Sunday, May 31, 2020

Distractions

Monday is the July Treasures in My Closet post, so I hope people show up today for the weekly conversation. How are you doing? Do you need distractions? What are you doing if you can't push yourself to read a book?

I slept late yesterday, or I should say, I went back to bed. I find that getting back into the world, even when I'm in a closed floor on the library, is tiring. Wearing a mask for meetings or when leaving my office, careful around other people, not getting to spend time and hugs with my best friend. I don't have it anywhere near as rough as others. I have an office, and don't have to wear my mask when I'm alone in there. Even so, it wears on me. So, I end up crashing on the weekend.

I did spend an hour on the phone with a friend, Aubrey Nye Hamilton, and we talked mysteries for most of the time, which is always fun. I'm finishing up a series of dvds that were originally on Hallmark, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" about a dead letter office at the Post Office. It's one of those touching series. Remember when "Touched by an Angel" was on TV? It sort of has that same feeling.

And, my mother and I worked on some genealogy over the phone, after finding a point where I skipped a generation.

Those were my distractions in the last week. What have you been doing?

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander

One of my librarian friends has been recommending Ellie Alexander's Bakeshop mysteries to me for a couple years. I finally picked up the first in the series because I was so satisfied with the forthcoming book in Alexander's Sloan Krause series. I like the solid cast of characters, small town, and the ongoing storylines with character development. It looks like the Bakeshop series, beginning with Meet Your Baker, will have the same.

Juliet Capshaw left Ashland, Oregon for culinary school, and then didn't return. She fulfilled her dream of sailing the world, working on cruise ships, and even married a chef. But, her discovery of letters written to Carlos sends her home to her mother, the family bakery, and the small town known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. But, there's trouble in Ashland, both with the bakery and with the OSF, as residents fondly call the festival.

The delicious pastries made by Jules and her mother draw all kinds of people. One is Nancy Hudson, who seems to be an obnoxious woman even when Jules meets her. She uses her money and position on the festival board to try to take over control of the festival. When Jules finds her body in the unlocked bakery early one morning, the police look at the people who were in the bakery for a midnight meeting. One more problem for Jules' mother, who is already worried about keeping the bakery afloat.

Because Jules' high school boyfriend, Thomas Andrews, is a deputy, he makes the mistake of asking her to listen to the chatter in the bakery. That request pulls Jules further into the case, and, even after a couple attacks, she's unwilling to give up her role in the investigation. Before a killer is caught, Jules is caught up in a sticky mess.

Meet Your Baker is the first in Alexander's earlier series, and she's written two other series, plus the Sloan Krause one. As an author, she's come a long way since this mystery. I enjoyed it, and I picked up the next two in the series. However, Jules is too impulsive in this first book, and she has one of the worst traits of an amateur sleuth. She tries to beat the police to interview people, or tries to beat them to a scene to investigate. In comparison, Sloan Krause turns everything she knows over to the police. And, in this one, it didn't take me long to figure out who dunnit.

However, there are personal issues that will continue in future books, just what readers of a series expect. And, I like the characters. It's unusual for a deputy to also deliver flowers from his parents' florist, but it works with the small town setting. Alexander is skilled in developing the setting, a tourist town that draws visitors, but is also forced to deal with Oregon's environmental issues when there's a nearby fire. And, just as in the other series I'm reading, the author instructs readers as to the profession of the protagonist, keeping the story interesting and flowing at the same time.

So, my friend is right. The setting, the bakery, the characters. I already have the next book, A Batter of Life and Death.

Note: If your library is still closed, but you can check out online items through them, Meet Your Baker might be available through Overdrive and your public library. Remember, libraries do purchase these items for your use.

Ellie Alexander's website is https://www.elliealexander.co/

Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander. St. Martin's, 2015. ISBN 9781250054234 (paperback), 316p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book




Friday, May 29, 2020

The Blues Don't Care by Paul D. Marks

As much as I loved Paul D. Marks' mystery, The Blues Don't Care, it's going to be a difficult book to review. The summary won't give away anything that isn't on the book jacket. However, I'll never be able to capture and define the voice and the atmosphere Marks creates for this engrossing story.

Bobby Saxon's life is a revelation to his daughter, Diane. She didn't know about his life in LA in the 1940s. But, Booker "Boom-Boom" Taylor. leader of a hot jazz big band of that era, has a story to tell about Bobby Saxon. Bobby was a talented piano player, the only white musician in Taylor's all-black swing band. But, Bobby had to become something he was not, a detective, in order to make his way into the band. In fact, Bobby spent his whole life hiding the truth. He was born Roberta Saxon, but, in order to make his living as a musician in the 1940s, he had to live as a man.

Saxon met Taylor at Club Alabam, a black club in LA. He was invited to accompany the band when they performed on the gambling ship Apollo. And, he witnessed the argument between one of the band members, James Christmas, and a German guest on the ship. When the German, Dietrich, was found murdered, it was easy for the police to arrest James. That arrest was a turning point in Bobby Saxon's life. Booker told him if he wanted a permanent spot in the band, he had to solve the case, and find out if James was guilty or innocent. The only qualification Bobby Saxon has to be a detective? Booker calls it a passport. Bobby Saxon is white.

Marks manages to combine so many elements in a complicated mystery. Of course, there's Bobby's own issues with his transgender identity at a time when it wouldn't be accepted, and Bobby himself was confused about it. There are racial issues, issues of acceptance of blacks in white neighborhoods, restrooms, clubs. However, the racial issues went both ways. While Bobby felt comfortable in a black club, he wasn't as comfortable in a black hotel. There are issues too embedded in the mystery to discuss, issues of World War II.

While The Blues Don't Care is a complex, sometimes brutal, story, it also has its glimmers of beauty and joy. Those glimpses come from Bobby's passion for music, and his awe when he sees celebrities such as Clark Gable and Billie Holiday. Wander into Bobby Saxon's world in Paul D. Marks' latest book. It's a world you won't easily forget.

Paul D. Marks' website is https://pauldmarks.com/

The Blues Don't Care by Paul D. Marks. Down & Out Books, 2020. ISBN 9781643960500 (paperback), 400p.

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





Thursday, May 28, 2020

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading this week? I have nothing new to report since Monday, as you can tell from my blog and my use of Sandie Herron's reviews. Thank heavens for Sandie! I'm still reading Cursed, the anthology featuring fairy tales and folktales centered on a curse. This is one of the strongest story collections I've read in quite a while.

What about you? Have you read anything good, or have you been disappointed in your latest books? I hope you've found books to read even if your public library is still closed.

