Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Are You Reading?

I'm a day early this week, but I've been working on those big monthly posts, Treasures in My Closet, so I haven't had time to finish a book. I've really just started the second Ishmael Jones mystery by Simon R. Green, Dead Man Walking. I like Ishmael's deadpan comments. And, black humor is right up my alley.

So, while I'm adding titles that might put more books on your TBR piles, what books have you been reading? Did you finish anything good this week? Or, are you into something you're enjoying? We'd love to know!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Upstream by Mary Oliver

A friend asked me if I read poetry, and I said not really. But, I respect the turn of a phrase, the rhythm, the poetic handling of words in an essay. I don't often read what critics call "literature". However, I'm a fan of essays, and with a recommendation of Mary Oliver, I picked up her recent bestseller, Upstream.

Oliver is a poet who also writes essays, in this case a collection about her close connection to nature. She says, "I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple." Time and again, Oliver uses doors and houses and foxes as she observes the world. Books and nature were her escape as a child, and they still serve the same purpose. Without going into detail about her childhood, she indicates she's alive today because she found ways to escape. And one door led her to a natural world that was as essential to her survival as air.

In section 3, Oliver seems to make a departure from her essays about her existence when she discusses earlier writers. She discusses Emerson, Poe, Whitman, and Wordsworth. But, it's not really a departure. She examines their lives and their connections to their works, just as she examines her own need for nature as she writes.

There's a little melancholy to Mary Oliver's essays. The observance of nature also means an observance of the cycle of life. It makes for an awareness of a person's own aging, and eventual disappearance from the world. Her awareness is evident in stories of a gull, the turtles, the spider. But, she also recognizes joy. My favorite essay is called "Ropes" about a dog who wouldn't stay home. She says the story could have several morals. "Or maybe it's about the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you."

Maybe.

Upstream by Mary Oliver. Penguin Press. 2016. ISBN 9781594206702 (hardcover), 178p.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Red-Letter Day by SP McArdle


There's a story behind this story. The Red-Letter Day is a juvenile book for ages 8-12 by SP McArdle
who is related to my brother-in-law, Kevin. When we were in Dublin, Kevin's cousin, John Henry, mentioned their cousin had written a children's book about the Easter Rising. Because I am fascinated by that story, I ordered the book. Yes, the climax of the book is the Easter Rising, and McArdle published this on April 24, 2016, exactly one hundred years to the day from that event. But, her book is a children's book about the history of Ireland that requires some knowledge of that history. Because Irish children will know the history, McArdle doesn't name the historic sites or people until the end of the book.

The scenario is a little reminiscent of The Magic Treehouse books. Jenny has great adventures at the farmhouse owned by her aunt and uncle. There's a portal to history in one bedroom, and the guardian of the portal is a cranky gnome named Jeremiah. He uses a suitcase to send Jenny back in time, and he usually sets her watch for a certain date. This time, she finds herself sent back to find a special parchment and pen, and to touch the finished "Freedom Document" to come home again.

This time, Jeremiah doesn't provide a guide. When Jenny finds herself at a university in 1871, she meets a man in a black robe who says he's her guide, and says to call him O'Flahertie. She also encounters a man named Dorian, who "looks handsome, but underneath it's a different story." Her guide takes her inside an enormous library, and then to see a special book that sets her on her adventure. Her quest takes Jenny and "O'Flahertie" to 806 AD, where they follow the legendary giant Finn McCool, seeing the Giant's Causeway and the beehive huts that were once homes to monks.

As part of the journey, Jenny and O'Flahertie run into ten writers, five English and five Irish, who argue over a book. By now, Jenny has learned the significance of blue appearances or green ones. Those who are blue are ghosts, while green people have not actually been born yet. So, she's shaken when the final stop is 1916, and she realizes her guide should now be blue. And, she's shattered when she sees that the leaders of the rebellion in Dublin are all blue.

McArdle's first book in the Suitcase series is an excellent introduction to the story of Ireland for children. She plans future books about Paris and New York. While the adventure itself was fascinating, Jenny's conscience is a little awkward. She refers to the two sides of her nature as Risky Self and Sensible Self. That aspect seems unnecessary since she has a guide on her journey. Children will appreciate the book for Jenny's adventure. Adult readers, familiar with Irish history and literature, will recognize the figures and stories in the book, although they are not given names in the course of the novel.

Because few of you will ever read the book since it's available only from the author in Ireland, I'm going to mention a few of the facts that McArdle includes at the end of the book. Jenny originally lands at Trinity College in Ireland, where she sees The Book of Kells. Finn McCool is a giant in Irish legend, said to have built the Giant's Causeway. And, in 1916, Jenny witnesses the reading of the Irish Proclamation of Independence, read outside the Government Post Office in Dublin by Padraig Pearse during the Easter Rising. Along with the other men who signed the proclamation, he was executed.

