Thursday, August 22, 2019

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! Let's talk about books. What have you been reading in the last week?   

Friday's my deadline for Library Journal for the October issue, so I've been reading October and November releases. There are some terrific ones coming up, some of the best books I've read this year. I'll be sharing them when the time comes.

In the meantime, I'm reading Susan Isaacs' October release, Takes One to Know One. I've only read fifty pages so far, but it's fun. Corie Geller is a bored suburban wife. Just a few years earlier, she was on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Attack Force. Now, she's a freelancer working with publishers of Arabic books. And, she's bored. She meets for a weekly lunch with six other people who are self-employed. One of those, Pete Delaney, seems off to her. After discussions with her father, an ex-cop, and her best friend, Corie decides to look into Pete's background. Did I mention that Corie is bored?

What are you reading this week? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Truth Behind the Lie by Sara Lovestam

Sara Lovestam's detective story, The Truth Behind the Lie, has several unusual twists. One of
them will surprise readers in the very last line of the book.

Kouplan is desperate to make ends meet in Stockholm. The undocumented Iranian refugee risks everything by placing an ad in the local paper. "Private detective. If the police can't help, call me!" Pernilla calls immediately, saying her six-year-old daughter, Julia, is missing. She can't go to the police.

Kouplan is used to hiding from authorities. Despite his own fear of the police and deportation or prison, he returns to the scene where Julia disappeared. Kouplan questions a number of people about the missing girl. He fumbles through his first job as a private detective, learning on the job. But, as he studies Pernilla, and looks for the missing child, something in Pernilla's account doesn't ring true.

The suspenseful story slowly unfolds through the eyes of Kouplan, Pernilla, and a young girl held captive. Each character reveals pieces of the truth, bit by bit, until the stunning final sentence turns the reader's beliefs upside down.

The Truth Behind the Lie is an unusual character study of two needy people. They find strength in each other, despite their secrets. Readers who appreciate complex mysteries that unfold carefully will appreciate the twists in this book.

Sara Lovestam's website is

The Truth Behind the Lie by Sara Lovestam. Minotaur Books, 2019. ISBN 9781250300072 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Murder at Whitby Abbey by Cassandra Clark

As a reviewer who gets thrust into the middle of a number of mystery series, I'm getting to be an expert in whether or not readers can pick up a book if they haven't read previous ones. Murder at Whitby Abbey is the tenth in Cassandra Clark's Hildegard of Meaux Medieval Mystery series, and there's no reason you can't start with this one. I always wish I could have started with the first book, though.

In 1389, Hildegard is a widow with a fifteen-year-old son. She's also a nun assigned a penance by the Abbot because she was caught with her lover. He sends her to the Whitby Abbey to barter with the Benedictine monks for a relic, a lock of hair from Abbess Hild of Whitby, a relic kept for over 600 years. While Hildegard is a practical woman who can't believe an actual lock of hair exists after all that time, she sets out accompanied by two monks militant, who had been on Crusades to Jerusalem, and a young priest. Gregory and Egbert, the two monks, are friends and allies. Hildegard will need both. She arrives at the Abbey during the celebration of the 12 days of Christmas, only to discover other abbeys have sent people to bid on the relic as well.

When the body of a young monk is discovered in an apple storage building, suspicion erupts within the abbey. Hildegard and her allied monks begin an investigation. At the same time, their young priest becomes interested in a woman who has been driven from her home in town. The naive young man doesn't understand the customs, but he finds himself caught up in the tension between the abbey and the town. The conflicts sometimes turn violent as the abbey is the town's landlord, demanding money when the people don't have it.

It's fascinating to read of the politics and history of the period. However, there's a reason I seldom read historical mysteries. I get caught up in the research, checking sources for the facts. I often find the actual history more intriguing than the mystery itself. I found myself checking dates for the Crusades, reading up on the history of the time period, including York, England. Maybe not quite what Cassandra Clark intended with the latest Hildegard of Meaux mystery, Murder at Whitby Abbey.

Cassandra Clark's website is

Murder at Whitby Abbey by Cassandra Clark. Severn House, 2019. ISBN 9780727889539 (hardcover), 240p.

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan

When I selected Hank Phillippi Ryan's The Murder List as the Pick of the Month for Library Journal, I knew fans of legal thrillers would appreciate the unusual twists in the book. She manipulates the reader as well as the characters. The book is easier to summarize than to review, and, even then, it's difficult to do without spoiling the surprises for the reader.

