Friday, January 31, 2014

Winners and A Texas Lawman Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of this week's contests. Dianne O. of Oak Park, IL won The Silence of the Library. Jim J. of Savannah, GA will receive Daniel Stashower's The Hour of Peril. And, Death by Surprise goes to Karen M. of San Bruno, CA.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries that feature Texas lawmen. Bill Crider's Dan Rhodes appears in Compound Murder. While Sheriff Dan Rhodes investigates the murder of a college English professor, he must also handle small-town crime. That's crime such as hogs in the house. It's a humorous mystery with an eccentric cast of characters. But, don't ever forget that Sheriff Rhodes is a shrewd judge of character.

If you're in a more serious turn of mind, you could win Terry Shames' The Last Death of Jack Harbin. When Jack Harbin came home from the Gulf War, he wasn't the same man. But, who would want to kill the veteran and his father? Samuel Craddock might be the former police chief, but everyone in town wants him to investigate since the current police chief is a drunk. With his current health problems, Craddock is a little reluctant, but he can't let a veteran's murder go unsolved.

Which Texas mystery 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 Compound Murder" or "Win The Last Death of Jack Harbin." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, Feb. 6 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Silence of the Library by Miranda James

If you're a mystery fan today, you may have read teen detective series when you were younger. If so, Miranda James' The Silence of the Library will take you back. James' latest Cat in the Stacks mystery is a tribute to all those books, and it's done in style.

Librarian Charlie Harris has been a fan of teen sleuths since his beloved aunt Dottie first introduced him to her collection of Veronica Thane books. He's pleased that the Athena Public Library is planning an exhibit to honor the one hundredth birthday of Electra Barnes Cartwright, author of the Veronica Thane series. But, he's amazed when the library director, Teresa Farmer calls to say Cartwright is still alive, and she may consent to be interviewed for the celebration. However, the library's announcement that EBC will appear at the celebration brings all the fanatical collectors to Athena. Suddenly the celebration of girl sleuths becomes an outrageous observance of greed, and then murder.

Charlie and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, have been in on a few murder investigations in Athena, Mississippi, so it's little surprise that people ask for his help. Kanesha Berry, Chief Deputy for the Sheriff's department, finds his name by the victim. She no longer suspects him of murder, but his knowledge of the collectors, the Cartwright family, and others involved in the case will prove helpful. However, it's Charlie's reference skills that will uncover the clue that leads to a killer.

If you grew up with girl sleuths or boy detectives, Miranda James' The Silence of the Library will bring back fond memories as James not only tells the story of Charlie and Diesel's latest case, but also skillfully weaves in a Veronica Thane mystery. James will have readers rapidly turning pages as you relive the days of cliffhanger chapters and roadster-driving sleuths.

As intriguing as the mystery is, it's still James' characters that bring readers back. Who can resist Charlie Harris, a kind, Southern gentleman, a family man who loves his adult children, his boarders, and his friends? And, as much as we love Charlie, it's even harder to resist Diesel, the Maine Coon cat who warbles and chirps his way into hearts while keeping his eye out for killers. Charlie and Diesel are in fine form in The Silence of the Library as they find their way through the maze of crazed book collectors.

Reader's Note: I found my way to adult mysteries after reading all kinds of mysteries for kids, The Happy Hollisters series by Jerry West, mysteries by Helen Fuller Orton and the Nancy Drew books. And, here's a confession. In the early '80s, while I waited to hear about my dream job at my hometown library, I couldn't concentrate on reading anything. Nancy Drew pulled me through. I read Nancy Drew books, one after the other, as my life preserver. If you're a mystery reader today, is there a teen sleuth series in your past?

Miranda James' website is

The Silence of the Library by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425257289 (paperback), 308p.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Agatha Award Nominees

It's award season! If it's not the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Grammys, with the Oscars coming up, it's the Edgars and, my favorite book awards, the Agathas. The Agatha Awards, honoring the best traditional mysteries, will be presented on May 3 at Malice Domestic. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Best Historical Novel

Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Death in the Time of Ice by Kaye George (Untreed Reads Publishing)
A Friendly Game of Murder by JJ Murphy (Signet)
Murder in Chelsea by Victoria Thompson (Berkley Prime Crime)
A Question of Honor by Charles Todd (William Morrow)

Best Children's/YA Nominations

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Traitor in the Shipyard: A Caroline Mystery by Kathleen Ernst (American Girl Mysteries)
Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Books)
Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate's Treasure by Penny Warner (Edgmont USA)

Best Contemporary Novel

Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur Books)
Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Clammed Up by Barbara Ross (Kensington Books)
The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Best Nonfiction

Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester (Source Books Inc.)
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova (Viking Penguin)
Not Everyone's Cup of Tea: An Interesting & Entertaining History of Malice Domestic's First 25 Years by Verena Rose and Rita Owen (editors) (Wildside Press)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel

Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz (Berkley Prime Crime)
You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa (Pocket Books)
Board Stiff by Kendel Lynn (Henery Press)
Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero (Kensington)
Front Page Fatality by LynDee Walker (Henery Press)

Best Short Story

"Evil Little Girl" in Don't Get Mad, Get Even by Barb Goffman (Wildside Press)
"Nightmare" in Don't Get Mad, Get Even by Barb Goffman (Wildside Press)
"The Hindi Houdini" in Fish Nets by Gigi Pandian (Wildside Press)
"Bread Baby" in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold by Barbara Ross (Level Best Books)
"The Care and Feeding of House Plants" by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

The Ways of Evil Men by Leighton Gage

The title of Leighton Gage's last book may be The Ways of Evil Men, but Rudyard Kipling said "The female of the species is more deadly than the male." Gage's final Mario Silva investigation brings back all the beloved team. But, this time, he includes an unusual group of powerful women. Some of those women instigate the investigation; some support Silva's work; and some support a powerful group of landowners. I may take a different view of this book than some other reviewers. I see it as a sign of Gage's respect for women.

When Amati and eight-year-old son returned to their Awana tribe in the jungle in Brazil, they found everyone else dead. Jade Calmon, the federal official from the National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, was convinced they were all poisoned, but she couldn't get anyone to take her seriously in Azevedo, the nearest town. Knowing the Big Six, white ranchers and landowners, coveted the reservation land, and the local police were in their pocket, Jade went over their heads. She contacted a couple old friends from school. It wasn't long before Chief Inspector Mario Silva and his team of Brazilian federal policemen were on the way to Azevedo, due to Jade and two school chums, a reporter and a lawyer. Before they can arrive, though, a local white man is murdered, and Amati is at the top of the suspect list for everyone in town. And, it's a town that doesn't take murder, or prejudice, lightly. And, it's a town that isn't receptive to interference or questions from anyone from the outside, police or reporters.

