Thursday, April 30, 2015

Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

Well, part 2 is going to be much larger than I expected. When I went to work on Monday, I found a box from Simon & Schuster waiting for me with six more June releases in it. Are you ready for an enormous second listing of treasures in my closet? Here are the other June releases I have.

The Truth and Other Lies is the first novel from Sascha Arango, one of Germany's most prominent screenplay writers. It's the story of a famous writer, whose wife, the actual writer of his novels, meets an untimely death. His hidden-in-plain sight mistress is pregnant, and the police are after Henry about his past, a past he kept hidden. This is the story of a man trying to survive as the noose tightens. (Release date is June 23.)






In Harriet Evans' A Place for Us, Martha, a wife and mother of three, sits down to write out the invitations for her eightieth birthday celebration. She's decided to reveal a secret that could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent fifty years building, destroying her perfect family. (Release date is June 2.)







"Celebrated poet's muse. Trusted queen's maid. Adulteress. Enemy of the State." Who is the real Penelope Devereux? Elizabeth Fremantle's historical novel, Watch the Lady, tells of Penelope and her brother, the Earl of Essex, whose influence grows while Robert Cecil, the queen's enforcer, watches. Penelope tries to save her brother while she conspires with her lover and a foreign king in a plot that could end her own life. (Release date is June 9.)






Patti Callahan Henry introduces two people in a story about the lengths we go to for love, The Idea of Love. Everything thinks Ella's husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying to save her. That's what she lets everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, and he's on the look-out for a love story. Ella's will work. When they meet in Watersend, South Carolina, one lie leads to another until they find themselves caught in a web of deceit. (Release date is June 23.)





Andrew Hughes' debut novel, The Convictions of John Delahunt, is based on the true story of a man of that name. It's a historical thriller about a student convicted of killing a small boy. Delahunt "betrays his family, his friends, his society and ultimately, himself" in this story set in 1840s Dublin. As he awaits the hangman in his cell in Kilmainham Gaol, John Delahunt decides to tell his story in this statement. (Release date is June 15.)






Two sisters are suddenly sent from their home in Brooklyn to live with grandmother in Barbados in Naomi Jackson's debut novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill. Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah. While Dionne spends the summer searching for love, testing her grandmother's limits, and wanting to go home, Phaedra explores and accompanies her grandmother. When the father they barely know shows up to claim them, both girls must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and the Barbados of generations of their family. (Release date is June 30.)


Early one summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide? Lisa Jewell introduces that young woman's husband in the novel, The Third Wife. Adrian Wolfe searches for the truth behind his seemingly perfect marriage. Divorces from his two previous wives were amicable. He thinks his five children were resilient. What pushed Maya over the edge? (Release date is June 9.)






Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, now brings us China Rich Girlfriend. It's a comedy of manners that takes readers through Asia's most exclusive clubs, auction houses and estates to tell what happens when Rachel Chu, engaged to marry Asia's most eligible bachelor, discovers her birth father. (Release date is June 16.)







Lawrence H. Levy introduces Mary Handley, the first female detective in Brooklyn, in the historical mystery, Second Street Station.  Not long after she's fired from her job in a hat factory, she finds herself at a murder scene, that of Thomas Edison's former bookkeeper. She's hired by the Brooklyn Police Department as the city's first policewoman, to solve the crime. They expect her to fail, but she digs in, questioning people such as Edison, J.P. Morgan, and Nikolas Tesla. She soon discovers she must delve into the machinations of the city's most powerful men to find the killer. (Release date is June 9.)









Are you ready for an Apocalypse cow novel? Actually, Michael Logan's World War Moo is the sequel to Apocalypse Cow. It began with a cow that wouldn't die. The un-dead disease is now spreading to humans. All of Great Britain is infected. Now, the world has to decide if they'll nuke the island off the map, or work against time to find a cure. (Release date is June 9.)







Jax Miller's debut novel is Freedom's Child, the story of a woman who risks everything to make amends for her past. No one is the small Oregon town where she lives knows that the brazen woman they know from the local bar is actually in witness protection after killing her husband, a cop, twenty years earlier. When she learns her daughter, who she gave up for adoption, has disappeared, possibly kidnapped. She'll no longer be protected by the government, but she heads for Kentucky to find her, knowing her husband's sadistic family are out for revenge. (Release date is June 2.)




Sam Munson brings us a "sorcerous crime wave in New York City" in The War Against the Assholes. Mike Wood, who enforces his moral code with muscle, is recruited by Hob to assist in a world of magic worked by force of will, and a war against the kind of wizardry schools that Hob and his fellow practitioners call the Assholes. In a city laid out as a game board upon which this war is fought, Mike is recruited in a war fought by illusion and supported by sleight of hand. (Release date is June 16.)





In Carla Norton's new thriller, What Doesn't Kill Her, a young woman learns to fight back. Reeve LeClaire now considers herself a college student, not Daryl Wayne Flint's victim, although he once held her captive for four years. She's recovering a life of her own. And, then Flint, who appeared to be a model patient, escapes from Olshaker Psychiatric Hospital, and kills someone from his past. As he leaves a bloody trail behind him, Reeve suddenly realizes she knows him better than anyone else, and she's the only one who can stop him. (Release date is June 30.)




Owen Sheers takes readers into a world of love, loss, grief, and secrets in I Saw a Man. When journalist Caroline Turner is killed in Pakistan in a drone strike, her grieving husband leaves their cottage in Wales and tries to build a new life in London. His friendship with neighbors there is the start of a long healing process, which is interrupted by a letter from the American soldier responsible for Caroline's death. The letter stirs up Michael's emotions, clouding his judgment. Then, when a terrible accident occurs, Michael once again bears the burden of a secret. (Release date is June 9.)




I'm not sure I understand the premise of Steve Stern's The Pinch. It's set in a mythical Jewish community in the late 1960s. The Pinch, once a thriving Jewish community centered on North Main Street in Memphis, has only one tenant. Lenny Sklarew peddles drugs and shelves books, until he learns he is a character in a book about the rise and fall of the Pinch. Muni Pinsker wrote the book after arriving in the neighborhood at its height. From there, the description gets more confusing, telling about the real-world experience of Lenny and the Pinch. (Release date is June 2.)




