Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Hiding in Plain Sight by Mary Ellis

Mary Ellis, author of the romantic suspense stories in the Secrets of the South series, spins that series off in the first in a new series. Hiding in Plain Sight introduces the Marked for Retribution mysteries. Her sleuth is young, twenty-five, somewhat awkward at time, and makes some mistakes, but she's likable. Meet Kate Weller, also known as Jill Wyatt.

Kate is on probation as a private detective for Price Investigations. If she makes it, she'll become their traveling detective because she has family problems, and she's always on the run. Before she can get off probation, she's run off the road by a couple men who have a warning for her brother, Liam. Liam's in prison in Florida, and for some reason, he's a threat.

Despite the loss of a car, and Kate's past, her boss hires her and sends her to Charleston on a case, changing her name to Jill Wyatt. Her job is to find a woman whose sister was adopted, but now is dying, needing a liver transplant. As her base, Jill rents an apartment over an Italian restaurant. But, she makes a few mistakes. She becomes personally involved in her case, and, she becomes personally involved with her landlord's family, the Manfredis, And, her landlord, Eric Manfredi, becomes interested in Jill.

While Jill hunts for a woman who doesn't want to be found, the Manfredi family has problems. There's vandalism behind the restaurant, and then a fire in the night, when Jill and Eric's grandmother are in their apartments. Then, the family's business rival is murdered, and Eric's father was the last one to be seen arguing with the man. Just because the police think they have the killer doesn't mean Jill and Eric think they're right.

I did have a few problems with Jill who seems skittish and naive at times, particularly when it comes to Eric. She unprofessionally brings her own feelings and emotions to her cases, which causes problems. And, some readers will want to know that the book has slight religious, faith-based overtones. And, some of us who expect a romantic suspense novel to have a romantic ending may be unhappy with the ending. But, Ellis' readers may be quite happy with this spin-off series.

Mary Ellis' website is www.maryellis.net

Hiding in Plain Sight by Mary Ellis. Severn House, 2018. ISBN 9780727887894 (hardcover), 224p.

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

Son of Saigon by David Myles Robinson

Don't be deceived by the cover of David Myles Robinson's novel, Son of Saigon. It does have its dark moments, but the humor more than makes up for it. It's a witty, delightful story, and I was happy to hand it off to a friend. I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did.

Hank Reagan is a seventy-year-old, a wealthy man who spends his days playing golf or gin with another retiree, Norm Rothstein. Since Hank's wife died, he's just waiting at the retirement community he calls "the death farm" for his own death. Norm doesn't mind looking for his sixth wife, but Hank isn't interested in all the women who are circling. Then, Tran Xuan Mai showed up to see Hank.

Hank, a CIA operative was in Vietnam forty years earlier, and he and Mai were in love. When the Americans evacuated Saigon, he was forced to leave her behind, not knowing she was pregnant. Now, Mai wants Hank to find their son, a man who disappeared after his high school graduation. He'd be in his forties, but Mai knows Hank will be able to track him down.

This delightful, darkly humorous story is divided into two parts. Hank and Norm take to the road, picking up a dog, in Travels with Charley style. Their adventures and encounters along the way are unusual, to say the least. The second part focuses on Hank and Mai's son, a man who draws all of them into danger.

That's all I can reveal without spoiling an interesting story. Remember, this is a story whose core is in the mid-seventies. The seniors smoke weed. There is a lesbian relationship. There's violence. Don't think of this as just a pleasant road trip novel. If you're interested, though, in a dry, witty story of seniors taking on the world, think of movies - RED or The Bucket List. Son of Saigon features those kind of seniors on the loose. I loved it.

David Myles Robinson's website is www.davidmylesrobinson.com

Son of Saigon by David Myles Robinson. Terra Nova Books, 2018. ISBN 9781948749008 (paperback), 240p.

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

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday Afternoon

Just a quick post to let you know I'm okay, but my modem failed on Saturday, so I have no Internet access at home. I'm working at the library, on a desk, so I can't do a blog today.

This has messed up the schedule on the blog. There will be a post on Tuesday. Treasures in My Closet will be postponed until Saturday, Aug. 4.

Technology failure. It's certainly not easy to blog with no Internet or wifi.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte

Who would you guess has the best background to write about Appalachia, a writer and historian from East Tennessee with a PhD in public history, or a venture capitalist who wrote his own personal memoir? In What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, historian Elizabeth Catte compiles the history and social history of the region to dispute J.D. Vance's role as expert after the success of his memoir, Hillbilly Elegy.

There are 25 million people in Appalachia, a region stretching for about 700,000 square miles of the eastern United States. The region begins in Alabama, ends in New York, and includes portions of thirteen states, yet we persist in viewing all the residents of "Appalachia" as poor white hillbillies who vote against their own interests. Catte points out that this stereotype suits the interests of politicians and businessmen, and has been used successfully to remove people from their homes, defeat unions, and destroy the environment.