While Silva and his team of Arnaldo, Hector, Gilda, and Babyface investigate what has become a case of genocide, Jade's reporter friend, Maura Mandel takes her own investigation in a different direction. Silva may deal with landowners, police, and a drunken priest, but Maura finds that some of the women in town have secrets of their own.

Leighton Gage always used his crime novels to delve into the culture, crime, and evil in Brazil. His books were always fascinating. And, it was a treat to meet up with Silva and his team in each book. The Ways of Evil Men is no different, as he points out the issues of genocide against the native tribes in Brazil, as landowners coveted land, trees, and wealth. But, this final mystery from the author also shows that women can be just as devious as men, whether they're trying to save a tribe, write a story, or cover up their own sins and secrets. The late author may have called this The Ways of Evil Men. He could just as easily called it "The Ways of Devious Women".

On a personal note, I'm going to miss Leighton Gage. He was a debut novelist with a mystery set in Brazil when he had Soho Press contact me to say he'd like to appear at my library because he liked my blog. Leighton appeared at Velma Teague twice, once during a rare storm in Arizona, and once during the Chocolate Affaire. Not the best conditions either time, but he and his wife, Eide, were always gracious. It was a pleasure to host and  know him. He told fascinating stories of Brazil, its crime, its beauty, its politics and corruption. Leighton was always a friend to me and Velma Teague, and he send other authors my way. I miss him, and I'm going to miss Mario Silva.

Leighton Gage's website is

The Ways of Evil Men by Leighton Gage. Soho Crime. 2014. ISBN 9781616952723 (hardcover), 352p.

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Miranda James, Guest Blogger

Well, it's no secret when you see the picture of the author that Miranda James is actually Dean James. James is the author of one of my favorite series, The Cat in the Stacks mysteries, featuring Charlie Harris, a widowed librarian, and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. The books are set in the college town of Athena, Mississippi, and they feature a delightful cast of characters. The latest book in the series, The Silence of the Library, is just out. That makes it the perfect time to feature James as guest blogger. So, thank you to Dean and Miranda. (smile)

     I blame Nancy Drew for my life of crime. Reading it and writing it, that is.
     I was ten when I borrowed The Secret of Shadow Ranch from a cousin. It was the first mystery I ever read, and I was hooked. Then, to my delight, I discovered this was only one of a long series of adventures in which Nancy solved mystery after mystery. Just as exciting, I soon found other amateur mystery-solvers: the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden, and many more. By the time I began reading adult mysteries, my love of the amateur detective was completely entrenched.
     When I decided I wanted to write a mystery myself, I knew my main character would be an amateur. After all, I’m not a policeman, or a lawyer, or a private detective. But I do have a healthy dose of curiosity about the world around me and the people in it. Charlie Harris, the sleuth in my “Cat in the Stacks” series, is just like me in that respect. He’s also about my age (fiftyish, if you must know), he’s a librarian, he grew up in Mississippi, and he has a Maine coon cat. That’s as far as it goes, however. (I have two cats, by the way, neither of which is a Maine coon. Also, Diesel is much better behaved than my two.)
     I wanted to incorporate my knowledge of, and love for, these juvenile series books into one of my own books, and in the new book, The Silence of the Library, I have done so. I created a series character in the mold of Nancy Drew and the other girl detectives and called her Veronica Thane. The author of the series, Electra Barnes Cartwright, was inspired by Mildred Wirt Benson (the first writer, aka “Carolyn Keene”, of the Nancy Drew series, Margaret Sutton, author of the Judy Bolton series, and Julie Campbell Tatham, the original author of Trixie Belden. In fact the book is dedicated to their memories.
     The most fun part of writing this book for me was the “excerpts” from the first Veronica Thane book. I reread some of my favorite girl detective stories from the 1930s to get a sense of the style in my head, and off I went. I hope readers will get a kick out of this aspect of the story. Of course, The Silence of the Library includes murder – a subject that usually didn’t come up in the classic juvenile series books. But when you get a number of rabid book collectors together, with hints of a rare and highly collectible volume, something deadly is sure to happen.
Thank you, Dean. Has he enticed you? Since I'm participating in his blog tour, the publicist sent a copy of The Silence of the Library for one lucky winner. Email me at Your subject heading should read "Win The Silence of the Library." Please include your name and mailing address. Enter soon! I'll pick a winner on Thursday night, Jan. 30, and mail out the book on Friday. Entries are limited to U.S. residents only. And, some lucky winner will have The Silence of the Library in their hands soon after the release date. Good luck!

Miranda James' website is

The Silence of the Library by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425257282 (paperback), 320p.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

April Smith's novel, A Star for Mrs. Smith, is powerful and unforgettable. It's the perfect selection
for a book group, based on a little known fact of American history. She opens the book with a note from the National Archives. "In 1929, Congress enacted legislation that authorized the secretary of war to arrange for pilgrimages to the European cemeteries 'by mothers and widows of members of military and naval forces of the United States who died in the service at any time between April 5, 1917, and July 1, 1921, and whose remains are now interred in such cemeteries.'" According to this record, 6,693 women made the pilgrimage to Europe to visit their sons' graves. Smith takes readers on a pilgrimage with one group of women.

In 1931, Cora Blake is a librarian in a small island town off the coast of Maine, although the town hasn't had the money to pay her salary since the 1929 crash. She takes care of her brother-in-law and his three daughters. And, she's a Gold Star Mother. Thirteen years earlier, she lost her only son, Sammy. He lied about his age, and enlisted at sixteen. Although other sons of the island served, Cora was the only one whose son died in the war. The entire community pulled together to send Cora to New York City, where she would board a ship to travel to France and the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery where the young men who died at Verdun are buried.

As a librarian, Cora is an organizer, and she writes the letters to the small group of women she'll travel with. She's the unifying figure in a group that consists of a woman from a wealthy railroad family, a Jewish chicken farmer, an Irish servant, and a woman with mental health issues. But, Cora is so much more. She's the voice of conscience, the figure that doesn't understand segregation, and doesn't accept mothers sending sons off to war. When she meets expatriate journalist Griffin Reed, her life will change in ways she never expected.

