Friday, July 31, 2020

Winners & a Book Club Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Diane K. from Darien, IL won The Secrets of Bones. Of Mutts and Men goes to Jeannette G. from Benicia, CA. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries set in the book world. I have two copies of Victoria Gilbert's first Booklover's B&B mystery, Booked for Death. Widow Charlotte Reed inherits a B&B from her great-aunt Isabella. The newly renovated inn hosts a roster of special events celebrating books, genres, and authors. When a book dealer claims Isabella was a thief, Charlotte is shocked at his accusation that she founded Chapters, the B&B on her ill-gotten gains. When the man ends up dead, his daughter accuses Charlotte of killing him. Charlotte looks for the truth, assisted by her older neighbor, a visiting author, and members of a local book club.

Or, maybe you'd prefer a Victorian Book Club Mystery. A Study in Murder is the first in Callie Hutton's new series. In Bath, England in 1890, mystery author Lady Amy Lovell dumps her fiance, Mr. Ronald St. Vincent after receiving an anonymous letter about him. Two evenings later, when he ends up dead in her library, the investigating bobbies assume she's the killer. Lady Amy teams up with a member of her Bath Mystery Book club, Lord William Wethington, to clear her name and find the killer in this humorous mystery.

Which title would you like to win? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Booked for Death" or "Win A Study in Murder." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, August 6 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

What Are You Reading?

First, how are you doing this week? I had a rough week, but, in the grand scheme of things, that's minor. I'm not sick, and no one in my family is right now. It just hit me hard that I might not get to go back to live theater, and might not get to Europe again. Let's face it, First World problems. But, theater and travel are two of my greatest joys. And, that hurts.

So, my book is taking me to Europe. I'm reading Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson, an American from tough beginnings who ended up opening first one restaurant, and now owns the Breakfast in America restaurant chain in Paris. I'm not far in the book, but I like his voice.

What about you? How are you doing? And, what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Jane Badrock, Guest Author

Jane Badrock has written a comedic thriller, Sinister Sisterhood. How often do you see the
words "comedic thriller" in the same sentence? Even her biography on her publisher's website is funny, so I'll share part of it as an introduction. She's here today, publication day for her book, to talk about libraries, specifically a public library in England. First, though, a short biography. Her piece will follow, and then a summary of Sinister Sisterhood. I hope you enjoy Badrock's appearance here today.

Jane was obsessed with horror, adventure, and humorous literature from an early age thanks mainly to her grandmother’s book collection. By the age of twelve, she was writing funny genre-busting stories about vampires and gangsters while still wanting to be both a vet and an artist.

With Sinister Sisterhood, Jane wanted to pull together her passion for writing, her love of animals and the belief that women can be just as capable and as horrible as men. So pleased is she to be an author with Bad Press ink, she hasn’t even thought about murdering any of them. Yet. In the meantime she would like to thank them all for putting this book together.
Jane was put off living up mountains when she nearly gave birth at the top of one. She also avoids rivers and canals after badly injuring herself and nearly drowning in the Norfolk Broads. Her offspring having left the nest, she lives with her husband in a nice flat field in East Anglia surrounded by rabbits, deer, squirrels, foxes, badgers, horses and two cats.
Thank you, Jane, for the following piece.
Beginnings of a Bibliophile: How a Library Helped Transform my Life

When prompted to think about libraries, I have to admit my memories were shamefully scant until I visited the theatre in December 2019. Books in general, however, were another matter.

As a young child, I was hugely motivated to read. My grandfather in deepest Kent (Darling Buds of May territory) taught me to read, sitting on his knee, with The Little Red Hen. Actually, he bribed me into it, the going rate being a penny a page. It worked well and probably helped inspire my first career choice of accountant. He also had a wonderful study stacked wall to wall with books. As I grew older, I would seek out the funny ones. I'd read almost all his PG Wodehouse collection by the time I was ten. To this day I love the smell of books, especially old ones and when I come across old libraries or bookshops it reminds me of him and the Number Six cigarettes he used to smoke.

