Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What Are You Reading?

If Jeff guessed if I was moving What Are You Reading to Wednesday this week, he guessed right.
Tomorrow is Feb. 1, and it will be Treasures in My Closet, so we'll talk about books today.

I'm reading the second Atlas Catesby mystery by D.M. Quincy, Murder in Bloomsbury. I've just started it, but those great characters are back, so I'm enjoying it. And, Quincy's Murder in Mayfair was one of the best books I read last year.

I hope you're reading something you're enjoying this week. Tell us what you're reading. We'd love to talk about it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

The ninth Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley is a mystery in itself. Is The Grave's a Fine and Private Place the end of the series, or is it the end of a storyline, and the beginning of a new one? By release date, that question may be answered, but as I write this in October, I don't know. I do know Bradley's Acknowledgments, including the thanks to his wife for her patience, and the comments about "At the end of any long journey", are curious.

Flavia's father has died, and the fate of the three de Luce sisters is in the hands of Aunt Felicity. Although Flavia inherited the family home, Buckshaw, Aunt Felicity insists it's to be sold. Ophelia is to be married off, and Daphne is to be sent to Oxford to read English. While they await their future, Dogger, the family retainer, takes the three on a trip down the river. When they're near the churchyard for St.-Mildred's-in-the-Marsh, Flavia asks Dogger to remind her of the story of Canon Whitbread, hanged after the death by poisoning of three women from his church. She idly drags her fingers through the water while talking, only to catch what she assumes is an enormous fish. Instead, her fingers have caught on the teeth and skull of a body. The body in question is Orlando Whitbread, son of Canon Whitbread.

Twelve-year-old Flavia immediately throws herself into the murder investigation, and teams up with a boy, as precocious in his own way as she is. She uses all her chemistry knowledge and learned skills to snoop, asking questions of everyone from the landlady at the inn to a retired actress who was instructing Orlando. But, once again, Flavia finds a way to put herself in danger.

Will the Flavia de Luce series go on? Will the series take the new direction indicated by the last page of the story? At one time, Bradley said Flavia was always going to remain eleven. He extended the series, made her twelve. It will be interesting to discover the future of Bradley's beloved series.

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley. Delacorte. 2018. ISBN 9780345639991 (hardcover), 384p.

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


Monday, January 29, 2018

Survival of the Fritters by Ginger Bolton

Is there anything that says cozy mystery any more than a donut shop? Ginger Bolton launches the Deputy Donut mystery series with Survival of the Fritters.

It's been three years since Emily Westhill's police detective husband, Alec, was shot and killed in the line of duty. She left her job as a 911 operator, and she and her father-in-law, Tom, the former police chief, opened a donut shop named after her cat, Deputy Donut. She may have left, but the police show up to support the shop, everyone except her husband's former partner, Brent.

When Alec died, he and Brent were still working on Matthias Treetor's two-year-old murder case. It's Tom who notices that Matthias' mother, Georgia, is missing from the Knitpickers, a group of knitters who meet at the donut shop. Emily and the group of women end up at Georgia's house, where they find the woman's body. Why did someone kill both Treetors? And, why did someone attack Emily's new neighbor, Lois, a long-time friend of the dead woman?

Emily's mistakes at the crime scene and her new neighbor draw her into the case. Lois, and others, are willing to tell Emily secrets that they wouldn't reveal to the police. But, Emily does try to keep Brent in the loop. It's her own lifelong knowledge of the residents of Fallingbrook, though, that puts her in danger when she catches the killer's attention.

Survival of the Fritters was a little slow-paced as it develops the backstory of the characters. Although Emily is a sympathetic character, there's little character development of her friends. Perhaps there will be more development in future books in the series. However, Deputy Donut, the cat, is charming. Fans of Diesel in Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mysteries may want to check out Deputy Donut.

Ginger Bolton's website is www.gingerbolton.com

Survival of the Fritters by Ginger Bolton. Kensington Books, 2018. ISBN 9781496711878 (paperback), 256p.

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

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sophie Kersey, Guest Blogger

Congratulations to Sophie Kersey on the publication of her first novel, Unspeakable Things. It's a pleasure when I have the chance to introduce a new author to readers. Before you read her post, you might want to see the book trailer for her debut novel.












Thank you, Sophie, for taking time to write a guest blog post.

*****
Family Secrets








Family secrets fascinate me – they are at the heart of my writing.

Families conceal things, or don’t mention them; things that peek out from often-told stories but are never questioned. Like all writers, I’m a magpie and I grasp these treasures whenever I find them.

Secrets can be mundane: a birth certificate revealing that a parent has lied about their age, or even
their birthday. I have also read of people discovering their parents were spies. One man found out that his father had been a Nazi. Other secrets can be devastating: I know someone who was in her thirties when she found out that her Dad, now dead, was not her real father. It came out through a casual comment from an in-law at a family party; and everyone knew except her.

Families are different from other groups. They’re home to our dearest loves and deepest resentments – and yet they need to operate on an everyday level. Everyone needs to be fed, clothed and sent off to school or work; and to rest, mooch around together and sleep.

We are not our outward-facing selves in our families. They see us grumpy or distracted, picking our noses, grunting responses: the real people who emerge when we’ve shut the door on the outside world.

Things go unsaid in families, both good and bad. I read an article by a man who decided not to save a eulogy for his father’s funeral, but to tell him his feelings for him while he was alive. He did so. It was awkward. He wasn’t sure if he regretted it or not.

There is a reason we don’t do these things. Huge feelings and shocking revelations might threaten the everyday functioning that makes up family life. If someone says something profound at a family gathering, we often shrug or squirm with discomfort.

In Unspeakable Things my heroine, Sarah, knows nothing about her mother, who died when she was four. Pregnant and newly inquisitive, she visits the abandoned family home with her husband, who asks why her father moved them away.