A Star for Mrs. Blake is so rich that I can't really summarize the entire book. While Cora is the main figure, the other mothers represent the universality of mothers who lose their sons in war. April Smith manages to wrap so much into this book, from the difficulties of life in the Depression, the rigorous life on a Maine island, to the trip to Europe. She examines the differences in how the mothers of white and black soldiers were treated. Griffin Reed's disfigurement, although common at the time, is now forgotten as one result of that Great War. And, through the eyes of Cora, as well as those of a young lieutenant assigned as liaison officer to the group of Gold Star Mothers, we begin to see war differently.

April Smith's A Star for Mrs. Blake is a beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking novel. It's a compelling story of war and the people left behind. It's the story of Gold Star Mothers, the strong women who suffer unfathomable loss. It's a novel you won't easily forget.

April Smith's website is

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith. Alfred A. Knopf. 2014. ISBN 9780307958846 (hardcover), 329p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, January 26, 2014

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

For those of you who love to see Jinx in the book chats, he's all over this one. These are the February cozy mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian, and lots and lots of Jinx.

Here's the list of February mysteries from the book chat.

Days of Wine and Roquefort by Avery Aames - 5th Cheese Shop mystery
Poison at the PTA by Laura Alden - 5th PTA mystery
Books, Cooks, and Crooks by Lucy Arlington - 3rd Novel Idea mystery
Murder with Ganache by Lucy Burdette - 4th Key West Food Critic mystery
Throw in the Trowel by Kate Collins - 15th Flower Shop mystery
Scandal in Skibbereen by Sheila Connolly - 2nd County Cork mystery
Town in a Strawberry Swirl by B.B. Haywood - 5h Candy Holliday mystery
The Silence of the Library by Miranda James - 5th Cat in the Stacks mystery
A Tough Nut to Kill by Elizabeth Lee - 1st Nut House mystery
A Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan - 2nd League of Literary Ladies mystery
A Fatal Slip by Meg London - 3rd Sweet Nothings Lingerie mystery
Beewitched by Hannah Reed - 5th Queen Bee mystery

Some of these authors will be doing guest blogs for me in the next couple weeks. Be sure to stop back to read their posts, and participate in a giveaway. When they post, I'll have books to give away!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bah, Humbug. So what are you reading?

When I posted this on Facebook as my cover photo, someone said it didn't seem like me. She just didn't know me well enough. I've always hated winter. And, I do specialize in crime fiction. My sister sent me the picture, and I think it's perfect. This is a roundabout way of saying the nasty weather changed my plans for the weekend, so I didn't finish a book last night. I went to dinner with a friend, instead of lunch today when the weather is going to be lousy again. Plus, I read one hundred pages in a book by an author I normally like, and it just didn't do anything for me. I quit. Now, I'm reading Leighton Gage's final Mario Silva book, The Ways of Evil Men.

What are you reading this cold, nasty day? And, if you're not having cold, lousy weather, don't tell me. I might hate you for it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Winners and an Edgar Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Christy Fifield's Murder Sends a Postcard goes to Kiki W. in Pleasant Garden, NC. Eleanor G. from Verona, PA won James W. Hall's Going Dark. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Mystery Writers of America recently announced this year's Edgar Award nominees. The winners will be announced on May 1. This week, I'm giving away one nominee and one book by a Grand Master.

Carolyn Hart is one of this year's Grand Masters, a well-deserved award. I recently reviewed one of her early books that has just been reprinted.  Death By Surprise is a departure for her, a detective story in the hard-boiled tradition. When a woman is murdered after trying to blackmail members of the Carlisle family, K.C. Carlisle is determined to prove her cousin is innocent, but the search may point to another family member.

Daniel Stashower's book has been nominated for Best Fact Crime. I have a hardcover of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War to give away. I still have a copy that I want to read. I just haven't had a chance yet. It's the true story of the plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln during his train trip to Washington to be sworn in as President.

A mystery or nonfiction crime book? Which would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end at 6 PM CT on Thursday, Jan. 30.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Bitches of Brooklyn by Rosemary Harris

Now, don't hesitate to pick up Rosemary Harris' The Bitches of Brooklyn just because of the title.
This isn't a "Housewives of..." book. It's a story with quite a twist. It's also the story of women who have been friends since high school. And, of course a group of five teenage girls with their own clique have to have a name for themselves. They chose "The Bitches of Brooklyn".

Tina Ruggiero, Jane Monaghan, Clare Didrikson, and Rachel Weiner were friends, but when Abby Daniels moved to town, she completed the group. She made each person feel as if they were the most important person in the world. After high school the group drifted apart, but at their fifteenth high school reunion, they found they still enjoyed each other's company. Now, for the past six years, they've rented a bungalow at the beach for a weekend, where they relax, get away from husbands and boyfriends, drink wine, and have snarky conversations. But, this year is a little different. Abby doesn't show. Instead, she sends a gift basket with a note. "Apologies for the short notice but I won't be making our little reunion this year. I've run off with one of your men. Abby."

Harris digs into all the reactions women can have after receiving this note, from anger to jealousy to fear. They worry about their own relationships, and, as time goes on, they worry about Abby. It's at this point that some of the reactions become funny. Harris knows how to examine actual human emotions, and point out the humor. Even with their deep friendship, the women can pick on each other's spouse. It has to be someone else's man, doesn't it? And, when they fear for Abby, they show up at a small town police station to check on a dead body and ask about missing persons.

With the women out of town for the weekend, their men are out of town, too. So which man took the opportunity to run off with Abby? I'll admit I had a tough time remembering who was who for a while, particularly while the women were at the beach house. Some characters stood out more than others. Although their backstories eventually were revealed, it was Jane Monaghan with her complicated relationship with two men that stood out for me. I would suggest a chart as to which woman is married or living with which man. Saying that, The Bitches of Brooklyn is an enjoyable book.  Rosemary Harris tells the story of a group of women whose lives might not be what they appear to be on the surface in a novel with unusual twists and delightful, funny scenes.

Rosemary Harris' website is, or you can find her at

The Bitches of Brooklyn by Rosemary Harris. Chestnut Hill Books. 2013. ISBN 9780989697019 (paperback), 338p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Arrivals

I have such an interesting collection of new books that I wanted to share. Let's talk forthcoming novels.

