Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Last Curtain Call by Juliet Blackwell

A Ghostly Light, the last Haunted Home Renovation Mystery, came out in 2017. However, Juliet Blackwell's fans have nothing to worry about. The author hasn't lost her touch. In fact, Mel Turner, "ghost-talking psychic home renovator" only seems to have grown more intriguing in The Last Curtain Call.

When Turner Construction is asked to renovate the historic Crockett Theatre in San Francisco, Mel's definitely interested. Yes, everyone has heard the stories that the theatre is haunted. Mel's more interested in all the architectural features in the historic building. She knows there are some issues. She's told she has to get rid of the squatters who are living in the theatre. And, there seems to be some funny business about permits and plans, and the previous construction company. Nothing she can't handle. But, when she finds an audience filled with ghosts and a murdered usher who offers to take her to her seat, she's not so sure. And, then someone takes one of the problem off her hands and kills a squatter. Mel suspects murder immediately. She is watching the dead woman dance on stage just as the body is found.

Although San Francisco homicide inspector Annette Crawford reminds Mel she doesn't work for the police department, Mel wants to find the killer. She has additional motivation because she's convinced there is a connection between the Crockett Theatre and the ghost of a starlet who is haunting the house Mel is renovating, her own house. Mel's exploration of Bay Area history is just one of the appeals of this series.

Fans of the long-running series will be intrigued by Mel's changing abilities. The Last Curtain Call brings her ghost-busting talents to the forefront. It's a fascinating story, filled with a couple creepy scenes in the theatre, along with area history, renovation details, and, of course, the wonderful characters in the series. Mel's family and friends add a touch of normalcy, a homey feeling to the books, despite the paranormal elements.

Don't hesitate to pick up this book, even if you haven't read earlier ones. Blackwell is skillful with her introduction of characters, and new readers will easily catch up. But, those of us who have been with the series since the beginning will enjoy this latest adventure.

Juliet Blackwell's website is www.julietblackwell.net

The Last Curtain Call by Juliet Blackwell. Berkley Prime Crime, 2020. ISBN 9780593097939 (paperback), 336p.

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

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton

When Margaret Mizushima and Paula Munier blurb a book, it's natural to expect a mystery featuring a dog. You'd be right with The Finders, Jeffrey B. Burton's action-packed series debut. It's an intense, sometimes graphic, novel about a serial killer. Even better, there's a likable, aw-shucks hero, and a remarkable dog.

A serial killer, a rookie police officer, and a trainer of cadaver dogs converge, but it's Vira who is the star of this fast-paced book. Officer Kippy Gimm rescues a golden retriever puppy from death by carbon monoxide poisoning. However, as much as Kippy would like to have the puppy, Mace Reid, a dog trainer, is the one who is given the dog. He's also the one who discovers Vira's unique abilities.

Vira has an uncanny ability to find bodies, but then she attacks a man who is in the crowd watching the police at a crime scene. The order is given to put her down, but Mace is desperate to save the young dog. He breaks into the house where Vira's victim lives. Mace rescues a woman who has been imprisoned there, and saves Vira from her fate. But, he's attacked while in the house, and his attempted killer dies. It's then that he unwittingly makes himself a target for a determined killer. It takes several attempts on Mace's life, and several saves by Vira, before Mace and Kippy realize someone is tracking him. Now the dog trainer is a witness and a participant in the search for a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for years. It's Vira's ability to scent a killer that will send Officer Gimm and Mace Reid into a final confrontation.

While The Finders is called "A Mace Reid K9 Mystery", and Reid is the narrator, Vira, the "K-9" partner, is actually the star of this new series. She has remarkable abilities. Anyone who loves fast-moving mysteries featuring hero dogs will want to try Burton's latest.

Jeffrey B. Burton's website is www.jeffreybburton.com

The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton. St. Martin's Minotaur, 2020. ISBN 9781250244536 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

What You Don't See by Tracy Clark

Tracy Clark's debut PI novel, Broken Places, was an award nominee. I spotted it at the time, and said fans of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone will welcome Cass Raines. The second book in the series,  Borrowed Time, went on to win the 2020 Sue Grafton Award, which was appropriate. But, What You Don't See might be Clark's best so far.

