Sunday, July 31, 2016

September Treasures in My Closet - Part 1

It's time to discuss forthcoming books! I love to talk about new releases, but, to be honest, I have so many September books that I had to be selective. Even then, there are enough books for two days. So, I picked out the crime fiction and the books that already have some buzz. These are the books I'm guessing you'll want to place on hold at your local library or pre-order from your favorite bookstore. And, once in a while, I threw in a title on a whim. Let's talk books!

Meet Kate Fox from Shannon Baker's Stripped Bare. Her husband's the sheriff of Grand County, Nebraska. When she answers his emergency line at home, she learns a rancher is dead, Kate's husband, Ted, has been shot, and Kate's niece is missing. And, it's only going to get worse. (Release date is Sept. 6.)







Agatha Raisin returns in M.C. Beaton's Pushing Up Daisies. The cozy village in the British Cotswolds where Agatha retired and opened a private detective agency may be much less pleasant if Lord Bellington, a wealthy land developer gets his way. He has plans to turn the community garden into a housing estate. So, Agatha isn't surprised when his obituary appears in the paper. She's involved when Bellington's son, the prime suspect, hires her to find the real killer. (Release date is Sept. 20.)





Juliet Blackwell returns to the setting of The Paris Key for her latest novel, Letters from Paris. When Claire Broussard returns to Louisiana to care for her ailing grandmother, she unearths a beautiful sculpture that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II. At her grandmother's urging, she travels to Paris, where she discovers letters that offer insight into the life of the unknown woman immortalized in the work of art. As she learns of the woman's tragic fate, she discovers secrets in her own life. (Release date is Sept. 6.)




It's Christmastime. Flavia de Luce has been expelled from school in Canada, and she's sailing home to England in Alan Bradley's Thrice the Brinded Cat hath Mew'd. But, she finds her father in the hospital, her sisters and cousin in the way, and she grabs at the chance to mount her bicycle, Gladys, and run an errand for the vicar's wife. She finds a man hanging in his house, with only a cat in the house. Curiosity may not kill the cat, but twelve-year-old Flavia has curiosity to spare. (Release date is Sept. 20.)





Well, here's a scary title. Death of an Avid Reader is the latest Kate Shackleton mystery by Frances Brody. Kate's involved in the search for a daughter given up years earlier. There's the ceremony to expel a ghost at a library haunted by a dead librarian, a ceremony that ends with the discovery of a body. And, there's a killer on the loose. Best of all, reviews say this mystery can be read as a standalone, even if you haven't read previous Kate Shackleton mysteries. (Release date is Sept. 13.)





Why do maid of honor duties include keeping the bride out of jail? Maggie Crozat asks herself that question in Ellen Byron's Body on the Bayou. Her co-worker, Vanessa, has turned into a Bridezilla with a long list of duties for Maggie. But, when Vanessa's mysterious cousin is found dead on the bayou behind the Crozet family plantation turned B&B, Maggie has multiple reasons to find a killer. (Release date is Sept. 13.)






David Casarett's Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness introduces "The Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency". Set in Thailand, Ladarat Patalung, a nurse ethicist thinks she recognizes the young woman who brought her dying husband to the hospital. She remembers her coming in before with a different husband, who also died. Ladarat Patalung is the first and only nurse detective in Thailand. (Release date is Sept. 13.)






In Jennifer Chiaverini's latest novel, Fates and Traitors, she looks at John Wilkes Booth through the eyes of four women who loved him. The book jacket says it's about, "The mother who cherished him. The sister who was his friend and confidante. The devoted sweetheart whose love he betrayed. The Confederate widow who conspired with him to bring down a president." (Release date is Sept. 13.)






Lauren Collins' memoir is When in French: Love in a Second Language. Collins discovers a language barrier is no match for love when she moves to London in her early thirties and falls for a Frenchman named Olivier. The relationship grows entirely in English until they marry and move to Francophone Geneva. Then, Collins decides to learn French so she'll be able to understand the children she hopes to have. Her funny memoir is about love and how we learn languages. (Release date is Sept. 13.)





I'm a fan of Sarah Addison Allen's novels, so Susan Bishop Crispell's The Secret Ingredient of Wishes sounds perfect for me. Rachel Monroe has spent her life trying to keep an unusual secret. She can make wishes come true. And the results are sometimes disastrous. When one wish goes wrong, she leaves her hometown, and her past, behind. Of course, she'll end up in a town not on the map, Nowhere, North Carolina. And, she's taken in by a woman who can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Before she ruins the life she's building in Nowhere, Rachel has to accept who she is, and what she can do. (Release date is Sept. 6.)



Seven months after their last encounter in Robert Daniels' Once Shadows Fall, retired FBI agent Jack Kale and Atlanta Police Detective Beth Sturgis return in Wake the Devil. They're reunited for a case that pits them against the Sandman, a nearly perfect assassin who leaves no trace and has eluded police for years. The team must protect his next targets, two witnesses scheduled to testify before a grand jury. (Release date is Sept. 13.)






Lesley A. Diehl's latest Eve Appel mystery is Mud Bog Murder. When Jenny McCleary leases her property to be ravaged by the annual mud bog races, the small town of Sabal Bay, Florida is divided by warring camps, environmental activists versus monster truck fans. Eve Appel and her friend join the protestors. But, when Jenny's head is sent airborne by the wheels of a truck during the race, Eve knows someone took the protests too far. (Release date is Sept. 1.)





Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, brings us The Wonder. A small Irish village is mystified by what appears to be a miracle, but may actually be murder. Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell is said to be living without food. Tourists flock to the cabin, and a journalist is sent to cover the story. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl. As Anna dies, Lib finds herself responsible for the child's care as well as for her very survival. (Release date is Sept. 20.)