I'm starting off with the new Conway Sax mystery by Steve Ulfelder, Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage. Sax heads to Los Angeles to track down Kenny Spoon, a former TV star who has been kidnapped. It's a favor for a friend, Eudora Spoon, a fellow member of the Barnburners, a maverick AA group that Conway helps. But, after he brings him home, Conway finds himself caught between Eudora and her two sons. When Eudora is then shot, her dying words set Sax on a course of revenge. (May 6 release)

Mariah Stewart returns with her latest Chesapeake Diaries novel, At the River's Edge. Sophie Enright decides to take a break from a dull law career and a two-timing boyfriend by visiting her brother in St. Dennis, Maryland. Her impulsive purchase of an old restaurant leads to sparks with her new neighbor who wanted the property. It isn't long before sparks fly in another way between the couple. (Jan. 28 release)

The versatile Sophie Littlefield brings us House of Glass. Jen Glass' life
appears perfect from the outside, but it's actually on the verge of collapse. Her marriage is falling apart; their fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant, and their five-year-old son barely speaks. Then one evening, two men force their way into the Glasses' house, and hold the family hostage for more than forty-eight hours. Now, Jen and her husband will do anything to keep the family safe, even if it means risking their own lives. (Feb. 25 release)

Thanks to the Internet, America has become a playground for ruthless scam artists out to make an easy buck, and of course they come from Florida. So, Tim Dorsey's Serge Storm decides to tackle the problem in the hilarious Tiger Shrimp Tango. When one scam leads to the death of a few innocents and a young woman's disappearance, Serge and his sidekick Coleman head out on a road trip to do right. (Jan. 28 release)

It's the summer of 1944 in Elderberry, Georgia, and as WWII rages on, Miss Dimple Kilpatrick soon learns that not all villains are overseas in  Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble by Mignon F. Ballard. When an eighteen-year-old girl goes missing, and is later found murdered, Miss Dimple and her fellow teachers-turned-sleuths are determined to find the killer. (Feb. 4 release)

Circle of Influence is the first Zoe Chambers mystery by Annette Dashofy. Zoe, paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania's tight-knit Vance Township, has been privy to a number of local secrets over the years. But secrets become explosive when a dead body is found in the Township Board President's abandoned car. As a January blizzard rages, Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams launch a desperate search for the killer, even if it means uncovering secrets that could not only destroy Zoe and Pete, but also those closest to them. (March 25 release)

In Samuel W. Gailey's debut novel Deep Winter, the most vulnerable
resident of an isolated Pennsylvania town is blamed for a devastating murder - and the local police struggle to untangle the killer's treacherous plan before the storm. Danny is a gentle simpleminded giant who doesn't know what to make of the body he discovers one cold winter evening, that of Mindy, his only friend. And, everyone in town is willing to believe Danny has finally hurt someone. But, the delicate balance of the community threatens to spin out of control as a deputy, the sheriff, and a state trooper investigate. (Feb. 20 release)

The Poor Boy's Game is Dennis Tafoya's latest novel. When US Marshal Frannie Mullen gets one of her best friends shot during a routine apprehension, her career is over. Still reeling from the loss, Frannie is trying to support her newly-sober sister as she struggles with the fallout of their unstable, violent childhood. Their father is a thug, a vicious enforcer for a corrupt Philadelphia union, and when he escapes from prison, bodies of ex-rivals and witnesses begin piling up. Now, she's suspected as an accomplice, and forced to fight to protect her sister from the most dangerous criminal she's ever faced - her own father. (April 29 release)

Just a few titles to add to your TBR (to be read) pile.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty is in want of a husband." Anyone who loves Pride and Prejudice will immediately understand that Teri Wilson's latest romance is a pastiche of that novel. And, she succeeds brilliantly in turning Unleashing Mr. Darcy into a sexy, funny story set in the world of dog shows.

Elizabeth Scott doesn't need more turmoil in her life. She's suspended from her teaching job at the exclusive Barclay School in New York City because she failed to capitulate when a father demanded she change his son's grade. In fact, the man tried to bribe her, touched her, and when she slapped him, he accused her of extortion. Her only refuge is the dog show ring with her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bliss. At least it's her refuge until she spots the judge, a formidable figure. Elizabeth's hackles immediately rise when he calls her "Number Eight". She pegs Donovan Darcy as another powerful, rich man who can get what he wants. She's lucky he doesn't dismiss her. She's not so lucky when he happens upon the black-bedecked birthday scene at the restaurant where her entire family shows up to bemoan the fact that she's still single.

Elizabeth needs an escape, and she's presented with the perfect opportunity when a wealthy English couple ask her to stay with them and help with their four show dogs. She and Bliss are ecstatic with the new opportunity in England, and she's happy when her older sister, Jenna, shows up on business. But, no one told her that one of Mr. Darcy's houses was just down the street. And, he seems to enjoy meeting up with her and the dogs, even though Elizabeth can be quite rude at times. After her experiences at the school, Elizabeth thinks "Men were nothing but trouble. Particularly rich men. They were spoiled, arrogant and thought they could take whatever they wanted without any consideration for the consequences." Donovan Darcy accuses Elizabeth of being a snob.

Teri Wilson has done an outstanding job with the sexual tension between Darcy and Elizabeth, the growing affection despite their attitudes. She has many of the proper elements for an enjoyable homage to Pride and Prejudice; the relatives on both sides, the spiteful woman who wants to marry Darcy, the relationship between Jenna and Darcy's best friend. At the same time, she makes the story her own, setting it against a backdrop of dog shows while bringing it up-to-date with scandals in the newspapers. Unleashing Mr. Darcy is a fun romance with so many moments in tribute to the book.

And, kudos to Wilson. "It is a truth universally acknowledged" that most women will always see Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. In tribute to the BBC production, there's even a scene reminiscent of the most famous one from that show.

Unleashing Mr. Darcy is respectful, humorous, and sexy, a perfect addition to all the tributes to Pride and Prejudice.  (And, don't forget all the wonderful dogs.)

Teri Wilson's website is

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson. Harlequin HQN. 2014. ISBN 9780373778355 (paperback), 361p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Every one of Sarah Addison Allen's books have been beautiful, and magical. But, her forced hiatus for a couple years brought a new depth and maturity to her writing. I loved Garden Spells, and enjoyed all of her other books. However, Allen's latest novel, Lost Lake, is as haunting and magical as the location of Lost Lake itself.

Eby Pim was one of the few Morris women who discover true love and escape the family greed. The women wanted money, but usually married for love, and spent the rest of their years regretting the money they didn't have. Eby found a man she loved, and shared a remarkable honeymoon in Europe for four months until they were forced to return home to Atlanta when her sister was widowed. But, Eby and George refused to allow money to control their life. Instead they bought a small resort on Lost Lake, Georgia, cabins encircling the lake, and brought their love and Eby's need to fix things to the small town.

