Wednesday, July 31, 2019

September Treasures in My Closet

A day early, and a little rushed. If you read Monday's post, you know I was trying to get ready for a family visit, write Treasures, and still work this week. So, I'll summarize some titles, and any others will end up on the list. Then, you'll know they're coming in September.

Jeffrey Archer's Nothing Ventured introduces Detective William Warwick. Archer intends to follow Warwick's rise in the Metropolitan Police in this new series that follows him as a young police constable. He's then assigned to Art and Antiques as a detective because of his university education and knowledge of art. It's there that he follows the track of a master at art manipulation. (Release date is Sept. 3.)






I've really grown to like Bree Baker's Seaside Cafe mysteries. The third in the series, Tide and Punishment is set at Christmastime in Charm, North Carolina. Everly Swan's Great-aunt Fran is running for mayor against her long-time nemesis. When her opponent turns up dead just before the first debate, all eyes turn to Fran. (Release date is Sept. 24.)







Andrea Camilleri may have just died, but we still have his mystery, The Other End of the Line, to read. Inspector Montalbano and his team have been stationed at the port in Sicily to manage a crowd of recently arrived refugees. In the midst of all of that turmoil, he also has to get a new suit tailored for a friend's wedding. He meets the charming master seamstress, Elena Biasini, but while the police are occupied at the docks one night, Elena is murdered. Now, Montalbano has to weave together the loose threads to close the case. (Release date is Sept. 3.)




Tracy Chevalier's A Single Thread introduces a woman who lost both her beloved brother and her fiancé during the Great War. Violet Speedwell is now one of the "surplus women", one of the generation consigned to an unmarried life after the war killed so many young women. So, she finds a job in Winchester, home to one of England's greatest cathedrals. She's drawn into a society of broderers, women who embroider kneelers for the cathedral, carrying on a centuries-old tradition. When another war threatens her new-found independence, Violet must fight to keep her new life. (Release date is Sept. 17.)



I'm looking forward to Meg Waite Clayton's World War II novel, The Last Train to London. It's actually a pre-war story based on the Kinder transports that carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe. When the Nazis take control, Truus Wigismuller, Tante Truus, is a member of the Dutch resistance. She risks her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nad Germany to nations that will take them. But, the mission becomes even more dangerous after Hitler annexes Austria, and countries all across Europe close their borders to refugees. (Release date is Sept. 10.)




"For the first time in twenty years, ...Ann Cleeves has created a new mystery series, this time taking place on the English beaches where she grew up, in North Devon." The Long Call takes Detective Matthew Venn to North Devon where he stands outside the church as his father's funeral takes place. The day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family, too. As he turns to walk away, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby. It's a case that calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind. The case with its deadly secrets brings his past and present  into a collision. (Release date is Sept. 3.)



Elizabeth J. Duncan's mystery, Remembering the Dead, is a tribute to the young men lost in World War I. Penny Brannigan agrees to assist at a formal dinner party that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the war. But, when she finds the body of a young waiter and a priceless antique chair goes missing, Penny assists the local police in their investigation. (Release date is Sept. 10.)






Martin Edwards' Gallows Court is something new for him, a historical crime novel. London in 1930 is a sooty city in which a number of violent deaths, details too foul to print, have kept people off the streets at night. But, Rachel Savernake is no ordinary woman. "To Scotland Yard's embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she's on the trail of another killer." When a reporter on The Clarion's crime desk pursues a story about Rachel Savernake, he finds himself deep in a labyrinth of deception and corruption, swept murder by murder closer to the ancient place of execution, Gallows Court. (Release date is Sept. 17.)



In Hester Fox' The Widow of Pale Harbor, Gabriel Stone takes a position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbor, Maine. When the town is plagued by strange and escalating crimes, and a reclusive widow is accused of being a witch, Stone realizes someone has been inspired by the wildly popular stories of Edgar Allan Poe. (Release date is Sept. 17.)







Iced in Paradise is Naomi Hirahara's first Leilani Santiago Hawai'i mystery. Because her mother has cancer, Leilani returned home from Seattle to help run the family business, a shave ice shack. But, when her father becomes the primary suspect in the murder of a young surfer he was mentoring, Leilani turns amateur sleuth. (Release date is Sept. 3.)







Watch for Sara E. Johnson's debut mystery, Molten Mud Murder. It's a fascinating introduction to New Zealand and American forensics expert Alexa Glock who manages to worm her way into an investigation when a body that was partially submerged and boiled in the molten mud pots needs to be identified. (Release date is Sept. 3.)







I loved Thomas Kies' first Geneva Chase mystery, but somehow missed the second one. I need to catch up because I understand he connects that storyline with the latest investigation for the journalist in Graveyard Bay. With the newspaper she works for about to be sold and her job in jeopardy, Chase is working hard on the story set in Groward Bay Marina where the nude bodies of a corrupt judge and  a Jane Doe are found, chained to a forklift. Geneva investigates pill mills, crooked doctors, and a massive money-laundering scheme, until she's kidnapped. (Release date is Sept. 10.)




William Kent Krueger takes four orphans and readers on a odyssey during the Great Depression in This Tender Land. In 1932 Minnesota, Odie O'Banion and his brother Albert are the only two white children at the Lincoln School where hundreds of Native American children are forcibly separated from their parents and sent there to be educated. Odie is not popular with the abusive superintendent, and the day comes when he, Albert, their best friend Mose and a a little girl head out in a canoe, on a journey on the Mississippi. It's a summer that will change their lives. (Release date is Sept. 3.)