Mario Giordano's Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions is the first in a new mystery series. Recently widowed Auntie Poldi moves to Sicily to drink herself to death with a sea view. But, she becomes s potential murder suspect when she finds the corpse of a young man on the beach. Plod falls for the gorgeous Commissario Montana, and they soon form an investigative and romantic partnership. It's a mystery said to offer "sensuality, wit and wonderful riffs on Sicilian cooking". (Release date is Sept. 13.)





Murder in G Major is Alexia Gordon's debut. Classical musician Gethsemane Brown is stranded without baggage or money in the Irish countryside, so she accepts the job of turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. She also gets to housesit a lovely cliffside cottage, but the ghost of the murdered owner haunts the place. He was falsely accused of killing his wife and himself, and he wants to Gethsemane to clear his name. But, her investigation provokes a killer, and she finds herself in danger. (Release date is Sept. 13.)




Retired teacher Gerry Porter and her granddaughter Maddie return in Margaret Grace's Matrimony in Miniature. When murder happens in the small town of Lincoln Point, CA, Detective Skip Gowen tries to discourage his aunt Gerry and Maddie from investigating. But, how can Gerry stay away when the crime scene is the venue for her marriage to Henry Baker? (Release date is Sept. 9.)







The White Mirror is the sequel to Elsa Hart's Jade Dragon Mountain. Chinese librarian Li Du, traveling with a trade caravan through the Tibetan mountains, discovers a dead monk marked with a pagan symbol on his chest. As Li Du starts putting together the circumstances of the monk's death, he's forced to face the reason he will not go home, and the reason he must. (Release date is Sept. 6.)






The Tea Planter's Wife is Dinah Jefferies' U.S. debut. It's a lush, atmospheric page-turner in which nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper marries the mysterious owner of a vast tea empire in colonial Ceylon after a whirlwind romance in London. He's charming, successful, handsome. But, he's keeping terrible secrets, including what happened to his first wife. (Release date is Sept. 13.)






The last book today is from one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Tracy Kidder. In A Truck Full of Money, he takes us into the world of Paul English. English grew up in working-class Boston, and was diagnosed as bipolar in his twenties. But, he could relate to computers. After English makes a fortune through the sale of the travel website Kayak.com, the first thing he thinks about is how to give the money away. (Release date is Sept. 20.)

This month, I curated all those treasures in my closet, selecting the crime novels and a few other titles that appealed to me. The other half is coming tomorrow. So, do any of today's books appeal to you?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz

"I wish my teacher knew that my family and I live in a shelter." "I wish my teacher knew that I don't have pencils at home to do my homework." "I wish my teacher knew that none of my friends from my last school are like the people I go to school with now." Heartbreaking notes, aren't they? Teacher, and now author, Kyle Schwartz, asked an open-ended question of her third graders. Write, "I wish my teacher knew...", and learned about her mobile students who don't have breakfasts, money for pencils, and live in shelters. Or they wonder about dying because a family member has cancer. When her question went viral, she wrote the book,  I Wish My Teacher Knew, to discuss the state of education today, and what teachers can do about it. I read it because I've been reading to a class of second or third graders for the last three years. And, I see their faces in every sentence in this book.

During the 2012-13 school year, there were 1,258,182 homeless students in American public schools. Or, maybe we should talk about the more than two million American students who are dependents of a military service member, and they move every two to three years. According to Schwartz, and, certainly in the community I live in, roughly 51% of all the children in the public schools live in poverty. The sentence that struck me? "Poverty issues are learning issues."

Schwartz offers a lot of statistics, as you can tell from the above paragraph. But, she offers suggestions for other teachers as well. She focuses on building a community within the classroom, and with the families. In fact, she discusses the variety of families today. She points out the mistakes she's made along the way, quite often from making assumptions as to how her students lived. And, some of her assumptions were so wrong.

The author does include commentary from other teachers. And, her experience is based on teaching third grade. But, many of her ideas may inspire teachers at all levels. And, many of her ideas, and those heartbreaking notes, have inspired me. If I'm invited back to that second or third grade classroom this year, I might look at those children and their wonderful teacher, from a little different angle. Because, even though I had a wonderful family and a great education, I know there are things I Wish My Teacher Knew.

I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz. De Capo Press. 2016. ISBN 9780783219141 (hardcover), 258p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Friday, July 29, 2016

Winner and a Monkeewrench Giveaway

Congratulations to Page I. from Fairview, NC, the winner of Unholy Code.

I have a terrific book to give away this week. If you wait for what seems like years, as I do, for the next Monkeewrench novel by P.J. Tracy, it's time! The publicist is giving away a copy ofThe Sixth Idea. The peaceful Christmas season in Minneapolis is shattered by murder.  Winter vacation for Homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth is over when two online friends, who planned to meet for the first time, are found dead, several miles apart. And, then a woman comes home to find two dead men in her apartment. Magozzi and Rolseth suspect she's a target as well. As crimes accumulate, the two detectives find a link and their search leads sixty years into the past. It's time to call in the computer experts known as Monkeewrench.

If you would like to win the copy of The Sixth Idea, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win The Sixth Idea." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, August 4 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Once Upon a Wine by Beth Kendrick

Who doesn't need a book to make you smile and laugh right now? Beth Kendrick's novels always make me smile. They feature strong women, witty conversations, and romance. And, you won't find any harder-working woman than Cammie Breyer in Kendrick's latest book, Once Upon a Wine.

Cammie had dreams. Her dreams at twenty-two would lead her to California to open a restaurant. She left behind Ian, the farmer who loved her, but also loved the farm that had been in his family for generations. Seven years later, when her cousin, Kat, calls, her restaurant is gone, she's broke, and she comes home. Her aunt, Ginger, bought a vineyard in Black Dog Bay, Delaware, and needs the help of family.

