Saturday, October 31, 2015

Claws for Alarm by T.C. LoTempio

Have you ever finished a book despite your frustration with the main character? I loved Nora Charles, the investigative reporter turned sandwich shop owner, and the intuitive, spooky cat she adopts, Nick, in T.C. LoTempio's Meow If It's Murder. But, I found Nora exasperating in Claws for Alarm, the newest book. Maybe it's a sign of a well-written story that the characters are so alive that they make you angry?

When Professor Thaddeus C. Pitt, a wealthy art collector and instructor is murdered, Lacey Charles is found standing over the body, holding the murder weapon. It's easy to understand why the police arrest Nora Charles' sister. Although Lacey and Nora aren't close, Nora immediately rushes to Cruz, California, to be there for her sister. Lacey admits she had a public confrontation with Pitt that same day, but insists she didn't murder him. But, she's angry that Nora has to intervene, "the cool, levelheaded older sister has to step in to save the family legacy from the flighty, impetuous younger sister, the one who has yet to make a success of anything she undertakes."

But, they are sisters. And, Nora will do anything she can to keep her sister from going to prison for a murder she didn't commit. With Nick, the cat with extraordinary detective skills by her side, Nora is determined to find out who really killed Pitt, whether it was another disgruntled student, a cheating wife, a cast-off son, or someone else in the art world.

Nora will do anything. And, that's why I was so angry with her character. She's friends with both the homicide detective and an FBI agent who is involved in the case, yet she insists in plowing ahead with her own investigation, interfering at every turn. Daniel, the FBI agent, knows her well. Your "zeal for solving puzzles often overshadows your better judgment." Nora acts childish at times, crossing her fingers as she lies to the men, and, once she leaves their presence, continues her rash actions.

I know. We always suspend disbelief when we read mysteries of any kind, particularly cozy mysteries when an amateur sleuth is involved. But, Nora Charles just went too far for me. The sad part? I'm still curious about the underlying question of the disappearance of detective Nick Atkins, and I'll probably pick up the next book in the series. But, I'm so disappointed after reading Claws for Alarm, that I'm taking a break from cozy mysteries for a week or so.

T.C. LoTempio's website is

Claws for Alarm by T.C. LoTempio. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425270219 (paperback), 290p.

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Western Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Eileen K. of Island Lake, IL won Heather Blake's Ghost of a Potion. Carolyn Hart's Ghost Wanted goes to Robin C. of Ashtabula, OH. I'm mailing the books today.

In keeping with the western theme started by the giveaway of Craig Johnson's Wait for Signs, this  week, I'm giving away two mysteries set in Texas featuring small-town lawmen. In Terry Shames' case, Samuel Craddock is actually retired in A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge. He's forced to pry into a friend's secrets when Jenny Sandstone's dying mother reveals that Jenny is in danger. And, when Jenny is injured in a car accident, Craddock sets out to find out why someone wants to threaten her.

Sheriff Dan Rhodes doesn't have an easy job. When he's called in the middle of the night to investigate gunshots at a haunted house, he finds the body of a meth dealer. There's quite a few suspects, but Seepy Benton, the college math professor just seems to complicate the investigation. He'd really like to solve the murder by communing with ghosts, as founder of Clearview Paranormal Investigations. Once again, Bill Crider combines crime and humor in a mystery. This time, it's Between the Living and the Dead.

Which mystery 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. Your subject headings should read either "Win Shames" or "Win Crider." The giveaway will end Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

This giveaway may be starting a day earlier than I normally start giveaways, but any time I have the chance to share a Craig Johnson book, I'll take it. Craig Johnson's Wait for Signs has just been released in paperback. One lucky winner will have the chance to win a copy from the publisher. Details are below the review. (And, come back tomorrow when I'll announce the usual Friday giveaway.)

I reviewed Wait for Signs when it first came out in hardcover. If you like mysteries, westerns or short stories, you might want to check out the review, and try to win a copy.

Walt Longmire, Craig Johnson's sheriff from Absaroka County in Wyoming, made his first short story appearance in, "Old Indian Trick" about ten years ago. That story went on to win the Cowboys & Indians Tony Hillerman award. Johnson sent it in a Christmas newsletter that year, then learned the following year that subscribers were waiting for the next Walt Longmire Christmas story. What's a writer to do? He went on to write eleven more short stories, now released as Wait for Signs.

There are Christmas settings, a Memorial Day one, a New Year's story, and ordinary stories of not-so-ordinary occurrences in the life of a Wyoming sheriff. As Johnson says in his Acknowledgements, some are mysteries; some of the stories have some mysterious elements; and some have none. In other words, these are typical Craig Johnson, and Walt Longmire, stories. Lou Diamond Phillips, who played Henry Standing Bear in the television show Longmire, points out the difficulty in creating characters, settings and a plot, and making them come together in an absorbing short story. Craig Johnson succeeds beautifully in every one of the stories in this collection.

Those of us who read the books, or watched the television series, will welcome Walt, along with the appearance of familiar characters - Henry Standing Bear, Vic, Dog, Cady, Lucian Connally, And, there are familiar symbols and stories, such as the owls, and Walt's Christmas connection with Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There's the trademark wry humor, along with the kindness. Although Johnson says "Walt is kind, decent, caring", there's that same kindness in Henry. And, there's a darkness in both men as well, a loneliness at times. It makes both of them human, not super-human.

Wait for Signs should be added to so many collections. Consider it as a gift for those who love, and miss, Westerns. It's a perfect companion to Johnson's Spirit of Steamboat. I'm buying a copy for myself to keep with my favorite Christmas books, even though not all the stories are set at Christmastime. It's for all of us who want to know what Walt Longmire is up to in between his larger adventures. And, it's for all of us who love Craig Johnson's beautiful writing, his stories about Walt and his friends. In fact, Craig Johnson's Wait for Signs is just right, for so many reasons.

Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories by Craig Johnson. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780143127826 (paperback), 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Craig Johnson's website is

If you'd like to enter the contest, email me at Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. Your subject heading should read "Win Wait for Signs." The giveaway will end next Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6 PM CT.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What Are You Reading?

When I don't have time to finish a book, I enjoy turning to you. It's always fun to see what others are reading.

I'm halfway through T.C. LoTempio's Claws for Alarm. I love the characters, Nora Charles, and her cat, Nick. But, after this one, I'm taking a short break from cozy mysteries. As much as I love them, I'm getting a little exasperated with the characters. That means it's time to try something else. And, I certainly have others piled up to read.

So, what are you reading today? Is it a departure from what you normally read, or does it fall under your favorite genre?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay

Would you believe a mystery about a librarian starts with a delivery of books to an island, picks up speed, and never lets up the suspense?You'll probably say, "A Likely Story". Just the name of Jenn McKinlay's latest Library Lover's mystery, A Likely Story.