 ‘I don’t know. He didn’t say.’ Dad had not talked about any of it. She didn’t even remember looking at old photographs with him, and wondered now why they had never pestered him about their dead mother, their abandoned first home. But during his life it had seemed unthinkable. Did they hesitate to test that resolute strength of his, in case it crumpled? 

There are terrible things in families, and as a writer of dark fiction, I dig them out. Secrets concealed, and secrets discovered form the darkness behind the suspense.
But there are wonderful things in families too  – things we don’t talk about either. My second novel, The Year of the Ghost, delves into secrets and lies, but it’s a love song to family as well.

*****
Sophie Kersey's website is https://sophiekerseyauthor.com

Unspeakable Things is available through Amazon, and there is a Kindle edition. http://amzn.to/2FeA6l0

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake by Sarah Graves

Sarah Graves' latest mystery, Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake, marks the return of Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree from the Home Repair is Homicide mysteries. This book kicks off a new series, and a new adventure for Jake. Don't worry, though. Jake will always find a way to be involved in a murder investigation.

Jake opened The Chocolate Moose, a bake shop, just six weeks earlier with her best friend, Ellie White. And, Matt Muldoon has done nothing but harass them since the shop opened, threatening to complain to the state health department. When Matt is found murdered, left for dead in the bakery, Ellie has to admit she's not sorry he's dead. Even the man's wife doesn't seem sorry he's gone. But, Ellie's the one without an alibi, and her fingerprints are on the murder weapon.

While Jake and Ellie continue to bake cheesecakes for the vital Fourth of July auction, Jake has a million worries. How does she prove that Ellie is innocent? How does she cope with the failing health of her father, a man willing to break out of the hospital to end his days at home? Hurricane Amber is heading directly at Eastport. And, what about Jake's son, a recovering alcoholic and addict whose phone conversation is cut off as he's trying to explain where he is?

Welcome back to Jake and Ellie, two strong, courageous women, determined to find a killer. Eastport, Maine, is described so well in this book that the town almost becomes a character. Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake is an intense, action-packed mystery filled with surprises.

It's been five years since Graves' last Home Repair is Homicide mystery, and, I'll admit, I had tired of them. But, Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake launches a new series in the hands of an expert. Fans will welcome the return of Jake and Ellie, while new readers can jump into this book with no qualms.

Sarah Graves' website is www.sarahgraves.net

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. Kensington Books, 2018. ISBN 9781496711281 (hardcover), 240p.

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


Friday, January 26, 2018

Winners and European Mysteries

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Jeannine C. from Roseburg, OR won The Body in the Casket. A Case of Syrah, Syrah will go to Sharon B. in Albuquerque, NM. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries set in Europe. Head to Ireland with Lisa Alber's Path into Darkness. Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern juggles his grief for his comatose wife with his job, the murder of a local man is Lisfenora, a town known for its yearly matchmaking festival. It's a story of family secrets, madness, and healing in small-town Ireland.







British society is caught up in scandal and murder in Ashley Weaver's A Most Novel Revenge. Amory  and Milo Ames head to a country house where an eccentric and distinguished group of guests have been gathered, including a notorious socialite who has returned to write a sequel to her scandalous first book. This time, Isobel Van Allen warns the house's occupants she intends to tell what happened on a night when there was a high society murder. When a desperate person turns to murder, Amory and Milo have to uncover the truth and the identity of a killer.

Which European setting would you like to visit? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Path into Darkness" or "Win A Most Novel Revenge." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Feb. 1 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only please.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading this week? Or, what book are you listening to? I've taken a page out of Jeff's book. I'm reading an anthology, Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer. It includes three recently discovered short stories. I always loved Heyer's Regency romances. The stories are in the same vein, although, naturally, she doesn't have as much time to develop the characters and their relationships. That means I'm enjoying the discovery of some of her stories, but I'm missing that development. I still love her humor, though!


What are you reading this week? Let's talk about your books.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Waking Up in Winter by Cheryl Richardson

I'll admit I picked up Cheryl Richardson's personal development book, Waking Up in Winter because of the subtitle. She calls it "In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife." I always discover something when I read a self-development book. In this case, I learned I'm much further along than the author is. To be fair, I'm ten years older than she is, too.

Richardson is a personal coach and author, known for working with Oprah. She works in the self-help field, working in the mind-body-spirit field as a private practitioner. When she turned fifty, she had a hard time with the realization that her life is over half over. How would she cope with the changes she's experiencing in her life? She was struggling, but it was May Sarton's journals that showed her the direction she wanted to go.

Richardson had journaled since she was a girl, and she admires May Sarton's books, especially her journals. It was Richardson's husband who suggested she might want to look at journaling to find her direction. For the next six months, Richardson looked for her journal to determine the direction of her life.

I'll admit I'm skeptical about quite a bit of Richardson's beliefs and practices. She discusses past-life regressions and dreams that determine her direction. She discusses her therapy and the direction of her life as it connects with her relationships with her husband, her parents, her friends, her cat, people she lets go of in her life. She discusses how sensitive she is when it comes to animals. Perhaps all of these feelings and ideas actually do determine her way in life.

However, as I said, there's always something to be picked up from a book, even if you don't buy into the author's ideas. In my case, there were two points that hit home, but they were both lessons I had already learned. Richardson discusses the awareness that time with her parents is limited and precious, and she needs to recognize that. That message leads right to the most important point, "Be present."

If Cheryl Richardson can discuss how she's working on her life in Waking Up in Winter, I can say that  what I really try to do, with every place I visit, and every person I value in my life, is try to be present. Or, as I say, live in the moment, and appreciate what you're doing right now. You might not have tomorrow.

