Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Street Cat Named Bob And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen

Yes. Bob, the cat, is still alive at the end of James Bowen's memoir, A Street Cat Named Bob And How
He Saved My Life. I've read enough nonfiction about relationships with animals to know this is the most important question readers have. Does the animal survive? James and Bob are both alive and, if the book is any evidence, doing better than either have ever done.

In 2007, James Bowen was busking on the streets of London, trying to make daily money to live playing his guitar. He was a recovering addict, living in a bare apartment, when he came home one day to find a ginger tomcat in a stairwell. The cat was as ragged looking as Bowen himself, and James liked him, but assumed he belonged to someone in the building. And, as much as he liked the cat, even when he couldn't find his owner, Bowen was reluctant to adopt him. "The last thing I needed right now was the extra responsibility of a cat. I was a failed musician and recovering drug addict living a hand-to-mouth existence in sheltered accommodations. Taking responsibility for myself was hard enough."

But, Bowen finally broke down, and took the cat to the vet, named him Bob, and found himself unexpectedly with a companion. The cat and the man found each other to be soul mates, meant to be together through all the tough times of trying to make a living on the streets of London. And, Bob was right there on the streets with James. It was Bob's presence that unexpectedly brought attention to the pair, and brought in the daily money they needed to survive. After a little while, "Something began to sink in. It wasn't all about making money. I wasn't going to starve. And my life was much richer for having Bob in it. I was such a pleasure to have such great company, such a great companion. But somehow it felt like I'd been given a chance to get back on track."

It's a sobering book, a story of a lost man, an invisible part of society. It's sobering to see not only how much Bob changed Bowen's life, but how much he changed the attitudes of the people the pair encountered on the streets. With Bob on his shoulder, James Bowen was no longer invisible.

At the same time, A Street Cat Named Bob And How He Saved My Life is a triumphant story of two lost souls who found strength in each other. It's a moving story of hope, triumph, and the power of a relationship so strong that it forever changed two lives.

Bowen and Bob blog at, and they're on Facebook under StreetCatBob.

A Street Cat Named Bob And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen. St. Martin's Press. 2012. ISBN 9781250029461 (hardcover), 279p.

FTC Full Disclosure - A friend gave me a gift copy of the book.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Cozy Giveaway

Enough about the books I have. Now, I'm offering two cozy mysteries as giveaways.

It seems the perfect week to give away a copy of Laura Morrigan's Woof at the Door following her guest blog this week. It's a terrific mystery featuring animal behaviorist Grace Wilde who has a secret. She can psychically communicate with animals. But, when a Doberman turns out to be the only witness to a crime, she may have to reveal that secret to catch a killer.

Or, you could win M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin mystery, Hiss and Hers. Agatha has fallen head over heels for George Marston, a local gardener who's become a lady magnet in the Cotswold village. Agatha plans a charity ball just to have a dance with him, but things go terribly wrong, and George's failure to appear involves a sudden death and a poisonous snake.

Which mystery would you like to win, Woof at the Door or Hiss and Hers? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject should read either "Win Woof at the Door" or "Win Hiss and Hers." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

The contest will end Thursday, Sept. 5 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

More New Arrivals

One of these days, I'll get a chance to post pictures from my Ohio visit, and maybe even review a book. In the meantime, I hope you're not getting tired of seeing all the forthcoming books. Who is going to share all these books with you if I don't? (smile)

Thirteen more books arrived today. Random House is the star of today's listing, with nine books in a box. I'll mention the other books first.

Carolyn Hart's gothic suspense novel, Death by Surprise, will be re-released on Nov. 5th. It originally came out in 1983. It's the story of a woman out to clear her cousin of murder charges after a blackmailer targetig the wealthy Carlisle family turns up dead.

Something Borrowed, Someone Dead is the twenty-fourth Agatha Raisin mystery by M.C. Beaton. When a widow who moved to the charming Cotswolds hills ends up dead, private detective Agatha Raisin is hired to track down a killer. Sept. 17th is release date.

I love the cover of Mary Miley's debut mystery, The Impersonator. Another Sept. 17th release, it was the winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Compettion. In 1917, the fourteen-year-old sole heiress to a family fortune disappeared. Years later, her uncle thinks he's found her acting in a vaudeville playhouse. When he learns he's wrong, he suggests the young woman impersonates his niece, claim the fortune, and split it. But, one person knows Leah isn't the heiress, the person who made her disappear.

Gerrie Ferris Finger's debut mystery, The End Game, was the winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Competition. Now, she's back with the third in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake series, The Devil Laughed. In this one, Dru, owner of Child Trace, and Lake, an Atlanta police lieutenant, find a sailboat missing for four years. However, they don't find the three people that went missing that day. In a reverse of her child finder role, Dru is hired by a thirteen-year-old girl, a girl convinced her mother is still alive four years later.

If I can free up that hour, once a month on the second Tuesday, I participate in Earlyword's GalleyChat. It's a conversation via Twitter between librarians and publishers. I love it. We talk about forthcoming books, particularly the ones we're excited about reading. Random House sent the nine books to those of us who participate in GalleyChat.