At home in Petts Wood where I was born, I began to collect books. My mother, despite having once been a librarian, didn't inspire me to read but did do her best to get me books. Many of them were old and had names written in them – I found out much later on that my parents were hard up and she bought them from jumble sales. I'm sure she took me to our local library and I have vague memories of reading (and loving) the Dr Seuss books there. Those and When We Were Very Young by A A Milne certainly started my love of silly poetry, considerably enhanced later on by Spike Milligan.

Most of my birthday presents were books or book tokens. Enid Blyton pretty much filled up my early years' collections until my sights were broadened by the Born Free books about Elsa the Lion. They certainly reinforced my love of wildlife. Auntie Joan introduced me to the Anne of Green Gables and Little Women series. Auntie Pat, in Australia, sent books of antipodean animals and illustrated aboriginal legends.

My earliest recalled memories of libraries didn't have much to do with books. My schoolfriend Sally, however, recalls Petts Wood Library as a gateway to a whole new world. Inspired by her mother, she was reading authors like Steinbeck and Cronin, while I was collecting the Pan Books of Horror Stories. She reminded me of the times we used to hide from the rain in our secondary school library. She, naturally, to read. Me to eat my lunch – until I was caught. To appreciate this scene, you have to imagine a typical old-fashioned teacher with a very squeaky voice reaching an ear-splitting soprano crescendo.

Jam sandwiches in the library?
You'll drop crumbs and then there will be mice!
And then the mice will eat all the books!

Mrs Hardy was right, of course. She was also unintentionally and memorably funny. The closest I got to Petts Wood Library in those days was during exam revision time. 'Mum, I'm going to the library,' actually meant I was going for an illicit smoke from a packet of ten Number Six I'd hidden behind a nearby tree – not, by the way, in memory of my grandfather, but because they were the cheapest.

So what was the inciting event that brought back my precious memory? It was when I had the pleasure of seeing Sir Ian McKellen On Stage late in 2019. He read from That Book and made gentle fun of all the people who claim to read it every year. And once upon a time, that was indeed me.

It began in the last term of primary school when our stand-in teacher did something his predecessor never did. He read The Hobbit to us.

Wow! I was gripped. I couldn't wait for the daily episodes.

Then, on the last day of term, a friend announced that there was a sequel: The Lord of The Rings. Not only that, but she had it. No, not it, them. What? Three enormous volumes bearing a price tag that I could never imagine affording. So what could I do? I was desperate! There was only one solution.

Obviously, I went to the library. I felt as if I was going on a journey, not simply reading about one, and how right I was. Just handling the precious volumes gave me goose bumps. Each volume was many times bigger than anything I had ever tackled before. I borrowed them and took them with me when I stayed with my grandparents. They only ever saw me at mealtimes. One by one I devoured each volume. Laughing, crying and being thoroughly absorbed and overwhelmed. When I finally finished them, I became obsessed with the after-notes and cried again when I read what happened to the characters after the end of the book.

When I went home, I had to hand them back. I was bereft and had to wait weeks before I could take them out again. I cried knowing that even then, no one in my family could afford to buy me the series.
Finally, when the rather unwieldy and much less appealing paperback version came out, my grandmother bought it for me. It wasn't the same but at least it meant I could read it at will. I instantly covered it in silver foil and read it all over again.

Thanks to Sir Ian, I will never again forget the extreme pleasure I got from reading that seemingly elusive book and the path it took me on. And most importantly, thank you Petts Wood Library for making that happen.

Interested in a comedic thriller? Check out the summary of Jane Badrock's new book, Sinister Sisterhood.

The Sinister Sisterhood - devious, deadly and dedicated   

50% of author royalties from this book go to animal welfare charities

Elle's dreams of domestic bliss are devastated by David's deceiving dalliances. Abandoned and alone, she needs a new life-plan and it's thrust upon her by her tiger-loving aunt in India. She must conserve the creatures and hunt the hunters.
Converted to the cause, Elle's committed to combating cruel animal exploitation whether it's trading in endangered animal parts or trophy hunting.
But she can't do it on her own. What she needs is money and a terrific team beneath her and it takes time to find the right people to bring in money and carry out the campaign.
What Elle gets is an assortment of wicked women with their own attributes and agendas. But the battle gets bigger. There's a mysterious mastermind building an execrable empire on the back of coveted creatures' carcasses.
The Sisterhood are devious, deadly and dedicated - but not necessarily to Elle's cause.
Can they succeed in getting what they want?
Can Elle eliminate her enemy before he fulfils his fiendish fur fetishes?