Cheryl Richardson's website is www.cherylrichardson.com

Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife by Cheryl Richardson. HarperOne, 2017. ISBN 9780062681669 (hardcover), 226p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book





































































Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Have You Heard? Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger

I'm always grateful when Sandie Herron steps in with a review of an audiobook. It gives me one day to finish whatever I'm reading. And, she reviews audiobooks, which I don't listen to. I know many of you do, so it's one more chance for you to discover a book. Thanks, Sandie.

*****
BLOOD HOLLOW
Cork O’Connor mystery #4
Written by William Kent Krueger, Narrated by David Chandler
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 11 hours and 15 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books (August 29, 2007)
(originally published by Atria Books, February 3, 2004)
Literary Awards:  Anthony Award for Best Novel (2005)


I thought I had adequately braced myself for the cold climate of Minnesota in Kent Krueger’s
fourth mystery featuring Cork O’Connor.  I thought I had readied myself for the many twists
and turns to come throughout this book.  However, I had not prepared myself at all for the
emotional journey on which I was about to embark.  Yet, had I given it proper thought, I
would have known Kent Krueger would not only present a mysterious problem to be solved
but also much more poignant dilemmas to be considered.


This story begins on January 2nd when Cork O’Connor, former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota
helps with search and rescue under the retiring Sheriff Wally Shanno.  On New Year’s Eve,
Charlotte Kane, daughter of widowed Dr. Fletcher Kane, took off in a snowmobile on a trail
that broke off into dozens of others.  An oncoming blizzard cut the search and rescue short
with no satisfaction.


Spring came, and Charlotte’s body was found in a snow bank.  Despite his no longer being
the sheriff, Cork often found ways to accompany law enforcement to special crime scenes or
to participate in the investigations.  The new sheriff, Arne Soderberg, was more interested in
his political career than the duties of sheriff and ran Cork off the scene, ignoring his advice.


These days Cork runs Sam’s Place, a burger stand in an old Quonset hut on the shores of Iron
Lake left to him by Sam Winter Moon.  Sam’s sister Dot comes to see Cork along with Cork’s
wife Jo, explaining that Dot’s son Solemn has disappeared and the sheriff is looking for him.
 Known for his temper and occasional disappearances, Dot isn’t worried, but the sheriff wasn’t
going to lie content and wait.  Cork knows exactly where to find Solemn, a place full of Sam’s
spirit deep in the woods.  Shortly afterward Cork and Jo, now Solemn’s attorney, accompany
Solemn to the sheriff’s station where he turns himself in.  The evidence connecting him to
Charlotte’s murder is pretty damning. The sheriff seemed to think Solemn would confess,
Perry Mason-style, but Solemn bolts and runs.


The Ojibwe have a spirituality that I often envy.  Even though Cork is only one quarter Ojibwe,
he keeps running into traditions and their ways.  He feels he’s not done right by Solemn since
Sam Winter Moon’s death, since Sam took Cork on as a youngster when Cork’s own father died.  
He feels he should have taken Solemn under his wing, so to speak, to help him complete his
growing into manhood.  So even after Solemn bolted, Cork finds him in places where Sam’s
spirit is strong.  Elder and Midewiwin Henry Meloux, member of the Grand Medicine Society,
lives on Iron Lake and helps Solemn complete giigwishimowin, the ritual where a boy is sent
into the woods to live off the land until a vision comes to him which will guide the rest of his
life.  Not until Kitchimanidoo had granted him the vision was the young man to return, changed
from boy to man.  Solemn’s quest took 16 days.  Then he was ready to face up to the white man’s
laws and prove his innocence.


Jo is not so sure she has the courage and the wisdom to represent Solemn in a criminal trial, so
she asks Cork to be her investigator.  What he discovers about the citizens of Aurora is vastly
different than what he expected when he began his search.  Cork discovers things about himself
as well that are just as difficult.  At times he has embraced and other times struggled with crises
that have spanned the series, and I believe he finally finds some crucial answers.  

Kent Krueger’s writing is lyrical.  His writing skills continue to improve.  I can smell the cut
grass or the rose petals as clearly as he describes them.  The breath in my own chest stopped
when Cork’s family was  at risk.  He has an easy flow to his words that are filled with spirituality
and teachings and lessons and miracles, and I think mostly with patience that the rightness of
the world will win in the end.  I am awed by Krueger’s talent and honored he has shared this
journey with me.  It is a very difficult journey of self discovery that begins to bring Corcoran
O’Connor the peace he has been seeking.  

Monday, January 22, 2018

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

If you're getting tired of my reviews of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London books, you'll be happy to know I only have one more after  Foxglove Summer. But, this fifth one was one of the best in the series.

Police constable Peter Grant is on his own this time. When two young girls disappear, Nightingale suggests he offer assistance to the police force in rural Herefordshire. When he talks with the parents, it seems to be a normal case of two youngsters who ran away together. Then, a friend mentions a unicorn called Princess Luna, the invisible friend of one of the girls. Or, at least she's an invisible horse-shaped friend. Unicorns exist?

Even Peter's friend, Beverley Brook, goddess of a small river in South London, doesn't believe unicorns still exist. But, there doesn't seem to be other magic, although Peter has felt as if there's something to do with trees, and a beekeeper's bees have ignored this corner of Herefordshire. His tests for magic really don't prove anything. But, when he's attacked by a unicorn, he's convinced. Fairies and unicorns and changelings. They all exist in this small corner of the country. And, the only threat that Peter can recognize is the historic Roman road that runs in a straight line through the area.

Peter Grant and the reader needed a break from London and the training in magic. In this book, he's accompanied by Beverley, but he's really on his own in coming up with ideas as to what direction to take in his investigation. Although he seems uncertain at times, he is excellent in reasoning his way through. Peter is intelligent with a dry sense of humor. It was time to set him out on his own to see what happens.