So, in order of month of release, here are those nine books.

Two of them are already out. Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat takes readers into the intertwined lives of a small seaside town where a little girl has gone missing. Award-winning Spanish author Javier Mariasi's The Infatuations is summarized as "A provocative novel propelled by a seemingly random murder that we come to understand through one woman's ever-unfurling imagination and infatuations."

Sept. 10th is release date for Dancing with the Enemy: My Family's Holocaust Secret by Paul Glaser. Glaser was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family in the Netherlands. He was shocked to learn as an adult of his father's Jewish heritage, so he set out to discover what happened to the family during World War II and what caused the long-standing rift between his father and his estranged aunt, Rosie. What he discovered was an emancipated Dutch woman who defied convention and became a Jewish dance instructor. And, she managed to survive WWII by teaching dance lessons to the SS at Auschwitz.

Jo Baker's Longbourn is already the subject of a lot of attention. It's "A brilliantly imagined, irresistible below-stairs answer to Pride and Prejudice in which the servants take center stage. It's a story of the romance, intrigue, and drama among the servants of the Bennet household. The back cover says, "Pride and Prejudice was only half the story." It's due out in October.

Jennifer DuBois' Cartwheel features an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, the lawyer tasked with her prosecution, and the sphinx-like young man who happens to be her only alibi. Oct. 8th is on-sale date.

Jo Nesbo's Police will be out a week later, Oct. 15th. "Harry Hole returns - or does he?  in a terrifyingly paced new roller coaster of a thriller by the internationally bestselling author of The Snowman and The Redeemer.

There are also three books due out in January 2014. The First True Lie is Marina Mander's first U.S. publication. It tells the story of a young boy, orphaned, but determined to hide his mother's death. It's been called "Cruel, heart-wrenching, and surprising."

Rachel Joyce, the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, brings us Perfect. Joyce introduces
characters who find their ordinary lives thrown into chaos, while learning that there are times when children must become parents to their parents.

After three acclaimed novels, including The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Gary Sheyngart now turns to memoir with Little Failure. It's the story of a lifelong misfit who forges a place in the world.

Well, I know which ones jump out at me. Are there any books here that appeal to you?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Laura Morrigan, Guest Blogger

When I reviewed Laura Morrigan's debut mystery I said, "People who think Berkley Prime Crime mysteries are fluff need to be steered to Laura Morrigan's debut mystery, Woof at the Door. Morrigan's first Call of the Wilde novel is a must-read for animal lovers and anyone looking for a new series." I liked it so much, I asked Laura to do a guest blog.

Laura Morrigan is a Florida Native whose work at a local zoo, helping out with everything from “waste management” to teaching an elephant how to paint, served as inspiration for her Call of the Wilde Mysteries. She still lives in Florida and is working on the third book in the series.

Thank you, Laura. I love your topic!

Five reasons mystery writers should not go out in public unattended.    

Reason number one:

We apply a little too much of our vivid imaginations to people-watching.
I can't tell you how many times I've looked at someone and thought "Yep-they have bodies buried in their backyard and someone chained in their basement."

Reason number two:

We see random objects as potential murder weapons.
"Congratulations on your award, Joe. Wow, this thing is heavy! You could totally kill someone with it." (I said this once at an awards dinner with my husband's colleagues. Yes, really.)

Reason number three:

No one is safe. If you're a cop, a doctor, a lawyer or your profession has anything to do with our current work-in-progress (or any possible future WIP, for that matter) we will grill you relentlessly until you never want to see us again.

Reason number four:

We know way too much about murder and mayhem and are happy to share if you ask - and sometimes even if you don't.
"You went to the garden center to pick up seeds for your garden? Did you know one of the most deadly poisons in the world comes from the castor bean? Yep - grind one of those suckers up and put it in the coffee - you could off this whole room."

Reason number five:

We scare people. Especially when brainstorming plot points while on the phone with other writers. Say...while standing in line at the grocery store.
"That wouldn't work - there'd be a blood trail."
Nice grandma glances at me, then quickly away.
"Besides, the cops aren't stupid. There has to be a better place to hide the body."

See what I mean? It's best if we at least have a chaperone.

Loved it, Laura. I do understand why you shouldn't be allowed to go out in public by yourself.

Laura Morrigan's website is

Woof at the Door by Laura Morrigan. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425257197 (paperback), 295p.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Arrivals

Since I was in Ohio for a week, the office here held my packages.

Today, I picked up the mail, all twenty-five books that arrived. I had taken three boxes of books to family. I

didn't know I'd recoup the books all at once. Too bad money doesn't work that way. (smile)

So, do you want to know what arrived? I'll start with A Street Cat Named Bob And How He Saved My
Life by James Bowen. It was a gift from a friend who shares a love of cats. It's one of the few books here that are already available. Most of the others haven't been released yet.

Then there was the box that came from Macmillan. Some of the smaller packages were from Macmillan as well.

Rogue is by Mark Sullivan, a novel about a thief turned CIA agent who walked away, only to have a trap set for him. It's out today as a St. Martin's paperback.