Cass Raines is an ex-Chicago cop turned private investigator. She takes cases on her own terms, and doesn't take any guff. When her ex-partner and close friend, Ben Mickerson, asks her to take a job and work with him, she's reluctant. Ben's moonlighting to get the money for a boat. Why would Cass want to be a bodyguard for a prima donna? Vonda Allen is the publisher of a magazine. She's "The woman with her finger on the pulse of urbane and upwardly mobile black folk, the movers and shakers, the strider makers." Cass wasn't impressed when she read it, deciding she wasn't quite urbane enough for the magazine.

Ben has a copy of a threatening letter that Allen received. Kaye Chandler, Allen's gatekeeper and assistant, snuck it to him. Evidently she's received a number of letters and unwelcome flowers. But, she won't go to the police. Instead she wants to hire bodyguards. Cass even questions that choice. Why won't Allen hire a high-priced security firm instead of a moonlighting cop and his former partner?

Once Cass meets Vonda and Kaye, she begins to understand. Allen doesn't want anyone to get too close. She definitely has an attitude, but Raines isn't one to be run over by another powerful black woman. She sees her treatment of her staff, and suspects it could be anyone who was once too close to the woman who could be the letter writer. But, threats are one thing. When two of Allen's staff end up dead, this bodyguard gig gets a little more serious.

After the murders, Cass and Ben are extremely watchful when they accompany Allen to a bookstore for a signing. They're both a little suspicious of someone with flowers, but neither of them expected the man to attack Ben with a knife. While Ben just hanging on to life in the hospital, Cass turns investigator. She wants to find the perpetrator. But, she also plans to dig into Vonda Allen's past to find the person who is a threat and a killer.

Cass' search is a step-by-step investigation into the past. It's a case that brings back memories for her, but also shows her strengths and personal weaknesses. Cass left the police force because she was shot on duty, and blamed another officer. Now, another officer has been killed, the man's partner. Raines doesn't believe he should have still been on the force. She's angry and bitter, and it shows. She doesn't always work well with other cops, although she's dating one. And, the other officers know Cass will only cooperate up to a point. She's independent, a capable investigator. She doesn't need anyone to ride to her rescue.

Cass Raines is a well-rounded character. She's an ex-cop turned investigator. She's dealt with tragedy in her life, and she's still coping with family issues. Ben's attack shakes her, and she doesn't know quite how to deal with it. She wants to be at the hospital, while she also needs to look for the man who attacked him. "I considered Ben a part of my family, the one I'd cobbled together when the real one collapsed beneath me." Cass Raines wants answers, and if she has to dig into and destroy Vonda Allen's past and privacy to get them, she doesn't care who stands in her way - Allen, her gatekeeper, Chandler, a security firm, or the police. She seeks justice for the people she loves.

Cass is a fierce, protective woman, loyal to that "family". Her latest case is gripping. I tore through the book to discover Allen's secrets and the solution. But, make no mistake. Cass Raines is the reason to read What You Don't See.

Tracy Clark's website is https://tracyclarkbooks.com/

What You Don't See by Tracy Clark. Kensington Books, 2020. ISBN 9781496714930 (hardcover), 297p.

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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Find Me by Anne Frasier

I'm an outlier. While psychological thrillers have been popular in the last couple years, I'm not a fan. I don't like unreliable narrators. And, I am not interested in serial killer novels that get inside the mind of a killer. Give me a traditional mystery or a police procedural. Anne Frasier managed to catch my attention with Find Me, though, a thriller that touched on a serial killer, an unreliable character, and was more twisted and surprising than I expected. Instead of focusing on the killer or the killer's dead victims, she introduces two broken people who come together as a result of their childhood traumas.

In the 1990s, the Inland Empire Killer terrorized and killed women in southern California. He was caught when a woman survived, and recognized him. But, his notoriety grew when it was discovered that Benjamin Wayne Fisher used his young daughter, Reni, as bait. He's been in San Quentin for thirty years, and hasn't seen his daughter since the day he was arrested. But, when he calls Homicide detective Daniel Ellis to the prison, he has a proposition for him. He'll take him to the Mojave Desert and show him where the bodies are if Reni will come along. Of course, a manipulator like Fisher has a motive. Daniel Ellis also has his reasons for agreeing to Fisher's demands.

But, Reni doesn't like the pressure. She was an FBI profiler until she had a breakdown and quit three years earlier. She moved back to the desert, and, for the last years, she's been trying to find where the bodies are. While she believes she was just an innocent child, some call her complicit in the murders. There are times she doubts herself, and doesn't know what the truth is. If she meets with her father, she may find the truth.

