Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren

Not having read Kaya McLaren's novels before, I was unfamiliar with her theme of searching for home and second chances. I'll admit I cried off and on throughout The Road to Enchantment, so there's your warning about this bittersweet novel.

Willow tells the story of her life, flashing back and forth from present day to her adolescence, a troubled one she blames on her parents' divorce. When she was thirteen, her father fell in love with another woman, and her mother packed up Willow, left Washington state, and moved to New Mexico to an isolated piece of land off the grid, just off the Apache Reservation. There, as one of the few white girls in school, she struggled with bullies until Darrel, a half-Apache, half-Samoan boy, stuck up for her. While she fought against her mother's hardscrabble lifestyle, she found solace with Darrel and his grandparents. At eighteen, she escaped New Mexico to lead a life as a cello player.

Now, within one week, her musician boyfriend leaves her, her mother dies, and she finds out she's pregnant. At thirty-nine, she returns to her mother's home to settle the estate, only to learn her mother was deeply in debt. Her only consolation is the friends she had forgotten she had.

The Road to Enchantment is a bittersweet story of a woman struggling with her own memories, and her future. How do you find a home after thirty-nine years, when you've always wanted to belong, and always felt unloved? It's a story of a sympathetic woman who learns her mother was more sympathetic and complex than she ever gave her credit for.

This is a book for anyone who appreciates a story of life's struggles, a character-driven novel with a wonderful support cast. And, if you read The Road to Enchantment all the way through, and don't cry at some point, let me know.

Kaya McLaren's website is www.kayamclaren.com

The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren. St. Martin's Griffin. 2017. ISBN 97801250058225 (paperback), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book for a journal review.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

Deanna Raybourn's second Veronica Speedwell mystery, A Perilous Undertaking, is a fast-paced adventure featuring two strong-willed, capable amateur sleuths. The intricately plotted story is filled with amusing conversations, biting, irreverent remarks between Veronica and her partner in science and solving crimes, Stoker. Best of all, it's a fun story set in Victorian England.

Veronica Speedwell, a Lepidopterist, trades in butterflies and publishes papers. Stoker, or Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, is a scientist and natural historian. They're now working for Lord Rosemorran, hoping to establish a museum in the Belvedere, a building on his estate. They had planned an expedition to Fiji, but they're stuck in England due to Lord Rosemorran's accident. But, his great-aunt, the shrewd Lady Wellington Beauclerk has plans for the duo. She introduces Veronica to Lady Sundridge, a woman with her own secrets. But Veronica has reasons to say yes when Lady Sundridge asks if she and Stoker would look into a murder. In one week, Miles Ramsforth will be hanged for killing his mistress. Lady Sundridge insists he's innocent, and wants Veronica to prove it.

Veronica and Stoker end up in a world of Bohemian artists whose wealthy patron is related to Ramsforth through marriage. While their investigation is opposed by the head of Scotland Yard's Special Branch, the two still manage to find their way into a mortuary, an opium den, and a grotto dedicated to sex. Through their entire adventure, they expose a little more of their secretive pasts to each other. Both scientists are needy, but not willing to share that with anyone.

Veronica Speedwell represents the independent adventurers, the women who explored the world during the Victorian age. "My life is an unconventional one. I might look and speak like a lady, but my choices have placed me beyond the pale of propriety. I have traveled alone. I am unmarried. I love without a chaperone, and I work for a living. These are not the actions of a lady." But, these are the actions of a sexy, spirited, intelligent woman, a perfect complement to a strong-willed, brooding scientist. A Perilous Undertaking is adventure and mystery at its best.

Deanna Raybourn's website is www.deannaraybourn.com

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn. Berkley. 2017. ISBN 9780451476159 (hardcover), 352p.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman

It's always a treat to discover an author who is a world builder. Last year, Laura Anne Gilman introduced The Devil's West in the first book in the series, Silver on the Road. She doesn't disappoint readers with the second book, The Cold Eye. She's created a world, set in the early 19th century, in which what we think of as the Louisiana Territory, west of the Mississippi, is called The Territory. It's the Devil's land, and the old man's Left Hand rides that territory, watching for trouble, dealing with it, and, eventually, reporting it back to him. The Devil's Left Hand is Isobel nee Lacoya Tavora. She's sixteen-years-old.

Isobel is accompanied on the Road by her mentor, Gabriel, who agreed to show her how to survive in the plains and mountains of the territory, how to meet the tribes, how to hunt and eat and ride. But, after a fight left him injured, Gabriel is recovering at camp while Isobel delivers mail. But, she doesn't show up on time. The power in one section of the Territory has been drained. Buffalo, sacred animals, have been slain. The wildlife is missing from the territory, and Isobel hears a whisper that wakes her at night, calls her to find what's troubling the land. As Isobel and Gabriel discover, there's a threat both inside the Territory and from the outside.

There are rituals on the Road, but Isobel leads Gabriel off the road in her search for answers. It's a dangerous sidetrack. At times, she can't feel the earth's power, as she has since she became the Left Hand. The pair sense they are followed, and, at times spirit animals appear to help, or to test Isobel. It's a journey that will leave Isobel asking, "Who am I?" What is my purpose?

