Saturday, June 30, 2018

Death of a Novice by Cora Harrison

I'll admit I could never get into Cora Harrison's Burren mysteries set in 16th century Ireland. What a difference 400 years makes!  Death of a Novice is the fifth book to feature Reverend Mother Aquinas in 1920s Cork. Now, that's my period of Irish history. I liked Reverend Mother and the traditional mystery. I've gone back to pick up the earlier books.

In this series, Harrison capitalizes on the recent and ongoing turmoil in Ireland. Reverend Mother finds the body of a young novice, Sister Gertrude, in the chicken coop. She doesn't expect a young woman to have died a natural death, but she's surprised when she learns Sister Gertrude's father recently died of the same symptoms. But, she's suspicious. When Eileen MacSweeney, a former student and a former rebel, shows up with stories of two young novices used in the rebel cause, Sister Gertrude looks to the convent for motive. However, she worries that Sister Gertrude's death could have political implications.

Reverend Mother is an amateur sleuth in the traditional style. She reminds me of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael, living in a religious setting, but caught up in the secular world and its crimes. In some ways, she reminds me of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe. She does leave the convent, however, most of Reverend Mother's sources of information come to her. And, she has the stature in the community to command respect from many. Her position makes her a formidable sleuth. Add the fact that many of the young people, from a former rebel like Eileen to the newly promoted Inspector Patrick Cashman, a member of the Garda, studied at the convent school. It makes for an interesting pool of assistants.

There are historical figures present in the book, including political zealots. Harrison manages to write a traditional mystery while capitalizing on a fascinating historical period. Death of a Novice enticed me into the world of 1920s Cork. It's led me back to the beginning to the first Reverend Mother mystery, A Shameful Murder. It's wonderful to find another intriguing historical series.

Cora Harrison's website is www.coraharrison.com

Death of a Novice by Cora Harrison. Severn House. 2018. ISBN 9780727887832 (hardcover), 240p.

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




Friday, June 29, 2018

Winners and a Law Enforcement Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Sue C. from Wauconda, IL won Charmed Bones. Wendy A. of Ferndale, WA will receive Sticks and Bones. Down the Aisle with Murder goes to Nancy M. from Joliet, IL. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I"m giving away two books involving law enforcement. I recently mentioned that Linda Castillo's new book, A Gathering of Secrets is due out July 10. To get you ready, I have a hardcover copy of her Kate Burkholder mystery, Down a Dark Road. When an Amish man convicted of murder escaped from prison, he heads home to Painters Mill. When Joseph King shows up and holds his children hostage, Police Chief Burkholder intervenes, and finds herself trapped with a killer. When everything goes wrong, she remains convinced that he wasn't guilty of the earlier murder.




Spencer Kope's Whispers of the Dead brings back Magnus "Steps" Craig, an FBI agent and an elite tracker. Law enforcement has an unusual case. The body itself is missing. All that's been found is a pair of feet, stored in a cooler, and left in the house of a federal judge in El Paso, Texas. The authorities are convinced this isn't the killer's first victim. Craig has a secret to his skill as a tracker, a kind of synesthesia, an ability to see what someone has touched as a unique color, what he calls "shine". And, he'll need it when another pair of feet show up.

Which suspense novel would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Down a Dark Road" or "Win Whispers of the Dead." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 5 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! Even though I'm working on budget today at work, I'll try to drop in now and then to see what you're all reading. After all, I consider this essential. I love to talk books.

I've just started Kate Carlisle's latest Bibliophile mystery. For those who are following the series, it will make sense that Brooklyn Wainwright, the bookbinder amateur sleuth, is about to marry her longtime boyfriend. The book is Buried in Books. Even on the eve of her wedding, Brooklyn can't help getting involved in a murder. Fortunately, she has one of the most supportive partners you'll find in a cozy mystery series.

So, I have time to read a book or two for myself before plunging back into the reviewing cycle. What are you reading this week? We're all waiting to talk books!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In Dark Company by Linda Castillo

We all know I seldom read ebooks. But, Linda Castillo's new Kate Burkholder mystery, A Gathering of Secrets, isn't out until July 10. That's a good enough reason to download Castillo's short novella, In Dark Company. It will put me in the mood for the new book.

It's 4 AM when Burkholder, Chief of Police in Painters Mill, Ohio, receives a phone call that there's a battered young woman who took refuge at an Amish couple's house, saying someone is trying to kill her. Kate finds a young woman in her late teens or early twenties, dressed in unfamiliar clothes, missing a shoe, and speaking a dialect of Deitsh, Pennsylvania Dutch, that Burkholder doesn't recognize. John Tomasetti, Kate's significant other, and an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, finds evidence of a chase through the fields, including a man's heavy prints and tire tracks. But, the young woman can't tell anyone who she is.

Once Burkholder's "Jane Doe" is in the hospital, she can begin her investigation. And, that's where I'll stop with a plot summary. This is a novella, and if I continue, you won't want to read the story.

Obviously, there's little space for character development in a lengthy short story. However, Castillo is skilled at developing suspense. There's danger to Kate and the young woman, as Burkholder uncovers the truth and a reason for attempted murder.

In Dark Company is just a taste of Castillo's writing. Fans will be waiting for A Gathering of Secrets.

Linda Castillo's website is www.lindacastillo.com

In Dark Company by Linda Castillo. Minotaur Books, 2018. 69 pages.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the ebook.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Have You Heard? - Crime Seen by Victoria Laurie

It's time for another audio book review by Sandie Herron. Thanks, Sandie, for the Have You Heard review of Victoria Laurie's Crime Seen.



