Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!



It's time! Time to say goodbye to 2018, and welcome 2019. I ended the year on a high note, spending time with family in Ohio for Christmas. I've been home in early December, but this is the first time in thirty years that I was home for Christmas.

I had a wonderful year, with trips to New York City, North Carolina, Scottsdale, Arizona, and St. Petersburg, Florida. There was a family wedding. And, I can't thank the Bouchercon Board enough for honoring me with the David Thompson Special Service Award.

I made multiple trips with my best friend, Donna, to see Celtic Thunder, to go to bookstores, to see plays and movies. We always have a good time together. I've shared wonderful daily chats online with two friends. We talk books, movies, food, toys, trips, anything that comes to mind.

Of course, there were all the good books read during the year. I'm lucky I had the chance to discuss them with all of you.

So, goodbye 2018!


Welcome, 2019!


I already have trips planned for the new year - trips to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Nashville, Ohio, New York City, Hartford, Connecticut, Dallas. There's another family wedding in 2019. So, I'm anticipating travel with friends and family in the new year.

And, books! I've started reading books with 2019 release dates. (Tomorrow, I'll be sharing February releases with you.) Of course, the book giveaways will kick off again on Friday.

******
I have 2019 wishes for all of us. I wish you good health, love of family and friends, time to spend with loved ones, and, of course, good books.

Thank you for spending 2018 reading about books and authors, and sharing my trips. I hope we all have a good 2019, and the opportunity to share our love of books.

Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Favorite Books of 2018

Let's face it. I haven't started a book. I have plans for half the day on Dec. 30th, and there's lots of college football to watch. I'm ready to post my list of favorite books of 2018. My disclaimer is always that this is not a "Best of" list. It's just a list of my favorite books read during the year. Of course, it's mostly mysteries. The list is in alphabetical order by author, other than the book that I picked as my #1 choice.

Enjoy!

I'm starting with a nonfiction title, Anne Bogel's I'd Rather Be Reading. It's subtitled "The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life". I liked this book so much that I bought four copies for friends. It's a collection of essays, and, as I said in my original review, an affirmation of a passion, and a confirmation that there are kindred souls who share that passion for books.







Tracy Clark is a debut author whose Broken Places introduces Cass Raines, a tough cop turned private investigator in Chicago. But, Cass has a soft heart, and it shows when she investigates the death of the man who who was a father-figure in her life. While the investigating officer called it suicide, Cass knows Father Ray Heaton, Pop, did not kill a gangbanger and then shoot himself. A powerful debut, and a character that reminds me of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone.






The Rain Watcher is Tatiana de Rosnay's moving story about one family caught up in their own tragedies and misunderstandings while coping with rain that is flooding Paris in January. As the city floods, the Malegarde family is flooded with memories, not always happy ones. Thirty-five-year-old Linden Malegarde, an internationally known photographer, is the heart of the story, and witness to his family's heart wrenching collapse.






Brendan DuBois' The Negotiator features an unnamed narrator, a man who admits he chose the dark path of life. He acts as a negotiator between two parties who don't trust each other, and commands a hefty fee for doing that. However, when he is careless with one job, everything goes wrong. He carefully plans his revenge, while reviewing his errors. There are multiple twists in this wonderful crime novel featuring black humor and a lovable antihero.





I could have selected any one of Cora Harrison's Reverend Mother mysteries, set in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s. But, Death of a Novice, the 2018 release, was the first I read, and the reason I went back and read all the others in the series. Reverend Mother Aquinas finds the body of a novice in a chicken coop. She suspects murder, and calls together a team that works with her in the entire series, two former students, one who is now a member of the Garda; one who is a former Republican rebel. She also works with the doctor who consults with the Garda. These books are traditional mysteries with a strong historical setting in a time of change in Ireland.



Although I always say I read for character, sometimes the setting is so evocative, it sucks me into a book. Laurie Loewenstein's first Dust Bowl Mystery, Death of a Rainmaker, fits that category. Jackson County, Oklahoma hasn't had rain for 240 days when a rainmaker comes to town, promising his methods will bring rain in less than five days. Instead, he ends up dead in an alley after a terrible dust storm. It's up to Sheriff Temple Jennings to find the killer, but Jennings' wife Etha insists he arrested the wrong man. Loewenstein uses details of dust storms, foreclosures, and illnesses to create an atmospheric mystery involving the day-to-day lives of the people.