Lindsey Norris, Library Director at the Briar Creek Public Library in Connecticut, travels by water taxi with her ex-boyfriend, Captain Mike Sullivan to Star Island. It took time, but Lindsey befriended two octogenarian brothers who lead isolated lives on the island. Now, she regularly delivers books to them. This time, something is off, though. Stewart Rosen isn't waiting for her at the dock. So, Lindsey and Sully cautiously approach the house, dealing with the brothers' booby traps on the way. After making their way through traps and a house buried under the brothers' hoarded collections, they find the murdered body of Peter Rosen. But, where is Stewart? How does an eighty-year-old man disappear, and where did he go? Is Stewart a victim or a killer?

Lindsey and Sully's call to the police ends with the police chief out of commission. And, Lindsey has enough guilt and curiosity to plunk herself right down into the middle of the case. It takes a couple dangerous escapes, more guilt, and a librarian's skillful research, but Lindsey finally uncovers secrets that have been buried in the islands for generations.

Intrepid. Foolhardy. Impetuous. Rash. Loyal. Lindsey Norris can be called all of those. But, she does have a librarian's curiosity. Jenn McKinlay creates a realistic library, genuine library issues, staff and customers, and then plunges the library and her characters right into the middle of a murder investigation. She adds touches of romance, and some island history for an enjoyable mystery. We all know murder investigations are unlikely most of the time in small town libraries. This time, it's intriguing. This time, it's A Likely Story.

Jenn McKinlay's website is

A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425260746 (hardcover), 292p.

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

November Cozy Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

No Jinx this month. He's been off taking a nap when I filmed the last couple months. But, there are lots of cozy mysteries to talk about, November releases from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian.

Here's the extensive list of forthcoming mysteries, due out next week.

Writing All Wrongs - Ellery Adams (7th Books By the Bay Mystery)
Plot Boiler - Ali Brandon (5th Black Cat Bookshop Mystery)
The Chocolate Clown Caper - JoAnna Carl (14th Chocoholic Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
The Chocolate Falcon Fraud - JoAnna Carl (15th Chocoholic Mystery, hardcover)
Crowned and Moldering - Kate Carlisle (3rd Fixer-Upper Mystery)
Florist Grump - Kate Collins (17th Flower Shop Mystery)
Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen - Vicki Delany (1st Year-Round Christmas Mystery)
Death Takes Priority - Jean Flowers (1st Postmistress Mystery)
Trimmed with Murder - Sally Goldenbaum (10th Seaside Knitters Mystery, hardcover)
White Colander Crime - Victoria Hamilton (5th Vintage Kitchen Mystery)
Olive and Let Die - Susannah Hardy (2nd Greek to Me Mystery)
Knot Guilty - Betty Hechtman (9th Crochet Mystery)
The Stitching Hour - Amanda Lee (9th Embroidery Mystery)
Nuts and Buried - Elizabeth Lee (3rd Nut House Mystery)
Claws for Alarm - T.C. LoTempio (2nd Nick & Nora Mystery)
A Likely Story - Jenn McKinlay (6th Library Lover's Mystery, hardcover)
Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue - Victoria Thompson (18th Gaslight Mystery, hardcover)
The Candy Cane Cupcake Killer - Livia J. Washburn (10th Fresh-Baked Mystery)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Flipped for Murder by Maddie Day

Maddie Day's Flipped for Murder launches a cozy mystery series that's slightly different from a number of popular ones today. Day's characters are realistic, rather than the quirky ones often found in small-town mysteries. And, her amateur sleuth doesn't set out to solve a murder investigation. She's just trying to keep herself out of jail. Flipped for Murder is refreshing in its outlook.

In the three years Robbie Jordan has been in South Lick, Indiana, she was working to save up the money to buy and operate a place that combines her dreams. When she opens Pans 'N Pancakes in a one hundred fifty-year-old building, it's "a warm, welcoming country store, a cozy breakfast-and-lunch place, and a treasure trove of antique cookware". She had help from her aunt, her real estate lawyer, Jim, and her friend, Phil. She didn't have a great deal of help from Stella Rogers, the mayor's assistant, who seemed to put innumerable roadblocks in her way when it came to permits. But, that doesn't mean she wanted the woman dead. And, as a restaurant owner, she isn't thrilled to find out Stella had one of Robbie's cheesy biscuits stuffed down her throat.

Normally, South Lick's small police force would ask for help from the Brown County Homicide Unit. But, they're small as well, and have their hands full with another case. So, it's up to the local police to probe for motives. And, as Robbie discovers, there are a lot of people in town who might have wanted to kill the mayor's assistant. But, evidence seems to point to Robbie.

Day's first Country Store mystery introduces a hard-working, determined sleuth. Readers will admire her grit, while salivating over the breakfasts served at Pans 'N Pancakes. Robbie does have the obligatory two men interested in dating her, and she adopts a cat. But, that doesn't mean there's anything else typical about Flipped for Murder. There are some strong-willed characters, such as the mayor, but the cast isn't made of eccentric people. Instead, they're realistic, unpretentious residents of a small Midwestern town. The police are not made to look stupid. And, Robbie is caught up in the case as a victim more than as an amateur sleuth. She has an interest in finding the killer, but doesn't have much time because she's the owner of a new business.

Flipped for Murder takes place in just over a week. It may be the longest week of Robbie Jordan's life, though, as she opens a restaurant, finds herself atop a suspect list, and learns a secret from her mother's life.

Welcome to Maddie Day's South Lick, Indiana, an imaginary setting rich in atmosphere. The characters and Robbie's restaurant, Pans 'N Pancakes, come alive in this refreshing, enjoyable mystery, Flipped for Murder.

If you would like to talk to the author, Edith Maxwell (Maddie Day), will be appearing at the North Park Library in Evansville, Indiana, on Nov. 2 at 6 PM. She'll be talking about her books, the origins of her Indiana setting, and signing books. The books will be for sale that evening.

Edith Maxwell's website is

Flipped for Murder by Maddie Day. Kensington Publishing Company. 2015. ISBN 9781617739255 (paperback), 342p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, knowing the library would be hosting her. No review was promised.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Cherry Cola Christmas by Ashton Lee

It was 80 degrees here yesterday, and Halloween is a week away. A little early for a Christmas novel? Christmas novels are coming out earlier and earlier every year. Honestly? Those of us who love them enjoy them any time of year. But, Ashton Lee will be appearing at one of our libraries soon, so I kicked off this year's holiday reading with the latest charming Cherry Cola book, A Cherry Cola Christmas.

Librarian Maura Beth Mayhew has returned from her honeymoon, and has some planning to do for Cherico, Mississippi's library. For the first time in her seven years as director, she has the money to hire additional staff. Maura Beth may be happy with the library's situation, but things aren't looking rosy for Cherico. Shops are closing, which means the taxes to support the town are less. And, Councilman Durden Sparks' dreams of bringing in a factory to the town's industrial park just collapsed. Townspeople are a little suspicious after tips were stolen at The Twinkle. And, some beloved friends are losing battles with their health. "Cherico and many of its citizens were hurting and needed to feel better about themselves as the holiday season approached."

