Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Family Trees

Blame my mother. She and my sister went to a genealogy workshop yesterday, and, once again, when I talked to Mom, I got caught up in going through our family tree. We have genealogy going back forever on my mom's side, from all of her family. My paternal grandmother's records go back forever.  It's my paternal grandfather's family that gets lost just a couple generations back. And, that's what hangs us up no matter what source I use.

So, last night, instead of finishing my book so I could write a review, I ended up spending two hours on websites, working on genealogy. Thanks, Mom!

(If you're interested in that sort of thing, Ancestry.com says I'm 65% from Great Britain, 14% Italy, Greece, 7% Eastern Europe, 5% Scandinavia, and less than 1% (with low confidence) West Asia. Although how that ends up on a map to show most of my relatives came over from Great Britain and Germany, I don't know. Actually, that's what we did know. They came from Great Britain and France/Germany.)

Do you get hooked on this stuff when you sit down to work on it?

Monday, August 21, 2017

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool by Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella

Okay, I tried it. I love the collected essays by Lisa Scottoline and her daughter, Francesca Serritella. They make me laugh, occasionally cry. But, they're always excellent glimpses at contemporary life. I have a friend who listens to the audio books, which are read by the authors. She's right in that it adds to the experience when you hear Lisa read the pieces in her South Philly accent. Each of the authors read their essays in  I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool.

I listened to three quarters of the book, but I just couldn't do it anymore. I'm finishing the book by reading it. My friend's right. The voices are wonderful. But, it just takes too long for me to listen to a book. I have a short commute to work. I might get through six essays going back and forth to the library. And, if I have another fifteen minutes to walk that day, I get through a couple more. I've been listening to this book for a week. And, it's fun.

But, I could have read this book in six hours. I'm not one to sit at home and listen to a book. And, I certainly don't clean the house, so I can't finish the audio book while I'm cleaning. I'm going to finish I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool by reading it, imaging the authors' reading each piece. I have just a couple hours of reading left.

Oh, and the book itself? Lisa has a snake in her garden. It's a recurring theme, along with her garden room. Only Lisa Scottoline can take tiny events in her life, tell it in episodes, and make you laugh. Of course, in the audio book, she adds the "sssss" sound when she talks about 'sssssnakes". Francesca Serritella's pieces usually aren't quite as funny, but they're certainly thoughtful pieces that do capture the exact moment in time. Her piece, "Anniversary", will stay with you, especially with recent events. And, both authors write (or talk) about last year's election.

Whether you choose to listen to the delightful recording by Scottoline and Serritella, or read the book, you'll get humor and a little nostalgia and thoughtful pieces in I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool.

Lisa Scottoline's website is www.scottoline.com

Francesca Serritella's website is www.francescaserritella.com

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool by Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella. St. Martin's Press, 2017. ISBN 9781250059963 (hardcover), 336p.

Audio book - Macmillan Audio. 2017. ISBN 9781427285904 (unabridged)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Have You Heard? - Keeper of the Castle by Juliet Blackwell

Today, Sandie Herron reviews one of Juliet Blackwell's Haunted Home Renovation mysteries. Check out Keeper of the Castle.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/617KlKhU%2ByL._AA300_.jpgKEEPER OF THE CASTLE
Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series #5
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged audiobook
Listening Length: 7 hours and 57 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio, Release Date: Dec 2, 2014

When I read that construction manager Mel Turner's boyfriend Graham was involved in the reconstruction of a Scottish castle in California, I knew Mel would be involved sooner or later.  Within the rising walls of the castle, construction workers were being scared away by a mysterious woman in red and chased by a knight in armor.  

Mel was called to visit the site because of her sensitivities to ghosts.  Since the site was in Marin county and a long commute from home in San Francisco, Mel was invited to stay over at the owner's plush mansion and retreat where he gave motivational talks and workshops.  

Mel discovered a beautiful but intensely sad female ghost in a round room.  Mel also witnessed a male Scottish ghost attacking or chasing anyone who approached.  When the knight saw Mel approach the woman, he began his chase but stopped when he realized Mel was not a man.  After long talks with many other witnesses and experts alike, Mel discovered what motivated the ghosts.  Avoidance of the round room quieted the ghosts immediately.   

Mel watched construction and made many helpful suggestions.  So many that when the current contractor left the job, Mel and Turner Construction were hired to take over.  This put Mel farther from home when trouble struck.  Could she go ahead with so many hands out-stretched to her?

I am immensely enjoying watching Mel grow and morph into the strong adult woman she already is but only now is she allowing her own opinion join with the others.  Her extended family also supports her.  New facets of her life are emerging, and some are disappearing; they all suit her.  