C.J. Lyons' Hollow Bones is a release today as well from St. Martin's. FBI agent Caitlyn Tierney searches for a missing college student in the jungles of Guatemala.

The third paperback release today is Dana Stabenow's Bad Blood, a Kate Shugak novel about a deadly struggle between two tribal villages in Alaska.

There are some exciting forthcoming books from Macmillan as well. I'm going to be on a panel at a conference with Frankie Y. Bailey next March. She's the author of The Red Queen Dies (Sept.10). Biracial police detective Hannah McCabe stars in an "Alice in Wonderland-infused crime" in the first in a new series set in the near future. The tangled clues involve Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

Paradise City (Sept. 10)  is the twenty-third book in Archer Mayor's Joe Gunther police procedural series. A string of unrelated burglaries across Vermont culminate in the murder of an elderly woman, leading Joe Gunther and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, the Boston Police, and the vengeful granddaughter of the victim to convene to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Publishers Weekly said, "The real-life Lufthansa heist from Kennedy Airport in 1978 provides the backdrop for (Wallace) Stroby's suspenseful second novel featuring driven but ethical thief Crissa Stone...This thriller evokes Donald Westlake's Parker novels." It's Stroby's Kings of Midnight (Sept. 3).

November 5th is release date for Theresa Schwegel's The Good Boy. An eleven-year-old boy's journey across Chicago with his father's police dog is the lynchpin of the powerful story. For Joel, his father, Pete, and their family, the pursuit of justice takes a staggering toll in a city that can be mercilessly brutal.

Peter James' latest police novel, Dead Man's Time (Oct. 15), spans ninety years and two continents. In 1922, when five-year-old Gavin Daly and his sister sail from New York to Dublin, the boy vows to return someday and find his father. Ninety years later, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace's investigation of a burglary leads to a trail of hatred with Gavin Daly at its heart.

What reader of traditional mysteries isn't waiting for the Nov. 5th release of Julia Spencer-Fleming's latest Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne novel?  Through the Evil Days tells of one tumultuous week in Millers Kill that begins with a farmhouse that erupts in flames, killing the couple sleeping there. The evil that emerges in the following week will forever change the lives of the residents.

Charles French's An Old Betrayal, the seventh in the series of Victorian mysteries, finds Charles Lenox playing for his highest stakes yet, the safety of Queen Victoria herself. (Nov. 12)

I've already heard quite a bit about Carla Norton's The Edge of Normal (Sept. 10). It's a debut thriller about a young woman who was kidnapped and held captive. Now that she's rebuilding her life, her therapist asks her to help a young girl who suffered a similar ordeal. But it pits Reeve LeClaire against a cunning predator who is still out there, watching her every move.

Moving away from thrillers and mysteries for a while, we find Julia MacDonnell's April 2014 release, Mimi Malloy At Last. It's the story of a woman forced into an early retirement who enjoys the simple things in life until an MRI indicates black spots on her brain. But, the mother of six daughters from a large Irish Catholic family prepares to fight back. The back flap says, "A funny, deeply moving story of second chances and late-life romances, told by the most straight-talking woman you'll ever meet." Sounds terrific.

October 15 marks the release of Fiendish Schemes by K.W. Jeter, the author who coined the term "steampunk". George Dower, the son of the inventor of Infernal Devices, has been in exile, accumulating debt. His plan to locate one of his father's inventions goes awry, leaving him drugged, arrested, and interrogated, trapped in a world of secrets, corruption and schemes.

Olivia Laing's The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking will be released Dec. 24th. Laing travels
by train plane and highway to dig into the lives of six of America's most revered and troubled writers: John Cheever, Raymond Carver, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and the poet John Berryman. Her investigations lead to the clearest link between the men; "alcohol, and lots of it."

You could end the year with the new Ava Lee novel, The Red Pole of Macau by Ian Hamilton (Dec. 31). Forensic accountant Ava Lee must rescue her half-brother and his business partner from a disastrous multi-million-dollar real estate deal in Macau, but the kidnapping of one of them forces Ava to outwit gangsters, rescue Simon, and save her family's future.

On Nov. 5, Sebastian Faulks will pay homage to P.G. Wodehouse with a new Jeeves and Wooster novel, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. With the approval of the Wodehouse estate, Bertie Wooster and his manservant, Jeeves, once again end up in a hilarious affair of mix-ups and mishaps involving romance and impersonations.

Magdalena Zyzak's The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel will be out in January 2014. Set in the quaint and backward fictional nation of Scalvasia in 1939, the story follows the exploits of a young swineherd with romantic delusions of grandeur. It's called "A story of love, adventure, and redemption".

Did you realize all those books come from Macmillan? There were a few other books in the delivery. Librarians have been raving about John Searles' Help for the Haunted. Due out Sept. 17th, it's the story of two sisters, and one dark secret. Sylvie Mason overhears a phone call one night, but her parents often receive late-night calls. They help "haunted souls" find peace. But, this time, when her parents are lured to an old church at the edge of town, they disappear, and Sylvie, asleep in the car, awakes to the sound of gunfire. In the months following, Sylvie pursues the mystery of what occurred that night, uncovering the truth about her family, and what went wrong one snowy winter night.