When Maura Beth's mood needs uplifting, she naturally turns to her friends and the library's Cherry Cola Book Club. She doesn't see the town's losses as the death of her beloved small town, as Councilman Sparks does, but she knows everyone can use some Christmas cheer. So, she proposes that the club members meet in December, and bring an uplifting story to share. The citizens of Cherico need to rally to support each other, and their town.

Despite the downturn in the town's economy, Ashton Lee's latest book has an optimistic, hopeful tone. It's a feel-good, reflective novel, more so even than the other books in the series. Once again, Lee gathers his appealing characters to support their beloved small Southern town. The stories told by the members of the Cherry Cola Book Club are inspirational, reminding readers how far the characters have come in their lives. The story is warm and comforting, just what a Christmas tale should be. And, it's filled with the atmospheric touches that make this Mississippi small town come to life.

When you have time to settle in for a Christmas comfort read, don't hesitate to reach for the A Cherry Cola Christmas. It's a warm, comfortable visit with old friends.

And, speaking of old friends, Ashton Lee will appear at the Red Bank Library in Evansville at 6 p.m. Tuesday, November 10. He'll talk about his recent books, The Wedding Circle and A Cherry Cola Christmas. The books will be for sale, and he'll be glad to sign them.

Readers can follow Ashton Lee  at

A Cherry Cola Christmas by Ashton Lee. Kensington Books. 2015. ISBN 9781617733444 (paperback), 225p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, October 23, 2015

Winners and a Ghostly Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Lynn L. from Rio Linda, CA won the copy of Trick or Deceit. The Skeleton Haunts a House goes to Jeanetta S. of Evansville, IN. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

I'm giving away two more books for Halloween. This week, it's a ghostly giveaway. It's even Halloween in Heather Blake's Ghost of a Potion. Potion shop owner Carly Bell is not a fan of Halloween since so many ghosts haunt her at that time of year. But, she reluctantly agrees to attend a costume ball organized by her boyfriend Dylan's mother, Patricia. But, when architect Haywood Dodd is found dead, Patricia is holding the weapon. Now, Carly has to use her snooping skills to find the real killer. And, Haywood Dodd is now one of the ghosts wanting help.

Or you could win Carolyn Hart's latest paperback featuring heavenly ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn, Ghost Wanted. Bailey Ruth heads to Adelaide, Oklahoma to help the ghost of Lorraine Marlow, the Lady of the Roses who haunts the college library. Someone's causing problems, and Lorraine is blamed. Before Bailey Ruth can do too much digging, a campus security guard is dead, and a student is accused. Now, Bailey Ruth has two souls to help, one living and one a ghost.

Which ghostly 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 Ghost of a Potion" or "Win Ghost Wanted." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Oct. 29 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Are You Reading?

I didn't have much time to read last night. I had to bake a bundt cake for an extortion breakfast at a radio station where we're promoting our One Book/One Community program. This year, Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, is our guest speaker.

So, I've barely started Quicksand by Carolyn Baugh.  The mystery features Officer Nora Khalil, an Egyptian-American officer with the Philadelphia police force. She's part of the FBI's Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force. She struggles with her job while trying to remain true to her faith and her traditional family's expectations. But, the discovery of the mutilated body of a young Muslim girl strikes close to home.

I really don't know much more than what it says on the book jacket. So, would you tell me what you're reading? I'm always curious, and interested.

What are you reading today?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

No one but Sarah Vowell can manage to write about history with wry humor, while managing to also include references to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen. At the same time, she brings the Marquis de Lafayette and the sometimes cranky Revolutionary War figures to life in her latest book, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. And, despite her serious humor, she can still bring tears with her closing sentence; tears for a popular history book.

Vowell puts the story of the Marquis de Lafayette in context, telling the story of his world at the time of the war. He was only a wealthy nineteen-year-old when he defied his father-in-law and the powerful French men of the time, left his pregnant wife behind, and sailed to America. With no ongoing war in Europe, he was eager to volunteer to fight against Britain, France's traditional enemy. The young man who eagerly supported the colonies' demands for freedom would become a hero to the people. When he returned to the United States in 1824, as an old man, he was the Continental Army's last living general. His thirteen-month tour of the twenty-four states became a celebratory victory lap.

In telling Lafayette's story, Vowell tells of the schemes to bring France into the war. She tells of the rebels' need for support and financial aid, ammunition and guns. Readers meet the Americans and French who supported war. And, she reveals all the problems of the Continental Army under George Washington. She introduces the politicians who didn't support him; the generals who schemed for his job; the foreigners who showed up eager for battle, and the British politicians and leaders who made so many mistakes. The story of the war is a story of petty politics.

Sarah Vowell brings an extensive knowledge of history and popular culture to her books. It's the dry comments that combine that knowledge that make her books so appealing. Take the story of the attack on Trenton. "The victory at Trenton boosted morale among the troops, the Congress, and the people to a degree possibly unwarranted by winning back a town in New Jersey, what with it being a town in New Jersey." Then, there's her comment after she relates the account of the loss at the Battle of Brandywine. "Oh, if only that was the last time in America that the extreme left and extreme right broke down and made a mess of things, leaving everyone in the center to suffer." One of my favorite lines in the book.

Vowell is a skilled storyteller, relating little-known or forgotten stories of early history. And, she hinges her historical account on a figure that was revered for generations, the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was an impulsive, headstrong, at times disagreeable teenager who wanted his own way when he headed to America. This young foreigner symbolized the determined young country, and became an idol for that country. Vowell's wonderful history, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, tells the story of "the best friend America ever had", a man linked forever to the Revolutionary War, and the founding of the United States.

History? Literature? Popular culture? Sarah Vowell beautifully brings it all together in Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. Riverhead Books. 2015. ISBN 9781594631740 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, after I requested it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Untimely Death by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Don't you like it when an author with one enjoyable series launches another one that's just as appealing? Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of the Penny Brannigan series set in North Wales. Now, she takes readers to the Catskill Mountains for a summer Shakespeare festival. Untimely Death introduces costume designer Charlotte Fairfax.

Charlotte was once the costume mistress for the Royal Shakespeare Company. For ten years now, she's been in charge of the wardrobes and costumes for a small production company in Walkers Ridge, New York, working out of the Jacobs Grand Hotel. And, Charlotte knows something about small towns. "Despite the outward appearance of dull tranquility, village life often hid long-held secrets and hearts of darkness." Theatre companies can do the same. When a young actress is murdered early in the rehearsals for "Romeo and Juliet", Charlotte's in the perfect position to ask questions. She sees everyone involved in the production. And, she can easily pass her information on to the Chief of Police, since she and Ray are dating.

Anyone who enjoys theatre will appreciate the behind-the-scenes peek inside the wardrobe mistress' workroom. Charlotte is an appealing amateur sleuth with her knowledge of costuming. It will take a little time to develop the leading characters in greater depth. And, one of my favorite characters, Charlotte's summer intern, Aaron, might not be back since he was on a break from school. Some of the characters show promise, though, beginning with Charlotte and Ray.