NOTE: Monday is June 1. We would normally talk about distractions, but Treasures in My Closet will run on Monday, and I have an author's piece scheduled for Tuesday. So, I'm moving Distractions to Sunday, May 31. Please drop in on Sunday to let us know how you're doing, and if you found distractions this week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Have You Heard? - William Kent Krueger's Blood Hollow

Three day weekend. Wouldn't you think I would have a couple books backed up for the blog? Actually, I've been reading for Library Journal instead of for me, although I read two good books. You won't see reviews until August and October, though, from that reading. So, right now, I'm sharing one of Sandie Herron's reviews, the audiobook of William Kent Krueger's Blood Hollow. Thank you, Sandie.


BLOOD HOLLOW                                                                                   

Cork O’Connor mystery #4
Written by William Kent Krueger
Narrated by David Chandler
Unabridged Audiobook
Recorded Books (8/29/2007) (originally published 2004)
Listening Length:  11 hours and 15 minutes
Anthony Award for Best Novel

It is January 2nd when Cork O’Connor, former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota, helps with search and rescue under the retiring Sheriff Wally Shanno.  On New Year’s Eve, teenaged Charlotte Kane took off on a snowmobile on a trail that broke off into dozens of others.  An oncoming blizzard cut the search and rescue short with no satisfaction.

Spring came, and Charlotte’s body was found in a snow bank.  Despite his no longer being the sheriff, Cork often found ways to accompany law enforcement.  The new sheriff, Arne Soderberg, was more interested in his political career than the duties of sheriff, and he ran Cork off the scene, ignoring his advice.  Bigotry and bureaucracy raised their ugly heads.

These days Cork runs Sam’s Place, a burger stand in an old Quonset hut on the shores of Iron Lake left to him by Sam Winter Moon.  Sam’s sister Dot comes to see Cork along with Cork’s wife Jo, explaining that Dot’s son Solemn has disappeared and that the sheriff is looking for him.  Known for his temper and occasional disappearances, Dot isn’t worried about Solemn, but the sheriff wasn’t going to be content and wait for Solemn to show up.  Cork knows exactly where to find Solemn, a place full of Sam’s spirit deep in the woods.  Shortly afterward, Cork and Jo, now Solemn’s attorney, accompany Solemn to the sheriff’s station where he turns himself in.  The evidence connecting Solemn to Charlotte’s murder is overwhelming.  The sheriff seemed to think Solemn would confess, Perry Mason-style, but Solemn bolts and runs.

Elder and Midewiwin Henry Meloux, member of the Grand Medicine Society, lives on Iron Lake and helps Solemn complete giigwishimowin, the ritual where a boy is sent into the woods to live off the land until a vision comes to him which will guide the rest of his life.  Not until Kitchimanidoo had granted him the vision was the young man to return, changed from boy to man.  Solemn’s quest took 16 days.  Then he was ready to face up to the white man’s laws and prove his innocence.

As I listened to the audio version of this book, I could sense the cold, smell the cut grass, feel my breath stop with danger.  Author Krueger, via narrator David Chandler, has an easy flow to his words that are filled with spirituality and teachings and miracles.  Not only does he present a mysterious problem to be solved, but also much more poignant dilemmas to be considered.  I think mostly with patience that the rightness of the world will win in the end.  Perhaps Cork O’Connor is beginning to find the peace he has been seeking.

*****
Note: Just a reminder. If your public library is still closed, they might have a downloadable copy of Blood Hollow if they subscribe to RBdigital. If so, you might be able to listen to Blood Hollow through the copy your public library bought.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm

I liked the concept of The Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm more than I liked the book. But, I did finish it. It just felt rushed. The relationship felt rushed. And, the child's adjustment felt rushed. It just felt as if there was an oversimplification of all the relationships and emotions. Granted, the women's relationships were actually as important as the romantic one in the book, but, for me, everything felt a little bit off.

Amy Shannon. Bridget. Hazel. Nichole. The four women met when they were taking their parents to chemotherapy in Anchorage, Alaska. Hazel's father was the first to die, followed by Amy's mother and Hazel's. Nichole's father is in remission, and she has survivor's guilt. Why has she attended three funerals, and she's the lucky one whose father is still alive? The four women form the Sunday Potluck Club to continue their friendship and support of each other in the months after the chemo ends.

Now, three months after her mother's death, Amy's ready to take the first steps back to life. She's a second grade teacher, returning to her classroom. Two events shake her up. After picking up fast food on her way home, a dog runs in front of her car. When she slams on the brakes, a car slams into her. She's not shaken enough that she doesn't notice the handsome man who hit her, and then rushes off to pick up his kid after school. And, one of her students refuses to talk and is struggling. When she contacts Olivia's father, Trent, he turns out to be the man who rear ended her. He's also a widower whose wife died of cancer five months earlier.

While Amy struggles with her attraction to a student's father, Bridget is too over-the-top with energy following her mother's death. She's on break from veterinary school, so she volunteers at an animal shelter. Two weeks before Valentine's Day, she takes on a project to find homes for all the dogs and cats, a project called Date-a-Rescue. Suddenly, Bridget's project becomes a project for all of her friends.

Bridget's story is an essential element of the book, but the second book in the series will focus on her. This is Amy's story, "long-suffering, peacekeeper Amy", who chose her role in life, and in her group. There are a number of cliches in the book, especially in Amy's life. Although the book takes place in only a couple months, it's as if Amy has multiple personalities and emotional growth in that period of time.

As I said, I thought the story of four friends who connected at the hospital would have more depth than it did. There is little character development. We never really learn much about Trent, the man Amy falls for. I think that's what I missed in The Sunday Potluck Club. I wanted more depth and character development, more depth to Trent and his daughter, Olivia. The characters all just seemed a little too ready to move on. Yes, I agree that everyone grieves in their own way, another comment in the book. But, it seems unlikely that a second grader would be ready for her father to fall in love again just five months after her mother's death. As I said, everything seems just a little rushed in this book.

Melissa Storm's website is www.melstorm.com

The Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm. Kensington, 2020. ISBN 9781496726643 (paperback), 259p.

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






Monday, May 25, 2020

Distractions

Here in the U.S., it's Memorial Day, and my Mom & sister would normally be going to cemeteries to put flowers on graves. The pandemic has changed even the simple family things.

My distraction this past week has been music. I've been following a stage show called Celtic Thunder for over ten years now. They originally started in 2007, and I followed them soon after my husband, Jim, died. They've been a comfort to me ever since. I've been all over the country to see them - Arizona, California, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee. The performers are men from Ireland, and, originally Scotland as well. Performers have changed over the years, although three of the singers remain with the group. And, I've watched it change from a formal stage show to a performance in which the singers address the audience. It's always been fun, entertaining, and a combination of Celtic music with some Canadian and American songs that fit. This past week, they did hour long shows on StageIt, a venue for online performers. Each evening, two of the members replayed some of the highlights of their shows, and talked about them. On Saturday afternoon, six of the members, former and present, did a Zoom presentation, and each one highlighted their favorite number from the shows. It was just what I needed - music and humor.