And, Jenny's guide? He was a witty man who said, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it." "Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer." Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde.

SP McArdle's website is www.spmcardle.com

The Red-Letter Day by SP McArdle. SPPublishInk.com. 2016. ISBN 9780993582004 (paperback), 132p.

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

Trinity College Library

Trinity College
Beehive Huts

Oscar Wilde Statue in Merrion Square, Dublin




Sunday, November 27, 2016

December 2016 Cozy Mysteries from Berkley Publishing

This month's book chat only features seven cozy mysteries from Berkley Publishing, but Jinx stopped by!




Here are the titles featured this month.

Dead, Bath, and Beyond by Lorraine Bartlett with Laurie Cass (4th Victoria Square mystery)
Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs (7th Cackleberry Club mystery)
Spouse on Haunted Hill by E.J. Copperman (8th Haunted Guesthouse mystery)
Prose and Cons by Amanda Flowers (2nd Magical Bookshop mystery)
Frosty the Dead Man by Christine Husom (3rd Snow Globe Shop mystery)
The Ghosts of Misty Hollow by Sue Ann Jaffarian (6th Ghost of Granny Apples mystery, 3rd from Berkley Publishing)
Crime and Catnip by T.C. LoTempio (3rd Nick & Nora mystery)

Happy Holidays from Jinx & me!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green

Simon R. Green's homage to Agatha Christie's mysteries isn't like any other tribute I've ever read. But, then, Green's urban fantasies are twisted and a little gruesome, and wonderful. Welcome to Ishmael Jones' world in the first mystery in that series, The Dark Side of the Road.

When Ishmael Jones' boss in The Organization, the Colonel, tells him he needs him at his family's country house estate in Cornwall, Ishmael heads out into a terrible blizzard. "Off into the night, and the dark, one more time. To do things in the shadows that the everyday people don't need to know about." But, when he arrives, he finds the Colonel's family and a few friends gathered fro Christmas. There's the Colonel's father, Walter Belcourt; Walter's current wife and gorgeous daughter, Penny; his ex-wife, Diana, who is the Colonel's mother; Diana's companion; a business acquaintance of Walter's, and Penny's ex-fiance. Of course, there is also a mysterious butler and a cook. But, there's no Colonel. When Ishmael and Penny find a body out in the snow, it's all to obvious that they're stranded in the country house with a killer.

In typical Christie fashion, the bodies pile up as the suspects persist in wandering off by themselves in the manor. However, the murders are a little more grisly than in traditional mysteries. But, it's easy to recognize the patterns, and Green plays with the reader. Ishmael and the Colonel once worked on a case involving Roger Styles, two names familiar to Christie fans. Of course, there's a military title, the Colonel. But, the most amusing correlation comes with a conversation between Walter's ex-wife and his present one. Diana starts with, "'I feel like a character in an Agatha Christie novel! Which is never good for a minor character...'" "'I am not a minor character!' Melanie said immediately. 'Walter; tell that woman I am not a minor character!'"

If you don't mind a little horror and supernatural elements in your mystery, if you're a fan of Agatha Christie, you might want to venture into Ishmael Jones territory, "the hidden world, and the dark side of the road". Simon R. Green has once again created an intriguing hero and a fascinating world in the first in his new series, The Dark Side of the Road.

Simon R. Green's website is www.simonrgreen.co.uk

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green. Severn House. 2015. ISBN 9780727883889 (hardcover), 217p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book




Friday, November 25, 2016

Winners and Cozy Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. David Rosenfelt's The Twelve Dogs of Christmas will go to Jacqueline F. from Chicago, IL. Jennifer M. of Oakland, CA won Snowfall on Haven Point. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two cozy mysteries. Miranda James' Digging Up the Dirt is the latest Southern Ladies mystery. An'gel and Dickce Ducote are just two of the women who once had feelings for Hadley Partridge. Now that he's back in town to restore his family mansion, all the women in the Athena Garden Club are fluttering around him again. But, death and bodies seem to pile up around, Hadley, and the Ducote sisters will use all the gossip and stories of the past to find a killer.




Or, you could win Ali Brandon's Twice Told Tail, a Black Cat Bookshop mystery. Darla Pettistone from Pettistone's Fine Books teams up with Hamlet the cat to find a killer who might be involved with a suspiciously high price for an antique book on the store's online store.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Digging Up the Dirt" or "Win Twice Told Tail." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Dec. 1 at 6 PM CT.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm going to send you all my Thanksgiving wishes today, and take tomorrow off. I'm grateful for all of you who read with me, share your books and your reading, and love books. Thank you for sticking with me when I've been busy, attending conferences, going on trips. I appreciate all of you, and hope we'll be together for a number of years.