Ryan's story is about three characters, Rachel North, her husband, Jack Kirkland, and Jack's adversary in the legal system, attorney Martha Gardiner. A second-year Harvard law student, Rachel's ambition is to be Jack's law partner in Kirkland and North, defending those accused of crimes. When defendants turn up on the Murder List, she hopes to defend suspects who cannot afford an attorney.

By accepting a summer internship with Assistant DA Martha Gardiner, Rachel puts herself in the middle between the two enemies. Rachel relates the account of her internship, a story that unfolds in the present. However, the past is also essential to the plot.

Rachel North was once chief of staff to Tom Rafferty, the president of the Massachusetts senate. When an assistant in Rafferty's office was killed, there was a scandalous arrest. Jack Kirkland handled the defense in a battle Rachel witnessed in court between Jack and Gardiner.

The entire book is a battle, a masterfully plotted legal thriller with a twisted ending. It's a riveting, character-driven story. Those who appreciate stories with unreliable narrators will discover that none of the three characters, Rachel, Jack, or Martha, can be trusted to tell the whole truth.

The verdict? Guilty. Hank Phillippi Ryan is guilty of inciting shock. She's a skillful storyteller who manipulates the reader and the characters. The Murder List is a must-read for fans of legal thrillers.

Hank Phillippi Ryan's website is

The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Forge, 2019. ISBN 9781250197214 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Champion Dog Prince Tom by Jean Fritz and Tom Clute

Champion Dog Prince Tom by Jean Fritz and Tom Clute is a book from my childhood. When a friend
recently asked me to post books I loved, I remembered this book, and ordered it. I read it over and over as a kid. I read it Friday night, and still appreciated it. For those of you who remember children's authors, yes, it's that Jean Fritz, the author who specialized in biographies and history for children. I actually met her when I was in grad school in Washington, D.C. I wish I had remembered that she wrote one of my favorite children's books.

Tom Clute was a small business owner of jukeboxes who also serviced them in Adrian, Michigan. When he saw an ad for cocker spaniel puppies, he mentioned it to his mother who was planning a surprise birthday party for him. One of his friends picked out a small blonde cocker, the runt and only blonde one in a litter of black pups. From the very beginning, the dog named Prince Tom III just tries harder.

Fritz catches the attention of young readers by incorporating a young boy in the story, Nathan Thompson, son of Prince Tom's veterinarian. He's the one who names Prince Tom, and foresees his future as a champion. Prince Tom started by quickly catching on to tricks. He becomes well-known in the local area for those, and loves the limelight when he appears on a children's TV show in Toledo, Ohio. When he goes for obedience training, though, he almost flunks out of his class. When Clute changes his method of training, Prince Tom catches on, and easily becomes the star of his next class.

Prince Tom III goes on to win multiple championships, and become the first American cocker to win the National Field Trial. He was eventually, Prince Tom III, Companion Dog, Companion Dog Excellent, Utility Dog, National Field Trial Champion.

I still find this book to be a heart-warming true story, the story of a runt, a small dog who just wouldn't quit, and found joy in working. Yes, it's a true story. Here's the article from The New York Times, under the title, "Field Trial Title to Prince Tom III".

Champion Dog Prince Tom was an inspiring book for a child, and, as an adult, I still found it to be heart-warming.

Champion Dog Prince Tom by Jean Fritz and Tom Clute. Coward-McCann, Inc., 1958. 128p.

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

I fell head-over-heels in love with Karen Hawkins' novel, The Book Charmer, and her characters. The delightful book is set in Dove Pond, North Carolina, a town struggling to stay alive in 2019. It takes a little magic, a great deal of friendship, passion, and love, mixed with a little trouble and sadness, to keep a town alive.

In 2001, when Sarah May Dove, the youngest of the seven Dove sisters, was seven, a book spoke to her for the first time. She wasn't surprised because everyone in town knew the Dove sisters were special. Sarah May loved the library, where all the books were magic, but the one who spoke to her insisted she had to read it. It was a book written by another seventh daughter in the family, one who wrote about the history of Dove Pond. It was the first time Sarah May paid attention to a history book instead of a book about dragons.

Eighteen years later, Sarah is the town librarian, and she now understands that she can't save Dove Pond by herself. The town has been declining as businesses closed and people moved away. But, Sarah passionately loves her town, and knows the right person will come along, love the town, and help her save it. Grace Wheeler doesn't match Sarah's image of a savior.