Two generations later, Kate desperately needed to fix her life, but not in the way her mother-in-law expected. When her husband, Matt, died, Kate, like other Morris women, slept away a year, going through the motions. But, a year later, on the day they were to move in with Kate's mother-in-law, her eight-year-old daughter, Devin, discovered a postcard from Lost Lake, saying Kate could always come visit. Kate's impulsive decision to visit her great-aunt would send them to the resort, now a little run-down with few guests. And, Eby had finally given in to a developer, and agreed to sell.

At Lost Lake, Kate and Devin both find a refuge, a place where they feel as if they belong. Devin can be an eight-year-old, with a child's understanding of magic, while Kate finds a place where she can breathe for the first time in years. Kate had once had her "last best summer" at Lost Lake, and, now her daughter can have that, too. But, knowing Eby is selling Lost Lake means other people return for their own "last best summer", a return that brings misfits and lost souls home. And, Kate, along with a few others, begins to harbor a secret dream that maybe there's a way to save memories.

In summarizing Lost Lake, it's easy to get lost in the plot of a widow returning to the scene of her lost childhood. However, Sarah Addison Allen always adds so much more to her stories, a gift of her own magic that makes readers pause and ponder, and dream a little. Her characters are unusual, sometimes with gifts that aren't really magic, but gifts that have magical effects on those around them. Eby Pim wants to fix people. She takes in strays, including a lifelong friend from France. She's a woman who understands happiness, as others don't. "Wasn't happiness like electricy? Weren't we all just conduits?"  "There was so much happiness in the world. It was everywhere. It was free. Eby never understood why some people, people like her family, simply refused to take it."

Allen's books blend exquisite phrasing, a touch of magic, and a glimpse into souls. They are thoughtful, beautiful books that leave a reader yearning for something more. It's hard to move onto the next book after reading one of her stories.

Lost Lake will mean something different to everyone who reads it. Is it a story of misfit souls who find a home, as Allen herself thinks? Is it a story of not letting go of a dream? Is it a story of finding the magic in life, whatever that magic means to you? Is it a story of determining the ending of your own story? Sarah Addison Allen offers every reader a magical gift of this book, a book that allows each reader to find their own answers and their own truth. "Putting aside her disbelief and confusion and worry for a moment - all things the adult in her felt - Kate found that the only thing left was the one true thing."

Sarah Addison Allen's website is www.SarahAddisonAllen, and she can be found on Facebook at

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. St. Martin's Press. 2014. ISBN 9781250019806 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy to review at my request. (Although, I also ordered my own copy of the book because I wanted to see the illustrations and endpapers.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Death by Surprise by Carolyn Hart

Carolyn Hart played around with other forms of mystery before she launched her Death on Demand series in 1987. In May, she will be honored by Mystery Writers of America as a Grand Master. But, in 1983 she wrote the book that was her only attempt at a hard-boiled private eye book,  Death by Surprise. Honestly? If she had continued writing in the hard-boiled style rather than the traditional mystery style, she would still be a Grand Master. Death by Surprise was an intriguing story with a admirable sleuth. It's actually one of my favorite of Hart's books.

K.C. Carlisle and her cousin, Kenneth Carlisle, came from the generation of the family that had a great deal of money. And, they both went into law, but Kenneth was a blue-blooded corporate lawyer in La Luz, California, and K.C. chose to work in a storefront serving the working class community. However, they were both caught up in the drama when Francine Boutelle showed up, pretending to be a reporter while blackmailing individual members of the Carlisle family. And, they were both at Francine's the night she was murdered. But, it was Kenneth, the candidate for the House seat, who was arrested. And, it was K.C., convinced of his innocence, who was determined to prove her cousin wasn't a killer.

Hart's hard-boiled story might not feature streets quite as nasty as the ones where other fictional investigators walked. However, K.C. Carlisle is a canny woman who is an insider in the Carlisle family, able to pressure them for answers. She's a woman with her own secret, one she doesn't want revealed. And, the dame who blackmails the family, and the surprising killer, are just as hardhearted as the blackmailers and killers in other hard-boiled mysteries.

Judging by Death by Surprise, Carolyn Hart might have succeeded at hard-boiled private eye novels. But, maybe K.C. Carlisle isn't as hardhearted as she needed to be. Death by Surprise is the story of cagey woman determined to out-maneuver a wily killer. It's just one more piece of proof that Carolyn Hart is a Grand Master.

Carolyn Hart's website is

Death by Surprise by Carolyn Hart. Seventh Street Books. 1983, 2013. ISBN 9781616148690 (paperback), 194p.

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

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What Are You Reading?

It's a long weekend. I didn't have time to read last night, but I'll have three days to catch up this
weekend. I'm reading a fun romance, Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson. It's Pride and Prejudice set in the world of dog shows.

Tell us what you're reading. I'll be around most of today to discuss books.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Compound Murder by Bill Crider

A couple weeks ago, I reviewed Terry Shames' The Last Death of Jack Harbin. I said her books reminded me a little of Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire books. My friend, reviewer Kevin Tipple of Kevin's Corner, said they reminded him of Bill Crider's Dan Rhodes mysteries. So, I picked up Crider's latest one, Compound Murder, to refresh my memory. I still don't see much of a resemblance between the two series, but I'm reminded why I enjoy Sheriff Dan Rhodes in Crider's books. I have a fondness for books featuring wise, capable sheriffs. In this case, Dan Rhodes is a wise man with a dry sense of humor who has to put up with a cast of characters who would try the patience of a saint.

Only a Blacklin County mystery would start with the robbery of a beauty shop, a robbery in which someone stole hair extensions. From there, Sheriff Dan Rhodes is called to the local college because there was a body in the parking lot. When a car speeds away from the college, Rhodes thinks he might have a clue. He actually has a culprit, someone with a wig and hair extensions in his trunk. And, of course, it would turn out to be the son of a local man who decided the apocalypse was coming and built a compound where the residents hoarded food and guns. But, Sheriff Dan Rhodes is calm enough to handle anything. After all, he's the role model for the hero of a series of books, the tough fictional Sheriff Sage Barton.

But, does Sage Barton have to deal with hogs in a house? "In Blacklin County, it was always something. Murder investigations sometimes had to come to a stop because of mundane troubles like hogs in the house." And, Sheriff Dan Rhodes has to handle everything, including a radio dispatcher and a jailer who remind Rhodes of Abbott and Costello, along with a female reporter with her own news web site who loves video of the region's "heroic sheriff".