I'm thankful for my entire family. My mom and sisters, Linda and Christie, and I had the chance to celebrate Mom's birthday together in June. We talked and laughed so much. There's nothing more wonderful than spending time with them, and laughing as much as we did. Congratulations to a niece and nephew for their engagements this year. And, thank you to Linda and her husband, Kevin, for that lifetime dream trip to Ireland. And, I'm grateful to Linda. Our recent trip to New York City was a post-election therapy trip as much as anything. We may not be happy about the results, but we can share our passion and willingness to stand up for what's right. Thank you, Linda.

Authors and the crime fiction community! This blog and my Poisoned Pen blog, and so much of what I do would not exist without you. Thank you for sharing your words, your books, and your time.

I love to travel, and I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to attend conferences and travel this year. And, I had the chance to see plays that I loved, and concerts.

And, I want to thank friends. I have wonderful friends, and we share books and laugh together. I'm grateful that Kaye and David are in my life. I'm glad I can see Chantelle now in New York as well as in Arizona. Thanks to Sandie for helping with "Have You Heard?" And, Donna gets an entire entry. We share books and hugs, a love of theater and Celtic Thunder and Byrne and Kelly, and try to help each other when we can. Donna and her husband, Terry, invite me over for holidays and meals. And, I know I'll never go hungry when Terry's cooking (smile).

Family, friends, ones I've met and ones I've only corresponded with, travel. And, of course, my books and cats. I hope you have as much to be thankful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What Are You Reading?

If you read yesterday's comments, you saw this coming. Jeff mentioned that I haven't featured "What Are You Reading" lately. It's an easy post, but I like to have time to see what you're all reading. And, when I'm out of town, I don't have a lot of time for the blog.

I've just started The Sleeping Beauty Killer by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke. It's book three in a series I really like. Television producer Laurie Moran and her "Under Suspicion" team take on cold cases, trying to determine if a suspect is actually guilty, or if someone else committed murder. This time, Casey Carter went to prison for the murder of her wealthy fiancé, all the time insisting she was asleep when he was killed. Fifteen years later, when she's released, she still insists she's innocent, and wants the "Under Suspicion" team to investigate.

So, what are you reading before the holiday? Please let us know!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes

I may not always get around to reading a book the month I receive it, or, in this case, even the year I receive it. But, my sister picked a mystery out of my TBR pile last weekend, and, on her recommendation, I read it. She was right. Julianne Holmes' first Clock Shop Mystery, Just Killing Time, is terrific. There's no romantic triangle. The amateur sleuth does not set out to be a heroine. And, she isn't too stupid to live. I'm ready to read the second in the series, Clock and Dagger.

After Ruth Clagan's beloved grandmother died, she and her grandfather had a falling out. She hadn't seen him in five years, but she wrote to him after her divorce, asking him if she could come visit. She never has that chance. Instead, she hears from his lawyer, saying he had a heart attack while someone attacked him, and the police are viewing it as murder. Now, Ruth, who shares her grandfather's passion for clocks, has inherited the master craftsman's clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket. But, Orchard, Massachusetts isn't exactly the welcoming town Ruth remembers from her years visiting, and then living, with her grandparents.

It seems G.T., Grandpa Thom, was actively stirring up trouble in town. Or, to be more precise, he and a friend were fighting the town manager and the people who wanted to develop Orchard. Then, G.T.'s old friend died, leaving him to fight the battle. A few townspeople, including the new owner of the hair salon, were on G.T.'s side. And, the more Ruth pokes around in her grandfather's records, the more she's convinced the town problems might be the cause of G.T.'s murder.

Holmes does an excellent job introducing the small town to the reader. Ruth herself is an outsider, back after a lengthy absence, so we see the changes and the townspeople through her eyes. And, we see her grandfather through her eyes, and the eyes of a newcomer. He was an important figure in town, and, as his granddaughter, she never saw the activist side of him. Ruth learns a great deal about her estranged grandfather through the eyes of others. While she wants to find out who the killer is, to bring closure and peace for herself and her grandfather's widow, she isn't actively pounding the pavement, looking for a killer. She's using the clocks, her knowledge of them and the family records of clocks, to search for G.T.'s knowledge. And, the author doesn't portray Ruth as a stupid sleuth. In fact, at one point she admits to herself, "I was no hero. Let the police do their job."

It's easy to miss a new series and a new amateur sleuth. It's worth going back to pick up Julianne Holmes' Just Killing Time.