The Cold Eye is a compelling journey through difficult terrain and a complex world. Gilman has created a world for fantasy readers who appreciate a touch of reality. It's also a book for western readers, as two riders cover the vast spaces of the Territory, dealing with tribes, marshals, western justice. The Cold Eye is a beautifully written, well-developed story for anyone who appreciates a coming-of-age story set in a half-familiar land. There's promises of future trouble and ongoing issues with an encroaching government in the next book. For now, The Cold Eye has enough turmoil for any land. But, I can't wait for the next book.

Laura Anne Gilman's website is www.LauraAnneGilman.net

The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman. Saga Press. 2017. ISBN 9781481429719 (hardcover), 334p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Agatha Award Nominees

My favorite awards, the Agathas, honor the traditional mystery written in the style of Agatha Christie. The nominees were just announced for books that were published in 2016. The winners will be honored at the Malice Domestic banquet on April 29. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Best Contemporary Novel
Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Kensington)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
Best Historical Novel
Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao (Berkley)
Get Me to the Grave on Time by D.E. Ireland (Grainger Press)
Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)
Best First Novel
Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper (Minotaur)
Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon (Henery Press)
The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink)
Design for Dying by Renee Patrick (Forge Books)
Best Nonfiction
Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats by Jane K. Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)
A Good Man with a Dog: A Game Warden’s 25 Years in the Maine Woods by Roger Guay with Kate Clark Flora (Skyhorse Publishing)
Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Margaret Kinsman (McFarland Books)
Best Short Story
“Double Jinx: A Bellissimo Casino Crime Caper Short Story” by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press)
“The Best-Laid Plans” by Barb Goffman in Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional (Wildside Press)
“The Mayor and the Midwife” by Edith Maxwell in Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 (Down & Out Books)
“The Last Blue Glass” by B.K. Stevens in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
“Parallel Play” by Art Taylor in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning (Wildside Press)
Best Children/Young Adult
Trapped: A Mei-hua Adventure by P.A. DeVoe (Drum Tower Press)
Spy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster)
Tag, You’re Dead by J C Lane (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos (Balzer & Bray)
The Secret of the Puzzle Box: The Code Busters Club by Penny Warner (Darby Creek

Friday, January 27, 2017

Winners and Women as Targets Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Lisa W. of Rochester, IN won James Rollins' The Seventh Plague. Sandie H. from Sarasota, FL won Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder by Sara Rosett. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two crime novels featuring women as targets. What Doesn't Kill Her is the first in Carla Norton's new series. Reeve LeClaire isn't a victim anymore. She was held captive by Daryl Wayne Flint for four years. Now, she's getting her life back, but she doesn't know that Flint, imprisoned at a top psychiatric hospital, has been planning his escape. Once he escapes, Flint goes on a killing spree. Then, Reeve realizes she's the one who can stop him. Who knows Flint better than she does?

In Nevada Barr's Boar Island, Anna Pigeon fights to protect her friends, and becomes the target of a killer. In her career as a National Park Service ranger, Anna has dealt with all kinds of crime, but not cyberbullying. Someone has targeted Elizabeth, the adopted teenage daughter of Anna's friend, Heath Jarrod. Someone is spreading disgusting rumors about her, so the adults decide to remove Elizabeth from the scene, and they go to Boar Island, a small island near Acadia National Park in Maine. But, the stalker follows them. And, Anna just arrives at Acadia when a brutal murder occurs.

Which crime novel 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 What Doesn't Kill Her" or "Win Boar Island." Please include your  name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I just started a terrific book. Laura Anne Gilman's The Cold Eye is the sequel to Silver on the Road. I think I mention Silver on the Road every couple weeks when I'm participating in librarian recommendations on Twitter. Both books feature Isobel, a young woman who rides the Territory, serving as the Left Hand to the boss, the old man who is the devil. She watches for trouble, and protects the residents of the Territory. She's usually accompanied by Gabriel, a mentor, but at the beginning of this book, they've separated just for a short time, and she faces an unknown problem, called by whispers to answer. I love Gilman's characters and the world she has built in the Territory.

What are you reading today? What world are you escaping into? I'll check back as I can during the day. I'd love to know what you're reading or listening to now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Where I Can See You by Larry D. Sweazy

Larry D. Sweazy's crime novels are dark and gritty, and the heroes aren't always figures everyone would find heroic. Often, they are struggling with their own weaknesses and problems. Hud Matthews has been searching for answers since he was eight years old. After a twenty year absence, he's returned home to a dying town, a town with secrets. And, Hud stirs up trouble and murder when he takes a job with the country sheriff's department in Where I Can See You.

Matthews had been a police detective in Detroit,  but when Sheriff Burke, a childhood friend, offered him a job after Hud's grandmother died, he took it. Within a couple days of his arrival, he had his first case. A young woman was found dead, with a single gunshot to the back of her head, and left on the shore of the lake. Although Hud uses his memories of his childhood to track down the woman's missing son, it's about the only thing that goes right in Matthews' job. He angers Burke, receives warnings against looking for his mother and stirring up trouble, and he's caught up in the murder investigation that only turns up more bodies.

But, Hud won't stop digging, for answers to the murders, or for answers to his mother's story. When Hud was eight, his mother got into a black car, waved at him, and disappeared. He spent years imagining her drowned in the lake, or fed to a lion. But, he knew his mother wouldn't just leave him. He's relentless. "I just want to know the truth. It was the one thing that pushed him forward, urged him to get out of bed, face whatever pain he had to, and do his job." He's relentless with both cases he's trying to solve, the current murders, and the disappearance of his mother.