*****

Crime Seen
Series:  Psychic Eye Mystery Book 5
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 38 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: March 2, 2010
ASIN: B003AOVPL6

Psychic Abby Cooper is having a hard time recovering from a point blank gunshot to her chest.  First she must recover from the actual wound, for which her doctor prescribes rest with lots of sleeping for at least a month.  Then slowly she can resume normal activities such as dressing herself, cooking, walking the dog, etc.  The couch is too comfy and the dog too easy to cuddle and Abby just doesn’t feel like getting all the way better because that would be resuming her work schedule doing psychic readings for clients.  After three months without a single reading, Abby is fearful that she can even do the job any more, let alone for a client list that’s gone cold.


For her recovery period, Abby moved into her boyfriend Dutch’s home.  He works for the FBI and begins bringing home a few files, telling Abby he sure could use her kind of help.  He’s respectful when he says that; he is a true believer in Abby’s abilities, not everyone’s reaction to the knowledge of those psychic abilities.  “Dutch” has begun calling Abby “Edgar” after the man who “invented” psychic abilities, or perhaps I really should say he’s the man who put psychic abilities on the map.  It’s an affectionate nickname.  Dutch is using it more and more to prod Abby off the couch and because he is constantly amazed at her true abilities.

While Dutch is working one day, Abby picks up one of those files he’s casually brought home.  She’s drawn into the case since it involves Dutch’s partner Milo and the death of his former partner.  In addition, Abby’s best girlfriend, her “BFF” who is a private eye, decides to move to an office.  Since they get along so well and work behind the scenes so well, they decide to share office space.  Abby has her office, her reading room, and Candace has her own office.  Now Abby has a new place to go to spend her days, all the more reason to recover from that gunshot.


Each of the characters grows in this book.  Abby returns to a healthier life, Dutch has shared his work with Abby, Milo is finally getting justice on behalf of his former partner, Candace has found a home for her daily grind, and even the dogs are making friends.  All this doesn’t mean there aren’t perils to face.  Put Abby and Candace together and you’ve got trouble.  Candace believes that Milo’s former partner is innocent, and now the man caught is up for parole, a situation that brings everyone’s working eyes to the same places.

Abby takes this opportunity to describe her intuitive process, how she connects to her spirit guides, how her “crew” assist her, what she does to prepare for a reading, and fascinating information that helps the reader understand her process, especially as doubts plague her while she recovers.

I thought the audio version of this book was an excellent addition to the Psychic Eye series.  The narration was well done, and her descriptions felt so much more personal and one-on-one.  Don’t miss this turning point for Abby’s living crew of friends.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly

Murder at the Mansion, the first Victorian Village Mystery, is evidence of Sheila Connolly's expertise. It's obvious she knows her way around a Victorian house, and knows the way to research history. It's also obvious this isn't Connolly's first cozy mystery. She avoids some of the most irritating tropes that are often repeated in the first book in a series. Murder at the Mansion is all the more enjoyable because it doesn't include stale elements.

Katherine Hamilton was successful in her hospitality job at a Baltimore boutique hotel, but a foreign conglomerate bought the hotel. Now, she's out of a job, but she does have a very lucrative severance package. When her best friend from high school comes calling, Kate can afford to listen.

Lisbeth still lives in Asheboro, Maryland, and the town's in trouble. The small town of around 1,000 bought the old Barton house. Now, after a storm, they don't have the money to repair businesses or the Barton place. Lisbeth has been authorized to ask Kate to look at the town. Does she have any ideas to help? She doesn't tell Kate, though, that her old nemesis, Cordelia Walker, is on the town council. And, Cordelia has ambitious plans of her own.

It's been years since Kate really looked at Asheboro. Now, she sees a town with little history and little future. But the Barton house is another matter. She falls in love with the Victorian house, and she's interested in learning its story from Josh Wainwright, a history professor and caretaker for the property. Is the house the key to saving Asheboro?

Maybe. But, first Kate has to save herself. She and Josh are leaving the house when they find Cordelia's murdered body on the stoop. Kate has a couple good reasons to want the woman dead. It turns out, though, that most people in town feared and hated Cordelia. Now, Kate has to stay out of the way of a killer while she pours over research material in order to save her hometown.

I enjoyed Sheila Connolly's Murder at the Mansion for all the things she doesn't do. Her character didn't leave her job under a cloud. She didn't catch a lover cheating. She doesn't immediately return home and become torn between two men as she decides who she loves. Instead, Kate Hamilton is a business person who takes a professional view of the town's request. She researches the house and the town. She's aware of her lack of skills and expertise as a detective. She turns to a professional for help when she needs it.

There's a strong sense of place in Murder at the Mansion, and I can already tell it will only grow more atmospheric as the series goes on. The historical elements are fascinating. Fans of Connolly's Museum mysteries will enjoy the appearance of Nell Pratt from that series. The first in Sheila Connolly's new series is just right.

Sheila Connolly's website is www.sheilaconnolly.com

Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly. Minotaur Books, 2018. ISBN 9781250135865 (hardcover), 304p.

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


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Travellin' Shoes by V.M. Burns

V.M. Burns is the author of the Mystery Bookshop series. I enjoyed the first one. But, she really brings a community and characters to life in her first RJ Franklin mystery, Travellin' Shoes.

After a car accident, police detective RJ Franklin is on administrative leave from the St. Joseph, Indiana, Police Department. He can't sleep so he's out running at 2 a.m., and ends up at the house fire where the victim is the choir director at First Baptist Church. That's a little too close to home for RJ. His beloved godmother, Mama B, is a fixture at the church and a force to be reckoned with in the African-American community. When RJ's boss begs him to come back to handle the case, he knows Mama B will be a fount of knowledge. She is. She knows all the gossip, and she doesn't think much of the dead man, Thomas Warrendale.

The pastor, Reverend Hamilton, has a few questions about the victim as well. There's money missing from the church, but he wanted to handle it without bringing in the police. With Warrendale dead, it's time to confess his worries to RJ. As RJ and his partner, Harley, investigate, they learn the attractive owner of two local beauty salons was also missing money. And, the dead man had been her CPA until she realized there was money gone. A local bank could only admit they thought something odd was happening, but they couldn't find out what.