Both Daniel and Reni are troubled protagonists. They are the focus of this novel, with the damage inflicted on them as young, vulnerable children. They grew up to go into law enforcement, still searching for answers, for the truth. These two intriguing characters are the reason to pick up this intense novel.

Find Me twists back on itself and comes with surprises. The reader will find the answers as surprising as Daniel and Reni do. But, before they can discover the truth, they'll become entangled one more time in a master manipulator's games.

Anne Frasier's website is www.annefrasier.com

Find Me by Anne Frasier. Thomas & Mercer, 2020. ISBN 9781542005623 (paperback), 286p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a .pdf to read for a journal.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Winners and Liars Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Meet Your Baker goes to G.B. from East Lansing, MI. Marla B. from Las Vegas, NV will received Apple Cider Slaying. The books are going out in the mail today.

It's not surprising that all those books with unreliable narrators have a lot of liars. This week, both books for the giveaway feature lies. Heather Gudenkauf's book is This is How I Lied. Everyone has a secret they'll do anything to hide. Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in Grotto, Iowa, discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, but the case went cold. Maggie's been haunted by Eve's death. Now, she's a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant. She's thrust back in the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces, and the case is reopened. During the course of her investigation, secrets begin to emerge. But, someone will do anything to keep the truth buried.

Seven Lies is Elizabeth Kay's novel. It all starts with one little lie. But, one lie leads to another. Jane and Marnie grew up sharing each other's deepest secrets. But, when Marnie falls in love, everything changes. Jane has a secret. She loathes Marnie's husband. When Marnie asks if she likes him, Jane tells her first lie. If Jane had told the truth, Marnie's husband might still be alive. "I wonder now if I hadn't told that first lie, if I would have told the others. If I had been honest that Friday evening, everything might have been - would have been - different..."

Which story of lies would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win This is How I Lied" or "Win Seven Lies." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, July 2 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Before I even ask today's question, I'll start with how are you doing? Since we're not talking about Distractions on Mondays, I just want to make sure everyone is emotionally okay. I think about you, scattered all over the country, and the world. Take care of yourselves.

As always, Thursday's question is what are you reading? As I write this on Wednesday night, I have sixty pages left in Tracy Clark's What You Don't See. This is the third book in Clark's Cass Raines series set in Chicago. Cass is a ex-cop turned PI, and I really like her. She's tough, doesn't take any guff from anyone. But, she is really loyal to her friends. A friend from the police force, Ben, is moonlighting as a bodyguard, and asks Cass to work with him. Their client is a snob, a media diva who tries to control everyone who works for her, but Cass won't allow it. That client won't tell them what she fears about letters and flowers she's been receiving. But, when Ben is attacked with a knife at a bookstore, he's in the hospital, and Cass is looking for the secrets their client tried to hide. I really like this series, the character, and this book.

Once I finish What You Don't See, I'm going back to reread Sarah Stewart Taylor's The Mountains Wild. I'm interviewing her Friday evening for The Poisoned Pen so I want to read it again.

What are you reading this week? I know we're interested.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Michelle Dunne, Guest Author

Michelle Dunne's novel While Nobody is Watching is released on June 27, so the timing is perfect for a guest piece here. And, of course, she's an Irish author who lives in Ireland, so why wouldn't I want to include her guest post? She has some book suggestions that might appeal to nonfiction readers. After her post about Entertainment, I'll talk a little about her novel published by Bad Press Ink.

Thank you, Michelle.