The town where Hud is now has changed. The exciting summer vacationland is decayed. "Everything looked smaller, distant, rundown in a fading, crumbling kind of way." That's what Sweazy does so well. He creates gray stories. The heroes are stuck in bleak situations. The atmosphere and setting may be dark, dying, decaying. But, Sweazy's protagonists persist, plodding through their own pain. And, it's evident in this story, told both as the ongoing account of Hud's new search, and as an after-the-fact interview with Hud, that the man has suffered. He suffered as a child with the loss of his mother, the loss of a childhood, the loss of innocence. Now, in Where I Can See You, he's left with just a determination to find the truth. Larry D. Sweazy's stories of loss and pain are powerful.

Larry D. Sweazy's website is www.larrydsweazy.com

Where I Can See You by Larry D. Sweazy. Seventh Street Books. 2017. ISBN 9781633882119 (paperback), 255p.

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Quiet Paris by Siobhan Wall

When we went to Ireland, we used a travel book that someone had marked in. It was great. They made comments about the places they had been. Quiet Paris, a charming book by Siobhan Wall, has a few handwritten comments by a previous owner. I thought they were perfect additions to the book.

The author says there are quiet place to escape to in Paris. Although the book was published in 2013, which means it was written in 2012, I'm sure the libraries, museums and parks she mentions are still there. She devotes a page to a number of sites, including a photo, the hours, phone numbers, and whether or not the place is wheelchair accessible. It's a small book packed with information about cafes, bookshops, galleries, libraries, spas, museums, parks, restaurants. She is very pointed when she mentions that the restaurant or shop does not play music. Quiet Paris means quiet environments. And, she says, "Amongst the rather predictable brand name shops...", there are still shops that are run by the owner or designer. She shows the different, calmer side of Paris, a side that she says is best appreciated on foot.

Why did I mention the comments? Because the previous owner wrote on the first page of the chapter featuring parks and gardens. That page highlights Musee Carnavalet / Histoire de Paris , the Museum of the History of Paris. The remark is, "Love this museum! In the Marais area. Free." There's a chapter for "Places of worship" because, of course, they are quiet. Under Eglise Saint Severin, the woman (her name is in the front of the book), wrote "Haven't been here, but know of others who loved it." Under the listing for the restaurant, Polidor, there since 1845, the writer put "Lovely!" It doesn't mean I'll make a point of getting to the places she marked. But, I appreciate a fellow traveler's comments.

As I mentioned earlier, we'll get to tourist sites. But, the author says of Quiet Paris, "This book quietly encourages readers to discover intriguing places hidden behind the imperial facades of Haussman's grand boulevards." I want to see those places, too.

Quiet Paris by Siobhan Wall. Lincoln, Frances Limited. 2013. ISBN 9780711233430 (paperback), 144p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The book was given to me as a gift.

Monday, January 23, 2017

February Cozy Mysteries from Berkley - Update

This is a short book chat - no Jinx, and only a few mysteries from Berkley.

Here are this month's featured titles.

Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis - 4th Paws & Claws Mystery
War and Peach  by Susan Furlong - 3rd Georgia Peach Mystery
No Cats Allowed by Miranda James - 7th Cat in the Stacks Mystery, now in paperback
Bookman Dead Style by Paige Shelton - 2nd Dangerous Type Mystery
A Wee Homicide in the Hotel by Fran Stewart - 3rd ScotShop Mystery
Blown Away by Clover Tate - 1st Kite Shop Mystery


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Thank you - Day 2

I actually was going to post a book review today. And, as of tomorrow, I will be back to books. But, this is far too important to let it pass. My friend, Sally, talked on her blog about how depressed she has been. I have other friends who said the same thing. And, Friday, I almost went home sick from work because the whole concept of the inauguration made me upset. But, a friend talked me down.

Have you seen the pictures from around the world - from all seven continents? They're beautiful - peaceful demonstrations asking for basic human rights. Check them out on The New York Times.


And, I will use my blog, my platform, for one last political speech before I go back to books. First, thank you, again, to all my friends who marched - in D.C., and NYC, and LA, St. Petersburgh, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, and Phoenix, and Paris. And, the friends who marched elsewhere, and I just didn't realize it.

But, here's what I put on Facebook.

This is unbelievable. Check out all the people who showed up. But, friends - we need to follow through. This isn't a one-day event. Please call. Speak up. We need to use our voices as well as our feet. Every one of us needs to vote - in local elections, state elections, national elections. We can't let this momemtum die. Be heard, not just today. And, those of us who can afford it need to push - donate to the ACLU, who has already filed the first lawsuit. Donate to Planned Parenthood. Donate to Emily's List & get women in office. Donate to a Senator or Representative who is on our side, and may face a tough battle. Follow Daily Action on Facebook or email, and follow the daily fight. This is a daily fight. Find your cause. If you can afford to help fund the movement, please do. Every little bit helps.

