Saturday, March 25, 2017

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Any Sherlock Holmes fan will recognize the "Elementary" from stories, movies, and TV, if not from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's actual work. Vicki Delany's clever Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery, Elementary, She Read, is a wonderful addition to the tributes to "the World's Greatest Detective".

Gemma Doyle, whose Great Uncle Arthur claims to be related to Holmes' creator, is "the half owner, manager, head shop clerk, and chief duster of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in the Cape Cod town of West London, Massachusetts". The Englishwoman is also half owner of Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room, run by her best friend Jayne Wilson. Uncle Arthur established the store at 222 Baker Street for tourists, not for collectors or rare book dealers. Gemma, who is as observant as Sherlock Holmes, and almost as lacking in social skills, knows every item in the shop, and instantly tallies in her mind what has been sold. That's why she recognizes the presence of a magazine that doesn't belong in the shop, a copy of Beeton's Christmas Annual of 1887. Mentally, Gemma can picture all the people in the shop that day, and identify the woman who left it behind. Gemma and Jayne track the woman to a local hotel, but they're too late to return the magazine. They find her dead.

Gemma's honesty and straightforward conversation do not necessarily work well for her when the police show up. One officer is a man she used to date. One is a woman who takes an instant dislike to Gemma. If they won't let her help with their investigations, she'll take it upon herself to find answers. After all, she found the body, and what appears to be a magazine worth a half million dollars. Everyone in town seems to think Gemma now owns the copy of Beeton's, although she protests she only found it in her shop. She might as well use her intelligence and observation skills to find a killer.

Delany's newest series introduces a delightful amateur sleuth with recognizable traits. Her honesty, observation skills, and her lack of awareness are perfect. There's a sense of humor in the book, and it's at Gemma Doyle's expense. The clues and case are so obvious as Gemma explains them, and, sometimes, so obviously wrong. Elementary, She Read is a charming addition to all the stories related to the subject of Sherlock Holmes.

Vicki Delany's website is

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane. 2017. ISBN 9781683310969 (hardcover), 308p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, March 24, 2017

Winners and Award Nominee Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Courtney W. of Loceya Spring, AL won City of the Lost. Lisa G. from Pensacola Beach, FL won The Widower's Wife. The books will go out today.

This week, I'm giving away two books that feature journalists. The books were award nominees. Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin is up for the Edgar for Best Paperback Original of 2016. Ellie Stone's holiday in the Adirondacks is interrupted by murder. Two men plummeted to their deaths on the rocks near a dangerous diving pool. But, the police soon learn the men didn't know each other. Ellie, a reporter and amateur sleuth, is caught up in an investigation involving free-love intellectuals, charismatic evangelicals, and old grudges.

Hester Young's The Gates of Evangeline was a nominee for debut novel from the International Thriller Writers. The contemporary Gothic novel takes Charlotte "Charlie" Cates to a Louisiana plantation. After a dream shows a young boy asking for her help, she accepts a job writing the story of a boy who disappeared years earlier. She's hoping she can prevent the death of a missing child while she's there. She uncovers secrets of love, betrayal and murder, secrets that could put her in danger.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Heart of Stone" or "Win The Gates of Evangeline." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 30 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading today? I'm enjoying the first Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery, Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany. I like the sleuth's voice. Gemma Doyle moved from England to West London, Massachusetts where she's part owner of Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. It's a fun story.

So, I want to catch up. Are you slogging through an on-going book? Or, have you been racing through something entertaining? Let us know!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

The disease of the year must be ovarian cancer. Last month, I reviewed The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth. Hepworth's novel focused as much on the daughter as the dying mother, because the daughter suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder. There's a dying mother in Lauren Grodstein's Our Short History, again dying of ovarian cancer. But, the voice! Oh, the voice of Karen Neulander is beautiful and ferocious and demanding. It's perfect for the novel.

Karen Neulander is dying of Stage IV ovarian cancer. She hopes to have at least two more years with her six-year-old son, Jacob. As a single mother, it's just been her and Jake against the world, her beautiful son. She has her plans made. He'll move from their home in New York City to the Seattle area where he'll live with her sister Allison's family. And, she takes him there for the summer so he can make himself at home. It's there that she starts to write a book to Jacob to tell him about her feelings for him, her love and her hopes. And, she tells Jake about her family, her job as a campaign manager for Democratic candidates. And, then Jake asks to meet his father.