My taste in books is quite varied, but having been raised on Who done it’s, I do tend to lean towards fiction – thrillers mostly, with Lee Child, Karen Slaughter and their ilk never failing to impress. That said, I’ve had an ongoing love affair with the writings of Ireland’s sweetheart, Marian Keyes, which started somewhere in South Lebanon in 1998. Following weeks of shelling, morale was on the low side in our tiny UN camp when I received Rachel’s Holiday in the post from home.  Being the only female in camp at that time, Marian was the perfect tonic... but not just for me. Having been spotted laughing out loud, more than once, when in real life, there wasn’t much to laugh about, the first man to take the book when I’d finished (with fake begrudgery), proceeded to read it in secret for fear of being caught indulging in chick-lit. But in an area roughly the size of a postage stamp – there were no secrets and over the course of the next few weeks, men were seen chuckling left, right and centre. Thanks to Marian, a small queue formed to take Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary from me, which had come in the same package. So called chick-lit brought smiles and LOLs to a camp fuelled by stress and testosterone, at a time when it was sorely needed. So while I love to be brought to the edge of my seat, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for a book that can make you laugh out loud, even when you really don’t want to.
So yes, I’m a massive, MASSIVE fan of all things fiction. However...
When it comes to non-fiction, I have a particular interest in Irish military. As a neutral country, our military tends to be severely underestimated by the rest of the world and for the most part, they never get to hear just what we’re really made of. Three books in particular absolutely need to be read.
Take Declan Power’s The Siege of Jadotville for example (became a film in 2016). It tells the true story of how a battalion of Irish peacekeepers, 150 men with very limited fire power and equipment, withstood a siege by 3000 Congolese troops. It’s an incredible story that the whole world should hear.
Hidden Soldier by Pádraig O’Keeffe is most worthy of a mention given the fact that it’s bloody outstanding and hard to believe that it’s a mémoire rather than a Kathryn Bigelow movie script.
Shadow Warriors: The Irish Army Ranger Wing by Wayne Fitzgerald & Paul O’Brien gives the first ever look inside Ireland’s secretive special forces unit.
But there is a down side to reading exceptional and inspiring stories like these, for me at least. Have you ever closed a book and felt annoyed by each and every bad movie you’ve sat through in your lifetime? Do they not know that stories like these exist? And if so, why aren’t they putting them on the big screen and bringing them to the rest of the world? How many more alien invasions do we need to be saved from (by a drunk in a crop duster) before anyone tells the story of a man’s journey from a small Irish town to the French Foreign Legion, to security services, to Cambodia, to Bosnia to Haiti, to Iraq, to a hospital bed in Germany, not to mention how he managed to survive the bullet holes? And all that AFTER he was denied entry into the Irish army. Unsuited to the life apparently (Hidden Soldier).  
Outside of books and movies, I do like to switch off with a good box-set from time to time. Homeland is one of my favourites, though it always freaks me out how spot on it is, politically. For example, I just watched an episode where Sol is in peace talks with the Taliban leader. The following day there was a US announcement that they’ve entered into peace talks with the Taliban! How do they do that – EVERY season??
My idea of entertainment hell though...  Real Jersey Housewives of Love Island, or whatever passes for reality TV these days. I just can’t do it.
But escapism comes in so many forms; books, TV, music, podcasts – whatever takes your mind off the humdrum of daily life can’t be a bad thing... unless its hour after hour of mindless scrolling through other people’s (fake) fantastic lives.  Or am I the only one who thinks there’s no inspiration to be found there? Spare time is so valuable in this high stressed, crazy world. Let yourself be transported to another world from time to time. Choose wisely and you’ll hardly ever regret it.
As I said, While Nobody is Watching is released on June 27. Here's the summary.  

A semi-inflated football and a curious little girl.
They called it peacekeeping. For Corporal Lindsey Ryan it was anything but.
It’s been three years since that bright day in the Golan Heights and the explosion which killed two and changed the survivors forever.
Now Lindsey deals with the many problems of the city’s troubled youth, to distract her from her own. But as damp days turn to night the kids return home, or somewhere like it, and she returns to her own private war. One that exists solely for her.
Certain that she’s being watched and certain that she’s losing her mind, Lindsey battles with the demons of post traumatic stress, while a very real threat edges ever closer until she finds herself face to face with someone who wants nothing more than to finally help her to die.
And it’s the last person she ever could have seen coming.
Blue helmets and blurred lines - While Nobody is Watching delves into the dark world of PTSD and a battle scarred soldier struggling to find a place in her new world.

While Nobody is Watching by Michelle Dunne. Bad Press Ink, 2020. ISBN 9781916084537 (paperback), 308p.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

I originally picked up Kerry Winfrey's romantic comedy, Waiting for Tom Hanks, just because of the premise. Then, when I started to read it and discovered it took place in German Village in Columbus, Ohio, I was completely sold. One of the scenes takes place in the Book Loft, the wonderful independent bookstore there. I know that has nothing to do with why others might appreciate the book, but it was one of my favorite scenes.

Annie Cassidy is writing a screenplay, and dreaming of her life as a romantic comedy. She hangs out at Nick's, a coffee shop in German Village where her best friend, Chloe, works and argues with her boss, Nick. In fact, Annie doesn't tell Chloe, but her rom-com is based on Chloe and Nick. Now, if only Annie could find the hero of her own life, someone like Tom Hanks from some of her favorite movies. Those movies that she shared with her mother before her death signify hope for her own future, and the love her parents had.