There's been a lot of buzz about Erika Swyler's debut novel, The Book of Speculation. It introduces Simon Watson, a young librarian who finds himself drawn to a book that arrived on his doorstep. It seems to be a kind of journal from the owner of the traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports many strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. And it's that woman who ties the book to Simon's family, where generations of "mermaids", including Simon's mother, have drowned. (Release date is June 23.)




Kate Walbert introduces a cast of characters who she follows as they negotiate a swiftly changing neighborhood in the novel The Sunken Cathedral.  Walbert uses a chorus of voices to explore the growing disconnect between the world of action and the longings, desires, and doubts her characters experience. She "paints portraits of marriage, of friendship, and of love in its many facets". (Release date is June 9.)






And, we'll end with a novel of romance and drama during wartime. Madeleine's War by Peter Watson is based on actual events in Britain and France leading up to D-Day. Matthew Hammond, a British military officer, sustained such a serious injury that he lost a lung. However, he still serves his country, training resistance fighters in England. But, he falls in love with Madeleine, a French-Canadian, and is torn about putting her in danger. But, she's needed as the Allies muster all their forces, and he can only hope he has taught her enough to keep her safe. (Release date is June 2.)

Honestly? I'm glad I could close with Madeleine's War since I found the descriptions of the last few novels a little vague. I hope you don't find most of the descriptions too vague. Is there something here you want to read? June is certainly filled with treasures.






Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Treasures in My Closet - Part 1

What a glorious month! There are piles of June releases in my place. And, for me, the month will be one week short for reading because I'll be on vacation with my family. That doesn't mean I'll ignore all these wonderful books. In fact, there are so many June titles that it's going to take me two days to write about them.

Start with Ellie Alexander's new mystery, A Batter of Life and Death. Jules Capshaw is promoting her family's bakeshop by competing in the Pastry Channel's reality show, Take the Cake. But, with a top prize of $25,000, some people would kill for that kind of dough. (Release date is June 30.)








M.J. Arlidge's international bestseller, Eeny Meeny, will be available in the U.S. in June. It marks the debut of a new series detective, Detective Inspector Helen Grace, who has battled her own demons on her rise through the police ranks. Now, she has to battle a mastermind who abducted two people, imprisoned them, and left them with a gun. One lives and one dies. No choice. And, now Grace must solve the case before the killer raises the stakes. (Release date is June 2.)





I love to discover new mystery series. Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec also introduces a new police inspector, Commissaire Georges Dupin, a cantankerous, Parisian-born caffeine junkie recently relocated from Paris to the remote Breton coast. Then, in a sleepy village by the sea where everyone knows one another and nothing much happens, a legendary ninety-one-year-old hotelier is murdered. (Release date is June 30.)






Annie Barrows, co-author of the New York Times bestselling novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, brings us The Truth According to Us. In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck is forced out of the lap of luxury and sent by her wealthy father to work on the Federal Writers' Project. Assigned to cover the history of the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, she finds herself caught up int he town legends, and the history of the unconventional Romeyn family. (Release date is June 9.)





In the Unlikely Event is Judy Blume's first adult novel since 1998's Summer Sisters. Inspired by the three fatal plane crashes in Elizabeth, N.J. in the winter of 1951-52, Blume tells the story of three generations of families, friends and strangers changed by unexpected events. (Release date is June 2.)








Jane Casey's latest police procedural is The Kill. When a policeman is murdered, Detective Maeve Kerrigan is called back from a colleague's wedding, only to find herself in the middle of a delicate and increasingly dangerous investigation. It's a case that will test Kerrigan's loyalties and her sense of right and wrong. (Release date is June 2.)







Rebecca Dinerstein's debut novel, The Sunlit Night, takes two people trying to get past their own grief, to an area of small islands north of the Arctic Circle. It's there that they form a bond that fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant New York homes. (Release date is June 2.)

In Julia Dahl's second novel featuring journalist Rebekah Roberts, Run You Down, the investigation of the murder of a young Hasidic mother might bring Rebekah face-to-face with her own mother, the woman who abandoned her as a baby. (Release date is June 30. No cover art was available when I wrote this.)


Game warden Mike Bowditch returns in Paul Doiron's The Precipice. He part of the search for two missing girls in the "Hundred Mile Wilderness," deep in the Maine woods. But, the search leads to something more sinister, something that could lead the person closest to Bowditch over the edge. (Release date is June 16.)







In No Place to Die by Clare Donoghue, London detective Jane Bennett doesn't have time to dwell on grievances against her boss because a friend's husband, a retired policeman, has disappeared. But, Jane finds blood splatters and knows there's no time to waste. And, then the body of a young girl is found under a London greenway, and police resources are stretched even thinner. But, it appears the two cases might be related. (Release date is June 9.)





I may not have a lot of time for reading in June, but I'm going to make time for Judith Fertig's debut novel, The Cake Therapist. Claire "Neely" O'Neill moves back to her small Midwestern hometown from NYC to open a bakery, Rainbow Cake, named after her signature pastry. But, she has a special gift, the gift of "tasting" feelings. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone's inner self, she can customize her creations. Sounds like a book for those of us who love Sarah Addison Allen's books. (Release date is June 2.)





Jonathan Galassi, the author of Muse, is also a publisher, poet, and translator. His debut novel is a love letter to those who love books, the story of a decades-long rivalry between two publishing lions over the work of an iconic female poet. (Release date is June 2.)








How about a second love letter to books? Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop is already an international bestseller. From his floating bookstore on the Seine, Monsieur Perdu dispenses books to heal the hardships of life. But, he can't heal himself after his great love disappeared, leaving him with a letter he has never opened. Once he finally does, he sets out on a journey, joined by a blocked writer and a lovelorn Italian chef, on a journey to allow the literary world to heal his soul. (Release date is June 23.)