Deanna Raybourn's third Veronica Speedwell mystery, A Treacherous Curse, takes the Victorian adventuress and her scientist companion, Stoker, into the world of Egyptian expeditions, death and curses. Stoker becomes a suspect when an expedition's photographer disappears because the man was once his best friend, now married to Stoker's ex-wife. It's a fabulous, convoluted mystery with connections to Jane Eyre.






If you've forgotten books read early in 2018, you may have forgotten about Jeffrey Siger's Andreas Kaldis mystery, An Aegean April. Siger's story involves the political and refugee crisis in Europe, specifically Greece. A wealthy shipowner is killed, a man with a plan to alleviate the crisis. A refugee is blamed, but no one counted on an American who calls media attention to the situation until Kaldis, his team, and an old acquaintance, step in. As always, Siger's books are intricately plotted and timely. An Aegean April is one of his best, and you can even start with this one.




Larry D. Sweazy sets his Marjorie Trumaine mysteries in a bleak North Dakota, but his latest, See Also Proof, has the added benefit of winter to create a dark, gloomy atmosphere. He's a master at atmosphere. After the death of her husband, Marjorie Trumaine is feeling isolated and lonely. However, she'd rather be alone than deal with company. She feels obligated to help, though, when a mentally challenged girl goes missing in a storm. She insists on accompanying the new sheriff while he searches, and, instead of finding her, they find the body of a local store manager, shot to death in his car. The sheriff is struggling with his first big case, while still looking for the missing girl, so he asks Marjorie to run an errand. That errand puts Marjorie in danger, from man and the elements.



My #1 book for 2018 is Lou Berney's November Road. Fate brings two people together after JFK's assassination. Frank Guidry is a lieutenant to a mob boss in New Orleans. When he realizes he drove a car to Dallas before Kennedy's assassination, and everyone connected to that event is being killed, he goes on the run. That Thanksgiving is the final straw for Charlotte Roy in Oklahoma, and she packs her daughters and dog in the car, and heads west. Their meeting changes both of their lives in unexpected ways. It's a compelling story of love and loss and tragedy and the loss of innocence. It's my must read for 2018.

I'm one of the last to list my favorite books of 2018, but I always want to make sure I haven't missed one. I can't wait to start the books of 2019.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, Susan Jeffers

Since I already confessed I didn't read anything over the holidays, I'm going to share a gift book that I gave, thanks to a display at Parnassus Books. This is a reissue. Susan Jeffers' illustrations of Robert Frost's classic poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, are beautiful. While it's designed for children, ages 4-8, I gave it to my sister for memories. I also gave a copy to a friend who loves poetry, and a friend who loves poetry and art. Poetry and art just seem to go together, and they do with this book.

I will say, when I gave it to my sister, and said I almost kept it for myself, she said, "But you hate winter." She's right. But, Jeffers' artwork makes up for that. Even I can admire winter in a book.

If you have a gift card to a bookstore, and love Robert Frost's poetry, you might want to think about this book.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers. ISBN 9780525467342.

Friday, December 28, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I haven't read a thing in the last week. I had a wonderful visit with my family. I'm heading home today, so once again, on a Thursday, I'll be driving. I'll be back on schedule tomorrow, though.

Did you have time to read in the last week? If so, please share! As people drop in, I'm sure we'd all like to know what others are reading. I just won't be checking in until late in the day.

I really will be reading & reviewing again soon!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas



Merry Christmas!

This has been a magical Christmas for me. I'm home with my Mom, for the first time in thirty years. We've laughed a lot, made candies together, visited friends, played cards, enjoyed all of her decorations, and drove around to see other decorations. One sister will be here with her family, and later in the week, I'll go to visit the other sister.

As you get older, it's obvious the best part of Christmas is family, and I'm lucky to be able to be here this year with Mom. I'm lucky to have sisters I love and enjoy. It makes for a special Christmas season.

I know Christmas season is not always easy for some people, and I have some friends and readers here who have had a difficult year. I wish you peace for Christmas. Please know you're thought of with love.

I wish everyone love, peace and laughter for the holiday season. (And, of course, good books to read!)

Merry Christmas!