Maybe it had something to do with Thomas Warrendale, who wasn't Thomas Warrendale. He was actually from Cleveland, with another name, where he lived with his wife and worked as a CPA. What was a runaway CPA doing in St. Joseph, Indiana working as a choir director? The case just becomes more convoluted. And, RJ's investigation isn't helped by his attraction to Paris, the owner of the beauty salons. But, hard work by RJ and Harley, along with a few break-ins and Mama B's neighborhood knowledge, will close the case.

Travellin' Shoes combines the best of a cozy mystery with a police procedural. It has a wonderful cast of spirited characters. RJ and Mama B are standouts. She offers the wisdom, neighborhood gossip, and sometimes, the humor in the book. There are even a few recipes. But, there's also diligent work on the behalf of RJ and Harley, plodding work that needs to be done. And, they're dealing with other cases at the same time. As I said, I liked the first in Burns' other series. I loved this one.

V.M. Burns' website is www.vmburns.com

Travellin' Shoes by V.M. Burns. Camel Press, 2018. ISBN 9781603816892 (paperback), 248p.

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



Saturday, June 23, 2018

Peril & Prayer by Olivia Matthews

If you didn't meet Sister Lou (Louise) LaSalle in the first mystery in the series, Mayhem & Mass, there's no reason you can't pick up the second cozy. Olivia Matthews gives enough backstory in Peril & Prayer to make it easy for a new reader to pick up the book. Sister Lou is a strong, determined character, driven by her faith and a willingness to serve the small Briar Coast, New York community.

After the previous murder investigation, Sister Lou promised her nephew, Chris, that she wouldn't get involved again. But, Sister Marianna is enough to make anyone consider murder. The confrontational sister even argues with resort owner Autumn Tassler over a menu. There's a reason Sister Barbara, the prioress, put Sister Lou on the retreat planning team. The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Hermione of Ephesus will hold their Advent retreat at Briar Coast Cabin Resort. Or, they'll hold it there if Sister Marianna can stop fighting with Autumn. Sister Lou has to step in to offer compromises.

When Autumn is murdered, two disgruntled deputies target Sister Marianna for the crime. Despite her promises, Sister Barbara asks Sister Lou to investigate. Chris' boss at the college, Sister Valerie, asks him to step in and investigate because the murder inquiry bothers some of the college donors. And, reporter Shari Henson's boss at the newspaper puts her on the story, but warns her to try to get along with the sheriff's department. Shari has to take deep breaths and learn from Sister Lou's example. The murder brings the trio of amateur sleuths back to investigate. Sister Marianna may have a temper, but Sister Lou thinks Autumn's ex-husband's second wife, her cousin, or her business partner might have motives.

We all have pet phrases we tend to repeat too often. Better editing could have caught a few of Matthews' repetitions. But, Sister Lou and her friends make up for the overuse of descriptions and phrases. They're a likable group of characters who are still getting to know each other. While Shari hides her past from an inquisitive Chris, Sister Lou has a few quirks too. She drives her car too fast, and has accumulated a few tickets, but she still yearns to drive a sports car. She runs five miles six days a week with a fellow sister, and speeds up when she's troubled. But, she's a determined sleuth. She's determined to find justice for the victim, and peace for the community.

Matthews second Sister Lou mystery, Peril & Prayer, might be appreciated by those who enjoy Christian or Amish mysteries. Or, try it if you're a fan of Murder, She Wrote.

Olivia Matthews' website is AuthorOliviaMatthews.com

Peril & Prayer by Olivia Matthews. Kensington, 2018. ISBN 9781496709400 (paperback), 368p.

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

Note: Once the religious, nuns and sisters, started wearing street clothes, it didn't come as a surprise to know they jog. However, I'm showing my age by saying nuns still wore long habits when I first started at the Catholic school, and I was shocked, just shocked, to learn they went swimming.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Winners and A Little Humor

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. The signed copies of Dorothea Benton Frank's By Invitation Only will go to Caryn S.C. of St. Louis, MO, and Virginia D. from Tempe, AZ. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Everyone could probably use a little humor right now. I'm giving away three books. The sleuths and supporting casts in these books have been compared to the crazies in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books.

Down the Aisle with Murder is an Otter Lake mystery by Auralee Wallace. Here's the summary. "Some wedding stories are so bizarre that you can’t even make them up. Take Erica Bloom’s latest case of an Otter Lake bride whose BFF is MIA at the time she’s supposed to perform her duties as maid of honor. ..only to be found DOA. Erica and her security team—minus her beloved Grady, who’s on vacation, trying to stay out of town business and has a no-nonsense sheriff covering for him—have followed every possible lead to find out what really happened to the young woman. Is her death the result of a bachelorette party gone wildly wrong? Or did someone with cold feet snap—and turn into a cold-blooded killer? These are the questions that must be answered for the nuptials, which at the eleventh hour receive a dramatic makeover, to go off without a hitch…before ’til death do us part."

I'm also giving away two of Carolyn Haines' Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries. The first is a paperback, Sticks and Bones. "Private investigator Sarah Booth Delaney and her friends are celebrating New Year’s Eve at the party of the year, a smashing Winter Garden party at the Prince Albert Hotel. It’s a dazzling success…until Frangelica “Sister” McFee walks through the door.  Sister’s latest book is a memoir about the death of her mother and brother many years ago. Now a film about the book is in the works, and a film crew has descended upon Zinnia, Mississippi, to tell the complete tale. When the film crew realizes there may be more to the story behind the scenes—and between the covers of Sister’s book—they hire Sarah Booth to find out what really happened all those years ago. But soon Sarah Booth realizes that someone is desperate to keep a long-buried secret…and will do whatever it takes to make sure no skeletons come out of the closet."