The publisher calls Victor Gischler's novel Stay, "an action-packed, often hilarious, and hugely entertaining suburban thriller". It's the story of an awesome stay-at-home dad who handles everything there while his wife commutes to New York City where she works as Deputy District Attorney. But, when her prosecution of a crime lord threatens David Sparrow's family, he reveals his own secret past, and a deadly skill he'll need to protect his family. (Release date is June 2.)




It seems suitable to end the first day of Treasures in My Closet with Scott Hawkins' debut novel, The Library at Mount Char. Here's the summary on the back of the ARC: "A library with the secrets to the universe, a woman with the power to claim it - and a struggle that may cost her everything." And, a quote says it's "full of dark mystery". (Release date is June 16.)

Overwhelmed? I am, and it's only the first half of the treasures. Is there anything there that hits home for you?







Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gathering Prey by John Sandford

There have been twenty-five Prey novels by John Sandford, and he's still at the top of his game with Gathering Prey. The latest book featuring Lucas Davenport is gritty and brutal, but I read it straight through in seven hours.

Lucas' daughter, Letty, attends Stanford, and it's in California that she first meets Skye and Henry. The two young people are Travelers, panhandlers who move from city to city because they like to stay on the move. But, she's back home in Minnesota for the summer when Skye calls, saying she's afraid Henry might have been the victim of a vicious group of people led by a man she knows as "Pilot". At Letty's urging, Skye takes a bus to meet up with Lucas and Letty. Although Davenport is a little skeptical, suspecting Skye is playing his daughter, he listens to her fears. And, when he starts to contact police departments, he realizes Skye does have something to worry about. That group of killers seems to be headed straight for the Midwest, led by the man Skye calls the devil.

As part of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Lucas has connections throughout the Midwest. It's only the politics and his boss that he can't stand. He'll have to call on friends and other law enforcement agencies if he's going to stop the group that's using Juggalo gatherings as their own gatherings. The spree will only get worse before it can be stopped, and Lucas, Letty, Skye, and law enforcement are standing in the way.

Gathering Prey is a gut-wrenching, thrilling story, one that reminds me a little of P.J. Tracy's Dead Run. The convergence on a small Michigan town is gripping. As always, Lucas Davenport is a compelling figure. Now, in Gathering Prey, as his boss gathers ammunition against him in the BCA, he has major decisions to make. But, for Davenport, the most important decision is still about saving lives and stopping killers.

*****
Interested? You can win a copy of Gathering Prey. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win Gathering Prey." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, April 30 at 6 PM CT.

*****
John Sandford's website is www.johnsandford.org

Gathering Prey by John Sandford. G.P.Putnam's Sons. 2015. ISBN 9780399168796 (hardcover), 407p.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer

Susan M. Boyer won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for Lowcountry Boil. It's been a couple years since I read it, but it can't be any better than her latest Liz Talbot mystery, Lowcountry Boneyard. That hot South Carolina weather must just breed suspense, family secrets, and romance. It's all as thick as mosquitoes in this compelling story.

Everyone in coastal South Carolina knows about the disappearance of Kent Heyward. The twenty-three-year-old heiress to old money disappeared one night on her way to dinner, car and all. Because the Charleston police department haven't turned up any clues, Kent's father turns to private investigator Liz Talbot and her partner, Nate Andrews, hoping they can find answers. Where is Kent?

Before Liz and Nate can sift through the stories from Kent's family, friends and Facebook acquaintances, they have to sift through their own feelings for each other. Can they overcome their love of their own hometowns, and their own histories, to build a life together? Or, are they stuck as business partners, fighting the attraction?

It's a convoluted network of family connections when Southerners start searching for answers. And, the search for Kent is complicated by her family's demand for privacy, and the secrets they don't even want to share with their own private investigators. Even if they're just business partners, Liz and Nate have the connections and knowledge to search through Kent's past. Somewhere in her past is the clue to the night she disappeared. And, when Liz is threatened, several times, it seems that their digging is hitting too close to home for someone.

It may be October in South Carolina, but Susan M. Boyer knows how to keep the heat on in this exciting mystery. It's filled with tension and suspense, relieved only by a hilarious scene on family night with Liz' parents, and, of course, with the romantic scenes as well. Lowcountry Boneyard is a mystery worthy of an Agatha Award winner.

Susan M. Boyer's website is www.susanmboyerbooks.com

Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer. Henery Press. 2015. ISBN 9781941962503 (hardcover), 286p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book. And, I read it as part of a TLC Book Tour.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes

I heard Tonya Kappes at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest last week, and her humor caught my attention. I bought the first in her Ghostly Southern mystery series, A Ghostly Undertaking, and I already have the second one, A Ghostly Grave. I have no regrets that I bought that first book. It was just as warm, funny, and charming as I expected it to be.

Emma Lee Raines and her sister, Charlotte Rae, share Director duties at the Eternal Slumber Funeral Home in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky. But, it was Emma Lee who was hit on the head by a Santa Claus that fell off the roof of the local deli, causing her to see ghosts. She's told she's suffering from "funeral trauma", but that's not why she sees the ghost of her granny's arch-nemesis, Ruthie Sue Payne. Ruthie Sue claims she was pushed down the stairs at the inn she co-owned with Emma Lee's granny. And, since Sheriff Jack Henry Ross seems suspicious of Granny, Emma Lee's determined to find out if there really was a killer. And, maybe then, Ruthie Sue will disappear and leave her alone.

A Ghostly Undertaking has every element you could hope for in a "Ghostly Southern" mystery series.  There are eccentric characters, including some of the women in Emma Lee's own family. She refers to her granny, Zula, and her sister, Charlotte Rae, as women who possess "Southern charm with a venomous tongue".  Emma Lee herself seems strange to some of the townspeople who see her talking to Ruthie Sue, while they never see Ruthie Sue.  But, she cleans up just fine for a "date" with Jack Henry, a date that ends up a little differently than Emma Lee would have hoped. Even at twenty-seven, Emma Lee doesn't see herself as attractive, but thinks of herself as she was in school, that "scary funeral girl".

A Ghostly Undertaking is a fun, charming mystery involving family, small town secrets, and a little romance. And, of course, there's this undertaker who can see ghosts.

