e-mails, threatening blog posts, and intimidating broadcasts of her performance.  

Next she arrives in Atlanta to train for the ten-hour Petit Le Mans race with her fellow drivers and team.  She is excited to meet and catch up with two women with whom she spent her early racing career.  One leaves for a moment, and when she doesn’t return, Kate goes to look for her only to find her dead body in the parking lot.  Police determine the drink Kate had ordered which her friend actually drank contained a drug which caused a fatal reaction.  Kate is devastated and wonders who, of all the people being nasty to her, is trying to kill her.  

After hiring a publicity firm to handle the worst of the bullying, Kate cherishes her private role with a cancer survivor charity.  She is angered when her involvement is shared with the press who focus on her racing persona, detracting from the charity.  A car almost runs Kate down, but she escapes any physical injury.  She was spending the day being pampered and receiving instruction from the cosmetics company for whom she is now a spokesperson.  Kate learns she can accent her feminine appearance without diminishing her racing profile.

Kate’s estranged father has been hanging around the track, getting in snippets of conversation around Kate’s functions.  She isn’t making it hard for him to reach her, but she sure isn’t making it easy.  She has little desire to be involved in his life, yet he wants to introduce his family and involve her in their activities since they are all benefactors of a family trust.  Kate meets some family at nearby Chateau Elan only to find they are brats and bullies of a different kind.

Kate is riding a stream of emotions that keep her juggling her responses to the nasty retorts of a race blogger who does not like women in the driver’s seat to the new sponsor who welcomes her into their fold to her new boyfriend Stuart whom she is not sure she can trust.  She finds herself grieving her friend in snatches between the many activities leading up to race day.

Kate’s driving presents as bare bones streaming, silent dialogue of the actions needed in each spot on the track.  Under Kate’s helmet, her focus is solely on the driving task at hand.  She barely exits the driver’s seat when the world crowds in again -- a fan with access to pit road, reporters angling for the best photos and interviews, sponsors and team owners looking for excellent results.  Kate is able to take her excellent starting position to a stunning finish.

Reviewed by Sandie Herron

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews

I do understand the meaning of Memorial Day, that it's a day to honor those who served and died in our wars. However, we've also made this weekend the kickoff to summer. That means it's also the perfect time to discuss Mary Kay Andrews' new book, The Beach House Cookbook.

Andrews' preface is charming. It's her life story as it connects to the beach and beach houses. And, each recipe begins with a story that's as chatty as that preface, welcoming readers to summer and beach and summer foods. Between the pictures, the chatty descriptions, and the titles of each section, readers will recognize a chance to relax. If you don't think of cooking as relaxation, you may after reading Andrews' recipes. It there are a number of ingredients, most of them come from the seasonings. She's tried for beach simple.

Mary Kay Andrews has recipes for a Low Country Boil, a Fourth of July Dinner, a Lazy Weekend Brunch, a Beach Picnic. And, the recipes are from the South - Savannah Red Rice, Fried Okra Cakes, fried chicken and potato salad, garlic shrimp, pimento cheese. And, of course, there are biscuits. Andrews has a story to tell about those as well. There are stories and gorgeous photos of food that are guaranteed to make you hungry.

Andrews even has interesting names for some of the dishes, ones that you probably recognize if you're from the South, such as Pig Candy, which is brown sugar-spiced bacon. The one recipe I can attest to is one I've made before, but with the recipe in front of me, I made it again for a potluck at work, and it was a hit. I hadn't heard it called "Trailer Trash Dessert" before, though. But, it consists of layers of ice cream sandwiches, hot fudge topping, caramel topping, whipped topping and chocolate toffee bits. It's the perfect ending to a beach lunch or supper.

The Beach House Cookbook is bright, cheerful, and filled with delicious looking Southern food. It's just right to take to the beach, or to make easy recipes so you can pretend you're on vacation at your own beach house.

Mary Kay Andrews' website is

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews. St. Martin's Press. 2017. ISBN 9781250130440 (hardcover), 254p.