I read this title on audiobook so had the pleasure to listen to narrator Xe Sands further bring this story to life.  This series continues to delight.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Have You Heard? - Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Actually, this is a book review today, not a review of an audio. But, Sandie Herron reviewed Shirley Rousseau Murphy's latest mystery, Cat Shining Bright, so it falls under "Have You Heard?" Check out Sandie's review.
Cat Shining Bright: A Joe Grey Mystery (Joe Grey Mystery Series Book 20) by [Murphy, Shirley Rousseau]
Cat Shining Bright
Written by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Series:  Joe Grey mystery #20
Publisher:  William Morrow
Published: August 15, 2017
ISBN:  0062460315 (ISBN13: 9780062460318)
*****  5 stars

CAT SHINING BRIGHT is about coming of age and changes in the lives of the magical sentient felines that live in Molena Point, California.  Joe Grey and his love Dulcie are marveling over the birth of their three kittens, two boys and a girl, waiting to see if they, too, will speak and read human language.  The boys Striker and Buffin are buff colored.  The third kitten, Courtney, is the calico female that Misto, the wise old yellow tomcat, had predicted would return from the lands in the Celtic myths.  

On the night of severe rain storms and howling winds, a car theft ring skulks through the village breaking into cars, driving those they can away and stealing any valuables left inside the cars they can’t start.  Felines Kit and Pan brave the storms and follow detectives from MPPD compiling a description of two thieves and observing their actions.   Joe Grey still enjoys his investigative work as snitch for the Molena Point Police Department but has cut his hours drastically to save more time for his family.  When he reads the newspaper account of the car thefts, Dulcie urges him to go be part of what he loves at MPPD.  Up until now the kittens had been sheltered from learning any bad news, but they latch onto these stories wanting to be part of detecting work too.

Unknown to Joe, the kittens sneak out of the house and follow him to MPPD.  They watch as Joe appears to sleep on the police captain’s desk, when he is actually stealing glances at reports and listening to detectives discuss the day’s events.  When the police chief’s wife calls 911 to report the shooting deaths of her beautician and a customer in the salon, Joe follows detectives toward the MPPD exit to head for the scene.  Just then, moving shadows alert him to the presence of his kittens!  He is mortified to see them there, but he is compelled to visit the crime scene.  Promising to stick close to Joe, the kittens follow him to the scene.  Dulcie has discovered the kittens missing from home and hears the sirens; she knows then where the kittens have gone.

Dulcie and the kittens are no longer safe at Wilma Getz’s home after a stranger lurking outside breaks in.  Wilma scares him away before knowing what he was after, but she suspects it is an ancient hand printed book on the wild sentient cats. Discovering who broke into Wilma’s home and why gets tangled together with investigations into the murders and car thefts.  Kit and Pan and the feral cat clowder are led to connections between the new cat shelter and its closest neighbor.  Shelter owner Kate Osborne and construction worker Scotty Flannery observe strange happenings near the shelter.   Joe Grey has a plan to tie everything together and entice the thieves out of hiding right into the arms of MPPD detectives.

This 20th entry in the charming Joe Grey series takes us deeper into the lives of human and feline residents of Molena Point.  Joe and Dulcie watch their kittens grow up and discover new passions and new alliances.  They know their trusted friends will help guide their kittens into their adult lives.

Highly recommended.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Winners & A Law Enforcement Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Sue F. from Crosslake, MN won Death on Nantucket. Andi D. from Phoenix, AZ will receive Shiver Hitch. The books are going out today.

This week, I'm giving away two ARCs featuring law enforcement. Claire Booth takes us to Branson, Missouri in Another Man's Ground. Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to look at trees that have been stripped of their bark, which the owner was harvesting for the herbal supplement market. It's a distraction from Hank's political campaigning, a job he hates. But, then a group of illegal immigrants discovers a body deep in the woods. And, that case thrusts the sheriff into the middle of a generations-old feud.

Or, you could win Linda Castillo's Down a Dark Road. The best description for the book, without spoilers, comes from the back of the book. "Eight years ago Joseph King, a "fallen" Amish man, was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison. Now King has escaped. Armed and desperate, he turns to Chief of Police Kate Burkholder to prove his innocence."

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 line should read either "Win Another Man's Ground" or "Win Down a Dark Road." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Aug. 24 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I'm deep into this month's reading for Library Journal, reading mysteries that come out October through December. Even so, I'm reading chapters of Martin Edwards' The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. It's fascinating history, and I'm making a list of books I want to read. I also read Louise Penny's forthcoming Gamache novel, Glass Houses. Her books continue to be unbelievable. She's such a wonderful writer. I'm not even going to say anything about the story until I review the book here.

So, what are you reading this week? I'll check back to see throughout the day, and I know others will be checking back, too. Please share!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler

Twenty years after the last book in David Handler's series featuring Stewart "Hoagy" Hoag and his basset hound, Lulu, the author brings them back. The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes is set in 1992 when Hoagy is still pining for his ex-wife, actress Merilee Nash. He's still ghostwriting celebrity memoirs. He's still as cynical as ever.

Author Richard Aintree disappeared after his wife committed suicide, leaving behind his two teenage daughters. One went on to become a Hollywood celebrity after writing two tell-all memoirs. The other, Reggie, was the love of Hoagy's life before he met Merilee. But, the two were destructive together, and it was only when he left Reggie that Hoagy was able to write his literary masterpiece.  Merilee knows Hoagy never forgot Reggie. When Hoagy's literary agent wants him to work with Richard's daughter, Monette, to ghostwrite Aintree's memoir, Merilee encourages him to take the job.

