Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Have You Heard? Latte Trouble by Cleo Coyle

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61hY-H2IAqL._AA300_.jpgLatte Trouble
Coffee House Mystery #3
Written by Cleo Coyle, Narrated by Rebecca Gibel
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 8 hours and 7 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Audible.com Release Date: November 9, 2011
ASIN: B00654G23Y

The third coffee house mystery was an intriguing trip through the various facets of the fall Fashion Week in Manhattan.  One of the most famous and accomplished designers literally designed her new line of jewelry based on the coffee bean while visiting the Village Blend coffee house.  Lotte Harmon insisted on opening the show at the Village Blend.

The show's debut was a huge success with patrons squeezing into every available nook.  Customers out numbered staff, so a special drink was prepared with soy and destined for Lotte Harmon.   It was a disaster when another thirsty customer swiped her drink from the serving tray.  He took a large swig and began to turn pink, convulse, and died in rapid succession.  The victim's mate also had a sip, but CPR was begun and an ambulance called, so he never got completely oxygen deprived.

Was this a deliberate poisoning?  Who was the intended victim?  Lotte or the man who died?  And who added the poison to the drink?  Cops circled the scene and focused on Tucker, the barista who made the drink and attempted to serve it to Miss Harmon.  Clare Cosi, manager of the blend doubted Tucker was guilty but had no alibi to prove his innocence. Tucker was sent to Ryker's Island prison for safekeeping.  

Clare quickly began her own investigation. She went with a disguise and the owner of The Blend to a formal reception on a business rival's yacht all a twitter about Lotte's return to build her line again.  Clare's ex-husband Matte ended up in a fight on the yacht, pointing out another suspect.

Clare kept believing in Tucker and continued building her case.  Answers were unexpected and the ties between them also surprising.  The suspects had been alluded to early in the story yet it was done so casually and slipped in so well that I easily forgot the solution right in front of me!  A very enjoyable and recommended read.

Reviewed by Sandie Herron

Monday, January 16, 2017

Have You Heard? - Demons are a Ghoul's Best Friend by Victoria Laurie

“Have You Heard?” is a column featured only on Lesa’s Book Critiques.  It features many reviews of audiobooks (fiction, with a concentration in mysteries) but these reviews will include recent and past books for an interesting mixture of titles. Content is usually written by Sandie Herron.  It also covers news of note and not generally available, such as ASAP publishing a limited edition for a certain author or perhaps something important out of Publisher’s Weekly.  The column is published sporadically, so you’ll want to watch for it!

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51v-zoKrZiL._AA300_.jpgDemons are a Ghoul's Best Friend
Ghost Hunter mystery #2
Written by Victoria Laurie, Narrated by Eileen Stevens  
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Time:  8 hours 57 mins
Published by Audible Studios, C 2008, released on audio 1/27/10
ASIN: B00367EX1G
5 of 5 stars ★★★★★

As the second book in this ghoulish series opens, we discover that Dr. Steven Sable enjoyed the process of ghost busting when trying to contact his grandfather in book one, he invests in the partnership of MJ Holliday and Gilley Gillespie. With his influx of cash, they are able to buy all sorts of new equipment: night vision cameras, handheld computer thermal imaging devices, electronic energy detectors, some brand new, state-of-the-art walkie talkies, video monitors, digital cameras, a laptop, and a shiny new van to put it all in.

It will all come in handy soon, since one of MJ’s friends, Karen O’Neal, has stopped into the office. She got a phone call from her niece Evie telling her she’d been chased through school by a man with an axe. She attended an exclusive boarding school near Lake Placid, New York. Security cameras were mounted in the school at the beginning of the school year, and a review of those tapes show Evie running through the hallways but no one was visible chasing her. Karen’s brother, Evie’s dad, is convinced that Evie is suffering from some psychosis and needs to see a psychiatrist. He doesn’t believe her story at all. So Karen hires MJ and Gilley and Steven to visit the school and find out what’s going on.

When the four arrived at Northelm Boarding School, they found it letting out for the summer. An older section of the school was to be converted into dorm rooms over the summer, so no one was allowed in that wing. The dean of the school was adamant that they not have access to any of the school because no one would be there except construction crews, and they had a very tight schedule if they were to be finished by fall. Karen, who had gone with the trio, once dated the CEO of the well regarded construction company. Karen contacted him to try and get a week’s delay on the start of renovations so the ghost busters would have a chance to find the axe-wielding man.

