Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What Are You Reading?

What better way to end the month than to talk about what we're reading?

I'm actually reading a book that comes out in April, Rick Bragg's The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table. It's a combination memoir and cookbooks, written with all of Bragg's love for his mother, along with his poetic words. He's one of my favorite storytellers. Even the recipes are stories. It's going to take me a while to get through it while I read other things, but I'm savoring every word.

What have you been reading this week? I hope you found something you've enjoyed as much as I'm appreciating Rick Bragg's book. Let's share!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Happiness is a Choice You Make by John Leland

At the beginning of 2015, John Leland, a journalist for the New York Times, embarked on a year-long project. He met with seniors to come up with six people to follow to learn from them about being old, and what it means today. The result was a series in the newspaper and the book, Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year among the Oldest Old.

One of the fastest growing groups in the United States is those over the age of eighty-five. They're now called "the oldest old". Leland interviewed a number of people before he found the group he would visit with and follow. He picked three men and three women, some still living independently, and some in nursing homes. Although he thought he would observe and write about them for the paper, he found himself learning how to live. With a marriage that had just ended, a mother in that age group, and a health issue, Leland learned how much he had to learn.

Some of the information he uncovered confirmed expectations, while he was surprised by some of his discoveries. While married couples had longevity, he was surprised that widows lived just as long, making new friends and making new lives. But widowers, on average, lived shorter lives than married men. Leland thought the seniors lived longer lives, but at a loss of quality. What he learned is most of the seniors were satisfied with their quality of life, even if they had poor health. He discovered his lessons were "seminars less in aging than in living".

The lessons are worth quoting. "Each elder had different lessons to teach: from Fred, the power of gratitude; from Ping, the choice to be happy; from John, acceptance of death; from Helen, learning to love and be needed; from Jonas, living with purpose; and from Ruth, nourishing the people who matter."

If you read Leland's book, you'll meet all six of those elders, and a few of their family members. You'll encounter their memories, and their present. And, that's most important. Most of the elders are present for their current life. Only one of them dwells on the past because he had a long, contented life and he was ready to move on.

In the end, Leland learned a lesson we should all accept. "The elders' gift to me was a simple one: a reminder that time is both limited and really amazing." There are lessons in this book for all of us, but that sentence does sum up John Leland's Happiness is a Choice You Make.

Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year among the Oldest Old by John Leland. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2018. ISBN 9780374168186 (hardcover), 242p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hummus and Homicide by Tina Kashian

Tina Kashian introduces a new culinary cozy mystery series with Hummus and Homicide, centered around a Mediterranean restaurant at the Jersey Shore. It's the typical debut of a cozy mystery series with an amateur sleuth as suspect, and a few appropriate recipes.

After eight years as a patent attorney, Lucy Berberian loses her job and returns home to Ocean Crest. Her parents own the Kebab Kitchen Fine Mediterranean Cuisine restaurant there, and, once they had hoped Lucy would marry her boyfriend, Azad, and take over the family business. That changed when the two broke up while in college. Now, Lucy's parents are ready to sell the business, possibly to Azad. Not everything changes, though. Heather Banks, a mean girl in high school, is now the equally nasty new health inspector. And, Lucy and Heather never did get along. That doesn't mean she killed Heather, even though Lucy serves Heather's last meal and stumbles over the body outside the restaurant.

It's too bad Lucy and Heather had a loud "discussion" before Heather's death. And, it's too bad the investigating police officer was dumped by Lucy's sister. Lucy may be a suspect, but the family restaurant is dependent on the discovery of the real killer. And, Lucy's father wants her to investigate. "Family helps family. Find out who did this." Lucy's best friend, Katie, is eager to help. She's married to a cop, and watched plenty of cop shows on television.

Hummus and Homicide is representative of the cozy mystery. The amateur sleuth loses a job, returns home to the family business that she once fled, gets caught up in it once again, becomes a murder suspect, finds two men who are interested in her, and solves the crime before discovering that she loves being home again. While there's nothing exceptional about this debut of the Kebab Kitchen mystery series, there is an appealing cast of characters and a couple mouthwatering recipes. However, it's going to have to compete with all the other cozy mysteries out there, including other ethnic ones such as Kylie Logan's Ethnic Eats mysteries and Susannah Hardy's Greek to Me mysteries.

Tina Kashian's website is www.TinaKashian.com

Hummus and Homicide by Tina Kashian. Kensington Books, 2018. ISBN 9781496713476 (paperback), 336p.

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


Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Cat of the Baskervilles by Vicki Delany

I love Gemma Doyle's mind. I love the way she thinks. Vicki Delany's third Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery, The Cat of the Baskervilles, is another treat for those of us who enjoy Gemma. And, this time, Gemma's caught up in a mystery involving theater. A true treat for me.

The local summer theater in West London, Massachusetts has three plays scheduled for the season, but "The Hound of the Baskervilles" will be the highlight. And, Sir Nigel Bellingham has agreed to reprise his role from years earlier. Sir Nigel and the play will be good for Gemma's business, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, and Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room, the tea shop run by her business partner, Jayne Wilson. But, everyone is shocked when Sir Nigel arrives, and turns out to be an aging drunk who is rude to everyone.