Tonya Kappes' website is www.tonyakappes.com

A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes. Witness. 2015. ISBN 9780062374646 (paperback), 296p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought the copy of A Ghostly Undertaking.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Furry by Tom Cox

How can anyone with a black cat resist the cover of Tom Cox' The Good, the Bad, and the Furry? The subtitle, though, is a little misleading, "Life with the World's Most Melancholy Cat". The Bear, the black cat on the cover, is part of Cox' account of life with his cats, but he doesn't seem to be the main focus.

I've seen pictures of The Bear on Facebook on those features that say, "My cat is melancholy because...". That's The Bear, and the black cat is adorable, appearing so sad. But, Cox' account is about all the cats that ruled his life when he was in his mid to late thirties after he separated from his long-time girlfriend. It's the story of his life in Norfolk, England, as shared with a menagerie of cats.

Despite my love of cats, and Cox' obvious love for them, the best part of the book isn't his rambling commentaries about his cats, but the stories of his loud father. At least in the Advanced Reading Copy that I have, his father's conversations are all in capital letters, indicating that his father speaks at the top of his lungs. And, I loved the wise comment made by his mother. Cox wondered why his dad seemed to love his parents' new cat, Floyd. His mom said, "I was wondering that too. And then I realized what it was. Have you noticed something? Floyd is always either completely switched on, or completely switched off. Who else do we know who's like that too?"

I think I found the book a little plodding because I wanted more about The Bear, and less about all the other cats that came and went. There was a little too much about Ralph and the way he said his name. The book was a little repetitive. But, the photos are wonderful, particularly in the chapter "Ten Reasons Why My Oldest Cat is Sad".

There are better cat books out there, but it's worth picking up the book for the photos alone. Perhaps I just didn't appreciate Cox' British humor. After all, the book was a Sunday Times bestselling memoir. It's definitely for cat lovers, though.

Tom Cox' websites are www.tom-cox.com and littlecatdiaries.blogspot.com

The Good, the Bad, and the Furry: Life with the World's Most Melancholy Cat by Tom Cox. Thomas Dunne Books, 2015. ISBN 9781250063243 (hardcover), 288p.

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


Friday, April 24, 2015

Winners and a Cozy Shop Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Sherilyn L. from Marietta, GA won Invisible City by Julia Dahl. Shannon J. of Evansdale, IA will receive Rhys Bowen's City of Darkness and Light. I'll mail the books tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two cozy mysteries that are set in shops. Jenn McKinlay's At the Drop of a Hat is a Hat Shop Mystery set in London. Owners Scarlett Parker and Vivian Tremont welcome a bride-to-be who wants to wear a hat originally made by Scarlett and Vivian's grandmother over thirty years earlier. But, when Scarlett finds the bride standing over her boss' dead body, the cousins must find the real killer before the wedding takes place in prison.





Or, you could win the first Scotshop mystery, A Wee Murder in My Shop by Fran Stewart. Escaping her ex-boyfriend, Peggy Winn enjoys a buying trip in the Scottish Highlands, the perfect place to find items for her Scotshop in Vermont. But, she also brings the ghost of a handsome fourteenth-century Scotsman back with her. That's lucky for her because she has to ask for his help in finding out who killed her ex-boyfriend and left him on the floor of her shop.

Which shop mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. I'll make it easy, and your subject heading can read either "Win Hat Shop" or "Win Scotshop." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, April 30 at 6 p.m. CT.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

To Dance, To Dream by Maxine Drury

Maxine Drury's To Dance, To Dream was written fifty years ago. When I first read it, almost that long ago, I fell in love with the stories of ballet and the remarkable stars of the ballet. Reading it again, a gift from my sister, Linda, the book still has the power to move me. Now, a couple of the stories of more recent stars seem incomplete, but at the time I read it, those dancers were still active. Time has moved on for a few of the stories, but each one brings the history of ballet to life.

That's exactly what To Dance, To Dream is, a history of ballet as told through the lives of some of the major dancers and choreographers who changed it. Drury's Foreword says, "These are the men and women who have helped to transform the dance from what it was three hundred years ago to what it is today." These are the biographies of Isadora Duncan, Michel Fokine, Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn, Maria Tallchief. Drury writes of ten artists who changed ballet.

I was struck by the fact that Drury's book, part of the Real Life Stories series, was designed for children, but it definitely was not written down to children. It didn't make light of the loneliness, hard work, rivalries, and poverty that often came with dancing. It was honest about Isadora Duncan's death. And, all these years after reading it for the first time, I still cried over Anna Pavlova's death.

I never read the other books published in this series. Those also sound fascinating; REAL LIFE STORIES about detectives and lawmen, Famous Investigators; famous nurses, Nurses Who Led the Way; World War I, The Great War. There were a couple other books as well. If they were as well-written as this one, I'm sorry I missed them. I'm still impressed with the remarkable biographies that were available to children who grew up forty to fifty years ago, so well-done that we still remember those Childhood of Famous Americans books and this REAL LIFE STORIES series. I was so lucky that my sister could find this memory, To Dance, To Dream, for me.

To Dance, To Dream by Maxine Drury. Whitman Publishing Company. 1965. (hardcover), 212p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - My sister gave me this as a gift.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blood Sweep by Steven F. Havill

Every time I read one of Steven F. Havill's Posadas County mysteries, I lament the fact that not enough people know about these marvelous police procedurals. If you like Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire books, you really should try this series set in a small New Mexico border county. It's a series that's about the people who live there, the Sheriff's Department that protects them, and, in many cases, the relationship with the country just across the border. These are stories about contemporary crimes, and intelligent police. And, Blood Sweep, the twentieth in this series, is as strong as all the previous books.

When Sheriff Robert Torrez is hunting on property belonging to Miles Waddell, one of the county's major landowners and developers, someone shoots at him. And, it leaves him wondering, because someone with that kind of aim probably could have shot to kill. It's only the beginning of the Posadas County problems. Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman has a full schedule, but she swings around to the former sheriff's house, only to find seventy-seven-year-old Bill Gastner in trouble in his garage. An ambulance for her former boss is her first thought, but it delays her meeting with the bank president. As she waits for her doctor husband to handle Bill's arrangements, she learns her aged mother wants to withdraw eight thousand dollars from the bank. It's that conversation that leads to a story about Guzman's son, a music prodigy, in trouble in Mexico. It would seem to be a scam, if it wasn't wrapped up in the music conservatory's trip to Mexico, and a story about an uncle Estelle never knew she had.