Julianne Holmes' website is www.julianneholmes.com, and she's one of the authors at https://wickedcozyauthors.com

Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425275528 (paperback), 294p.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

I'm doing something I seldom do on my blog, talking about a book that isn't available for another month. It's released December 27th. If you're a reader, you might want to ask for it for an after-holiday gift, or use a gift card to buy it. Many of you might remember Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club, written about the books he and his mother discussed when she was dying. Now, he's written a very personal book about books that have been essential in explaining his own life. It's a fascinating collection. You'll recognize some of the titles in Books for Living. Even if they aren't books that resonate with you, they may trigger your own memories.

Schwalbe's introduction includes one of the scariest nightmares a reader could face, not being able to find a book for a long trip. His storytelling is charming. And, he says, "It's the thought of being bookless for hours that jolts me awake in a cold sweat." I'm right there with him.

In my field, we do Reader's Advisory, suggesting books others might want to read. Schwalbe could do excellent reader's advisory. He understands that people have to find "the right book at the right time, the one that tells you what you need to know or feel when you need to know or feel it."

Schwalbe analyzes the books that have moved him over the years, titles such as The Girl on the Train, Stuart Little, The Odyssey, The Little Prince. He summarizes the book while also discussing his relationship with the title. Schwalbe says, "Every book changes your life. So I like to ask: How is this book changing mine?"

Books for Living might not change your life. But, it might remind you of books that did change your life. I'm suggesting Will Schwalbe's book for all of us who are passionate about collecting books that move us, change us, influence our lives.

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. Alfred A. Knopf. 2017. ISBN 9780385353540 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Have You Heard?" - Dead Bolt by Juliet Blackwell

“Have You Heard?” is a new column featured only on Lesa’s Book Critiques.  It features many reviews of audiobooks (fiction, with a concentration in mysteries) but these reviews will include recent and past books for an interesting mixture of titles. Content is often written by Sandie Herron.  It also covers news of note and not generally available, such as ASAP publishing a limited edition for a certain author or perhaps something important out of Publisher’s Weekly.  The column is published sporadically, so you’ll want to watch for it!

*****
Dead Bolt
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 7 hours and 19 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Audible.com Release Date: September 9, 2013
ASIN: B00EV2ONDI

I've read this book previously, and I'm surprised that I did not write a previous review. I like to write something if not a complete review as I think of it, just so I record my initial thoughts and/or feelings upon completion.

Briefly, the book follows Mel Turner, current head of Turner Construction, a leading company that renovates old homes in San Francisco to their former glory as much as possible and to the extent their clients desire.

Mel has run into some snags on the renovation of The Cheshire House, once a boarding home with many feline residents. Today all that is gone, and a young couple thrilled to finally own it have hired Mel to restore it to its former state before the boarding home.

They don't quite realize at first that this will include laying three or four ghosts to rest. The story of their demise is actually based in fact. Mel's former beau, Graham, has left his former job with Cal. OSHA in favor of green construction methods, at Mel's suggestion. He plays a key role in dispelling the ghosts. Even the neighbor across the street with his upholstery shop helped and hindered. There were many subplots well presented and explained and tied into the ending, far too many to list here without spoiling the book.

I enjoyed DEAD BOLT just as much this time if not more. I was able to make much more sense of the many twists and turns of this title. I'm sure some of that came with my familiarity with the characters and the city. I could devote a bit more emotional energy into following the intricacies of the plot as well as the spirits in the attic. Granted my interest was further piqued by Mel renovating The Cheshire House because of the many cats that lived there at one time.

I've truly enjoyed the story, the many mysteries within, and the variety of people who populated it. Further, I still enjoy Xe Sands' voice narrating the book with the numerous foreign words and phrases rolling off her tongue as naturally and seemingly effortlessly as a child's fairy tale. A narrator can make or break an audiobook, and I think Xe Sands helps make it as much as Juliet Blackwell's writing each time. Highly recommended.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Winners and Christmas Book Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Christmas in Paris is going to Linda B. from Fort Wayne, IN. Glen D. from Yuba City, CA won Rhys Bowen's Away in a Manger. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

A couple weeks ago, I gave away a copy of David Rosenfelt's The Twelve Dogs of Christmas. I have a second copy to give away, a hardcover for yourself or to give as a present. It features criminal defense lawyer Andy Carpenter and his faithful golden retriever, Tara, in a story with Rosenfelt's trademark humor. Andy takes on a case for a friend who rescues stray puppies. Just before Christmas, a neighbor reported her for having more than the legal number of pets. When that neighbor ends up dead, guess who the murder suspect is.





Or, you could win RaeAnne Thayne's Snowfall on Haven Point. This one is a Christmas romance, bringing together a widow and her two kids with a grouchy sheriff. Andrea Montgomery only wants her children to enjoy their first Christmas in Haven Point. But, when a friend asks her to check on her brother, a sheriff who is recovering from a hit-and-run, she can hardly refuse. Then, a blizzard forces them together for the holidays.