Jayne agrees to cater a fundraising tea for over a hundred, and ropes Gemma into assisting. That's why Gemma is on the scene and finds Sir Nigel's body at the bottom of a cliff. And, Gemma takes a minute to hide a piece of evidence, ribbon from an apron worn by one of Jayne's servers. Unfortunately, even without that evidence, the police zero in on Jayne's mother. And, Gemma won't let Mrs. Wilson be railroaded.

As I said, I love Gemma's mind. She has no filter when she tries to reveal her information. But, she's canny in avoiding the wrong conversations with the police. One investigator dislikes and distrusts her, while the other one was almost engaged to her once. And, Ryan knows a little too much about Gemma's ways of thinking.

I also enjoy the humor in this series. Besides the police detective, Gemma has another enemy, the bookshop cat named Moriarty. He likes everyone except Gemma and Ryan, and they often end up with bloody hands.

In addition, I have a major peeve with cozy mysteries in which the amateur sleuth leaves their business. Gemma knows about that problem. "Running a business interferes with one's detective work. Not that I am a detective, nor do I want to be one, but sometimes it seems that I can't help myself." And, later, she admits she's neglecting her store as she snoops. How can I object to the actions of a sleuth who acknowledges her bad behavior?

Pick up an intelligent cozy mystery with a fascinating amateur sleuth and a fun cast of supporting characters. Humor, a touch of romance, and Gemma's intriguing mind. The Sherlock Holmes connection, and theater in this book, add to the enjoyment of The Cat of the Baskervilles.

Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com

The Cat of the Baskervilles by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683314714 (hardcover), 291p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Day Off

I was reading on deadline this week, and read three books in two days. Since then, I haven't finished a book. I needed a short break. I'll be back tomorrow with a review (I am finishing a book now). In the meantime, everyone needs a day off now and then. Today is mine.

Back tomorrow!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Winners and a Police Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. I'm sending Murder of a Good Man to Charlotte W. of Covington, GA. Kathleen C. from Stockton, CA will receive Survival of the Fritters. Unless I'm floating away here (lots of rain), the books will go out today.

This week, I'm giving away ARCs of two books that came out in January. The first is The Long Arm of the Law, edited by Martin Edwards. It's a collection of classic British police stories. And, if you enjoy the stories behind the stories, the history and biographies of the authors, Edwards is an expert. He writes fascinating introductions to the stories.







If you would prefer a police procedural, I'm offering a copy of Terry Shames' latest mystery featuring Police Chief Samuel Craddock. A Reckoning in the Back Country takes Craddock into a difficult case, first to look for a missing physician, and then to find someone who might have wanted the man dead. Craddock's search isn't easy with a victim who isn't from Jarrett Creek.

Which book would you like to win, the collection or the novel? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Because the titles are so long, I'll make it easy. Your subject line should read either "Win the Collection" or "Win the Novel." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 1 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Honestly? I just collapsed after reading the last three books for yesterday's deadline for a journal. That's okay, though. I've discovered some new authors and books that I would have never read, and you'll read all about them in the next couple months.

Since I can't really talk much about them, I will mention one series. The sixth book in Tina Whittle's Tai Randolph mystery series, Necessary Ends, will be out in April. It's called a Tai Randolph mystery, but these mysteries all feature Tai, who inherits a Confederate-themed gun shop in Atlanta, and Trey Seaver, an ex-cop who became an agent for a security company after a car accident left him cognitively and emotionally damaged. Actually, it's a series that features two damaged people. Very different, interesting characters.

So, that's what I've been up to. What have you been reading in the last week? I'll be around to see your suggestions today. I'd love to know what books or audio books have caught your attention.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Into the Thinnest of Air by Simon R. Green

I'm a big fan of Simon R. Green's Ishmael Jones mysteries. They feature an unconventional sleuth, an alien who crashed landed in England in 1963, and some fifty years later he works for the Organization, protecting humanity from otherworldly threats. He looks like us, and blends in. In fact, he doesn't want to be noticed. He is understated, with a tongue-in-cheek dry humor. The latest adventure, Into the Thinnest of Air, beautifully blends horror and a country house mystery.

Ishmael's partner, Penny, would like one weekend when they could just be normal. What could go wrong when they accept an invitation for dinner at Tyrone's Castle? It was once a smuggler's haven, a Cornish inn where Elliot Tyrone poisoned all of his Christmas dinner guests in 1886, saying the Voices told him to do it. Ishmael and Penny will be just a normal couple at a normal dinner.

Albert and Olivia Calvert were once friends of Penny's late father. They invited her, along with the vicar and his wife, a reporter and an author, but Ishmael was unexpected. The others had all been childhood friends, and the couple prepares a special meal. Then, when Olivia goes to the kitchen to fetch dessert, she disappears. The others decide to call the police, only to discover their cell phones are gone. Their car keys also seem to have vanished. When they give into their fears, and don't listen to Ishmael's advice to stick together, another person disappears.

Ishmael and Penny listen as the others terrorize themselves, trying to decide how they could prevent the worst things they can possibly imagine. Fears and imagination frighten them, and they even decide to hold a seance. Ishmael plays along reluctantly, letting the others know he doesn't believe in ghosts or the supernatural. But, there's something menacing in the atmosphere in the castle. Even Ishmael admits it feels as if someone is watching and listening.

Into the Thinnest of Air is a wonderfully creepy, darkly humorous story. Green, author of The Nightside and Secret History series, understands the relationship between fear and imagination. Into the Thinnest of Air, an unusual spin on the country house mystery, is another enjoyable vehicle for Green's "normal" couple.