In Edith Maxwell's latest Quaker Midwife mystery, Judge Thee Not, midwife Rose Carroll is shocked when a society matron snubs Rose's good friend Bertie for her nontraditional lifestyle. When the woman is murdered, fingers point at Bertie, although Rose is convinced her friend is not a killer. She enlists the help of a blind pregnant client, another woman who has endured her share of prejudice. The women must fight bias and blind presumption to clear Bertie's name. (Release date is Sept. 10.)





I couldn't resist Anne Gardiner Perkins' Yale Needs Women. In the summer of 1969, young women across the country sent in applications to Yale University for the first time. "If Yale was going to keep its standing as one of the top two or three colleges in the nation, the availability of women was an amenity it could no longer do without." This is the true story of how these young women fought against the backward-leaning traditions of a centuries-old institution and created the opportunities that would carry them, and other women, into the future. (Release date is Sept. 10.)




Peter Steiner's The Good Cop is not an easy book to read because it deals with the years leading up to Hitler taking power in Germany. And, so much of it is eerily familiar right now. It wasn't easy to be a good cop, a good journalist, or a good newspaper artist in those years, but three people managed, despite bombings and opposition. (Release date is Sept. 1.)







Ice Cold Heart is P.J. Tracy's latest Monkeewrench novel. Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth track a missing wife to a friend's vacant house, where she's found brutally slain. Clues indicate Kelly Ramage was living a secret life. As they track backwards to try to find her contact who may have killed her, Roadrunner from the Monkeewrench computer team, rescues a woman in Minnesota's cold winter, a woman who may hold a key to Magozzi and Rolseth's case. (Release date is Sept. 10.)





Lisa Unger blurs the line between right and wrong in The Stranger Inside. Twelve-year-old Rain Winter narrowly escaped an abduction, but her two friends were not as lucky. Tess never came home, and Hank was held in captivity before managing to escape. Years later, their abductor was released from prison. Then someone delivered real justice - and killed him in cold blood. When another brutal murderer is found dead, Rain is unexpectedly drawn into the case. Eerie similarities to the murder of her friends' abductor force Rain to revisit memories she's worked hard to leave behind. (Release date is Sept. 17.)



Here's the list of other September releases. I hope you find a book or two to enjoy!

Austin, Nefertiti - Motherhood So White (9/24)
Barber, Lizzy - A Girl Named Anna (9/3)
Brook, Allison - Buried in the Stacks (9/10)
Coates, Ta-Nehisi - The Water Dancer (9/24)
Conroy, Vivian - Last Pen Standing (9/24)
Cullen, Lynn - The Sisters of Summit Avenue (9/10)
Dawson, Janet - The Devil Close Behind (9/9)
De Robertis, Carolina - Cantoras (9/3)
Finck, Liana -Excuse Me (9/24)
Garnier, Pascal - C'est la Vie (9/3)
Greenwood, Kerry - The Spotted Dog (9/10)
Jacobson, Howard - Live a Little (9/10)
Kidman, Fiona - This Mortal Boy (9/30)
Lamanna, Gina - Pretty Guilty Women (9/3)
Levine, Laura - Death of a Gigolo (9/24)
Newitz, Annalee - The Future of Another Timeline (9/24)
Prescott, Lara - The Secrets We Kept (9/3)
Proehl, Bob - The Nobody People (9/3)
Ross, Rick - Hurricanes (9/3)
Rushdie, Salman - Quichotte (9/3)
Truong, Monique - The Sweetest Fruits (9/3)
Watt, Holly - To the Lions (9/3)
Woodson, Jacqueline - Red at the Bone (9/17)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Have You Heard? Julie Hyzy's Buffalo West Wing

Julie Hyzy's White House Chef series was always fun. My sister, Christie, and I used to discuss each of these books as we read them. Here's Sandie Herron's review of the audiobook Buffalo West Wing. Thank you, Sandie.

*****
Buffalo West Wing
White House Chef Mystery, Book 4                           
Written by Julie Hyzy
Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook
Audible Studios (February 11, 2014) originally published 1/4/2011
Listening Length:  8 hours, 47 minutes
Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original (2012)

White House Executive Chef Olivia “Ollie” Paras prepares for the start of a new administration.  While the new President is inaugurated, the staff moves the former first family out and the new family in.  This first family has two children, Josh and Abigail, who host a sleepover for friends their first night in the White House.  Ollie and her staff are preparing family favorites when suddenly a box of take-out chicken wings appears in the kitchen. No one knows who brought it, so Olivia follows protocol and refuses to serve it.  When the kids participate in a scavenger hunt, Josh finds the chicken wings and is crushed when he cannot have them. The first lady cannot understand why Ollie withheld them either. Even Cyan, one of Ollie’s chefs, has trouble with Ollie’s decision and gives the wings to the White House laundry ladies and butlers.

Ollie arrives at the White House the next day to reports of a hostage situation at the nearest hospital.  Several White House staffers were ill with suspected food poisoning and have been taken hostage. The Secret Service is searching for answers when Ollie and Cyan explain.  The discarded box from the wings is found and tested, confirming that the poultry was tainted. The Secret Service knows that the intended victims had been the “first kids” and that it would have been them taken hostage if Ollie had served them the wings.  Ollie is infuriated that they do not share this with the first lady.