Annie doesn't necessarily have the perfect set-up for romance. After her mother's death, Annie's Uncle Don moved in to take care of her. She's devoted to him. He loves her unconditionally, works, cooks for her, and, once a week has fellow geeks over for a hot game of Dungeons & Dragons. Uncle Don has a few surprises for her, though. When he learns Tommy Crisante is filming a romantic comedy right there in German Village, he announces Tommy was his college roommate at Ohio State, and, with one phone call, he gets Annie a job on the set as Tommy's assistant.

It's too bad Uncle Don can't get Annie a do-over on the set, though. The first time she runs over to see the area where they're filming, she whips around and spills coffee all over Drew Danforth, the star of the movie. While Chloe insists it's a "meet-cute" and Drew and Annie will fall for each other, Annie is angry. Once she's working, Drew calls her Coffee Girl. And, he saw her in Nick's with a disastrous blind date. Annie knows the actor known as a prankster has no hidden depths, and he definitely isn't her Tom Hanks.

I loved the setting of the book. I had problems with Annie, who definitely has issues, and she sees problems where there aren't any. Let's face it. She is a lonely young woman who is basing her whole idea of love on romantic comedies. In a passionate outburst at Nick's, she tells Drew why she loves them. "It's the hope that you deserve happiness and that you won't be sad forever, and that things will get better. It's hope that life doesn't always have to be a miserable slog, that you can find someone to love who understands you and accepts you just as you are."

Annie Cassidy just has to get past her "misreading the signs". Once the reader accepts that Annie is afraid, something her best friend, Chloe, sees, it's easier to like Annie. Waiting for Tom Hanks has a wonderful cast of characters, including Drew, Chloe, Nick, and Uncle Don. Even some of the characters at Nick's are fun characters. And, the scene in the Book Loft is perfect for anyone who has been there.

Waiting for Tom Hanks is just what a romantic comedy should be with an interesting setting, a likable cast, and a lot of misunderstandings.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey. Jove, 2019. ISBN 9781984804020 (paperback), 274p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor

I don't remember Sarah Stewart Taylor's Sweeney St. George mystery series. The 2003 debut, O' Artful Death was an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. That series ended in 2006 when life and raising a family intervened. Now, Taylor is launching a new series with The Mountains Wild, a wonderful mystery that felt as if it was written for me. Well, not really. But, it's set in Ireland. There's a cold case, and an intelligent, mature female sleuth. I loved this book, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

In 1993, Maggie D’Arcy’s cousin Erin went missing in Ireland, and Maggie flew over to help in the search. Although she found Erin’s broken necklace in the forest near Wicklow, there was no other trace. 

Now, twenty-three years later, the police in Ireland have more evidence and another missing woman, so Maggie returns. As a homicide detective on Long Island, she brings experience to the investigation, working with some of the same police officers from the original case. By now, there’s a name for the predator, the “Southeast Killer”, and the latest victim could bring the total to four, including Erin. Maggie and a local detective retrace their steps, and re-interview witnesses in a desperate attempt to find the new victim before she’s murdered. 

Taylor skillfully switches time periods from 1993 to 2016 in this atmospheric, intricately plotted story. It builds to a stunning, unforgettable conclusion. The book introduces an intelligent, mature detective caught up in a personal cold case. The first in a new series blends the history and romance of Ireland with a contemporary police investigation of missing women and murder victims.

As I said, Sarah Stewart Taylor knew just how to hit my favorite elements in a mystery, although we've never met. The Mountains Wild launches what I hope is a strong, long-running series.

Sarah Stewart Taylor's website is https://www.sarahstewarttaylor.com/

The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor. Minotaur Books, 2020. ISBN 9781250256430 (hardcover), 416p.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Nothing Can Hurt You by Nicola Maye Goldberg

Nothing Can Hurt You is a literary novel, a debut by Nicola Maye Goldberg. And, let's face it. Even with the subject, the impact a young woman's murder has on other women, a literary novel is not usually my preferred reading. I received this book to review for a journal. However, before I discuss the book, I'm going to share just a couple quotes from readers who loved the book. After all, this is a debut, and I never want to hurt a debut author with my personal interpretation.

"A book that reads like music. Nothing Can Hurt You is an intoxicating, lyrical, and honest journey into the traumatic murder of a young woman and its reverberating anguish." - Allie Rowbotton, author of Jell-O Girls.