Or, you could win Haines' latest book in hardcover, Charmed Bones. "Zinnia, Mississippi is rife with
quirky characters, but the arrival of three sister witches—and their intention to open a Wiccan boarding school—sets the small town on its ear. And bodies begin to accumulate as a result. Faith, Hope, and Charity Harrington are sexy and smart. They’re setting up their boarding school in an old dairy—a piece of property with tremendous development potential. And they’re standing in the way of “progress,” according to some in the town.When young Corey Fontana goes missing, Delaney Detective Agency is hired to find the youth—who’s well known as a local hooligan. His mother, Kitten Fontana, who is married to the kind of land development, believes the witches have abducted her son and makes no bones about it. She’s willing to pay hard cash to find her son, especially if she can implicate the witches in his disappearance.When Sarah Booth Delaney and her partner, Tinkie Richmond, find Corey, unharmed, it is only the beginning of a series of events that include midnight dances under a full moon, love potions, and murder. Are the sister witches criminals… or victims? Do they truly have magical powers, as they claim? Sarah Booth and Tinkie must find the answer before more people are harmed."

Which book would you like to win this week? You can enter to win all of them, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Down the Aisle with Murder", "Win Sticks and Bones" or "Win Charmed Bones." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, June 28 at 5 PM CT.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Are you like me, and need some escape reading this week? I've been off to Australia and Paris with Charlotte Nash's novel The Paris Wedding. Just after her mother's death, a woman who willingly gave up her college education, her boyfriend, and ten years of her life to take care of her mother on their farm, is invited to her ex-boyfriend's wedding. In Paris. All expenses paid. I'm not far. She just landed in Paris. We'll see what happens. Australia and Paris are great places for escape.


What are you reading this week? Let's chat!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cara Black's Interview

Yesterday, I posted an interview with Cara Black on Poisoned Pen's blog. Today, I'm going to link to that site, and suggest you check it out. Cara is the author of the Aimee Leduc Investigations. Her latest book is Murder on the Left Bank. The pictures she sent and the story of the art in the 13th arrondissement is so good, it's worth sharing with all of you.


Here's the link. http://bit.ly/2MEdcZ5

I hope you have time to read the interview, and check out Cara's photos.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas

Over the course of fifteen books, Sandra Dallas has placed women's relationships and quilting at the heart of her novels. Historically, quilting was a way for women to gather and tell their stories. In The Patchwork Bride, quilting is the tool a grandmother uses to illustrate to her granddaughter that she's not alone in her fears and her reluctance to marry.

Ellen and Ben are aging ranchers in Colorado in the early 1950s. With her weak heart and Ben's growing memory loss, Ellen fears it won't be long until the couple is forced to move to town. She escapes her worries by putting the finishing touches on a wedding quilt for her favorite granddaughter. June is the only one who loves the ranch. Like her grandparents, she turns to the ranch when she's troubled. When June shows up unexpectedly, Ellen is shrewd enough to guess there are wedding issues. June has run away from her wedding. She feels pressured to marry her fiance before he's sent to Korea by the army. June isn't sure she wants to be a military wife. She had been excited about the opportunities opened by her business degree. Now, she's afraid she'll just be an appendage going from base to base.

While Ellen works on the quilt, she tells June the story of another runaway bride. In fact, Nell ran away from three different men. At the end of the 19th century, she left her grandparents in Kansas and headed to New Mexico to work for her aunt on a ranch as a hired girl. It was there she learned to love the west and a cowboy she called Buddy. Although Nell desperately wanted to marry and not become an old maid, she fled New Mexico, and then left two other men before marrying the love of her life. Ellen's account of Nell's loves and troubles forces June to examine her own feelings and issues with her fiance.

The reader will quickly identify the character of Nell, and understand the direction the story is taking. However, Dallas is still a spellbinding storyteller who keeps the reader following as closely as June does while Ellen stitches together the pieces of the past. The Patchwork Bride isn't as remarkable as a couple of Dallas' earlier novels, The Persian Pickle Club or Tallgrass. (The savvy reader will catch the one reference to the women of The Persian Pickle Club.) However, it's still an enjoyable novel of the bonds between women,; friends or relatives, and the support they provide each other.

There were a few editing issues with this book. I read the actual book, not an ARC, and found there were slips when Ellen was misidentified as June. Those errors don't surprise me in an ARC. They should have been caught in the final edition of the book.

However, it's easy to overlook a couple confusing name changes. It's not as easy to overlook the beauty of the relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter as they exchange stories of the love in their lives.

Sandra Dallas' website is www.sandradallas.com

The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas. St. Martin's Press, 2018. ISBN 9781250174031 (hardcover), 294p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book




Monday, June 18, 2018

The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

Ten years ago, for "Friday's Forgotten Books", I discussed Sandra Dallas' novel, The Persian Pickle Club. I have it on Facebook today for a listing of seven books I've loved. I still love that book.

Why am I talking about it again? I'm finishing Dallas' latest book, The Patchwork Bride, but the book is too good to review before I've actually completed it. In the meantime, I thought I'd go back and see what I wrote about the earlier book. I'm sharing that book, because it's one I've never forgotten, and the quilting group from that story is mentioned in the current one.

Remember, the earlier summary was written ten years ago. I've read a few more of Dallas' books since then, so the number is off. But, my opinions of The Persian Pickle Club and Tallgrass have not changed.

Oh, and ten years later, "Friday's Forgotten Books" is still going strong, and the weekly feature is still featured on Patti Abbott's blog.

*****

Not only is Sandra Dallas' The Persian Pickle Club a "forgotten" book, but the author herself never received the attention she deserved. I've read six of her seven books, and they are all wonderful novels that portray women and their friendships. Her most recent book, Tallgrass, is an outstanding book of a young girl's coming-of-age during World War II, watching the reactions of a small Colorado town when a Japanese internment camp is built on its outskirts.