From beginning to end, this job is a mess. Hoagy can't stand Monette's agent. He finds Reggie just as strange as ever. And, once he flies to Hollywood, he's in the midst of Monette's lifestyle, with paparazzi at the gates, Monette's cheating, drug-addicted husband calling, and attempts on his life. When there's a shooting at a birthday party at Monette's house, neither Hoagy nor his police lieutenant friend believe the confession of the supposed killer. Everyone is a suspect.

Publishing fans encouraged Handler to bring back Hoagy and Lulu. The story reminds me of detective novels of the '40s and '50s, when the detective was cynical and the women were bad. It felt dated, but that's only my opinion. I'm sure fans of the series will welcome the return of several of their favorite characters in The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes.

David Handler's website is www.davidhandlerbooks.com

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler. William Morrow. 2017. ISBN 9780062412843 (paperback), 288p.

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dog Dish of Doom by E.J. Copperman

Anyone who appreciates E.J. Copperman's sense of humor will "lap up" the wit and hilarity in his first Agent to the Paws mystery, Dog Dish of Doom. He combines one-liners, dry humor and a great cast of characters, beginning with the narrator, Kay Powell.

Kay is the daughter of actors, so she understands show business, the performers, the schedules. If she could only deal with her clients, she'd be happy. But, she has to deal with their owners. Kay Powell is an agent for animal performers. Here's a law school graduate with show business experience herself, and a love of animals. She's found the perfect dog to star as the new Sandy in a long-running production of Annie. It's Bruno's owner who isn't so perfect. During try-outs, Trent Barclay gets into an argument with the director he considers a hack, Les McMaster. Les hires Bruno, but stipulates that Trent isn't allowed in the theater. When Trent's wife finds him face down in Bruno's dog dish that night, with a knife in his back, that's no longer a problem. Kay just hopes it's easier to work with Louise Barclay.

Instead, she finds herself handling an emotionally unstable woman while trying to save Bruno's career. And, then she's trying to save Bruno himself. All kinds of people seem to want her to hand Bruno over to them. It's not that she doesn't want to give up her commission. She doesn't want to see the lovable dog in the wrong hands. And, those hands may belong to a killer.

This is a cast of characters made for show business and a hilarious mystery. Kay is the straight man while dealing with her aging parents. Because they're on hiatus from their jobs on a cruise ship, Kay's father is auditioning senior performers in her house, while planning his next role - detective to investigate Trent's murder. And, unfortunately, the brusque homicide detective falls right in with her father, asking for Kay's help. Show business. Kay Powell knows show business and animals, not crime investigations.

Copperman's first Agent to the Paws mystery, Dog Dish of Doom, was refreshing and funny. Looking for something entertaining? This is it.

E.J. Copperman's website is http://www.ejcopperman.com

Dog Dish of Doom by E.J. Copperman. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250084279 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dirty Wars and Polished Silver by Lynda Schuster

Lynda Schuster's memoir, Dirty Wars and Polished Silver, is a story of a changing life, much of it spent in war zones. Ironically, Schuster's second marriage to a career diplomat was meant as a change from her career as a war correspondent. However, even then, she ended up in war zones. This is a fascinating story, told by a skilled writer, about two worlds most of us never experience.

In the 1970s, seventeen-year-old Lynda Schuster fled from her family life in Detroit. Her parents had divorced. Lynda didn't get along with her mother, and her father was living in London. She used a visit to her father as a way to arrive at her final destination, a kibbutz in Israel where she was a volunteer in a work/study program. The Golan Heights came under attack while she was there. "The thing about war - as long as you're not dying - is that it's oddly exhilarating." Despite fear at times, Schuster learned to live with that exhilaration.

After grad school, and a job with the Jerusalem Post, Schuster ended up at the Wall Street Journal. After one year, she became a correspondent for them, ending up covering wars in Central America. They sent her to several war zones, while asking her to cover the business of the countries, not the wars. In fact, when she went to El Salvador, she was told, "Don't bother dying down there. We wouldn't even appreciate the kind of story that could get you killed."

Lynda Schuster's story is also about the two men she loved, one a journalist who shared her knowledge of war zones, the other a career diplomat. Ironically, when she married the man who became the deputy ambassador in Monrovia, Liberia, she thought it would keep her away from war. Instead, she ended up in the thick of it. And, they went on to posts in Mozambique and Peru when he was appointed ambassador. The girl from Detroit, a war correspondent, panicked when she became an ambassador's wife.

Dirty Wars and Polished Silver is a story only Schuster could write. It's riveting, sometimes funny, sometimes touching. The scene with the frogs and a tennis racket is unforgettable. But Schuster also saw and experienced heartbreaking moments. She's written a compelling story of world history as it affected and changed her life.

Dirty Wars and Polished Silver by Lynda Schuster. Melville House. 2017. ISBN 9781612196343 (hardcover), 326p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to participate in the TLC blog tour.

Here's the list of the blog tour stops.