Ollie is given more bad news; the new first family has decided to keep their family chef to prepare the family meals.  Ollie is fearful she will lose her job, always a risk with a change in administration. The new cook, Virgil, thinks he has been appointed head of the White House kitchen, and becomes belligerent when he discovers Ollie is still executive chef.  Virgil reveals that he doesn’t even like kids and refuses to help Josh learn about food preparation even though Virgil promised to do so.

Josh’s school is hosting a career day and has made special arrangements for Josh to bring in Virgil, because Josh also wants to become a chef.  Virgil calls in sick on the appointed day leaving Ollie to take his place. As Josh and Ollie prepare to leave the school, shots are fired. They are rushed away in the waiting limo, but they are not safe.  They have both been taken hostage!

This fourth entry in the White House chef mysteries is taut and suspenseful with multiple plot lines crossing each other.  Ollie’s level head and charm bring the storyline along at a steady pace. I stayed up way too late to finish this book, so gripping the action.  Author Julie Hyzy has enthralled me yet again. Narrator Eileen Stevens skillfully bring us many different characters with total believability. I would absolutely recommend this book and the entire series

Monday, July 29, 2019

Company's Coming!


I'm on a different deadline this week. My Mom and sisters are arriving on Wednesday, and Thursday is the first of the month. That means I'm cleaning and getting the place ready. (Linda doesn't really want to sleep in a bed full of books, I'm sure.) At the same time, I hope I can get the Treasures in My Closet post ready to post a day early. So, I'm posting a couple of Sandie Herron's Have You Heard posts, and, if we're all lucky. Treasures will post on Wednesday.

Thanks, Sandie, for the help.
*****
First, a Cat in the Stacks mystery since Miranda James' The Pawful Truth has just been released.

File M for Murder
Series:  Cat in the Stacks Book 3                                           
Written by Miranda James
Narrated by Erin Bennett 
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 50 minutes
Publisher:  Audible Studios
Published February 25, 2014 
ASIN:  B00HZ11X5I

Athena, Mississippi resident Charlie Harris arrives home from the library with his Maine Coon cat Diesel, who accompanies Charlie to work on a leash, to find that his adult daughter Laura has arrived to teach acting classes at Athena College for a teacher on maternity leave.  Laura works with the writer in residence, playwright Connor Lawton, a temperamental man born in Athena. Connor was also once Laura’s fiancé for a short period when they both lived in Hollywood.

Laura’s students are acting out a piece of Connor’s play which is not finished nor named yet.  Connor finds that seeing a piece of the play acted out helps him see if a scene will work or if it still needs revision.  Connor is highly critical of the students’ work and criticizes them far too much. Laura goes to visit with Connor later and finds him dead on the floor.  Not knowing what to do, she calls her dad, Charlie Harris. Having learned from experience, Charlie goes to be with Laura, and they dial 911.  

After removal of Connor’s body but before the deputy sheriff arrives, Laura looks around Connor’s apartment.  She sees an urn that carries family ashes that he carries to all his locations. Laura knows it has a false bottom, and from that secret compartment Laura removes a zip drive that is Connor’s latest backup of his play in progress along with other material about it.  When the deputy sheriff wants Laura to go downtown for questioning, Laura covertly slips the zip drive into her father’s pocket before going.

Laura is in her office the following day when she is attacked and knocked unconscious.  Having not seen her at breakfast, Charlie stops into her office, finding her on the floor, and calls 911.  The ER doctor tells him that she will be fine and does not show signs of concussion. Charlie’s son Sean, also staying with him, is quite upset when they arrive home.  When deputy sheriff Kenesha Barry questions Laura, the two men hover over her shoulder. The household retires early that night, but a fire in the house startles them awake.  

With a policeman watching their home following the arson scare, Charlie knows who to go to when a plain brown envelope arrives in the mail for Laura.  Backup is called and the package removed, alarming the Harris household even more. Laura turned Connor’s zip drive over to the sheriff, but Sean made a copy beforehand.  A study of the play on it reveals clues to the origins of the play and where it was heading. “The play is the key” was a saying of Connor’s, but now it is an omen to the answers they seek.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Turbulence by David Szalay

I guess I expected more out of David Szalay's novel, Turbulence. The summary statement, and the best part of the book, actually came from John F. Kennedy. "For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

Mortality. Children. A small planet. They all come together in the story of fourteen people and twelve flights that take readers around the world. It begins with an unnamed woman who lives in Spain. She's the mother of a fifty-year-old man who lives in London, and she heads home after spending a month in his apartment while he underwent treatment for prostate cancer. It ends with that same man's daughter flying to London from Budapest to see her father after his treatment.

The flights take readers from London to Dakar, to Brazil, to Toronto, Seattle, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Delhi and Kochi in India, Qatar, Budapest and back to London. Each passenger covered has a family crisis before, during or after their flight. There's everything from death and the fear of dying, to family issues of abuse and theft.

While the flights link the passengers/characters, I just felt as if there wasn't enough information about most of the characters. I understand the concept of the interconnectedness of the characters, but the story fell flat for me. It's short, but I've read other novellas that managed to develop the characters better.

I'm sure this is just my opinion. Szalay's All That Man Is was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. Critics may say that the book provides enough depth for Szalay's premise, to illustrate the importance of fourteen lives, that people are connected, and that the world is a small planet that links all of us. Turbulence just didn't work for me as well as John F. Kennedy's quote did.