Grace Wheeler's mother left her and her younger sister, Hannah, and the two ended up in the foster care system. Everyone wants to keep Hannah, but Grace's anger gets her in trouble at one home after another. Then, when she's ten, the caseworker takes them to Mrs. Giano, who sees Grace's anger immediately. With Mama G's wisdom, Grace learns to tame her anger until 2019 when Hannah dies, leaving behind her own eight-year-old daughter, Daisy. Because Mama G is in the first stages of Alzheimer's, and Daisy is lost, Grace quits her high-powered job, and moves the three of them to a rental house in Dove Pond, North Carolina. She hopes her job as town clerk will provide enough money to take care of them until Grace can move them all back to Charlotte. Sarah hopes Grace will step up as savior of the town, and stay forever.

Karen Hawkins' beautiful novel is a story of strong women of all ages. Grace's story is one of struggle, but she's determined to care for her family. If I told you it was a novel with a veteran who can't sleep, Mama G facing her loss of memory, Grace's struggle with keeping her family together, and Sarah's struggle to make friends with Grace and find answers for the town, The Book Charmer would sound like a depressing story. Yes, I cried, but it's a story of courage, a book with as much wisdom as some of those books who spoke to Sarah. There's humor, and, of course, there's those magical books. And, this is a book just begging for a sequel because Sarah's story is not yet complete.

Anyone who loves stories of magic and books and friendship should pick up The Book Charmer. If you're a fan of Sarah Addison Allen's books, you'll feel as if you came home.

Karen Hawkins' website is

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins. Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), 2019. ISBN 9781982105549 (paperback), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, August 16, 2019

Winners & Girls in Crime Fiction Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Both books are heading to Illinois. Leeza S. from Highland Park won Tell Me Everything. Someone We Know goes to Dianne C. from Elk Grove Village, IL. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away crime novels with girls in the title. I have a couple copies of Carter Wilson's The Dead Girl in 2A. Jake Buchannan doesn't know why he recognizes the woman sitting next to him on his flight to Denver. They both feel they've met before, but can't find the connection. Jake is left in shock when Clara tells him she's traveling to the Colorado mountains to kill herself, and she disappears into the airport. This is the story of what happens to Jake and Clara after they get off the plane, and the manipulative figure who brought them together.

The other book I have is Charles Cumming's The Moroccan Girl. Kit Carradine, a successful author is approached by MI6 and asked to carry out a simple task on behalf of his country while he attends a literary festival in Morocco. But, everything isn't as it seems. Carradine finds himself on the trail of Lara Bartok, a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement targeting prominent right-wing political figures around the world. Caught between competing intelligence services who wants Bartok dead, Carradine faces a choice: to abandon Bartok to her fate, or risk everything to try to save her.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read "Win The Dead Girl" or "Win the Moroccan Girl." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, August 22 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

What Are You Reading?

Last week, Sharon mentioned she had started the novel, The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins. I just finished that book.
I loved it, but I'll review it Saturday. Magical and romantic and sad, with a young woman who went through foster care, found a foster mother who loves her, lost her sister to drugs, but has custody of her sister's daughter. And, her foster mother develops Alzheimer's. That's the bare bones of the tragedy of the story, but nothing about the friendship and love and magic. That will all be in the review. Hopefully, Sharon will also mention the book here.

I'm also reading James Sallis' October release, Sarah Jane. I just started it, though, so I won't discuss it.

Instead, I'm waiting to see what you're reading this week. What are you reading? Would you tell us about it?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Have You Heard? Juliet Blackwell's Bewitched and Betrothed

While I have a copy of Juliet Blackwell's latest Witchcraft mystery, Bewitched and Betrothed, I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Fortunately, Sandie Herron had time to listen to the audiobook. She's sharing her comments here today. (Thank you, Sandie.)

Bewitched and Betrothed                                                           
Witchcraft Mystery, Book 10
Written by Juliet Blackwell (Julie Goodson-Lawes)
Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook
Tantor Audio (7/2/2019)
Listening Length: 8 hours and 54 minutes

Lily Ivory is tending her San Francisco vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora’s Closet, when one of her co-workers brings in a shirt believed to bean original Alcatraz prisoner shirt.  Using her witchy powers, Lily feels the evil in the shirt and warns everyone not to go near it.  An Alcatraz national park ranger picks up the shirt to bring it to Alcatraz for display, but she is kidnapped on Cora Closet’s doorstep along with the shirt.  