When Jake's father, Dave, learned Karen was pregnant, he insisted he never wanted to be a father, and even questioned whether the baby was his. Karen left, and never told him she kept the baby. Now, when she contacts Dave, he's ecstatic to learn he has a son, and wants to meet him. Jake and Dave bond immediately, and it shakes Karen. Now, on top of worrying that she's dying and leaving Jacob, she's worried her ex will try to claim their son.

It's all on the pages. Karen's voice is the voice of a mother pouring out her life and her soul to the son she knows she won't see grow. She knows he'll be at least eighteen when he reads the story she leaves behind. All of her feelings for Jake and her anger at Dave are on the pages, "My Jackson Pollack of feelings (rage, heartbreak, longing, sadness, patience, grief, sweetness, murder." The entire book is in Karen's voice as she writes her life, explaining herself to a Jake that she admits she won't even know when he reads it. She won't know what he looks like as an adult, where he'll go to school, what sports he'll play. Grodstein gives voice to a mother's love for her son. And, when her sister Allison deals with her problems with her older children, and comes to rescue Karen in a time of need, they fall asleep side-by-side. "We fell asleep pondering the condition of being mothers, which was, of course, the condition of helping the people you love most in the world leave you."

In Our Short History, a dying Karen Neulander writes a love letter to her son. There's heartbreak here, but the love is so strong, it outweighs the heartbreak. Grodstein has created a mother's voice in her novel, and it's a strong voice of love and anger and fear. This is a book for book clubs, a book you'll remember.

Lauren Grodstein's website is

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein. Algonquin Books. 2017. ISBN 9781616206222 (hardcover), 352p.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry

Anne Perry's Murder on the Serpentine wraps up the story of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt as we know it. However, since she's going to pick up the story of the next generation, I'm sure we'll see the couple again. Even so, this mystery is an excellent finale to this storyline.

Thomas is now commander of Special Branch, the part of Her Majesty's government that deals with threats to the safety of the nation. But, he's not prepared to be summoned to meet with Queen Victoria herself. The aging Queen is troubled and concerned for her son's reputation. She's been on the throne for sixty-two years, and knows it's almost time for Edward to take over. She wants Thomas to personally look into the background of Alan Kendrick, a new friend of the prince's who seems to have a great deal of influence over him. And, she wonders if Alan Kendrick knows more than he should about the death of an advisor to the Queen.

Sir John Halberd's body was discovered in the Serpentine, a shallow river that runs through Hyde Park. Rumors swirl as Society wonders what he was doing there at night. Now, Thomas must work himself into the right places to hear the gossip, without informing Charlotte of his interest. After nineteen years of marriage, the couple has been used to working together. But, Thomas' new position, and this assignment from the Queen, means he can't tell his wife what he's doing. For the first time, Charlotte feels lost and unneeded.

As Thomas struggles with the most important case of his life, one that could influence all of England, readers witness a good man troubled by his conscience, and his need to take actions that sometimes bother him. It's a story of power, and how it can be used and misused. At the same time, Charlotte's emotions and actions are important to the story. Perry has brought the couple together, summarizing their years and their cases, in this fascinating story. And, the finale is an ending appropriate for Thomas and Charlotte Pitt's storyline.

Anne Perry's website is

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry. Ballantine Books. 9780425284988 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Recap - Anne Perry at The Poisoned Pen

I had never heard Anne Perry, so I was lucky enough to see her at The Poisoned Pen when I was in Arizona. I really liked her latest Thomas and Charlotte Pitt book, Murder on the Serpentine. Here's the recap of the program.

Thomas Pitt, who is now commander of Special Branch, is asked to take a special assignment by Queen Victoria, who is in the last years of her reign. The assignment puts Thomas in a difficult position. He can’t go home and talk to Charlotte about the case now that he’s head of the anti-terrorist force. Charlotte has to do a work around with Emily in order to find out information. Perry said Emily is made for deviousness. Lady Vespasia is currently on her honeymoon with Victor, so they are not available for advice or assistance. Perry deliberately sent Victor out of the country so Pitt had to work on the investigation by himself.