Karen was successful, she informed them by phone, standing in Paris. Seems the CEO wanted another chance to romance her, this time throughout Europe. He had to do something with a week off. The dean finally caved and allowed them into the school but only parts not to be renovated and not in the old dean’s quarters where his brother Nicky lived, since he was mentally disabled. They found the axe-wielding ghost in the school. He had great energy and was able to move furniture about very quickly as he taunted them with pyramids of desks turned back to straight rows almost in an instant.

When Gilley saw and felt how strong this ghost was, he finally admitted something to MJ: he was afraid of ghosts! That’s why he always preferred to stay in the van, except this ghost attacked the van with what felt like a baseball bat. MJ made Gilley his very own special ghost-busting shirt – to which she glued magnets. Ghosts don’t like magnets for they disturb their own magnetic fields. She also made what they called grenades – a foot long magnet in a steel pipe capped to hold in the magnet until needed.

The ghost busters could not figure out why the dean denied them access to parts of the school, since this ghost went through the section that was to be converted to dorms. By the end of the book, we learn who this hatchet toting man was along with why the dean had tried to stop them from learning the entire truth. I can’t tell you about the chases and terrifying moments that took place nor where MJ found the portal that Hatchet Jack was using to move between planes. Many alumni of the school still lived in town and helped the team by filling them in on what happened 20 years ago and how it had continued into present day. One alumni especially filled in some background on the two child ghosts MJ found also running from Jack.

Steven helped out with this ghost bust, especially since Gilley had just confessed his fear of ghosts. Karen continued to call for updates from different countries in Europe. MJ took the lead even though she was physically injured by this violent ghost. There were a lot of people the narrator needed to speak for, and Eileen Stevens did a great job. Dr. Sable’s voice was very distinctive and different from others. Ms. Stevens does a terrific job of narrating the story in general and then adds in the extra features of each character . . . a performance to be commended.

This book was definitely a paranormal story, and just as strongly was a mystery with many twists and turns. I didn’t want to put it down. With the nasty ghost running loose and kids at risk, it was hard to not think about the storylines as they twisted and turned into a knot with Hatchet Jack unwillingly in the middle. You will definitely find yourself whooping it up in the end and cheering the ghost busters. Evie will be just fine in the fall. Now I can get some relaxing sleep at least until I begin the third book in this ghoulish series – GHOULS JUST HAUNT TO HAVE FUN.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


This is what my dining room table looks like at the moment.

I have about five more books to read for a deadline on Wednesday, which means nothing else is getting done over the long weekend. I haven't had time to read for the blog. The cats and I are stuck on the couch together. Tomorrow, I'll have one of Sandie's posts up. But, when I don't even think about the computer until 10 PM, I don't have anything fresh to write. Stick with me. This should be the only month with a rush deadline.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Winners and Give Me a C Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Glen D. from Yuba City, CA won Jimmy and Fay. Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything is heading to Las Vegas, NV to Marla B. If we're not iced in, I'll get the books out today.

This week, I'm giving away 2 titles and 3 books. I have two copies of Jane K. Cleland's Glow of Death. Her Josie Prescott mysteries continue to get better, and you don't have to have read earlier books in the series to read this one. In Glow of Death, antiques dealer and auction house owner Josie Prescott appraises a Tiffany lamp, and she and the wealthy local couple are delighted to find that it's genuine. She even uses it to record her TV show. But, when she learns that the wife has been murdered, Josie discovers the victim isn't even the woman she met. Everything she thought she knew about the lamp and the couple is built on lies.

Cleland's books are traditional mysteries. Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder ones are much darker. Burkholder is chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio, a community with a large Amish population. In Her Last Breath, a hit-and-run accident leaves a father and two of his children dead, and a third child clinging to life. The mother was once Kate's best friend, but as she investigates, she suspects Mattie is hiding something. The case sets Kate on the trail of a cold killer.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Glow of Death" or "Win Her Last Breath." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Jan. 19 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Old-fashioned Corners of Paris by Christophe Destournelles

I do understand that when I go to Paris, I'm not going to see the same sights that my father did in the 1950s. But, author Christophe Destournelles and photographer Christophe Lefebure show some of those hidden gems were still there in 2014 when Old-fashioned Corners of Paris was released.