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for caring about this country, and the world.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thank you - The Women's March

I want to thank Kaye Wilkinson Barley, and Erin Mitchell, Gaye Cockrell Kurmas, and Hilary Davidson, and Clea Simon, and all my other friends who are marching today, throughout this country, and some friends, such as Julie Goodson Lawes, who are even marching in other countries. Thank you! I may not be marching with you, but I'll be calling and speaking up. I'll continue to support the arts, the environment, friends in the LGBTQ community, Muslims, Native Americans, immigrants, women's rights and rights to control their own body. I'll continue to speak up about health care. I may not be with you physically today, but my heart is with all of you.

Thank you!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Give Me an R Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Nancy S. from Whittier, NC and Wendy A. from Ferndale, WA won the copies of Jane K. Cleland's Glow of Death. Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo is going to Dianna C. of Elk Grove Village, IL. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, the two books are by authors whose last name begins with R. One book is a thriller, and the other a traditional mystery. James Rollins' The Seventh Plague is a Sigma Force thriller. There's a global threat, and Sigma Force attacks it on two fronts after the death of an archaeologist. One front deals with a mad man willing to risk the lives of everyone. One front investigates whether the Biblical plagues of Egypt are starting up on a global scale.

If plague and global threat doesn't interest you, try to win Sara Rosett's Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder. Professional organizer Ellie Avery reluctantly agrees to help her sister-in-law, Summer, with her plans for her destination wedding on one of Georgia's barrier islands. Her job is to keep the groom's mother and stepmother apart. But, then pranks are directed at the bride. When a death occurs, Ellie knows it's not a prank. But, is Summer the actual target?

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 line should read either "Win The Seventh Plague" or "Win Marriage, Monsters-in-Law." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Are You Reading?

The weekly question is a day late, but I wanted to participate, and until yesterday, I was reading for journal reviews. Now, I'm reading something I can share.

I'm reading Larry D. Sweazy's latest novel, Where I Can See You. Hud Matthews returns to his hometown as a police detective after a twenty year absence. Within a few days on the job, there's a young woman found murdered, unusual for the lakeside community. While Hud searches for a killer, he also discovers memories and searches for his own answers. What happened to his mother when she disappeared when Hud was eight years old?

So, what are you reading this week? Some of you will have to speak up because Jeff may not be participating while he's in Florida. I'm eager to see what you're reading.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Congratulations to the Lefty Award Nominees

Left Coast Crime, the mystery conference held in areas west of the Mississippi, recently announced the nominees for this year’s awards. These are some of my favorite awards, nominated and voted on by mystery readers.

Here’s the announcement as it appears on the Left Coast Crime website.
“The Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Awards are fan awards chosen by registered members of the Left Coast Crime convention. Nominations for awards to be presented at each annual convention are made by people registered for that convention and also the immediately prior convention. A ballot listing the official nominees is given to each registrant when they check in at the convention, and final voting takes place at the convention. The ballots are tabulated and that year’s Lefty Awards are presented at the Awards Celebration.
Left Coast Crime 2017, “Honolulu Havoc,” will be presenting four Lefty Awards at the 27th annual LCC convention in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Lefty awards will be voted on at the convention and presented at the Awards Banquet on Saturday, March 18, 2017, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel
• Donna Andrews, Die Like an Eagle (Minotaur Books)
• Ellen Byron, Body on the Bayou (Crooked Lane Books)
• Timothy Hallinan, Fields Where They Lay (Soho Crime)
• Heather Haven, The CEO Came DOA (Wives of Bath Press)
• Johnny Shaw, Floodgate (Thomas & Mercer)
• Diane Vallere, A Disguise To Die For (Berkley Prime Crime)
Lefty for Best Hystorical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial)
for books covering events before 1960
• Rhys Bowen, Crowned and Dangerous (Berkley Prime Crime)
• Susanna Calkins, A Death Along the River Fleet (Minotaur Books)
• Laurie R. King, The Murder of Mary Russell (Bantam Books)
• Catriona McPherson, The Reek of Red Herrings (Minotaur Books)
• Ann Parker, What Gold Buys (Poisoned Pen Press)
Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel
• Sarah M. Chen, Cleaning Up Finn (All Due Respect Books)
• Marla Cooper, Terror in Taffeta (Minotaur Books)
• Alexia Gordon, Murder in G Major (Henery Press)
• Nadine Nettmann, Decanting a Murder (Midnight Ink)
• Renee Patrick, Design for Dying (Forge)
Lefty for Best Mystery Novel
• Matt Coyle, Dark Fissures (Oceanview Publishing)
• Gigi Pandian, Michelangelo’s Ghost (Henery Press)
• Louise Penny, A Great Reckoning (Minotaur Books)
• Terry Shames, The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake (Seventh Street Books)
• James W. Ziskin, Heart of Stone (Seventh Street Books)

To be eligible, titles must have been published for the first time in the United States or Canada during 2016, in book or ebook format. (If published in other countries before 2016, a book is still eligible if it meets the US or Canadian publication requirement.)”
Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Have You Heard? Latte Trouble by Cleo Coyle

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61hY-H2IAqL._AA300_.jpgLatte Trouble
Coffee House Mystery #3
Written by Cleo Coyle, Narrated by Rebecca Gibel
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 8 hours and 7 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Audible.com Release Date: November 9, 2011
ASIN: B00654G23Y

The third coffee house mystery was an intriguing trip through the various facets of the fall Fashion Week in Manhattan.  One of the most famous and accomplished designers literally designed her new line of jewelry based on the coffee bean while visiting the Village Blend coffee house.  Lotte Harmon insisted on opening the show at the Village Blend.