Sheriff Dan Rhodes is a wonderful character who plugs away, sometimes despite the overzealous help of his staff. "He'd seen far too many of the things people were capable of at their worst, but he somehow remained trusting and hopeful about nearly everybody he encountered." He's the kind of man who rescues cats, babies his dogs, and gives people the benefit of the doubt. And, the relationship between Rhodes and his wife, Ivy, is fun to watch.

Compound Murder is another funny mystery featuring Sheriff Dan Rhodes and his cast of eccentric staff members. Read them in any order because they can stand alone. If you're looking for humorous mysteries with hogs in the house, stolen hair, and a cast that is always interesting, plus solid police work, you won't go wrong with Bill Crider's Texas stories.

(Oh, and Kevin? I think we're both wrong. Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes is his own man. And, I'm thinking Rhodes might be closer to Patrick F. McManus' Sheriff Bo Tully than Terry Shames' character.)

Bill Crider's website is

Compound Murder by Bill Crider. Minotaur Books. 2013. ISBN 9780312641658 (hardcover), 262p.

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

Beat the Cold - A Florida GiveawayG

I hate cold weather. I've always hated cold weather. If you feel the same way, you might be interested in this week's giveaway. I'm giving away two books set in Florida to give you the chance to escape, at least via the pages of a book. And, you can take your pick, thriller or cozy.

James W. Hall's Going Dark takes his hero, Thorn, into the world of eco-terrorism so he can
rescue his son. Flynn Moss, Thorn's newly discovered son, has naively fallen in with a cell of the Earth Liberation Front, known as Elf, which has its sights set on Turkey Point, the largest nuclear power plant in Florida. When Flynn realizes the true intentions of the group, he calls on his father for help. It doesn't take long for Thorn to realize the only way to save his son is to help the eco-terrorists complete their deadly mission.

Christy Fifield's Haunted Souvenir Shop Mystery, Murder Sends a Postcard, isn't quite as dark as Hall's book. It's a mystery that features a souvenir shop in Keyhole Bay, Florida where Glory Martine's celebrity parrot, Bluebeard, is the host of a ghost. When an auditor dies who was checking on shady dealings of the local bank, it's up to Glory and Bluebeard to find a killer.

Thriller or cozy, which one would you like to win? Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Going Dark" or "Win Murder Sends a Postcard." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

The contest will end Thursday, Jan. 23 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Edgar Award Nominations

Mystery Writers of America announced the nominations for the 2014 Edgar Awards. Thanks to Janet Rudolph for posting the nominees on her site, Mystery Fanfare. I always find it interesting to see these nominees because I usually haven't read any of the ones nominated for Best Mystery Novel. This year, of course, I've read Louise Penny's book, How the Light Gets In.

The.nominated titles for the 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television, published or produced in 2013. The Edgar Awards will be presented to the winners at the 68th Gala Banquet, May 1, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

Here are the nominees.


Sandrine's Case by Thomas H. Cook (Grove Atlantic - The Mysterious Press)
The Humans by Matt Haig (Simon & Schuster)
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Simon & Schuster - Atria Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Until She Comes Home by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA - Dutton Books)


The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn (W.W. Norton)
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books)
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (HarperCollins Publishers)


The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne (HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow Paperbacks)
Almost Criminal by E.R. Brown (Dundurn)
Joe Victim by Paul Cleave (Simon & Schuster - Atria Books)
Joyland by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime)
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Group USA - Penguin Books)
Brilliance by Marcus Sakey (Amazon Publishing - Thomas and Mercer)


Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery by Paul Collins (Crown Trade Group)
Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal by Michael D'Antonio (Thomas Dunne Books)
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder by Charles Graeber (Grand Central Publishing - Twelve)
The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and the Medics Behind Nazi Lines by Cate Lineberry (Hatchette Book Group - Little, Brown and Company)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)


Maigret, Simenon and France: Social Dimensions of the Novels and Stories by Bill Alder (McFarland  & Company)
America is Elsewhere: The Noir Tradition in the Age of Consumer Culture by Erik Dussere (Oxford University Press)
Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing by Justin Gifford (Temple University Press)
Ian Fleming by Andrew Lycett (St. Martin's Press)
Middlebrow Feminism in Classic British Detective Fiction by Melissa Schaub (Palgrave Macmillan)


"The Terminal" - Kwik Krimes by Reed Farrel Coleman (Amazon Publishing - Thomas & Mercer)
"So Long, Chief" - Strand Magazine by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane (The Strand)
"The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository" - Bibliomysteries by John Connolly (Mysterious)
"There are Roads in the Water" - Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Tina Corey (Dell Magazines)
"Where That Morning Sun Does Down" - Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Tim L. Williams (Dell Magazines)


Strike Three, You're Dead by Josh Berk (Random House Children's Books - Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Maxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne (Penguin Young Readers Group - Dial)
P.K. Pinkerton and the Petrified Man by Caroline Lawrence (Penguin Young Readers Group - Putnam Juvenile)
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Publishing Worldwide - Disney-Hyperion)
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (Random House Children's Books - Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)


All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry (Penguin Young Readers Group - Viking Juvenile)
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Random House Children's Books - Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy (Simon & Schuster - Simon Pulse)
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller (Penguin Young Readers Group - Razorbill)
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (Hachette Book Group - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)


"Episode 3" - Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC Worldwide)
"Episode 1" - The Fall, Teleplay by Allan Cubitt (Netflix)
"Legitimate Rape" - Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Kevin Fox & Peter Blauner (NBC Universal)
"Variations Under Domestication" - Orphan Black, Teleplay by Will Pascoe (BBC Worldwide)
"Pilot" - The Following Teleplay by Kevin Williamson (Fox/Warner Bros. Television)


"The Wentworth Letter" - Criminal Element's Malfeasance Occasional by Jeff Soloway (St. Martin's Press)


There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow)
Fear of Beauty by Susan Froetschel (Prometheus - Seventh Street Books)
The Money Kill by Katia Lief (HarperCollins Publishers - Harper)
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman (Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine Books)
The Sixth Station by Linda Stasi (Forge Books)

GRAND MASTERS: Robert Crais and Carolyn Hart

RAVEN: Aunt Agatha's Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Congratulations to all the nominees!

The Execution by Dick Wolf

If you don't recognize Dick Wolf's name as an author, you may recognize it as the creator of Law & Order. He brings the same non-stop action and suspense to his second Jeremy Fisk novel, The Execution.