Perry said this book poses a moral question, whether you will do something repugnant to you to fulfill a duty – your job – going against your better nature to save the country. It’s something Thomas would rather not do, but must. The danger is very real.

After Prince Albert’s death, there was a great deal of tension between Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. Victoria has always been fun, but Albert was a prude. While at Cambridge, Bertie had a fling with an actress. Although Albert was sick, he went to scold him despite the terrible weather, and he died soon after. Victoria blamed Edward for his father’s death. She wouldn’t let him participate in government until just before she died. However, the Germans were fond of him and his libertine behavior.

Edward had a penchant for friends who were not quite appropriate, not just women. In Murder on the Serpentine, Victoria was concerned about one of Bertie’s new friends. She asked a trusted friend to look into the man’s background, and her friend ended up dead. She was concerned she had sent him to his death. Was it an accident or murder? Here’s a woman who has outlived most of her the people she loved. She’s fragile. She’s been the Queen since she was nineteen. Can Thomas tell her the truth? She asks to see him, and personally asks him to investigate.

The book also deals with armaments, and the fear of a second Boer War.

And, there’s some of the bitchiest dialogue between women in some of Perry’s scenes. It’s cruel, but said with a smile. Perry said there’s elegance in the façade of British society.

Asked if she was writing anything else, Perry said she wants to write an international thriller set in the 1930s in Berlin. There’s so many things she’d like to do. She’s doing the final edit of the Daniel story. Daniel is the son of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The book is set in 1910. Perry said she can only work all the time. She can’t do any more. She does her best work in the morning when she’s sharpest. Afternoon work isn’t as good.

Perry and Peters discussed Anne Perry’s recent move from Scotland to West Hollywood. She said she couldn’t take her all of her books. She only took thirty, most of them poetry. She loves Dante’s Inferno. He said, “You’re not punished for your sins, but by your sins.” There was a lengthy discussion of the alphabet when she mentioned a history of the alphabet book. If language isn’t written, that civilization is lost.

There were conversations about World War II, language, laundry, Princess Margaret, war memorials, the RAF and British pilots in the United States. Barbara Peters said the conversations at The Poisoned Pen often contain lengthy digressions because they can’t talk about the books for more than five or ten minutes because people haven’t yet read it. Anne Perry said she loves to talk with the readers, though, and take their questions. She likes to know what readers are thinking. She writes to communicate stories to the readers.

Peters said she often asks authors who their readers are. Who is their audience? When she said Anne Perry knows her readers, Perry said, “A lot of retired English teachers and librarians.” Also clergy and nuns.

Anne Perry said she’s editing an anthology for Mystery Writers of America. She picked the topic of odd couples – detectives who pair up with someone in an unlikely pairing. For instance, Charles Todd wrote about Ian Rutledge and his ghost.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tucson Festival of Books

My trip to Arizona was all about books. I flew to Phoenix with my friend, Donna, and then we drove down to Tucson. The book festival means friends. We had a birthday dinner with a friend and her guests on Friday night. Saturday, we weren't on the grounds for ten minutes when I ran into a former co-worker and her husband. It's so good to see Arizona friends. Oh, and just to let you know, we left Indiana just before the cold weather settled in, and arrived in Arizona to enjoy sunshine and 90 degrees. Beautiful! And, very much appreciated in March.

While Donna went to a variety of panels, most of the ones I attended were in the mystery field. Some of the panels seemed a little odd, and the panelists struggled to discover what they had in common, other than they wrote mysteries or thrillers. I went to the first one to see a writer who was going to be on the panel I moderated on Sunday.

Darynda Jones, Hester Young, John Sandford

What do Darynda Jones, Hester Young and John Sandford have in common? Well, Jones and Young have some paranormal elements in their books, but Sandford doesn't. He was an excellent storyteller, though.

The moderator of that panel was Lee Harris. She hasn't had a Christine Bennett book out in eleven years, but I read every one of them.

Lee Harris

Following that panel, I headed off to hear Donis Casey and Andrew Gross talk about family and the influence on their books.

Donis Casey
Andrew Gross
Because Terry Shames and I both marked her appearance for the wrong day, we were able to find time to go to lunch together.

Terry Shames
I was able to catch Craig Johnson just as he took his place at Clues Unlimited's booth.