Simon R. Green's website is www.simonrgreen.co.uk

Into the Thinnest of Air by Simon R. Green. Severn House. 2017. ISBN 9780727887573 (hardcover), 167p.

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


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Weekend in Washington, D.C.

My sister, Linda, and I went to Washington, D.C. this past weekend. First, though, I drove to her house in Columbus. Linda & I don't believe in down time. Even though I drove for over five hours, we went to a play that night, "Daddy-Long-Legs". It's an enjoyable romantic musical with only two cast members. It was a small, intimate theater, and we had a fun evening. Then, poor Linda had to drive home in a raging downpour.

We flew to D.C. the next morning. How long has it been since I've been there? Other than catching the train there last year, I haven't been there since grad school. It's been a little while. We stayed in a nice little hotel in Foggy Bottom, The River Inn. Very nice older hotel, and it was just two blocks from the Kennedy Center.

Here's our neighborhood in Foggy Bottom. And, my token picture of a door, that I have to have from a trip.






We walked to the Kennedy Center, past the Watergate building. We picked up our tickets to see the musical, "Chess". The ticket seller told me it was sold out, and people were coming from all over the world for it - China, Brazil, Japan.

We took a tour of the Kennedy Center - free, and well worth it. It was a little over an hour, and there were only three of us. It was kind of sad that when I answered the tour guide and said "Yes, please", she stopped, looked at me, and said, "Thank you. That's the first please I've heard in years." Linda told her it was because we were raised in the Midwest. Anyways, we were able to see all the theaters, go into some of the boxes and private lounges, and see and hear about the art that was a gift from different countries. I also took a picture of the Don Quixote statue outside. Just because.



The weather was cold on Friday, but we still walked blocks to Kramerbooks and Afterwords. It's a bookstore and restaurant that's been there so long that I went there when I was in grad school in D.C. We had a very good dinner there, especially because our waiter was so much fun. We took Uber back to the hotel, and had about three hours to play a card game. That was really our only downtime the entire trip.

We picked the perfect day to go to the Newseum. The weather was supposed to start getting bad about 2 PM (it did), eventually turn to snow, and be sloppy until about 10 PM. We were at the Newseum from just after 9 AM to 5 PM and closing. If you ever go, your ticket is good for two days.




We could have used a day and a half or two days there. There were movies and exhibits we didn't even get to. But, Linda and I are both fascinated by news and history, and we analyzed and discussed the exhibits. One exhibit was a temporary one, all the Pulitizer Prize-winning photographs. And, we looked at every one, listened to tapes about some. We laughed at the exhibit about the Presidential dogs. In one hallway, there are the current days front pages from one newspaper from each state and from some foreign countries. Each morning they receive copies of 80-some newspapers from around the country and the world. We discussed all those front pages, comparing them and the front page headlines. There was one room with the front pages of historic days in U.S. history.

You can walk out on the 6th floor terrace where they have a fantastic view. And, then you work your way down the building. A few buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue that you can see from the Newseum.





There was an exhibit about the Bill of Rights. My favorite Amendment? Of course, it's he First Amendment.



There was a very moving exhibit about the Berlin Wall. We didn't even get to the news movie. And, we didn't have the heart to watch the Holocaust movie. I already cried at the Berlin Wall stories.
West Berlin side of the Berlin Wall (pieces of the actual wall)

Whitewashed East Berlin side of the wall

Lower part of a checkpoint

Tower of a Berlin Wall checkpoint

At least I didn't cry at the cartoon display. I was just talking to Linda about this cartoon, and turned around, and there was a copy of it.



Can you call a day thoughtful? We spent a full day talking history. Thoughtful conversations with my sister. A few tears over history.

At five when we left the museum, it was slushy and snowy. So, it took our cab a while to get through the 5 PM traffic. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we had only about a half an hour until the time we planned to walk to the Kennedy Center. We took our umbrellas (now rain), linked arms, and carefully walked the two blocks. By the time we left after the show, the precipitation had stopped, it warmed enough to melt the slush, and we just walked back.

"Chess". Here's how "Broadway World" introduces it. "Chess is an epic rock opera about love and political intrigue set against the backdrop of the Cold War as two superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends.
Written in 1984 by songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (Mamma Mia!) and lyricist Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Evita), Chess has been seen in numerous productions around the world. The original concept album spawned two international hit singles, "I Know Him So Well" and "One Night in Bangkok." Presented as a part of Broadway Center Stage, a Kennedy Center-produced series of musicals in semi-staged concerts, Chess ran February 14-18, 2018 in the Eisenhower Theater.
Chess stars Raúl Esparza as American chess champion Freddie Trumper; Ramin Karimloo as rival Russian chess star Anatoly Sergievsky; Ruthie Ann Miles as Anatoly's wife, Svetlana Sergievsky; and Karen Olivo as Florence Vassy, a remarkable Hungarian refugee who becomes the center of the emotional triangle."
*****