While Lily Ivory is planning her wedding to Sailor, she hardly has time to search for the missing woman, but she investigates where the shirt came from, how the owner came to have it and why.  She uncovers symbols that might tie it to a demon she had defeated at the School of Fine Arts years before.  She visits the school to discover the demon is loose.  Everyone in the magical community is becoming aware of a great disturbance in the aura around San Francisco.  

Lily’s grandmother, who raised her, her coven of 13 women, and Lily’s mother have arrived in town all together in a bus in which they’ve taken a circuitous route to California from Texas.  They deliberately took their time so their arrival would coincide not only with the date of Lily’s hand-fasting but also with this huge paranormal event.  After visiting her mentor, Aidan, head of the magical community, Lily realizes that this is a foretold event where a man and woman join forces to rule San Francisco.  Their combined powers would put them above all others, including Aidan.

Alcatraz prison, just a short distance from the city of San Francisco, would make an ideal location for this to happen.  Many believe the island is haunted and is cursed.  Lily investigates these allegations and discovers a very strong vibration in the prison, especially the dungeons underneath the prison.
Meanwhile preparations continue for Lily’s wedding.  Despite their busy lives, especially now with this supernatural event looming, Lily and Sailor manage to spend quality time together.

It comes as no shock that this supernatural showdown is going to occur during a festival planned by a local rich man out on the island.  Have Lily and Sailor and their community prepared sufficiently to fight a powerful duo of witches strengthened by a demon? Do they survive the event?  Do they get married?  

This was another charming and scary entry in the series by the Bay.  Lily has come of age here, discovering the extent of her witchy powers and also those of being a lovely woman coming into her own.  She has gained the support of many supernatural beings yet also has numerous mortal friends.  Lily is ready to share her life with Sailor.  I find myself cheering her on and hoping everything works out for her because she surely deserves it. The juxtaposition of good versus evil is very evident in several ways, but which will win out?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Twisted at the Root by Ellen Hart

I am not a fan of unreliable narrators in books. Ellen Hart does not feature an unreliable narrator in her latest Jane Lawless mystery, Twisted at the Root. However, I don't know when I've met such a dislikable cast of lying suspects.

Rashad May and Gideon Wise seemed to be happily married. However, when Gideon was murdered in their apartment, Rashad was found guilty and sent to prison for his husband's death. Now, four years later, Rashad's brother claims to have uncovered evidence that his brother was not guilty, that someone else was in the apartment that night. He takes it to Rashad's former lawyer, Ray Lawless, and asks him to examine the evidence and reopen the case.

It isn't as easy as Sherwin May thinks to reopen a homicide case. Ray asks his daughter, Jane, a restaurateur and part-time private investigator, if she'll look into it after she sees the evidence. Jane, who, like her father, believes that "truth existed and mattered", is willing to dig for answers and ask questions of the people who were involved at the time. The trail leads her to Gideon's daughter and son-in-law, and then to the family of fine art consultants who own J.H. Chenoweth Gallery. Marlo Wise is unwilling to cooperate with Jane, but her husband, George Krochak, is willing to talk about that night and that period of time.

When Jane talks with the Chenoweths, she finds a family with secrets. And, to her shock and horror, her brother, Peter, was once deeply involved with all of them. Peter's home from London, where he unexpectedly left his wife and daughter, but he won't talk about family issues. He won't cooperate with Jane's investigation of his friends, either.

It's been a number of years since I read one of the Jane Lawless mysteries. However, Hart still excels at mixing Jane's friendships and personal relationships with the mystery itself. They may have little to do with the mystery, however, as in the best mysteries, those personal relationships develop the character and keep them grounded in reality. While she investigates the cold case, Jane also deals with the return of her former lover who is now struggling with a cancer diagnosis. I have to admit, though, that Cordelia Thorn, theater creative director and Jane's best friend, is hardly capable of keeping anyone grounded. She's always been the comic relief in this series.

Despite the suspects (and, why shouldn't suspects be dislikable?), Twisted at the Root is a complex, intriguing mystery. Ellen Hart, named a Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America, is still at the top of her game with this latest investigation.

Ellen Hart's website is

Twisted at the Root by Ellen Hart. St. Martin's Minotaur, 2019. ISBN 9781250308429 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

In recent months, I've been talking about women and World War II with several other women, including my mother. We've commented about the large number of women's stories about the war years. My personal theory? The men's accounts of war and fighting have been told. It's only now that novelists have the chance to tell the stories of the heart, the stories of women who resisted or struggled to survive, saved others, lost their own lives. The stories of battle have been on the big stage. Women's stories are more intimate. For me, that means novels such as Ann Mah's The Lost Vintage have depth and insight into characters.