With Craig Johnson
Then Cara Black was kind enough to spend time talking to me about sites I should see in Paris.
With Cara Black

On Sunday, I spent time talking to friends at Desert Sleuths, Sisters in Crime. I went to see Terry Shames and Andrew Gross on a panel. Donna and I caught up with each other when we went to a ticketed event, Lisa See, Christina Baker Kline, and Martha Hall Kelly. A search for gelato led to other friends from Glendale, and I sat with them for a while before heading off to moderate a panel.

I moderated a panel called Deadly Debuts with Gina Wohlsdorf and Hester Young. I'm sure it wasn't easy for them with only two people on a panel.

Hester Young, me, Gina Wohlsdorf

My panel was the last one I attended, but I hurried to another room where I stood in line with Donna to have Craig Johnson sign a book. And, I took a picture of her with Longmire star A. Martinez and Craig.

A. Martinez, Donna, Craig Johnson

Terrific book festival. It's changed some while I was away from Arizona for the last four years. But, it's still wonderful. The organizers do an excellent job, and it runs smoothly.

From Tucson, we headed to Scottsdale for the next few days. More pictures soon!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What Are You Reading?

Between laundry, taking my car in for servicing, tons of emails at work, and, of course, basketball, I haven't had time to catch up with my blog yet. There will soon be pictures from the Tucson Festival of Books, and coverage of a couple events at The Poisoned Pen. But, today, it's all about you.

What have you been reading in the last week? Let's catch up on your reading instead of mine. I'd love to know what books you're listening to or reading.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Winners and Thriller Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the copies of Clare Mackintosh's I See You. The books are going to Sandy O. from Milford, OH and John S. of Iowa City, IA. They're going out in the mail today.

I have two thrillers to give away today. City of the Lost is the first in Kelley Armstrong's series that
features Casey Duncan. She's a homicide detective with a secret: she killed a man when she was in college. She was never caught, but since he was the grandson of a mobster, she knows the crime will catch up with her. When her best friend, Diana, needs to disappear after her abusive ex-husband finds her, they both head to a town where people on the run can shed their old lives. But, Rockton has secrets of its own, and Casey and Diana may be in more danger than before.

Or, maybe you'd like to win Cate Holahan's The Widower's Wife. Ana Bacon, a young housewife, tumbles off a cruise ship, and she may have taken her secrets with her. Investigator Ryan Monahan doesn't believe her death was an accident. Ana's death means a payout of ten million dollars. But, her husband has a solid alibi, and a number of witnesses claim they saw Ana fall. The more Monahan learns about Ana's life, the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep their secrets hidden. And, as he gets closer to the truth, he may be getting closer to his own tragic fall.

Which thriller would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win City of the Lost" or "Win The Widower's Wife." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 23 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

Sometimes, it's all about serendipity. I was at The Poisoned Pen the other night when Jacqueline Winspear was talking about war brides who came over on the Queen Mary, British women who had married American servicemen. Then, I read Susan Meissner's novel, A Bridge Across the Ocean. It's the story of one of those voyages, and three women, two of whom were on that voyage.

Brette Caslake lives in present day San Diego. She has always had "the Sight", but, in her family, it's viewed more as a curse than a blessing. Her aunt saw ghosts, and called them Drifters. She said they came in and out, and she warned Brette not to talk with them. Brette's high school and college mistakes in telling people causes her to hide the Sight from everyone except her husband. He believes her, but he's pushing her to have a child, and she fears she'll pass the gift on to a daughter. It's a high school classmate's daughter that sends Brette to the Queen Mary, where she encounters a strong spirit. Brette's research leads her to stories from World War II.

In 1946, two women joined hundreds of other war brides who were setting out for new lives in America. One was a former ballerina, Annaliese. The other, Simone, watched her father and brother die, executed by the Nazis for their role in the Resistance. Both women have secrets they carry on the ship, stories of tragedy. Only one of those women gets off the Queen Mary in New York.

Meissner's fascinating account  of a little known facet of the World War II story is slowly revealed in a character-rich book. Readers who enjoyed Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale might want to try another novel dealing with the lives of women during the war. Brette's search in contemporary times adds to the interest. Her involvement brings a paranormal element to the book, and a connection to the past.