Thursday, December 20, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Let's talk about what's going on. I'm on my way to my mother's today for Christmas vacation. I won't
be checking in on the blog until late in the evening. And, there won't be a Friday blog. I'll see what I can post for Saturday, but don't expect the blog on a regular basis right now. My mother tells me I haven't been home for Christmas in thirty years.

Saying that, I'm reading a couple older Christmas books. Fredrik Backman's The Deal of a Lifetime is a novella about a wealthy man who was never there for his son. I'm only halfway through it, though, so I can't say too much about it, other than he's telling his son about his feelings. This one looks like it might be bittersweet. I also have a copy of Donita K. Paul's Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball.  It hooked me with this on the flap - ""Can mysterious matchmaking booksellers bring two lonely hearts together in time for Christmas?" This one was a book I picked up at a booksale. If it's as good as it looks, I'll leave it with my mom.

I know I'm going to have to depend on all of you to carry the day today. Before you tell us what you're reading, did you read Tuesday's blog? Glen sent his end of the year list of favorite books. I hope you go back and read it.

Don't worry. I'm not giving up the blog. It's just time to spend a little time with family, and I'll be posting now and then while I'm with them.

So, tell us what you're reading this week. Or, are you as busy as I am right now?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Post Facto by Darryl Wimberley

It's been over ten years since I've read one of Darryl Wimberley's novels, but he still has a magical way of capturing northern Florida. His descriptions bring a failing rural community to life in Post Facto.

When Clara Sue Buchanan lost her column in a Boston newspaper, she moved home to Laureate, Florida, a small rural community in northern Florida. She bought the local newspaper. Now, instead of hard-hitting investigations, she covers high school football games and stories of visions of dead people and little green men.

However, two brothers catch Clara Sue's attention. Hiram and Roscoe Lamb are powerful landowners in Laureate and the surrounding county. They detest their foster brother, and have always made his life miserable. They want to use federal grant money to improve the local school, while closing their foster brother's candy story. Their hatred of Butch McCray goes back to the time when Butch's mother married the Lambs' father after the accidental shooting death of her abusive husband. She married Lamb, and two months later committed suicide.

Clara Sue has to tread lightly. Hiram Lamb is her biggest advertiser, and she doesn't want to offend him. However, she wants to dig into past history. There are secrets in Laureate, stories of failed farms and foreclosures. But, a dependent newspaper owner isn't as independent as Buchanan would like. In Laureate, visions, ghosts and murder are sometimes best left alone.

The descriptive Post Facto is a suspenseful story, with an atmosphere as rich as those in Larry Sweazy's novels.

Darryl Wimberley's website is www.darrylwimberley.com

Post Facto by Darryl Wimberley. The Permanent Press, 2018. ISBN 9781579625559 (hardcover), 248p.

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











Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Glen Davis' Favorites of 2018

Last year, I tried something new on the blog. Some of the regulars who talk about books on Thursdays, for "What Are You Reading?" agreed to post their lists of their favorite books of the year. I won't be posting my own list until the end of December, but, along with all the book and entertainment magazines, some readers are ready to discuss their favorite books.

I love Glen Davis' weekly commentaries on Thursdays. He's always succinct, and has a dry wit when commenting on the books. Glen agreed to submit his list for the second year in a row.

Thank you, Glen, for talking about your favorite books of 2018.

*****

Here goes!

Even though I read a record number of books this year, I felt like I read better books last year.  

Best Espionage Novel:

Bloody Sunday by Ben Coes; Dewey Andreas is given a relatively simple job: injecting a North Korean general with a poison in order blackmail said general. Unfortunately, Dewey gets a little of the poison himself. He has to infiltrate North Korea to get the antidote. Very exciting.

Spy Master by Brad Thor; Scot Harvath segues into a desk job, but not before stopping a Russian invasion.

Best Hard Boiled Mystery:

Every Day Above Ground by Glen Erik Hamilton;  Van Shaw does a favor for a friend of his grandfather's, a supposedly risk free finding of gold. Gold never comes risk free, as Van finds out. Cold and hard like the best of hard boiled fiction.

Best Cozy Mystery:

Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine; Jaine Austen gets into a host of problems while housesitting. For starters, her neighbor a former child star, now a reclusive miser is murdered, and the cops think she did it. Levine in top hilarious form.

Dying for a Deal by Cindy Sample; Now a PI Laurel McKay is spending her days sitting in an office by herself, until a co-worker hires her to follow her fiance. A small time case soon enough gives MacKay all the trouble she can handle.