Mike Greenberg, co-host of ESPN's Mike & Mike, brings us All You Could Ask
For next week. It's about three women, one happily married, one a newlywed who discovers her husband's infidelity, and one who works for the man who broke her heart years earlier. When the three women meet, they discover the importance of friendship, and that they have all they need as long as they have each other.

I think I mentioned Carolyn Hart's Brave Hearts before. It's a World War II novel about a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who accompanies her British diplomat husband to the Philippines, where an American war correspondent follows, the man she loves. When the Japanese attack, the trapped civilians are forced into a harrowing adventure to escape the army. This novel is already out, and it's a re-release of Hart's 1987 book.

I have two mysteries from Gallic, both translations from the French. The Officer's Prey (Nov.) by Armand Cabasson is the first book in a murder mystery series set in the Napoleonic Wars. The book takes place during Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia. Quentin Margont, officer in the Great Army is assigned to carry out a secret investigation and uncover the officer in the Great Army who is savagely murdering women on the route to Moscow. The Officer's Prey won the 2003 Gendarmerie National Thriller Prize and was chosen as one of the best detective novels to be published in French between 2001 and 2002.

Jean-Francois Parot's The Chatelet Apprentice (Oct.) is the first in a series of historical crime novels, called The Nicolas Le Floch Investigations. The bestselling novel is now translated into English, and available to U.S. readers for the first time. Set in 1761, it's a gritty novel that follows a young detective, Nicolas Le Floch, as he investigates the disappearance of one of his superiors.
From the court of Versailles to the Paris underworld, the storyline closely ties into actual historical events.

It's a mystery to me how I ended up with Masterminds & Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman (Sept.). It's subtitled "Helping Your Son Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World." Somehow, I don't think I'm the target audience for this one.

The final book in the pile is Sujata Massey's The Sleeping Dictionary. Set between 1925 and the end of World War II, the book follows Pom, a young girl set adrift in the world after a tidal wave destroys a tiny village on Bengal's southwest coast. Pom, known successively as Sarah, Pamela, and finally Kamala, travels from near death to become a servant in a private school where she discovers a gift for languages. That gift is just one of the skills she uses to eventually fight for India's freedom and her own happiness.

One month's supply of reading material arrived in one day! It will take me quite a while to get through all of them. Does anything appeal to you in that list?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cassandra King, Guest Blogger

Acclaimed author Cassandra King's new novel is Moonrise, available from Maiden Lane Press. Cassandra shares
a few words about the inspiration behind Moonrise --- and how it involves a 75-year-old classic.

While wandering through the overgrown flower gardens behind the summer house we had rented in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I stumbled upon a circle of stones marking the final resting place of the previous owner, the woman who had created the wildly beautiful, now sadly neglected gardens.

By chance I had brought one of my favorite books with me, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. At night, I found myself searching for the previous owner in the shadows of dark corridors. In that secret place writers go to weave our stories, I became the woman who had entered another woman’s house, her gardens and her life, which I later learned had ended too young--and tragically. Like the narrator of Rebecca, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong there. And thus the idea for Moonrise was born.

About Moonrise

MOONRISE is a novel of dark secrets and second chances, New York Times’ bestselling author Cassandra King’s homage to the gothic classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

When Helen Honeycutt falls in love with a man who has recently lost his wife in a tragic accident, their sudden marriage creates a rift between her new husband and his friends, who resent her intrusion into their close circle. When the newlyweds join them for a summer at Moonrise, his late wife’s family home in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to drive her away, in King’s literary ho
mage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

About the Author: 

CASSANDRA KING is the bestselling author of four previous novels, Making WavesThe Sunday WifeThe Same Sweet Girls and Queen of Broken Hearts, as well as numerous short stories, essays and articles. Moonrise, her fifth novel, is set in Highlands, North Carolina. A native of Lower Alabama, Cassandra resides in Beaufort, South Carolina, with her husband, Pat Conroy.

I'm eager to read Cassandra King's Moonrise.  If you're a fan of gothic novels, you have a chance to win a copy. The publicist is providing two copies of the book this week for a giveaway. Email me at Your subject heading should read, "Win Moonrise". Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Friday, Aug. 30 at 6 PM CT. Good luck!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

September Book Chat- Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

My sister asked me to add a new component to the book chat. She enjoys the videos, but said it's hard to remember the titles and get them written down. She'd rather work from two screens when she places the holds at the library. So, here's the list of this month's titles, to go with the book chat.