Put Peter and Beverley out in the country, away from their elders, and they become independent and capable. Foxglove Summer was one of the most enjoyable books in the series.

Ben Aaronovitch blogs at http://temporarilysignificant.blogspot.com/

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch. DAW Books, 2015. 325p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book



Sunday, January 21, 2018

Vanishing Ireland by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury

Vanishing Ireland is a beautiful, but sobering book. Fennell and Bunbury set out across Ireland to capture and preserve the stories of ordinary Irish people, people who worked the land, worked with horses, worked on the water, celebrated the music. Vanishing Ireland by photographer James Fennell and travel writer and historian Turtle Bunbury contains wonderful close-ups of each person interviewed. But, it was first published in 2006, and even before it went to press some of these eighty and ninety year old people were dying. It's likely that almost every one of the people profiled in this book are gone by now. It's truly a story of a Vanishing Ireland.

In the introduction, Bunbury discusses the welcome they received as the people were "Plying us with tea and whiskey while they coloured in the past with their memories and mused upon the quandaries of the present." Times were hard in Ireland when these people grew up. They farmed, watched brothers and sisters move to America and Australia, lost family members to sickness and drowning. But, almost every one of them said times were better then, better than when Ireland went through the years of the Celtic Tiger. They saw their trades, mining, and raising horses, and farming, fade away. They saw the closeness of neighborhoods fade away. And, even though many of them were alone in their eighties and nineties, they still celebrated their lives and their past.

What struck me in the book is the number of men. There were only about four or five women interviewed. And, so many of the men had never married. There were entire families, five or six brothers, and none of them married. Sometimes the men had married, but outlived their wives. That didn't always come as a surprise when they talked about the twelve or thirteen children. One man showed the author "a photograph of a family reunion where he sits like Queen Victoria amid a tribe of his sixty grandchildren, twenty great-grandchildren and four great-greats."

Turtle Bunbury's words are lyrical in this book, descriptive of the land. Here's just one example. "The cottage stands in the lush Kerry landscape of Glenbeigh, sheltered by the Seefin Mountains, overlooking the point where the Behy river meets the waters of Dingle Bay. The region is highly esteemed for its folklore - the nearby strand of Rossbeigh was where Oisin and Niamh took to the sea on their white horse to find new life in Tir na nOg, the land of eternal youth." There's music in his words, and you can hear the music of the people.

Vanishing Ireland is a book for smiles and tears. I've mentioned it before. Once in a while, a book makes you nostalgic for a place and a people you never knew, and never will. But, it draws you in. It has a heart.

James Fennell's website is www.jamesfennell.com. Turtle Bunbury's website is www.turtlebunbury.com. There's also a Facebook page that salutes many of the people of Ireland, a page called Vanishing Ireland.

Vanishing Ireland by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. Hodder Headline Ireland, 2006. ISBN 9780340922774 (hardcover), 180p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - My copy was a gift.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up by Elizabeth Heiskell

I was raised in Ohio. Just as in the South, when someone dies, just returns from the hospital, has problems, we take food to the house. It may not be the Southern recipes from this book, but I was eager to read Elizabeth Heiskell's cookbook, What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion.

She covers all kinds of events from potlucks (in southwestern Indiana, those are called pitch-ins) to tailgating parties to weekend getaways and bringing home the new baby. And, it's a beautifully illustrated book. Best of all, though, are the stories that go with the recipes. Because I seldom cook, I really do read cookbooks for the stories. These recipes include "Delta" food because the author lives in Rosedale, Mississippi, and grew up in Mississippi. But, a few of the recipes are similar to ones I've seen. Someday I may tell you why Heiskell's "Consomme Rice with Mushrooms" resembles our family's funeral rice.

Do you know what I liked best about Heiskell's stories? They're told with a Southern humor, and I can just hear one of my friends telling them. There is a written accent to them. For instance, when she writes about "Sausage, Egg, and Grits Souffle", she talks about trying to transport it. "The challenge comes with the 'bring it' part...It must be transported uncooked and cooked on-site. If you try to move it in your car in a Pyrex casserole dish it will slosh everywhere, and no amount of money or carpet cleaner will ever get the foul smell out of your car. You will just have to sell it."

There's an entire chapter as to what to send when a husband goes duck hunting. Heiskell's introduction to "Vegetable Beef Stew" is priceless. "There is nothing like a pot of vegetable beef stew on the stove after a long, cold day in an icy duck blind. Lord, I cannot lie to you sweet people. I have  no idea what in the world a cold day in an icy duck blind feels like.There is nothing that could drag me out of a warm bed into the dark, below-zero weather - especially not a duck. Not even a duck covered in diamonds could lure me out from under the covers of my cozy bed."

There are a few recipes I'm going to copy and try. But, if for no other reason, pick up What Can I Bring? to discover Elizabeth Heiskell's voice. She should be writing Southern fiction.

What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up by Elizabeth Heiskell. Oxmoor House, 2017. ISBN 978048754389 (hardcover), 272p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, January 19, 2018

Winners and an Amateur Sleuth Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Bury the Past is going to Marie R. from Horseheads, NY. Mary P. from Rome, NY won A Hunt in Winter. Due to our weather, the books will go out in the mail on Saturday.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries featuring amateur sleuths. Even if you've never read one of Katherine Hall Page's Faith Fairchild mysteries, you can pick up The Body in the Casket. Faith is asked to live in for a weekend when a director/producer of musicals holds a reunion of the people involved in his last show, a flop. Yes, she's going to cater it, but he wants her to use her detecting skills. He's convinced someone is planning to kill him.