Turbulence by David Szalay. Scribner, 2019. ISBN 9781982122737 (hardcover), 145p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Seekers by Heather Graham

Heather Graham moves from Savannah to Pennsylvania in her latest series within the Krewe of Hunters series. Several characters from The Summoning return in The Seekers, one of the creepier books in this series.

A young actor, Carl Brentwood, recently bought the Miller Inn and Tavern, located between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Because the tavern has a story behind it, and a reputation for being haunted, he invites the crew of a popular web show about haunted locations, the Truth Seekers, to check it out before he renovates it. Keri Wolf, an author who researches and writes about historical true crimes is also invited. While the crew is still setting up cameras, Keri and one of the women from the web crew discover a body on a makeshift altar in the basement. It's the body of a missing FBI special agent.

The Krewe of Hunters is a special unit of the FBI that deals with crimes and the paranormal. Many of the agents see or talk with ghosts. Dallas Wicker is charged with working with a new recruit, Joe Dunhill. Because Carl dealt with Dallas and Joe in a previous case in Savannah, he asks for their help. Joe hasn't yet gone through the FBI academy, but he serves as a special consultant. And, he immediately knows Keri Wolf is lying when she says she didn't see a ghost in the basement.

Graham's Krewe of Hunters books always combine historical elements with the paranormal. In this case, she deals with witches and fear, possible cults that have existed in the area for years, a tavern owner who killed people in his basement, the lynching of a possible killer, and the fear that others might be emulating the tavern owner, as part of a cult today. The suspicion and stories of the area, and killings that may have been going on for years, makes The Seekers creepier than other books in the series. The paranormal elements of the stories are seldom the eerie factor in these books. Usually, it is the evil in people that adds the element of fear.

The Seekers jumps right into the murders with the discovery of that first body. But, Keri's research adds to the horror as the stories accumulate about murder from the past, and the people who were involved. It only gets worse in modern times. The Seekers is not for the squeamish, but it's one more example of Heather Graham's ability to tell a terrific story.

Heather Graham's website is www.TheOriginalHeatherGraham.com

The Seekers by Heather Graham. MIRA, 2019. 297p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book


Friday, July 26, 2019

Winners and Exotic Getaway Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Tracey P. from Westerville, OH won What You Want to See, and Carolyn T. from Saint Rose, LA won I Know Who You Are. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Just a note as to deadline for this week's contest. This giveaway has a short deadline. The contest will close on Tuesday, July 30 due to my schedule next week. Make sure you enter the contest by 5 PM on Tuesday.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries set in exotic locations. Elsa Hart's City of Ink is a nominee for this year's Macavity Award, the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery. Hart takes readers to eighteenth-century China. Li Du travels to Beijing to unravel the mystery of his mentor's execution. He takes a position as a clerk with access to the records he needs. But, his progress is interrupted by the murder of the wife of a local factory owner, along with a man who seems to have been her lover. The most likely suspect is the woman's husband, but Li Du doesn't believe it was a crime of passion. He discovers that many of Beijing's residents have secrets they would kill to protect.


Or, you can travel to Rome with David P. Wagner's Roman Count Down. It's a perfect introduction for readers who haven't read the Rick Montoya mysteries because it's a prequel to the series. Rick Montoya lands in Rome, planning to start a business as a translator and interpreter. While, he's organizing his life there, his uncle, a high-ranking police official, involves him in the mystery of a wealthy count who was found dead on a bridge over the Tiber.






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 City of Ink" or "Win Roman Count Down." Please include your name and mailing address. As I said, the contest will end Tuesday, July 30 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! I have a couple meetings, so I might have to catch up today, but I'm always interested in what you are all reading.

I'm reading the 28th book in one of my favorite series, Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters books. The Seekers is set in an old inn and tavern, halfway between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. It's the second in what I'm guessing is Graham's latest trilogy featuring a couple of the same characters. The third book, The Stalking, is due out in two months, so I won't have long to wait. Enough about my obsession. I know Jeff's wife, Jackie, is a fan.

So, what are you reading this week? Let's catch up with your books.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

An Unsettled Grave by Bernard Schaffer

Some of the comments I saw online said you could read this book without having read the first in the series, Bernard Schaffer's The Thief of All Light. I disagree. I enjoyed An Unsettled Grave, but I wish I had more background about Detective Carrie Santero, and her mentor, Jacob Rein.

Santero is the first female police detective, and the youngest and most inexperienced one on the Vieira County, Pennsylvania, team. And her boss isn't really happy to have her there. When she interviews a rape victim who claims it was a police officer who accosted her, Carrie doesn't handle it well with the male officers. So, she's sent someplace where she might not get into trouble, western Pennsylvania where bones have been discovered in the woods, a small human foot. Although the local police chief believes it's the body of Hope Pugh who disappeared thirty years earlier, he also thinks Hope ran away. Carrie believes otherwise, and, with the advice of her mentor, she does some tests.

Jacob Rein won't tell Carrie why he won't get involved in the case. But, he was a childhood friend of the girl who went missing. And, his uncle was the police chief who handled the initial investigation all those years ago. The story of the Reins is so deeply entrenched with the story of that community that Jacob knows he shouldn't actively investigate.

In alternating sections, Schaffer takes the readers back to the time when Jacob was a young J.D. Rein and Hope Pugh was still alive. Although some of the middle dragged a little, Schaffer, a former police officer, is skilled at drawing on the emotions and procedures of the police. The stories and reports that came out of that nightmarish week were not accurate. It's up to Carrie Santero to find the truth all these years later.