The show's debut was a huge success with patrons squeezing into every available nook.  Customers out numbered staff, so a special drink was prepared with soy and destined for Lotte Harmon.   It was a disaster when another thirsty customer swiped her drink from the serving tray.  He took a large swig and began to turn pink, convulse, and died in rapid succession.  The victim's mate also had a sip, but CPR was begun and an ambulance called, so he never got completely oxygen deprived.

Was this a deliberate poisoning?  Who was the intended victim?  Lotte or the man who died?  And who added the poison to the drink?  Cops circled the scene and focused on Tucker, the barista who made the drink and attempted to serve it to Miss Harmon.  Clare Cosi, manager of the blend doubted Tucker was guilty but had no alibi to prove his innocence. Tucker was sent to Ryker's Island prison for safekeeping.  

Clare quickly began her own investigation. She went with a disguise and the owner of The Blend to a formal reception on a business rival's yacht all a twitter about Lotte's return to build her line again.  Clare's ex-husband Matte ended up in a fight on the yacht, pointing out another suspect.

Clare kept believing in Tucker and continued building her case.  Answers were unexpected and the ties between them also surprising.  The suspects had been alluded to early in the story yet it was done so casually and slipped in so well that I easily forgot the solution right in front of me!  A very enjoyable and recommended read.

Reviewed by Sandie Herron

Monday, January 16, 2017

Have You Heard? - Demons are a Ghoul's Best Friend by Victoria Laurie

“Have You Heard?” is a 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 usually 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!

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51v-zoKrZiL._AA300_.jpgDemons are a Ghoul's Best Friend
Ghost Hunter mystery #2
Written by Victoria Laurie, Narrated by Eileen Stevens  
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Time:  8 hours 57 mins
Published by Audible Studios, C 2008, released on audio 1/27/10
ASIN: B00367EX1G
5 of 5 stars ★★★★★

As the second book in this ghoulish series opens, we discover that Dr. Steven Sable enjoyed the process of ghost busting when trying to contact his grandfather in book one, he invests in the partnership of MJ Holliday and Gilley Gillespie. With his influx of cash, they are able to buy all sorts of new equipment: night vision cameras, handheld computer thermal imaging devices, electronic energy detectors, some brand new, state-of-the-art walkie talkies, video monitors, digital cameras, a laptop, and a shiny new van to put it all in.

It will all come in handy soon, since one of MJ’s friends, Karen O’Neal, has stopped into the office. She got a phone call from her niece Evie telling her she’d been chased through school by a man with an axe. She attended an exclusive boarding school near Lake Placid, New York. Security cameras were mounted in the school at the beginning of the school year, and a review of those tapes show Evie running through the hallways but no one was visible chasing her. Karen’s brother, Evie’s dad, is convinced that Evie is suffering from some psychosis and needs to see a psychiatrist. He doesn’t believe her story at all. So Karen hires MJ and Gilley and Steven to visit the school and find out what’s going on.

When the four arrived at Northelm Boarding School, they found it letting out for the summer. An older section of the school was to be converted into dorm rooms over the summer, so no one was allowed in that wing. The dean of the school was adamant that they not have access to any of the school because no one would be there except construction crews, and they had a very tight schedule if they were to be finished by fall. Karen, who had gone with the trio, once dated the CEO of the well regarded construction company. Karen contacted him to try and get a week’s delay on the start of renovations so the ghost busters would have a chance to find the axe-wielding man.

Karen was successful, she informed them by phone, standing in Paris. Seems the CEO wanted another chance to romance her, this time throughout Europe. He had to do something with a week off. The dean finally caved and allowed them into the school but only parts not to be renovated and not in the old dean’s quarters where his brother Nicky lived, since he was mentally disabled. They found the axe-wielding ghost in the school. He had great energy and was able to move furniture about very quickly as he taunted them with pyramids of desks turned back to straight rows almost in an instant.

When Gilley saw and felt how strong this ghost was, he finally admitted something to MJ: he was afraid of ghosts! That’s why he always preferred to stay in the van, except this ghost attacked the van with what felt like a baseball bat. MJ made Gilley his very own special ghost-busting shirt – to which she glued magnets. Ghosts don’t like magnets for they disturb their own magnetic fields. She also made what they called grenades – a foot long magnet in a steel pipe capped to hold in the magnet until needed.

The ghost busters could not figure out why the dean denied them access to parts of the school, since this ghost went through the section that was to be converted to dorms. By the end of the book, we learn who this hatchet toting man was along with why the dean had tried to stop them from learning the entire truth. I can’t tell you about the chases and terrifying moments that took place nor where MJ found the portal that Hatchet Jack was using to move between planes. Many alumni of the school still lived in town and helped the team by filling them in on what happened 20 years ago and how it had continued into present day. One alumni especially filled in some background on the two child ghosts MJ found also running from Jack.

Steven helped out with this ghost bust, especially since Gilley had just confessed his fear of ghosts. Karen continued to call for updates from different countries in Europe. MJ took the lead even though she was physically injured by this violent ghost. There were a lot of people the narrator needed to speak for, and Eileen Stevens did a great job. Dr. Sable’s voice was very distinctive and different from others. Ms. Stevens does a terrific job of narrating the story in general and then adds in the extra features of each character . . . a performance to be commended.