Or, you could enter to win the first in a series, Nancy J. Parra's A Case of Syrah, Syrah. It's a Wine Country Mystery. Taylor O'Brian plans to capitalize on her aunt's local winery, and offer "Off the Beaten Path" Wine Country Tours. But, the murder of a local businesswoman on Taylor's first tour means her business is in jeopardy. And, it won't matter if Taylor's in prison for murder.






Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win The Body in the Casket" or "Win A Case of Syrah, Syrah." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Jan. 25 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

What Are You Reading?

First, I want to thank Jeff, Grace, Margie and Glen for sharing their favorite books of 2017. Let's do it
again next year! Watch for those good books this year.

I bet it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone that I'm finishing Foxglove Summer, the next book in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. I like this better than the last one. Peter Grant is on his own this time, as he travels out of London to help when two young girls go missing. Well, he isn't really on his own. He's with one of the river goddesses, Beverley.

What are you reading this week? The focus is all on you this week! Let's talk about books.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

While Broken Homes isn't my favorite in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, the ending came as surprise. And, it was perfect.

Peter Grant is a police constable with a little bit of magic. He and a former classmate, Lesley May, reside at the Folly with their instructor, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale. It's there that they continue their lessons while fighting against those who use magic and the supernatural for evil purposes. Peter calls one of those the "Faceless Man", and they've been hunting him since Peter first ran into him.

This time, the small group travel all over the countryside as they investigate a case that could have a connection to the Faceless Man. Eventually, they end up in a confrontation with a Russian woman, who like Nightingale, seems to be aging backwards. She, too, had been active in World War II, using her magic skills.

But, it's one building, what we would call the projects, and the book refers to as an estate, the infamous Skygarden Estate, that draws Grant and Lesley. They move in, searching for someone with a connection to magic or to the "Faceless Man". And, they find more than they expected, a dryad, river goddesses, fae, and others who hear what's going on in the building. Peter also makes connections with residents of the neighborhood, while keeping his occupation a secret. It's only at a climatic scene that he's forced to reveal his identity.

As I said, Broken Homes isn't my favorite book. There's a little too much German, a little too much discussion of architecture. But, the resolution will come as a shock to anyone who has been following the series. On the other hand, as I said, it was an appropriate, perfect ending. It will be fascinating to see where Aaronovitch goes from here.

Ben Aaronovitch's blog is at http://temporarilysignificant.blogspot.com

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch. DAW Books, 2014. 326p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

How often do you read a novel and find it so wonderful that it makes you want to not only reread it, but also read another book? Deanna Raybourn's third Veronica Speedwell mystery, A Treacherous Curse, moves the characters' relationship along, while also making me want to go back and reread Jane Eyre.

After the Earl of Rosemorran fell over his Galapagos tortoise, the planned expedition to the South Pacific is off, and Veronica and Stoker, the scientist, Templeton-Vane, are back to piecing together museum pieces at Belvedere, the earl's estate. For entertainment, Veronica and George, the young hall boy, read newspaper reports of the Tiverton Expedition to Egypt.The stories turned to accounts of appearances of Anubis, the god of the underworld, and curses because of a recovered sarcophagus. Did the curses cause the death of the project director and the disappearance of photographer John de Morgan, who seemed to have absconded with wife and a diadem? It was only when Sir Hugo, head of Scotland Yard's Special Branch, called Stoker and Veronica to his house, that Veronica learns De Morgan was once Stoker's best friend, the man who left him to die in the Amazon. And, De Morgan's wife? She is Stoker's ex-wife, whose stories of Stoker's brutality scandalized London.

If Stoker hadn't once beaten De Morgan almost to death, he might not now be considered a suspect in his disappearance. The meeting with Sir Hugo sets the two on an investigative path. They need to find the missing photographer, who seems to have disappeared from Dover, look for the stolen diadem, and, worst of all, in Stoker's opinion, interview his ex-wife. The two also arrange a meeting with the Tivertons, to discuss the expedition and ask a few questions. They don't realize how dangerous their task is. And, someone seems to be following them all over London.

A Treacherous Curse is an exciting adventure with marvelous characters. Veronica, with her independence, and her ability to match wits with Stoker, has become a favorite character. She's an intelligent, adventurous woman who actually is derived from stories of women of the Victorian age who did travel throughout the world. She's shrewd and knowledgeable as to how to deal with men, Stoker in particular. The two are irreverent about everything, and they make a perfect duo. Their developing relationship is fascinating to observe.

Fans of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books should enjoy this series, and this book in particular. Jane Eyre? I don't want to spoil the actual story. Both A Treacherous Curse and Jane Eyre deal with social standing and prejudice. But, I'm not going to set the scene for you when the similarity hit me in the face. My favorite line from the book, though, is, "Reader, I carried him."

Deanna Raybourn's website is www.deannaraybourn.com

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn. Berkley. 2018. ISBN 9780451476173 (hardcover), 320p.

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




Monday, January 15, 2018

Murder of a Good Man by Teresa Trent

I liked the first mystery in Teresa Trent's new Piney Woods series. I really did, and I hope to read the next book. But, her stereotypes and comment about a senior really bothered me when I realized how old the character was. And, neither the author nor the amateur sleuth are young enough to make these comments. More about this later. If the comments won't bother you, you might enjoy Murder of a Good Man.

Nora Alexander was surprised with her dying mother's last request. She asked her to deliver a letter to Adam Brockwell in Piney Woods, Texas. Nora could have mailed it, but she drives from New Orleans to the town she never heard of, only to be almost run off the road before she reaches her destination. In Piney Woods, she finds a quirky little bed-and-breakfast with enchanting owners. But, she isn't so enchanted with the people she meets at Brockwell's house. His reaction to the letter stuns her, and, because she presented it unopened, she doesn't know what the letter says. When she asks, she's read a scathing letter that attacks Brockwell. It appears as if her mother hated the man. That comes as a surprise to others because Adam Brockwell is one of the top candidates for that year's Piney Woods Pioneer award for the best citizen in town.