Lynda Schuster’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, August 14thLesa’s Book Critiques
Tuesday, August 15thDwell in Possibility
Wednesday, August 16thRun Wright
Monday, August 21st5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, August 24thDiary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, August 28thI Brought A Book
Friday, September 1stJathan & Heather
Thursday, September 7thBroken Teepee – Spotlight
Monday, September 11thPatricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, September 13thBooks & Bindings
Monday, September 18thSuzy Approved
Wednesday, September 20thKahakai Kitchen

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck

As I mentioned a few days ago, I was reading John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search of America. Sadly, one of the final episodes in the book is still being played out fifty-six years after publication of the book. Steinbeck wrote about America and its people with love and a little humor, but he didn't find any humor in the hatred in New Orleans when the U.S. Marshals had to be brought in to integrate a school. The violence and bigotry and hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia would probably bring back memories for the author. And, on a personal note, which should not be considered part of the book review, I resent that the white marchers are called white "nationalists". They don't represent the nation I love. They represent that bigotry and hatred that Steinbeck viewed in New Orleans, and that still haunts this country.

The book is Steinbeck's account of a three month journey he took, accompanied by "an old French gentleman poodle known as Charley". The two traveled across the northern part of the United States, down the western coast, and home on the southern route in a truck he called Rocinante after Don Quixote's horse. They tried to avoid major highways when they could, traveling more than 10,000 miles. And, along the way, Steinbeck talked to people here and there, looking for American thought and spirit.

Steinbeck's keen observation is that his book only represents the America he saw, and that other travelers will see a different country. Everyone's view is different based on their own experiences. His view of Yellowstone, accompanied by a poodle who suddenly turned into a ferocious beast when he saw a bear, was funny and out of character for the dog. However, others won't have that same short-lived view of Yellowstone. And, Steinbeck's longing and feelings of home and loss when he returned to Monterey and Carmel and San Francisco is based on his past life there. It's not a feeling others will share.

Travels with Charley in Search of America may represent only John Steinbeck's journey. But the author takes the place of so many of us with his observations, his loneliness at times, his view of traffic and cities, his need for human contact. And, John Steinbeck brings an acute awareness and a poet's language to a book that stands the test of time.

And, as I said, unfortunately, there are parts of the book that still ring true.

Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck. Penguin Books. 1962. 214p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Have You Heard - Cat in the Dark by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Thanks to Sandie Herron for today's post. Under the title, "Have You Heard?", Sandie reviews audio books. Today's feature is Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Cat in the Dark.

Cat in the Dark: A Joe Grey Mystery (#4)Cat in the Dark
Joe Grey Mystery Book 4
Written by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, Narrated by Susan Boyce
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Time 9 hours and 15 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Release Date: January 23, 2013

Winner of the Cat Writers' Association's 1999 Muse Medallion

This fourth entry in the Joe Grey series is a mystery featuring amateur sleuths of a unique nature in Joe Grey and Dulcie, sentient cats and more than best friends.    I think this entry has a line going through it about love, or lack of love, and the various kinds of love.  Joe Grey and Dulcie are very much in love and spend all their time together as possible.  They love to investigate crimes.  They must do so carefully since they don’t want to reveal their special abilities of speech and reading.  Sound too far gone and unbelievable?  Not so in Mrs. Murphy’s skilled hands.

Wilma’s niece Charlie’s new Clean it, Fix it business was doing well.  Under the cats’ silent supervision, she had two employees to whom she was delegating the cleaning and minor repairs.  Charlie did the heavier fixing.  Mavity is one hard worker.  Pearl Ann, the other worker, does well in splitting duties with Mavity.   Both are working at an investment guru’s home who works by computer at home.  Pearl Ann just loves what he does with the little bit of money she’s given him to invest.  Until later when she discovers what he’s actually done with it.      

And then Mavity disappears.  No one knows why or where.  So the town searches for her until finally she is found unconscious in the back seat of her car which has apparently hit a lamp post.  Mavity’s worst wound comes from a screw driver hitting her, not the car accident.  She is taken to the hospital in the next town, but fairly quickly they identify her.  Afterward Wilma takes her into her home to help her regain her memory and what had upset her so.  Wilma has Dulcie stay with Mavity to comfort her and to gather clues.

Mavity’s brother Greely is also in town on a visit, only he has rented a store room as the only place he could find to rent and get drunk.  He has an all black cat named Azrael who is evil.  He and the other cats do not get along and actually enter several fights.    Azrael is also sentient and cruel. He enjoys scaring Dulcie.  He actually jumps to attack Mavity, but Dulcie jumps to stop him and they fight until he runs off.

One action that makes this story explode is made by the investor.  He had his doubts about Pearl Ann.  Via Dulcie and Joe Grey, we know that Pearl Ann had entered his home with the key she had to clean with, and spent many hours on his computer.  He supposedly leaves his home for a short trip, but he hides his car a few blocks away and returns home quietly to find Pearl Ann working on his computer.  What follows is rather nasty!

When we finally reach the end when humans and cats all share a picnic, we again visit family ties and how family interacts with each other and outside the family.  A few humans leave Molena Point with the possibility of return one day.  Molena Point is the better for it.  