This book was definitely a paranormal story, and just as strongly was a mystery with many twists and turns. I didn’t want to put it down. With the nasty ghost running loose and kids at risk, it was hard to not think about the storylines as they twisted and turned into a knot with Hatchet Jack unwillingly in the middle. You will definitely find yourself whooping it up in the end and cheering the ghost busters. Evie will be just fine in the fall. Now I can get some relaxing sleep at least until I begin the third book in this ghoulish series – GHOULS JUST HAUNT TO HAVE FUN.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


This is what my dining room table looks like at the moment.

I have about five more books to read for a deadline on Wednesday, which means nothing else is getting done over the long weekend. I haven't had time to read for the blog. The cats and I are stuck on the couch together. Tomorrow, I'll have one of Sandie's posts up. But, when I don't even think about the computer until 10 PM, I don't have anything fresh to write. Stick with me. This should be the only month with a rush deadline.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Winners and Give Me a C Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Glen D. from Yuba City, CA won Jimmy and Fay. Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything is heading to Las Vegas, NV to Marla B. If we're not iced in, I'll get the books out today.

This week, I'm giving away 2 titles and 3 books. I have two copies of Jane K. Cleland's Glow of Death. Her Josie Prescott mysteries continue to get better, and you don't have to have read earlier books in the series to read this one. In Glow of Death, antiques dealer and auction house owner Josie Prescott appraises a Tiffany lamp, and she and the wealthy local couple are delighted to find that it's genuine. She even uses it to record her TV show. But, when she learns that the wife has been murdered, Josie discovers the victim isn't even the woman she met. Everything she thought she knew about the lamp and the couple is built on lies.

Cleland's books are traditional mysteries. Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder ones are much darker. Burkholder is chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio, a community with a large Amish population. In Her Last Breath, a hit-and-run accident leaves a father and two of his children dead, and a third child clinging to life. The mother was once Kate's best friend, but as she investigates, she suspects Mattie is hiding something. The case sets Kate on the trail of a cold killer.

Which mystery 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 Glow of Death" or "Win Her Last Breath." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Jan. 19 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Old-fashioned Corners of Paris by Christophe Destournelles

I do understand that when I go to Paris, I'm not going to see the same sights that my father did in the 1950s. But, author Christophe Destournelles and photographer Christophe Lefebure show some of those hidden gems were still there in 2014 when Old-fashioned Corners of Paris was released.

Carousels! Cemeteries.Tarot card readers. Antique and second-hand booksellers on the banks of the Seine, otherwise titled "Riverside Reading". There were still close to 250 bouquinistes, booksellers, in the stalls by the river. Punch and Judy shows. Jazz. Oh, and "confectionary stores - where visitors put aside their resolutions and forget the passing of time as the immerse themselves in sheer bliss....Travel there alone or in convivial company."

I'm traveling to Paris with convivial company, and it's a friend who gave me this charming book. The photos bring back moments I never knew, but any reader of books set in Paris will hunger to see those scenes. If you're a reader, do you find pictures enchanting, feeling as if you've already seen that place or that setting? This charming book takes us to places that are vanishing. But, I'm sure that an eager traveler, willing to look in out-of-the-way spots, will still find glimpses of the past.

Ireland was more wonderful than I ever imagined. Old-fashioned Corners of Paris shows that a traveler with an open heart and appreciative eyes can still find secrets in that city. I'm eager to discover moments of enchantment there.

Old-fashioned Corners of Paris by Christophe Destournelles. Photos by Christophe Lefebure. Translation by Simon Beaver. New York Review Books. 2014. ISBN 9781936941100 (hardcover), 194p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The book was a gift.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I really wanted to share a picture book that I bought, but I don't know enough about children's books for a long review. So, I'm also asking you what you're reading today as well.

I saw Matthew Cordell's picture book, Wolf in the Snow, at work. There are very few words in this ink-and-watercolor illustrated book. But, oh, the heart in it!

Cordell tells and illustrates the story of a little girl on the plains somewhere. While the little girl isn't realistically drawn, she is so wrapped up in winter clothes that you can't see her features anyways. But, her red parka shows up beautifully against the fields, and then the snow. She leaves school in a snowstorm, and those are stunning, cold pictures of her as she crosses the fields. Coming from the opposite direction is a pack of wolves, beautifully alive. The pup of the pack falls behind in the snow, and Cordell shows the little girl in a round snowball illustration heading one way, and the little pup in a round snowball coming toward her. We hear her huffing, and him whining. She rescues him, fights off other animals, and has the courage to head across a solid white field in the direction of a wolf's howl. In one illustration, we see the wide-eyed face as she holds the little wolf. In the other, we see the wide-eyed mother wolf. After the little girl turns the pup over to the mother, she continues trying to reach home, but stumbles and falls in the snow. She treks on, toward the barking of her own dog, but stumbles again, falls and curls in to a ball. The wolves have followed her, and the pup licks the freezing child as the other wolves gather around and howl. Led by the howling, the little girl's mother and dog show up to rescue her. The final picture resembles the opening illustration. The little girl and her family is home in a cabin, with a fire, and a carving of a howling wolf on the mantelpiece.