None of these three women know anything about growing grapes to make wine. When Ginger overcame cancer, she cashed in her retirement and bought her dream, a vineyard. Kat, a professional skateboarder, hasn't told her mother or cousin that she is taking a break from her marriage. She's going through a personal crisis, and doesn't know what she wants in life. And, Cammie? She's without an apartment or a job. So, she's determined to make the shabby-looking vineyard profitable. Cammie knows a farmer who might give her advice.

Kendrick's stories are always romantic and fun. The women are strong and hard-working. And, there's always an adorable dog. Jacques, the French bulldog, was a former champion turned farm dog. Like all the women he lives with, he has to change his life. And, Jacques is the first one to accept the change with joy and alacrity. He not only symbolizes the changes, he comes to symbolize the entire vineyard.

Witty conversation, humor, a cute dog. And, for those who don't know Black Dog Bay, "Black Dog Bay is the 'best place in America to bounce back from your breakup'." Once Upon a Wine is all about bouncing back in life. It's fun. It's joyful. It's perfect for this summer.

Beth Kendrick's website is www.BethKendrick.com

Once Upon a Wine by Beth Kendrick. New American Library. 2016. ISBN 9780451474193 (paperback), 324p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to participate in a book tour, with no promises for a positive review.



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Circle

I'm not going to talk here about the Presidential race.  But, I am going to end with a note about politics. It comes from a circle of belief. I'm reading Beth Kendrick's novel Once Upon a Wine right now. It's a romance, but it's also a story about three strong women of different ages who come together when one buys a vineyard. Although I say on my blog that there's an emphasis on crime fiction, I also read and review women's fiction. And, in both crime fiction and women's fiction, I tend to read more books written by women than men. Why?

Strong women. My mother tells me how proud she is of what I do. My father, the father of three daughters, always pushed me to do my best. Although he was kidding, he used to say he hoped all three of us were successful in life so we could support him in his old age. He didn't live to see the three of us succeed in our chosen fields.

Strong women. Why do I like Nora Roberts' books? She features strong career women. Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters are the same. Julia Spencer-Fleming's Rev. Clare Fergusson is former military and a priest. Everyone knows how much I love Louise Penny's books. Armand Gamache would not be the person he is without the support of his wife, a librarian. There are strong women in Penny's books. I rave about Steven F. Havill's books featuring Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, who holds that job while handling motherhood and daughterhood. And, how many cozy mysteries feature women who step up to find a killer? My favorite fantasy novels are Tamora Pierce's books with women as heroines. Meg Wallace in Madeleine L'Engle's books was a favorite, the girl who went to rescue her brother. Even Belle in Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney character. She went off to save her father.

I believe in, and respect, strong women. My grandmothers were strong women. My mother is one. I admire both of my sisters. My friends, beginning with my college roommate to my best friend here in Evansville, my female friends across the country are all strong women who have overcome obstacles. It's a circle. I was encouraged by strong women and a father who supported them. I read about strong women. I firmly believe that women can change the world in positive ways.

So, all of my background, my family, my reading, my profession leads me to support and want women in office. It's why I gave to Emily's List when I watched all those women on stage yesterday. We need strong women.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Speaking of Murder by Les Roberts with Dan S. Kennedy

I've been a fan of Les Roberts' Milan Jacovich mysteries for years. They're set in Cleveland, and it's evident from the details about the city that Roberts loves Cleveland. And, Milan will remind mystery readers of Robert B. Parker's Spenser. It's been fascinating to watch the changes in Milan over the years. Now, Roberts utilizes Dan S. Kennedy's expertise to bring a motivational conference to town.
Speaking of Murder is a mystery, but that conference is perfect fodder for dry humor.

Jacovich has a two-person security company with a younger employee, Kevin O'Bannion, K.O. They're hired to provide extra security at the Renaissance Hotel while VIP motivational speakers are in town. But once a top-rated speaker is killed, Milan and K.O. are out of a job. And, then Victor Gaimari, godfather of the Greater Cleveland Mafia hires them. He and Milan have a history going way back. But Victor has interests to protect, and he wants Milan asking a few questions.

Milan and K.O. aren't investigating the murder. That's up to Milan's significant other, homicide detective sergeant Tobe Blaine. But, they have a full cast of characters to talk to. There's the television doctor with the trophy wife, the talk show host who has a laundry list of people she puts down on her radio show, the actress who now talks about her reincarnations. Milan and K.O. have a number of people to antagonize.

Milan and K.O. take turns talking about the investigation. It's fascinating to hear the viewpoints. Milan is an aging investigator, streetwise, and with an edge. K.O. is thirty years younger, a man who did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has an attitude. He's good at what he does, but he's quick to anger. "Whatever he said aloud was either sarcastic or angry - or both."  Roberts is astute in giving Milan a younger assistant, a different viewpoint.

Speaking of Murder has dry humor, a little politics, an interesting mystery. The portrayals of the motivational speakers is spot-on. And, for me, the book still has that special love of Cleveland.

Les Roberts' website is www.lesroberts.com

Speaking of Murder by Les Roberts. Gray & Company, Publishers. 2016. ISBN 9781938441844 (hardcover), 257p.

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Other Blogs and Tributes to Great Mystery Authors

I'm interrupting my regular blogging to link to several blogs that are important to me right now. Many of you may already know the news about author Bill Crider. He shared the news of his cancer on his own site, Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine. Here's the link: 


Bill's not going to be able to tour for his August Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Survivors Will Be Shot Again. Please keep his book in mind as you plan your August purchases.



For a wonderful tribute to Bill Crider, please check out Janet Rudolph's website, Mystery Fanfare.

*****
In recent weeks, I've had fun posting "Every Summer Has a Story", on The Poisoned Pen's blog. Those were posts by authors in which they picked three to five crime fiction titles to recommend for summer reading. This past weekend, Carolyn Hart had two posts that were perfect with that theme. The Mystery Writers of America Grand Master wrote a lengthy piece in which she picked some of her favorite clever mysteries. It's always an honor to post one of Carolyn's pieces. I admire her knowledge of the mystery field. If you'd like to check out the two-part piece, go to https://www.poisonedpen.com, and then click on Blog.