I found myself listening to some of this book while doing nothing else such as folding the laundry or whatever chore I could do ”mindlessly,” and I was amazed at how well Susan Boyce read the different characters.  I would turn on the player and hear her voice begin but in another character’s role, and I could hear distinct yet subtle differences from one character to another.  Even Clyde’s exasperation and cries of “Come on…” sound quite genuine.  I find it difficult not to get caught up in someone else’s anger when that is all they say.  I follow even closer what follows, so Susan Boyce and Mrs. Murphy via Ms. Boyce’s voice had me wrapped around her microphone!  I wonder what happens next in Molena Point.  I don’t even have to wait to find out since I have the audiobook here.  Purrr.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Winners and Island Mysteries

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Bev M. from Boise, ID won Peggy O'Neal Peden's Your Killin' Heart. Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beasley is going to Charlotte W. from Covington, GA. I'll take care of the books today.

This week, I'm giving away island mysteries. These ARCs are both in a series, but you do not have to Death on Nantucket is the latest Merry Folger mystery by Francine Mathews. Merry is a police officer on the island where her family has served for years. And, Spencer Murphy has lived on Nantucket for years, writing his bestselling books after the famous correspondent escaped captivity in Southeast Asia. As he's aged, though, he's become forgetful. And, he can't really answer questions about the body that's found in his home. Merry thinks the death was an accident until another family member ends up dead.
have read the earlier books to read these. So, don't hesitate to enter the giveaways.

I'll admit Linda Greenlaw's Shiver Hitch has a couple of Josh's teeth marks. However, the Jane Bunker mystery is intriguing. Jane is an insurance investigator and part-time deputy sheriff. She's called to examine a house that has burned down on Acadia Island. But, when she finds a body in the ashes, she suddenly has to wear her deputy sheriff hat, working quickly as a Nor'easter heads up the coast.

Which island 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 line should read either "Win Death on Nantucket" or "Win Shiver Hitch." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, August 17 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What Are You Reading?

It's the day after #BookLoversDay, but it's still #BookLoversMonth. It's always that day and month in my world.

This week, I'm reading John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America. I've never read it. On Tuesday, I was reading an article about Norman Rockwell, and the article mentioned that John Steinbeck went to New Orleans, and saw Ruby Bridges when the country was trying to integrate the school system. The article quoted Steinbeck from Travels with Charley. So, I picked up a copy of the book at the library, and fell in love with Steinbeck's words in the introduction. Now, I'm traveling with Steinbeck and Charley.

What are you reading or listening to this week? I have a morning meeting, but I'll catch up on your comments during the day.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Path into Darkness by Lisa Alber

I wish I had discovered Lisa Alber's County Clare mysteries before the third book. You can start with Path into Darkness, but I recommend you start with the first, Kilmoon. The relationships are complicated enough that you should meet the characters in the original atmospheric mystery.

Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern is struggling. His wife is on life-support, and his weekly trips to the hospital with his children and father-in-law are difficult. Now, there's a murder in Lisfenora. Danny recognizes the victim as an old pub mate, but he's horrified when he discovers a lodger in the back of the victim's house. It seems Elder Joe was running a scheme to take in older lodgers with no nearby relatives. But, why was EJ killed?

That's only one of Danny's problems. One of the last people to spend time with Elder Joe is Nathan Tate, an artist who suffers from PTSD. His daughter, Zoe, tries so hard to help her father, but Nathan seems to fear her. Now, Danny tries to get answers from a troubled man who doesn't always know the day or time.

Alber's latest mystery is a complex story with multiple narrators, including one who is journaling, telling the story from an anonymous viewpoint for part of the book. It's a story of death and renewal, resurrection of people and the past. It's an atmospheric story of Ireland, filled with myth and darkness.  The characters are often as hard and mysterious as the Burren in County Clare. Path into Darkness is a fascinating story of murder and fear.

Lisa Alber's website is www.LisaAlber.com

Path into Darkness by Lisa Alber. Midnight Ink. 2017. ISBN 9780738750576 (paperback), 384p.

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

Personal - Last year, our trip to Ireland took us to Galway, the Burren in County Clare, McGann's Pub in Doolin, all scenes from this book. The atmospheric story brought those places back.

In The Burren

McGann's Pub in Doolin

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Dead Man's Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek

Fans of Glen Erik Hamilton's Van Shaw mysteries may want to pick up Robert J. Mrazek's Dead Man's Bridge. The protagonist is an Army veteran, courtmartialed after his tour in Afghanistan. But, Jake Cantrell is in the tradition of Robert B. Parker's tough, ex-veterans with a heart of gold. And, the book is a fast-paced, riveting story.

After his court martial, Jake returns to upstate New York where he went to college. He brings with him Bug, half-wolf, half-dog, a female he's still tending to after bringing her home. The only job he can get, thanks to a friend, is working campus security at St. Andrews College. His boss hates him; he drinks too much, and spends too much time at a local bar. But, even in his state, he knows the man found hanging from a footbridge on the campus did not kill himself. However, it's alumni weekend, and everyone else, from his boss to the local sheriff wants to call it suicide. When Jake tells the man's widow that he was murdered, he's suspended.

A suspension gives Jake time to look into a case of blackmail, but his suspension doesn't last long. When the dead man's best friend is found hanging from the same bridge, security needs his knowledge and skills. Teaming up with a local reporter, Jake realizes the story of the murders may link to the past. Now, Jake Cantrell has to deal with a killer, a blackmailer, and handle both cases with a Sunday deadline. But, the hurricane bearing down on the campus doesn't care about deadlines.