It actually fit perfectly with our day at the Newseum. The history background. The orchestra was above the stage, and above the orchestra were screens where film of historic political moments of that time period were shown. 
When we had dinner, a woman next to us was surprised we had come from the Midwest to see it. I told her people had come from all over the world to see it. Linda told her I actually came to see an actor, Ramin Karimloo. But, I was also excited to see Bryce Pinkham as the arbiter, and he was perfect. Actually, it was a once-in-a-lifetime cast. They rehearsed for one week, performed seven shows, and that's it. Even if they hope to take it to Broadway, that cast will never be together again.
We had wonderful box tier seats, in the front row of the box. Perfect seats. It was a wonderful evening with a receptive audience who appreciated every song, every solo, and each one of the actors. They showed their appreciation as each came on stage. Just an unforgettable experience.
We flew back to Columbus the next day, and then I drove home. It made for a busy, enjoyable weekend to be able to meet up with Linda, see two shows and visit the museum. Just perfect.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Have You Heard? A Vision of Murder by Victoria Laurie

Because I was out of town this weekend, and didn't arrive home until late, it's the perfect time to use one of Sandie Herron's reviews of an audiobook. Thank you, Sandie, for sharing your comments about Victoria Laurie's A Vision of Murder.
*****

A Vision of Murder
Series: Psychic Eye Mystery Book 3                                
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 9 hours and 14 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: March 2, 2010
ASIN: B003AOVP0W
***** stars


I loved the third entry in Victoria Laurie’s Psychic Eye series entitled A VISION OF 
MURDER. Psychic intuitive Abby Cooper buys a piece of property with her sister Cat and 
Dave, the handyman who helped Abby fix up her own home.  They plan to fix up this new 
house not asAbby’s new home but hopefully to sell for a profit.  Unfortunately, the house is 
inhabited by the ghost of a murdered woman who must be dealt with before any transfer of 
ownership can take place.  

In order to do so, Abby calls MJ Holliday of Ghoul Getters (a firm in Boston featuring 
mediums created by Victoria Laurie in another series) for some paranormal advice on how to 
get rid of the ghost and poltergeists in her fixer upper home.  MJ is a gifted medium who can 
talk to and see the dead, which Abby cannot do.  The women get along well with MJ 
teaching Abby a thing or two about spirits and their world.  While their fields of interest certainly cross, they are also vastly different than one another.


I loved the story of the battling jewelers, in essence. The fact that not all the jewelers are 
currently alive doesn't stop them from trying to find and/or protect a very unique gift that 
goes back to World War II.  Put the ghost together with some poltergeists in the same house 
that was purchased by Abby, her meddlesome rich sister Cat, the talented contractor Dave, independent from Abby’s boyfriend, Dutch, and you have chaos.

The plot was complex enough to keep me reading intently, paying attention to names and 
places and dates, but not so complex that I needed a map through time and space. I did not 
get lost in details, and everything flowed smoothly, even if I didn't know why at all times.  
If I had any complaint it would be with Abby’s seeming disregard for her own safety in her determination to achieve her goals.

There are a couple of romantic details about Abby and Dutch that don't come to fruition, 
through no fault of their own.  I sure hope they will carry onward in the fourth installment 
to this fine series, providing all the right people survive this misadventure.

Definitely recommended.

Sandie Herron

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer is recognized as "The" author of Regency Romances. Her Regencies are considered the model of all other ones. When Heyer's official biographer, Jennifer Kloester, discovered three short stories that had not been republished since they originally appeared, she added them to the collection that was called Pistols for Two, and retitled the anthology, Snowdrift and Other Stories.

I read Pistols for Two years ago, and had forgotten the stories. Kloester remarks that Heyer introduced intelligent heroes and independent heroines. The problem with short stories, though, is that there's not enough character development. That's very evident when you read these stories, and realize the hero and heroine don't have time to become acquainted. The romances seem rushed, and, at times, even ridiculous. Why would a much-sought-after lord fall in love with a young woman of eighteen upon first sight, and immediately decide he's going to marry her? In Heyer's novels, the characters have more opportunity to get to know each other, to develop a relationship.

Saying that, the stories are still charming. In "A Husband for Fanny", a widow hopes an eligible man is interested in her daughter, although she herself is still younger than the man. "Night at the Inn" is reflective of Heyer's mysteries more than her romances. I went back and reread one of the three newly published stories, "Runaway Match" after the first reading to catch the dialogue, looking at it after knowing the ending. It sparkles even more the second time around.

While they're not as complete as her novels, Georgette Heyer's short stories show the roots of her Regency romances. Snowdrift and Other Stories is worth picking up just for those discoveries or as a reminder of her talent and wit.

Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer. Sourcesbooks Casablanca. 2017. 290p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler

After reading Leslie Wheeler's Rattlesnake Hill, you might not think of the Berkshires in Massachusetts in quite the same way. If you think of Tanglewood and vacations and fall foliage, you might not think of the dark side of the hilltowns. That's the atmosphere Wheeler captures so beautifully in this mystery.

Kathryn Stinson arrives in New Nottingham looking for the answer to a family mystery. Over a hundred years earlier, an ancestor brought the portrait of a beautiful woman with him to California. No one in the family knows her name, but Kathryn's Great Aunt Kit always wanted to travel to the town and find the answer. Now, with Kit gone, it's left to Kathryn to take up the search. However, the people of the town are secretive, sometimes rude, and they're certainly reluctant to let a stranger into their stories.