When Brockwell is killed, the hunky police chief, Tuck Watson, looks at Nora as the only one known to hate the man. He asks Nora to stay in town. Desperate for money, she accepts a job helping Tuck's aunt restore a historic hotel. It gives her time to search for someone else who might have wanted him dead. Nora Alexander doesn't want to end up in prison now that she runs into people that know her mother's history.

Murder of a Good Man is an enjoyable story. The historic hotel shows great potential for future books. But, here's my issue with Trent's comments, and Nora Alexander's. Nora is thirty-three. Yet, when she and other characters discuss Adam Brockwell, they refer to him as "an old man", "a grizzled old man", "in his old age". I could accept that until about halfway through the book when a character says, "Maybe he wasn't as on top of his game as he used to be. The old guy had to be close to sixty." What the heck? What thirty-three-year-old views a man not yet sixty as old?

I'm sorry. I did like Murder of a Good Man, but at sixty, with an active mother over eighty, I don't appreciate the stereotype and the comments about age. Trent needs to examine her attitude and her characters' attitudes if she wants fans who are cozy readers.

Teresa Trent's website is www.teresatrent.com

Murder of a Good Man by Teresa Trent. Camel Press. 2018. ISBN 9781603816359 (paperback), 256p.

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

A friend in Wales told me to believe everything Ben Aaronovitch's books say about London, and, even more so. That means underground London is even more interesting than Paris with its catacombs. Peter Grant, police constable and wizard-in-training, has the chance to spend more time than he would like in London's tunnels in Aaronovitch's entertaining Whispers Under Ground.

It all starts with a simple murder. An American student, James Gallagher, is found dead in an Underground tunnel. DCI Seawoll doesn't want to hear anything about magic. Unfortunately, Peter finds traces of magic on the murder weapon, a piece of pottery. And, Gallagher is the son of a U.S. Senator, which means an FBI agent trails along when the Senator comes to retrieve his son's body. Agent Reynolds doesn't believe in magic, but she seems to pop up wherever the case takes Peter.

In this case, it takes him into the tunnels underneath London's Underground. It's a whole other world under there, and he needs the help of the British Transport Police. Sergeant Kumar is a little more inclined to pay attention to Grant when it comes to the magical aspects of the investigation. He's seen too much underground to be surprised by much. But, the magical beings, the fairies, goblins, ghosts and Whisperers are all part of a world that Peter Grant is still trying to understand.

The third book in Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series is filled with tidbits of British history, including an unexpected journey back in that history. While Peter Grant's first concern is the murder investigation, and the serious aspects of what they uncover, his wry outlook on life is fun and refreshing. Outside of a Terry Pratchett novel, where are you going to read about "the world's first ever Anglo-American Olympic sewer luge team"?

If you're up to exploring the tunnels, the Underground, the sewers of London with Peter Grant, you'll want to venture into Whispers Under Ground.

Ben Aaronovitch's blog is at http://temporarilysignificant.blogspot.com

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch. Del Rey, 2012. ISBN 9780345524614 (paperback), 303p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy

Someday I'm going to recruit my sister, Christie, to write book reviews for the blog. She       
reads some of the series I haven't yet had time to pick up, and her comments are perceptive and on target. She liked Lawrence H. Levy's earlier Mary Handley books, but I'm just getting around to the series with the third historical mystery, Last Stop in Brooklyn.

Mary Handley is the first female private investigator in Brooklyn. The daughter of an immigrant, she sees prejudice and racism, and she's willing to fight against it. She's on her least favorite type of case, trailing a possible cheating spouse, when she realizes she's being followed. When she accosts the man, he reveals he's the brother of a man convicted of killing a prostitute in a Jack the Ripper style slaying. But, he's convinced his brother was railroaded because he's an Algerian immigrant who doesn't speak English well.

As Mary uncovers evidence of police corruption, she keeps her friend, Superintendent Campbell, in the loop. She's finding evidence that there were other similar killings, most of them in the area around Coney Island. It isn't long before she's challenged and working with a brash newspaper reporter, Harper Lloyd. While they taunt each other, it's obvious the two investigators also respect each other.

Levy's third Mary Handley mystery is filled with historical details and figures. Teddy Roosevelt, while not prominent in most of the story, becomes an important figure for the wrap-up. Financiers Henry L. Norcross and Jay Gould are figures targeted by anarchists. The bigotry and segregation that Mary witnesses at Coney Island is based on facts. And, the author's note mentions that "new immigrants were blamed for the country's problems when the reason for those problems run much deeper." It's a fascinating historical mystery, with relevance in our own time.

If you're looking for the story of Mary Handley, start with Levy's first mystery, Second Street Station. If you want a fascinating historical mystery, try Last Stop in Brooklyn.

Lawrence H. Levy's website is www.lawrencehlevy.com

Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy. Broadway Books, 2018. ISBN 9780451498441 (paperback), 336p.

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






Friday, January 12, 2018

What Are You Reading? - Part 2 - Glen Davis' Favorites of 2017

Well, if I don't mess up the post today, Glen Davis can share his list of favorites for 2017. I've really enjoyed this. And, everyone sent me their list in a different way. I think I only messed up Margie's though.

And, just a reminder. If you're here for the book giveaway, check the previous post. And, if you're really here to see what Glen read, you're also welcome to mention your books read this week. Thanks for joining us.

And, thank you, Glen, for sharing what your read last year.

*****
This year I somehow managed to read 370 books. That's an awful lot of fodder for a list. I tried to format the list to something manageable, comparing apples to apples, instead of apples to oranges or kumquats.