Jake Cantrell is a flawed hero, but, as said before, a man with a heart of gold. This riveting story kicks off a new series. Fast-paced, exciting, and with a terrific hero. What more do you want?

Robert J. Mrazek's website is http://www.robertjmrazek.com

Dead Man's Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek. Crooked Lane Books. 2017. ISBN 9781683312697 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Monday, August 07, 2017

Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund

If you're a fan of Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder mysteries, you'll want to try J.R. Backlund's debut, Among the Dead. Meet Rachel Carver, former police officer, former agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. She's an investigator who feels an obligation to the victims, to the point of obsession.

After resigning from the SBI when a case ended badly, Rachel is available when her former partner, Danny Braddock, calls. He's now with a sheriff's department in western North Carolina, a small unit with few resources to investigate a recent murder. Danny's boss is willing to hire Rachel. The victim was killed inside his house, with no signs of forced entry. There are no suspects. Rachel signs on, and works with Danny's team so they follow procedures and look for answers in the victim's past. And, then another man is killed. The method is different, but the precise timing, and the lack of other murders in the recent past leads Rachel to suspect the same killer. And, without any clues as to what the two men had in common, there are fears there may be other deaths.

Among the Dead is a fascinating police procedural as Rachel, Danny and the rest of the team track a killer, and study the victims for possible links. Even when they believe they've found their killer, there are unexpected twists. Rachel's skills, her ability to study the victims and dig into the past, are definitely needed in this intense, character-driven story.

It's somewhat graphic. It's violent. But, Among the Dead is a strong debut that introduces an intriguing character. Let's hope Rachel Carver finds her niche in the world of strong female investigators.

J. R. Backlund's website is www.jrbacklund.com

Among the Dead by J.R. Backlund. Crooked Lane. 2017. ISBN 9781683312734 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Sunday, August 06, 2017

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

Although Lady Georgiana is still as candid as ever, the latest Royal Spyness mystery takes a serious turn. Rhys Bowen takes Georgie to pre-World War II Italy in On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service.

When Darcy O'Mara has to leave the family estate in Ireland for another mysterious assignment, Georgie is bored there. It's only when she receives a letter from her friend, Belinda, in Italy, begging for company, that she has a place to go. But, before she can leave, she must have tea with Queen Mary who has it in her power to recommend to Parliament whether Georgie, thirty-fifth heir to the throne, can marry the Catholic Darcy. That trip to Italy plays right into the queen's hands. It seems, David, the Prince of Wales, and that woman, Wallis Simpson, will be attending a house party in the same area. Queen Mary says she will have Georgie invited so she can ensure that Mrs. Simpson doesn't already have her divorce. She doesn't want a surprise wedding in the family.

While Georgie's travels start with humor, from traveling without a maid to a man in her sleeping compartment, it isn't all lightness when she arrives at the house party. While there have been meetings of the Allies in the nearby town, here at the party, there are a strange assortment of guests. Mussolini's top advisor is there, as are German officers. Even Georgie's actress mother is accompanied by her fiancé, a German arms manufacturer. And, there are whispers that Hitler "will make Germany great again." When one guest is murdered, Georgie knows the killer could be anyone in the house, even her own mother.

Will Georgie's mother be arrested? Will Darcy and Georgie receive permission to finally marry? There are all sorts of issues for future books. It's going to be interesting to see what direction Rhys Bowen takes the mysteries in the pre-war years. Even with the looming dangers, Georgie, who isn't quite as awkward, and is growing in confidence, is still delightful On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service.

Rhys Bowen's website is www.rhysbowen.com

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen. Berkley Prime Crime. 2017. ISBN 9780425283509 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Brooklyn Wars by Triss Stein

Have you ever enjoyed the background of a book, but wanted to shake the amateur sleuth? I know some of my friends who love Triss Stein's Erica Donato mysteries are not going to be happy with my comments about  Brooklyn Wars. I love history, and I appreciate Stein's stories of Brooklyn. But, Erica Donato herself drives me nuts.

Donato is a PhD candidate who hasn't quite finished her dissertation about changes in city neighborhoods. A meeting about the Brooklyn Navy Yard, three hundred acres of undeveloped real estate, is right up her alley. She can hear a little about the history, meet the people, hear what they have to say about development. After hearing the angry comments against preserving the historic Admirals' Row, Erica wanders over to see the houses. She sees more than houses. She witnesses the shooting of Michael Conti, a power broker and wheeler dealer.

That's one more story she can add to her dissertation, despite her new adviser's frustration. Given a deadline to finish, Erica frantically searches for the story of Conti's life, discovering how many people hated him, including wives and his daughter. She never expects that her daughter's family history project will intersect with her research. Erica discovers that her late husband's family had connections to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. And, one young woman in the family even broke barriers by working there during World War II. Now, Erica just needs to wrap up her story of the Navy Yard, while juggling a part-time job, a potential romance, and her daughter's demands for a sixteenth birthday party, along with a visit from her difficult mother-in-law.