A Bridge Across the Ocean is a bridge across time, across the gap between life and spirit. Meissner's book also demonstrates a bond, a bridge between women, women who understand heartbreak and tragedy. It's the story of one woman trying to understand her own life while trying to comprehend and help the spirits of the past. The stories are entwined together skillfully and beautifully.

Susan Meissner's website is

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner. Berkley. 2017. ISBN 9780451476005 (paperback), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested the book in order to participate in a blog tour.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Have You Heard? - A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell,204,203,200_.jpgA Vision in Velvet
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Sands Xe
Unabridged Audiobook
Publisher: Tantor Audio; July 1, 2014
ISBN-10: 1494551063
ISBN-13: 978-1494551063
5 stars *****
It seems that there are no seams between books in the Lily Ivory mystery series by Juliet Blackwell. She ends one and then another begins as if there were no time gap. A VISION IN VELVET begins with an antiques dealer named Sebastian offering Lily, proprietress of Aunt Cora's Closet, an old trunk full of old clothes, something Lily would normally be excited about, until she looked closely. The trunk traveled over with the pilgrims and then to California with the gold rush, barely holding together. The clothes were in terrible shape, but one item intrigued Lily enough to bargain with Sebastian to buy the trunk. Lily finds a deep gold velvet cape with a purple silk lining, purple and gold fringe decorating the neckline with a silk-lined hood hanging down the back, and an ornate brass frog toggle fastening the neckline.

Lily swirled the cape around herself and fastened the closure at her neck without seeing the alarm in her familiar, Oscar's, eyes. Lily was immediately transported to another place and time. She felt a river of cold wash over her followed by heat with unintelligible sounds, As the images began to coalesce, Lily saw an angry mob pointing at her, jeering, and calling out curses.

Bronwyn's concerned voice made it through as she shook Lily and undid the clasp to the cape which caused it to slip from her shoulders. When Lily gathered herself together, she knew this was special and began tracking down its source immediately, but calls to Sebastian went unanswered. Lily noticed that Conrad didn't look too well either. He was a "gutterpunk" and explained that while he had a good sleeping spot, he'd been working hard at a petition to not cut down a particular ancient oak tree nicknamed Miss Quercus near the science museum. Apparently she was rotten on the inside, yet even in that state supported all sorts of life such as squirrels, woodpeckers, frogs, and even mushrooms. The town wanted to cut it down so it didn't hurt anyone, but Conrad and his friends wanted to save it as long as possible.

Lily had a premonition that something was very wrong. She tried to put facts together such as the cape, Conrad sleeping under the tree and developing headaches, so she asked to see the tree. Lily and Conrad walked there via different routes, and just as Lily arrived, she heard two shots and found Conrad kneeling over a bloody Sebastian, next to fresh digging at the base of the tree.

After dinner and meeting members of Sebastian's family, one of whom knew that cape had spent time in Salem Massachusetts. Lily still had to wait til the next night to check it out again. She put it on again, aware finally that she was there where they were burning witches and she was gathering ashes. Oscar warned her about bringing things back from another dimension. It led to a conversation about Miss Quercus, and Oscar said if they visited her, any woodlands creatures would appreciate a gift because they really don't like humans; and the best time to meet them was dawn or very early.

Lily and Oscar finally visited early the next morning. It was cold and foggy. No one else was there except the critters who lived there. The massive tree sent a branch to scare Lily. Rustling was going on in the top of the branches. Oscar was growling at it and then scooted up the tree, not to come down.

Lily was beside herself; no Oscar? Ever again? She couldn't stand it. The shop became "Pig Central" when Conrad and his friends put out posters and lost pig ads all over town. Even Maya and Bronwyn joined in the search for Oscar. Only Lily and Sailor knew he'd disappeared up the tree. Somehow she had to piece together all her clues, get help from her grandmother and her coven as well as the friendly coven in San Francisco and Sailor and even Aidan. Would they save Miss Quercus or will she be cut down as planned? Will Conrad recover from being poisoned? With all those women concentrating together against the witch who had been burned at the stake, will they be strong enough to find Oscar? You'll only know if you read the book.