However, despite their actions, one of Charlotte's actions is deceptive. With no spoilers, I won't reveal what she does, but I was disappointed in her behavior. Even Charlotte didn't know why she acted the way she did. "All she could think of, the only way she could justify it was that there'd been a murder, and for some reason she couldn't begin to explain, even to herself, she wanted in on it." Disappointing to me, but typical for so many amateur sleuths.

Meet Charlotte Fairfax, costume designer, costume mistress, and amateur sleuth. Because she has her own secret, she knows others do as well. With her background in the theatre world, she understands people. It's her curiosity that drives her to talk to people about the Untimely Death. And, it's the theatre background that brings this engaging new mystery series to life.

Elizabeth J. Duncan's website is

Untimely Death by Elizabeth J. Duncan. Crooked Lane Books. 2015. ISBN 9781629531915 (hardcover), 278p.

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan

What do witnesses actually see at a crime scene? Can police actually trust witnesses? In less than forty-eight hours, Hank Phillippi Ryan forces her characters, homicide detective Jake Brogan and reporter Jane Ryland,  to confront those questions. And, they must wrestle with their own observations in What You See.

Wouldn't you think it would be easy to find a killer when a man is stabbed across from Boston's City Hall during a busy lunch hour with tourists and downtown workers on the street? Detective Jake Brogan and his partner, Paul DeLuca, catch the case. They're hoping someone caught the killer on a cell phone or camera. And, a young photographer hopes he caught the actually killing, so when he sees Jane Ryland on the street, he latches onto her, hoping he can sell his pictures. He doesn't realize Jane left her job at the newspaper because of ethical issues in her last story there.

Three jobs in five years. In journalism, Jane finds "always a new ethical dilemma without any new rules to resolve it." She's interviewing for a new job at Channel 2 when they need someone to cover the stabbing in Curley Park. So, she's a freelancer when she follows an ambulance into an alley, finding Jake and DeLuca there. Once again, the two are working the same case.

But, as much as Jane wants to cover the Curley Park stabbing, she turns away from the story when her sister calls with an emergency. Now, she must decide when to put family before the job.

Ryan juggles multiple storylines and multiples viewpoints as well as any author in the business. I've seen complaints about the multiple voices, but, in this case, it works beautifully. This method allows readers to know what Jake and Jane know, as well as what other characters know. But, it still takes time and skill to bring all the threads together to solve the complex cases. With five different narrators, the reader sees the story from a number of views, which makes it fascinating.

Journalists and detectives work perfectly in a crime novel, but Jane and Jake have a difficult time with their relationship. Their struggles with a relationship that seems doomed because they cover the same cases is an essential part of this series. Their personal issues, and, in this case, family demands, bring the two characters to life.

There are multiple storylines, multiple narrators. It works beautifully, but to summarize more would be to ruin the book. Ryan's latest book is riveting, a page turner that is difficult to put down. It keeps the reader guessing. Trust Hank Phillippi Ryan to bring all the characters and threads together in a compelling crime story. Just don't trust What You See.

Hank Phillippi Ryan's website is

What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Forge. 2015. ISBN 9780765374950 (hardcover), 400p.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

I was always a fan of Frank Warren's PostSecret books. For some reason, Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York books remind me of those. Both collections allow complete strangers to give readers a glimpse into their lives. Warren's postcards are anonymous, though, while Stanton's, without giving names, are photos. In the first Humans of New York book, Stanton included short quotes from his subjects. Now, in Humans of New York: Stories, the subjects tell stories of their lives, stories that make them the people they are today.

Stanton, who refers to his project as HONY, says the simple way to describe what happened with his photography project is that "It's evolved from a photography blog to a storytelling blog." In 2010, he started to photograph people on the streets of New York, posting them on a blog. The readership grew until, now, there are over fifteen million readers.

Why do we all turn to this blog? Stanton asks questions of his subjects, and allows them to tell their stories. So many of them are stories that touch the heart. These are stories of life, the successful, the failures, the tragic. There are stories of great love and loss. People discuss God and faith, relationships, family. Who are the people in the photos? They are students, brothers and sisters, veterans, widows and widowers, cancer survivors and those who lost loved ones to disease. People talk about meeting the person they love, or separating from someone after years of marriage. Sometimes it's a child that will break your heart, or a courageous survivor of war or the streets. In other words, these are people we recognize as fellow humans struggling or succeeding with their lives. The combination of photos and stories is compelling.

Stanton refers to the "in-depth storytelling that the blog is known for today." Stories make us human. Throughout the centuries, man has told stories to share where we've been, where we are, and our hopes for the future. Stanton is carrying on an old tradition, giving people the chance to share their voices, to tell us about their lives. Humans of New York: Stories is a beautiful addition to one of man's oldest traditions.

Humans of New York is at You can also connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton. St. Martin's Press. 2015. ISBN 9780250058904 (hardcover), 428p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Old Man and the Cat by Nils Uddenberg

That cat in the photo on the cover of Nils Uddenberg's The Old Man and the Cat isn't the only appealing part of this translated memoir. Let's start with the subtitle, "A Love Story". The sketches in the book are enchanting. The story is just delightful.

Nils Uddenberg is a retired professor of psychology in Sweden. His memoir tells of a new introduction to his family when he was in his seventies. Uddenberg had vowed never to own a pet. He and his wife traveled frequently, and owned homes both in Lund and Stockholm. But, one winter, a small cat showed up, sleeping in the garden shed. And, the Uddenbergs made the mistake of feeding the cat. Fortunately for the two travelers, their daughter agreed to joint custody while they were in Stockholm. Because, the professor would "eventually come down with cat". He fell in love.

As a psychologist, Uddenberg can't resist studying and analyzing the behavior of the cat they called Kitty. He enjoys speculating on Kitty's past. Where did she come from? What was her life like before she showed up in their shed? And, why would she disappear for long periods of time, leaving him with a feeling of emptiness when she disappeared.

The Old Man and the Cat combines Uddenberg's musings, his observations, and the lessons learned while learning to live with a cat. Add those teasing drawings featuring cats, and the book is charming.  Just what a cat lover wants, the story of a man unexpectedly falling in love late in life. It's a sweet love story.

The Old Man and the Cat by Nils Uddenberg. Thomas Dunne Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250059758 (hardcover), 176p.

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

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Halloween Giveaway

It's the perfect time of year for a Halloween giveaway. I have two mysteries that should arrive just in time for the holiday.

Have you read Leigh Perry's Family Skeleton mysteries? In The Skeleton Haunts a House, Sid the skeleton is excited. It's the only time of year when he can leave the house. Sid and his best friend, Georgia Thackery, head to the Halloween Howl and the haunted house. But, when a body is found in the house, Sid is trapped inside. Now, he has the opportunity to act as a sleuth.