"A perfect match for readers of Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects or Iain Reid's I'm Thinking of Ending Things." - Leslie Spishock, A Likely Story, Sykesville, MD

The book is referred to as a clever thriller, a propulsive thriller. Although I read Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects and some of Gone Girl, I'm not a fan. But, Flynn's books are much more thrillers than this one, in my opinion.

Sara Morgan, a college student, is already dead when the book opens in the winter of 1997. A woman with emotional issues finds her body in the woods. Her boyfriend, a fellow college student, Blake Campbell, a diagnosed schizophrenic, confesses, and is found not guilty by reason of insanity. We know this within the first couple chapters of the book, so that is not a spoiler.

The unconventional novel is actually about the feelings of women, strangers, and their reactions to the murder. Each woman is given a voice, beginning with the woman who finds Sara's body, and then she's never heard from again in the book. We meet Sara's roommate. There's Katherine, an alcoholic who meets Blake in recovery. She tells her story, and tells of Blake. She does reappear in another chapter in reference to Luna, Sara's younger sister. Juliet is a reporter covering the trial of a serial killer who killed six women. She's more interested in Sara, and would rather tell that story. She admits no one cares about the serial killer, possibly because no one cared about his victims. Maybe a white college student and her attractive boyfriend are more interesting subjects. Luna appears in two chapters, once as the subject of a search by a female PI, once when she tracks down Blake. There's even a chapter with a teen who Sara babysat at one time. The final chapter brings it full circle to Sara, who speaks of a time before she even went to college and met Blake.

Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I'm Someone Else, said "Goldberg articulates a new kind of darkness within the female psyche. Her book pulses forth with danger and suspense."

If you're looking for danger, suspense, a thriller, I hope you tell me if you find it in Nothing Can Hurt You. It fell flat to me. It felt emotionless with little suspense. As I said, though, I'm not about to give a totally negative review to a debut author. So many booksellers and authors liked this book. You might be intrigued by it as well.

Nicola Maye Goldberg's website is www.nicolamaye.com

Nothing Can Hurt You by Nicola Maye Goldberg. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020. ISBN 9781635574883 (hardcover), 240p.

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

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Seeing Darkness by Heather Graham

If I haven't read all thirty Krewe of Hunters books by Heather Graham, I'm pretty close. I enjoy all aspects of these books; the paranormal elements, the romance, the FBI agents who can communicate with the dead, the history and the vivid settings.  Seeing Darkness takes readers to Salem, Massachusetts, to a city that celebrates its horrible past, a city of walking tours, cemeteries, restaurants and bars. But, a serial killer who attacks women in historical cemeteries isn't in the city plans.

Kylie Connelly is a historian on a bachelorette weekend with her three best friends when they go to a hypnotist for fun, for past life regressions. While her friends all experience flowery past lives of romance, Kylie sees herself stabbed to death in a cemetery. That night in The Cauldron, a popular restaurant, she sees a prominent politician on TV, and blurts out that he's the killer from the cemetery.

FBI agent Jon Dickson catches Kylie as she collapses after her announcement. He's on the trail of a serial killer who has killed women in a route up the coast. A clue has sent him to Salem, his hometown. He's just learned a local woman was stabbed to death in a cemetery when he hears Kylie proclaim that the politician did it. Because he's been able to talk to ghosts since he was twelve, he doesn't find it odd that Kylie experienced the murder secondhand. Kylie's the one who panics and doesn't believe what she experienced.

If you've read any of the Krewe of Hunters books, you know what to expect. Other FBI agents from the Krewe of Hunters will show up in Salem to help with the case. There will be historical elements, and a helpful ghost. And, Jon and Kylie will become romantically involved. Those are the patterns in these books.

I have one quibble with Seeing Darkness, though. It seems as if the author forgot to add a scene in which the agents realize Kylie is missing and set out to rescue her. In this book, at one moment she's in danger. In the next, Jon and the other agents are catching the killers. But, there is a link missing.

On the other hand, there's a very satisfying epilogue at the end of the book, just what I need as a reader who wants to know what happens to favorite characters. Seeing Darkness was as satisfying as the other books in this series.