*****

If I hadn't wanted to share the news about Bill Crider, and ask for prayers or good wishes for him, I never would have mentioned all of these sites. Many of you know my husband died six years ago from cancer. Let's send all our support for Bill. We need miracles in life, and he needs our support.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Killing in Amish Country by Gregg Olsen & Rebecca Morris

What do you look for when you read true crime? I seldom read it because I read some that went into too much graphic detail as to the crime itself.  If I read true crime, I guess I want it to be like Law & Order, the investigation followed by the trial. Authors Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris do not go into graphic detail in A Killing in Amish Country. In fact, the book is almost a treatise on the Amish lifestyle, or at least on the sect called the Andy Weaver Amish. One man couldn't stand the rules, but couldn't stand life outside the sect. The result was murder.

Before Barbara Weaver's murder in 2009 in Apple Creek, Ohio, "There had been only two reported murders among the Amish in America in more than 250 years." When the young mother of five was shot in her bed, the first question asked by those who knew her was, "Where was Eli?", her husband. Although those in their community didn't know the extent of his sins, he had been shunned twice, and forgiven twice. He had moved out, ran around with other women who he met on the Internet. The men who went fishing with him didn't know he'd had a long-running relationship with Barb Raber, the taxi driver he hired regularly. Eli Weaver, who called himself the "Amish Stud", just found his wife in the way.

It was the text messages and computer searches that caught the attention of the investigating officers. It wasn't too long before two people were arrested for aggravated murder. But, the authors and others question whether the person who received the longest sentence was actually guilty. And, through the victim's letters to family and her counselor, Barbara Weaver's voice is heard as it wasn't heard in the courtroom.

A Killing in Amish Country has an introduction by crime fiction writer Linda Castillo, who writes about the Amish. It has an Afterword by  Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, Professor of Anthropology who also writes about them. Olsen and Morris point out that the Amish practices may have kept Barbara Weaver in a marriage when she should have left. It is a fascinating study of the Amish way of life and beliefs. This murder and the subsequent trial shook up a few people in the community, and there may have even been a few changes as a result. But, was the right person found guilty? The authors don't seem convinced.

A Killing in Amish Country: Sex, Betrayal, and a Cold-Blooded Murder by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris. St. Martin's Press. 2016. ISBN 9781250067234 (hardcover), 288p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Margherita's Notebook by Flumeri & Giacometti

I'm usually not a fan of translations. Quite often, I feel as if something was lost, and the book doesn't resonate with me. But Margherita's Notebook by Elisabetta Flumeri and Gabriella Giacometti is translated from the Italian, and it's beautiful. It's lush and atmospheric, filled with life and food. It's a richly detailed, romantic novel, just what it should be.

Margherita Carletti's bad day came in threes. Her horoscope warned her. She didn't get the job her husband, Francesco, set up for her. And, when she went to get the mail, she found two unpleasant notices. The first was an eviction notice from their apartment in Rome. The other was Meg, who she thought was her husband's English tutor, but turned out to be more than that. Actually, it wasn't such bad news. "Why does Francesco always come before everything else?" No more. Margherita was able to make Francesco's favorite meal, pack her car, and leave him with a light heart.

Heading home to Roccafitta was the best thing Margherita had done in years. Rome wasn't for her. Instead, she could cook with a light heart, hoping to reopen her mother's restaurant someday. She just has to find the money to do it. When her best friend, Matteo, finds her a job as an on-call chef, she thinks it's perfect. But, then she discovers she's cooking for Nicola Rovelli, a wealthy entrepreneur. And, she already had a run-in with the man she sees as too ambitious and egotistical. Worst of all, he can't appreciate good food if he buys frozen items. And, Margherita is through with men who think they come before everything else.

Margherita's Notebook was everything I hoped it would be when I saw the cover. It's a sensual story about food and romance, Italian life, the countryside, the music and dance. Margherita is a spirited woman with a goal and determination, but along with that spirit comes passion. The book includes an extensive collection of recipes, recipes Margherita prepares for Nicola. The food sounds wonderful, but it's Margherita's passion for food, for cooking and good ingredients, for savoring food and life that makes the recipes sound wonderful.

If you can't pack your bag and head to Italy, Flumeri and Giacometti will introduce you to the Italy you expect, romantic, sensual, full of food and life and love. Margherita's Notebook is called "A Novel of Temptation". Oh, it is.

Margherita's Notebook by Elisabetta Flumeri and Gabriella Giacometti. Washington Square Press. (2013,2016). ISBN 9781476786025 (paperback), 308p.

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


Friday, July 22, 2016

Winner and Thomas Waite Post and Giveaway

Congratulations to the winner of Terrence McCauley's A Murder of Crows. Diane K. of Darien, IL will get a copy of the book.

This week, I have a Q&A from author Thomas Waite, an excerpt and a giveaway of his latest Lana Elkins thriller, Unholy Code. Thank you, Thomas.

*****
Tell us about Unholy Code.

In my latest Lana Elkins thriller, former NSA operative Elkins confronts white supremacists and Islamic extremists who are launching devastating attacks against the U.S.  As each side incites the other by targeting innocent Americans, murderous threats to Lana and her family arise from Golden Voice, a cruel and mysterious denizen of the Dark Web. Definitely my edgiest novel yet.  

For readers who are discovering your work for the first time: What can you share about Lana Elkins?

Lana Elkins is a strong, smart, tough woman who founded the cybersecurity firm, CyberFortress, after outstanding service as a cyber spy for the NSA. But Lana is also the loving mother of a challenging teenage daughter. Their sometimes-contentious relationship is put to a great test when the country is under attack from its most fanatical enemies — attacks that become very personal. Lana also suffers from an addiction that threatens her professionally and personally.