Torrez' investigation of his own shooting leads to the body of a hired gun. And, then the connections between the dead man leads to a man interested in capitalizing on Waddell's plans to develop his mesa property into a multi-million dollar theme park. So, while Torrez wrestles with developers and killers, Guzmann is caught up in worries about her son in Mexico and stories of family. And, the man they've all grown to look to for advice is lying in a hospital bed.

Blood Sweep, like all of Havill's Posadas County mysteries, is about so much more than the police and crime. Havill's characters are three-dimensional people with families and flaws. In fact, some of the people are larger than life. Gastner and Torrez dominate any stage, as does their Mexican counterpart, Colonel Tomas Naranjo. The story is complex, well-written, and compelling. And, Havill's descriptions of New Mexico and Mexico are vivid, bringing the dusty, hot country to life.

Do yourself a favor. Go back and find a copy of the first book, Heartshot. In the course of the series, the characters age, retire, and their lives change. If you love this series as much as I do, you'll have nineteen more enjoyable mysteries ahead of you. Or, just pick up Blood Sweep. You'll want to go back and read the earlier books to get to know these people.

Blood Sweep by Steven Havill. Poisoned Pen Press. 2015. ISBN 9781464203879 (hardcover), 298p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy of the book in order to read and review it.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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

I haven't done a book chat in a couple months because I didn't receive the books. Now that I did, it was a dreary rainy day here, which means the lighting is off on the video. Oh, well. At least you can hear the chat, and the list of books will be below.




Here are the books I discussed.

Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett - 8th Booktown Mystery
Some Like It Witchy by Heather Blake - 5th Wishcraft Mystery
Seven Threadly Sins by Janet Bolin - 5th Threadville Mystery
The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle - 8th Bibliophile Mystery
Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs - 16th Tea Shop Mystery
Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant by Hy Conrad - 19th Monk Mystery
Hiss and Tell by Claire Donally - 4th Sunny & Shadow Mystery
A Finely Knit Murder by Sally Goldenbaum - 9th Seaside Knitters Mystery
Death at the Door by Carolyn Hart - 24th Death on Demand Mystery
Don't Go Home by Carolyn Hart - 25th Death on Demand Mystery
One Foot in the Grape by Carlene O'Neil - 1st Cypress Cove Mystery
Flourless to Stop Him by Nancy J. Parra - 3rd Baker's Treat Mystery
Fillet of Murder by Linda Reilly - 1st Deep Fried Mystery
Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson - 16th Gaslight Mystery
Catnapped! by Elaine Viets - 13th Dead-End Job Mystery
Checked Out by Elaine Viets - 14th Dead-End Job Mystery

Monday, April 20, 2015

Poisoned Pen Press & British Library Series

Poisoned Pen Press to Publish
British Library Crime Classics and Spy Classics Series in US:
Poisoned Pen Press will release 12 British Crime Classics and
2 British Spy Classics in 2015

Scottsdale, Arizona – Poisoned Pen Press announces the upcoming release of titles from the British Library Crime Classics series and the British Library Spy Classics series.   Poisoned Pen Press will serve as the US publisher for the Crime Classics and Spy Classics series.

The celebrated British Library Crime Classics and Spy series features historical mysteries rediscovered by the British Library. Focused on the Golden Age of British crime writing, the series includes works by both recognized and lesser-known writers.

Poisoned Pen Press will release the first two titles in the Crime Classics series—Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston and  The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude—in May 2015. Twelve additional titles, including two British Library Spy Classics, Trouble on the Thames by Victor Bridges and The Traitor by Sidney Horler, will follow later in 2015. Beginning in 2016, Poisoned Pen Press will be in sync with the British Library’s publishing schedule, with one title slated for release each month.


Robert Rosenwald, President and Publisher at Poisoned Pen Press, said he was intrigued when initially approached about publishing the series in the US. According to Rosenwald, “The British Library Crime Classic and Spy Classic series are outstanding collections of books written at a time when there was no such thing as genre fiction.  As a mystery book publisher with over 700 mysteries in print, we felt Poisoned Pen Press was uniquely positioned to fill the role of US publisher for these extraordinary series. We are thrilled to be able to bring these titles, many of which have been unavailable to the public for years, to the US.”

Rosenwald added that Poisoned Pen Press is honored to publish works that laid the groundwork for popular crime fiction:  “The British Library Crime and Spy Classics series provides important historical context for mystery enthusiasts. These titles are written by authors who were pioneers in crime fiction—the original masters of crime fiction writing.  One of the May releases on our list, The Sussex Downs Murder is written by John Bude, which is the pen name for Ernest Elmore, co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association.  These are important books for readers, for writers, and for libraries.”

Poisoned Pen Press will publish each title in the British Library Crime and Spy Classics series in both trade and eBook formats. Each title will feature cover art chosen by the British Library— smart, old-fashioned designs befitting these golden age crime tales—as well as introductions by well-known experts.

Founded in 1997, Poisoned Pen Press is an independent publisher specializing in the highest quality mystery books. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Poisoned Pen Press is one of the largest publishers of hardcover mysteries in the world. Titles from Poisoned Pen Press are distributed by Ingram Publisher Services, and are available through wholesalers such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and Brodart, and directly from the publisher. Visit the new Poisoned Pen Press author blog and Discover Mystery™ at: www.poisonedpenpress.com.

Members of the news media wishing to request additional information are kindly asked to contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone:  (615) 297-9875, or by email: maryglenn@maryglenn.com

Diana Gabaldon at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest

Diana Gabaldon was the keynote speaker for this year's Southern Kentucky Book Fest. She's sold 26  million books worldwide, and Outlander won the People's Choice Award for a SF/Fantasy TV show. When Diana, Catriona Balfe who plays Claire, and Sam Heughan who plays Jamie, went to the award show, they were treated like rock stars. Sam and Catriona were surprised. Gabaldon told them she's never had a bad fan experience. She said some can be a little obsessive, but she's never had a stalker. She commented that with the size and complexity of the books, people with mental derangements can't get through a book. But, anyone can watch TV. She did warn Sam, though, not to get too near the fans when he was wearing a kilt.