Are you in the mood for a Christmas mystery or a romance? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Because the titles are long, let's make this easy. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Mystery" or "Win Romance." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thanksgiving evening, Nov. 24 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wanted - Short Posts from Mystery Authors




Ah ha! I bet that wasn't exactly what you expected to see on my blog in mid-November. It's one of my favorite Christmas books. I'm looking for mystery authors to write a short piece about their favorite holiday mystery, or their favorite mysteries of 2016.

As the blogger for The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, I also send out their monthly calendar, and saw that one of the discussion groups will be sharing favorite holiday or 2016 mysteries. So, if you'd like to do the same, I'll use it at the end of this month & during December on the blog. You can tell us your favorite holiday mystery or mysteries, or your top 3-5 mysteries of 2016. The books MUST be in print. And, I'd like a .jpeg photo of you. Interested? Email me at Lesa@poisonedpen.com. I can repeat there what I'm looking for. I want a very short summary of your selection. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

I have a confession to make. Even though I'm a librarian, I sometimes balk at reading the authors everyone else is reading. I've even heard Fredrik Backman speak, and he loves libraries, but despite everyone's comments about his novels, such as A Man Called Ove, I haven't yet read the books. Sometimes, though, I can come at an author's works via a novella. And Every Morning the Way Gets Home Gets Longer and Longer is just that, a novella that draws in a reader.

It's a big story in a small package, a story that will break your heart. It's a story of the love shared by a Grandpa and his grandson, Noah. They share a love of math and fishing, and memories of Grandma. But, Grandpa's world is changing. They're in an unfamiliar world that seems to be shrinking. "We're in my brain, Noahnoah. And it got smaller overnight again." When Noah asks about pieces of paper, his Grandpa answers, "Those are ideas blowing away and they've been doing that for a long time."

Backman says good-byes are hard. And, they're hard when everyone knows they're coming. Grandpa worries he won't remember his stories. He won't know what to do when they're lost in his world. "What do I say to Noah? How do I explain that I"m leaving him even before I do?" And, the wise Noah says he'll tell Grandpa the stories so they can remember, and, if Grandpa forgets him, he'll get to meet him all over again, and he's a pretty nice person to meet.

It might sound hokey to say Backman's story tugs at your heartstrings. If you've ever loved a grandparent or a parent, and watched them age, the novella will break your heart. But, there's so much love in Backman's And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer that you'll want to share this book with others. It's worth sharing.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman. Atria Books. 2016. 9781501160486 (hardcover), 76p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Monday, November 14, 2016

Have You Heard? - What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie

What's a Ghoul to Do?
Ghost Hunter Mystery #1
Written by Victoria Laurie, Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hours 10 mins long
Published January 5th 2010 by Audible Inc (first published April 3rd 2007)
ASIN: B0032Z3L2Y
 
Victoria Laurie brings us a fascinating series in this first book featuring MJ Holliday (yes, Doc Holliday was her great, great uncle) and Gilley Gillespie. MJ is a psychic medium who can communicate with the dead; Gilley is a techno geek who helps her with all the machinery that goes with a ghost hunt, the night vision goggles, thermal cameras, walkie talkies for them to stay in touch, etc.  MJ works alone while Gilley usually stays in the van monitoring all those instruments she uses or have been strategically placed ahead of time.

The two have been friends for a long time and consider each other BFFs (best friends forever). Gilley is gay so there’s no possibility of a romantic duo here. Each lives in their own condo in Boston but share an office, where they are sitting doing mostly nothing since they haven’t exactly had loads of jobs lately, when Dr. Steven Sable walks in.

Dr. Sable’s grandfather recently passed away in what most are calling a suicide. He can’t believe his grandfather would jump from the roof of his hunting lodge in upstate Massachusetts that had been owned by the family for quite some time. The doctor needs to know because ownership of the lodge and surrounding land will change depending whether it was a suicide or not. Steven needs MJ’s help in communicating with his grandfather to determine why he fell from the roof and died.

It wasn’t until a blind date set up by the local coffee shop’s owner went completely awry that MJ softened to Dr. Sable, now privately known as Dr. Delicious due to his being very handsome. One of MJ’s hard and fast rules had been that she worked alone. Dr. Sable was insisting on being there when she found his grandfather so he could chat with him. MJ finally agreed when the fee went high enough.

Using all their high tech equipment and MJ’s instincts, they set off on a journey to find one ghost. However, they ended up finding several. In the process, many aspects of ghost busting are explained, such as what the various pieces of equipment did, what MJ did when she’d found a ghost, how she crossed them over when willing and also when not willing.