There are no words in this book, other than huffing, howling, and barking. But, the snow, the blizzard, the layout, and the story have so much heart. Cordell tells an entire story of courage and caring with those few words and gorgeous illustrations. I buy very few children's books. But, this one moves me every time I read it.

So, I've read a picture book three times, marveling at the artwork and story. What are you reading? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Release Day

Today is release day for a number of books that look good. I talked about several with my last book chat. But, I want to feature three books today that I'm going to read, and just haven't had a chance. My Library Journal deadline means I'm reading books that come out in March and April right now. Once that deadline is past, I can back up a little.

Dead Cold Brew is the sixteenth book in Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mystery series. I did mention this in the book chat because it comes from Berkley. Coffeehouse manager Clare Cost receives a special engagement ring from her NYPD detective boyfriend. He even had help from her boss, who sent him to a special jeweler. But, in the midst of their celebration, Clare's daughter receives a mysterious letter, followed by news the jeweler has been poisoned. Clare tracks down clues in some of New York City's secret places, trying to stop an old vendetta.

Larry D. Sweazy has become a favorite in the last few years. His new book is Where I Can See You. It's a police procedural featuring detective Hud Matthews. He is still haunted by his mother's disappearance when he was eight years old, and he launches his own investigation. When a murder occurs in his lakeside community, he's called on to capture the killer. He's pulled into the community, and ties to the past, as he tries to discover the truth about the crimes.

A Serious Undertaking is the follow-up to Deanna Raybourn's fun mystery, A Curious Beginning. Veronica Speedwell, Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter, teams up with Stoker, her natural-historian colleague, to try to save a society art patron scheduled for execution for a brutal murder. It's a race against time to find a killer. Check out my interview of Deanna Raybourn here, http://bit.ly/2i9niFA

I'm looking forward to all three of these books, just as soon as I have some time.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Movies

I didn't get much reading done this weekend. I did finish a book for a later review, but that's it. Instead, I went to the movies - twice.

I hadn't been to the movies much in the last year. My friend, Donna, and I bought each other movie gift cards in 2015, and we didn't use them until the end of 2016. There just wasn't much we wanted to see. But, 2017 looks great.

Donna and I went to see "Hidden Figures" on Saturday. I can't say enough good things about that film. The cast was outstanding. But, it's so hard to believe what those women at NASA went through in the 1960s. It wasn't that long ago. The discrimination because they were black. And, the expectations because they were women. They had both strikes against them in the early '60s, and they spoke up for themselves, and rose above the discrimination. It was an inspiring movie. Every woman should see it for the story of discrimination. Every person should see it for the inspiring story and the history. We need to know where we've been. And, we're still fighting so much discrimination. I can't speak for the racial discrimination, although I know it's there. I can speak up about the shameful politics that discriminates against women.

Then, Sunday, I went to see "La La Land". The musical captures the nostalgia for musicals of the past. I loved every bit of the story, and the ending was appropriate. But, it was the music, and the roles played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone that brought the story to life. I loved the scenes in California. I have walked on the Santa Monica Pier. I've been to Griffiths Observatory, and sat on the benches overlooking the city. The story was magic from the opening scene in the LA traffic to the final moment. It deserved all the Golden Globe awards it received.

Why doesn't Hollywood make more movies that women want to see? Box office this weekend, despite the cold nasty weather in parts of the country, had "Hidden Figures" just a little behind "Rogue One", the latest Star Wars movie. Granted, "Rogue One" has been out for a little while. But, people went to see "Hidden Figures". That question comes up every time profits are made with a good movie that isn't a thriller or a crude movie aimed at high school boys.

2017 does look better for films. Of course, I'm going to go see the live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast", my favorite fairy tale. It features a strong woman who goes out to save her father, and doesn't sit around waiting for someone to save her. "A Dog's Purpose" looks like a tearjerker, but I still want to see it. There are even a couple World War II movies I'm looking forward to seeing - "Dunkirk" and "The Zookeeper's Wife". What about a funny movie with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as three senior citizens who decide to rob the bank that took their money? That's "Going in Style". And, other than the World War II movies, my really violent choice will be "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" with Taron Egerton (who I've now seen in three films), and Colin Firth, who is evidently back from the dead.

2017 started out on a good note for movies. Thank heavens it looks like a good year for them. We may all need reasons to escape reality.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Have You Heard? - Hexes and Hemlines by Juliet Blackwell

“Have You Heard?” is a 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 usually 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!

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51nW2whPMAL._AA300_.jpg Hexes and Hemlines
Witchcraft mystery series #3
Written by Juliet Blackwell; Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 7 hours and 42 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio, Audible.com Release Date: November 26, 2012

Lily Ivory gets called away from her vintage clothing shop, Aunt Cora's Closet, when police detective Romero decides a witch's take on a strange case would be very helpful. The police are working to solve the murder of Malachi Zozi, who was stabbed to death in his apartment.  It is the circumstances they find him in that brought Lily to Romero’s mind.  Zozi was found under a ladder, surrounded by the number thirteen, a broken mirror, a house painted black, and a black cat -- all superstitions that the victim, as head of a rationalist society, was devoted to discrediting.