Be they in England, America, Russia or China- the team are going to have a damned good try!

Sinister Sisterhood by Jane Badrock. Bad Press ink, 2020. ISBN 9781916084524 (paperback), 302p.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay

There's a recipe for a Jenn McKinlay romantic comedy. It's one part laughter; one smaller part madcap physical comedy. Add one part charming romance. Stir in a large handful of idyllic setting (Ireland, Paris, and Tuscany all in one book). Add a dash of regret and tears. Shake until it bubbles and fizzes. Now, you have Paris is Always a Good Idea.

Chelsea Martin is a workaholic. Ever since her mother died of pancreatic cancer seven years earlier, she's worked non-stop as a fundraiser, the senior director of major gifts, for the American Cancer Coalition in Boston. But, she's stopped in her tracks when her father announces he's remarrying. He's in love with a woman he met just two weeks earlier. While Chelsea's younger sister, Annabelle, is so happy for her father, Chelsea throws a fit. Her father is disappointed and tells her she stopped growing when her mother died.  She hasn't changed a thing, her appearance, her hairstyle, or her wardrobe in seven years. And, Annabelle tells her the last time she remembers her laughing is before their mother died, when she took a year off after college to travel in Europe.

So, Chelsea decides to quit her job, and go back to Europe. She's going to find the three men who made her laugh and feel love. She's going to Ireland and Paris and Tuscany to find the Chelsea she once was. But, work is still standing in her way. She's been working on a project to get a $10 million gift from Severin Robotics. Aidan, her boss, won't let her quit. He sends her off to Ireland on a leave of absence, with promises to check in with work. Unfortunately, it turns out she has to deal with her arch-rival at ACC, Jason Knightley, the bane of her existence. Everyone else loves him and his humor. She finds him "all flash and no substance". Now, he's going to interrupt her time and again on her trip to find her lost self.

This is a Jenn McKinlay novel. Nothing will go as Chelsea plans, and she trips over herself frequently. In fact, Chelsea reminds me a little of Amy Adams' character in one of my favorite romantic comedies, "Leap Year". She's just as hapless at times. Fortunately, for the book, and for Chelsea, she has the spirit and guts to overcome her own klutziness.

Jenn McKinlay excels at characters and humor. The reader roots for Chelsea to find her lost laughter, to shed seven years of pain. Her recipe for love, and the reader's for a treat? Paris is Always a Good Idea.

Jenn McKinlay's website is

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley, 2020. ISBN 9780593101353 (paperback), 340p.

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

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Detective in the Dooryard by Timothy Cotton

When asked, I say my all-time favorite book is a collection of essays by Patricia Leimbach, A Thread of Blue Denim. Leimbach knows how to appreciate moments in life,; a trip to sell eggs, running to the store for parts for a tractor, the backyard as the setting for every children's adventure novel. Timothy Cotton's collection, The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop, is going on the shelf next to Leimbach's books.

Timothy Cotton is a detective lieutenant with the Bangor Maine Police Department. He has been a police officer for over thirty years. He loved being a detective in the Criminal Investigation Division, but, when he went for a promotion to sergeant the only position available was as public information officer. The job included writing the Facebook page for the department. By now, there are over 300,000 followers on the page. The posts are sarcastic at times, but the humor is always gentle. Cotton's overall tone is always kind.

And, that's the tone of the book. Cotton always writes with kindness as he relates stories of the people he interacts with, whether those people are homeless men on the street, a widow who found her husband after he committed suicide, the clerk at a convenience store, or the young man with a warrant he can't pay, but has enlisted and is leaving for boot camp.