Kate Elliott's family roots are in Burgundy, France. She spent her summers there as a child, although she grew up in California. Although she loved Jean-Luc Valery, when he took over his family's vineyard at 21, she fled. She wasn't prepared for marriage, and to give her life to the vineyards as generations had.

Now, she's back in Burgundy for a visit, after ten years away. She's offered to help her cousin and his wife, her college friend, Heather, with the annual grape harvest. She's there, hoping to bone up on wines from the region as she prepares for her third and final Master of Wine exam. But, she's always had a mental block about wines from this region. It may have something to do with family and lost love.

There's a restlessness, an uneasy atmosphere in Nico and Heather's home. They have secrets, but it isn't until Heather asks Kate to help clean out the family cellar that bigger secrets are exposed. Those family secrets go back to World War II, and an unknown great-aunt Helene. Although the family patriarch warns Kate and Heather not to dig into the past, the two persist. Helene's story will haunt them, and change the paths of their lives.

Mah's handling of the story, and the history behind it, is skillfully done. She intersperses Kate's story and the story of the search for answers, with Helene's diary from the war years. And, then she twists the ending so that the reader, as well as Kate, is surprised. Family secrets can be the darkest, and the deepest ones.

As author Therese Anne Fowler said, the story is "rich in detail about French food, culture, history, and of course wine." It's also rich in the details of the lives of two related women, separated by decades, but connected by wine and family. It's a tragic story, as so many stories of women in wartime are, but it rewards the reader with that remarkable twist.

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah. William Morrow, reprint edition, 2019, 400p.

Publisher -

Ann Mah's website is

Katia Grimmer-Laversanne

About Ann Mah

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler,,, Washingtonian magazine, and other media outlets.
Find out more about Ann at her website, and connect with her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to participate in a TLC Book Tour.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Man Who Wouldn't Die by A.B. Jewell

I just found A.B. Jewell's novel, The Man Who Wouldn't Die, to be confusing. I'm usually a fan of detective novels, but much of this one was just odd.

In Silicon Valley, where everyone is into technology, one dinosaur still exists. William Fitzgerald, aka Fitch, is a world-class detective. That's why Tess Donogue turns to him after the death of her father, Capt. Don Donogue. Capt. Don was an eccentric genius, a technology legend. Tess claims he was designing a Spirit Box that allows people to send messages after they die. She insists her father is only "deadish" because she's getting messages from him saying his death wasn't an accident. Tess throws money at Fitch so he'll investigate.

For Fitch, the investigation means he questions everyone who appears too interested in the Spirit Box. At the same time, he's fighting off a gang called the Tarantulas. When the Tarantulas kidnap Fitch's husband to pressure him to turn over the box, nothing will stand in Fitch's way.

Fitch fits the mold of every hard-bitten, world-weary detective, as long as that detective is gay with a loving six-foot-two husband at home.There's nonstop action and humor in this over-the-top mockery of Silicon Valley and the pretense that innovation and technology are everything. At the same time, the detective novel is confusing.

Jewell is a pseudonym for a Pulitzer Prize-winning technology reporter who throws all his knowledge into this book.

The Man Who Wouldn't Die by A.B. Jewell. Morrow, 2019. ISBN 9780062201201 (paperback), 320p.

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

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Terns of Endearment by Donna Andrews

I admit that my sister is the big Donna Andrews/Meg Langslow fan in the family. However, in Terns of Endearment, there was less outrageous behavior than I expected. Meg was a capable, organized amateur sleuth, and she handled a terrible crisis with aplomb.

When Meg Langslow's grandfather, Dr. J. Montgomery Blake, signs on for the cruise ship lecture circuit, his contract allows him to bring others along. Fifteen members of the family and his team accompany him. Trevor Ponsonby-West, his assistant, tried to convince him not to travel with the small new cruise line, Pastime, but Blake is stubborn. Everything Meg sees convinces her that Trevor was right. And, where is Trevor anyways?

On the first night of the cruise, Meg spends time with members of a writers' group. When a diva shows up at dinner, the writers tell her they're convinced the woman caused the suicide of one of their friends. By the next morning, a crew member finds evidence the diva jumped off the ship. The captain calls it suicide, but before Meg and her father can investigate, or convince the captain the death warrants an investigation, the ship stalls on its way to Bermuda. The captain provides a lame excuse, and it isn't long before crew members are hard to find. There's no electricity, and no flushing toilets. Meg and her mother rally the passengers to take over the ship, but Meg is actually more interested in looking for missing people and bodies.