But, today's forgotten book is The Persian Pickle Club. When the book came out, booksellers handsold it, saying, if you can figure out who did it, we'll give your money back. Here's the summary from the book jacket:

"It is the 1930s, and hard times have hit Harveyville, Kansas, where the crops are burning up and there's not a job to be found. For Queenie Bean, a young farmwife, the highlight of each week is the gathering of the Persian Pickle Club (named after a favorite cloth pattern), a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their well-honed quilting skills to good use. As Queenie says, 'It's funny how quilting draws women together like nothing else.'

"Women her own age are few in Harveyville, so when just-married Rita Ritter arrives in town, Queenie eagerly welcomes her new friend to the club. But Rita, who hails from Denver, is anything but a country girl. With a hankering for a newspaper career, she's far more interested in investigative journalism than she is in sewing, and before long her prying brings her dangerously close to a secret the Pickles have sworn to keep."

Sandra Dallas vividly portrays the Depression in Kansas, and the loneliness of the women. I've used this book successfully with book clubs, and passed it on to many readers. Don't let Sandra Dallas' The Persian Pickle Club be forgotten!

And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at www.pattinase.blogspot.com, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday.

The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas. St. Martin's Press, ©1995. ISBN 9780312135867 (hardcover), 208p.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Book Chat Featuring Berkley's Forthcoming Mysteries

Release date is all over the place for Berkley's forthcoming mysteries. Since I had six, Josh and I took the opportunity for a little camera time.






Here are the books we discussed.

Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley - 2nd Below Stairs Mystery
Poisoned Pages by Lorna Barrett - 12th Booktown Mystery
On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen - 11th Royal Spyness Mystery, 1st time in paperback
Buried in Books by Kate Carlisle - 12th Bibliophile Mystery
Italian Iced by Kyle Logan - 3rd Ethnic Eats Mystery
Dyeing Up Loose Ends by Maggie Sefton - 16th (and final) Knitting Mystery

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Library Fuzz Megapack by James Holding

Today, I'm expressing my thanks to Jeffrey Meyerson. Jeff is a regular reader who really got the "What Are You Reading" post going on Thursdays. And, he's an avid reader of story collections. Thanks to Jeff, I'm about to finish a collection, James Holding'sThe Library Fuzz Megapack: 20 Classic Library & Book Crimes. 

I always have a hard time reviewing collections of stories. Instead, let me give you some background.  John Betancourt, the publisher of Wildside Press, introduces the book. Holding lived from 1907 to 1997. According to Betancourt, Holding was a prolific short story writer in the mystery field. I was surprised to learn, first from Jeff, and then from the introduction, that Holding wrote children's books, including the Ellery Queen, Jr. series. Most of you probably won't remember that series. But, my public library still had them when I was a kid, and I read all of them. Just another reminder of the early mysteries I read.

In the Library Fuzz stories, Hal Johnson is a former police detective who now works as a "sissy" kind of cop. He works for a public library, tracking down overdue library books and bringing the books and the fines back to the library. However, Johnson still has all the skills he developed as a police officer. He's still observant, and often notices when something is wrong when he's on the job. Sometimes, he's smart enough to notify Lt. Randall from the police department before Johnson gets into too much trouble. Other times, his best intentions get him in trouble when he tries to help someone.

The stories range from murder to bank robbery to kidnapping. There are burglaries, thefts of books. Bookmarks and clues left in books often indicate a problem. Johnson is a likable guy. He's an avid reader. "I've found that reading's the best way to educate yourself beyond the few basic disciplines you get in college." He took speed reading and memory development courses when he worked in the police department, skills he uses, along with that talent for observation. He continues to propose to one of the librarians, Ellen Corby. If she doesn't accept, I'm tempted.

The Library Fuzz Megapack collects all twenty of Holding's stories. They were published between 1961 and 1984 in various mystery magazines; Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine. I'm just happy those magazines published the stories featuring this unusual cop.

And, thank you, Jeffrey Meyerson, for suggesting the book.

The Library Fuzz Megapack: 20 Classic Library & Book Crimes by James Holding! Wildside Press, LLC, 2015. ISBN 9781479416110 (paperback), 243p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Two Special Giveaways This Week

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Tari H. of Mount Sterling, Ohio will received Scones and Scoundrels. LuAnn B. from Crab Orchard, KY won Scot Free. The books will go out in the mail this weekend.


This week, I have two unusual giveaways. One is a guarantee. Two lucky winners will win autographed copies of Dorothea Benton Frank's latest book, By Invitation Only. I'm giving those away. Details will follow.

The other is for fans of audiobooks, and you have to be quick on this one. June is Audiobook Month. Audiobooks.com is giving away copies of Daniel Cole's Ragdoll. The giveaway begins at 9:00 AM ET TODAY. 500 copies will be given away. Here's where to find the information to login, beginning at 9:00 AM TODAYhttp://bit.ly/2JMWqVF











Here's the description of Ragdoll.

Written By: Daniel Cole          Narrated By: Alex Wyndham

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Date: April 2017

Duration: 10 hours 32 minutes






Summary:

William Fawkes, a controversial detective known as The Wolf, has just been reinstated to his post after he was suspended for assaulting a vindicated suspect. Still under psychological evaluation, Fawkes returns to the force eager for a big case. When his former partner and friend, Detective Emily Baxter, calls him to a crime scene, he’s sure this is it: the body is made of the dismembered parts of six victims, sewn together like a puppet—a corpse that becomes known as “The Ragdoll.”

Fawkes istasked with identifying the six victims, but that gets dicey when his reporter ex-wife anonymously receives photographs from the crime scene, along with a list of six names, and the dates on which the Ragdoll Killer plans to murder them.

The final name on the list is Fawkes.

Baxter and her trainee partner, Alex Edmunds, hone in on figuring out what links the victims together before the killer strikes again. But for Fawkes, seeing his name on the list sparks a dark memory, and he fears that the catalyst for these killings has more to do with him—and his past—than anyone realizes.