When I started following the Bangor Maine Police Dept. on Facebook, three elements stood out. Once a week, Cotton had a piece got "Got Warrants". He includes forty pages of those stories here, poking fun of the ridiculous things criminals do, while leaving the criminals and the police anonymous. He also tells stories of the Duck of Justice, a stuffed duck he rescued from a trash can in the DA's office in 2009. Now, people travel from all over the country and some foreign countries to take pictures with the duck.

Here's what stands out for me. At a time when people don't trust police, Timothy Cotton tells stories of everyday life, of police officers who interact with the community. Yes, they investigate crime, and have to deal with that, but Cotton points out that he's spent so much time over the years listening to people, and trying to understand them. Not everyone reacts well to kindness and a conversation, but what does it hurt to start with that?

I cried through the entire last section of the book, the "anonymous" accounts of "The Cop" who stopped regularly to check on the ninety-one year old woman who, in return, made him banana bread. This is the cop who sent a marine off to camp after paying his fine and buying him a hamburger. This is the cop who sometimes needs to stop home in the middle of a shift after dealing with a death or a tragedy. He stops just to have a few minutes to tell his wife, to have an ear.

Yes, I have a couple stories about police officers who were kind. Maybe, in these troubled times, it would be called white privilege. Maybe so. But, human to human, I call it kindness. And, that's what Timothy Cotton's The Detective in the Dooryard is all about, taking the time to listen and be kind.

If you've read a few of the posts on Facebook from the Bangor Maine Police Department, you know how Timothy Cotton signs off. It's the perfect summary for this book of essays. "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another. We will be here. TC BPD."

Timothy Cotton writes the posts on Facebook for the Bangor Maine Police Department, and he has his own Facebook page at Tim Cotton, @Tim CottonWrites.

The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop by Timothy Cotton. Down East Books, 2020. ISBN 9781608937424 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Have You Heard? Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

I'm reading two books right now, but I spent quite a bit of time on the phone on Saturday, so I'm turning the blog over to Sandie Herron for a Have You Heard? post. Today, she's talking about Tammy Kaehler's audiobook, Avoidable Contact. Thank you, Sandie.

Avoidable Contact                                              

Series: A Kate Reilly Mystery, Book 3
Written by Tammy Kaehler, Narrated by Nicole Vilencia
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 10 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio (November 20, 2015)
ASIN: B01865XJR6
*** ½ stars

Kate Reilly is ready to go racing as the clock clicks down over Daytona International Speedway where the legendary 24-hour auto race is about to begin.  Kate is pumped up and ready to support her co-drivers of the 28 Corvette C7.R formerly of a member of the AMLS.  Since the league merged with another to form the United Sports Car Championship series (USCC), Kate is pleased the Sandham Swift racing team continued in the new series.  Victims of the merger clash with survivors as the green flag flies.

Amid the fans, drivers, pit crews, team owners, and media mingling on pit row, two uniformed policemen approach Kate.  She must yank her mind away from the race as the men tell her that her boyfriend Stuart, USCC head of operations, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident an hour ago just outside the racetrack.  His condition is critical.  Kate reels with this news and begins to deliberate whether she will stay at the track or go to the hospital.

After deciding to stay, Kate starts to talk with drivers, pit crews, USCC officials, the media, car owners, team sponsors, her personal sponsor, and her personal manager.  Kate’s father, whom she is getting to know following an estrangement since birth, is at the track since his bank sponsors the series.  Not all drivers are professionals; some race as amateurs, privileged or rich enough to land a ride in the single race.  Members of Kate’s new family are among them.  Her maternal grandfather joins in via her cell phone with words of wisdom and advice.  Each tugs Kate in a different direction.

Kate must push them all away as she dons the last pieces of her racing gear and climbs into the car for her driver stints.  Again we are treated to pure racing inside Kate’s head as she goes through the steps of piloting the car.  We sit with her as she peeks at an accident she drives by, dismayed to see it involves the Sandham Swift 29 Corvette.

Kate deals with the myriad of feelings cascading inside her trying to discover a motive for Stuart’s accident which may be related to the track accident which may involve family and others too numerous to name.  Over the course of the 24 hour race, Kate’s trusted friends help her piece together the mysteries they face.