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Winners and The Next Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Tracee de Hahn's Swiss Vendetta is going to Judi M. from Portland, OR. Linda K. from Woodstock, MD won the copy of A Puzzle to Be Named Later. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, there's no giveaway. I'll be in New York City most of next week for Book Expo. If you're just here to check on the contest, come back next Friday. I will start one on Friday.

If you come to my blog for book reviews or discussions, come back tomorrow. There will be a post.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I just started Eloisa James' romance, Seven Minutes in Heaven. It's delightful, but I'll probably be reading it every Thursday when we talk for the next few weeks. I'm in the middle of the mystery reading for the July issue of Library Journal, and next week I'll be in New York City for Book Expo. So, there isn't a lot of time to read a romance.

For the next couple weeks, what are you reading is going to depend on you. So, today, while I'm around during the day, tell us all what you're reading. I'm looking forward to our conversation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Have You Heard? - Miranda James' Murder Past Due

Sandie Herron has been listening to a series I enjoy, Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mysteries. Here's her review of the first audiobook in the series, Murder Past Due. Past Due
Series: Cat in the Stacks Mystery Book 1
Written by Miranda James
Narrated by Erin Bennett
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: February 25, 2014

I very much enjoyed Miranda James's (Dean James) first entry in the Cat in the Stacks series MURDER PAST DUE.  This was a relatively simple story that gained speed as it unfolded.  By the end, we had been treated to several twists and surprises that pointed to an unlikely conclusion.

Taking place in the college town of Athena, Mississippi, we are introduced to Charlie Harris, who is widowed and whose adult children are on their own.  Living in a large home, Charlie took in boarders who attended Athena College.  This semester just one boarder - Justin Wardlaw, son of school and college classmate Julia Wardlaw - lived with Charlie and his cat.  Diesel was a Maine Coon cat; therefore he was large among cat breeds.  In fact, Charlie almost always took Diesel wherever he went bound by a harness and leash.

Another classmate of Charlie and Julia, Godfrey Priest, had gone on to become a famous and popular author.  He returns to Athena for several reasons.  He is to do a signing of his new book just published.  He also wants to donate his "papers" to the college where Charlie was the head archivist.  A dinner was planned to thank Godfrey for his donation; however, he never made it. Several people stopped by to see Priest, with his final visitor being Charlie Harris, who found Godfrey dead in his hotel room.

First we discover that Charlie’s boarder Justin is Godfrey's son from an affair he and Julia had many years ago.  From there clues began popping up, or at least now that there was a murder to solve, they became more apparent.  If I shared them now, there would be no reason for you to enjoy this cozy mystery.

There were some things that strained believability.  Justin acted younger than 18, but then he's just been told that the only father he ever knew is not his father and then his biological father, Godfrey Priest, is killed, all in one day.  Charlie tries to help since he knew everyone, but his involvement was unnaturally formal and friendly at the same time.  On getting to know Charlie better, we discover that he is a southern gentleman which explains the importance of proper manners to him.  Julia was around a bit too often, hovering over Justin.  When the Will was read, Julia wanted to know how much was in the estate, in dollars, a rude question at the time.

While there might have been some flaws, I felt the clues to the murderer were well placed and plausible.  Their presentation was unpredictable yet believable.  When we learn more behind the motives, clues came together to support the final resolution, even though my jaw dropped once or twice on the way.  

A great first mystery in the Cat in the Stacks series.  I would enjoy seeing Charlie and Diesel in a certain sequel.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Although this latest book by James Runcie is part of "The Grantchester Mysteries", Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love really has very little mystery in it. At least, not mystery as crime fiction readers think of it. The stories in this collection are really about the mystery of life.

Readers who follow the series know this is the sixth book in the series that has been turned into the Grantchester series on PBS. That series features Sidney Chambers and his friend, Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, and it's centered on crimes that can be dark at times. However, these stories are heavy on details of Sidney and Geordie's personal lives as well.  Set from 1971 to 1976, this collection includes a murder, a missing teen, a missing book. There's a scandal at the church. And, there is a wealth of religious elements in it as Archdeacon Sidney Chambers contemplates faith, handles services, deals with a woman who wants more of a role in the church. There's music and family and friendship. Sidney spends a great deal of time contemplating his relationship with his wife. There's a surprising final chapter in this book that wraps up the series.