Gabaldon went on to tell a story I've heard before, and love. She was in Germany, doing interviews with the German press for her German publisher. By the end of the week, she was tired, and one journalist asked her what is the appeal of a man in a kilt. She answered, the idea of being up against a wall with him in a minute.

Diana went from being a a scientist to being a novelist. A group of students in writing questioned that she didn't get a degree in creative writing. Someone said, "Why would she do that? They just teach you to be boring." She actually wanted to write from the time she was eight. Her father said, though, you're a poor judge of character. You'll probably marry a bum, so you need to get a good education so you can support the kids. She went on to get a number of degrees in the sciences.

When Gabaldon was teaching physiology and anatomy, everyone would take the class, including the football team. They would sit in the front of the class, large inanimate blobs. But, she knew how to get the attention of the class, even in morning sessions. She would recite the poem, "In days of old when Knights were bold, and condoms weren't invented, they stuck a sock upon their cock, and babies were prevented."

When she turned thirty-five, she said by her next birthday she will have written a book. She had written scientific papers and articles. She wrote comic books for Walt Disney. She wanted to write a novel, and, in deciding on a genre, decided that the easiest kind of book for her to write would be historical fiction. She knew how to do research. But, she had no background in history.

Gabaldon was looking for a good time period for the setting. Then, she saw an old Doctor Who episode on PBS. The Doctor had picked up a companion from Scotland, a young man in a kilt. So, she decided to write about Scotland in the 18th century, although she had no idea what Scotland was like, or life in the 18th century. She decided to research as she went along since it was a novel.

In 1988, there was no Internet for research. But, the university library's card catalog was electronic, and she found four hundred books on Scotland. As faculty, she could check as many out as she wanted, and keep them indefinitely. It was a rude awakening when she left and had to give them back. It took her three days to take all the books back.

She was looking for conflict in Scotland, and found the Jacobite uprising and Bonnie Prince Charlie. She also saw the Scots versus the English. In writing her story, she decided to put an English woman in a cottage with a bunch of Scotsmen and see what she did. She said to them, "My name is Claire..., and who the hell are you?" Diana had a smart-ass character who made modern comments. So, she said to the character, go ahead and be modern, and I'll figure out how you got there. So, blame Claire for the time travel.

Gabaldon doesn't outline, and she doesn't know what's going to happen. As she spoke, and digressed from her stories, she said there's a reason she likes long books. She likes digression.

At this same time, her husband had quit his job to start his own business. There's not a lot of difference between a bum and an entrepreneur. So, Diana was the sole income for a few years as they continued to have kids. With her knowledge of science and computers, she started doing scientific writing for BYTE, Wired, and other journals. Within a year, she was making as much from her writing as she was as a professor. She received a special assignment from BYTE that included a membership to CompuServe, and she was to do a review. When she finished, she still had four hours of free connect time when it was $30 per hour. She wasn't going to waste $120. So she searched around, and found a writers' group.

Diana hadn't even told her husband that she was writing a book. She thought she'd write the book first. Then, when she was eight months into it, she had an argument with a man online about how it feels to be pregnant, and she posted a piece she had written in which Claire had that discussion, and anyone could read it. (Her husband says she's congenitally unable to lose an argument.) The group members liked her writing, and they continued to encourage her.

Then, they told her she needed to get an agent. And, one friend recommended her to Perry Norton, an agent who was not afraid of unorthodox or long books, both of which she had. He took her on based on the synopsis and an unfinished novel. When he asked if there would be more, she said she thinks there's more to the story. So, within two weeks of him handling it, she had a three-book contract.

Asked about The Outlandish Companion, she said it's a nonfiction book with a synopsis of the first four books in the series for those who don't want to go back and reread the earlier ones when a new book comes out. It has a list of characters. There's background to the stories. It's been in print in hardcover for twenty years, even though the publishers were reluctant to take it on. She's been putting together The Outlandish Companion 2, covering the next four books, and it will be out in October.

The audience would have let Diana talk forever with her witty stories and humor, but she finally ended saying she likes to write at night, from midnight to 4:30. And, then it was time for her to sign books for all the fans who waited patiently in line.


(Pictures courtesy of Donna Seaton)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Southern Kentucky Book Fest

Four of us went down to Bowling Green, Kentucky to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. It was another terrific day like last year. Diana Gabaldon was the keynote speaker, but my summary of her event will come later when I have a picture to go with it.

The first panel I attended was Literary Look at the Past featuring Jamie Ford, Michael Morris and Paulette Livers. Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, read from his novel Songs of Willow Frost, set in post-Depression Seattle. Morris read from Man in the Blue Moon, set in Florida in 1918. Livers' Cementville is set in 1969 when a small Kentucky town suffers from the deaths of seven young National Guardsman in a single Vietcong attack.
Left to right: Jamie Ford, Michael Morris, Paulette Livers

The moderator commented that they all wrote about places they grew up, but none of them live there now. Ford said Ivan Doig, who recently died left his heart in Montana and lived in Seattle while Ford was from Seattle and lives in Montana. Doig said we write about what we lament. Morris said there's some nostalgia in his writing. He writes about Florida and the Apalachicola area where his grandfather lived. His family is closely tied to the area. Livers, who now lives in Chicago, said she lived in Kentucky for her first twenty-four years. When she moved to Boulder, someone told her you can write about home in a different way when you're far from home.

Asked about writing about family stories, Morris answered that he started his novel by doing oral history with his grandfather who was ninety-nine, who knew a story about a man who was shipped in a box to get away from his in-laws after he murdered his wife. Morris said his grandfather and other relatives enjoyed telling stories. He debated about sharing the stories, but his family shared them.