Sandie Herron

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Have You Heard? Victoria Laurie's Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls

Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls: A Ghost Hunter Mystery | [Victoria Laurie]Series:  Ghost Hunter Mystery Book 5
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: December 28, 2010
***** stars

I enjoyed the fifth entry in the MJ Holliday, Gilley Gillespie, and Heath Whitefeather “Ghoul Getters” television series very much.  I loved the way author Victoria Laurie twisted several storylines together coming up with a cohesive story, sort of like a braid of hair.  MJ and Heath are psychic mediums, and Gilley is a tech wizard.  They help people with ghost, phantom, demon, and all matters of paranormal creatures and problems.

Finding hidden treasure prompts a new episode of their TV show at the haunted ruins of Dunlow Castle in Ireland.  There are multiple ghosts at the castle, all of whom were scared by an onsite phantom released from his talisman by gold hunters. It sounded like he was the worst "ghoul" MJ, Gilley, and Heath had encountered.  Rumor has it that the man who built the castle hid booty of gold somewhere within the vast rooms and crypts. The castle was high on a bluff so there were several ghosts there because they fell off the cliffs.  One in particular held the secret to accessing the phantom and therefore the gold.  Producer of the show, Gopher, disappears in the castle and cannot be found there or on the rocks below; MJ and Heath cannot feel his spirit, which hopefully means he has not died.  Without Gopher leading production of "Ghoul Getters" and sending footage off to the big wigs that control the show, they decide to cancel the show and fire everyone.

Now the ghost busting team must find a way to make the phantom disappear, help any ghosts that want to cross over, find Gopher, get the show renewed or find a new home for it, all while suffering falls and wounds and Gilley eating every piece of food in site.  It's amazing how Victoria Laurie can mix together storylines like that!  Somehow they get the jobs done.  

Hearing all this turmoil on audio truly brings it to life.  One ghost in particular stands high on the bluff shouting his true love’s name.  Over and over again, loud and persistent.  This ghost is not old, and his true love is alive and waiting for the team to free her love so he can stop suffering.  With the expert writing skill of the author and the skill narrating so many voices added to the images in your own imagination, the characters are practically sitting next to you.  They come to life around you.  It is magic and so much fun yet filled with terror.  It was extremely difficult to put this book down, leaving everyone waiting for your return to continue the stories brought forth in one book.

This entry can easily stand on its own but is so much richer and scarier knowing the characters and watching them grow.  Awesome!

Sandie Herron

Monday, March 13, 2017

Have You Heard? - Juliet Blackwell's Tarnished and Torn

Goodread’s Sandie Herron's Reviews > Tarnished and Torn

Tarnished and Torn by Juliet Blackwellby Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
5th in the Witchcraft series

It's a girl's day out for the ladies from Lily Ivory's vintage clothing store Aunt Cora's Closet.  There’s a huge gem fair to be held at the COW Palace in San Francisco, and Lily, co-workers and friends Maya and Bronwyn are all standing in very long lines, waiting to enter.  Finally the doors are opened, and they rush in to be met by an astoundingly huge sales floor.  The ladies each take a different direction agreeing to meet in an hour by the food court.  

Lily is attracted to a table full of jewelry and gemstones.  The woman running the booth is disheveled and rushed, trying to unpack what she thinks will sell.  She keeps striking up conversations, trying to sell this or that.  In the end, she convinces Lily to take a box of what even she calls junk so she won’t have to take it home, and she thrusts the box into her hands.  Shortly thereafter, Oscar, in his pig form, began bounding about inside the Palace, even tho Lily had left him in the car.  Suddenly small fires began breaking out across the arena.  Lily and Oscar meet up and turned to be sure Griselda had gotten out before they leave, when Lily notices that blood is coming from underneath a large board on the ground.  An old ritual to torture and sometimes kill witches called pressing had just made Griselda a victim, right beside them.  They couldn’t help Griselda, so Lily and Oscar ran out of the COW Palace and met back up with Maya and Bronwyn.  They drove back to Cora’s Closet while being followed by two older men.  Waiting for them was one of SFPD’s men to bring Lily in for questioning in the death of Griselda.

Lily was not a suspect; homicide detective Carlos Ramirez wanted to know if Lily knew anything of this practice and who would be capable of it.  While talking with Ramirez, Lily is shocked to see her estranged father walk by, the same man who had abandoned Lily and her mother when she was very young.  Even Lily’s mother was overwhelmed with her upbringing and sent her to Mexico to live with her grandmother when she was 8.  Lily is musing about family when she realizes that “One’s role models can only do so much to shape our individual lives.  When it comes right down to it, we each walk the path of this life alone, and make our decisions based on our own distinct beliefs, desires, and fears.”