Unholy Code touches on a number of issues we currently hear about on a daily basis, including racism, immigration issues, religious conflicts, political pressures, and, of course, terrorism. Given what is going on in the "real world" is it becoming easier or more difficult to write this series?

We live in challenging times, to be sure, but from a thriller author's perspective, the very issues that we confront as a nation contribute to the richness of these characters and the ruthless obstacles they face.  Unholy Code, like the others in the series, takes place in the near future in a recognizable world, and a major reason that world feels so real is that the conflicts that threaten to tear us apart as a nation are based on what we can glimpse of the world around us right now. 

Readers and reviewers often remark on the relationship between Lana and her daughter, Emma. Why do you think these characters resonate with people?

What I hear from readers all the time is that they love Lana because there's nothing comic book about her.  She's grounded in trying to balance motherhood and career, a multi-dimensional character who has strengths and flaws. She's blessed—or cursed, maybe—to be raising a daughter a lot like her: strong-willed, smart, and long on grit. They have their tough moments, but for most of Emma's life she had only Lana to raise her. That's a bond that can't be broken, even by those who want nothing more than to kill them both.

Given the sensitive nature of Lana's job, not to mention other characters in the book, how do you approach research? Have any of your inquiries lead to questions about you? Please share more details about your professional background.

I do a mix of primary and secondary research. As noted in my acknowledgements, I’ve consulted directly with experts ranging from the head of the FBI’s cyber division to a retired U.S. Navy Admiral. And, of course, not all my sources wish to be named. I also do a lot of research online. I’ve had readers ask if anything I write about is classified, and the answer is no. Of course, the government can’t do that to an author’s imagination, so most of what I deem “top secret” I use in my books.  A few friends have expressed concern that my research might raise suspicion with authorities.  I tell them not to worry, the name of my Wi-Fi is “FBI SurveilVan3.” But seriously, I’m quite certain that the FBI or DHS know that I’m writing fiction. I also have worked in the technology sector and still do some advisory and board work and that helps.

Unholy Code may feature your scariest antagonists to date. Can you shed light on the inspiration for "Steel Fist" and "Golden Voice?"

As you know, we've been seeing the rise of nativist sentiments throughout the western world, including here in America.  While Steel Fist's views are repugnant, he does embody the white supremacist movement.  So when the wide extent of America's vulnerability unveiled itself at the beginning of Unholy Code, it made sense to me that the country would be besieged not just by radical elements from outside its borders, but from citizens who would actually welcome the resulting demonstrations of U.S. weakness.  That’s because acts of terrorism against Americans would make their own twisted ideas about power and strength stand out in sharp relief.  

With Golden Voice, it was very different.  The antagonist was much more mysterious, speaking in first person present tense right from the start, with all the intimacy that suggests.  I heard the voice first, and then followed its dictates.  Never once did I plan ahead with Golden Voice.  I didn't have to. Golden Voice took over and I went along for the horrifying ride.

Malinois play a role in Unholy Code. What inspired you to add JoJo and Cairo to the cast of characters? Did you meet with real-life dog trainers while researching the book?

I don't feel as though I added Jojo and Cairo to the cast; they added themselves. I'm not kidding. I knew next to nothing about Malinois when I started writing this book, only that they were the dogs preferred by a lot of military and national security services.

Very quickly, though, I realized that in a country getting ripped apart by terrorist attacks, and with a character like Lana under threat, a security dog would be a smart sentinel to add to a household.  When each dog came on the scene, he had his own personality. I discovered that as readers will. It became clear that Cairo, who's in his doggy dotage, would never suffer fools gladly, so I went along for the ride to see what that would mean. Jojo's a very different dog, in no small part because he's a lot younger. I developed a great affection for the breed in doing my research. 

What are you working on now?

I'm listening to my inner Lana, seeing where she wants to go next.  She's one very restless pro, always deep in cyberspace, so I'm spending time in the Dark Web; she's my co-pilot on these trips.  I have some ideas—or I should say she has some ideas—about where this series is
headed. It's a dark place, scary to be sure, and very human—just like Lana herself in Unholy Code.

*****
Here's an excerpt from Unholy Code.


“Look at the water, boy.”
Vinko peered at its smooth surface and saw his reflection.
            “Your face is white as the clouds, isn’t it? Just like everyone else you see around here.”
            Vinko understood. He’d never known anybody who wasn’t white.
They’d fished until sundown. After gathering up their gear, his father told him to look at the water again. The blood-red colors had appeared, darkening the boy’s face.
           “You’re no longer white. That’s what’s going to happen if we let the sun set on America. The white will disappear, and we’ll pay for it with blood.”
His father had been right. The men in his family had all known that the most important threat of all wasn’t a gun or a knife, or even the mongrel races raging to get everything that belonged to whites. But it was all about blood.

* * *

A seventeen-year-old is impulsive.
A seventeen-year-old feels immortal.
A seventeen-year-old doesn’t understand that death can come in a whisper.
Emma. I imagine my hot breath on her ear. I can help you.
So her parents will be right to shudder at the fact that Em is now vulnerable to the scores of terrorists stalking American cities and hinterlands, hunting for ever more horrors to visit upon the nation.
But don’t worry about all that.
Those are the exact words I would tell them if I could. They need only worry about me. And it’s too late for that. Their only child is trying to free herself of too much too soon, and all she’s really done is seal her fate.
The one I’ve planned for her.
And you shall share it, Lana.
The chainsaws are oiled and calling. Can you hear them? Here, I’ll start one.
How about that? Can you hear it now? The blade sounds angry, doesn’t it? Like it could cut through skin and bone and the last scraps of hope in a dying girl’s heart. I won’t let you die without seeing that, Lana. I promise.
That’s how a mother gets to die twice.