Heather Graham's website is www.TheOriginalHeatherGraham.com

Seeing Darkness by Heather Graham. MIRA, 2020. ISBN 9780778360940 (hardcover), 303p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, June 19, 2020

Winners and A Food Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The New Girl will go to Paula M. of Montoursville, PA. Lynn L. from Rio Linda, CA will received The Night Before. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away the first book in two different series. One is the first in a new series, while the other is the first in an older one, a series I hadn't tried.  Apple Cider Slaying by Julie Anne Lindsey is the first Cider Shop mystery. Blossom Valley, West Virginia, is home to Smythe Orchards, Winnie and her Granny's beloved twenty-five-acre farm and family business. But, it's struggling so they try to drum up business with the "First Annual Christmas at the Orchard". When the body of Nadine Cooper, Granny's long-time, grudge-holding nemesis, is found lodged in the apple press, Granny's the number one suspect.

Ellie Alexander launched her Bakeshop Mystery series five years ago with Meet Your Baker. Juliet Capshaw leaves her life baking on cruise ships when her chef husband breaks her heart. She heads home to Ashland, Oregon to help her mother at the family bakery, Torte. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival put Ashland on the map. One of Torte's demanding customers ends up dead, but she's also a new board member at OSF. And, there are certainly a number of actors and artists who have reason to want the woman dead. Because I had never read any of these books, I bought this one so I could start the series.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Apple Cider Slaying" or "Win Meet Your Baker." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, June 25 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Before we talk about what we're reading this week, I'm going to talk about Monday's Distractions. From the small number of comments on Monday's post, I think we're okay for right now. While some of us are still trying to stay home, others are back out in the world, going to work, taking care of life. I'm going to discontinue Monday's Distractions, unless the world shuts down again. But, don't worry. We're still doing What Are You Reading?, and Friday's giveaways are still on track.

What are you reading this week? We all know I'm addicted to Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters books - suspense, some history, some romance, and the paranormal. Great combination for me. I'm reading the latest in the series, Seeing Darkness. Not far enough in to know if it moves up the coast from Salem, Massachusetts. A serial killer has been stabbing and leaving women's bodies in historical cemeteries, appearing to move up the coast. While a member of the FBI's elite Krewe of Hunters team arrives in Salem the day before a young woman dies, a historian "sees" the murder when she's undergoing a regression session.

How about you? What are you reading? I hope you found a good book or two this week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Have You Heard? Amanda Stevens' The Kingdom

Somehow, I missed the review of Amanda Stevens' second audiobook in The Graveyard Queen series. Sandie Herron did review it, but for some reason I went from the first book to the third. Thanks, Sandie, for the review of the audiobook of The Kingdom.

The Kingdom
Written by Amanda Stevens
Narrated by Khristine Hvam
Series:  The Graveyard Queen, Book 2
Unabridged Audiobook
Harlequin Books (5/1/2012)
Listening Length:  11 hours 10 minutes

Amelia Gray has been commissioned to restore an old graveyard in Asher Falls, South Carolina.  She leaves her home in Charleston and leaves her dashed romance with detective John Devlin, although she thinks of him often.  She feels drawn to the ghosts that haunt him, especially the young girl who was his daughter.  Amelia Gray can see ghosts, and she tries to follow the rules set out by her father to not let them latch on to her which include not getting involved with a haunted man.

Asher Falls is a withering community by Bell Lake, formed when a reservoir was created, drowning the town below the damn, including the old cemetery.  Only a small group of people remain including the family the town was named after.  Thane Asher meets Amelia on the ferry into town and invites her to dinner where she meets the family as well as three women who grew up in Asher Falls.  While Amelia puts her best foot forward, she feels something strange, almost malevolent among them.

Amelia works on the neglected cemetery where she finds a grave set apart from the others in a remote area.  It has been well tended, unlike the majority of the cemetery.  She mentions it at dinner and is greeted by a stunned silence.  Her curiosity grows even more.  She is temporarily living in a vacationing resident’s home near the lake where a stray dog appears.  He is mutilated in ways that suggest he was involved in a dog fighting ring.  Amelia has grown to care for the dog she names Angus, and he is protective of her.  More than once, he comes to Amelia’s rescue while working at the cemetery when she is overcome by a thicket that seems to surround her and want to carry her away. 

Thane and Amelia are drawn to each other, yet Amelia holds back, thinking of Devlin.  However, when they visit the cemetery late one night, another evil force seems to push them into each other’s arms with abandon. Amelia feels as if she is being watched.  Late one night, Amelia awakens to Angus’s cries.  He has been restrained in a field full of bear traps.  Desperate to reach him, Amelia is terrified, when a neighbor named Tilly comes to her aid.  This isn’t the first time Tilly has saved Amelia from harm, seeming to know just when to show up.