There's also a haunted house and a body involved in Shelley Freydont's Trick or Deceit. Celebration Bay holds a haunted house contest to raise money for the town's community center. When the winning house is vandalized, and a judge's body found in a nearby lot, the town turns to event planner Liv Montgomery for answers. Now, she has to juggle a murder investigation, witches, and a director of development for a philanthropic organization, while all the town watches.

Which Halloween 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 The Skeleton Haunts a House" or "Win Trick or Deceit." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

The giveaway will end Thursday, Oct. 22 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont

No town observes holidays the way Celebration Bay, New York, does. The residents pull out all the stops. This time, though, in Shelley Freydont's Trick or Deceit, someone wants to ruin Halloween. A vandalized haunted house is one thing. But, event planner Liv Montgomery draws the line at murder.

Liv is already nervous. An old friend, Jonathan Preston, is on his way to town to check it out for possible funding from a philanthropic foundation. The fate of the town's community center is in his hands. But, when the Museum of Haunted Horrors is vandalized, Liv fears the house won't be able to open for the town's Halloween celebration. But, it's worse than she thought. In the nearby overgrown lot, amongst the scattered mannequin parts, is the body of one of the judges from the haunted house contest. One haunted house ruined; the owner of another is a suspect. What will Jonathan think about Celebration Bay when he arrives in town? Now, Liv is angry "that somebody trashed all of Barry's hard work, jeopardized the community center's future, and murdered one of the judges." And, the entire town turns to her to fix the problem.

Any reader can understand Liv Montgomery's motivation. The townspeople have grown to trust this newcomer, although she's only been in town for a year. "She planned all the major events in town. They came to her for all the problems associated with the events and more. They expected her to solve problems - all problems."

Freydont has created an appealing, quirky town where the residents celebrate every day and every holiday. Murder is never acceptable, but it truly disrupts the atmosphere in Celebration Bay. And, the author surrounds her amateur sleuth with a cast of supportive characters, who can be exasperating and, maybe, a little too protective for Liv's taste.

Welcome to Celebration Bay in Shelley Freydont's Trick or Deceit. It's the perfect setting, the perfect sleuth, and the perfect holiday, for a mystery.

Shelley Freydont's website is

Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425281475 (paperback),  296p.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bouchercon - Post 2

My biggest regret about Bouchercon? I didn't get pictures of some of my friends! Darn. I was enjoying the company of Kaye Wilkinson Barley, Chantelle Aimee Osman, Aubrey Hamilton, Kristopher Zgorski, Dru Ann Love, Maddee James, Hilary Davidson, Janet Rudolph, and so many others,  and neglected to get photos. Darn, darn, darn.

I think Rhys Bowen wishes I didn't get the panel photo. She even said during the panel that she shouldn't be photographed at 8:30 in the morning when she's still on West Coast time. Elly Griffiths moderated the panel "Matching Antagonist to Protagonist in Crime Fiction". Tough subject, but panelists Rhys Bowen, Mark Pryor, Diane Chamberlain and Don Bruns did a valiant job fielding the question.

Bowen, Pryor, Chamberlain, and Bruns

I took a break for little while, and headed for the book room. It's a great place to meet up with authors. But, before I even made it there, I ran into International Guest of Honor Zoe Sharp. Zoe will also be a star in my book. She was the first author to appear for Authors@The Teague, and she came back several times. I'll always be grateful.

I ran into a number of friends in the book room, beginning with Deborah Crombie. I had heard the story of Debs' lost luggage, so she was eager for me to mention on Facebook that it had arrived at the hotel.

And, no matter what Rhys says about early mornings, she always looks elegant.

Before I worked the volunteer desk for an hour, I had lunch with Aubrey Hamilton at Jimmy V's, the Sheraton's restaurant. But, it took a little while for Aubrey and I to connect. That was fine, since I stood outside the restaurant and met Bill Crider and his daughter, along with Jeffery and Jackie Meyerson. It's so nice to put faces with names. And, both men have been very kind, reading and commenting frequently on my blog.

In fact, Bill Crider was on the next panel I attended, but after working the desk, I was too far in the back of the room to get a picture. Mark Coggins moderated "The Masters that influenced the Masters in Crime & Mystery". It was fascinating to listen to modern-day masters, Crider, Karin Slaughter, Megan Abbott and Lawrence Block talk about the authors they read, those that influenced them, and the ones they're reading now. It was also interesting to hear their answers when Mark asked their favorite book of the year. Slaughter said Lee Child's Make Me was class Reacher, a fantastic book with nice settings, a lot of violence, and surprises. Paul Bishop's Lie Catchers was Lawrence Block's favorite. Bill Crider's answer? The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes by Lawrence Block, with a lot of sex, a strong noir story. Megan Abbott loved Chris Holm's The Killing Kind. As I said, it was just interesting to listen to these authors.

I spent some time, both morning and afternoon, with Talia Sherer from Macmillan. I just love Talia, and her enthusiasm for books, librarians, and cats.

Kaye and I had dinner in the club lounge before heading to the live charity auction. There were literacy groups that received the proceeds. And, Donna Andrews did a terrific job as auctioneer, pleading for higher bids "for the children".

Donna Andrews

Then, what better way to end the evening than with a Death by Chocolate Reception? Of course, Kaye and I stayed up way too late laughing and working on our computers. She's just a fun roommate.

I hit the book room again Saturday morning to see a few other authors. Larry D. Sweazy is from Indiana, the author of a book I really liked, See Also Murder.

Larry D. Sweazy
And, it was good to see Simon Wood, who told me he still has his Authors@The Teague mug.

Simon Wood

I love Terry Shames' Samuel Craddock mysteries set in Texas. I'm always happy to see her at a convention.
Terry Shames
Frankie Bailey and I were on a Sisters in Crime panel together last year.

Frankie Bailey

And, Sophie Littlefield! Sophie was one of the first authors to appear for Authors@The Teague, along with Juliet Blackwell, and they came back together several times. (And, who was that friend on Facebook who said I should carry around a stool so the authors didn't have to stoop down?)

My friend, Jen Forbus, introduced me to Lou Berney's books, and then Lou appeared at Velma Teague as well.

He introduced me to John Billheimer, and said he taught John's son in school.

I first met Robin Burcell at Desert Sleuths' Write Now conference in Phoenix. Now, we've run into each other several times at conventions.

I did catch the end of a panel called Human Nature: Our fascination with law breakers & law enforcers in fiction. Hank Phillippi Ryan moderated with panelists Lawrence Block, David Housewright, Michael Koryta and Alison Gaylin.

Murder Goes International was a surprising panel. I went to it because Jeffrey Siger was on it, but I had never heard any of the other authors. It turned out to be fascinating and funny.