Excerpted from UNHOLY CODE © Copyright 2016 by Thomas Waite. Reprinted with permission by the author. All rights reserved.

Description 

The “Summer of Blood” explodes. The U.S. is under siege from foreign jihadists and domestic terrorists. When a brilliant exploit strikes at the heart of the National Security Agency’s own network, former NSA operative Lana Elkins discovers that it came from within the United States itself. More surprising still is the attacker: “Steel Fist,” a cyber-savvy radical white supremacist whose legions feed on his anti-Islamic exhortations. His popularity only grows when a jihadist team carries out a bold, but baffling, attack on the Louisiana coast, bringing ashore a lethal invader no one can see.
Most mysterious of all are Golden Voice, a hacker of unparalleled skill with a murderous agenda and a secret past, and Tahir Hijazi, a Muslim refugee from Sudan with his own shadowy history. When Tahir’s young nephew starts dating Lana’s daughter Emma, Steel Fist calls upon his fans to embark on a new mission: assassinate the entire Elkins family.
As extremists battle each other—with Lana fighting both ends from the middle—the conflict becomes deeply personal, the stakes tragically high.
In Thomas Waite’s edgiest tale yet, battles savage the American heartland, shaking the very foundations of the world’s mightiest nation.


Author Biography

Thomas Waite is the bestselling author of the celebrated Lana Elkins thriller series. Lethal Code was declared "Taut, tense, and provocative” by Hank Phillippi Ryan, the Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author, who quickly added “…this frighteningly knowing cyberthriller will keep you turning pages—not only to devour the fast-paced fiction, but to worry about how much is terrifyingly true." Trident Code followed in form. “Scary good,” according to King Features columnist Dale Dauten: “The science and technology are as convincing as they are chilling, with an original trifecta of cyber, nuclear, and environmental terrorism all worked into one wild ride of a plot.” Unholy Code now finds Elkins fighting enemies of all stripes in the heart of America, battles that rage on the ground, in the air, and in the ever-escalating violence of cyberspace.

Waite’s first novel, Terminal Value, reached #1 at Amazon. One reviewer wrote, “Terminal Value is to the corporate world what John Grisham's The Firm is to lawyering: a taut, fast, relentless thriller. A most impressive debut novel."

Waite is a board director of, and an advisor to, a number of technology companies. His nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, the Harvard Business ReviewThe Boston Globe, and The Daily Beast. He lives in Boston.

Here are links to Waite's website and other sites.:

Links

Author Website

Facebook

Twitter
@thomasjwaite

Goodreads

*****

If you would like to win a copy of Unholy Code, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win Unholy Code." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 28 at 6 PM CT. Entrants from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10 has been called a psychological thriller and compared to Agatha Christie. Really? I'm missing something in Agatha Christie, then. I've read a number of Christie's mysteries, and never felt they were "psychological thrillers". I'll be interested to learn what other readers think. I could certainly be wrong.

Yes, The Woman in Cabin 10 takes place in a closed environment as some of Christie's books do. Lo (Laura) Blacklock is a journalist for a travel magazine, looking forward to a cruise on the luxury ship Aurora Borealis. But, just before she's to leave, her apartment is broken into while she's in bed, and, after seeing the burglar, she's terrified. She doesn't sleep for several days. She's drinking too much so she can pass out because she can't sleep. She has a fight with her partner, Judah. So, she's not in the best shape when she gets on the ship.

The Aurora Borealis is a small ship with ten cabins. The maximum number of passengers will be twenty people treated to wonderful food and pampering. Lo is too exhausted and drinking too much to appreciate it. But, she's still aware enough to know she heard a scream and the sound of a body going overboard from cabin 10. The problem? There's no guest in cabin 10, and no one is missing on the ship. Why should anyone believe a woman who has been observed to be drunk and sick?

There are other reasons to doubt Lo's story, but I'm not going to spoil the book. Is she a reliable narrator? Can the reader believe what Lo believes? The book is a page-turner. I had to keep reading to find out what really happened, and what was the truth. The story became even more fascinating with the glimpses of stories and questions from the outside world. There are problems with wifi and cell phone communication, and Judah doesn't know if Lo is ignoring him because of their fight. This isn't usually my kind of book, but I kept reading to learn the truth.

An unreliable narrator. A cruise ship on its way in international waters. Is there a missing woman? Can the reader trust Lo? The Woman in Cabin 10 is a book to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Ruth Ware's website is www.ruthware.com

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. Scout Press. 2016. ISBN 9781501132933 (hardcover), 352p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I picked up my copy at a conference.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Are You Reading?

Are you reading, or are you glued to your TV? I'll be honest and say I can't watch. But, don't worry. I'll definitely vote in November.

That really means I have time to read in the evening. I'm halfway through Ruth Ware's new novel, The Woman in Cabin 10.  Don't believe a word you heard about this being like an Agatha Christie novel. With the pace and intensity, I'm sure I'll finish the book today, and have a review up tomorrow.

What book is tearing you away from television?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder by Sara Rosett

Sara Rosett's latest Ellie Avery mystery, Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder, is a family-oriented, engaging mystery with an authentic, likable amateur sleuth. I've always admired Rosett's skill in putting family first in the mysteries, and this one is all about family.

Mitch and Ellie Avery are heading to Camden Island, Georgia with their two children, and they're all looking forward to the trip. Mitch's younger sister, Summer, is getting married to a lawyer, a man everyone likes. But, Brian comes with baggage, two mothers who don't get along, his mother, Yvonne, and his step-mother, Patricia. Summer made all the wedding arrangements, but she's finally ready to turn final details over to Ellie, keeping the "monsters-in-law" separate and out of Summer's hair as much as possible.