But, Kathryn is renting a house from a widower whose wife was recently shot to death. And, it seems Diana had been involved with Earl Barker, part of the infamous family known for handling rattlesnakes. Earl frequently shows up at Kathryn's house, to work for her landlord, and to brood over his dead lover. It's a story Kathryn finds as disquieting as the account she's slowly uncovering about the woman in the picture. The townspeople have stories about Earl and Diana. Once a ninety-year-old secret keeper points Kathryn in the right direction, Earl has a story to spin about the woman in the portrait, a woman once involved in her own romantic triangle. And, it's Earl's poetic storytelling that intrigues the inhibited Kathryn.

It's only to Earl that Kathryn reveals her own family secrets, ones that have made her afraid of men. But, Earl's obvious interest in the newcomer, and the hints left by that ninety-year-old woman, will lead Kathryn on a dangerous path.

As a fan of the hill stories of Sharyn McCrumb and Phyllis A. Whitney's romantic suspense novels, I was drawn to Rattlesnake Hill. Wheeler's vivid setting and strong sense of place is as atmospheric and essential to the story as the setting in McCrumb and Whitney's works. There's a haunting sense of foreboding in this first in a new series.

Leslie Wheeler's website is www.lesliewheeler.com

Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler. Encircle Publications. 2017. ISBN 9781893035812 (paperback), 306p.

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


Friday, February 16, 2018

Winners & A First in a Series Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Mark B. from Santa Clarita, CA won the copy of Another One Bites the Crust. Ginger Snapped is going to Kathleen F. from Blue Springs, MO. The books went out in the mail on Wednesday.

This week, I'm offering two books that are first in new series. Survival of the Fritters kicks off Ginger Bolton's Deputy Donut Mystery. Emily Westhill runs the best donut shop in town, alongside her retired police chief father-in-law and her cat, Deputy Donut. But after murder claims a favorite customer, and Emily finds her surrounded by donuts, Emily is determined to find the killer.








Murder of a Good Man is the first in Teresa Trents' Piney Woods mystery series. Nora Alexander arrives in Piney Woods, Texas to fulfill her dying mother's last wish. She's to deliver a letter to the town's most beloved citizen. But, Nora's mother certainly didn't love Adam Brockwell, according to that letter. And, when the man is found murdered, Nora, an outsider, is the top suspect.

Do you want to discover a new mystery series? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Survival of the Fritters" or "Win Murder of a Good Man." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. This giveaway will end Thursday, February 22 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I'm actually on my way to Columbus, Ohio, today to meet up with my sister. Then tomorrow, we're flying to Washington, D.C. We're going to see a play in Columbus tonight, "Daddy-Long-Legs", and in D.C. we're going to see "Chess" at the Kennedy Center.

So, I'm really not reading anything right now. I can tell you what books I'm taking with me, but I don't know if I'll get much reading done. I've packed Kelli Stanley's latest Miranda Corbie mystery (due out in March), City of Sharks. And, I have Miranda James' new Cat in the Stacks mystery, Claws for Concern.


I won't get a chance to check here after about 11 am because I'll be driving. Talk amongst yourself, and, if there's anything I need to answer later in the day, I'll try to answer on Friday. I'm still interested in what you're reading or listening to. And, I know others are waiting. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Tribute to Bill Crider


Everyone expects flowers and lightness on Valentine's Day. But, this is a love letter, of sorts.

Bill Crider died on Monday, February 12, 2018. People know or will remember Bill for so many reasons, but I think he'll be remembered the most for his kindness. When Bill announced he had cancer, I know we all hoped for the best. But, his announcement that he was going into home hospice crushed those hopes. Who would imagine that Bill and his family would continue to share that kindness and love with us right up until the end?

Those of us who are readers knew Bill as an author. He was the author of the Professor Sally Good and the Carl Burns mysteries. He won the Anthony Award for the first mystery in his long-running, popular Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. He wrote the Truman Smith PI series, and three books under the pseudonym Jack Buchanan in the Stone: M.I.A. Hunter series. He wrote westerns, horror novels and children's books.

And, we knew Bill here. On Thursdays, when we did "What Are You Reading?", Bill would comment and tell us about his current book. It was always a delight to see Bill's name on a comment.

Bill's Blog Bytes column in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine highlighted many different blogs, including this one, to my surprise, and my friend Kaye Wilkinson Barley's Meanderings and Muses. The final post on Bill's own blog, Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine, is dated December 5, 2017. It's the announcement of his last post, that he's going into hospice, and that he loved all his readers. It still makes me cry to read that good man's courageous post. Who else will talk about pop culture, music, books, as Bill did? Who else had the grace to announce to the world that he was dying, and then thank us, and tell us he loved us?




If you followed Bill on Facebook, you knew about the VBKs, The VBKs were the Very Bad Kitties that Bill rescued and adopted several years ago. Ginger Tom, Keanu, and Gilligan loved Bill. You could tell by the pictures of them draped all over his lap. And, Bill's followers loved his stories of the kittens so much that they now have their own Facebook page. They've been adopted by his goddaughter.



I was lucky enough to meet Bill Crider a couple times. I really didn't "know" him, but he and his Sheriff Dan Rhodes books, and his VBKs, touched my heart. His kindness, and the kindness and generosity of his family in sharing memories and pictures and stories are rare in today's politicized world. Perhaps that's why so many of us reached out when we heard about Bill's diagnosis, and then his time in hospice. He was a rare gentleman.

Rest in Peace, Bill Crider.