With a breakneck pace, a twisty plot, and a wicked sense of humor, Ragdoll announces the arrival of the hottest new brand in crime fiction.
*****
It's up to you to take care of your entry for Ragdoll. Now, let me tell you about By Invitation Only. Dorothea Benton Frank described it as a story of two families whose children are getting married. One is a family of "haves" from Chicago. The other is a family of "have-nots" from the South Carolina Lowcountry, a family of peach farmers. But, who really has everything they could want, and who doesn't?
I bought two hardcovers of By Invitation Only, had them signed, and I'm giving them away. For this one, you contact me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win By Invitation Only." Please include your name and mailing address. (I've had a couple people forget to include their mailing address lately. You can't win if I can't send you the book.) This giveaway will end Thursday, June 21 at 5 PM CT.  Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's that time again! It's Thursday and time to talk about what we're reading.

Because I'm usually reading a mystery or two for Library Journal, I usually have a stack of books
beside me, a mix of fiction and nonfiction that I want to sample. I don't always get through them immediately because of other commitments. And, some are slow-going.

Since I just read an entire nonfiction book on Tuesday, I'm starting some new ones. Easter Dawn: The 1916 Rising is by Turtle Bunbury. This is the story of Ireland's attempt to overthrow the British. I have the feeling this will be one of the slower reads, although I love Bunbury's way with words.




On the total opposite end of the spectrum is a novel by an Australian author, Charlotte Nash. It's called The Paris Wedding, and, if it has enough Paris in it, my copy will eventually find its way to my friend Kaye, keeper of all things Paris.

And, of course, I'm halfway through two mysteries that I can't talk about right now, but the reviews will be here in a couple months.

What are you reading this week? It's our day to talk books!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Bad Stories by Steve Almond

Although it sounds like fiction (and I wish it was), Steve Almond's Bad Stories is actually nonfiction. For himself, for his journalism students, and for other befuddled voters, Almond analyzes what went wrong in the last presidential election. Almond examines history, popular culture and literature as he searches for answers in  Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country.

Almond uses literature and journalists of the past to say we were warned. Hunter S. Thompson wrote, "The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It's come to the point where you almost can't run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip on each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics...The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy - then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece." Sound familiar? Thompson write that in 1972 with Nixon in mind.

There are quotes from Kurt Vonnegut, William Butler Yeats, James Baldwin, Aldous Huxley, Joseph Conrad, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath. Ray Bradbury's works are mentioned several times, as is the Old Testament. Why all the literature in a book that analyzes the political scene and an election. Almond, who teaches at the Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard, said, "I'd argued that the whole point of literature, and by extension literary journalism, is to complicate our own moral perceptions by forcing us to accept that other people matter, that their struggles and hardships matter, and that their delusions cannot be tamed until they are understood. Propaganda has the opposite aim; to simplify moral action by dismissing the humanity of others."

That final quote, along with Thompson's, really sums up the book. Almond says we've told each other bad stories, allowed newspapers and television, and then the Internet, to play on our fears by telling us stories that aren't true. Those fears, of immigrants, of people who don't look like us, of losing jobs and social status, are all bad stories that we've learned to believe. Why did so many women vote for a self-professed sexual predator? What stories did they have in their past, what fears did they have that made them accept lies about the other candidate? Almond builds a case against newspapers who are run for profit, the media, even comedy shows that professed to be critical of the right. He even points to our history, an electoral college based on history instead of a system that allows every vote to count. And, he blames Obama, reality television, the GOP. He discusses the Cold War and Putin, who "views Trump as the ultimate Russian asset".

In the end, Almond's thoughtful book blames all of us for believing the paranoid stories Trump told, and, for many of us, for believing that Trump couldn't win. Those "bad stories" Trump told, were not bad stories. They were negative, paranoid stories about "a holy land infiltrated by immigrants".

Is this a book that's actually going to change anyone's opinion? No. It's a book, though, that will show some of us what went wrong, what we're doing wrong. It points to our fear of the different, different skin color, different races. It reminds us it will take ordinary people to change what we don't like, including the electoral college. It reminds us to consider consequences when we vote. An election is not a popularity contest.

If nothing else, Bad Stories offers a glimmer of hope. It's not even a glimmer of hope involving politics. There's a final message of hope for humanity, from, of all people, Joseph Conrad. It's a message about storytelling and delight and wonder, joy and hope and fear. This thoughtful, disturbing examination of our recent past, and how we arrived here, is worth picking up just to realize we can change our future. We need to tell different stories.

Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country by Steve Almond. Red Hen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781597092265 (paperback), 272p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Last Girl Gone by J. G. Hetherton

When FBI special agent Timinski refers to Laura Chambers as tenacious but naive, he hits the nail on the head. In his debut mystery, Last Girl Gone, author J.G. Hetherton introduces a gutsy investigative reporter, Laura Chambers. She reminds me of James Ziskin's Ellie Stone.

Everyone in Chambers' hometown of Hillsborough, North Carolina knows she lost her job at a Boston paper and slunk home. She had been determined to get out of town as soon as possible. Now, she's back living with her verbally abusive mother who makes no secret she doesn't approve of her daughter, her job, or her lifestyle. Laura has to fight for every inch of space at the newspaper, competing with the mayor's son. When two ten-year-old girls go missing in Hillsborough, one body is found. Laura's sleeping with her source for her articles, Deputy Frank Stuart. And, the only one willing to listen to Laura is someone who is being paid, her therapist.

Chambers is lonely, and she knows she's the butt of jokes. But, she's determined to be in on "the missing white girl story" if it breaks state or nationwide. It's the FBI agent, Timinski, who sends her in the right direction, to the retired sheriff and the accounts of ten-year-old girls who went missing thirty years earlier. Laura's convinced she knows where the killer and the missing girl are. While she isn't responsible for the resulting tragedy, she'll never forget what happens. And, then another girl disappears.