I was actually disappointed in this addition to the series. I haven't read the recent books, and maybe the books have been trending more towards religion and Sidney's personal life. But, that's not why I read the books. I'm looking for Sidney and Georgie to tackle crimes, and, if those crimes involve the mysteries of life, of personal relationships, that's fine. But, I wasn't expecting a book that focused on Sidney's religious and personal life with very few crimes.

I'd recommend Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love to Jan Karon's fans. This is a book about religion and faith. I wouldn't recommend it to readers looking for the next crime fiction collection.

James Runcie's website is

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie. Bloomsbury. 2017. ISBN 9781632867940 (hardcover), 368p.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Have You Heard? - Tammy Kaehler's Kiss the Bricks

Sandie Herron has a timely book review for us, just before the Indianapolis 500. Herron reviews a recent book release, Tammy Kaehler's Kiss the Bricks. Thanks, Sandie!

Kiss the Bricks (Kate Reilly Mysteries Book 5) by [Kaehler, Tammy]KISS THE BRICKS
By Tammy Kaehler
Scottsdale, AZ:  Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date:  May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback Original

Tammy Kaehler takes us to see Kate Reilly race in the Indianapolis 500, one of the most popular auto races in the world.  Kate Reilly would consider winning the race a dream come true, while finishing the race is still a lofty goal.  The world would probably see her as the first female driver to win, one of Kate’s biggest gripes as well.  She wants to be considered a driver, just as any other male or female.  

Anyone who races in the Indy 500 participates in a series of events throughout the month of May.  Days of practice culminate in qualification in order to determine which 33 drivers are in the race as determined by their lap speeds.  Kate is shocked to find herself as the fastest driver of the field! Unfortunately, Kate’s next day of practice is a difficult one, and she finds herself near the bottom of the field.  Now Kate must contend with being compared to PJ Rodriguez, the first woman to be fastest on qualification day in 1987, followed by days of being in last place and ending with her death five days later.  The official cause of death is suicide, but many who knew PJ well believe it was murder.  

No investigation into PJ’s death thirty years ago was ever done.  The family comes to Kate with their feelings on PJs death and asks Kate to look into facts that might substantiate murder as the cause of death.  Kate’s reputation as an amateur sleuth has preceded her to the track.  Kate agrees to look into PJ’s death partly because she knows the tenacity needed to make it to the top and believes that PJ would not give up before meeting their mutual goal.  PJ bore the same pressures on being a “girl” driver as Kate does, so comparisons run rampant.

Kate is thrilled her grandfather is in Indianapolis for the weeks up to and including the race.  He stays with Kate and Holly, Kate’s roommate, her assistant, and best friend.  The three form Special Team Kate to investigate PJs murder.  They begin by trying to place who was at the race that had access to PJ and who would benefit by her death.  They are joined early in this task by Ryan, Kate’s FBI boyfriend, who is in town for the race.  He lends a professional quality to their research.

Many activities follow qualification day that involve Kate and bring her in touch with many people involved in Indy thirty years prior.  First Kate’s position in the field of drivers must be determined.  Next is a day of media and public relations where the Indy league sends teams of drivers to various major cities.  A team competition to see who has the fastest pit stop follows.  Numerous interviews with TV, radio, and print ventures keep Kate on her toes and busy between official events.  A festival parade is held on the Saturday prior to the race with the usual floats and participants as well as all the drivers.  

All these activities are interrupted by the murder of the man who had owned PJ’s team, also the father of one of Kate’s team owners.  Relationships between the people involved in present day mix and intertwine with those of thirty years ago.  Special Team Kate now considers viable possibilities for both murders.   

Everything culminates in the running of the Indy 500 race.  The twists and turns we have taken with Kate bring us to the conclusions of both mysteries.  Does Kate run the race to the end?  Is PJs death considered murder and if so, whodunit?  

I very much enjoyed this complex and detailed perspective on the Indy 500.  I found KISS THE BRICKS to be another step up in Tammy Kaehler’s writing skills, bringing us closer to the action and everything that makes up the Indy 500.  Definitely recommended.

Reviewed by Sandie Herron