Best Historical Fiction:

Final Resting Place by Jonathan F. Putnam; A political assassination forces Lincoln and Speed to try to prove a man's innocence, against the machinations of Stephen Douglas, Lincoln's eternal opponent.

Luck Be A Lady, Don't Die by Robert J. Randisi; One of the Rat Pack novels. Frank Sinatra sets up a lady love in a hotel, but she skips out, leaving a body in the bathtub. Mobster Sam Giancana is also interested in the lady. Eddie Gianelli finds himself in a tight spot trying to find her.

Cold War Heroes by Tom Johnson;  A group of MPs in France have a series of MASH like adventures. Very funny and true to life.

Best Clive Cussler Novel

Raise The Titanic; The novel where Cussler and his creation, Dirk Pitt, really made their names. Very different than the current spate of novels, this is a cold war story featuring a race against the nefarious Russkis. First of Cussler's novels to be adapted to film.

Best Horror Novel:

A Ship Possessed by Alden Gansky; Also an Inspirational novel, so I guess this is a two-fer. A German U-Boat from World War 2 resurfaces in San Diego, along with other, more mysterious forces. A Navy Admiral attempts to cope with the supernatural, and its allies among humanity. 

Hook Jaw; A collection of comic book stories from Britain about a monstrous shark. Properly bloody. Anyone can die at anytime...essential for this kind of horror.

Best Children's Book:

The School Bus Driver From The Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler, pictures by Jared Lee; A kid has heard some ridiculous stories about his new school bus driver, and worries whether they are true

Serendipity Mystery, Diary of a Snoopy Cat by R.F. Kristi; The gang goes to Sri Lanka where they have to solve a mystery with the help of some leopards and elephants. Fun and educational.

Best History Book:

Scarface And The Untouchable by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz; A history of the roaring twenties and the feud between Al Capone and Eliot Ness. Exhaustively researched and very well written. Probably tells you more than you want to know about both men.

Best Health Book:

Best Hospital 2019 by U.S. News and World Report; A listing of the 500 best hospitals in the country and so much else. Makes me feel good to be living within driving distance to a number of these places.

Best Book About Wine:

Inside the Chinese Wine Industry: The Past, Present, and future of Wine in China by Loren Mayshark; The title says it all. As a bit of a wine hobbyist, I found this book very educational, especially the section on counterfeits. I really had to swirl my wine in its glass to make sure I got the real stuff!

There you have it! Some old favorites and some new stuff. Looking forward to next year!

Glen 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Have You Heard?...Charlaine Harris' All Together Dead

While I'm frantically reading for journal reviews before the holidays, Sandie Herron has stepped up with some audio book reviews. Thank you, Sandie!

All Together Dead                                                                              

Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Book 7
Written by Charlaine Harris
Narrated by Johanna Parker
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Time:  10 hours, 21 minutes
Publisher:  Recorded Books (May 18, 2007)

Wedding fever has hit Bon Temps, Louisiana, and Jason Stackhouse finally gets hitched when were-panther Crystal Norris discovers she is pregnant again.  Jason asks his sister Sookie to attend.  Quinn the were-tiger, accompanies Sookie, enhancing her status.  This wedding is unique since Sookie must vouch for Jason as his closest living relative and agree to take the penalty if Jason does wrong.  

Telepath Sookie Stackhouse is dating one of the last were-tigers. She knows there is more about Quinn that she needs to learn; what makes him the legend about which other shapeshifters whisper?  Sookie is also hosting witch Amelia who fled New Orleans after transforming her boyfriend Bob into a cat, since she would owe a penalty to the witch community.  However, Amelia needs help finding the spell to turn the cat back into her boyfriend, but since she cannot risk contact, Bob’s fate is uncertain.

Sookie must leave Amelia in Louisiana to attend the vampire summit in Rhodes.  Louisiana vampire Queen Sophie-Anne has requested that Sookie accompany her and read the minds of any humans she deals with to detect deceit or malice.  The Queen’s power has declined following hurricane Katrina and so has her wealth.  While the Queen and other vampires fled New Orleans, they have yet to return.  Even the human population has offered assistance, since it will bring tourism back to the city.  Queen Sophie-Anne will seek support in the rebuilding efforts while at the summit.