Murder, Plain and Simple by Isabella Alan (1st Amish Quilt Shop Mystery)
The Cakes of Wrath by Jacklyn Brady (4th Piece of Cake Mystery)
First-Degree Fudge by Christine DeSmet (1st Fudge Shop Mystery)
Silent Knife by Shelley Freydont (2nd Celebration Bay Mystery)
Sup with the Devil by Barbara Hamilton (3rd Abigail Adams Mystery)
Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton (1st Merry Muffin Mystery)
A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry (1st)
Going Through the Notions by Cate Price (1st Deadly Notions Mystery)
Murder of a Stacked Librarian by Denise Swanson (16th Scumble River Mystery)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Winners and a Road Trip

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Jane R. of Driftwood, TX won Michael Robertson's The Baker Street Translation. Carol N. of Madison, WI won The Hen of the Baskervilles by Donna Andrews. The books will go out in the mail today.

I'm heading to Ohio tomorrow to visit family for a week. I can't tell you how many years it has been since I've been home for a family reunion. And, the Sandusky County Fair is next week. Anyone who has followed this blog for a few years knows that my niece, Elizabeth, has pygmy goats, including Fred, the one I love. Elizabeth will be showing the goats at the fair. (That's the reason I picked this particular week for a visit home.)

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a seven or eight hour trip. (I understand the road construction around Columbus is horrendous.) I'm not sure when I'll have book reviews or pictures in the next week, so stop back regularly. The next contest will be when I come back. And, of course, the next book chat is scheduled during this trip! I'm leaving the cats in good hands with a family that loves them enough that one of the girls has a picture of Nikki as her screen saver on her cell phone. I always miss the cats while I'm gone, though. But, I'm off to see family and pygmy goats. And, I have three boxes of books to take home for family members. Watch for pictures! Right now I'm ready for a road trip with my beloved Celtic Thunder in the cd player.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Runaway Man by David Handler

Readers familiar with David Handler's Berger and Mitry series will want to know right up front that Runaway Man is not one of those mysteries, and it's much grittier. Benji Golden is a delightful narrator and character in this book. But, some readers might be offended by language in the book, and might not get far enough into the book to appreciate Benji.

As Benji tells the story, the staff of Golden Legal Services were a little surprised when a partner in a prominent Park Avenue law firm asked them to look for a missing person. Benji did much of the legwork for the firm while "Lovely Rita", who worked as a lap dancer to put herself through Rutgers computer science program, handled the computer searches. Benji's boss was his mother, Abby, the widow of a renowned NYPD homicide detective. Abby, like Rita, was a former exotic dancer. It wasn't the kind of detective agency usually employed by a powerful law firm. Benji was a little surprised when they were asked to track down a missing college student who had money coming to him.

But, Benji, with his slight stature and youthful appearance, specialized in tracking runaways. It wasn't long, though, before he regretted his expertise. When he finds a body shortly after the murder, and then bodies start piling up, Benji suspects there's more to the search for a missing person than just an inheritance. It seems Golden Legal Services is involved in a story that reaches all the way to the power brokers in New York City. However, someone underestimates Benji and Abby Golden.

As I said earlier, there will be objections to some of the language, although it seems appropriate for a seventeen-year-old who is trying to appear tough and adult. Interestingly enough, more people might object to the language than object to the string of murders in the book. Murder is just accepted as part of the crime novel.

Readers who appreciate Runaway Man will probably like it for Benji himself. He may be young, but he's shrewd and honest. And, his most appealing trait, for many of us who are mystery readers, is his sense of justice. "I cared about real justice, the kind where the bad guys go to jail and stay there." And, Benji knows, that, in this case, power might top justice.

Meet Benji Golden and the staff of Golden Legal Services in David Handler's new Runaway Man. Gritty, amusing at times, and the story of an honest man.

David Handler's website is

Runaway Man by David Handler. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2013. ISBN 9781250011626 (hardcover), 246p.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Death Angel by Linda Fairstein

If someone said mystery, New York City, the city's history and geography, I'd say, "Who is Linda Fairstein?"In fifteen books, she's managed to capture the mystique of New York City while writing about a core group of characters that readers love to see involved in behind-the-scene stories that people seldom know. This time, Fairstein takes readers into the heart of the city, Central Park, in Death Angel.

The murder of a homeless or runaway girl would probably not make the news if it hadn't happened in the city's jewel, Central Park. But, Alexandra Cooper, the prosecutor in charge of the Special Victims Unit for Manhattan shows up when the body is found, not knowing if it was a sex crime. Coop likes to team up with two favorite officers, Mercer Williams and Mike Chapman. Mike's been assigned the case, but because of the high profile of the location, there's close scrutiny of the case.

At the same time, there's close scrutiny of the relationship between Chapman and Coop. It seems Chapman had a relationship with a woman who blames Coop for the break-up, and she's threatening to take her story to the media. It could become an enormous scandal for the city.

While Chapman faces a deadline on the scandal, the trio tackle a case that takes them through Central Park on the trail of a killer and a rapist, to shelters for the homeless, and a shelter for the super-rich, the Dakota. It's a story that manages to capture the history of a great landmark, while solving a contemporary murder and a cold case, cases that all lead back to Central Park

Anyone familiar with Linda Fairstein's series will welcome the return of three favorite characters in a mystery that combines a strong storyline with fascinating history. All of those elements combine to make every Fairstein novel unique while still having the appeal of familiar, well-loved characters. Fans of the series will appreciate the hint at a change in a relationship. And, for those who haven't yet discovered Linda Fairstein's world, Central Park is a wonderful place to start. Death Angel is a treat for those of us who love Fairstein and her city, as well as newcomers to the world of Alexandra Cooper, Mike Chapman and Mercer Williams.