Suspenseful events on the track are interspersed with Kate’s fact-finding missions.  The race countdown throughout the narrative ratchets up excitement.  I felt Kate’s constant dialogues between her stints as driver somewhat tedious.  I tired of constant “what ifs,” speculation, and Kate’s paranoia over trust issues .  In the end, Kate’s searching does provide answers, but by book and race’s end, I wondered how much difference the answer would make.  It is up to Kate’s father to determine who comes first – Kate or the members of the family who crashed and raced the Daytona 24-hour endurance race.  Kate is left unsure of new family relationships but solid in her continuing racing career.
Reviewed by Sandie Herron

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Lineage Most Lethal by S. C. Perkins

Is this the kind of amateur sleuth, or, actually, the kind of character you would like to see in a book? "I don't apologize for loving learning and information. I'm smart, I'm good at my job, I work hard, and I'm proud of it." Those are my favorite sentences in S.C. Perkins' excellent second mystery, Lineage Most Lethal. Genealogist Lucy Lancaster is not ashamed of who she is. My kind of character. And, how often do you see a female in any novel express that kind of confidence?

Hotel heiress Pippa Sutton is Lucy's latest client. At twenty-four, Pippa is the last descendant to bear the surname of 19th century land baron Reginald Sutton and his English wife, Sarah Bess. She's the sole heir to a one hundred year old dynasty of small but high-end hotels in Texas and the South. As Lucy finishes up the project for Pippa, she's staying at the hotel in Austin, even though she lives and works there. The hotel gives Lucy access to a number of Pippa's cousins who can fill in personal stories about the family. That includes Pippa's paternal great-grandparents. Her great-grandfather, James, met Nell, his future wife, when he was in England, fighting WWII as a British citizen.

Lucy returns from another research trip to a local cemetery, and is out on the hotel porch when a man staggers from the parking lot, collapses at her feet, tries to put a Montblanc pen in her hand, and says, "Keep them safe." She has no idea what he means, but when she mentions the pen to her beloved grandfather, George, he knows. That's when he reveals he was an intelligence officer during the war, a spy, and he remained active as a handler for twenty more years. He recognized that pen as a special connection to a small group of eight spies who had a shared mission. But, before he can do a great deal of research, Grandpa is hit by a car in a hit-and-run accident. Some good Samaritan stayed with him, passed on a message, and made sure there was a security guard at the hospital door for the ninety-two-year-old man.

Without her grandfather's assistance, Lucy has to tap into her research abilities as a genealogist. She soon realizes the dead man at the hotel might be linked to a couple other recent deaths. Then, she worries about her grandfather. Can all these accidents and deaths be traced back to that small group of spies in the war? That Montblanc pen and a book are the biggest clues in Lucy's arsenal.

S.C. Perkins' characters are wonderful. Lucy, her grandfather, her co-workers, and even the restaurant owner at Big Flaco's Tacos are well-developed, great characters. I adore her grandfather! Perkins knows how to keep those characters active and involved with Lucy.

Here's my recommendation for this riveting book. Don't read the flap of the book if you pick it up. It gives away too much of the story. While some might call this a cozy mystery, I consider it a compelling pageturner. Don't spoil any bit of this suspenseful mystery for yourself.

A year ago, I reviewed S.C. Perkins' debut mystery, Murder Once Removed. It was debut of the month for Library Journal, and a starred review. Lineage Most Lethal is even better than the first book.

S.C. Perkins' website is

Lineage Most Lethal by S.C. Perkins. Minotaur Books, 2020. ISBN 9781250750075 (hardcover), 340p.

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

Friday, July 24, 2020

Winners and a Going to the Dogs Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Bill T. from St. Clair Shores, MI won the copy of Long Range. Traces of Evil will go to Barbara W. from Auburn, WA. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, the giveaway features two mysteries involving dogs. Are you a fan of the Chet and Bernie books? Chet is the best dog narrator, and you really don't have to have read earlier books to enjoy Spencer Quinn's Of Mutts and Men. Chet will help you catch up. Bernie's the owner of the Little Detective Agency in Arizona, where the water supply is his big issue. When he and Chet find a scientist dead, a man just as concerned about water in the desert as Bernie, they investigate. Of course, there's always stories for Chet to tell along the way.