But, Ellie and Summer have bigger problems. Brian's best man brings Brian's ex-girlfriend as his plus-one, a woman who went ballistic when their relationship ended. Naturally, suspicion turns to her when Summer has two disturbing "accidents". But, when a death occurs, Ellie knows it's more than a nasty prank. Now, Ellie, a skillful organizer, has to organize all the events mentally as she tries to find a killer before the wedding is ruined.

In every Rosett mystery, there is a great awareness of the murder victim. That person is not forgotten. The bride, Summer, says when she thinks of the victim, of what the family is going to have to deal with, it makes all the wedding decisions seem "rather pathetic". And, Rosett always manages to include the family. Mitch and Ellie are a couple, and they're parents. They're always aware of their children, their feelings. They take care of each other. Although Ellie is the primary sleuth, Mitch values her and her knowledge and skills. It's refreshing in a mystery to see a caring couple. And, it's refreshing to see an amateur sleuth who doesn't just forget about her primary concern while investigating. She still has to take care of her family.

Ellie Avery is probably one of the most likable, relatable sleuths in a character-driven series. She's a wife and mother first, a professional organizer who uses her skills to organize her ideas about murder. Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder is a mystery that's actually heartwarming at times. And, for mystery fans, it's an enjoyable, surprising puzzle.

Sara Rosett's website is www.sararosett.com

Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder by Sara Rosett. Kensington Books. 2016. ISBN 9781617731471 (hardcover), 249p.

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




Monday, July 18, 2016

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan's young adult novels always promise a day of escape into a world of mythology and humor. The Hidden Oracle, the first in The Trials of Apollo, offers both as we see the god, Apollo, brought down to mortal size.

In fact, we first meet Apollo when he lands in a dumpster, in the physical body of a sixteen-year-old with acne, a boy named Lester Papadopoulos. He's stomped by two bullies, only to be rescued by a girl! It's Apollo (okay, Lester) who tells the story of his first encounter with Meg McCaffrey, who turns out to be a demigod. And, it's all because Apollo is punished by his father, Zeus.

But, it really isn't all because of a punishment. Apollo really is needed, in whatever form, because there's trouble at Camp Half-Blood where some of the demigods have just disappeared into the woods. Despite the threats to the camp, New York, and the entire world, it's still funny to see Apollo brought to his knees. As he half-remembers his past loves, his past mistakes, and his past life, he regrets all of it. What may seem like teenage angst is a god who lost his powers, and he really does feel "how no one else in the history of time had ever experienced problems like mine."

Riordan brings back his best-loved character, Percy Jackson, for a couple rescue scenes. But, this book is Apollo's story to tell. He tells of the trials dealing with Meg, the problems getting to Camp Half-Blood where he expects help, only to find the camp itself is in trouble. And, there's all the foolish mistakes a god in the form of a teen makes, such as vowing not to sing or use archery, his greatest talents. Instead, he sets out to hunt for a missing Oracle armed with a ukulele. "It was comforting to know that in a dire emergency I could hit people with my ukulele while Meg planted geraniums." Apollo's whole attitude can be summed up when he and Meg started out searching for the Oracle. "I led the way, not because I had any destination in mind, but because I was angry. I was tired of being cold and soaked. I was tired of being picked on. Mortals often talk about the whole world being against them, but that is ridiculous. Mortals aren't that important. In my case, the whole world really was against me."

It's always fun to read all the wry comments in Rick Riordan's books. It's particularly fun when the comments come from a god who seems to deserve what he's getting. It's a little humbling. And, it's always enjoyable to read about the Greek myths. Riordan handles them with humor while accurately relating the myths. (Well, accurately unless you're viewing them from Apollo's perspective.) The Hidden Oracle is a great kick-off to Riordan's new series, The Trials of Apollo.

Rick Riordan's website is www.rickriordan.com

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. Disney-Hyperion. 2016. 376p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen

Charming. Delightful. A perfect read for a weekend day. I can't say enough about Jane L. Rosen's Nine Women, One Dress. It may be the little black dress of books. I can't wait to share it with a friend.

The last dress Morris Siegel cut the pattern for before his retirement at almost ninety was a little black dress. And, he just had a feeling this was going to be the dress of the year, the one everyone wanted to own. It was a dress to make every woman feel gorgeous. From the day Morris cast his lot with Max Hammer in 1939 as they left Poland for New York, the two were linked. Now, Morris' last pattern for the company would be magic.

That little black dress changes the lives of a number of women, and some of the men who see those women in it. The eighteen-year-old runway model who wears "the dress" is fresh from the South, a new face, a new accent in New York. Natalie, a Bloomingdale's clerk, catches the eye of a movie star who has tabloid problems. There's the private detective who sets out to catch a husband cheating. And, there are the wonderful Bloomingdale's sales clerks who manage a little magic of their own.

I loved the characters and the variety of storylines. How could I not love the setting, New York City? The author sets various scenes in Grand Central Station, the High Line, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.  She captures the spirit of the city.

Rosen tells multiple stories in this book that comes together beautifully, with the black dress as its linchpin. And, it comes full circle, beginning and ending with the same people. Rosen doesn't leave the reader wondering too much about relationships. Why should she? Nine Women, One Dress is a contemporary fairy tale with multiple happy endings. It's a charming little number with a little revenge, a lot of humor, and plenty of romance. It's magic.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen. Doubleday. 2016. ISBN 9780385541404 (hardcover), 272p.

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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Absence of Light by Zoe Sharp

When I look back at my blog, it appears that it's been eight years since I read one of Zoe Sharp's Charlie Fox books. That can't be right because it lists Third Strike. And, I know I read Fifth Victim. 

Once you've met Charlie Fox in a book, you'll never forget her. Now, Sharp brings Charlie back in Absence of Light. It reminded me of all the drama, and the determined woman with grit. But, Absence of Light isn't quite as violent as previous books in the series.