Ford said, "I have to have Thanksgiving with these people." Should I share? Songs of Willow Frost is almost an homage to his Chinese grandmother. She ruled the family, and renamed three of his cousins. But, she also had his dad out of wedlock in 1928 when that was not socially acceptable for a Chinese woman. He did explore that only after she passed away.
Jamie Ford

Asked if they write for their audience, Jamie Ford quoted Harlan Ellison who said, "Write for the wisest, wittiest audience in the world. Write for yourself." And, that's what he does.

Livers said she had an advisor who said to the writing group, "Be kind and generous to fellow writers in the writing community."

Asked about their background, Ford said he has a degree in art and design, but he wrote in his sketchbook. He fumbled his way into writing. It took him time to have kicked around enough to have an emotional viewpoint. He didn't have that in his 20s. He said Hotel was rejected by sixty agents and ten publishers.

Morris was the first in his family to go to college. He had that high school English teacher who told him he should write, so he asked a guidance counselor what he could major in to write and make money. He went into Public Relations and worked for twenty years writing for the Pharmaceutical business. His first book, Slow Way Home, was based on how life would have been different if his grandparents hadn't rescued him and his mother from an abusive father when he was five.

Livers also was an art and design major who ended up working as a book designer and art director at publishing houses. She always wrote, mostly short stories. She can take criticism because, in the art world, you're criticized all the time.

*****
After the programs, the authors go to the signing room, which is where we spent an hour. It's there I ran into JT Ellison, who hunted me down to give me an ARC of her June release, What Lies Behind. It's always fun to run into her at book festivals.

I also ran into Ashton Lee, author of the Cherry Cola Book Club novels. The Wedding Circle is his latest book, but he'll have a Christmas book in the series out in September. And, Ashton, a friend to all libraries, will be back in Evansville to talk about his books in late fall.

Off to lunch after the signing room, and then to the last panel of the day.

*****
Mysteries and Southern Fiction - Writing a Series featured Duffy Brown, Ashton Lee, Tonya Kappes, Anna Lee Huber and Julie Lindsey.  The moderator provided short introductions. Brown went from writing romances to cozy mysteries. Ashton Lee majored in English, and now lives in Oxford, Mississippi. Tonya Kappes writes cozy mysteries and quirky women's fiction. Anna Lee Huber writes historical mysteries, the Lady Darby mysteries set in 1830s Scotland. Julie Lindsey's Murder by the Seaside features a woman whose job at the FBI was downsized and she seeks refuge on Chincoteague Island.

Somewhere in those TBR piles I have here are Tonya Kappes' books featuring an undertaker named Emily, and I'm going to have to dig them out. Kappes was just a fun speaker. Her character, Emily, had an accident and was hit on the head with a giant Santa figure. When she comes to in the hospital, she can see a dead woman she just worked on. Her family tells her she has "the funeral trauma", but she actually can see the ghosts of dead people who had been murdered. Now, Emily has clients from the afterlife. Two books in the series are out, beginning with Ghostly Undertaking, with two more coming out in the fall.

Ashton Lee's character is Maura Beth Mayhew, a red-headed librarian. In the first book, the local politicians in Cherico, Mississippi want to shut down the town's library and build an industrial park. There's a little mystery in the books. In one, Maura Beth finds out what happened seventy-five years earlier with the money that was meant to build the library. In the course of the series, Maura Beth met someone, fell in love, and in The Wedding Circle, she gets married. But, there's also mother-daughter conflict because Maura Beth's mother wants her to marry in a society wedding in New Orleans, and Maura Beth, who loves Cherico, wants to marry at a lodge there. In September, the Christmas book will be out. And, with two more books scheduled in the series, in 2016 and 2017, there will be babies.

One of Duffy Brown's cozy mystery series is set in a high-end consignment shop in Savannah because she works in a consignment shop. They always say, "Write what you know." She also writes the Cycle Path mysteries, set on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Asked what made you want to write a series, Lindsey answered that she has a three book series because she was used to reading lots of YA novels, and those were plotted in threes. She didn't realize cozy mysteries came in series, or she would have planned better.

Huber said her fourth book will be out in the fall, but her first book published in the series, The Anatomist's Wife, was actually the fifth book she wrote. She planned her series with the intention of having a long-running series. She's already plotted it to book eight or nine.

Tonya Kappes has twelve planned. She gets invested in her characters and towns, so she likes to write series. It's like coming home to the town. She looks for relationships between her characters, so she wants them to keep going. She's invested in her towns and people.

Ashton Lee agreed with Kappes. The Cherry Cola Book Club series is not his first series. He wrote one under another name for another publisher. When he went with Kensington, they said, you know how libraries work because he sold materials to libraries. He just wanted to add that libraries will continue, and will not be shut down, no matter what people predict. He deliberately writes a multi-book series. He created a town with you and old characters, diverse people in books that cut across demographics. His favorite quote calls his books a cross between Fannie Flagg and Jan Karon. This series grew from two books to a six book series. He likes series because you don't have to write the stage again.

Duffy Brown answered that New York publishers want three books at a time when you're proposing a series. And, it's all about the numbers. If the early books sell, they'll let you run more in the series. So, you propose three books, and you get to continue as long as they're doing well. She currently writes for Random House/Penguin. She likes to see characters change in the course of a series. There's a story arc in a series. That's new. There were no over-arching arcs in the Agatha Christie books.

Speaking of the story arc, the authors were asked how they keep track of it. Anna Lee Huber said she keeps a notebook, a "Bible" for the Lady Darby series, so she knows, for instance, what color eyes a character has. Lindsey agreed, saying if it's important enough to say it in the book, write it down so you remember it because readers will. Brown has notes all over her wall. Lee said he does have ideas for where his storyline is going. But, somehow, characters take on roles later in the books that he didn't expect. Sometimes characters stand up later for a new arc.

Tony uses an address book. So, Emily is under E. But, her publisher, William Morrow/HarperCollins keeps a Bible for her. They send her a downloadable pdf with each book. She also has each town on large post-it paper. She draws the town, laminates it, and then puts it on the wall so she can see it. She believes in character growth. For instance, Emily's gift grows as she grows. Relationships progress. In her first book in the series, a small Kentucky town tries to grow.