Without giving you any more plot to spoil this exciting story, I can tell you this mystery really did turn into a mystery, not only a ghost story. The plot took several twists and unexpected turns and brought other characters into the story, both dead and alive. The ghostbusters never expected to need Dr. Sable’s medical help, too! Steven becomes an integral part of solving the many mysteries that they discover trying to solve the first one.

I very much enjoyed the first book in this ghoulish series. It was fascinating to watch and learn how a true medium works. It was extremely funny to listen to Dr. Sable try to use up-to-date slang but not having English as his primary language for such a long time, he tends to botch sentences up. It is almost annoying after a while, but then the author cuts back a bit on the reactions of others listening to him, and the fun and charm return.

MJ and Gilley start as best friends and remain that way at the end. They squabble and disagree but always make up in the end. They know firsthand all the stressors involved in ghost busting and give each other credit for surviving them. Steven fit in nicely with his novice hunting skills, finding himself enjoying the process and grateful for the conclusion.

I am impressed by how much this story grabbed my attention. I found myself reading a lot all of a sudden. I didn’t want the book to end, really, but now I look forward to the remainder of the series. Next up is DEMONS ARE A GHOUL’S BEST FRIEND.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Have You Heard? - If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell

If Walls Could Talk
Haunted Home Renovation Book 1
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 7 hrs, 27 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Audible.com Release Date: August 19, 2013
ASIN: B00DRHQI86

Melanie Turner has made quite a name for herself remodeling historic houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her father was in charge of Turner Construction for many years.  The sudden death of Mel's mother knocked him off his feet, so Mel stepped in for him, but it has been two years, and he shows no sign of returning to work.  Now her reputation may be on the line.

First she must figure out what unidentified assailants want from the old house that caused them to torture Kenneth, who was living there.  A demo party provides good cover to root through walls and ceilings, leaving none untouched by holes and gashes or torn down.  By morning's light the party has just disbanded, leaving a mortally wounded Kenneth to be found by Mel Turner on an early morning visit about the house.  She cradles Kenneth as he dies.

The police show up but do a poor job collecting evidence from the scene, including missing finding a gun on the dumb waiter.  Mel wonders what is up for the SFPD to do such a lousy job.  Then she discovers that they have arrested Kenneth's good friend Matt because a nurse overheard Kenneth saying it was all Matt's fault just before he died.  Only she had no idea Kenneth was referring to a map, as in treasure map.  Motive was becoming clearer.

Was the map what the assailants want, if there even is one?  Perhaps treasure has already been found at this unknown field?  Was the whole thing a hoax from a bygone era when tricksters seeded mines with gold and gems?  Some men want the map quite desperately.

Mel does find a journal written by a woman who ran the household until her husband quarreled with his mentor and one ended up dead.  Mel takes the journal to the Historical Society for safekeeping but then their place is ransacked.  Everywhere Mel goes ends up the worse for wear.  She has to find out what these men are looking for before this historic beauty and Mel's business go to the dump.

This was a very satisfying mystery that went in many directions, zig zagging all over the Bay area and from suspect to suspect.  Mel does solve this mystery, but I would never have guessed the solution without her sleuthing.  Then again, Mel had a bit of extra help when Kenneth's ghost popped in and out, filling her in on some crucial information.  Not a cozy per say but the violence did all take place off stage.  I think I would call this either a “hard cozy” or “soft boiled.”  

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook narrated by Xe Sands who has read most if not all of Juliet Blackwell's books expertly with phrases in French and a Latino dialect as no strangers to Xe.  She is, without a doubt, one of my favorite narrators.  Along with Juliet Blackwell, they make a formidable team!

Sandie Herron

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Have You Heard? - Cat on the Edge by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat on the Edge
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41BuOGlWJ3L._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSeries: Joe Grey Mystery #1
Written By Shirley Rousseau Murphy, Narrated By Susan Boyce
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 7 hours and 11 minutes
Publisher:  Blackstone Audio, Inc.     Release Date: 03-06-13
ASIN: B00BPY8BTC

Enchanting.  I didn't recall how charming the first book in this long running series was.  I've read the print book, but now I've read it on audio. Susan Boyce has brought characters to life using her voice and the words of Joe Grey and his human companion Clyde Damon, as well as Wilma Getz and her feline, the lovely Dulcie.  

As the book opens, a man named Samuel Beckwhite is killed when a cloaked figure hits his skull with a wrench, cracking his skull.  Joe Grey and Dulcie both watched Beckwhite get hit and heard the crack in the alley behind Jolly's restaurant yet could not identify him at all.  Not only did Joe Grey see the murder, the murderer saw Joe and Dulcie watching him and chased Joe all over town.  The murderer’s partner chased Dulcie.  Why would an "ordinary" man chase a common house cat as if he could relay the facts to the police or his human owner?  Joe runs away so Clyde and his animal housemates are not harmed.  Dulcie has a harder time leaving Wilma who lives alone.