Terns of Endearment takes place in only a couple days, but it's slow-paced for almost half the book. It picks up speed, and interest, when the passengers take over the operation of the ship. The mystery is filled with interesting characters, a large cast that's skillfully utilized in the twenty-fifth book in the series.  While I thought the book wasn't bad because I don't often read the series, my sister was disappointed in the book with most of the family actually sidelined and the focus on Meg.

Donna Andrews' website is

Terns of Endearment by Donna Andrews. Minotaur Books, 2019. ISBN 9781250192974 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Friday, August 09, 2019

Winners and A Creepy Games Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Glenda S. from San Antonio, TX won The Chain. Chris B. of Saint Charles, MO will receive The Never Game. The books are going out in the mail today.

People are playing creeping games this week. I'm giving away a copy of Someone We Know by Shari Lapena, bestselling author of The Couple Next Door. "Maybe you don't know your neighbors as well as you thought you did." In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses, and into the owners' computers as well, learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too. After two anonymous letters from a parent are received by people in the neighborhood saying "my son broke into your house recently while you were out", whispers and rumors start to circulate. And, then a woman down the street is found murdered. "In this neighborhood, it's not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide."

Or, you could win Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman. A murder at at elite New England college tears apart a group of friends. In his first weeks at Hawthorne College, a tight-knit circle forms, friends that will stick together for four years. But, on the cusp of graduation, one young woman with a troubling past finds her secrets, and those of her friends, revealed. While she tries to stop the truth from coming out, a devastating chain of events ends in murder. Someone in that circle is playing a dangerous game.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Someone We Know" or "Win Tell Me Everything." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, August 15 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

What Are You Reading?

Happy Thursday! I missed talking with all of you last Thursday, but I was spending time talking with my Mom and sisters, which was great. We had a wonderful visit.

So, time to catch up. I did go back and read your comments, but it's not the same. What have you been reading this week? I'm reading Ann Mah's The Lost Vintage, about a woman who travels to the family vineyards in Burgundy, and discovers a family secret that leads back to World War II. There have been a number of novels about women in the war years, books that have come out since  The Nightingale. And, so many of them reflect the trauma women experienced, stories that really weren't written until women novelists started telling them.

So, what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh

Laura McHugh's latest novel, The Wolf Wants In, has a tone of desperation. It's a complex, large, messy family story, told by two desperate women in a community ravaged by the opioid crisis.

Sadie Keller is one of the narrators, desperate to find out how her brother died. In Blackwater, Kansas, too many deaths are because of opioids, but Sadie knows her brother wasn't an addict. He died at thirty-six, but the local police force is too busy to investigate one more death. A child's skull was found in the woods, and they're investigating that. Shane's death is just one more filed under drugs. To the police, he was a troublemaker. To Sadie, he was her protector. And, she mourns his death as much as his dog, Gravy, does.

At eighteen, Henley Pettit is used to coping with addicts and drunks. Her family is well-known in Blackwater as drunks and delinquents. Henley's uncles may try to help her mother out, a woman who relapses, disappears, and comes back, but Henley knows the men in her family are responsible for some of the drugs in the community. They're dealers, even though they want Henley to make something of herself. She wants to leave Blackwater, "where everyone knew she was a Pettit and what that was supposed to mean".

There are two timelines in this tortuous story. Henley's account starts in July before Shane dies. She knows more than anyone suspects. Sadie's account starts in November, a month after Shane's death. And, the narrations tangle together into a story of a troubled community, as both women uncover secrets and lies.

McHugh excels at creating the atmosphere of this community. Her writing draws readers in. Henley's raw feelings about Blackwater, and the life there evokes that feeling of desperation. "She'd felt it, too...the vacuum that threatened to swallow anyone who didn't leave right away. She was mired in small-town purgatory, a lonesome in-between that drove people to have babies or pop pills or take a job shoveling grain, anything for the sensation of moving forward in a place you couldn't escape."

You can't escape the raw emotion, the desperate atmosphere in Laura McHugh's The Wolf Wants In. She's written a troubling, powerful book of our time.

Laura McHugh's website is

The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh. Spiegel & Grau, 2019. ISBN 9780399590283 (hardcover), 272p.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Hit by Nadia Dalbuono

While Nadia Dalbuono's crime novel, The Hit, has been out in Australia and the U.K., this is the first edition published in the United States. The third Leone Scarmacio, set in the television world, is evidence of the author's knowledge of that field. She has been a documentary director and consultant for the last sixteen years.