This week, I'll be working on Treasures in My Closet for June 1. (Hard to believe it's going to be June already.) Treasures in My Closet takes time to put together, to write the short summaries and find the book covers and release dates. I enjoy it, but it is time-consuming. So, that's my distraction for this coming week.

What about you? How are you doing? What is getting you through right now?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A Call for Kelp by Bree Baker

Bree Baker's Seaside Cafe mysteries have become some of my favorite cozies. As someone who  reads for character, I appreciate the amateur sleuth, Everly Swan, and the strong supporting cast, including the almost-obligatory police detective who is interested in the sleuth. In the case of the latest book, A Call for Kelp, I appreciate Everly's self-awareness. Her summary could be the slogan for almost all amateur sleuths. "I consistently bumble into the killer's clutches while Grady follows legal channels to prepare a case and make an arrest."

Everly Swan is the owner of a tea shop and cafe on Charm, North Carolina in the Outer Banks. The Swan women founded the town when they fled the Salem witch trials, and they've had a strong bond with the island ever since. Everly returned there, to the town where her great-aunts, Fran and Clara, are beekeepers and shop owners. Now, a Hollywood icon, Mitzi Calgon, is in town. She was a close friend to Everly's grandmother, and agreed to do the voice work for a documentary film to save the American honeybee. Mitzi's fans are swarming the island.

There's a welcome luncheon planned before the filming begins. Just before the luncheon, Mitzi confides she has two hundred letters to give Everly that her grandmother, Hazel, wrote. There's always been a mystery about Hazel. She went to Hollywood, but returned, pregnant, and never told anyone who the father was. Everly is hopeful she can find clues to the family mystery. Instead, she's caught up in the drama of Mitzi's murder, when she's found dead in a plexiglass bee box.

How many times has Detective Grady Hays warned Everly not to ask questions and get involved in murder investigations by throwing around her "theories"? By now, people in the town, and even the local media, ask Everly if she's going to investigate. And, Everly does have theories, although someone sends her warnings such as "Don't Bee Stupid." After she's locked in a room, and has documents stolen from her, Everly knows someone is close, watching.

Part of the charm of a cozy mystery series is the cast of characters, and the development of relationships, storylines and backstories. There's a mayoral race going on in Charm. Everly's former lover, a rodeo cowboy, now works for the nature center. The Swan family has a fascinating history and a family archive. But, one of the most interesting stories is Grady's. For a change, it's the police detective, not the amateur sleuth, who has a troubled family history. Grady and his son, Denver, are attractive characters in the cast.

As with many cozy mysteries, readers might pick it up for the setting or the occupation of the amateur sleuth. Readers come back because of the characters and their relationships. The characters and the ongoing storyline just continues to get better in Bree Baker's series, now in A Call for Kelp.

Bree Baker's website is www.breebaker.com

A Call for Kelp by Bree Baker. Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks, 2020. ISBN 9781728205724 (paperback), 352p.

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


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hide Away by Jason Pinter

I seldom read thrillers. In fact, I agree with the way the British handle mysteries and thrillers and  suspense novels, lumping them together as crime fiction. Jason Pinter's Hide Away fits the crime fiction category. It has elements of all of those types of books, plus a little of police procedural. The most important element, though, is a woman not easily forgotten.

It started as a simple family evening, waiting dinner before her husband came home and her son returns from a friend's. Seven years later, Rachel Marin won't forget the night her family and their lives were torn apart by violence. She's a single mother, working a mid-level job as a legal secretary in Ashby, Illinois. She's fiercely protective of her two children. Rachel is now knowledgeable enough to recognize other victims. When she sees the televised story of Constance Wright's plunge from a bridge, she leaves an anonymous message for the police. Wright, the former mayor of Ashby, did not commit suicide. And, Marin tells them why she knows that.

Detective John Serrano and his partner Leslie Tally are working Wright's case. When Serrano hears Marin's call, he and Tally track her down to question her. They already know the story of Wright's fall from favor in the town, the story of her family and her own scandal and divorce. It's the story of a wealthy family with all the right connections, and all the wrong results. Serrano even has a grudge against Wright. But, it won't stop his investigation. And, the police can't seem to stop Marin as she shows up time and again during their investigation, and pushes too far.

I could easily ruin the reading of Hide Away by revealing too much. However, it's a riveting book, and I don't want to ruin anyone's enjoyment of this compelling story. Instead of talking about the plot, I'm going to talk about character a little. In Rachel Marin, Pinter introduces a complex woman who could have been destroyed by her past. Instead, she builds on it, for her own safety, and her children's security. She refuses to be a victim. While that determination becomes one of her greatest strengths, at times that obsession also becomes her greatest flaw. Sometimes, she goes too far when she's attempting to make things right. Pinter doesn't forget balance in this book, though. John Serrano is a cop with his own history, a backstory that, while not as violent as Marin's, is also tragic.

Whether you're looking for a thriller, a suspenseful story, a police procedural, or a novel with well-developed, intriguing characters, you can find what you're looking for in Jason Pinter's Hide Away. It's my understanding it's the first in a series. I can't wait.

Jason Pinter's webpage is www.JasonPinter.com

Hide Away by Jason Pinter. Thomas & Mercer, 2020. ISBN 9781542005906 (paperback), 360p.

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


Friday, May 22, 2020

Have You Heard? William Kent Krueger's Purgatory Ridge

It was perfect timing when Sandie Herron emailed me with several reviews. Although I am so close to the end of Jason Pinter's Hide Away, I've been caught up with family and work, and I don't want to rush the review. Take my word for it. It's excellent, and I'll have a review. In the meantime, Sandie reviewed the audiobook of William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor mystery, Purgatory Ridge.

PURGATORY RIDGE
Cork O’Connor Mystery #3                                                                    

Written by William Kent Krueger
Narrated by David Chandler
Unabridged Audiobook
Recorded Books (2/15/2011) (originally published 2001)
Listening Length: 12 hours 51 minutes
Barry Award Nominee for Best Novel, Dilys Award Nominee, Minnesota Book Award for Popular Fiction

In Cork O’Connor’s third adventure, author Kent Krueger brings us back to Iron Lake, the Boundary Waters, and the town of Aurora, Minnesota next to the Indian reservation.  Once sheriff of Tamarack County, Cork finds himself involved in a local dispute to save a treasured stand of trees the Anishinaabe call Our Grandfathers.  Eco-warriors from around the country have joined local native men to fight the timber and logging industries from cutting down this magnificent stand of pines.  An explosion at the Lindstrom mill kills a man, pointing suspicion toward local tribal members, but the clues simply do not piece together easily. 