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Murder in Bloomsbury by D.M. Quincy

Last year, D.M. Quincy's first Atlas Catesby mystery, Murder in Mayfair, was one of my top picks of the year. The second book in the series, Murder in Bloomsbury, has done nothing to disabuse me of the idea that Quincy is a talented author who tells wonderful stories. Once again, she takes readers back to Regency London with an intriguing historical mystery featuring well-developed, believable characters.

Atlas Catesby was trying to forget Lady Roslyn Lilliana Sterling after he learned her brother was the Duke of Somerville. But, when a footman arrives from the wealthy Duke asking Catesby to visit, he agrees. The Duke requests a favor, but it's actually Lilliana who wants Catesby's assistance. A clerk has died of arsenic poisoning in his lodgings in Bloomsbury. Gordon Davis was the brother of Lilliana's maid, Tacy, who believes her brother was murdered. Now, Lilliana wants to team up with Catesby once more to find the truth.

Neither the truth, nor Gordon Davis, are what either of them expect. Davis turns out to be a ladies' man with a penchant for courting above his station. There are women and fathers and husbands who could have wanted the man dead. And, Davis may have worked in a factory that used arsenic, but he was also known to use it for his health. The trail to the truth is a complicated one that leads Atlas Catesby from a factory to the Duke of Somerville's ball, and all kinds of places and people in between those two stratas of society.

Catesby is challenged on many levels in this story. He deals with a number of women who lie to him. He continues to enjoy Lilliana's company, knowing she's above his station in life. The man who wants to marry Lilliana sees Atlas Catesby as an impediment to their marriage. And, yet, it's Lilliana who asked for Catesby's help, and often invites him to dinner in her private rooms. These two spirited characters are drawn to each other, intellectually and romantically, but any possible relationship is complicated by the societal rules of the time.

Murder in Bloomsbury is a compelling mystery, grounded in historical details. The rich details create the atmosphere of early 19th century London. But, it's Atlas Catesby and Lady Roslyn Lilliana Sterling, two spirited, engaging characters, who truly bring this book to life. Quincy's second Atlas Catesby mystery is as captivating as the first.

D.M. Quincy's website is www.dmquincy.com

Murder in Bloomsbury by D.M. Quincy. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683314653 (hardcover), 336p.

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

Rest in Peace, Bill Crider



Bill Crider's brother, Cox Robert Crider, announced Bill died at 6:52 PM CST, Monday February 12, 2018. We knew Bill's death was coming. He himself announced there that he was going into home hospice, suffering from cancer. His family has been generous and kind to all of Bill's followers, sharing their memories and photos, as they updated Bill's health. It's never easy to watch a loved one die. But, how difficult it must have been for them to watch while letting all of us who admired Bill to share their laughter and sorrow in these final couple months.

I'll have a longer tribute to Bill Crider on Wednesday. Rest in Peace, Bill.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin

I'll admit Laurie Kilmartin's nonfiction book, Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed, isn't for everyone. In fact, I don't know that I would recommend the comedian's book to "survivors of the newly departed". But, it's actually a humorous book with some very practical points. But, it would probably offend many people who recently lost someone. I think you could really only see the humor after quite a bit of time has passed.

Kilmartin "made headlines by live tweeting her father's time in hospice and her grieving process after he passed." She loved her father, and didn't want to let go. She has advice for the dying, for the survivors, and one excellent piece of advice for those expressing condolences. She says to them "I'm sorry for your loss is the Aloha of condolences". In other words, that's the only expression you need when someone has just lost someone. Don't worry about saying anything else. "I'm sorry for your loss" works if the person lost someone they loved, or if they lost someone that they had a difficult relationship with. Don't try to come up with some other expression.

Passwords! Get passwords! Kilmartin recommends that someone get the dying person's computer passwords. You'll need them for everything - social media, banking, email. Get the passwords!

Here's one I like. "Remember: Obituaries are like resumes; update yours every three years." And, she recommends that you write your own if possible. Who knows you better? Who knows what you really want the world to know about you?

I could go on and on because Kilmartin's book hit home for me. But, here's one most of us could get behind. Laurie Kilmartin lost her father to cancer. My husband died of cancer. Everyone knows someone who died from cancer, and most of us lost someone we love to it. She wants to shame smart people into finding a cure. Here's her note. "Dear Silicon Valley, Could one of you f**king nerds develop a cure for cancer instead of another stupid app?" Think about it. How many brilliant people are developing computer apps and programs?

It might not be socially acceptable, but Laurie Kilmartin's Dead People Suck is on-target. She says so much that survivors think or would like to say. Read it now, before you lose someone, or read it a long time after. That's when this book will work.

Laurie Kilmartin's website is www.kilmartin.com

Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed by Laurie Kilmartin. Rodale, 2018. ISBN 9781635650006 (hardcover), 240p.

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

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Ben Aaronovitch continues to add diverse and interesting characters to the books in his Rivers of London urban fantasy series. The Hanging Tree is the sixth book, and it brings Police Constable Peter Grant back to London for discoveries of more magic running rampant.

Nightingale's small team (really, Nightingale and Peter) is struggling to cope with the increase in magic. At the moment, they can call on the resources of Dr. Walid to analyze the corpses and DNA of practitioners, and Dr. Postmarten to investigate the books dealing with magic. Now, Walid adds Dr. Jennifer Vaughan, a Welsh woman to his team.