Maybe you would prefer The Secrets of Bones by Kylie Logan.  This mystery follows Jazz Ramsey as she trains a cadaver dog. Assembly Day at St. Catherine's brings professional women from all around Ohio to talk to the schoolgirls about their careers. Jazz Ramsey, whose puppy is still too young for certification, brings a friend's cadaver dog, and hides a few bones around the unused fourth floor for Gus to find. The girls are impressed when Gus finds the first bone, but then he heads off to an area where Jazz didn't hide any bones. But Gus is a professional, and he finds a human skeleton behind a door. The skeleton belongs to a teacher at the school who, one year, never returned from Christmas break. And, there are all kinds of suspects inside the school and out who might have wanted the woman to be dead.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win The Secrets of Bones" or "Win Of Mutts and Men." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 30 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Check in, please. How are you doing this week? I hope everyone is okay, but let us know if you need a word of encouragement or a virtual hug. I can handle both of those, and I think others would step up, too.

I'm reading S.C. Perkins' second Ancestry Detective mystery, Lineage Most Lethal. Lucy Lancaster is a genealogist. Her latest client is a hotel heiress, and Lucy's staying at one of the hotels in Austin, Texas, as she finishes up the project. That's where a man dies at her feet, dropping a Montblanc pen as he gasps out a message. I won't say anything more about the plot, but I will say I love Lucy's grandfather, a major player in this book. He's in his nineties.

So, what are you reading this week? I'm hoping it's something that keeps your mind occupied. Take care of yourself!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Of Bears and Ballots by Heather Lende

Somehow, I missed one of Heather Lende's books. Including Of Bears and Ballots, she's written four nonfiction accounts of her life in Haines, Alaska. The first one,  If You Lived Here, I'd Know I'd Know Your Name, introduces readers to small town life in the town ninety miles north of Juneau. For me, it was an introduction to my type of nonfiction writer, someone whose essays have heart and bring nods and, occasionally, tears. In her latest book, she confronts the divisive politics that has hit the country. Lende saw it firsthand, as a newly elected member of the borough assembly who faced a recall petition almost as soon as she was elected, along with the two other newly elected liberals on the assembly board.

Heather Lende writes the obituaries for the weekly newspaper, Chilkat Valley News. She's invited into homes when surviving family members are at their lowest point so she can gather the stories and memories families want to share. She was once grand marshal in the local parade and named volunteer of the year by the Chamber of Commerce. She supports the public library, the senior services, the local pool. Her children grew up in Haines, and her grandchildren are now growing up there. Her husband, Chip, is a local businessman. She's the town's honored hometown author. So, it seemed like a personal insult, a slap in the face, when petitions started circulating to recall her and the other two newcomers. She didn't want to go to the grocery store. She recognized names on the petition as people she knew well.

Lende was elected in 2016, a tumultuous time in Haines, and in the country. She suspects social media and dirty, divisive politics encouraged the actions in the town. The biggest issue was about the change in the local harbor. Lende's opposition to the current plans was just one issue. The assembly hires a manager to run the city, and that becomes a divisive issue, with half the community wanting one candidate, and half the other. The night the assembly announced who they were hiring, one assembly member stood up, quit, and walked out.

Needless to say, it was a rough period. Lende, the only woman on the recall petition, took it much harder than the two men. She confronts that in her book. But, she also puts faces on the people in the town, and she explains the issues well enough that readers who don't live in Haines understand the stories. Although this book discusses small town politics quite a bit, the reader cares because Lende cares so much.

That's why I return to Heather Lende's books and her writing. When asked what my favorite book is, I say Patricia Leimbach's A Thread of Blue Denim. It's a collection of essays by an Ohio farm wife and writer who understood the human heart. Lende is the same. Maybe it's small town life. Maybe it's writing obituaries, and listening to people talk about loved ones. She, like Leimbach, tries to portray the heart, the human connection in a story. Maybe Of Bears and Ballots is a book about politics in Haines, Alaska. Maybe it's a book about learning to work with others, learning to listen.  Maybe it's a book about heart in a small town.