Ashton Lee also added that he has a fine copy editor at Kensington who may catch something he forgets.

The moderator gave all the authors the chance to do Blatant Self Promotion, and talk about what else they've written. Duffy Brown only writes mysteries now, not romances. She said Fifty Shades of Grey changed the romance field. Everything was kicked into high heat, and she didn't want to write or read that. So, she switched to mysteries.

Ashton Lee said he wrote six books under the name Robert Dalby. Two were standalones for small presses. And, then he had a New York contract with Putnam Penguin to write the Piggly Wiggly series about a group of wealthy widows trying to save their Piggly Wiggly stores. There were four in that series.

Kappes was self-published, and she'll never totally leave self-publishing. She wrote about the divorced divas when she was divorced. Ghostly Undertaking was self-published first, and then New York came calling. All of her books are Southern, and they are all humorous.

Huber is finishing a standalone Gothic, but, other than that, she only writes the Lady Darby series.

Lindsey writes teen novels for Kensington digital, and her cozy mystery series.

And, the panel end with a question about how New York likes Kappes' Kentucky setting. She answered that New York just loves her small town Kentuckyisms.

Perfect ending to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fantastic Fiction Friday

Once a month, one of our branches has Fantastic Fiction Friday. Usually, they discuss just one book, but you all know that's not my style. I want to talk about all kinds of books. So, I picked twenty books. Remember, these might not be all my favorites. They were fiction titles on the shelf at the branch library.

One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern. After journalist Kitty Logan watches her career crumble because of a scandal, she asks her mentor what story she always wanted to cover. The clues are on a piece of paper with one hundred names, but Kitty's friend dies before she can tell her about those names.








Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Allen's debut novel introduced the Waverley women, unusual even in their unusual North Carolina town. The women have always had a way with plants, and they tend an apple tree that is rumored to be magical. Some of the family work with their abilities, while one sister runs from it.







Home for the Haunting by Juliet Blackwell. Part of Blackwell's Haunted Home Renovation series, this one finds contractor Mel Turner doing a good deed, leading a volunteer home renovation project, only to get caught up in murder and ghosts at a house the kids call "The Murder House".









Scent of Murder by James O. Born. Introduces a special team of Florida K-9 cops led by Deputy Tim Hallett who get caught up in the search for a dangerous predator. Told from multiple viewpoints, including that of one of the dogs, this is action-packed mystery.








Between Heaven and Texas by Marie Bostwick. In a prequel to the Cobbled Court Quilt series, Bostwick takes readers to a small Texas town, where the Templeton sisters fall for the wrong men, but find their true calling, and the true meaning of family.








One Book in the Grave by Kate Carlisle. In the fifth Bibliophile mystery, bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright agrees to restore a copy of Beauty and the Beast until she discovers it was once owned by a friend who died in a suspicious car accident.








Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo. The first Kate Burkholder novel introduced the new Police Chief of Painters Mill, Ohio. Burkholder, from Painters Mill, suffered through a terrible crime as a young Amish girl, left her religion, and, now must deal with her past and new crimes when a body is found in the snow.








Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. My favorite Sandra Dallas book tells of a family who sees their Colorado small town turned upside down when a Japanese internment camp is built there during World War II. Told through the eyes of Rennie Stroud, a thirteen-year-old girl, the story has an unusual perspective.








Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons. A fascinating story of three generations of women in North Carolina, told by the adult granddaughter during World War II, with a focus on her grandmother, a self-educated medicine woman who treated everyone.








The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin. One of my favorites of 2014, the story brings together Elizabeth (Sisi), Empress of Austria, Captain Bay Middleton, an impoverished British horseman, and Charlotte Baird, an heiress who falls for Bay, until he helps the Empress when she comes to England to hunt, and falls under Sisi's sway.







The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. One that will undoubtedly make my favorites of 2015 list, this powerful novel of two sisters in Occupied France has been optioned for a movie. In 1939, when Germany moves into France, two sisters react very differently. While one secretly works in the Resistance, the other does everything she can to keep her family alive.







Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. If I can put my hands on this book, it always makes my list of favorites. Optioned for a movie, this is the story of young CeeCee Honeycutt whose early life is tragic until her great-aunt swoops in and takes her to Savannah where, for one summer, she learns about life from a group of eccentric, strong women.









Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson. A wonderful Christmas novella featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire and his predecessor, Lucian Connally, a WWII vet who flew in the Dootlittle raid on Tokyo. When a young woman comes looking for Lucian on a Christmas Eve, and whispers "Steamboat", the memories take them back to a Christmas Eve in 1988, and a heroic flight during a blizzard.




Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. In his fifties, Frank Drum looks back at a Minnesota summer when he was thirteen, and found his entire life changed by a number of deaths, as his observations made him grow up.









Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay. What better way to end National Library Week than with one of the mysteries in the Library Lover's Mystery series? Library Director Lindsey Norris investigates when the president of the Library Board is the primary suspect in the murder of her husband.








The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal. A novel of food and friendship brings together four different women, all food bloggers, as they meet for the first time when one of the women plans to turn her lavender farm over to the woman who would treat it with love.








Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray. Two rival florists fall in love, but their feuding families interfere in this delightful story.










A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith. In 1929, Congress passed legislation to send the mothers of soldiers who died in World War I to France to visit their sons' graves. This novel follows five of those mothers, emphasizing Cora Blake, a woman who has lived almost her entire life in a Maine fishing village.









While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax. The concierge of an historic Atlanta apartment building invites the residents to attend weekly screenings of Downton Abbey. Unexpectedly, four people find themselves not only connecting with the show, but with each other.







Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson. Wilson just announced that this charming version of Pride and Prejudice, set in the world of show dogs in England, has been optioned by the Hallmark Channel. New Yorker Elizabeth Scott believes caring for a pack of show dogs in England is just what she needs to get over the scandal in her teaching career. She doesn't count on her attraction to the arrogant billionaire and dog breeder Donovan Darcy.

Twenty titles for Fantastic Fiction Friday. Some of my favorites. Have you found one or two you haven't read?