Detective Leone Scarmacio is one of Rome's top police detectives. He doesn't understand why he's called in to investigate a hit-and-run, until his boss explains the wife and son of a prominent television executive, Micky Proietti, were kidnapped during the incident. A fake ambulance, even a fake witness, were involved. Proietti isn't very cooperative, although he's drinking heavily.

As Leone investigates, he learns a lot of people might have wanted to make Proietti sweat, including his brother-in-law. But, it's Micky's debt to the Mafiosa that makes Scarmacio sweat. Despite his own principles, he owes a debt to a boss who once a lieutenant in the Calabrian mob. Now, the only way to find answers, and to save himself, is to head to Calabria to ask questions of elderly men who once owed allegiance to Leone's dead father, a godfather of the mob in that area.

Scarmarcio is an intriguing character. This is an intricately plotted police procedural, the third in a series, following The American. It's an atmospheric, complex case involving the world of television production, Rome, and the Mafiosa. Readers who enjoy international crime novels, or police procedurals set in Italy, might want to try Nadia Dalbuono's books.

Nadia Dalbuono's website is

The Hit by Nadia Dalbuono. Scribe, 2019. ISBN 9781947534643 (paperback), 320p.


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

Monday, August 05, 2019

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost by Traci Wilton

If you're a fan of Cleo Coyle's Haunted Bookshop mysteries, or loved J.J. Cook's Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series, I have a book for you! I'm a sucker for those paranormal cozies in which a female amateur sleuth falls for the ghost of a good-looking man. Traci Wilton launches just such a series with Mrs. Morris and the Ghost.

After Charlene Morris' beloved husband is killed by a hit-and-run driver in Chicago, she takes all her money and buys an 8,000 foot estate sight unseen in Salem, Massachusetts, with plans to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. It needs some work and a lot of furniture, but Charlene's in love with the place. At least she is until the middle of the first night in her new home when she wakes up to find a good-looking man standing over her bed. He swears he won't hurt her. He's Jack Strathmore, Dr. Jonathan Benjamin Strathmore, Jr., and he needs her help. He owned the house until his death three years earlier. He can't remember the events leading up to his death, but he wants Charlene to find his killer.

Charlene is at a disadvantage. She doesn't know anyone in Salem, and doesn't know Jack's past, but, if she doesn't investigate, he just might ruin her chance to operate an elegant B&B. Although even the handsome police detective Sam Holden claims Jack died after falling down the stairs when he had a stroke, Charlene finds that odd for a forty-seven-year-old man. And, there was no autopsy. Jack's wife, Shauna, was a social climber who married Jack's best friend shortly after his death. While some of Jack's friends reluctantly talk about him and answer questions, Shauna refuses to meet her. And, then Charlene finds a body.

There's so much to enjoy if you're a fan of this type of cozy mystery. Readers get to know what Jack thinks of Charlene, not just what Charlene thinks. Jack isn't a meek ghost; he has a temper, and he displays it when he's upset about Charlene's sleuthing. There's a Persian cat that shows up, the only other creature that can see Jack. While the killer might come as a surprise, there are hints several times. The author plays fair with the reader. I appreciated the fact that Charlene and Jack are mature, both in their 40s, people who enjoyed their lives. They're not youngsters just starting out. Charlene might have asked too many questions for her own good, but it's hard to see what choice she had unless she wanted to lose her investment in the house.

When it comes right down to it, I'm a fan of this kind of mystery. I can't wait to read the second book, Mrs. Morris and the Witch.

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost by Traci Wilton. Kensington Books, 2019. ISBN 9781496721518 (paperback), 298p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen

In the course of the Royal Spyness series, Rhys Bowen's books have grown a little more serious. The two books that foreshadow World War II, including this one, Love and Death Among the Cheetahs, are quite serious.

After a short honeymoon on a houseboat, Lady Georgiana's new husband, Darcy O'Mara, surprises her with a honeymoon trip to Kenya. He finally admits he's going on assignment to catch a jewel thief, but Georgie had to push him for that confession. She suspects there's more to it than that, but doesn't push him any more immediately. And, Georgie herself has an assignment from Queen Mary. She wants her to keep an eye on the Prince of Wales because she suspects him may try to elope with Wallis Simpson.