Linda Fairstein's website is

Death Angel by Linda Fairstein. Dutton. 2013. ISBN 9780525953876 (hardcover), 369p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Flawed" Characters

While I'm finishing my book, Linda Fairstein's Death Angel, I have a question for you. Yesterday, on Facebook, HuffPostBooks asked, "Who is your favorite flawed character from literature?" I'd like to put a twist on that. Who is your favorite flawed character in crime fiction? And, if you'd rather talk about a flawed character in literature, that's OK. But, I know many of us are fans of crime fiction.

Mine is Sherlock Holmes. I don't care of it's in literature, or if we're talking about Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, Sherlock Holmes is my favorite flawed character. Oh, and he has his flaws. He used drugs. He's certainly impatient with anyone who isn't as brilliant as he is. And, who is? His behavior can come across as rude and abrupt. He suffers from depression at times, particularly when he's bored.  He's still my favorite flawed character in crime fiction.

Who is your favorite flawed character?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

Mia March, the author who set her enchanting novel The Meryl Streep Movie Club in a charming inn in
Boothbay Harbor, Maine, takes readers back to that town in Finding Colin Firth. Once again, there is Friday Movie Night at Three Captains' Inn, but the inn and its owners are not the main characters this time around. Instead, the novel focus on three women who end up in Boothbay Harbor looking for answers.

Bea Cross is twenty-two, an unemployed English teacher working in a restaurant kitchen when she receives an unexpected letter from her mother. Bea's mother has been dead for a year, but she never had the courage to reveal her secret to her daughter while she was alive. Bea was adopted as a newborn, adopted from the hospital in Boothbay Harbor.

Veronica Russo has only been back in town for a year, but she's already attracting attention to the Best Little Diner in Boothbay. Veronica makes pies that "heal", pies that are comfort food that seem to provide answers, to build confidence, to provide hope, her elixir pies. And, even though she's teaching a class in pie-making to five lucky students, Veronica hasn't found comfort herself. Despite wandering the country for years after everyone she loved seemed to cast her out of town after her teenage pregnancy, Veronica has challenged herself to return home.

Then there's Gemma Hendricks, a woman who loves her husband, but also loves her career as a reporter. It's all she's ever wanted in life, and can't imagine settling down to be a mother, as her husband wants. She loses her job and learns she's pregnant just before visiting her friend, June, at Three Captains' Inn. Boothbay Harbor provides a refuge for Gemma so she can ponder her future while taking on an assignment for the local newspaper. Gemma's to write a feature about Hope Home, the home for pregnant teens that is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.

As each of these women come to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, a film crew also arrives, with rumors that Colin Firth will be filming there soon. The rumors, the film crew, and the image of Colin Firth serve as a backdrop to a warm story that says love isn't always about a man and romance. Sometimes love comes from unexpected directions.

Why do I enjoy Mia March's Maine novels? The setting is charming, but the problems are realistic. March's characters have to search for answers in their lives, and it's not always easy. She shows people torn by their decisions and their actions. At the same time, the stories are playful. Friday Movie Night isn't quite as important in this novel, but how many women can resist Colin Firth movie night? How many of us understand when Veronica's feelings when she lightheartedly says she's holding out for a man like Colin Firth? "I realize he's an actor playing roles, but I get it...Honest. Full of integrity. Conviction. Brimming with intelligence. Loyal. You just believe everything he says with that British accent of his - and can trust it."

March's Finding Colin Firth is warm, honest, and has a touch of Sarah Addison Allen's magic. It's a perfect summer read. (And rumors of Colin Firth certainly don't hurt.)

Mia March's website is

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March. Gallery Books. 2013. ISBN 9781476710204 (paperback), 318p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Sherlock Holmes Connection Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. I mailed Dyeing Wishes to Lisa G. of Pensacola Beach, FL, and Tarnished and Torn to Sue C. of Eugene, OR.

This week, the titles of both books have a Sherlock Holmes connection. The Hen of the Baskervilles is the latest Meg Langslow mystery by Donna Andrews. Catch up with Meg and her family at the Virginia Un-Fair, where a bantam rooster goes missing on the first night. And, when one of Meg's friends is suspected of killing her husband, instead of divorcing him, Meg has to sort out the truth.

Michael Robertson brings back brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath in The Baker Street Translation. They lease law offices at 221B Baker Street in London and answer mail sent to Sherlock Holmes. Once again, they find themselves pulled into a case straight out of Arthur Conan Doyle. An elderly American heiress wants to leave her entire fortune to Sherlock Holmes. A translator wants Holmes to explain a nursery rhyme. And Robert Buxton, Reggie's rival for the love of an actress, has gone missing.