Across Grace Cove from Karl Lindstrom’s home lives John LePere, alone after losing his family to the waters of Lake Superior.  As a young man, he was the sole survivor of the sinking of the Alfred M. Teasdale, which went down on its final voyage along with John’s younger brother Billy.  The scar of that journey has left John deeply wounded.  A stranger who read LePere’s story in a magazine comes to town with tales of possible sabotage and bankrolls LePere’s dives to the wreckage of the ship.

Suddenly Cork is thrown into a much more immediate disaster: the kidnapping of his wife and son along with Lindstrom’s wife and son.  Local law enforcement and the FBI search for connections between the threats of the Eco-Warrior and the claims of the kidnapper with little success.  Cork isn’t sheriff any more, but his instincts and knowledge of the land and the people guide him.

Through this journey, Kent Krueger treats us to descriptions of the land and the reservation that are lyrical.  He introduces us to characters such as Henry Meloux, the Midewiwin to whom Cork turns in times of trouble; to Hell Hanover, blackmailing newspaperman; to Wally Shanno, who inherited Cork’s job as sheriff after an incident years before forced a recall election; to the Anishinaabe people, of whom Cork is part.  Alongside the beauty, Krueger describes the anger, the bitterness, and the dark forces that drive men to perform acts of rage, which seem so much more despicable next to the magnificence of nature.

As questions swirled like the smoke plaguing Aurora during the dry summer, the tension ramped up.  When flames engulfed the kidnapped victims, I sat on the edge of my seat and stayed there.  I audibly gasped at that moment when the certain realization hit that brought the entire book together.  It was a surprise, and I did not put the book down until the very end when beauty once again poked its nose from the charred earth.

This is my second reading of the book, this time on audio.  Narrator David Chandler does not hurry his way through either the quiet passages or the tense descriptions of nature’s fury nor the anger of men.  He is a strong, steady voice recanting Cork O’Connor’s story and the wider tale of the Anishinaabe people.  Definitely recommended.

*****
NOTE from Lesa - William Kent Krueger's Purgatory Ridge is published in audiobook by Recorded Books. Your library might have a copy for you to check out online under RBdigital. Again, just a reminder that libraries buy these for our users.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What Are You Reading?

At the time I'm writing this, I'm reading Jason Pinter's Hide Away, but it's so good that I'm sure I'll have finished it before you read this post. That means you'll see the review here on Friday. In the meantime, here's just the elevator pitch summary - "a page-turning thriller about a vigilante who’s desperate to protect her secrets—and bring a killer to justice.

On the surface, Rachel Marin is an ordinary single mother; on the inside, she’s a fierce, brilliant vigilante. After an unspeakable crime shatters her life, she changes her identity and moves to a small town in Illinois, hoping to spare her children from further trauma…or worse. But crime follows her everywhere."

Every word above is true. It is a page-turner, and I'm loving the characters in this. 





I am also reading a book called Cursed, an anthology edited by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane. "Twenty curses, old and new, from bestselling fantasy authors such as Neil Gaiman, Karen Joy Fowler, Christina Henry, M.R. Carey and Charlie Jane Anders.

ALL THE BETTER TO READ YOU WITH

It's a prick of blood, the bite of an apple, the evil eye, a wedding ring or a pair of red shoes. Curses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can happen to anyone, not just those of us with unpopular stepparents... 

Here you'll find unique twists on curses, from fairy tale classics to brand-new hexes of the modern world - expect new monsters and mythologies as well as twists on well-loved fables. Stories to shock and stories of warning, stories of monsters and stories of magic."

I've only read three stories in Cursed so far, but that second one, with a twist on Snow White? Wow! This is a book to pick up, read a story, and put it down again.

What are you reading this week? Or, are you doing something else with your time? I know it's not easy to get into reading right now. If you like a fast-paced, exciting book, you might want to try Hide Away. Maybe you'd prefer to just tell us what you're doing. What's important is you take care of yourself, and find some time to just breathe.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Beach Read by Emily Henry

It may be titled Beach Read, but don't pick up Emily Henry's latest novel expecting a light, fluffy romance. It has its moments, but it's a story about a woman grieving the loss of her father, and a man who is still looking for people to trust after a childhood of abuse. Henry says, "When friends ask me what  Beach Read is about, I tell them it's about a disillusioned romance author and a literary fiction writer who make a deal to swap genres for the summer. When other writers ask me what Beach Read is about, I tell them it's about writer's block."

January Andrews watched her father love her mother through two bouts of cancer, and she brought her belief in happily-ever-after to her romance novels. But, her faith comes crashing down at her father's funeral when "the other woman" gives January the keys to a beach house in Michigan that she never knew her father owned. When January learns her mother knows about Sonya, January's world falls apart. She can't write. She has a deadline. She heads to North Bear Shores, Michigan to prepare the house for sale, and to brood. But, her first night there is ruined by a party at the beach house next door.

Maybe her entire summer is ruined when January discovers the grumpy man next door is her college rival, Augustus Everett. She remembers every encounter she ever had with him, and how he challenged and criticized her in writing classes. He went on to write a bestselling literary novel, even then a couple notches above her on the bestsellers list. To make it worse, the owner of the local bookstore invites January to her book club. January finds Sonya there, and Gus arrives before the discussion starts. By the time the odd discussion is over, January is too drunk to drive home, and Gus offers her a ride.

When asked, January spills her guts and tells Gus about her father and her writer's block, that she can't write romance. He suggests they swap genres for the summer. He'll try to write a romance, although he doesn't believe in happily-ever-after, and she can try to write a literary novel. She agrees, with the provision that they bet on it, and to help the other person, on Friday, he'll take her places to show her his research style, and on Saturdays, she can plan something that would inspire a romantic comedy.

Sounds cute, doesn't it? But, January and Gus are both dealing with pain, and it's not so easy for either of them to reach out, or to trust. It's those painful elements that add depth to this book, and reality to the characters. While I picked up Beach Read looking for a fun escape, I kept reading it because I liked the voice in the story, and the reality of the characters. Any happily-ever-after in Beach Read will come because January and Gus work for it. The two characters both have issues, but it was January's issues with her father that finally brought tears.

Oh, and readers? You'll want to check out the books in Emily Henry's beach bag. The list includes some of the most popular romances of recent years, such as The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory and The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. They're right there along with Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude. And, there's more. My kind of eclectic reader.

Beach Read by Emily Henry. Jove (Berkley), 2020. ISBN 9781984806734 (paperback), 384p.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Distractions

I really do want to know how you're doing. Yesterday's post was scheduled way back before the world closed down, when I still thought I'd be in Australia for the first part of May. Abby and I picked May 18 because I didn't expect to be back in the country in time for her book release. And, I certainly wasn't posting "Distractions" on Mondays way back then. It seems forever ago, doesn't it?

As I said, I'm back at work. Our system is planning to start curbside service at all of the libraries on June 1. We still won't be open to the public yet, but at least people will be able to pick up books they've placed on hold. I have to say our library users have been very patient.