In relating the story of the myth of the "Scot-Irish" working people, the coal miners, Catte introduces some of the people who have fought for workers' rights. She also tells of photographers and writers who were sent to the area to find people who would fit the stereotypical expectations. She's angry enough at Vance's portrayal of the area and its people that she says, in contrast, she'll provide readers with her own version.

What you Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is a small book with an extensive list of suggested resources. Despite its size, it's not an easy book to read because there is so much to absorb. I did not read Hillbilly Elegy. As a memoir, it certainly represents Vance's truth about his own life. But, does he represent an entire region of the country? Years ago, my father said, "Paper will sit still for anything to be written on it." It's still an excellent reminder to evaluate what you're reading, to put it in context, and look at the bigger picture. It's just my opinion, but I think Elizabeth Catte looks at the bigger picture.

Elizabeth Catte's website is https://elizabethcatte.com/

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte. Belt Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9780998904146 (hardcover), 146p.

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

Winners & A Clark Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Dyeing Up Loose Ends goes to Janice R. from Pittsford, NY. Theresa M. from Milwaukee, WI won On the Hook. The books will go out in the mail today.

A Clark Giveaway sounds a little odd, doesn't it? The authors of both mysteries have the last name of Clark. Tracy Clark's debut mystery, Broken Places, is a Chicago mystery that introduces Cass Raines, cop turned private investigator. When the only father figure she's ever known, Father Ray Heaton, reports vandalism problems at his church, she's upset. But, she's angry and determined to find a killer when she finds his murdered body beside a dead gangbanger. And, she doesn't agree with the police verdict. (One of the best debuts I've read this year.)

Becky Clark's Fiction Can Be Murder is also a series debut. Mystery author Charlemagne "Charlee" Russo thought the twisty plots and peculiar murders in her books were only the products of her imagination. Then, her agent is found dead exactly as described in her new, unpublished manuscript. Very few people have seen that manuscript. Charlee's agent, her critique group and, of course, Charlee, have read it. Now, she has to clear her name.

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 heading should read either "Win Broken Places" or "Win Fiction Can Be Murder." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Aug. 2 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What Are You Reading?

This week, I'm finishing a book recommended by two people, columnist Connie Schultz, and my friend, Kaye Wilkinson Barley. Elizabeth Catte is a writer and historian from East Tennessee. She holds a PhD in public history. Her nonfiction title, What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, is an alternate view in opposition to J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy. The author writes of Appalachia with its 700,000 square miles, and says it cannot be defined as one ethnicity, one political view, one history. Vance's book is a memoir. Catte's book is history and an analysis.

What are you reading this week? I'm finishing my nonfiction book, and I have several fiction titles waiting. We're all curious as to what you're reading or listening to.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hope to Read Pile

Today isn't Thursday. That means I'm not going to discuss the nonfiction title I'm reading after eight days and ten mysteries. I'll discuss that tomorrow with "What Are You Reading?" Instead, I'm going to mention the three books on my "Hope to Read Pile". Most people have a To Be Read Pile. I have piles and piles of those books in three rooms. But, the Hope to Read Pile are the next three books I hope to get to when I finish this nonfiction book.

First up is Anne Tyler's Clock Dance. It's next because it's a library book, and there are people on the waiting list. And, let's face it. I don't always finish the literary novels I start, so I need to try this one, and see if it's what I want to read. 

Here's the description from Barnes & Noble's page. "A delightful novel of one woman's transformative journey, from the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer."

"Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life. In 1967, she is a schoolgirl coping with her mother's sudden disappearance. In 1977, she is a college coed considering a marriage proposal. In 1997, she is a young widow trying to piece her life back together. And in 2017, she yearns to be a grandmother but isn't sure she ever will be. Then, one day, Willa receives a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to look after a young woman she's never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and their dog, Airplane. This impulsive decision will lead Willa into uncharted territory--surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places. A bewitching novel of hope, self-discovery, and second chances, Clock Dance gives us Anne Tyler at the height of her powers."

I'll definitely read the second book, Linda Castillo's new Kate Burkholder, A Gathering of Secrets. I would have already read it if I hadn't been on deadline because I'm a big fan of this series. Here's a quick summary, again from Barnes & Noble.

"A deadly fire exposes the dark side of Amish life in this harrowing new thriller in the New York Timesbestselling series."

"When a historic barn burns to the ground in the middle of the night, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate. At first it looks like an accident, but when the body of eighteen-year-old Daniel Gingerich is found inside—burned alive—Kate suspects murder. But who would want a well-liked, hardworking Amish man dead? Kate delves into the investigation and discovers Daniel had a dark side. He was a sexual predator. His victims were mainly Amish women, too afraid to come forward, and he’s been getting away with it for far too long. Now someone has stopped him, but who? The women he victimized? Their boyfriends? Their parents? 

As Kate wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted by her own violent past and an unthinkable possibility."

As I said, I know I'll read this one.

I really liked Louise Miller's novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living. I'm looking forward to her second one, The Late Bloomers' Club. I'm not going to quote quite as much on this one. There are too many spoilers in the summary.