Allan Guthrie (Scotland) moderated. Michael Sears, half of the team that writes as Michael Stanley (Botswana), Caro Ramsey (Scotland), Susan Froetschel (Afghanistan), and Jeffrey Siger (Greece) were panelists.
Guthrie, Ramsey, Sears, Froetschel, Siger

 But, when Guthrie told Ramsey that she frustrated him because he wanted to to talk about authors who were not native to the country they wrote about, she responded quickly, saying he said she was a nuisance. So, he asked her to represent the U.S., and she said no. Everyone thinks she's from Norway, so she'd pretend she was from Norway, writing about Scotland. Maybe you had to be there, but when she answered every question as if she was from Norway, it was funny.

Hank Phillippi Ryan had a busy schedule on Saturday. She moderated a panel, and then she hosted and moderated a panel "In Honor of Librarians: A Southern Tea". What a wonderful tea! The authors hosted a table, and I was lucky enough to sit by Karin Slaughter. She was kind and generous, signing books, posing for pictures, and serving as a wonderful host.

With Karin Slaughter

The panel consisted of Ryan, Margaret Maron, Kathy Reichs, Slaughter, and John Hart. When Ryan asked them about their experiences with libraries as a child, Karin Slaughter was the last one to answer. And, she said, before she answered, she wanted to give a shout-out to Table 12. The other authors mentioned their tables, but they couldn't match Slaughter, who mentioned Table 12 as being the best, the prettiest, etc., before every answer. Thank you, Karin Slaughter, for your dry, humorous comments.

Saturday evening, right before the Anthony Awards Ceremony, Margaret Maron was honored for Lifetime Achievement. Caroline Todd interviewed her, and it was a moving, sometimes funny, always touching, program. Just beautiful.

That program was immediately followed by the Anthony Awards. Best Anthology - In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger. Best Short Story - "The Odds Are Against Us" by Art Taylor.  Hank Phillippi Ryan won for Critical Non-Fiction for editing Writes of Passage. The David Thompson Special Service Award went to Bill & Toby Gottfried. Best Paperback Original went to The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson. Best First Mystery went to Lori Rader-Day for The Black Hour. Best Novel was After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman.
Hank Phillippi Ryan with her Anthony Award

Kaye and I ended our Bouchercon 2015 in the bar of Jimmy V's with their homemade Limoncello. We also caught Hank as she was passing through, so we were able to congratulate her one more time, hug her, and remind her to slow down a little.

Someone called Bouchercon one big family reunion. And, I told a co-worker that I was in my element at mystery conventions, that these are my people. Where else can you room with someone (Kaye) who you corresponded with forever, and finally met, only to find out how much you laugh and truly love each other? The friends made at mystery conventions remain friends. And, people truly care for each other.

Bouchercon is a convention totally run by volunteers. The volunteers responsible for organizing Murder Under the Oaks couldn't have done a better job. It was fun, informative, and smoothly run. Thank you to all of them. Bouchercon 2015 was so wonderful that we're already signing up for Bouchercon 2016, Blood on the Bayou - Down in New Orleans. And, Kaye and I are already planning to room together again. Perfect!

Thank you to everyone who made Bouchercon special this year. See you in New Orleans! (And, some of you, I'll see in Phoenix for Left Coast Crime.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bouchercon - Post 1

It was a terrific flight on Southwest on Wednesday, flying from Nashville to Baltimore, and then on to Raleigh.  The first person I met at the hotel was Hank Phillippi Ryan, who was checking in when I was. I FINALLY met Kaye Wilkinson Barley, who was my wonderful, fun, funny roommate. We were only in our room at the Sheraton for about fifteen minutes when we headed to The Pit BBQ restaurant, meeting up with a whole group including Janet Rudolph, L.J. Roberts (we finally met!), Judy Bobalik and others. Terrific barbecue. Really loved the hush puppies and biscuits, though.

Chantelle Aimee Osman and I weren't able to meet at the airport because of her late flight, but of course I saw her and Brad Parks in the bar (where else?). 

Margaret Maron
Bouchercon is an enormous convention with around 1000 people in attendance. The programs were split between two hotels, the Sheraton and the Marriott, right next to each other. And, I spent almost as much time meeting with friends and authors (some author/friends) as I did attending panels. I think many of us do that. Saying that, I went to more panels on Thursday than any other day. I went to the first event on Thursday morning, Author Speed Dating. It's a terrific way to meet authors and learn about their books, as authors move two at a time from table to table. But, it gets extremely loud with all those authors talking. It's still a fun program. 

After the speed dating program, I headed to New Faces - Best First Novel Nominees. Margaret Maron was a wonderful moderator, reminding the audience that we may be looking at five future stars. In fact, she said she likes to call the program, "Catch a Falling Star." She urged us all to read their books to discover these new authors. These authors were up for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel - Kristi Belcamino for Blessed are the Dead, M.P. Cooley for Ice Shear, Julia Dahl for Invisible City, Allen Eskers for The Life We Bury and Lori Rader-Day for The Black Hour.

Belcamino, Eskens, and Dahl

Maron, Rader-Day, and Cooley

I checked out the book room, and the first person I ran into was Todd Ritter, who also writes under the name Alan Finn. In fact, his first novel under the Finn pseudonym, Things Half in Shadow, was up for the Macavity, the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award.

Todd Ritter/Alan Finn
I wanted to meet Lori Rader-Day who was up for three awards at Bouchercon for her debut mystery, The Black Hour. She is also originally from Indiana, so I was hoping she'd come to the library sometime for an author appearance. Her second book, Little Pretty Things, was released in July. I also had a few minutes to talk with Michael Koryta, who is also from Indiana.

Lori Rader-Day
How could I resist a panel called "STOP! Tell us your favorite crime, mystery & thrillers!"? Fan Guests of Honor Lucinda Surber and Stan Ulrich, creators of my favorite web site, Stop, You're Killing Me!, were the moderators. Panelists were George Easter, Editor/Publisher of Deadly Pleasures; Janet Rudolph, founder of Mystery Readers International and Mystery Lovers Journal; and J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet. And, they passed out a list of favorite mysteries!

I really had a full day of panels, and ended it by serving as timekeeper for the panel, "The Comfort of Mystery in a Random World." Catriona McPherson moderated with panelists Karen McCullough, Kathy Lynn Emerson (who also writes under Kaitlyn Dunnett), Laura DiSilverio and Leslie Budewitz. Any time Catriona moderates, you can count on a fun panel. But, it was incoming Sisters of Crime President Leslie Budewitz who made the statements I appreciated. She said, "Crime fiction is a dream of justice." In discussing the traditional mystery, she said external order must be restored, and the amateur sleuth restores the social order.

Emerson and Budewitz

Very Serious authors - DiSiverior, McCullough and McPherson

I finally caught up with my friend Chantelle Aimee Osman. Along with Brad Parks, we walked over to the St. Martin's/Minotaur party. We spent most of the evening talking with Cara Brookins, Robert Kroese and Con Lehane, all St. Martin's Press authors.