My biggest distraction is still FoodTV. I don't really cook much, but I enjoy watching some of the shows while I'm eating. Other than that, I spend my weekends reading and watching all the wildlife outside my back door - squirrels, rabbits, quite a few ducks. And, one of the squirrels, George, loves to come right up to the door and taunt one of my cats.

George




So, what have you been doing lately as distractions? Most important, how are you?

Monday, May 18, 2020

Abby L. Vandiver, Guest Author

Note: I do have a "Distraction" for my regular readers today, a guest post by author Abby L. Vandiver. I hope you enjoy it, and then stop back tomorrow for the "Distractions" post and we can all catch up.
*****

There are several reasons Abby L. Vandiver is guest author today. She's launching a new series, written as Abby Collette. A Deadly Inside Scoop is the first book, set in an ice cream shop. And, when I saw it was set in Chagrin Falls, I asked her if she was from Cleveland. Because I'm from Ohio, I recognized the city. Her answer is not in this post, so I'll include it. "Yes! I'm from Cleveland. Grew up in East Cleveland and now live in South Euclid. I just thought it would be fun to write a book set at home. I hijacked the popcorn shop that sits over the falls and turned it into an ice cream parlor."

Thank you, Abby, for taking time to write this post.

*****

Google It!
By Abby L. Vandiver

I google everything! I can’t watch a movie, have a telephone conversation or read a book without googling about whatever new information it has sent my way. I blame it on me being a lifelong learner. Every day I try to learn something new and don’t ever mind sharing what I’ve gleaned with others.
These googling sessions, however, don’t always do make me smarter. For me, it’s like on that movie Fifty First Dates, my long term memory in my old age is shot! Not long after my “research,” I lots of times can’t recall but a fraction of the things I’ve read. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to broaden my horizons. Which, I suppose is a good thing, with one exception—when I do research on how to commit murder.
I write murder mysteries—cozies to be exact. And in all my books I like to include a few facts with my fiction. Understanding what I write and being knowledgeable enough to write correctly say the manner of death for a character, is important not only to me, but to my readers. It makes my stories more believable and that much more fun. But can you just imagine what my computer’s browser history must look like? I’ve queried on things like:
What are quick acting poisons? How long does it take for antifreeze to kill a person? What are unusual ways to die? Is there a poison that isn’t traceable even after death?
Oh my!
I have truly worried what would happen if for some reason a branch of law enforcement had to search my computer. What would they think? How long would it take for them to “invite” me down to the station for a conversation.
How much trouble would I be in?
It would probably be easy enough to prove that I write books (even though everything I’ve researched hasn’t ended up in one). And I’m sure (I hope) there won’t be any dead bodies associated with me if my computer was confiscated so someone could comb through my hard drive, but I can tell you, I’d be pretty embarrassed.
I like coming up with unusual ways of death in my books, especially in my Logan Dickerson Cozy Mystery series. The main characters in the six-book series are an archaeologist and a nonagenarian Voodoo herbalist who has a knack for being able to call the cause of death before an autopsy can be done. In the first book, A Bed & Breakfast Bedlam, the victim, Gemma, dies from dry drowning. That took a lot of internet research.
And recently, I’ve piled on to my computer history with dozens of searches on how succinylcholine can kill for my new book, A Deadly Inside Scoop. Succinylcholine is a drug that paralyzes the entire body and asphyxiates the victim if left to work on its own. I think I may have spent an entire day following links on how it works, how it kills and where to get it from. I learned a lot about it, sure enough, and I’ve shared it (ahh, but if you want to find out about what I’ve learned, don’t worry, you won’t have to fill up your internet search history, all you’ll have to do is read my new book).
In A Deadly Inside Scoop, my amateur sleuth, Win, solves murders with her friends and family while working in her family’s ice cream shop. You can read all about how succinylcholine is a sure-fire recipe for death and then follow the recipes at the end of the book to make yummy, smooth ice cream (another fruitful internet search). Ice cream and murder, what a match!
     I have considered erasing my search history, only to find in one of my “google hunts” that law enforcement can even retrieve things that have been deleted from your hard drive. Oh my  . .

Abby L. Vandiver
also writing as Abby Collette
USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author
INSIDE DEADLY SCOOP Pre-order here: bit.ly/ScoopPRH

*****
Inside Deadly Scoop by Abby Collette. Berkley, 2020. 

This book kicks off a charming cozy mystery series set in an ice cream shop—with a fabulous cast of quirky characters.

Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family's ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she's going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.

To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It's not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she'll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown...

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Rigged by D.P. Lyle

From what I've read, the first books in D.P. Lyle's series might have been thrillers. But, the latest "Jake Longly Thriller", Rigged, is not. It was fun, and I really enjoyed the characters. Jake reminds me a little of Archie Goodwin with his wisecracks. He also reminds me of all of those private investigators who are run over by women.

When Rigged opens, Jake is on trial. Fortunately, his ex-wife's new husband, a savvy attorney named Walter Horton, gets him off. Walter later hires Longly Investigations for another case. That firm is owned by Jake's father, Ray, and he sends Tommy "Pancake" Jeffers to Fairhope, Alabama on that case. Pancake and Jake both went to school with Emily, and she was Pancake's sixth-grade girlfriend. Now, she's Emily Patterson, and she hired Horton as her divorce attorney. He wants Longly Investigations to dig into background. What does he need to know about Emily and her husband, Sean?

Pancake, who knows his way around computers, knows all about the Pattersons' finances. Everything looks good. But, Emily doesn't show up for her meeting with him, or for her job, and her employer says she's reliable. After a few other meetings, Pancake goes looking for her. Because he finds her car, and her new boyfriend's truck at her house, and no people, he contacts the local police department. However, it's a neighbor who finds the bodies of Emily and Jason, shot in the back of the head, execution-style. Now, Pancake calls in Ray, Jake, and Jake's lover, Nicole. The police chief agrees to share information with them, and for one dollar they take the case on behalf of Emily's brother.

Sean, Emily's husband, has a sound alibi. He was working on an oil rig out in the Gulf. So, the team decides to investigate the drug angle. They split up, and Ray and Pancake team up for one course of action, while Nicole and Jake ask questions locally. The team meets up regularly with the police chief for reports. And, sometime in the course of the case, Jake has a wild idea or two as to what might have happened.

I really enjoyed Rigged, and I recommended the series to my brother-in-law. Humor, the sexual innuendos, jokes about Pancake's appetite, the investigation. But, Rigged wasn't a thriller. It was good detecting work with a quirky cast. Just my kind of cast of characters.

D.P. Lyle's website is http://www.dplylemd.com/

Rigged by D.P. Lyle. Oceanview Publishing, 2020. ISBN 9781608092380 (hardcover), 304p.