Hetherton's Laura Chambers isn't necessarily a likable investigator. But, it's hard not to root for her. As a result of her upbringing, she's desperate for success. And Timinski pushes her to the realization that the people involved are more than a story. They're people.

Last Girl Gone is a compelling story with a shocking climax. Most readers will be as stunned as Laura Chambers, who never saw it coming. This first mystery is an intense, character-driven story. It's going to be fascinating to see how the events of Last Girl Gone change Laura Chambers in future books.

J.G. Hetherton's website is www.jghetherton.com

Last Girl Gone by J.G. Hetherton. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683316176 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd

Under the pseudonym Cornelia Kidd, author Lea Wait launches another mystery series set in Maine. If the first in the series is an example, we're in for a delightful time. The first Maine Murder mystery is Death and a Pot of Chowder. Kidd is another author of a cozy mystery who manages to avoid the typical tropes of the first in a cozy series. Thank heavens.

At thirty-two, Anna Winslow has spent her entire life on Quarry Island. She has no regrets. She married her childhood sweetheart, Burt, who is a lobsterman. She's a stay-at-home wife and mother to their fourteen-year-old son, Jake. As she tells the story, she even reveals that when she and Burt lived on the other side of the small island for a short time, she was homesick for the side where she grew up with her mother, stepfather and grandmother. This small town woman is in for a rude awakening. She learns of a half-sister she never knew she had. And, there are shocking secrets on the island, a place where she thought she knew everyone and everything.

Anna never even knew her father's name until she receives a letter from Izzie Jordan saying she was Peter Jordan's other daughter. He had deserted her and her mother, and they were quickly divorced at a young age. Now, she'll never meet him, but now that he's dead, Izzie would like to meet Anna. Anna, who seldom even drives off island, heads to Portland to meet her. She learns Izzie has just graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and is eager to find a small place to become a chef. That's about all she learns before Anna is called home. Burt's brother, Carl, went out in his boat, and is missing. When a lobsterman's boat is found, with him not on it, it's usually not a good sign. Izzie insists on returning to Quarry Island to help however she can.

The discovery of Carl's body leads to a shakeup in the small island community. Carl was murdered, and Burt was the last one heard to have a loud argument with his brother. Burt's under suspicion. Jake is acting odd. Anna is relieved that Izzie is willing to step up, help at the house with the cooking, and, most of all, act as support while offering an outsider's viewpoint as to who might have wanted to kill Carl. It seems there are a few reasons to want him dead, but Burt really does have the most reasons.

Death and a Pot of Chowder is a well-developed, character-driven story. It's obvious the author is experienced. She introduces sympathetic, unpretentious characters in a homespun story. Quarry Island and the small community come to life in the book. And, the two likable sisters, complementary characters, are a promising duo for future mysteries. There's an engaging setting, wonderful characters, and, hopefully, a long future for this new series.

Lea Wait's website is www.leawait.com

Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683315834 (hardcover), 336p.

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


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Recap - Dorothea Benton Frank at the Library

Dorothea Benton Frank just appeared at the library on her book tour for By Invitation Only. She said it was the dumbest title ever because she had to continually tell people the events were open to the public because everyone thought they were "By Invitation Only".

This book came about because both of Frank's children got married within the last three years. It's a very emotional time, although parents are busy and terrified. She loves her son-in-law. And, her new daughter-in-law is from the Midwest, Oklahoma. Her family are role models for nice. She said she thought her son would never get married. He's super-shy. He has a Midwestern soul, and he's much happier there than in New Jersey or the Lowcountry. She said he's a big guy. He graduated law school, and she said now you have to lose weight. He said okay and went to a center in South Carolina that's the equivalent of Duke's diet program. She said, see. He takes direction good. He lost 60 pounds, and now he's a good-looking lawyer. So, she told him he needed to go on Match.com. She said she'd give him a week to sign himself up, and then she'd do it, and you don't want your mother filling out your form for Match.com. He signed up. The first two were not right. The third was a nuclear physicist who went to MIT and wanted someone to "talk nerdy to me". They have so much in common, and on their first date they talked for ten hours and were still going strong. Dorothea loves her. But, what if she had hated her?

And, after the two weddings in three years, she has a grandson. At some stage, you think everything is sort of over, and then a grandchild comes along.

Frank thought all of this was worthy of a book, but it would be a dull book with nice in-laws. So, she took it to the extreme. It's a story of the haves and the have-nots. The haves are from Chicago. The have-nots are a family from South Carolina who raise peaches. Now, Frank knows you can't really grow peaches in the area of South Carolina where she set the book, but it's fiction. Partway through the book, the tables are turned. Suddenly, the haves don't have anything, and the have nots do. But, maybe the have nots had always been happy because what they had was good enough.

She said By Invitation Only is hanging on The New York Times Bestseller List. It debuted at number
3, and then went to 4, and is now at 8. There's a logjam of summer books on the list with titles by Baldacci, Danielle Steel, two by James Patterson.

Dorothea Benton Frank said she'd tell us about her next book, but it might not turn out this way at all. She's working on it. She read an article on Sullivan's Island about someone who was keeping bees there. Then, she read another. Then a couple years ago there was an incident in which a million honeybees were killed by someone using pesticide. When she looked into honey, she decided she needed to dig deeper.

So, here's the plot, as of right now. A frumpy middle-aged woman stayed on Sullivan's Island to take care of her mama. She's a beekeeper. After the mother dies, her sister, a Blanche DuBois type of character, returns home. Both women have a crush on the neighbor, a man whose married to a real witch. His two sons love the frumpy sister, and come over because their mother abuses them. The Blanche character learns she's ill and dying, so she starts to go around the island to tell everyone what she really thinks of them. Then she starts sleeping around, which she had never done. Someone lets the other sister's queen bee out, and the neighbor witch dies. Frank hasn't decided yet about that death. That's as much as she has, and it may change before next year. It's due to her editor in mid-March.