Best Espionage Novels:

Use of Force by Brad Thor

Starting with a gripping scene taking place during the Burning Man Festival, Scott Harvath has to stop a conspiracy by a Tajik terrorist. It's very exciting, and humanizes the antagonist to an unusual extent.

Trap The Devil by Ben Coes

Dewey Andreas is framed for the murder of the Secretary of State. There's a gripping scene on a train that will really stick with you.

Oath of Honor by Matthew Betley 

When a Russian Black Ops team is discovered in Alaska, Logan West and company pursue a conspiracy of stolen technology. A lot of breakneck action.

Hong Kong Black by Alex Ryan 

A bit different than the others on this list, as it features a romantic couple, Nick Foley and Dash Chen. As bodies wash up on a Hong Kong Beach, and someone murders a CIA agent, Nick and Dash uncover a conspiracy in which organ harvesting is just the tip of the iceberg

Best Hit Man Novels:

Zero Sum by Barry Eisler

Returning to Tokyo in 1982, John Rain tries to go back to work in his vocation as assassin. Unfortunately, another killer, named Victor has cornered that market. To get back in the game, Rain has to assassinate a government minister. 


Quarry's Climax by Max Allan Collins

Quarry is sent to Memphis by his boss, The Broker to find out who is trying to kill a publisher of pornography. This is a strange book, with not one, not two, but three layers of nostalgia. Like most of the series, the book in set in the 1970's. By the subject matter, it seems like it was first conceived in 1998, back when they made a movie about Larry Flynt. The book was published right before the "ME-TOO" movement started. I can't help but wonder if it would be published today.

Best Martial Arts Thrillers:

The Spy Across The Table by Barry Lancet

Some might say the Jim Brodie series is not a martial arts thriller, but in the first book, Japantown, he confronts a village full of ninjas. Case Closed.  In this entry, Jim Brody runs afoul of the North Koreans, and he finds out what his way of life can cost him.

The Aikido Caper by Daniel Linden

Parker is an aikido instructor in Florida. When things get a little lean, he also works as a PI. He gets a gig as a bodyguard to a movie star because accidents keep happening on the set. As much a meditation on the place of Aikido and Steven Seagal in the popular culture as it is a mystery.

Best Mystery (Non-Cozy) 

Dead To Begin With by Bill Crider

A wealthy recluse restoring the old opera house by staging A Christmas Carol is murdered. Sheriff Dan Rhodes investigates and finds the roots of the crime stretch back into the 1950's. All of the books in this series are great.

Torn and Restored by Austin Williams

Magician Rusty Diamond has to return to Las Vegas, a city he fled after accidentally injuring the daughter of a mob boss. Someone has found Diamond, and blackmailed him into coming back. Someone who is killing people and showing it on the dark web.

The Crack in the Lens by Steve Hockensmith

Old West cowboy sleuths Big Red and Old Red head down to San Marcos, Texas, to find out who killed Old Red's paramour. They found the town is a lot different than the one they left, but there are still people desperate to keep them from solving the crime.

Best Cozies

Antiques Disposal by Barbara Allan

Brandy and Vivian participate in a storage auction, and win a compartment that contains a vintage coronet and a dead body!

Dying for a Diamond by Cindy Sample

Laurel McKay and her husband Tom Hunter go on a honeymoon cruise. Somehow the entire supporting cast goes on the cruise too!  Laurel thinks she sees a body fall into the ocean...or does she? Nobody seems to be missing, but some jewels are!

The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper by Sally Carpenter

Former teen idol Sandy Fairfax tries to clean up his act and make a comeback. The only gig open is playing at a Beatles convention in Evansville, Indiana. While there, a member of a tribute band is shot. Sandy decides to sing with the band and solve the mystery.

Murder Has Nine Lives by Laura Levine

When Jaine Austin's cat is picked to be in a cat food commercial, Jaine is ecstatic. Maybe she'll finally have some extra money. Of course, nothing goes quite right, and there's a murder. Jaine's personal life is crazy, and she has to deal with that as well.

Best Psychological Thriller 

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

I read something like 30 books in this genre, and this is the only one I really remember. Five women go out into the wilderness of the outback, but only four come back. The police try to find out what happened, but nobody's story really matches with the others. Quite good.

And there it is! I tried to keep the list relatively short, but also include some lesser known books.

Glen 

Winners and A Police Procedural Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Cheryl S. from Fort Pierre, SD won A Murder for the Books. Suzanne R. of Nashville, TN won The Plot is Murder. Because of our expected ice overnight, I put the books in the mail late on Thursday.

I'm a big fan of police procedurals. I have a contemporary one, and a historical one to give away this week. James L'Etoile's Bury the Past features Sacramento police detectives John Penley and Paula Newberry. They're in a race to stop a criminal mastermind who's coordinating murders from behind prison walls. And, someone with a long memory has targeted Newberry.







Conor Brady takes us to Victorian Dublin in A Hunt in Winter. Detective Inspector Joe Swallow's enjoying his promotion and his romance with his landlady. Then, his peaceful life is disrupted when a series of violent attacks against women lead to an outbreak of panic and fear. After all, people have heard of the recent horrors of Jack the Ripper. And, while Swallow works on that investigation, he's also dealing with a volatile political scene.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Bury the Past" or "Win A Hunt in Winter." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end at 5 PM CT on Thursday, January 18. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

What Are You Reading? Margie Bunting's Favorites of 2017 (Revised)

I'm sorry! I don't know what happened to the previous post. Please check both of them because some readers made wonderful comments.

I do know I introduced Margie Bunting, saying we met at Left Coast Crime in Monterey. And, we enjoyed it when Catriona McPherson called "Photo Bomb" and popped into the picture when Margie and I were posing. We had another chance to meet up at Left Coast Crime in Phoenix.