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


Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Diva Spices It Up by Krista Davis

Sometimes, reading is up and down during this Covid-19 time. (I don't even know what to call it because I'm back at work, so it's not quarantine or social isolation. Crisis?) All of that to say Krista Davis' Domestic Diva mysteries can always get me out of a slump. I sailed through her latest one, The Diva Spices It Up.

Sophie Winston is looking forward to a break. The self-employed event planner has been working out-of-town for three weeks, and she just needs some downtime, She's a little leery when her ex-husband, Mars, asks if she'll take over the job of ghostwriting a cookbook for a former TV star whose husband is a politician and Mars' client. The former ghostwriter just quit the job on the previous Friday. Sophie's doesn't know what it entails, but she agrees to consider it. She's even more willing to consider it after seeing the amount of money offered. Then, when tiles fall off the wall in the bathroom of her historic house in Old Town Alexandria, she knows she could use the money. So, she agrees to meet with Tilly Stratford.

Sophie has a few distractions, though. Her sometimes friend/sometimes rival, Natasha, is throwing a party for a half-sister she only discovered after a DNA test. Then, there's the fisherman who brings up a suitcase, with Sophie's help. And, she witnesses a well-dressed man reach into a trash can, and grab a soda can before proceeding on his walk. It all seems a little off to Sophie. But, when she discovers Natasha's newly discovered sister lying in the bushes, beaten almost to death, it leads to more trouble.

After meeting with Tilly, the celebrity writing the cookbook, and learning Tilly's neighbor went missing on Friday, Sophie wants to meet with the ghostwriter who quit the job. She gathers up her best friend, Nina, and the two go looking. Their discovery of the missing ghostwriter's cat leads them to call for a welfare check. When the police check, the house becomes a crime scene. And, it turns out that Mars was on a date with the woman the last night she was seen.

Krista Davis' Domestic Diva mysteries always have interesting plots, domestic tips, and enticing recipes. But, once you've read one or two, it's the characters that draw a reader back. Sophie is kind, even when dealing with Natasha. She still has a good relationship with her ex. The scenes when she feeds her friends, often in the early morning, as they discuss the current murder investigation and suspects are cozy, warm scenes, despite the subject matter under discussion. And, the small group of friends are supportive of each other.

Grand Master Carolyn Hart once said that Raymond Chandler used the words cozy mysteries as a pejorative term, as an insult to the mysteries written by Agatha Christie. In Krista Davis' case, the term cozy mystery is used as a compliment. The Diva Spices It Up is a cozy, warm mystery in the best sense of the word.

Krista Davis' website is www.kristadavis.com

The Diva Spices It Up by Krista Davis. Kensington Books, 2020. ISBN 9781496714749 (hardcover), 304p.

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






Friday, May 15, 2020

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

I seldom read poetry, but Amanda Lovelace's newest collection, break your glass slippers (you are your own fairy tale), caught my eye at the library. So, I checked out the three books in her "women are some kind of magic) series. The princess saves herself in this one is the first, and it didn't disappoint. In fact, it didn't disappoint quite a few people. It was popular enough to be the winner of a Goodreads Choice Award for poetry.

The princess saves herself in this one is broken down in four sections, the princess, the damsel, the queen, you. But, even before the table of contents, Lovelace introduces poetry, both in her dedication, and in her Trigger Warning. It's important for anyone to read that Trigger Warning, which I am going to quote, although it appears in the form of a poem in the book. "this book contains sensitive material relating to: child abuse, intimate partner abuse, bullying, sexual assault, self-harm, eating disorders, queerphobia, menstruation, alcoholism, racism, trauma, death, suicide, grief, cancer, fire, & possibly more. remember to practice self-care before, during & after reading."

It's hard to believe that Lovelace's book is actually a triumphant one that leads to love and a feeling of power at the end. Despite the torment expressed in the early stages of the book, poems in "the queen" and "you" show a triumphant spirit and confrontation with an abuser, a confrontation that shows the abuser no longer has power to make the character (the author?) feel weak and worthless. And, there is not only growth, there is growth tied with true love, a love that allows further growth and doesn't stifle expression.

The princess saves herself in this one could have been a tragedy, a collection that only makes the reader feel grief and pain for the victim of so much abuse. Instead, these poems express hope and power, the power to overcome family and abusive partners and everything that is expressed in that "Trigger Warning". And, those of us who turn to books for escape will appreciate the early poems. Even in pain, books brought solace. "the princess (redacted) i was born a little bookmad." There's so much more, but I can't quote an entire book to you. I can see why Lovelace's book was voted as a Goodreads Choice Award. In the long run, it offers so much hope despite a history of pain.

Amanda Lovelace's website is https://amandalovelace.com/index.html

The princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace. Andrews McNeel Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781449486419 (paperback), 200p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Thursday, May 14, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Thursday! Thursday! You know, I'm really enjoying being back to work. But, darn. There are some really fun online things, including author events, going on at 5 PM EDT (which is 4 PM here). And, I don't get home now in time to watch them. But, oh well.

What are you reading today or what have you read this week? We're lucky. Most of us have found our way back to some sort of reading. I stumbled over a set of poetry books by Amanda Lovelace. I don't often read poetry. But, I like the concept of her books. And, the first in the trilogy caught my attention. I always said "Beauty and the Beast" was my favorite Disney movie because Belle saved herself. The first book in Amanda Lovelace's series is called, the princess saves herself in this one. If I like this one, the others are the witch doesn't burn in this one, and then the mermaid's voice returns in this one. Lovelace's new book is break your glass slippers (you are your own fairy tale). So, I'm reading poetry right now.

How about you? What are you reading?  (And, are you okay?)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Interview with A.J. Devlin

I loved A.J. Devlin's novel Cobra Clutch. It went on to win the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel, so after I read and enjoyed the second "Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead book, Rolling Thunder, I asked A.J. Devlin if I could interview him. Thank you, A.J., for making the time.