Yes, we do learn about Rein's childhood, but I still felt as if there was something missing in this book. There was no connection made in this book to tell why he was a mentor to Carrie Santero. An Unsettled Grave is an interesting police procedural. However, if you read for character, start with the first in the series.

Bernard Schaffer's website is https://www.bernardschaffer.com

An Unsettled Grave by Bernard Schaffer. Kensington Books, 2019. ISBN 9781496717252 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves

Rick Steves' Travel as a Political Act is a little dated since it came out in 2009. I'm sure he would have much more to say about globalization, immigration, and isolation if he were writing this book in 2019. But, his thesis that travel should bring people together is even more important today. That's the most important message of a book that says, "We travel to have enlightening experiences, to meet inspirational people, to be stimulated, to learn, and to grow." Steves insists that he holds America to a high standard, and expects it to do better. He sees that as participating as a citizen, of this country, and, of the world.

He covers several countries in the course of the book, Yugoslavia after the war; El Salvador with its poverty and government controlled by American interests and American money. He looks at Denmark as an example of a country that taxes itself to provide a high level of health and educational services to the people. He takes readers to Turkey and Morocco to examine the countries under secular Islam rather that controlled by religious groups. He discussed Iran as it was in 2008, in a lengthy chapter.

For me, one of the most interesting chapters was his examination of Europe under the European Union. While Steves' viewpoint was positive as he talked about unification, it was sobering to read it now after Brexit and immigration issues. It's easy to look back now and say the hopes were so high and so optimistic, but economic issues and fears have played havoc with that optimism.

In some ways, considering the state of the world and this country in particular, Travel as a Political Act is a depressing book. There are times it made me wistful for the past of ten years ago. I'm sure, though, that the author who hoped this book would challenge travelers to take the opportunity to learn  and connect with people, would still say the same thing. It may be a bigger challenge right now. But, Steves insists we can start changing the world in our own little corner of it, and the more we travel, the more we'll want to change it for ourselves and others.

Despite the copyright date, Travel as a Political Act still has an important message.

Rick Steves' website is www.ricksteves.com

Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves. Nation Books, 2009. ISBN 9781568584355 (paperback), 304p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book







Monday, July 22, 2019

No Good Tea Goes Unpunished by Bree Baker

I read the first Seaside Cafe Mystery because I was asked to review Live and Let Chai since Bree Baker is from Ohio. Now, I'm totally hooked on these books about Everly Swan who returns home to Charm, North Carolina in the Outer Banks, and opens a tea shop and cafe. No Good Tea Goes Unpunished puts Everly right back in the middle of a murder investigation, although she's not a suspect this time.

Everly is having the time of her life, catering a wedding reception on the beach behind her house. Judy, a school friend, marries a wealthy entrepreneur, Craig Miller, and everyone seems to enjoy the fun and food at the beach reception. Immediately after the couple cuts the cake, though, Craig takes a phone call and disappears. Everly and her best friend, Amelia, are the ones who spot his body floating in the water, and try to resuscitate him. That's before they find blood on their hands and clothes, and realize Craig was stabbed to death. And, when Judy comes on the scene, and starts screaming, she's carrying the bloody cake knife.

It's been four months since the last murder on Charm, but Detective Grady Hays did not have to interview two hundred wedding guests during his last investigation. Naturally, he wants to interview the new Mrs. Miller, especially after a woman arrived in a taxi, claiming she was the love of Craig's life, and had arrived late to try to stop the wedding. Everly is convinced Judy was in love with Craig, and despite Grady's disapproval, she throws herself into interviews, talking to anyone who might show up at the tea shop, including a New York Times reporter.

Another attack, and two break-ins, including one at Everly's house, are not enough to stop her from asking questions. She might be terrified, and Grady's convinced she's a target, but Everly believes in truth and justice. She doesn't believe Craig's killer deserves to spend one more day free. And, she isn't going to let some crazed killer threaten her life and livelihood.

The best cozy mysteries introduce readers to characters who come alive on the page. Everly Swan, with her family backstory on Charm, her great-aunts who raised her, her escape from the island, and her return, is such a character. I appreciate Everly's new-found independence, her strength and determination. She loves Charm, its wild ponies, even a seagull. Her great-aunts are charming. They add some of the humor to the book, but they also add a great deal of love. And, I enjoy Grady Hays, a detective with his own fascinating backstory.

The best cozy mysteries are about family, community, and love. That community might be shaken up by a murder, but people come together to find the truth. Bree Baker has created one of those communities. No Good Tea Goes Unpunished, the second in the series, allows readers to settle into Everly Swan's life in Charm.

Bree Baker's website is www.breebaker.com

No Good Tea Goes Unpunished by Bree Baker. Sourcebooks, 2019. ISBN 9781492664789 (paperback), 352p.

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


Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Pawful Truth by Miranda James

There are some mystery series whose characters are the draw as much as the plot, maybe more so. I was willing to overlook Robert B. Parker's minimalist mystery plots in his final Spenser books because I loved to read about Spenser and Hawk. I feel the same way about Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks books. While I understand what happened in The Pawful Truth, a mystery set in the world of academia, I wasn't really very interested in the love triangles. It's Charlie Harris and Diesel, Charlie's Maine Coon cat, and Charlie's family and friends, including all the people who have come to be family, that draws me to these books.