When the police identify a suspect from the Serpentarian Society, Lily is shocked to learn it's someone she knows.  With bad luck plaguing all its members, Lily begins to wonder if there is more at work than mere coincidence. One of the young members of another coven dies, and the victim’s two boyfriends were overly distraught. They both were members of a men's drumming coven with meetings held in the woods among earth creatures and foliage. Lily tries to watch the meeting meant to bring the men solace from afar, but she is asked to leave.

One of Lily's dearest friends and co-worker, Bronwyn, is a Wiccan who asks Lily to help her son-in-law who is not quite a suspect but being investigated by the police department. Shortly after Bronwyn asks for help, she asks Lily to stop, since things look even worse.  Lily feels it is her duty as a San Franciscan to continue her efforts to help everyone in peril.

There was a lot more action, a lot more intrigue, in this, the third in Juliet Blackwell's Witchcraft series. I find myself wanting to describe the break-in to Aunt Cora's Closet; how helpful yet stubborn her Familiar Oscar is; and so much more, but I don't want to spoil the book which the reader is sure to enjoy listening to with the narration pulling the reader even deeper into the story.

In this book, I definitely see growth in Lily and other main characters plus many more secondary ones.  Narrator Xe Sands does an impressive job keeping up with the many subtle changes.  Juliet Blackwell leaves the book with a pronouncement on who will show up in the next book.  I'm so grateful I already have it here to read onward!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Have You Heard?

I published this news on Poisoned Pen's blog, but when the publicity department for Berkley Prime Crime contacted me, I realized I never put it on my blog. And, it should be here because I'm so pleased for Kate Carlisle. Here's the press release that was sent out.

I am thrilled to announce the release of the Hallmark Channel’s exciting new mystery franchise based off of Berkley author Kate Carlisle’sFixer Upper Mystery series! On January 15th the Hallmark Channel will air the first of the movie series, Framed for Murder, starring singer-songwriter, Jewel as the lead. Based off of the second book in Carlisle’s Fixer Upper Mystery series, THIS OLD HOMICIDE (Berkley Trade Mass Market Original; January 27, 2015; $7.99), the movie will follow the story of contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hughs (Jewel) as she stumbles across clues in her renovations that help her to get to the bottom of the suspicious death of a neighbor.

This past November Berkley also released the latest Fixer Upper Mystery, DECK THE HALLWAYS (Berkley Mass Market Original; November 1, 2016; $7.99), and has acquired the world English rights for two more books in the series.

“Framed for Murder: A Fixer-Upper Mystery”
Premieres Sunday, January 15, on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Jewel Performs Original Song

STUDIO CITY, CA – December 16, 2016 – Singer-songwriter and author Jewel stars in “Framed for Murder: A Fixer-Upper Mystery,” a new mystery franchise on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries network.  The “Fixer Upper Mysteries” movies are based upon New York Times bestselling author Kate Carlisle’s novels.  In the small resort town of Lighthouse Cove, everyone knows that the best man for the job is a woman.  And that woman is Shannon Hughes (Jewel), owner of Hughes Restoration and an expert in Victorian home restoration.  Through her work, she stumbles across clues hidden in the old homes, uncovering past secrets and becoming an unlikely sleuth to crack unsolved mysteries.
In “Framed for Murder: A Fixer-Upper Mystery,” the premiere movie in the franchise, Shannon Hughes, gets a partner in crime-solving when her new client offers to help hammer out the details of her friend and neighbor’s untimely death.  The new original movie stars Jewel (“Ride with the Devil,” “Ring of Fire”) and Colin Ferguson (“Eureka”), and premieres Sunday, January 15, (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. 

When home renovator extraordinaire Shannon Hughes (Jewel) suspects foul play in the death of her good friend and neighbor, yet is rebuffed by the police who have declared it “accidental,” she sets out to build a case for murder, with the help of her new client, famous
crime reporter and author Macintyre “Mac” Sullivan (Ferguson).  Together, they set out to deconstruct what Shannon believes to be a homicide, and nail the perpetrator, but not before further lives are endangered, lifelong friends are suspected, and a bejeweled necklace valued at $10 million is discovered.                                                                                                    

“Framed for Murder: A Fixer-Upper Mystery” is a Muse Entertainment Production. Joel S. Rice, Jewel, Michael Prupas, Allen Lewis, Jeff Holland and Stan Spry are the executive producers. Harvey Kahn is the producer. Mark Jean directs from a script by Peter Hume and Teena Booth, based on the Fixer-Upper Mystery series of books by Kate Carlisle.


With sister cable television network Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is the second 24-hour linear channel under the Crown Media Family Networks umbrella. Distributed in both (HD) and standard definition (SD) in 68 million homes across the United States, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is one of the fastest growing networks in cable and a leading destination for quality, family friendly entertainment. Launched in 2008 as Hallmark Movie Channel, the network was re-branded in fall of 2014, transitioning into Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. True to its name, the channel brings the lighter side of the suspense and mystery genres into focus with rich, dramatic, and thought-provoking storytelling. The network’s programming lineup features a unique mix of new, original movies, presentations from the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame library, and such time-honored acquired series as “Murder, She Wrote,” “Matlock,” “Hart to Hart” and “Diagnosis Murder.” The channel is also home to the annual, eight-week holiday programming event “Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas,” which helps viewers celebrate the season with new, original movies and beloved holiday classics, including “A Christmas Carol,” “Holiday Affair,” “Babes in Toyland,” and “Christmas in Connecticut.”