Once Joe and Dulcie are safe, they discover that they have new abilities – that is, they can understand the human language, they can speak it, they can read it, and they can write it!  How did they all of a sudden become sentient?  They guess that the shock of watching a murder pushed them over the edge to this new state.

Both Joe and Dulcie were followed home.  When Wilma goes out she leaves Dulcie's dinner just outside the door so the house would not smell of fish.  Only the murderer has sprinkled it with poison, one that Dulcie knows will hurt or kill her.  With great sadness and a rumbling tummy, she turns to leave and runs smack into the bad man.  Another chase ensues with Dulcie vividly afraid for her life.  Finally Joe Grey meets up with her, and they escape again.  This time they know for certain that they can’t go home, since the bad men know where they live.  They take to the trees and rooftops.

Joe is worried about Clyde worrying about him.  He finally decides to call Clyde from a public phone.  Despite Joe’s numerous attempts at a speech to give Clyde, as he answers the phone, Joe Grey blurts out that it is Joe Grey, Clyde’s cat.  Clyde is sure this is all a joke.  He simply can’t accept it.  Clyde knows just who to visit who will understand his conundrum … Wilma.  Wilma relates that the two cats had been home for a short period because they’d pulled various foods out of the refrigerator (who does that?) and their wrappers were left on the floor.  An afghan was shaped into a bed that Dulcie and Joe Grey cuddled in for warmth.  While she was shaking her head in disbelief that the cats got food out on their own, she is even more surprised by Clyde’s story.

The man who killed Beckwhite had a Welsh partner.  When he nears Kate Osborne, her husband Jimmie’s partner at the car dealership in town where they work with Clyde Damon, he whispers a Welsh saying, and suddenly Kate begins to shrink.  Kate is now viewing the world from the level of shoes and skirts and swishing between legs.  How is it that she’s so small?  How is it that she has turned into a cat?  The Welshman knows where Kate lives and goes there to wait for her.  She makes it inside and begins to gather her belongings so she can leave town.  It is then that she finds the foreign bank books behind her own on the desk.  She takes them to the police the next day all while gathering together money and paperwork she’ll need.  She also discovers that her husband has been having an affair, so she simply must leave.  Kate knows the words to say to change back and forth into a cat, and she uses this to her advantage.

Kate and Clyde had been lovers and then friends for many years.  Kate goes to him to share all that has happened.  Clyde can’t believe it even though he’s just seen it with his own eyes.  Kate begins to put together many facts and clues and things begin to make sense.  She even finds Joe and Dulcie to talk things over with and come up with a plan to get back at the murderer and his Welsh partner.

Does all this sound too unbelievable?  It is not a cutesy, baby-talk-to-the-cats novel.  This is a serious mystery novel in which some of the characters happen to be cats that can read and speak.  It makes for some interesting sleuthing and clever ways to report in to the police without losing their anonymity.  The cats are not loved by all; they are hated by some and threatened by others.  They just want to continue living their lives in Molena Point with the many residents we come to know over the upcoming books. And want to help their friends whenever possible.  

This and the upcoming novels are all captivating stories of friends and neighbors and the lives they live side by side and as a town.  They are a true example of community.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Have You Heard? The Puzzles of Peter Duluth

I'm heading to New York City (Broadway!) this weekend, so Sandie Herron is filling in with a few Have You Heard? posts.

A note from the specialty publisher Crippen & Landru:

Dear Mystery Fan

Patrick Quentin's The Puzzles of Peter Duluth has received many positive comments, but none more noteworthy is Michael's Dirda's review in the Washington Post.  We thought that you might like to read what he said:


The Puzzles of Peter Duluth


"The Puzzles of Peter Duluth , by Patrick Quentin (Crippen & Landru). As one learns from Curtis Evans’s excellent introduction, Patrick Quentin was the pen name used by Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler for nine mysteries written between 1932 and 1952, most notably the 1938 classic, 'Puzzle for Players' . . . .   After 1952 Wheeler produced seven additional Quentin novels on his own, but then, successfully, switched careers: He soon won a trio of Tonys for scripting the musicals 'A Little Night Music,' 'Candide' and 'Sweeney Todd'” All four stories here feature producer Peter Duluth and his actress wife, Iris. In the almost zany 'Puzzle for Poppy' the couple solve the attempted murder of a St. Bernard. This story and 'Death and the Rising Star' exhibit a distinctly 1940s breeziness, somewhat reminiscent of the 'Thin Man' movies, but the two novellas, 'Death Rides the Ski-Tow' and 'Murder With Flowers,' are, as Evans notes, more reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers."