Catriona McPherson, Margie Bunting, myself


Now, I'm hoping I can put together Margie's list of her Favorites of 2017. (I'm sorry, Margie, for whatever happened.)

Because I just finished book no. 200 for 2017, it’s impossible to select just 10 favorite reads for the year, so I’ll cheat a bit.
My biggest “discovery” of the year was The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley—three books to date in a 7-book series. Each book focuses on one of the adopted daughters of a recently-deceased Swiss billionaire who leaves them cryptic clues to their birth origin, leading them to faraway places, long-lost relatives, and connections to historic events. I found them all fascinating and can’t wait for the next in the series (coming in Feb.). Oh, yes, each daughter is named after a star in the Pleiades constellation. An ongoing mystery:  why are there only 6 daughters (and 7 books)?

Two thrillers stood out for me this year. Catriona McPherson serves up the quirkiest, creepiest novels of psychological suspense, often with a Scottish accent and a bit of mordant humor, and House Tree Person, set mostly in a psychiatric hospital, is no exception. Joanna Schaffhausen’s The Vanishing Season is an award-winning debut novel about the only surviving victim of a serial killer. She’s changed her name and created a new life as a cop, but why have three more victims been killed on her last three birthdays (and she’s received mysterious birthday cards) with the serial killer on death row?

On the other end of the mystery spectrum, I enjoy cozies that are “a cut above,” with engaging characters, great writing, attention to detail, and a smattering of humor. My pick for best debut cozy is Murder in Mayfair by D.M. Quincy. Lesa has already described this book, so I’ll just say that adventurer Atlas Catesby (gotta love his name) makes a dashing hero, and an intriguing plot, strong sense of place and time, and interesting secondary characters made me long for the next installment (Feb.). Other cozy favorites were John Clement’s The Cat Sitter and the Canary (former cop turned pet sitter), Jane Cleland’s Glow of Death (antiques dealer/appraiser), and Julia Buckley’s Pudding Up with Murder (chef whose customers pass the off her goodies as their own). These series are must-reads for me.

One of my favorite traditional mystery writers, Terry Shames, published the sixth in her Samuel Craddock series, An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, which is my favorite to date. Writing in first-person present tense, Terry filters everything that happens through lawman Samuel’s eyes and ears, affording us a glimpse into his soul. Rather than focusing on a retired cop called back to duty, this prequel features Samuel as the newly minted police chief of a small Texas town, and we see his flaws as he deals with a racially-charged situation and a new marriage.


For my money ( or my library card), I don’t think anyone writes feel-good novels about women putting a disappointment behind them to start life as the proprietor of a bakery (or other business) than Jenny Colgan. This year I read three of hers—The Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery, and The Café by the Sea. True comfort food!



Another delectable comfort read was To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon, 14th in her lovely series about Father Tim Kavanaugh, who is now trying to deal with his advancing age while handling three generations of family issues, not to mention some difficult parishioners. Also this year, I relished Lauren Graham’s (Lorelei Gilmore!) memoir, Talking as Fast as I Can, which led me to read her novel, Someday, Someday, Maybeloved it!  Other comfort reads I rated highly include The Bookshop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry and Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson.


Books with characters on the autism spectrum are increasingly popular, and I’m hooked. E.J. Copperman’s The Question of the Absentee Father, latest in his Asperger’s Mystery series, features a young man who owns Questions Answered, not quite a private investigation firm. He is assisted by his mother and his employee, who help him navigate a world where he excels at solving mysteries but needs to hone his social skills. In Benjamin Ludwig’s Ginny Moon, 13-year-old Ginny should be happy with her new and nurturing foster parents, but she longs for her abusive birth mother and previous family life. Of equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, deeply affecting, and difficult to forget. A third favorite is The 7 Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard. Homebound 20-something Elvira must learn to make her way in the world when her mother has a stroke, so she sets strict rules for herself and does her best to execute them, with the help of a neighbor.

It feels good to read about lonely people who somehow come together and become a new family. The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg is one of these. Arthur meets teenaged Maddy at the cemetery where he visits his wife and Maddy hides from her schoolmates. Along with neighbor Lucille, the three forge a new life with new possibilities. I agree with Lesa that The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan is one of the very best of the year. I’ll defer to her review of this beautiful, uplifting story. And in Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, two misfits with poor social skills and troubled pasts meet at work and happen to save an elderly man’s life. Three beautifully drawn characters bond and save each other from lives of isolation.

Most of the rest of my picks are difficult to categorize. Rich People Problems is third in Kevin Kwan’s hilarious series about self-absorbed, ultra-rich Asian families in Hong Kong and Singapore and their crazy spending habits. Read the first in the series, Crazy Rich Asians, before the movie is released in 2018. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert shows us how the power of food can bring a chef and a restaurant critic together. Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel reveals the cutthroat world of private school admissions. Beartown is not my all-time favorite Fredrik Backman novel (that would be My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry), but in my opinion he can do no wrong. This one is an engrossing story of a tiny town where everything revolves around its junior ice hockey team.

I have to mention my final read of the year, Seth’s Broadway Diary, Vol. 3, by Seth Rudetsky. If you love all things musical theater, as I do, you might enjoy Seth’s 2011-2012 Playbill columns about behind-the-scenes Broadway. He is a Broadway insider, having played piano in the orchestra pit for multiple shows, and is also an actor, writer, composer, accompanist for Broadway greats, standup comedian, and much more, and he is currently a host on Sirius XM. Volumes 1 and 2 are great, too!


Lesa, thank you for affording me the opportunity to reminisce about my 2017 reads, and thanks to fellow readers of Lesa’s blog for your reading suggestions. Now I’m off and running in 2018. Happy reading to all!