Carousels! Cemeteries.Tarot card readers. Antique and second-hand booksellers on the banks of the Seine, otherwise titled "Riverside Reading". There were still close to 250 bouquinistes, booksellers, in the stalls by the river. Punch and Judy shows. Jazz. Oh, and "confectionary stores - where visitors put aside their resolutions and forget the passing of time as the immerse themselves in sheer bliss....Travel there alone or in convivial company."

I'm traveling to Paris with convivial company, and it's a friend who gave me this charming book. The photos bring back moments I never knew, but any reader of books set in Paris will hunger to see those scenes. If you're a reader, do you find pictures enchanting, feeling as if you've already seen that place or that setting? This charming book takes us to places that are vanishing. But, I'm sure that an eager traveler, willing to look in out-of-the-way spots, will still find glimpses of the past.

Ireland was more wonderful than I ever imagined. Old-fashioned Corners of Paris shows that a traveler with an open heart and appreciative eyes can still find secrets in that city. I'm eager to discover moments of enchantment there.

Old-fashioned Corners of Paris by Christophe Destournelles. Photos by Christophe Lefebure. Translation by Simon Beaver. New York Review Books. 2014. ISBN 9781936941100 (hardcover), 194p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The book was a gift.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I really wanted to share a picture book that I bought, but I don't know enough about children's books for a long review. So, I'm also asking you what you're reading today as well.

I saw Matthew Cordell's picture book, Wolf in the Snow, at work. There are very few words in this ink-and-watercolor illustrated book. But, oh, the heart in it!

Cordell tells and illustrates the story of a little girl on the plains somewhere. While the little girl isn't realistically drawn, she is so wrapped up in winter clothes that you can't see her features anyways. But, her red parka shows up beautifully against the fields, and then the snow. She leaves school in a snowstorm, and those are stunning, cold pictures of her as she crosses the fields. Coming from the opposite direction is a pack of wolves, beautifully alive. The pup of the pack falls behind in the snow, and Cordell shows the little girl in a round snowball illustration heading one way, and the little pup in a round snowball coming toward her. We hear her huffing, and him whining. She rescues him, fights off other animals, and has the courage to head across a solid white field in the direction of a wolf's howl. In one illustration, we see the wide-eyed face as she holds the little wolf. In the other, we see the wide-eyed mother wolf. After the little girl turns the pup over to the mother, she continues trying to reach home, but stumbles and falls in the snow. She treks on, toward the barking of her own dog, but stumbles again, falls and curls in to a ball. The wolves have followed her, and the pup licks the freezing child as the other wolves gather around and howl. Led by the howling, the little girl's mother and dog show up to rescue her. The final picture resembles the opening illustration. The little girl and her family is home in a cabin, with a fire, and a carving of a howling wolf on the mantelpiece.

There are no words in this book, other than huffing, howling, and barking. But, the snow, the blizzard, the layout, and the story have so much heart. Cordell tells an entire story of courage and caring with those few words and gorgeous illustrations. I buy very few children's books. But, this one moves me every time I read it.

So, I've read a picture book three times, marveling at the artwork and story. What are you reading? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Release Day

Today is release day for a number of books that look good. I talked about several with my last book chat. But, I want to feature three books today that I'm going to read, and just haven't had a chance. My Library Journal deadline means I'm reading books that come out in March and April right now. Once that deadline is past, I can back up a little.

Dead Cold Brew is the sixteenth book in Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mystery series. I did mention this in the book chat because it comes from Berkley. Coffeehouse manager Clare Cost receives a special engagement ring from her NYPD detective boyfriend. He even had help from her boss, who sent him to a special jeweler. But, in the midst of their celebration, Clare's daughter receives a mysterious letter, followed by news the jeweler has been poisoned. Clare tracks down clues in some of New York City's secret places, trying to stop an old vendetta.

Larry D. Sweazy has become a favorite in the last few years. His new book is Where I Can See You. It's a police procedural featuring detective Hud Matthews. He is still haunted by his mother's disappearance when he was eight years old, and he launches his own investigation. When a murder occurs in his lakeside community, he's called on to capture the killer. He's pulled into the community, and ties to the past, as he tries to discover the truth about the crimes.

A Serious Undertaking is the follow-up to Deanna Raybourn's fun mystery, A Curious Beginning. Veronica Speedwell, Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter, teams up with Stoker, her natural-historian colleague, to try to save a society art patron scheduled for execution for a brutal murder. It's a race against time to find a killer. Check out my interview of Deanna Raybourn here, http://bit.ly/2i9niFA

I'm looking forward to all three of these books, just as soon as I have some time.