And, they'll need all the help they can get. Lady Tyburn, goddess of the Tyburn River, and daughter of Mama Thames, has her own daughter. When a friend of her daughter's turns up dead after a party, Lady Ty calls on Peter. She doesn't want her daughter involved, and Peter owes her a favor. When Olivia Jane McAllister-Thames confesses, there isn't much Peter can do. But, the resulting flooding can only come from one source.

Before they know it, Peter and Nightingale are involved in the affairs of the rich and influential. There's a disaster at Harrod's. A strange group of American practitioners are in the way. Reynard Fossman, a sly man with connections to fables involving a fox, offers a rare book to anyone with the money to buy it. And, of course, the Faceless Man is interested in that book, as are other practitioners of magic. Once again, Peter and Nightingale have a mess on their hands, one that grows to disastrous proportions.

The Hanging Tree is a fun addition to the Rivers of London series. Aaronovitch continues to draw from history and mythology, and he incorporates elements beautifully into this latest book. The wit and sly references to other books provide humor, along with Peter Grant's own dry observations.

Unfortunately, I'm caught up with Aaronovitch's series. Now, I have to wait with all of his other fans, for the next in the series.

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

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch. DAW. 2017. (paperback), 292p.

Note: I always enjoy these type of dedications. "This book is dedicated to all librarians everywhere - for they are the true keepers of the sacred flame and not to be trifled with."

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon

J. Jefferson Farjeon's Seven Dead is another British Library Crime Classic. The book was originally
published in 1939, and it's now reprinted. It's published in the United States by Poisoned Pen Press, and both the British and American editions have an introduction by Martin Edwards. Edwards' introductions to these classic British mysteries is often as interesting as the stories themselves. He delves into the background of the story and presents a biographical sketch of the author. Seven Dead is an appealing, interesting mystery right up until the end. I found the ending to be unconventional, and just odd.

Ted Lyte is an amateur thief who makes the mistake of trying to rise about his earlier crimes and break into a house. It turns out to be a big mistake. He breaks into a locked room in Haven House where he finds the bodies of seven people, six men and a woman. There's also a note that says, "With apologies from the Suicide Club." The panicked petty thief is fleeing when he's accosted by journalist and yachstman Thomas Hazeldean. Hazeldean keeps him there until Detective Inspector Kendall can talk with him. When they enter the house, Thomas becomes fascinated by the picture of Dora Fenner, a member of the family who owns the house.

While Kendall investigates on the British end, Hazeldean heads to Boulogne, France, following Dora Fenner's trail. It's in France that the story goes astray. Until then, it seems to be a locked room mystery. Who or what killed the seven people in that locked room? Once the story goes to France, it becomes a melodramatic story of past history.

Seven Dead is a leisurely paced mystery with an elaborate storyline. While the discovery at Haven House is disturbing, that is really just a puzzle to be solved. But, the twisted ending is bothersome. 

I'm a fan of these British crime classics. It's interesting to read early practitioners and watch their development of the mystery. But, as I said, I just found the ending of Seven Dead to be strange. The beginning of the book is much better than the weird conclusion.

Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209086 (paperback), 240p.

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




Friday, February 09, 2018

Winners and A Quick Cozy Giveaway

Congratulations to the two winners of the last contest. Felissa L. of Cedar Park, TX is a first-time winner. Congratulations for winning Brooklyn Wars. Linda K. from Woodstock, MD won Last Stop in Brooklyn.

It's going to be a quick turnaround on this week's contest. It kicks off today, and ends on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 5 PM CT, so I can get the books in the mail on Wednesday. I'll announce the winners and the following giveaway on Friday, though, as usual.

I'm giving away two food-related cozies this week. The first is Gail Oust's Ginger Snapped, A Spice Shop Mystery.  When realtor Shirley Randolph is found dead in Police Chief Wyatt McBride's favorite fishing hole, most of the town suspects he killed his romantic interest. Piper Prescott, owner of Spice It Up! has finally made peace with Wyatt, and she's determined to prove he isn't a killer. (Recipes included in the book.)






Ellie Alexander's latest Bakeshop mystery, Another One Bites the Crust, also has recipes. Jules Capshaw's bakeshop Torte has been cast as the supplier of Elizabethan-era treats for the main event of the local Shakespeare Festival. But, the curtain may go down quickly on Jules' plans after the artistic director, a friend, has an argument with a young actor, and the actor ends up dead. Now, Julies has to deal with all those artistic temperaments as she tries to find a killer.






Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Ginger Snapped" or "Win Another One Bites the Crust." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. And, don't forget, this giveaway ends Tuesday night.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Back on schedule this week. I'm finishing D.M. Quincy's Murder in Bloomsbury, the latest Atlas Catesby mystery. Murder in Mayfair, the first in the series, was one of my favorite books last year. Atlas investigates the death of a young man, only to discover he had a way with women, and it wasn't so nice. It isn't long before Catesby realizes there were plenty of people who might have wanted the young man dead. I know I mentioned this book earlier, but sometimes my reviews for Library Journal take precedence.


What are you reading or listening to this week? We're waiting!


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife by Melodie Campbell

When asked to read one of Orca Book Publishers' works for a journal, I wasn't excited. Orca specializes in hi-lo reading level books for adults. Melodie Campbell's The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife has a reading level of third grade. However, in just a short book, Campbell succeeds with a fast-paced caper with quirky characters. It's actually a fun book for those of us who enjoy con men with a heart of gold.