Amelia goes back to Charleston to see her adoptive parents.  She wants to find out why Asher Falls seems to call to her.  When her aunt and father lay bare the secrets, Amelia is both shocked and relieved to understand why she is drawn there and why she must return despite the danger.

This Southern gothic mystery was eerie, spooky, surreal.  I was stunned when the truth was revealed.  Amelia’s connection is very real, very gruesome, very compelling, and very dangerous.  Narrator Khristine Hvam kept me on the edge of my seat with her Southern drawl unfolding the story ever more urgently.  The story was gripping, and I definitely recommend

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Twist in the Tail by Leighann Dobbs

I like cats as much as anyone else. But, I can honestly say I have no idea why so many Goodreads readers raved about Leighann Dobbs' A Twist in the Tale, the first in the Oyster Cove Guesthouse series. The cats steer the investigation while Josie Waters, the amateur sleuth, doesn't really seem to know anything.

Josie doesn't know anything about running a B&B, yet, after her divorce from her chef husband, the forty-six-year-old moves home to Oyster Cove, Maine, and buys the Oyster Cove Guesthouse from her mother's best friend, Millie. She doesn't know much more about cooking, but when Charles Prescott, one of the guests, complains about his eggs, she does better the next day. But, she can't find him for breakfast. Instead, it's the two cats, Nero and Marlowe, who yowl that they've made a discovery. They're in the locked West Wing of the inn with Prescott's dead body.

When Josie's mother and Millie hear the 911 call on their police radio app, they beat the sheriff to the inn. But Nero, who is guiding the younger cat, Marlowe, in her investigation, realizes he must also show the slower-witted humans that Prescott was murdered. Neither of the cats know who did it, so they rendezvous with their investigative team of five other Oyster Cove cats to discuss the case.

While I'm not a big fan of mystery-solving cats, Nero and Marlowe are much smarter than the amateur sleuth, Josie. She went through the entire roster of the guests of the inn, guessing why each one of them was the killer, and confronting people. Even after all that, she had it all wrong, and Nero and Marlowe have to come to the rescue.

As much as I like cats in the real world, I am not the target audience for A Twist in the Tail.

Leighann Dobbs' website is www.leighanndobbs.com

A Twist in the Tail by Leighann Dobbs. Bookouvre, 2019, 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I read a .pdf for a journal review.

Monday, June 15, 2020


Lightning bugs! I turned off my TV over the weekend, and went out in the backyard and watched lightning bugs on Friday night. Or, depending where you are in the country, fireflies. For my friend Rosemary - depending where you are in the U.S., they're either fireflies or lightning bugs. And, some places are too hot. We didn't see lightning bugs when I lived in Florida and Arizona. It was the most delightful distraction I've had lately.

Honestly? Turning off the TV was the best thing I did this week. I can only take so much of the news before I start to get upset. I know we had this conversation last week. It's still the best thing I've done.

And, I read. I have a Thursday deadline for Library Journal, so I read three books over the weekend. One was excellent, one good, and one was tolerable. I'm always looking for that next excellent book.

What about you? Were you looking for distractions this past week?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Pact by Linda Castillo

I seldom review books that are only available online or as an audiobook. But, Linda Castillo's next Kate Burkholder novel, Outsider, will be released next month. It's the perfect time to discuss her short mystery, "The Pact".

Aaron Kuhns and Kevin Dennison are best friends. But, because Aaron is Amish and Kevin is an Englischer, neither set of parents are pleased with their friendship. But, how do you force an eleven-year-old and twelve-year-old to break up a friendship? Instead, the boys become blood brothers, and vow to fight evil and pursue good. Their mission? Free a ten-point buck kept in a pen.

But, the two boys who have run away from home with a mission are still young, and easily scared in the woods. When they don't show up at home that evening, Kevin's parents turn to Kate Burkholder, chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio. Then, Aaron's frantic mother bundles her children into the buggy and comes looking for Kate.

As I mentioned, "The Pact" is a short story, so there isn't enough time for plot or character development. However, that doesn't mean Kate's entire police department isn't involved. Everyone shows up when two young boys are missing in cold weather just before Thanksgiving. And, that department is my favorite aspect of all of these novels. They pull together as a team.

"The Pact" has a lesson about friendship, imagination, and caring. For those of us who are fans of the series, it's a hint of forthcoming pleasure. We'll be waiting for Outsider.

Linda Castillo's website is www.lindacastillo.com

"The Pact" by Linda Castillo. St. Martin's Press, 2020. ebook.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of "The Pact".