This semester, Charlie's auditing a class in medieval history. He's heard great things about Dr. Carey Warriner's class. He's amused by the reactions of the female students to the handsome professor, but he's riveted by Dr. Warriner's delivery. But, the only other mature student, Dixie Belle Compton, almost runs Charlie over to get to Dr. Warriner after the class. Charlie's delayed long enough to hear the professor ask her "What the hell are you doing in my class?"

Of course, Charlie is nosy, so he feels bad when he turns Dixie Belle down when she asks to be his study partner. He feels even worse when Dixie is found murdered. Rumors run wild through the academic departments at Athena College. There are stories about Dixie, rumors that Dr. Warriner and his wife, an English professor, are both having affairs. And, Charlie is present when Dr. Warriner has a run-in with another professor.

Usually, Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry wants Charlie to stay out of her cases. But, she acknowledges he has an in at the college that she doesn't. She asks him to keep his ears open. Then, the two doyennes of Athena, Miss Dickce and Miss An'gel Ducote, ask him to investigate. As board members at the college, they want everything cleaned up. And, Miss Dickce isn't above playing Nancy Drew to Charlie's Hardy Boys.

The solution to the crimes is actually quite convoluted, but before the end, a number of professors are entangled in the web of suspicion. Charlie himself is almost caught up in the trap. Fans of academic mysteries will appreciate the atmosphere and setting.

However, fans of Charlie and Diesel are the real winners with this book. Everyone we've grown to love is present, from Charlie and Diesel and the new kitten, Ramses, to Charlie's children and grandchildren, his housekeeper, Azalia, her daughter, Kanesha. Of course, his beloved Helen Louise is involved, and his renters, Stewart and Haskell are there when it counts. And, this time, Miss Dickce and Miss An'gel have roles as well.

Miranda James' books may be cozy mysteries, but the readers who have followed this series for years know the books are really about love, love of family and friends. Charlie has grown over the course of the series because of the growth of love in his life. Sometimes, the mystery is overshadowed by the characters. In the case of The Pawful Truth, that's a good thing.

The author's website is www.catinthestacks.com

The Pawful Truth by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime, 2019. ISBN 97804511491121 (hardcover), 289p.

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




Saturday, July 20, 2019

On a Quiet Street by J.L. Doucette

On a Quiet Street is J.L. Doucette's second Dr. Pepper Hunt mystery. However, I'll admit it didn't feel as if the focus was on Hunt in this book, but on the investigating police detective instead. I'm fine with that because I like police procedurals. But, I'll be curious to see what other readers say in the future.

When Stacy Hart is killed, "everyone" is shocked, and Hart's mother says everyone loved her daughter. It takes Stacy's brother, Max, who had a head injury years earlier, to say she was murdered. Someone had a problem with her.

Stacy Hart had everything to live for, if appearances were accurate. She was engaged to marry the assistant county prosecutor. She was renovating their future home, with the help of a contractor. And, she had a job at the local YMCA, working in the safety and domestic violence program. Police detective Beau Antelope is allowed to call in Dr. Pepper Hunt as a consultant on the case. Hunt is a forensic psychologist who works where the mental health and criminal justice system intersect. She as also a victim and suspect herself at one time, when she found her husband and his mistress shot to death at their office.

Now, Dr. Hunt provides Antelope with glimpses into the minds of the suspects. But, it's a complicated case that involves sexual abuse, as well as a long ago accident that left one teen dead and one permanently injured. As in any murder investigation, people have secrets and they're trying to keep them.

I had a few problems with On a Quiet Street. The chapters were short and choppy, once in a while only a page in length. That actually didn't seem to serve the story. Instead, I was thrown out of it at times. The other problem was Dr. Hunt. I preferred Beau Antelope as a lead character, and thought he would have been much more effective. At one point, it was mentioned that spirits of the dead haunted Antelope's dreams until he caught the killer. However, that was glossed over, and the author never returned to that point.  I actually think it would have been a better story without Hunt. I know that sounds odd, when the author herself has a doctorate in counseling psychology, but Hunt just didn't work for me as a character.

However, remember, this is just my opinion of On a Quiet Street, and others might appreciate the short chapters, and the characters.

On a Quiet Street by J.L. Doucette. She Writes Press, 2019. ISBN 9781631525377 (paperback), 256p.

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


Friday, July 19, 2019

Winners and A Secret Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Susan D. from Watauga, TX won Wherever She Goes. Stone Mothers goes to Glen D. from Yuba City, CA. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two crime novels featuring women with secrets. I Know Who You Are is by Alice Feeney. When actress Aimee Sinclair comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn't seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she's hiding something, and they're right. She is, but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she's never shared, and she suspects someone knows. Her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could ever have imagined.





I almost always give away ARCs, Advanced Readers Copies, and that's true for What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka. It will look a little odd because it came out when the book was released several months ago as a paperback. But, you won't want to miss the novel starring troubled and determined private investigator, Roxane Weary. Marin Strasser has a secret. Her fiancé thinks her secret is that she's having an affair and he hires P.I. Roxane Weary to prove it. But, just days into the case, Marin is shot to death on a side street in an apparent mugging. When the police focus on Roxane's client for the death, Roxane digs deeper into Marin's life. She discovers quite an unsavory past. Look for con artists, an ugly scam, and murder.


Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. The titles are lengthy, so let's make it easy. Your subject heading should read either "Win Actress" or "Win P.I." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 25 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

What Are You Reading?

Let's face it. During deadline week, I don't read anything I can talk about right now. You'll see all the reviews of the books I've been reading, but it will be September or October. Next week, I'll have a title or two to share. This week, it's up to all of you, but I'll be around.