Del's Great-aunt Kitty was a cat burglar until she had a nasty fall. That doesn't mean Kitty will give up a lucrative life of crime. Instead, she informs Del that she's forming a new vigilante group, based on the A-Team. The B-Team will avenge those people, often seniors, who have been victims of a scam. And, Del is to lead the team. Even though she has a day job as a fundraiser for an animal shelter, Del finds herself heading up an unlikely group that includes her brother, Dino, who is never available because of his modeling career. The other member is called Ritz, after the crackers, because she is crackers.

Five months after the formation of the B-Team, Del isn't comfortable with Kitty's latest assignment. A wronged first wife wants her diamond necklace back from wife number two. Nothing goes according to plan. Dino can't work that night, and Del is caught by the head of a security company, a classmate from high school. After making a deal to help his business, and a few other hiccups along the way, Del and Ritz recover the necklace. Then, they learn their first wife is an imposter.

Despite my initial reservations, I decided to review The B-Team here as well. Many adults and teens need reading material at a lower reading level. Campbell's book, with it's humor and fast-paced adventure, may be just what they're looking for. Fans of television's lovable con men, such as those portrayed in "The A-Team" or "Leverage", may appreciate The B-Team.

Melodie Campbell's website is http://funnygirlmelodie.blogspot.com

The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife by Melodie Campbell. Orca Book Publishers. 2018. ISBN 9781459818071 (paperback), 144p.

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

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner

Women's friendships can last through time and problems, through immaturity and growth. Four women struggle with their friendship for twenty years in Helen Warner's intense novel, The Story of Our Lives.

Sophie, Amy, Emily and Melissa were best friends at university in London. Although Sophie moves out after one year to room with Steve, the four remain close. In 1997, at twenty-five, they reunite. Sophie's still with Steve, although she's not sure about their relationship. Amy announces she's found the man of her dreams, and they're getting married. Emily is now a single mother, raising Jack on her own. Melissa, hopping from bed to bed, and working in the music industry, drinks a little too much.

Year after year, the four women reunite. They see each other through marriages, births, miscarriages, failed romances, careers, and the tragic end to one marriage. They celebrate the growth of their children. Sophie flourishes when she moves from TV journalist to producer, and then teams up with a rising TV star. They deal with realistic problems such as addiction and postpartum depression. But, even in their forties, there's one secret that could tear the group apart. Who is Jack's father?

Warner's novel is a well-developed, character-driven novel. All four women are easily identifiable, which is rare in women's fiction that features a cast of four. They are realistic, flawed women struggling to live with the problems of relationships, marriage, and careers. It's a story that covers twenty years, from their immaturity as twenty-five-year-olds to women who bear the scars of maturity.

Fans of novels featuring strong women and women's relationships might want to try Helen Warner's The Story of Our Lives.

Helen Warner's website is www.helenwarner.net

The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner. Graydon House. 2018. ISBN 9781525820830 (paperback), 400p.

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


Monday, February 05, 2018

Forty Dead Men by Donis Casey

Fans of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge series will recognize Gee Dub Tucker's problems in Donis
Casey's latest Alafair Tucker mystery. But, when veterans of the "War to End All Wars" returned home in 1918, PTSD was not recognized as such. However, Alafair Tucker knows something is wrong in Forty Dead Men.

Alafair Tucker's extended Oklahoma family is thrilled to have the oldest son, Gee Dub, home from France. But, all the children and grandchildren become a little too much for Gee Dub at times. He spends his days riding his horse, just appreciating the quiet. While out on one of his trips, he comes across a young woman who is worn out from walking. He brings Holly Johnson home. While he's fascinated by her, Alafair is welcoming, but watchful.

Alafair already knows her son is troubled, and she's found two almost empty boxes of cartridges under his pillow. Alafair's father-in-law tells her those are "forty dead men". As a young recruit, he was given two boxes, and told not to waste them, "cause the man you miss may be the one who kills you". There's still one cartridge in Gee Dub's boxes. She's not sure the son who returned to Oklahoma is the Gee Dub who left for war.

Holly Johnson's story is a war story, but it only becomes worse. She married Daniel Johnson in Maine before he shipped out. Then, she stopped hearing from him, so she took a train, then stopped to work, and sometimes walked, to get to Oklahoma and find him. When Sheriff Tucker tells Holly they found Daniel's body and buried it, she pulls out a picture, only to discover the man they buried wasn't her husband. And, when they track down Daniel Johnson, they discover he wasn't her husband at all. Daniel Johnson was already married.

When Daniel Johnson is killed, Holly's protector, Gee Dub, is the main suspect. He won't provide an alibi, and his last bullet is missing. But, Alafair Tucker will do everything necessary to protect her oldest son.

Forty Dead Men is a tragic, bittersweet story of a returning veteran and PTSD. While there's a mystery, the story actually revolves around Gee Dub. Even if you haven't read the previous Alafair Tucker mysteries, you can pick up this book. And, if you're a fan of the Ian Rutledge mysteries, you might want to meet another veteran of World War I.

Doris Casey's website is www.doniscasey.com

Forty Dead Men by Doris Casey. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209376 (hardcover), 216p.

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