Which book 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 Hen of the Baskervilles" or "Win The Baker Street Translation." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

The giveaway will end on Thursday, August 15 at 6 p.m. CT.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos

Last month, Andrea Thalasinos was a guest blogger here, talking about libraries. Her second book, Traveling Light, had recently been released. I had the chance to meet Thalasinos when I was in Madison,Wisconsin last week, when she talked about her debut novel, An Echo Through the Snow. It's the story of two countries, two Native peoples, and a shared love of Siberian huskies. And, it's the story of two women, seventy-three years apart, and their connected lives.

In 1929, in Siberia, Stalin was determined to destroy the Chukchi people and their culture, and he sent his Red Army to wipe out villages. While Teriem prepared to flee before the army, his wife, Jeaantaa, prepared to save her beloved huskies, the people's Guardians. If it meant sending one team across he Bering Strait with an American, she would send them. The Guardians represented the soul of the Chukchi people, and the dogs were more important than anything else in Jeaantaa's life.

Rosalie MacKenzie felt she was going nowhere in Bayfield, Wisconsin in 1992. Married to an abusive husband, she was a high school dropout. She was a true artist in beading, a prized skill in her Ojibwa culture. But, she felt as if she failed at everything else. It was only when she rescued an abused husky, Smokey, that she found a purpose in life. In order to rescue him, Rosalie was forced to rescue herself from the life she led. And, Smokey, along with another dog, led her to a couple who competed in races with their huskies. Rosalie, like another Native woman before her, was born to work with the dogs that became her own guardians.

There are uncomfortable parallels in this story between the Native Chukchi people and their treatment by Stalin's government, and the Native Americans and their treatment by the American government. In both cases, they were rounded up, sometimes killed, and forced to abandon their culture and assimilate. As the story goes back and forth between Terien's family and Rosalie's, it's easy to see the resemblance in the families torn apart, the alcoholism, the loss of livelihoods.

At the same time, this is a powerful story of two women whose lives grew to revolve around the huskies. The mystical connection that Rosalie feels, the dreams she experiences, are finally revealed to her in an unexpected meeting.

Thalasinos' novel is difficult to read at times, with the two timelines, and the tragedies in Siberia and Wisconsin. At the same time, it's beautiful, both in language and in the love of the dogs. An Echo Through the Snow is not only about two women and their love for the huskies. It's about a woman who gave everything to save the Guardians, while a Guardian showed up to save another woman years later. It's a powerful story of love, dogs, and growth. An Echo Through the Snow is a novel that will not easily be forgotten.

Andrea Thalasinos' website is

An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos. Forge. 2012. ISBN 9780765330369 (hardcover), 364p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, August 09, 2013

Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay

New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay launches a fun new mystery series with Cloche and Dagger. It's filled with McKinlay's trademark humor, great characters, hats, and it's set in London. What's not to love?

When Scarlett Parker's love life in Florida goes viral on the Internet, her cousin Vivian Tremont insists she move to London.Vivian and Scarlett had inherited their gramdmother's Notting Hill hat shop, Mim's Whims. But, Viv was the milliner in the family. Although Scarlett loved the shop and Mim, she had gone into the hospitality industry in the U.S. Now, with her job a victim of the scandal, she has no reason not to take over her share of the business. And, she can't wait to see Viv. But, when Scarlett gets to London, and Viv's business manager, Harrison Wentworth, meets her instead of Viv, Scarlett is suspicious. Where is Viv?

Scarlett is the only one worried. Everyone from Harrison to Viv's mother insists that's just Viv. She disappears when she is passionate about something. Suddenly, though, Scarlett isn't the only one asking where Vivian is. One of Viv's customers is found dead, wearing only the cloche Viv made. Scarlett might be worried for her cousin, but the police would like to know if Viv might have been involved in the murder.

It just doesn't feel right to Scarlett. "The whole point of coming to England and working in the shop was to take my mind off the disaster I had left behind....However, I did not like not knowing where my cousin was and that no one, save me, seemed overly concerned about her. I did not like finding clients murdered. And I most definitely did not like waking up to find someone trying to smother me."

McKinlay skillfully weaves together mystery, British society, humor and sexual tension. Scarlett is a narrator with a sense of humor who has a gift for hospitality. She and Harrison make wonderful sparring partners. And, it's easy to fall for Scarlett's new friends. I adore Andre and Nick, the couple down the street. Cloche and Dagger is a character-driven mystery, filled with lovable people.

Jenn McKinlay's Cloche and Dagger has just been released. Don't hesitate to settle in for an armchair visit to London. All you need is a sense of humor, and an appreciation for an entertaining mystery. And, if you love hats, all the better!

Jenn McKinlay's website is

Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425258897 (paperback), 293p.

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

Thursday, August 08, 2013

What are You Reading?

Three later nights than I'd like to have in a row, and running home at lunch to feed cats because I had meetings, means I haven't yet had a chance to finish Jenn McKinlay's Cloche and Dagger. I'm planning to finish it tomorrow. McKinlay, the New York Times bestselling author of the Library Lovers' Mystery Series an the Cupcake Bakery mysteries, launches a new series featuring an American whose love life becomes prime fodder on the Internet. Her cousin invites her to London, since they co-own a hat shop there, but she finds her cousin missing when she arrives. I'm not giving away any more of the storyline because I hope to have the review up soon.