Detective Jeremy Fisk of the NYPD Intelligence Division sees himself as an elite cop. He's a member of the anti-terror unit modeled on the CIA. He survived the action that killed his girlfriend. And, he's the survivor of a stakeout in upstate New York where two Swedish Muslim militants tried to cross the border. So, a liaison job during United Nations week in New York City isn't exactly what he enjoys. Then thirteen bodies with no heads are dumped on a Rockaway beach.

Comandante Cecelia Garza has pursued a Mexican killer for years. He's a legendary figure in the Mexican war against drugs, a man known for his brutality and his artistic signature. When Garza is called to the scene of a brutal killing spree, she recognizes the signature of Chuparosa. "The Hummingbird" beheads his victims, and carves the picture of a hummingbird on a body. When she accompanies the President of Mexico to the United States for UN Week, she again recognizes his signature, thirteen beheaded bodies dumped on a Rockaway beach.

Just as in his TV shows, Wolf provides fascinating backstories for his characters, Fisk and Garza. While the narco-terrorism angle is interesting, it's Jeremy Fisk and Cecelia Garza, with their histories and their daily struggles in their job, that make the story realistic. Like Linda Fairstein, Dick Wolf is able to find unlimited stories in the streets of New York City. Wolf is quoted as saying, "The NYPD Intelligence Unit provides a goldmine of story possibilities for Fisk. As much as the threats - narco-terrorists in The Execution and Muslim fundamentalists in The Intercept - what also attracts me about these stories is the possibility of exploring the things that drive the people involved in counter-terrorism on a daily basis. And the psychological toll they face when they know that the only good days are the ones in which nothing happens. Coupled with constant anxiety about the cost of failure against enemies who are often unknown. This make Fisk an idiosyncratic, yet totally disciplined investigator."

Before I even finished The Execution, I recommended Dick Wolf's thrillers to a reader who said she likes some of James Patterson's books, and David Baldacci's. Now that I finished it, I have a pretty good idea that I steered her toward another pageturner.

The Execution by Dick Wolf. William Morrow. 2014. ISBN 9780062064851 (hardcover), 335p.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Club Selections 2014

I belong to a book club that meets once a month. It's not affiliated with the library. In fact, it meets at the First Presbyterian Church. But, Monday night we met at a member's house for dinner and selection of the next year's books. I've belonged to the group just for a year, but it's been going on for fifteen years. The January meeting is the selection meeting, while the February book has already been selected. So, we were really picking the books for March through next February. All books must be available in paperback, so we do read the current year's books.  It was a lot of fun. Whoever nominated a title discussed it, and then we each had six poker chips to vote on titles. Here are the eleven books we're reading in the next year. (We don't read a book in January. That's just dinner and selection.) It's a nice mixed selection of books. The summaries come from our list of books.

In March, we're reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker. "A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, it spans the decades between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be...until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father's past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader's belief in the power of love to move mountains."

We're discussing M.L. Stedman's debut novel in April, The Light Between Oceans. "Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a tiny island a half day's boat journey from the coast of Western Australia. When a baby washes up in a rowboat, he and his young wife Isabel decide to raise the child as their own. The baby seems like a gift from God, and the couple's reasoning for keeping her seduces the reader into entering the waters of treacherous morality even as Tom - whose moral code withstood the horrors of World War I - begins to waver."

The first nonfiction book of the year is Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. ""Aslan rips Jesus out of all the context we thought he belonged in and holds him forth as someone entirely new. This is Jesus as a passionate Jew, a violent revolutionary, a fanatical idealogue, an odd and scary and an extraordinarily interesting man."

Beginner's Grace: Bringing Prayer to Life is by Kate Braestrup. "A welcoming modern guide to the simplest, most effective way to satisfy a universal spiritual hunger, it's for the religious and nonreligious and even irreligious in its generous, good-humored approach to spirituality."

Of course I volunteered to moderate the discussion of the only mystery on the list, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. "Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer - in case he or she decides to strike again." It's also our summer potluck (called a pitch-in in Evansville), and our teen invitational meeting.

One of my friends raves about Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. "When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. Empty Mansions is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial home sin California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?" Richly illustrated with more than seventy photographs.

A couple of us are hoping to go to Kentucky to hear Jamie Ford in March. He's the author of our September book, Songs of Willow Frost. "Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle's Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother's listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday - or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday - William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song. Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford's sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home."

The next nonfiction title is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Quote from Bill Gates, Sr. "Stunning...Belongs on the 'must read' list because it offers perspective, insight, and clear-eyed optimism for why and how each of us can and should meet one of the great moral and humanitarian challenges of our time."

Amanda Ripley's The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way relates the compelling stories of three American teenagers living abroad in the world's top-notch schools while an education expert explains how these systems cultivate the 'smartest kids' on the planet."

Our December book is The Inn at the Edge of the World by Alice Thomas Ellis. "The five guests at the inn on a remote Scottish Island have at least one thing in common-they are all in flight from Christmas. Are their respective unhappinesses impervious to the influence of the uncanny?"

Again, we'll have dinner at a member's house in January and pick the next year's books. But, we've already picked the February 2015 book. It's Fannie Flagg's The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion . I've already reviewed it here, an enjoyable story of a woman who discovers there are secrets she didn't know about herself, secrets that go back to the 1940s and a family that owns a Phillips 66 filling station in Pulaski, Wisconsin.

Interesting list, isn't it? I've never heard of most of the nonfiction titles, but one reason to be in a book club is to read books I wouldn't normally read.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thank You!

Last night, I went to dinner after work so we could pick the books for the next year at our book club. It was a lot of fun, but I wasn't home to read. I did get home to pick the winners for the Anniversary Giveaways, though.

I wanted to thank all of you for continuing to read Lesa's Book Critiques as we go into the tenth year. I've received some very nice notes from readers saying they discovered new authors and books through this blog. Thank you. As a librarian, that's perfect. I love to hear that.

I wish everyone could have won a book. There were 238 entries for the giveaways. Thank you for reading with me, and participating in the giveaways. Don't worry. There will be another giveaway beginning on Friday.

Here are the winners. Barbara W. of Auburn, WA won Gail Oust's Rosemary and Crime. Penny T. from Klamath Falls, OR will receive Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams. Aubrey H. of Vienna, VA will receive Carol Miller's Murder and Moonshine. Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis goes to Virginia D. of Tempe, AZ. Carol M. of Monroeville, PA will be the recipient of Jefferson Bass' Cut to the Bone. Jeffrey Siger's Mykonos After Midnight goes to Ellie L. of Albuquerque, NM. And, Kristine P. from Modesto, CA won Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Congratulations to all the winners. Thank you, everyone, for entering the contests.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Arrivals

Once in a while, it's time to mention all the books that arrived in a week. Most of them are January releases, and I haven't mentioned them before. As a librarian and book lover, it's important to call attention to the new books, even if I might not get a chance to read all of them.