Several months ago at a reception celebrating the nuptials of the Queen of Louisiana and the King of Arkansas, betrayals and hidden agendas bring about an attempt on the Queen’s life and the murder of the King.  In the Queen’s defense, her personal bodyguard killed the King, instigating a brawl among all vampires present.  At the summit, Queen Sophie-Anne will go on trial for murder if she cannot negotiate a settlement.

The summit is all about power struggles within kingdoms and among rivals, between vampires and humans.  Even Sookie becomes embroiled, so when the Queen’s bodyguard demands that her loyalty be fortified, Sookie and Eric must exchange blood, hence becoming blood bonded. When Sookie encounters Texan Barry Bellboy, the only other telepath she knows, they compare experiences and realize that each person has their own tolerance for what they can live with and what they consider to be way outside the lines.  This inner turmoil helps to define each of them. 

The summit is full of mysterious goings on.  Guards from another dimension protect the King of Kentucky, but no one can discern why.  Sookie discovers a bomb outside the Queen’s suite, but who placed it there?  What do the extra suitcases and caskets hold, since no one claims them?  Rumors fly about the Church of the Sun.


This seventh entry into the unique world of Sookie Stackhouse brings many magical creatures together at increasingly complex and dangerous events.  Very entertaining and definitely recommended.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Have You Heard...Donna Andrews' Owls Well That Ends Well

Thanks, again, to Sandie Herron, for a review for Have You Heard. Today, she reviews the audio book of  Donna Andrews' Owls Well That Ends Well.

Owls Well That Ends Well                       
Written By: Donna Andrews
Narrated by: Bernadette Dunne
Series: Meg Langslow, Book 6
Length: 8 hrs and 59 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC (10/24/16)

The world of Meg Langslow is always a bit chaotic, and never more so than OWLS WELL THAT ENDS WELL.  Humorous doesn’t begin to describe the yard sale Meg and her boyfriend Michael have chosen to host at their new home, the run-down Sprocket Victorian mansion a bit outside of town.  The house sale had included all the furniture and clutter that Edwina Sprocket had accumulated.  What would have been a large yard sale only grew when Meg’s family learned about it and wanted to participate.  Ultimately taking up 2 acres of land, each relative, friend, and neighbor had their own tables set up.

Dawn arrived with bargain hunters ringing the doorbell even though the posted opening time was 9 AM.  Fencing and the dog Spike guarded the sale area until then.  Meg’s dad was more concerned with the owls nesting in the barn, especially the fledglings.  Signs were posted saying to keep out of the barn.  Of course, no one listened.  The worst offender was an antiques dealer who kept hiding his finds in the barn until he paid for them.  He was overheard arguing with an English professor about a particular book by a favorite author.  The dealer claimed to have a wonderful copy while the professor balked at the price.

Later that morning, the dealer’s body was found stuffed into a trunk hidden in the barn by yet another shopper.  Next to the trunk was a bookend the professor had planned to purchase but was now bloody from bashing in the dealer’s head.  The police were called, and the yard sale was shut down to quarantine the crime scene.  The dozens of shoppers did not want to clear the yard so they could guard their choices.  Traffic clogged the road so when the media arrived, they parked in the front of the house, as did various vendors selling funnel cakes, snow cones, and more.  Even the sheep from the farm across the road were let loose when the ever-growing carnival spread to that lot.  While solving disputes and problems during the sale, Meg was able to snoop quite a bit to try and determine who the murderer might be.

Donna Andrews brings us a yard sale where everything that could go wrong, does.  Each catastrophe (real or perceived) brings on laughter, chuckles, and even guffaws from us readers, not the characters.  Most of them are in great distress, one way or another.  All the stereotypical traumas that might occur are brought to light in this book.  I’m sure it took a very organized mind to present so many concurrent disasters with so much charm and many giggles.   

Ms. Andrews has definitely hit her stride with this sixth entry in the Meg Langslow series.  I found it enjoyable, hilarious, and entertaining.  Even after a suspect was arrested, so many alternatives became apparent that Andrews incorporated in the now twisting, turning mystery.  The ending was unexpected, with many crimes and situations resolved.  Except the yard sale. 


Bernadette Dunne’s narration was wonderful.  Her calm voice brought us through characterizations but was mainly Meg’s voice since this is told from a first person perspective.  However, I would know her mother and dad’s voices anywhere, so well defined by both narration and writing.  A fabulous rendition of a terrific tale.