"A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small town's efforts to do right by the community, and the power of a lost dog to summon true love."

"Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what's "the usual." But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her free-spirited, younger sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson."

I'm finishing the book I'm reading. Then, I hope to read these three books before I plunge back into reviewing forthcoming mysteries. In the publishing world, October really isn't too far away.

Do you have a pile for those books you're going to read next? What's on your "Hope to Read Pile"?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Have You Heard? Out of Circulation by Miranda James

I'm on deadline this week for book reviews, so it's always helpful when I can turn to one of Sandie Herron's reviews of audiobooks. She reviewed the fourth in Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mystery series, Out of Circulation. I hope you "check it out."

Out of Circulation
Series:  Cat in the Stacks, Book 4
Written by Miranda James
Narrated by Erin Bennett
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 10 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Release Date: April 29, 2014

Charlie Harris has gotten busier since the last time we visited Athena, Mississippi where he lives with his large Maine coon cat named Diesel.  As this book opens, we learn that Charlie is now on the board of the Friends of the Library organization.  As a last minute favor to the ill member of the board who had promised to host this meeting, Charlie holds the board meeting at his home.

A decision on where to orchestrate the annual Christmas fund raising event must be made.  Usually held at the home of An’gel and Dickce Ducote, Vera Cassity thinks her mansion would be perfect, but then so do the Ducote sisters.  Vera begins a rather heated debate with sour words and comments of great rancor, when the sisters combat her with great Southern charm.  As quickly as it began, the conflict is resolved for not only this event, but several into the future.

Azalea, Charlie’s housekeeper, is mortified to learn that Vera Cassity had been in “her” home and warns Charlie to never have her again or she would leave his employ.  Charlie is surprised at her vehemence so when the Ducotes invite him to tea that day, he accepts.  Here he starts to hear the under story to Athena local history.  What he learns begins to explain the feud with Vera Cassity and why so many people shudder when her name comes up.

In order to increase funds raised at this gala event, the board members agree to make this a masquerade with characters based on literary figures.  It was Charlie who inadvertently chose a finger foods buffet rather than a sit down dinner to make mingling easier.  After planning and implementing his character, Charlie attends the gala sans Diesel.  The Ducote sisters had promised to reveal a way to end Vera’s sour retorts for good, and their method proves ingenious.

However, finding Vera’s body on the decrepit back stairs was not part of that plan.  It was Azalea who was trapped on the ancient staircase with Vera’s body dressed in voluminous skirts.  Unfortunately, Azalea is then considered a prime suspect in the murder.

Since Vera had been trying to see the Ducote papers donated to the Athena library where Charlie was caretaker, he decides to look into the personal effects to find an answer to the question of who pushed Vera down the stairs.  He is taken aback while reading a journal, knowing that its contents would change the Ducote family tree forever.

What a delightful and spicy way to begin the Ducote family spinoff to another mystery series written by Miranda James.  The sisters don’t leave Athena and will continue in this series as well.  What Southern mystery doesn’t involve a scandal?  Will Charlie find the clues needed to clear Azalea?  Readers would miss a stunning denouement if they do not continue reading this fabulous new piece of history.

Monday, July 23, 2018

When the Flood Falls by J.E. Barnard

J.E. Barnard's debut novel, When the Flood Falls, introduces three troubled women who have to fight past their fears. Despite their initial distrust of each other, they find common ground in their need to find a killer.

Lacey McCrae's husband, a fellow officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was abusive. After her divorce, she left the force, and fled. She's hiding out west of Calgary at the edge of the wilderness, working security at a soon-to-be-opened Arts Centre. She's staying with her university roommate, Dee. Dee has money and power, and works with, and runs with barons and hockey stars. However, she's scared to death. She finally admits to Lacey that she hears footsteps at night, yet no one has seen a prowler. Because of Lacey's own past, she believes Dee's ex-husband is terrorizing her.

When there are incidents at the Arts Centre, and Dee is the victim in a hit-and-run accident, there doesn't seem to be a connection. Then a hockey star disappears, the driver suspected of hitting Dee. Now, Lacey and Dee are both in danger. Lacey is forced to confide in a neighbor, a woman she once suspected of drug addiction. While Dee is laid up, and Lacey no longer has the authority to question people, the three women will have to rely on each other.

Barnard's debut novel won the Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award in 2016 as Canada's best unpublished mystery. The complex, unconventional story unfolds slowly. Barnard's three women all have voices in the story. The women are all suffering from trauma in one form or another in this story that deals with secrets and the power of men to inspire fear.

While the mystery itself was twisted, I never warmed up to any of the women. However, I know some readers will appreciate the award-winning story. Lacey McCrae will probably appear again in a second Falls Mystery.

J.E. Barnard's website is www.jaynebarnard.ca

When the Flood Falls by J.E. Barnard. Dundurn Press, 2018. ISBN 9781459741218 (paperback), 424p.

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