I'm not familiar with Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse series, but when I read that his latest "genre-blending" book combines "the conventions of hard-boiled mystery and medieval epic fantasy", I was hooked. In  He Drank, and Saw the Spider, mercenary Eddie LaCrosse returns to check on the fate of a baby girl he rescued sixteen years earlier. She's now a young teenager at the center of a complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster and long-buried secrets. And, once again she needs Eddie's help. (Just released)

The Axe Factor is Colin Cotterill's latest Jimm Juree mystery. Jimm Juree is a former crime reporter now living with her family in a rural village in Southern Thailand. She's very happy to have the chance to interview an award-winning author of crime novels. But, a few local women have disappeared, including the author's Thai wife. With a major storm on its way, and a potential serial killer on the loose, Jimm Juree, her eccentric family, and the entire town could see some major changes. (April 15 release date)

Lauren Francis-Sharma's debut novel is 'Til the Well Runs Dry. It's a multigenerational, multicultural saga that spans the 1940s through the 1960s in Trinidad and the United States. In a seaside village in the north of Trinidad, young Marcia Garcia is a gifted sixteen-year-old seamstress who lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman who falls for her, the rewards and risks of her life increase. It's the story of a couple's love, a mother's love for her children, and a people's love of an island. (It's an April release)

Cora Felton, aka the Puzzle Lady, finds herself a murder suspect in Parnell Hall's latest mystery, NYPD Puzzle. Cora accompanies an attorney to New York City to meet a new client, but they find the man dead in his apartment, with a puzzle on his chest. Since Cora fired a shot at an intruder, she's lucky to get out on bail. The diabolical killer is leaving puzzle clues, and Cora must match wits with a gruff NYPD homicide sergeant in order to clear her names. Once again, the book combines Parnell Hall's snappy dialogue and Will Shortz's puzzles as clues to solve the mystery. (Jan. 21 release)

Steve Hamilton's Ice Run has just been released in paperback. Ex-cop Alex McKnight is happier than he can remember being in a long time because of a woman, Natalie Reynaud, a Canadian police officer. But, their romantic weekend at an old luxury hotel is interrupted by a note, "I know who you are." Their investigation of this strange note leads to a terrible Reynaud family secret, one that still drives men to kill.

Moriarty Returns a Letter is Michael Robertson's fourth Baker Street mystery featuring brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath. Their London law firm doesn't do an overwhelming business, but they are overwhelmed by the mail they receive at their 221B Baker Street offices, mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Just when an exhibition of vintage Sherlock Holmes letters has opened, and Reggie and his beloved Laura embark on a pre-wedding trip, someone from the past reappears causing a slew of new problems for the brothers. (Jan. 28 release)

Daniel Stashower's The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War was a Washington Post Notable Book, a New York Times bestseller, and the television miniseries rights have been acquired by the Weinstein Company. Now, it's being released in paperback on Jan. 28. It's the true story of the plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln during his train trip to Washington to be sworn in as President. The story features legendary Allan Pinkerton and Kate Warne who became America's first female private eye. But, the two would not find it easy to convince Lincoln's advisors that the plot was real.

David and Aimee Thurlo launch a new series with The Pawnbroker.  When Charlie Henry returns from special-ops work in Iraq, he and an old Army buddy become the new owner of the Three Balls pawnshop in Albuquerque. But, the shooting of an old childhood friend turns out to be related to the previous owner of the pawnshop. As the two ex-soldiers lend a hand in the investigation, they get tangled up in gang rivalries, and led astray in a case where nothing is what it seems. (Jan. 28 release)

Wisconsin Detective Ellie MacIntosh returns in Kate Watterson's Buried. The Milwaukee detective struggles to deal with two cases that divide her attention - a sudden rash of seemingly unrelated cop killings and the startling discovery of an old, hidden grave on her grandfather's property. It's an entanglement of mysteries that Ellie must race against the clock to solve.

It's another terrific collection of books for the TBR (To Be Read) pile. I hope you saw something here to interest you.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy

Who would think that a simple attempt to get married would take Ollie Paras to the scene of multiple murders? Ollie, White House executive chef, has "A certain knack for stumbling into trouble." And, after some time away on a personal investigation in  Fonduing Fathers, Ollie's back at work, right in the midst of all the excitement in the White House in Home of the Braised.

Ollie and her Secret Service boyfriend, Gav, just want a quiet, quick wedding. How did they know all the justices of the peace had full schedules?  But, when they tried to talk to a friend of Gav's about performing the wedding, they find him dead, murdered along with four other men. The agents that show up immediately to deal with it aren't very happy to find Gav and Ollie at the crime scene. They are both smart enough to keep a secret, but when Gav disappears for a few days, it puts Ollie off her game. And, when someone tries to kill Ollie, they both know it isn't an accident.

It's just what Ollie doesn't need, another thing to worry about. Between failed wedding plans, a murder attempt, and a state dinner celebrating the peace talks between the U.S. and Durasi, she has her hands full. Then, the actual murder of a high-ranking official puts everyone on alert, including Ollie. Once again, while juggling multiple plates, Ollie's right in the middle of the action.

Time and again, Julie Hyzy manages to add excitement to Ollie Paras' work, keeping the series fresh. Ollie is a wonderful amateur sleuth. She's lucky to have found a Secret Service agent who appreciates her awareness and abilities. But, as much as I like Ollie, Gav, and Ollie's kitchen staff, I'm enchanted by Josh, the President's son. Ollie is right to recognize some of her traits in the young boy. He's as passionate about cooking as she is, and the scenes with Josh in the kitchen and discussing china for the state dinner are some of my favorite ones. But, Josh is also clever, even at his age. Once before, he and Ollie were partners in crime. This time, they have to team up to avoid a major disaster.

Whether you read the White House Chef mysteries for the action, the behind-the-scenes look at the White House, Ollie Paras, or the relationships between the characters, all those ingredients are stirred together in Julie Hyzy's latest mystery serving. And, Hyzy's final course is sweet enough to bring tears in Home of the Braised.

Julie Hyzy's website is

Home of the Braised by Julie Hyzy. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425262382 (paperback), 293p.

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