And, that's the problem with the book for me, Erica's personal life. I understand she married early, against the wishes of both sets of parents. I understand she lost her husband when her daughter was just a toddler. But, Erica Donato seems stuck in her life. Granted, that's part of this story that wraps up an arc, Erica learning to move on. But, emotionally, she seems younger than her sixteen-year-old daughter. It's Erica who seems to want to pick fights with everyone. At times, her daughter seems more mature.

I could have used a little more history, a little more actual connection of the family to the Brooklyn Naval Yard. And, I could have used a more mature amateur sleuth in Brooklyn Wars.

Triss Stein's website is www.trissstein.com

Brooklyn Wars by Triss Stein. Poisoned Pen Press. 2017. ISBN 9781464207198 (paperback) 236p.

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

Friday, August 04, 2017

A Humorous Debut Giveaway

This week, I'm giving away two humorous debut novels. The first one is Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beasley. The publicist is handling the mailing for this one. Here's the book's description.

Keep Me Posted

Two sisters share the surprising highs and cringeworthy lows of social media fame, when their most private thoughts become incredibly public in this fresh and funny debut novel.

The once-close Sunday sisters have not done a bang-up job of keeping in touch. Cassie is consumed with trying to make her life work as a Manhattan wife and mom to twin toddlers, while her bighearted sister, Sid, lives an expat’s life of leisure in far-off Singapore. So Sid, who shuns social media, challenges Cassie to reconnect through old-fashioned letters.

Soon, the letters become a kind of mutual confessional that have real and soul-satisfying effects. They just might have the power to help Cassie save her marriage, and give Sid the strength to get her life back on track.

But first, one of Cassie’s infamous lapses in judgment comes back to bite her, and all of the letters wind up in the one place you’d never, ever want to see them: the Internet . . .
About the author:

Lisa Beazley has worked in journalism and public relations for more than fifteen years. Keep Me Posted is her first novel.

The second book is a mystery, Your Killin' Heart by Peggy O'Neal Peden. This was the winner of the Malice Domestic Competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel.  Set in Nashville, it introduces Campbell Hale, the owner of a travel agency. When she gets the chance, she can't resist a visit to the mansion of mysterious country icon Jake Miller. But, when she pokes around, she finds a body. Campbell can't resist prying through the deceased star's life, looking for a killer. With her love life in tatters, she has time. But someone seems to be tracking Campbell.

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 Keep Me Posted" or "Win Your Killin' Heart." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Aug. 10 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I'm actually in Cleveland for a conference today, but I do have books with me. However, the one I'm reading is for a book review for Library Journal, so I can't discuss it. The book comes out in October, so my review will be up then.

In the meantime, why don't you tell everyone what you're reading today? I hope you're enjoying it!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

September Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

If you didn't find a book that appealed to you in yesterday's list, check out day 2 of Treasures in My Closet. These books are coming out in September.

Joe Gunther leaves his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team in capable hands in Archer Mayor's Trace. A family emergency takes him to St. Louis, leaving Sammie Martens to take charge. She's working on a murder case while Lester Spinney takes over a famous case. A police officer shot a driver who killed the policeman at the same time. Now, it appears the evidence is in doubt. And, Willie Kunkel, always the loose cannon, follows a trail that began with three teeth discovered on a railroad track. (Release date is Sept. 26.)

In Katayoun Medhat's The Quality of Mercy, Franz Kafka, aka "K" is a small-town cop whose routine is disrupted by a mysterious death at Chimney Rock. He teams up with Navajo cop Robbie Begay in an investigation that leads the mismatched duo across the reservation into the victim's past. (Release date is Sept. 12.)

I'm looking forward to Louisa Morgan's A Secret History of Witches. It's a sweeping historical saga that traces five generations of fiercely powerful mothers and daughters - witches whose magical inheritance is both a dangerous threat and an extraordinary gift. From early nineteenth century Brittany to London during the Second World War, the women fight the battles of their times. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

Celeste Ng writes of a community she grew up in, Shaker Heights, Ohio, in Little Fires Everywhere. Everything is planned in Shaker Heights, from the layout of the roads to the colors of the houses. And, Elena Richardson is very good at playing by the rules. Then Mia Warren and her teenage daughter, Pearl, rent a house from the Richardsons. But, Mia's disregard of the status quo threatens to disrupt the community. When Mia and Elena find themselves on opposite sides of the battle to adopt a Chinese-American family, there are unexpected and devastating costs. (Release date is Sept. 12.)

In the library field, Nancy Pearl is known as the model for the librarian action figure. Now, the NPR contributor and literary critic turns novelist with George and Lizzie. The two have vastly different understandings of love and marriage. George grew up in a warm loving family, while Lizzie grew up as the in-house experiment of two famous psychologists. Over the course of their marriage, George is happy and Lizzie remains unfulfilled, still preoccupied with the memories of a boyfriend who broke her heart years earlier. Now, Lizzie has decisions to make. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

Murderous Mistral is the first Provence mystery by Cay Rademacher. Capitaine Roger Blanc may have been a little too successful in his investigations with the anti-corruption-unit. He's been exiled from Paris to the south of France, a move that destroyed his marriage. He moves into a wreck of a house he inherited, and, while trying to do something with it, has his first murder investigation. An outsider in Provence has been killed. But, when a second man dies, Blanc must dig into the underside of Provence. (Release date is Sept. 19.)