While Carlos did not suspect Lily, the two older men continued to follow her.  Later on that team was replaced by two younger and not so smart men – Clem and Zeke.  She ran into them literally, following the trail of the man who said he was Griselda’s son from an inn to a hostel to a strip joint.  Walking to the last, Zeke and Clem confronted her and wanted the ring Griselda supposedly gave her.  Well, now she knew what everyone was looking for.  Zeke and Clem moved only to be hit by the old men in their huge old car, sending them to the hospital.

When Lily returns to her apartment above the shop, Oscar is waiting for her.  She had helped him get a library card, and he was reveling in reading and watching movies.  He seemed to think  he had the mystery of the ring all figured out.  Aunt Agatha had said … when Lily interrupted him to explain that her books had been fiction, made up, pretend.  Lies, said Oscar.  He began anew with a supposition that what about this guy “Hercules somethingorother who was on the Orient Express train and figured out a real humdinger of a mystery.  Boy, that was a tough one.  We could hire him.”  Lily again explained that he was like Miss Marple, a made up person.  Oscar’s jaw dropped when he realized they were all “falsehoods.”  However, when Oscar asks if he can hire Sam Spade, a local boy, would Lily agree to that?  She would.

Things actually did begin to come together even without Sam Spade.  Everyone held a tiny piece of the story, and Lily actually figured out where the missing ring was.  We’ll have Oscar tell you all about it…  Sandie Herron

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Have You Heard? - Ghouls Gone Wild by Victoria Laurie

Ghouls Gone Wild: A Ghost Hunter Mystery (

UNABRIDGED) by Victoria Laurie Narrated by Eileen StevensGhouls Gone Wild
Series:  Ghost Hunter mystery Book 4
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 10 hours and 22 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: March 2, 2010
***** stars

In this fourth entry in Victoria Laurie's ghost buster series, the entire staff of the Ghoul Getters’ TV show spends some harrowing time in Scotland filming the first episode of their TV show.  MJ Holliday, Gilley Gillespie, and Heath Whitefeather are drawn there by a short video shot by a location scouting team showing a local man giving tours of caverns below the town near Edinburg. He demonstrates the strength of the paranormal energy by walking a puppy closer and closer to the opening of the caverns. The puppy becomes agitated and terrified as he nears the caverns. MJ is so upset after watching this that she vows to go to Scotland and find that dog and be certain he is taken care of after being so severely traumatized.

Years ago residents were dying from the bubonic plague.  The surrounding villages built barriers to hold the sick in and later set the village on fire.  Not only people cursed with the plague died but also any healthy people living there. Heath and MJ go into the caverns their first night to set up equipment only to find a real person lying dead in the tunnel, a maintenance worker there to change a light bulb.

At the beginning of filming, they can feel all the psychic energy in the caverns, so MJ asks any souls interested in moving on to knock on the walls. The thunderous sound that followed scared Gilley and the filming crew so much that they run away. This leaves Gopher, the producer of the show, to pick up the abandoned camera and continue taping. A shadowy figure of a woman on a large black broom flies by them so the remaining three call it a night.

MJ and team visit the murdered maintenance man’s neighbor on land that holds the ruins of a castle.  They notice that she also has a big black broom on her stoop. She fills them in on her seven sisters, since her oldest sister nursed the residents of the town before an angry mob chased them into the caverns where the fire was set. The oldest sister was so angry that she vowed to return every 100 years to kill any members of two families that led that mob, and one of them is the Gillespie family.

Gilley discovers that he is a direct descendant of those Gillespies.  He is hysterical with fear when he realizes the ghost is out to kill him specifically so covers himself with magnets that repel spirits. The ghost and three other shadowy figures on brooms are here 35 years before they are due, so someone must have summoned her early. Who, and why? MJ and Heath are overwhelmed several times by the sheer energy of the witch and other spirits.

I found myself tired and worn out after some of the busier scenes when they encountered so many ghosts or were so scared that people were running for their lives. MJ and Heath are truly challenged to solve the murder and catch the witches and help the grounded souls.  Gilley stands by MJ with his heavy load of magnets. It is together with Heath that they finally calm all those souls.

Sandie Herron