I left Chantelle at the Marriott, and wound up in the atrium of the Sheraton, talking with Kaye, Dru Ann Love, David Magayna, and a few other friends of Kaye's before heading up to the room. And, Kaye is a fantastic roommate. Every night, we stayed up way too late talking as we uploaded our photos to Facebook. It was only last evening that I realized I have no pictures of Kaye. Every time our pictures were taken together, it was on her camera.

Fun first day of Bouchercon. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Big Chili by Julia Buckley

Julia Buckley launches her new series, The Big Chili, with a model cozy mystery. The comment "Murder held a whole town hostage to uncertainty and fear" exemplifies the spirit of the small town mystery in which the balance of the town is thrown off, and the amateur sleuth must restore the equilibrium.

By day, Lilah Drake is a receptionist at her parents' real estate business. By night, as well as some days and weekends, she meets secretly with select individuals in Pine Haven, Illinois. Lilah aspires to be a caterer, so she started by making her best dishes for people who wanted to pass them off as their own for one reason or another. Pet Grandy is known throughout the church parish for chili, chili she pays for out in the church parking lot. It's always a favorite dish at church bingo. When a parish member dies instantly after tasting the chili, Pet insists she made the chili, leaving Lilah caught up in the lie. Tell the truth to the attractive police detective and shame Pet, or go along with Pet's claim? For Lilah, it seems kinder to support her friend while checking the victim's background. And, quite a few people in town had reason to want her dead. But, which of them also wanted the second victim dead?

Lilah is an amateur sleuth trapped by indecision and one lie. She's a sleuth with a conscience who sets out to find answers she might be able to pass on to the police. She's not foolhardy, but she does get caught up in the case, and ends up in a couple risky situations through no fault of her own.

Buckley introduces readers to an engaging cast of characters. What's an amateur sleuth without an appealing pet? In this case, it's Mick, a lovable Labrador. Lilah realizes she's paired up with Mick, while everyone else seems to be a couple. Her parents are admirable. Her beloved brother Cam has an adorable new girlfriend. Even Lilah's wealthy landlord has a kind, attractive girlfriend.

While Buckley and her readers have fun with the story's October setting and a boisterous Halloween party, there's always a shadow hanging over the story. If Lilah and her mother knew the people at bingo, which of their friends or neighbors is a killer? It's a shadow that often hangs over a small town mystery. And, there's the frightening threat of a cozy mystery at it's best. That's the appeal of Julia Buckley's The Big Chili. It will leave the reader longing for a second serving.

Julia Buckley's website is

The Big Chili by Julia Buckley. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425275900 (paperback), 293p.

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

Friday, October 09, 2015

Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey Siger

I really should have talked about Jeffrey Siger's Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mysteries when Kristopher Zgorski, Dru Ann Love and I did the Triple Threat, but we could only pick five series. Maybe next time we do something similar I'll be able to add this series. Siger's seventh book, Devil of Delphi, may be one of my favorites.

What do you do when you're one of Greece's top assassins, and would like to just lead a quiet life in the agricultural area of Delphi? What do you do when a powerful international criminal would like to utilize your skills? How do you refuse without ending up dead? It isn't long before Kharon is caught up in a lucrative counterfeiting scheme. All over Greece, bomba, counterfeit liquors and wine, are making their way into restaurants, bars and clubs. It's a criminal's dream, until a few underlings need to be taught a lesson. Then, Kharon is offered an opportunity that's impossible to refuse.

What do you do when you're Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, Head of the Greek Police's Special Crimes Division, and his wife's friend, a wine merchant, complains about counterfeit booze destroying his business? Kaldis and his exclusive team of trusted officers and friends investigate a few bars. When Detective Yianni Kouros witnesses an assassination, their investigation leads to some of Greece's most powerful families. And, the investigation brings up the name of a mastermind that scares even Kaldis.

Jeffrey Siger always manages to tie in crime and the current state of the Greek government. However, he also has humor in this intricate plots, humor involving Kaldis and his wife, Lila, or Kaldis and some of the people he's closest to; his secretary, Maggie, Kourous, Tassos. The plot is wonderful in this book, but, oh, the characters! I don't know when I've cheered for an assassin before. Even Siger's assassin is a sympathetic character. And, Kaldis and a few other characters are so manipulative. In this case, it's enjoyable to watch because those characters come alive on the page.

Riveting plotting, wonderful characters, an attractive setting. Jeffrey Siger's Devil of Delphi has it all.

Jeffrey Siger's website is

Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey Siger. Poisoned Pen Press. 2015. ISBN 9781464204302 (hardcover), 276p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book when I asked for it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


I'm off to Bouchercon in Raleigh, leaving today. Full travel day, though. I don't get in until late this afternoon. And, rooming with my long-time online friend, Kaye Wilkinson Barley, who I finally get to meet!

So, I'm not sure how often, or when, I'll be online. Lots of authors and friends to catch up! But, I'll definitely be posting soon about some of the programs, events, and friends.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

It's been a while since I read one of Jan Karon's Mitford novels, but when I read the summary of her  latest,  Come Rain or Come Shine, I was eager to pick it up. Anyone who read the early books in the series will remember Dooley. He stole everyone's heart, from Father Tim Kavanagh's to Lacey Harper's and the readers'. Now, after all these years, Dooley is finishing vet school and getting married.

Dooley and Lacey want a small, simple country wedding, but in a community where everyone knows them, that's difficult. And, the schedule is formidable. First Dooley must graduate. Then, he's moving home, taking over the local veterinarian practice. Dooley's first bull for his small herd is arriving. The barn must be cleaned out, grass grown, food prepared. Lacey doesn't have a wedding dress. And, of course, there will be unexpected guests and surprises. A simple country wedding.

The writing style in Come Rain or Come Shine does not make it an easy book to read. It takes a little bit of time as Karon switches viewpoints from Father Tim to Lacey to Dooley without revealing who is speaking or thinking. Once the reader falls into the rhythm of the book and the storytelling, it flows through the days leading up to the wedding or the "Big Knot" as it's called.

Come Rain or Come Shine is a heartwarming, homespun story. Fans of the earlier books will be pleased to see the characters come together at the wedding. They'll rejoice with Dooley and Lacey on the joyous day. There's humor throughout the book, even during the wedding. But, there's also time for reflection and introspection for Father Tim, Dooley and Lacey.

Fans of the Mitford series will find themselves crying and laughing over the latest episodes in this beloved saga. Who knows whether this is the last in the series? It could end on this hopeful note, or there are characters whose stories could continue. No matter what, Come Rain or Come Shine is a triumphant culmination for a long-running, well-loved series.

Jan Karon's website is

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2015. ISBN 9780399167454 (hardcover), 287p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, October 05, 2015

Ghost to the Rescue by Carolyn Hart

Desperation. Why else would an emissary from Heaven be dispatched to earth except when someone is in desperate need? And, that's really the only reason Chief Wiggins of the Department of Good Intentions would ever want to dispatch Bailey Ruth Raeburn. In Carolyn Hart's Ghost to the Rescue, he dispatches Bailey Ruth when a child sends up a desperate plea.