Kate Jessica Raphael's Murder Under the Fig Tree takes readers to Palestine. Hamas has taken power there, and the Israeli government is rounding up threats. When Palestinian policewoman Rania Baker finds herself thrown in prison, her friend Chloe Rubin flies in fro San Francisco to try to free her. When an Israeli policeman offers Rania a way out, help find out who killed a young gay Palestinian, she discovers an underground scene she never knew existed. (Release date is Sept. 19.)

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, now examines the response to the question "How do I respond to expectations?" with her book The Four Tendencies. She analyzes personality types with the answers to that question. (Release date is Sept. 12.)

DI Geraldine Steel is influenced by family issues in the latest in Leigh Russell's series, Deadly Alibi. Her mother recently died, so she has a hard time getting involved when a woman's body is found stuffed in a rubbish bin. Even after a second murder, Geraldine finds herself overwhelmed by her new relationship to a twin sister who is a junkie. How will her family problems affect her career? (Release date is Sept. 1.)

Asking for Truffle is the first Southern Chocolate Shop mystery by Dorothy St. James. When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina, complete with free cooking lessons at the town's seaside chocolate shop, she's skeptical. She never entered a contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize, but he ends up drowned in a vat of chocolate. Charity feels guilty, so she heads to the Southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. She's wary of the locals, but even as she's drawn into their lives, she finds herself in the middle of a deadly plot to destroy the town. (Release date is Sept. 12.)

In the novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, author Susan Holloway Scott tells the story of Alexander Hamilton's wife, Eliza - a fascinating, strong-willed heroine in her own right and a key figure none of the most gripping periods in American history. (Release date is Sept. 26.)

Sheila Simonson's latest Latouche County mystery is Call Down the Hawk. When Jane August, an artist, is visiting her estranged father and his fifth wife on the Columbia River George, she does a good turn for a wine maker from neighboring Hawk Farm. She's swept into a mess of family secrets and betrayals, in the story of two families, feuding neighbors, and failed fathers. (Release date is Sept. 11.)

Dead in the Water is the first in a new series featuring Denise Swanson's beloved Scumble River setting and characters. When a violent tornado devastates Stumble River, school psychologist Skye Denison can't see how the community will ever recover, especially since town councilman Zeke Lyons appears to have perished in the twister. But things get even worse when Skye's husband, Wally, the police chief, disappears while investigating Zeke's death. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

Charlotte Holmes returns in Sherry Thomas' second Lady Sherlock mystery, A Conspiracy in Belgravia. She's had the freedom to put her powers of deduction to use as "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective". But, she's not prepared when Lady Ingram, wife of her friend and benefactor, asks Sherlock Holmes to find her first love. The case is even more personal when it appears she's looking for Charlotte's illegitimate half-brother. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

Kathleen Valenti's Protocol asks, "What if?" Maggie O'Malley is just out of college with a job as a pharmaceutical researcher. But, on her first day of work, she's receiving reminders on her phone of meetings she's never attended. And, people are showing up on the phone, just before they end up dead. With help from her best friend, Maggie discovers a connection between the people, and a treacherous plot. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

Ashley Weaver takes readers to Paris in The Essence of Malice, her latest mystery featuring British socialite Amory Ames and her husband Milo. In the 1930s, when Helios Belanger, a wealthy parfumier, dies shortly after surviving a small plane crash. But, Milo's former nanny, now employed by the Belanger family, insists it was murder. When the clever couple arrive in Paris, they learn confusion over the will have led to a battle for company control. Now, they both search for answers in a world of perfumers and murder. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

The Countess of Prague is Stephen Weeks' first in a planned series of ten mysteries as Beatrice von Falklenburg, known as Trixie, takes readers from Prague through Europe in a series that begins in 1904 and finished in 1914. We witness the stirring events and changes in society through Trixie's eyes, as she journeys from pampered aristocrat in a polite and impoverished marriage, to a degree of emancipation. She starts on her adventure when her uncle, a retired general, asks her to look into the story when a man is fished fro the river, an old man once under her uncle's command. It's a story that takes her from Prague to Paris and London, and back to a famous Czech spa where Edward VII of England, and his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm, have scheduled a meeting. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

Eva Woods' Something Like Happy is something like one of my favorite novels of the year. There's a Hundred Happy Days project. You're meant to do one thing every day that makes you happy. Now, two women, one who had hit rock bottom, and one who is dying of cancer, try that Hundred Happy Days project. It's a project that will change the lives of so many people in this moving story that will make you laugh and cry. (Release date is Sept. 5.)

And, here's the list of September releases that are still in my closet.

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen
We Are All Shipwrecks by Kelly Grey Carlisle
Paradox Bound by Peter Clines
The Taking of K-129 by Josh Dean
Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander
Kung Fu High School by Ryan Gattis
All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler
The Templars by Dan Jones
Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham
Null States by Malta Older
Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Somewhere in the last two days must be a book that resonates with you. Which one is it?