A.J., would you introduce yourself to readers?
My name is A.J. Devlin and I am a Canadian crime writer living in Vancouver, which is the city I write about. In my twenties I moved to Southern California for six years where I earned my B.F.A. in Screenwriting from Chapman University and my M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute. After moving back to Vancouver I left screenwriting behind in order to pursue a career as an author before finding a home with my amazing Canadian publisher NeWest Press. When not writing I keep very busy as a married stay-at-home dad raising two children.
Would you introduce us to “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead?
“Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead is an ex-professional wrestler turned detective working in Vancouver. In Cobra Clutch, he is reluctantly drawn back into the world of independent professional wrestling when someone kidnaps his former tag-team partner’s precious pet python and his old friend – who Jed owes – asks him for his help. Jed’s a strapping and muscular guy, stubborn and hard-headed (pun intended), but he also has a big heart and a strong moral compass. Jed is often aided on his investigations by his cousin Declan St. James, a former IRA operative turned bartender at his family’s Irish pub, as well as his father, a retired Vancouver Police Department legend who now runs a private investigation business. Jed earned the nickname “Hammerhead” back in his wrestling days due to his penchant for breaking a 2x4 piece of Western red cedar over his head in the wrestling ring after winning a match.
Tell us about Rolling Thunder without spoilers, please.
Rolling Thunder is the sequel to Cobra Clutch and picks up about nine months after the events of the first book. Jed is now working as a licensed private investigator on a provisional basis under his father’s supervision. A former lady wrestler named Stormy Daze, who Jed encountered during his investigation in the first book, has since left the squared circle behind and joined a women’s flat-track roller derby team. With playoffs around the corner, their roller derby coach goes missing. After filing a missing person’s report with the Police, the team decides to take it a step further and pool their money in order to hire a private investigator. Stormy tells her teammates that she knows just the guy.
OK, I’ll admit I’m a fan of Declan’s. Would you introduce us to him as well?
Declan is more than just a former IRA badass and bartender. He’s also a livewire and a bit of a hothead. He says what he wants, does what he wants, whenever he damn well feels like it. Declan is pure id. He’s also a major source of comic relief in the “Hammerhead” Jed series and often has some peculiar and quirky tastes which come up as he tags along from time to time on Jed’s investigations. But he’s deadly in a fight, loves his cousin dearly, and always has his back.
Why the worlds of pro wrestling and roller derby?
I have long been a fan of the athlete / detective subgenre in crime fiction. As a result, I have read dozens of mysteries about boxer-detectives, surfer-detectives, hockey player-detectives, sports agent-detectives, etc. – but as far as I could tell no one had ever written about a pro wrestler-detective – so I saw an opportunity. It also didn’t hurt that growing up I was a huge pro wrestling fan, and that later in my college years I became fascinated with documentaries and biographies detailing the dark side of sports entertainment. That dichotomy – the over-the-top in-ring antics and the tragic fates that often befell the pro wrestlers outside the ring – seemed like an exciting and unique sandbox in which to set a mystery-comedy series.
With regards to why I chose the world of women’s flat-track roller derby as the setting for Rolling Thunder, well, that pretty much wrote itself. The idea for the series was always for Jed to continually find himself pulled into fringe sports or unique subcultures while working his cases. It’s safe to say that I’m drawn to the quirky and offbeat, and I think the narrative possibilities of a former professional wrestler having to navigate his way through foreign terrain while working as a private investigator are endless. As far as women’s flat-track roller derby goes, it is one hell of a fun, badass, estrogen-charged, counter-culture sport, which was something I really wanted to showcase. Also, having a character who Jed had encountered in Cobra Clutch reach out to him for help after having transitioned from pro wrestling to roller derby seemed both believable and a fun way to kick off another adventure.
Can you give us a clue what Jed will be involved with in the next book?
I can indeed! This is a bit of an exclusive as I haven’t shared this with many people yet, but in book three of the “Hammerhead” Jed series our hardheaded detective will find himself getting caught up in the bloody and bone-crunching world of mixed martial arts after he is hired by a former ufc fighter and dojo owner to find a stolen championship belt. With his wrestling background, Jed is used to always being the biggest, toughest guy in the room, so I wanted to explore what it would be like for him to go up against guys that are such dangerous fighters that Jed’s usual physical advantage is negated.
Cobra Clutch, the book that introduced Jed, won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Do you remember what you were doing when you learned you were nominated for an award for your debut?
All across the country Crime Writers Of Canada puts on multiple Arthur Ellis Award nomination events, where there is a panel of Canadian crime writers discussing a different theme or topic followed by the panelists opening the envelopes and revealing the nominees. I wasn’t on the panel that night but attended the event, so I was in the audience when they read out the nominees for Best First Novel, and, needless to say, hearing Cobra Clutch being announced was an absolute thrill.
Let’s talk about one of my favorite places, Ireland. What do you enjoy seeing/doing when you visit?
Oh man, where to start?!? I’ve only been able to visit Ireland once but I went for about a week and it was incredible. Of course, Dublin is a total blast and always a fun stop. My wife and I rented a car and drove cross country to Galway staying in bed and breakfasts along the way, which is one of the best ways to see the countryside. After Galway we headed north to Donegal and spent a night at the gorgeous and historic Loughe Eske Castle. We then drove to the (almost) one street town of Derrygonnelly where my grandmother was born so that was an amazing place for me to visit. After that we drove to Ballymena, where I still have relatives on my father’s side, before ending our trip with a couple of nights in Belfast.
I have plans for a Declan-centric novel in the “Hammerhead” Jed series which will see the boys head home to the motherland and the mystery be related to Declan’s IRA past, however, it’s still a couple of books away and will definitely require me to visit Ireland again for research (and more fun!).
You worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Any stories you can tell about that experience? If you can’t tell any stories, why did you move back to British Columbia?
After graduating with my M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute I was able to extend my student visa for a year and work in the industry in which I had studied. During this time I worked for an Academy Award nominated producer, was hired to write treatments, do rewrites, pitch directors, etc. I also co-wrote several screenplays with my late professor and mentor Leonard Schrader, but despite all the projects I had on the go I wasn’t able to get any into development, which was frustrating. I decided to move home and try to break into the Canadian film and television industry, but to no avail. Eventually, I was so burned out I decided to put screenwriting on the back burner and finally heed my professor’s advice and take a crack at writing a mystery novel. Several years and multiple drafts later Cobra Clutch was the result and I haven’t looked back since.
A.J. I’m a librarian, so I always ask authors to tell me about an experience with a library or librarian.
Let’s just say that am I spoiled by living in my hometown of Port Moody (a Greater Vancouver suburb about thirty minutes outside of Downtown). The Port Moody Public Library and their librarians are  amazing – they host an annual Writers Festival which always includes a spotlight on crime fiction which includes panels and local authors getting the opportunity to share their work, the library works tirelessly to get the word out about British Columbian authors, and finally Cobra Clutch was recently accepted into the Port Moody Library’s “White Pines Collection,” a select group of books written exclusively by Port Moody authors that the library has pledged to spend a year promoting.
One of the most exciting and recent additions to the Port Moody Library is an ongoing reading series called Writers In Our Midst, in which storytellers – traditionally published, self-published, aspiring, etc.  – are given the opportunity to read their work in front of an audience, and I’m proud to say that I will be reading a few pages of Rolling Thunder at the next event as part of my upcoming book tour.
Thank you so much Lesa for getting the word out about Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder and for taking the time to ask such great questions. Happy reading everyone!

A.J. Devlin's website is ajdevlin.com

Rolling Thunder by A.J. Devlin. NeWest Press, 2020. ISBN 9781988732862 (paperback), 272p.