So, tell us what you're reading, please. Let's talk books!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

2019 International Thriller Awards

Last weekend, during the New York City blackout, the International Thriller Writers presented their annual Thriller Awards. Congratulations to all of the winners.
Here are the winners.
BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
Jennifer Hillier – Jar of Hearts
BEST FIRST NOVEL
C. J. Tudor – The Chalk Man
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL
Jane Harper – The Lost Man
BEST SHORT STORY
Helen Smith — “Nana” in KILLER WOMEN: CRIME CLUB ANTHOLOGY #2
BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL 
Alan Orloff – Pray for the Innocent
BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
Teri Bailey Black – Girl at the Grave

Also receiving special recognition: John Sandford, ThrillerMaster, in recognition of his legendary career and outstanding contributions to the thriller genre.

Harlan Coben, Silver Bullet Award

“Mystery Mike” Bursaw, ThrillerFan Award

Margaret Marbury, Thriller Legend Award

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Shamed by Linda Castillo

I love Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder books. She has wonderful characters, beginning with Kate, Kate's love interest, Tomasetti, and the entire police department in Painters Mill, Ohio. But, the cover of her latest book, Shamed, is just wrong. Let me get that out of the way right up front, so I can move on to the book itself.

Look at that cover. If you were in the library, or a bookstore, you would pick it up if you read Amish novels. And, you'd be offended by the violence in the book. If you're a mystery reader, you would not pick it up. It looks too much like a nice, clean Amish book. And, it certainly doesn't look like the other books in Castillo's series. In fact, one friend said he thought Castillo must have switched genres. No, this is a Kate Burkholder suspense novel. But, the cover artist, the editor, and the publishing company made a mistake, in my opinion. Or, were they trying to mess with readers' minds, as someone suggested?

Castillo's books always introduce you to the victim, which draws readers into the story immediately. In this case, an Amish grandmother has taken two of her grandchildren, five-year-old Annie, and seven-year-old Elsie, to a favorite spot, a deserted farm, to gather walnuts. It's a fun outing, until the grandmother enters the old farmhouse, and is butchered. Elsie, a child with special needs, is kidnapped, and Annie is left, covered in blood.

When Kate Burkholder is called to the crime scene, she finds Annie and hears a story that "Da Deivel", the devil, did that to Annie's grandmother. Although law enforcement departments from all over respond to the case, due to a missing child, Kate deals with the family because she was once Amish. It's one of the children in the family who accidentally blurts out a sentence. As Kate ponders it, she realizes there are secrets behind Elsie, and the family isn't telling the truth about their missing daughter.

As Burkholder's investigation goes on, hour after hour for a missing child with special needs, she is shocked to learn of events seven years earlier, and to hear stories of the people involved. Deaths mount, shots are fired, and Kate Burkholder finds herself cornered by a killer.

Believe it or not, that last sentence is not a spoiler. There's so much more to this meaty book. But, it's violent. And, one of the events shakes Kate, as it will any reader of the long-running series. It's another gripping book in a series that is suspenseful and compelling. (And, no matter what the book cover indicates, it's not a sweet, cozy Amish story.)

Linda Castillo's website is www.lindacastillo.com

Shamed by Linda Castillo. Minotaur Books, 2019. ISBN 9781250142863 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

Heather Webber, An Interview

When I read that Heather Webber's Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe was "perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen", I knew I'd want to try it. Tomorrow is release date for the book, and today I'm lucky to have an interview with the author. I hope you enjoy "meeting" Heather Webber.

Heather, would you introduce yourself to readers?                      


I've been writing for more than twenty years now and have been published since 2002. I started out writing sweet romance, then switched to mysteries (I also write as Heather Blake), and now I’m writing women’s fiction.

Small pieces of my life tend to work their way into my books, like my love of baking, coffee and tea, nature, magic, and family.  


Would you introduce us to Anna Kate?

Twenty-four-year-old Anna Kate Callow knows grief. She’s lost everyone close to her, most recently her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café in Wicklow, Alabama. 

To settle the estate, Anna Kate travels for the first time in her life to Wicklow—the town her pregnant mother ran away from twenty-five years ago, vowing never to return after the mysterious car crash that killed Anna Kate’s father. 

While in Wicklow, Anna Kate stays busy running the café, looking into the details of her dad’s death, figuring out her grandmother’s recipe for the magical blackbird pies, trying to forgive her paternal grandparents for what they did to her mother, and keeping the overly-friendly townsfolk at arm’s length so she doesn’t get hurt again when she leaves town.

What she  ultimately finds in Wicklow is a community that needs her as much as she needs it—and also the friends and family she’s always wanted. But is she willing to break a promise in order to allow her own dreams to take flight?

Before you tell us about Midnight at the Blackbird Café, would you tell us a little about Wicklow, Alabama?

I'm charmed by mountains, often feeling like they’re magical in their own right. For this book, it was a natural fit to place Wicklow in the mountains in northeastern Alabama.  While doing research, I came across a snippet about a former artist’s colony in Alabama, and with that I knew I’d found the heartbeat of Wicklow—because I believe artists are a little bit magical, too. The town is down on its luck, still struggling after most of the artists moved away during the recession. A revitalization committee is trying to rebrand the town as a mountain resort destination with a focus on nature, hiking, and biking, but it’s a struggle…until they realize how much their past can help their future.

Tell us about Midnight at the Blackbird Café, without spoilers, please.          