Charlie Fox works for Parker Armstrong's close protection agency, and her job is usually to protect high-paying or high-profile clients. This time, though, she's asked to act as security for a team from Rescue & Recovery International who are helping out following an earthquake. That's just a cover. The previous security advisor is dead. And, Mrs. Hamilton, one of the donors behind Rescue & Recovery, worries that her suspicions about the team caused his death. There were rumors of organized theft from the dead, and she asked Kyle Stephens to look into that. Now, he's dead, and Charlie is taking his place, looking into both the theft and Stephens' death.

Charlie's arrival isn't exactly greeted with cheers by the team. In fact, if she was the suspicious sort, she'd guess that they're testing her, and wouldn't be too upset if she ended up dead. But, no one on the team could have caused the aftershock that leaves Charlie trapped in darkness. It's the perfect analogy for the state of Charlie's life right now, but she doesn't need to actually experience it to know how bad it is.

Absence of Light is as fast-paced and action-packed as any of the Charlie Fox thrillers. It's a suspenseful story, and, typical of Sharp, she leaves the reader hanging with one storyline. This story, called "A Charlie Fox Novella" is a little less violent, but just as intriguing as all of the books in this series. I'm a fan of the gutsy bodyguard, a woman who handles her work life brilliantly and brutally, but whose personal life is often a mess. Welcome back, Charlie.

Zoe Sharp's website is www.zoesharp.com

Absence of Light by Zoe Sharp. Felony & Mayhem. (2013, 2016). ISBN 9781631940811 (paperback), 222p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Winners & Terrence McCauley, Guest Blogger & Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Sandy O. from Milford, OH won E.J. Copperman's Written Off, and Cheryl S. of Fort Pierre, SD will receive Larry. D. Sweazy's See Also Deception. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Terrence McCauley, author of A Murder of Crows, is our guest author today. I'm giving away one copy of the book, but, first, he's going to discuss one of my favorite topics - libraries. Thank you, Terrence.

*****
Many writers have fond memories of childhoods spent with noses in books and hours spent at the local library. I wasn’t like that. I was different. My affection for libraries came later in life.

I confess that I hated to read as a kid, mostly because I didn’t like the books I was supposed to be reading. The Hardy Boys and similar stories geared toward children made my teeth hurt. Fiction written for older readers was over my head. I’d rather try to tell stories of my own, draw or watch movies than read books. I suppose all of it helped me become the storyteller I am today, but it sure didn’t seem like it at the time. It just felt normal.

I began to see the power of the library in college. I came to enjoy the dedicated contemplation and hours of study spent in the stacks at Fordham’s old library. (They’ve since built a brand new one that’s nice, but has neither the charm nor the mileage of its predecessor.) The quiet solitude of the old building provided a great environment where I could study Latin, comprehend the political beliefs of Soviet Russia and plumb the depths of the theological meaning of St. John’s Book of Revelation. It was a place where I could feel my mind – and myself – actually grow for the first time. 

I still returned to the Fordham library after I graduated to work on a novel I was trying to pull together. It was my first effort at creative writing, so I suppose I found comfort in returning to the same place where I had found such enlightenment only a few years before. Although the book took years to write and was never good enough to be published, the experience taught me how to write a novel - and how to not write one. Sometimes, learning the wrong way to do something is just as valuable as learning how to do it. 

I used the lessons I learned on all those weekends in the library spent alone with my thoughts and with my craft to find my own voice as a storyteller. I used that discovery to keep growing and honing my skills until I actually wrote a novel that won some awards and was eventually published (PROHIBITION in 2012). A second novel soon followed and was also published in 2013 (SLOW BURN), which ultimately led to the creation of SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and my upcoming novel A MURDER OF CROWS.

Since I graduated Fordham in 1996 and didn’t get published until 2012, it doesn’t take a math major to see how long it took for me to finally get published. That meant a lot of long days spent in libraries, often wondering whether any of my stories would ever amount to anything. Wondering if I’d ever become a published writer. But despite all of the rejection and all of the bitter disappointment that many writers experience in their careers, the self-awareness I found in the stacks of the Fordham library gave me the perseverance to keep going, to improve and to keep trying until I made it. 

That’s why it’s almost fitting that one of the most memorable moments of my life came earlier this year when I was featured at an event by the East Meadow Book Club out on Long Island, NY. I was surprised to see the area they’d set aside for me was not only filled with people who had read SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, but by people who had really read it. They knew the characters, the plot lines, understood why I’d written a character a certain way and appreciated how the plot was set up to involve future works. They spoke about the characters I had created as though they were real people. They had enjoyed something that I had created so much that they had taken the time to not only come out on a cold night to talk about it, but to thank me for writing it.
It was one of the best experiences of my life because, in a way, it symbolized a journey that had come full circle. A journey that had begun in a library almost twenty years before had taken a pleasant detour through one all those years later. A journey that I hope continues for several years to come. 

*****

Thank you, Terrence! Now would you like to hear about his new book, A Murder of Crows?


About A MURDER OF CROWS

For years, every intelligence agency in the world has been chasing the elusive terrorist known only as The Moroccan. But when James Hicks and his clandestine group known as the University thwart a bio-terror attack against New York City and capture The Moroccan, they find themselves in the crosshairs of their own intelligence community.

The CIA, NSA, DIA and the Mossad are still hunting for for The Moroccan and will stop at nothing to get him. Hicks must find a way to keep the other agencies at bay while he tries to break The terrorist and uncover what else he is planning.

When he ultimately surrenders information that leads to the most wanted terrorist in the world, Hicks and his team find themselves in a strange new world where allies become enemies, enemies become allies and the fate of the University - perhaps even the Western world - may hang in the balance.

Can Hicks and the University survive an onslaught from A MURDER OF CROWS?

Website: http://www.terrencepmccauley.com


If you would like to win a copy of A Murder of Crows, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win a Murder of Crows." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 21 at 6 PM CT.