Bailey Ruth is always eager to return home to Adelaide, Oklahoma, step in and help.  Deirdre Davenport is a single mom, a struggling author with no inspiration at the moment, and a job seeker. Now, Deirdre is at a writers' conference where she's hoping she'll be announced as the latest member of Goddard College's English Department.  This time, Bailey Ruth may be too late to help. By the time Bailey Ruth arrives, Deirdre is already fending off advances from the faculty member who holds her future in his hands. Jay Knox is the spoiled, youngest son of a powerful family in Adelaide, and he gets to select the new instructor. Bailey Ruth is just in time to hear him threaten with innuendo.

Bailey Ruth's plans to help Deirdre might just backfire. When Knox is found murdered, and Deirdre's fingerprints are on the murder weapon, a few people remember Bailey Ruth's comments about the primary suspect. Now, the young woman is forced to team up with the ghost who makes her uneasy as the two try to find the real killer. Between fellow faculty members and aspiring writers, there are a number of people who wouldn't miss Jay Know.

Is there a more charming, well-meaning ghost than Bailey Ruth Raeburn? She's a ghost with a sense of fashion who delights in every wardrobe change. She has a soft spot for romance, and pushes people together when she can. And, no matter what she does, she can't seem to obey the Precepts for Earthly Visitation. She isn't even in Adelaide for ten minutes before she's in trouble with Precept 1, 3 and 4 about avoiding public notice, working behind the scenes and becoming visible only when necessary. Oh, Bailey Ruth!

It's obvious that Hart knows the writing world. The writing conference brings in all sorts of aspiring writers including those who are already traditionally published, and those who are self-published. It's fascinating to read about the conference, its workings and its attendees.

Hart's Bailey Ruth Ghost mysteries are entertaining, with an amusing sleuth. And, Bailey Ruth assists the police, who she sees as intelligent people who just lack her ability to go behind the scenes. It's always a pleasure to see sleuths who work with the police and not against them.

Once again, it's Ghost to the Rescue, as Bailey Ruth uses her own wiles to interview suspects, coerce cooperation, and help the desperate in Carolyn Hart's latest amusing mystery.

Carolyn Hart's website is

Ghost to the Rescue by Carolyn Hart. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425276563 (hardcover), 275p.

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

Sunday, October 04, 2015

A Triple Boost of Appreciation

Credit where credit is due. Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books had an interesting idea. What happens when three established book bloggers join forces to call attention to some underappreciated writing? You get this: the start of an occasional feature where Dru Ann Love, Kristopher Zgorski and Lesa Holstine gather together to highlight books which might have been missed.

In the first post of this type, we have decided to discuss underappreciated series. We determined that we would each choose five of our favorites and share them on each other's blogs. In order to see the entire list - and why would you not want to see the entire list? - you will have to visit each of the participating blogs.

Visiting Lesa's Book Critiques today is Dru Ann Love of dru's book musings, Dru Ann's blog is a 2015 Anthony Award nominee for Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work, so you'll want to pay attention to her selections. Included with each of Dru Ann's suggestions is a list of the books in the proper order. Here's what Dru Ann has to say about each series.

Main Street Mystery Series by Sandra Balzo

Sleuth: AnnaLise Griggs, returning to her hometown of Sutterton, North Carolina, to care for her aging mother.

I love the down-home feeling I get when I visit with AnnaLise and her friends in her small southern town. She returns to help her mother and we find a town full of eccentrically quirky residents that will envelope you with a warm hug where you want everyone to be safe from harm.

Running on Empty (2011)
Dead Ends (2012)
Hit and Run (2014)


Wishcraft Mystery Series by Heather Blake

Sleuth: Darcy Merriweather, from a long line of witches who can cast spells by making a wish, in the Enchanted Village section of Salem, Massachusetts.

This is a light paranormal mystery that has taken control of my heart with such tenderness that I'm always sad when the last sentence is read. It's both emotional and heartwarming and you care for all the characters as they take their place in their small little village. A series that should be read if you enjoy a little bit of magically delightful fun.

It Takes a Witch (2012)
A Witch Before Dying (2012)
The Good, the Bad and the Witchy (2013)
The Goodbye Witch (2014)
Some Like It Witchy (2015)


Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series by Elizabeth Lynn Casey

Sleuth: Tori Sinclair, a Yankee librarian relocated to Sweet Briar, South Carolina

What I like about this series is that the residents of Sweet Briar took a stranger into their home and made her feel very welcome and as each story is told, we learn more and more about this eclectic band of friends who embody what true friends are who, no matter what, will have your back through sorrow and happiness. A series that should be read if you're looking for a diverse cast of characters that oozes southern hospitality.

Sew Deadly (2009)
Death Threads (2010)
Pinned for Murder (2010)
Deadly Notions (2011)
Dangerous Alterations (2011)
Reap What You Sew (2012)
Let It Sew (2012)
Remnants of Murder (2013)
Taken In (2014)
Wedding Duress (2015)


The Seaside Knitters Mystery Series by Sally Goldenbaum

Sleuth: Isabel "Izzy" Chambers, a lawyer who leaves Boston to open the Seaside Knitting Studio, in Sea Harbor, Massachusetts.

This is a series featuring friends that span several generations and in each book one of the ensemble cast is featured as we get to learn more and more about this terrific cast of characters. When I'm reading the latest book in the series, it takes me to a nice and friendly atmosphere where all I want to do is pull up a chair and dine at Nell's place. With the recent addition of Gabby, this series continues to delight and entertain me. A series that should be read if you like a varied group where friendliness is part of the pleasure of reading.

Death by Cashmere (2008)
Patterns in the Sand (2009)
Moon Spinners (2010)
A Holiday Yarn (2010)
The Wedding Shawl (2011)
A Fatal Fleece (2012)
Angora Alibi (2013)
Murder in Merino (2014)
A Finely Knit Murder (2015)
Trimmed With Murder (2015)


The Someday Quilts Mystery Series by Clare O'Donohue

Sleuth: Nell Fitzgerald, a former Manhattan publishing professional now helping her grandmother, Eleanor Cassidy, run a quilting store in the Hudson River town of Archer's Rest, New York.

I enjoy this series that has a diverse cast of characters where the commonality is their love of quilting and the friendship that has developed among them. When a situation calls for it, not one, not two, but all of them will pitch in and help solve the latest caper that occurs in Archer's Rest. A series that should be read if you enjoy character development with a strong voice among good friends.

The Lover's Knot (2008)
A Drunkard's Path (2009)
The Double Cross (2010)
The Devil's Puzzle (2011)
The Double Wedding Ring (2013)


Dru Ann Love is owner/writer at dru's book musings and at her daytime situation is a research analyst. A New Yorker, Dru Ann is an avid reader, writes poetry, quilts and loves attending reader/fan conventions.

Thank you for stopping by Lesa's Book Critiques today. Please check out dru's book musings and BOLO Books to see more of our suggestions.