As of April 21st the audiobook for Cobra Clutch can be found at the following locations: Audible, Kobo, Google, Findaway, Bibliotecha, Hibooks, Scribd, Playster, Downpour, ABC (not connected to the TV channel), Libro FM, Recorded Audio, Hoopla, OverDrive, Storytel and a few other small ones.

And here are a few direct links:



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Rolling Thunder by A.J. Devlin

Several years ago, I reviewed a debut mystery, Cobra Clutch by A.J. Devlin. It went on to win the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Although I said at the time I normally wouldn't appreciate a book set in the world of pro wrestling, I loved Devlin's wrestler turned amateur investigator, "Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead, and Jed's outrageous cousin, IRA member turned bartender, Declan St. James. Jed and Declan are back in Rolling Thunder. Jed's now a private investigator with a provisional license, working under his father's supervision at Ounstead & Son Investigations. He's still doing some professional wrestling. And, Declan still has the same ribald sense of humor and amazing fighting skills. I love these two characters.

In Cobra Clutch, Jed investigated the murder of his former tag team partner. Stephanie Danielson, a wrestler known as Stormy Daze, was a suspect for a brief period. Now, she's skating in roller derby as the Amazombie, and she and her teammates hire Jed to find their missing coach, Lawrence Kunstlinger. It's a case that thrusts Jed into a world that's as bizarre as pro wrestling's world. But, can anything be as bizarre as the Emerald Shillelagh, the bar where Declan battles daily with students from the Vancouver Film School and with customers who don't appreciate Guinness?

Jed's investigation takes him to a bookie, Sykes, a man who can make connections for the case. But, Sykes, devoted to training his champion racing dachshund, Napoleon, always wants a favor before he'll make a connection. Sykes' favors send Jed and Declan to a kinky sex club and a casino, and, eventually put Jed in contact with a sleazy talk show host and entrepreneur. But, Jed's investigation also leads to the roller derby coach's murder.

The police might be investigating the murder, but Jed's angry and feeling guilty. He witnessed the man's violent death, and he heard the coach's dying words. If he can figure out what they mean, he might just be able to find out why someone wanted to kill a roller derby coach.

I loved Rolling Thunder for several reasons. Let's start with characters, Jed, Declan, and, even Sykes. Jed's a guilt-ridden man who still loves wrestling despite his past. He's a determined investigator who wants justice for victims. And, he's trying. He has his flaws, as anyone does, but he's trying to be a better person. Declan, on the other hand, loves women, fighting, and has a ribald, coarse vocabulary. He's not trying to be any different, and Jed sometimes drives him nuts. Sykes is devoted to training the best racing dachshund he can, and he handles his business ventures with competence and confidence.

In addition, I would have never viewed roller derby in the manner it's presented in Rolling Thunder. Stormy Daze says, "This is roller derby. Our names empower us as warrior women and make us who we are." The Pacific Northwest teams are more hardcore and extreme than most of the other leagues, and they'll fight to keep it that way because the women and their coaches see it as "empowering women".

Devlin's Rolling Thunder can be crude, even a little lewd at times. But, it's just so much fun, action-packed and non-stop. If you're looking for a fun, violent mystery, check it out.

A.J. Devlin's website is www.ajdevlin.com

Rolling Thunder by A.J. Devlin. NeWest Press, 2020. ISBN 9781988732862 (paperback), 272p.

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

As of April 21st the audiobook for Cobra Clutch can be found at the following locations: Audible, Kobo, Google, Findaway, Bibliotecha, Hibooks, Scribd, Playster, Downpour, ABC (not connected to the TV channel), Libro FM, Recorded Audio, Hoopla, OverDrive, Storytel and a few other small ones.

And here are a few direct links:









Monday, May 11, 2020

Distractions

I'm going back to work today, but I don't think readers are ready for the world to return to normal. I know I only had a couple entries in Friday's blog giveaway. So, I took it off the blog, and I'll contact the two people who will receive the books. It's evidently too early to start it, which is fine with me. So, preparation for work and the blog were my first distractions this weekend. I also read some interesting books for Library Journal, and you'll be seeing those posts in July and August.

Other than that, I took the male cats to the vet for their annual check-up and shots. The vets are doing an outstanding job with curbside service as people sit in their cars and the technicians pick up the animals. Josh was fine, cuddling me as soon as we were home. It took Jinx two days to forgive me.

I'm reading again, and, as I said, back to work today so I won't be on the blog as often during the day. Don't worry. I'll catch up. And, the library is not reopening to the public yet, and we have no timeframe for that.

The important question is, how are you doing? Please take care of yourselves. I don't really think we're as ready as some of the states seem to think, so it's important to stay safe.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Private Investigations edited by Victoria Zackheim

Yesterday, author Art Taylor wrote a guest post talking about writing what one knows, or what one researches. Victoria Zackheim edited a collection called Private Investigations, the perfect follow-up to Taylor's post. It's subtitled "Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives." Many of them talk about memories or experiences, and, in a few cases, research, that led directly to their books. In other words, an excellent follow-up.

I have to give credit to Sulari Gentill first. Gentill is the award-winning author of the Rowland Sinclair mysteries, and a Ned Kelly Award winner. Sulari read a snippet of her essay for this book on Facebook. Authors, don't let anyone tell you people don't pay attention. Her reading was so captivating that I bought this anthology to learn the ending of Gentill's story. Her essay is about a family secret, a secret hidden away in a box.

Twenty authors wrote essays for the book, including Jacqueline Winspear, Jeffery Deaver, and Rhys Bowen. Several of the authors have painful essays, ones that will break your heart. However, if you've read Connie May Fowler's books, you'll remember the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother. Her essay, "Lydia and Jack", talks about that, and how that abuse affected her emotionally and physically. In "The Clay That We Shape", William Kent Krueger looks back at his mother's mental problems, with the realization that his novel, Ordinary Grace, helped him understand his mother and himself. Steph Cha, in "The Beams Keep Falling", says a woman's behavior may seem unnatural to some, but not to women who have experienced fear.

Not all of the essays are quite so painful. Charles Todd, writing "Remembering the Past", looks at the importance of the on the ground research he and his mother, Caroline Todd, have done, talking to survivors and families about The Great War, and visiting places that were changed forever by the war. Robert Dugoni searches for the reason his books didn't have the power that a seventh grade speech did. The essay is "Nuns, Magic, and Stephen King".  Cara Black's essay about Maigret and Paris is painful only for those of us who wish we could be there right now. It's moody and evocative.

While I'm not a writer looking for inspiration, it's fascinating to peer into the motivation and background of favorite mystery writers. As they discover their own past, readers can make discoveries as well in Private Investigations.

Private Investigations: Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives, edited by Victoria Zackheim. Seal Press, 2020. ISBN 9781580059213 (hardcover), 312p.

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