Midnight at the Blackbird Café is the story of two young women, who in the midst of grief, are struggling to figure out who they are, and how they can fix a family broken by long-ago—and current—tragedy. Throw in magical “blackbird” pies, birders who help reinvigorate a struggling small-town community, a couple of mischief-makers, a dash of mystery and romance, and these women realize that there might be more to life—and death—than either of them dreamed possible.

Personally, I don’t feel it’s a big switch from mysteries to a story of magical realism. However, what spoke to you in this book that made you write it? Characters, the setting? Something else?

It was a song that inspired this book. It was 2014 and my husband and I had signed up for Pandora and started filling our playlists. The Beatles are a favorite, but for some reason I’d never heard “Blackbird” until Pandora suggested it. I became obsessed with the song, listening to it repeatedly. When that kind of thing happens to me, the writer in me pays attention. The line “take these broken wings and learn to fly” stuck with me, and I started thinking about how people can be broken, too, and what could help heal them. A story started taking shape. Add in a research tidbit about blackbirds being the gatekeepers to the “Other” world, pies from “Sing a Song of Sixpence”, and what kind of messages I’d most like to hear in a blackbird’s song, and you have Midnight at the Blackbird Café.

I’m originally from Ohio. Where do you like to take visitors to Cincinnati?

Cincinnati is such a wonderful city. One favorite is the zoo, not only for the animals but for its gardens. So beautiful, especially in the springtime. The Cincinnati Art Museum is always worth a visit, as is the Museum Center. There’s always something happening on the river, a festival, event, or football or baseball game. There are many great nature parks, and there’s also Kings Island if you love amusement parks. And of course, a trip to Graeters ice cream is a must. My current favorite flavor is Chunky, Chunky Hippo, inspired by the zoo’s beloved hippo, Fiona.

Everyone’s journey to publishing is different. Tell us about writing your first book. Was that the one that was published? How did you become a published author?

I started writing my first book in 1998 after (literally) dreaming the story. I had no writing experience, no higher education (three weeks of college hardly counts), and was a young mom of three small children at the time. When I couldn’t get that dream out of my head, and excitedly talked nonstop about how it would make a great book (a movie would be too short!), my husband simply said, “Write it.” And so I did. It was a women’s fiction novel with magical elements, so it kind of feels like I’ve come full circle. That book was never published—it lives in my office with a cozy family of dust bunnies, but it’s still one of my favorite stories. 

From that book, I wrote and sold some short stories, but I still wanted to write longer fiction. I joined RWA and online groups for writers, and set about learning everything I could about the craft of writing. When Tall Stacks, a steamboat festival came to town, I found the perfect inspiration for a historical romance trilogy. I signed with Avalon, a small press (that was eventually sold to Amazon), for those three books, which I fondly call my “Three Sisters and a Steamboat” series, but the publisher called the “River of Dreams” series. The first one was published in 2002. While writing that trilogy, I realized I couldn’t keep mysteries out of the romance, so I decided to try writing a mystery series. The Nina Quinn books were born, and the first in that series was published in 2004 with HarperCollins. From there I’ve had several more series, and each one is a blend of mystery and romance. But the later books also have a new element: magic. I love to write magical books because I want to believe there's magic in this world, giving humanity a helping hand. 

Midnight at the Blackbird Café will be my twenty-ninth published novel, and sometimes it’s hard to believe my career all started with a dream I couldn’t get out of my head.

If you had to recommend 5 books for a person to read to get a feel for you and your reading taste, what 5 would you pick?

This is a tough question (and my answers are subject to change)! Okay, let’s see.

1.    The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
2.    Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
3.    My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg
4.    Where’s My Teddy by Jez Alborough
5.    The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz



What books did you love as a child?

My earliest memories are of the Little Golden books. Seeing that shiny gold binding still gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. In grade school, I adored Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books and the Little House series. I fell in love with mysteries in high school thanks to Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Higgins Clark. That’s also where my appreciation of Jane Austen came from as well.

Heather, I’m a librarian, and I always end my interviews with this comment. Please tell us a story about how a library or librarian influenced you.

Something Anna Kate and I share in common is that we were both latchkey kids. Both my parents worked, and my brother and I were on our own after school. Like Anna Kate, I often found myself at the local library to while away time. This snippet from the book could very well be from my own POV:

>> 
And sure enough, there was the library. One of the double doors was held open with a plastic wedge. 

I stepped inside inside and immediately felt at ease, as though in the presence of close friends among the many books with their colorful spines, the towering wooden shelves, and the scent of old paper, mustiness, and memories. Growing up, I’d spent a lot of time in libraries—which had been sanctuaries in the hours between school letting out and when my mother came home from work.  >>

I still consider books as friends, love the smell of a library, and think libraries are the best sanctuaries.

*****
Thank you, Heather, for taking time to answer questions.


Heather Webber is the author of more than twenty mystery novels and has been twice nominated for an Agatha Award. She's a homebody who loves to be close to her family, read, watch reality TV (especially cooking competition shows), drink too much coffee, crochet, and bake (mostly cookies). Heather grew up in a suburb of Boston, but currently she lives in the Cincinnati area with her family and is hard at work on her next book. Visit her online at   www.heatherwebber.com 
   
   
MIDNIGHT AT THE BLACKBIRD CAFÉ  
   
Heather Webber  
   
Forge Hardcover / ISBN: 9781250198594 / 336 pages/ $24.99  
   
eBook ISBN: 9781250198600  
   
Also available in Audio from Macmillan Audio









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