In the meantime, let's talk about what you're reading. What book has your attention right now? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

If Bread Could Rise to the Occasion by Paige Shelton

The titles of Paige Shelton's Country Cooking School mysteries might come across as a little hokey, but there's nothing hokey about If Bread Could Rise to the Occasion. Shelton takes us back to Broken Rope, Missouri for another story that mixes contemporary murder, ghosts involved in a murder in the past, and cooking. It's a successful recipe for entertainment and suspense.

Isabelle "Betts" Winston, and her grandmother (Gram) are ready for the new group of fifteen students to show up for their nine-month course in down-home country cooking. But, the sixteenth student throws them off.  Freddie O'Bannon insists he was accepted in the class, although Betts and Gram can't even find a copy of his application, let alone an acceptance. And, Freddie seems just a little off. However, there are a few other things that are off in their lives right then, so neither of them spend too much time worrying about Freddie.

Gram has always been able to see the ghosts of some of the less reputable citizens of Broken Rope. However, everything seems a little more intense with Betts in the picture. Betts seems to be able to see the ghosts, and help them with their problems. Murder victims turn up, asking Betts for help, although sometimes they don't remember what actually happened to them. That seems to be the case when Gent Cylas shows up, along with the story of a fire at the old bakery in town. Kennington Bakery had a national reputation until it burned down. And, Gram never told Betts about her friendship with Gent, but it's time for secrets to come out in the open. But, one ghost isn't so sure those secrets should be revealed. Jerome Cowbender is one ghost that continues to appear to Betts. He once protected her grandmother, and, now, he's determined to protect Betts. Time and again he warns Betts to stay away from the old bakery.

But, circumstances don't work out right. When one of the cooking school students dies, Betts worries the school will once more be endangered. Now, she has too much to do between working with Gram at the school, searching for a killer on the loose in Broken Rope, and searching for a killer from the past, despite Jerome's warnings. Betts knows "The truth tends to cause a lot of ruckus before it sets anyone free."

Start with an interesting premise, two women who run a cooking school and see ghosts. Add a pinch of a wonderful setting in the performance town of Broken Rope. Season with murder and ghosts and a dash of romance. It won't be long until there's an appetizing aroma of mystery. If Bread Could Rise to the Occasion combines all the ingredients successfully in a treat for cozy mystery lovers.

Paige Shelton's website is

If Bread Could Rise to the Occasion by Paige Shelton. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425252239 (paperback), 293p.

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

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Madison, Wisconsin in August

I flew to Madison, Wisconsin on Friday to attend a workshop at the University of Wisconsin. The workshop was called "Reading at the Lake", and it was about leading book discussions. I loved what we saw of Madison in August. It was just beautiful. I can see why people retire to university towns. Independent bookstores, farmers' markets, concerts on the lake at the university, lots of restaurants and little shops. I wouldn't want to be there in winter (and a cab driver told me they still have snow in May), but in August, Madison is wonderful.

My cab driver when I arrived told me about Madison being an isthmus between two lakes. Friday afternoon, I went to find my classroom for Saturday, and stumbled across one of the favorite spots in town, Memorial Union Terrace. I had ice cream on the terrace that night, ice cream from the campus dairy, and enjoyed a jazz concert. Lake Mendota is beautiful, and I went back Saturday morning, and Sunday morning and afternoon and sat by the lake.

Lake Mendota

Memorial Union Terrace

Memorial Union Terrace on Lake Mendota
 Very interesting buildings on campus. Here's the "Red Gym".

Saturday morning before the workshop, I went to the Farmers' Market. I walked down State Street. The Farmers' Market is held all around the State Capitol on Saturdays. I was there by 7 a.m. There's even a people's garden of peppers in front of the Capitol that's going to be made into beer by a local microbrewery. I bought a Holstein cookie while I was there.

Terrific workshop. Really enjoyed talking books with the other women in the group. Check out the view from our classroom.

Saturday, we took a break and walked down to A Room of One's Own, the independent bookstore. Check out their window display, cheese books in Wisconsin.

I also couldn't resist pictures of Sacred Feather, the hat shop. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to get there. I loved the building, and I would have loved to have seen the hats.

Saturday night, we went to a book release party. Susanna Daniel is the author of Stiltsville. Her second book, Sea Creatures, was just out on Saturday.

Terrific trip to Madison, Wisconsin. So, I wanted to end with something that meant a lot to me. There is an Outstanding Alumni wall in the School of Library Science at the university. Ray Von Dran's picture was there. Ray was Assistant Dean at Catholic University when I was there, a wonderful man. He went on to be Dean of the Library School at Catholic, and later Dean of the Library School at Syracuse. Ray is dead now, but it meant a lot to be to see him honored on that wall.

It was a wonderful trip to Madison and a terrific workshop. I'm so glad I had the chance to go, and to see Madison in August.