The newlyweds head for Happy Valley, where the upper-class English live close enough together to party with drinks, drugs, and wife-swapping. Georgie is angry when she's propositioned on her honeymoon. She's shocked to observe the behavior of the upper-class. She stops Lord Cheriton's loutish behavior. However, when she and Darcy sneak out of the party early in the morning, they find him murdered along the road. Almost everyone had a motive to want him dead, but Georgie is the one who discovers the truth.

As in the award-winning author's eleventh in the series, On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service, Bowen takes a serious turn. She focuses on the depraved lifestyle of the English in Kenya, but does include a safari and air travel. Fans who read the books for the light humor may be disappointed. However, those readers who appreciate Bowen's knowledge of the pre- and post-war years, such as in In Farleigh Field, will be receptive to the atmospheric historical details.

Rhys Bowen's website is

Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen. Berkley Prime Crime, 2019. ISBN 9780451492845 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Gumshoe Rock by Rob Leininger

When one of my summaries encourages a family member to start a series, I consider it a success. My sister went back to pick up the first in Rob Leininger's series, Gumshoe, and she appreciated the humor. That's good enough for me. I wish I hadn't started with the fourth in the series, Gunshoe Rock, because there's so much I enjoyed about Mort Angel.

Private investigator in training, Mort Angel, has a dubious reputation as a locator of famous missing people. He's been known to find them, but instead of a live person, he finds some of their body parts when they're dead. After a meeting with their boss, Maude Clary, Ma, head of Clary Investigations, he and his lover/assistant, Lucy Landry, find someone ripped the roof of Lucy's Mustang convertible. They also dropped a human skull in to the driver's seat.

That skull belongs to Ronald Soranden, the missing chief IRS agent in northern Nevada. Clary Investigations' latest case now involves the police, the FBI, and, of course, the IRS. That case couldn't possibly link to the team's latest embezzlement investigation, could it? Well, Mort does have a knack for involvement in cases involving body parts and missing people.

The latest Gumshoe novel, Gumshoe Rock, is darkly humorous and unconventional. Mort Angel is aware of the absurdity of his career, and mentions Hammer and Spade watching. I enjoyed the snappy repartee, and the references to oldies radio, and classic detectives.

Gumshoe, the first book in the series, was a Shamus nominee. The author provides Mort's backstory while he continues to develop Mort's character. Readers who loved Robert B. Parker's Spenser for the quick wit, or Matt Goldman's Nils Shapiro, will appreciate the humor and investigative work in this fun example of the PI novel.

Rob Leininger's website is 

Gumshoe Rock by Rob Leininger. Oceanview Publishing, 2019. ISBN 9781608093304 (hardcover), 368p.

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

Friday, August 02, 2019

Winners and a Thriller Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Brian B. from Brockton, MA won City of Ink. Roman Count Down went to Charlotte W. from Covington, GA. The books went out in the mail on Wednesday.

This week, I'm giving away two thrillers. I want to provide a little background about the first one, Adrian McKinty's The Chain. This is a signed hardcover of the bestseller. I bought it just to give away here on the blog. The book is now a New York Times Bestseller, and it was one of the finalists for the Tonight Show's summer reading book. Rachel Klein drops her daughter, Kylie, at the bus stop, then later receives a call from a woman who says she kidnapped Kylie. In order for Rachel to get her daughter back, she must kidnap another child. The woman's own son was kidnapped, and if Rachel doesn't do as she's told, both children will die. Rachel is now part of The Chain, a scheme that turns ordinary people into criminals. The masterminds behind The Chain know parents will do anything for their children. But, they don't know Rachel.

Jeffery Deaver introduces a new series with The Never Game. A young woman has gone missing in Silicon Valley, and her father hires Colter Shaw to find her. The son of a survivalist family, Shaw is an expert tracker. Now he makes a living as a "reward seeker", traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. But what seems a simple investigation thrusts him into the dark heart of America's tech hub and the billion-dollar video gaming industry.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win The Chain" or "Win The Never Game." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Aug. 8 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

What Are You Reading?

I'll be honest. I haven't read a thing in the last week. My family, Mom and sisters, arrived yesterday, and I spent my spare time cleaning. Now, the place wasn't filthy, but I had to discover the spare bedroom under piles of books. It takes time to move all of those. With company, I might not be around much today, so feel free to talk among yourselves. And, if you're a thriller reader, you might want to stop back tomorrow to see this week's giveaway.

In the meantime, what are you reading? Even if I'm dropping in, I'll be reading everything on Saturday. I may have to catch up, but I'm still curious. What are you reading?