The Purple Flame and Other Detective StoriesWe shall be making an announcement soon about our forthcoming "Lost Classic," Frederick Irving Anderson's The Purple Flame and Other Detective Stories, but you can see the cover design -- based on a 1935 photo of a New York street scene -- on our website www.crippenlandru.com

Best wishes,

Doug
Crippen & Landru

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Winners and Christmas Book Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Paula E. of Coweta, OK won The Twelve Dogs of Christmas. Cheryl K. of Gilberts, IL won the copy of Cheddar Off Dead. I'm mailing the books today.

This week, I have a Christmas mystery and a romance to give away. Away in a  Manger is Rhys Bowen's Christmas mystery featuring Molly Murphy. Molly's married, has a family, and is enjoying Christmastime in 1905 New York City. And, then she meets a beggar girl from England, living with an aunt who mistreats her and her older brother. Molly's soon drawn into an investigation that takes her into the highest levels of New York society as she looks into the story behind the two children.





Anita Hughes takes us to a glamorous city in Christmas in Paris. But, Isabel Lawson is there by herself, when she should be on her honeymoon. She thought she and her fiancé were perfectly matched until he decided to take over his grandparents' farm. Now, she's in Paris, determined to try to set her life straight. Then, she locks herself on her balcony on her first night there, and has to be rescued by her neighbor in the hotel, a children's illustrator whose fiancee dumped him for another man. It's romance at Christmastime in a romantic city.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Away in a Manger" or "Win Christmas in Paris." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Nov. 17 at 6 PM CT.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Have You Heard? - On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle

When Sandie Herron sent me the review for Cleo Coyle's On What Grounds in audio format, she included this introduction.

This time it is the writing team of Alice Alfonsi and her husband Marc who run the Virtual Village Blend at website www.CoffeehouseMystery.com.  These light, amateur sleuth murder mysteries feature a cast of quirky characters who work in a landmark Greenwich Village coffeehouse.  Because they are also culinary mysteries, each book includes the added bonus of recipes.  The website at www.coffeehousemystery.com includes a  FREE TITLE CHECKLIST OF BOOKS IN ORDER with mini summaries of each book and photos of the dustjackets.  It even offers a guide to reading coffee grounds!

I think Lesa wouldn’t mind if we shared this quote of hers written for the book in the series ROAST MORTEM – 

“No one combines a cozy atmosphere with a realistic crime novel any better than Cleo Coyle does.  If you pick up one of the Coffeehouse Mysteries, you might expect a cozy little off-scene murder, and a cheerful amateur sleuth. ...  But, Coyle gives us the atmosphere, the recipes and coffee-making tips, along with murder and arson, violent crimes...”

Review -

On What Grounds
Unabridged Audiobook
Written by Cleo Coyle, Narrated by  Rebecca Gibel
Publisher:  Blackstone Audio, Listening Length: 7 hours and 59 minutes
Audible.com Release Date: June 9, 2011
ASIN: B0056B1VWY


I loved this initial mystery in this coffee based series revolving around the Blend, a coffee house of many awards, many blends of coffee, and many authentic ways of preparing them. The owner known affectionately as "Madame" giving her respect she earned, was great at scheming as well.  Her son Matt was married to Claire for many of their years working at the Blend, but when they divorced, Claire took their daughter Joy and moved from their Greenwich Village home in Manhattan to New Jersey as what Claire thought of as a better place to school and raise Joy.

Now that Joy was at culinary school in Manhattan and loving it, Claire takes Madame up on her offer to return to manage the Blend and live in the apartment above the store.  However, Madame made the same offer to her son Matt.  

Claire's first night back was after hours and all she wanted to do was get a good night's rest before starting fresh the next day.  Just settled in bed, Claire heard heavy shoes clumping across the floor below her. She got up to search the Blend with her cat Java, when she ran smack into Matt.  After a squabble, the two realized that Madame was up to her old hi jinks in trying to get them together again.  Luckily Claire and Matt got along fairly well as a divorced couple.

Tired as they were Claire discovered the trash had not been taken out by the barista of the evening, student dancer Annabelle.  As Claire picked up the big bags at the bottom of the stairs, she found Annabelle crumpled there as well.  Emergency services were called to rescue the unconscious Annabelle who left no clues as to whether her fall was deliberate or accident. Detective Quinn arrived from the NYPD to investigate.  A spark went off between Quinn and Claire Cosi right away.  They searched for clues, finding a few on their own as well as a few whoppers at a large ball for the higher echelons of society.

I loved the narrator of this story who did excellent jobs at area accents, especially a Jamaican dance instructor, Madame, Quinn, Matt, and Claire herself, all with varying degrees of New York or New Jersey accents.  Several minor unique tones joined the others to round out an excellent scenario in book one of The Blend mysteries.

Sandie Herron