She said she and her daughter, Victoria, have written a children's book, Teddy's Spaghetti, and it's scheduled for publication in May 2020.

After telling us about her future books, Frank took questions from the audience. Asked about her
writing day, she said she usually works for about four hours or so. She reads The New York Times, works on the crossword puzzle, fixes breakfast, and then heads to the guest room. The guest room is her office because no one wants to visit them in New Jersey. She ends the day by writing a note with three things she wants to happen the next day so she has a starting point. She said she doesn't give herself a deadline. That comes from her editor, who calls her on President's Day to ask how far she is. Her book is due mid-March. She's had the same editor for fifteen years.

She didn't always want to be a writer. Dorothea went to Catholic schools, and she didn't know any writers. They only read dead white men who were approved by the Vatican. They didn't even read Emily Dickinson because she wrote about her skin. And, she thought writers starved and didn't make any money.

But, Frank wanted to buy her mother's house on Sullivan's Island. And, her husband said no way was he going to buy it and spend his life sitting on her mother's porch. She should go get a job if she wanted to buy the house. She had read a novel, and thought, well I'll write a book. I can do that in six weeks. That's how brazen she was. Two years later, she had written it. She always missed the opportunity when her mother's house went on the market, but she's better off. She bought a house on Sullivan's Island, and created their own happier memories there.

She was asked who her favorite authors are. She said there are so many. She reads a lot. She named Ann Pratchett, Anna Quindlen, Anne Tyler. She used to love Anne Rivers Siddons' books. Josephine Humphries, although she hasn't written lately. Amy Bloom. Meg Wolitzer. Mary Kay Andrews. She said she knows many of them because they end up doing writers' conferences together.

When asked about her favorite of her books, she said probably Sullivan's Island, her first, and Plantation. She said in those years she was writing without a contract so she could take her time. Now, with one book a year, she's always on deadline.

How did she find a publisher? She met a woman who had been downsized when two publishers merged. That woman told Frank what she needed to do to sell her book, and Frank did it. Frank said, but you're not an agent, and the woman said I'm going to be. Since Frank had been an author for five seconds, and the woman an agent for six, she listened to her. That woman and another sent Frank's manuscript to ten editors. Five liked it. Three bid on it, and Dorothea Benton Frank took the top bid. And, she still has the letters from the five who were not interested.

Dorothea Benton Frank's website is www.dotfrank.com

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank. William Morrow, 2018. ISBN 9780062873514 (hardcover), 390p.

*****

Watch for the blog on Friday. I have 2 signed copies for the next giveaway.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

New York City - Day 3

Christie and I planned to spend most of Thursday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met had the second part of the "Heavenly Bodies" exhibit. You'll only be able to see pictures from part of the Met's exhibit, though. While we could photograph all the clothes, the Vatican did not allow their contributions to be photographed. After all the clothes, there were three small rooms that included Papal crowns and robes. We felt sorry for the guards there who spent most of the time saying, "No photographs." But, the exhibits were beautiful there, and there is an appropriate conclusion before the Vatican section. You'll see.

As at the Cloisters, the Met did a beautiful job with the exhibits. For instance, these first dresses, inspired by mosaics, were in the Byzantine room where there are mosaics on the wall. These dresses are Dolce & Gabbana.






These are from the House of Chanel.


I don't have designers for the following.





Coco Chanel

The next dresses are Versace.





How about these, inspired by mosaics?




The following exhibit is "The Dressed Madonna".



There was an extensive exhibit of clothes inspired by nuns. However, I wasn't able to get pictures of many of the outfits that were just black. Black and white provided the right contrast.





Below is a Madonna-wedding ensemble from the House of Dior.


The wedding dress below by Christian Lacroix is inspired by the dressed Madonna associated with Holy Week festivities in Spanish-speaking countries.



The Met had the following dress mounted up above the entranceway. Stunning display that could be seen from a couple rooms away.




The dress below may be an Yves Saint Laurent wedding ensemble, but as she walked by, one woman said, "Well, that's enough to give you nightmares."


House of Dior is the first below.



Here's the story about the chasuble below, which was at the entrance to the Vatican exhibit. It was the last photo taken of this exhibit. "In the 1950s, when Matisse was commissioned to design the interior for the Chapel du Rosaire in Venice, he also created six chasubles. The nuns at the Atelier d'Arts Appliques in Cannes undertook the sewing. This example was the first to be completed. When the chapel's priest declared it too heavy for regular use, the first director of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired it, in exchange for a lighter replacement vestment."

So, designed by Matisse.


After going through the "Heavenly Bodies" exhibit, Christie and I made reservations for a late lunch in the Members' Dining Room, which is no longer for members. It's now open to the public. The view is gorgeous. It overlooks Central Park. The food was okay.

But, in the meantime, we toured part of another small exhibit, "Visitors to Versailles".

A Riding Habit


The following three dresses are ones that would have been worn at court at Versailles. The third is from a later period, the 1770s.




Transportation to Versailles.


Below are the ceremonial uniforms of the Cent-Suisses, an elite unit of one hundred Swiss mercenaries charged with protecting the king inside the palace.


Late lunch, and then back to our hotel to rest for a little. Christie told people I wore her out at the Met.

Our final Broadway show was "Carousel". I'll admit I was looking forward to this musical. The cast included Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, Renee Fleming, and Lindsay Mendez. And, I'd read all about the dances. My honest opinion? While each of the actors has a beautiful voice, and their performances were wonderful, they never gelled. I never felt the right chemistry with the cast. "Carousel" was okay, but Christie and I agreed that our favorites shows were "Come From Away" and "The Play That Goes Wrong."



And, what better way to end our time in New York City than with dessert from Juniors? We walked over, picked up dessert, and went back for a pajama party our last night. Home the next day.