Heather Lende's website is

Of Bears and Ballots by Heather Lende. Algonquin Books, 2020. ISBN 9781616208516 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Blue Marlin by Lee Smith

Dimestore: A Writer's Life was Lee Smith's first nonfiction title. Somewhere, I have a copy that I haven't read yet. But, when I heard Judy Blume recommend Smith's novella Blue Marlin, I immediately ordered the book. It may be a small book, but Smith's note at the end of the book, "The Geographical Cure" shows how much emotional truth there is in this coming-of-age story.

Jenny Dale is thirteen years old in 1958. She has ambitions to be a spy and a writer, and she's honing her craft as she rides her bike around town. Jenny's the youngest of three daughters, the late-in-life one who didn't know either of her older sisters well. But, she adores her parents. Her mother, Billie, is one of the most beautiful women in Virginia, and her father, John, "the best lawyer in town", runs Dale Industries, the local mill, and has since his father committed suicide. But, when Jenny's riding her bike around, spying on people, including a local artist, Carroll Byrd, she discovers her father is having an affair with the woman. Jenny's just bursting to tell someone, but she keeps it a secret.

The affair remains a secret until another death brings it into the open. Billie's brother is shot and killed in a bar, and when Billie falls apart, no one can find John. When he returns, Bille is sent away to recover, and then Jenny is sent to South Carolina to live with Cousin Glenda, a high school principal who should be able to make Jenny behave.

Enjoy Jenny's story of her time with Cousin Glenda's family, a story of the late fifties and bomb shelters and first kisses. Jenny is reluctant to leave when her parents pick her up, but the trio is heading to Key West, Florida, on a geographical cure to try to save the marriage. The resulting account of Jenny's adventures in a cemetery, a strip club, and with Hollywood celebrities is a celebration of Key West's eccentricities.

Jenny Dale sees her family through slightly different eyes because of the year she's thirteen. It's a charming, melancholy story with its wisps of sadness and hints of adulthood. And, it may not be an accurate account of Lee Smith's family and their trip to Key West, but her note indicates the story is emotionally true. How many of us can remember events from the year we were thirteen, and remember them accurately? The truth, though, can be found in the emotions that evoke the past. That's what you'll discover in Lee Smith's Blue Marlin.

Lee Smith's website is

Blue Marlin by Lee Smith. Blair, 2020. ISBN 9781949467314 (paperback), 123p.

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

Monday, July 20, 2020

Margaret Lucke, Guest Author

What a pleasure! I love it when an author writes a guest post about libraries. I think you'll enjoy Margaret Lucke's piece. Let me introduce you to the author of the Claire Scanlan Haunted House books.

Margaret Lucke flings words around in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes tales of love, ghosts, and murder, sometimes all three in one book. Her Claire Scanlan Haunted House series includes House of Whispers and the just released House of Desire. She also writes mysteries featuring artist and private investigator Jess Randolph, the latest of which is Snow Angel. Margaret is the editor of Fault Lines, a short story anthology published last year by the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime. She teaches fiction writing classes and workshops, and has written how-to books on the craft of writing fiction.
Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your story.
About Books, Shelves, and the Libraries that Hold Them
by Margaret Lucke

A big thrill for an author comes the first time they see their new book on the shelves of their hometown library or, even better, in a library patron’s hands.
What is a bigger thrill is to help bring a library to the place where they live, where none existed before.
When I was a kid I loved to browse the shelves of my school library and the public library nearby. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and I loved to run my fingers along the spines of the upright books, reading the titles and the authors’ names. On reaching the spot where my name would be, I’d push open a little space between the books by authors whose names fell before and after mine in the alphabet. Right in that spot—that’s where a book with my name on it would be someday.
Then I grew up, moved to the other side of the country, and achieved the dream of having a couple of books with my name on the cover. What I no longer had was a hometown library.
When I took up residence here, my town was the second largest city in California not to have a public library within its town limits. Many of us wanted to change that. When the state’s voters passed a library funding bond, we had our chance. Our city and county governments, the local schools, neighborhood businesses, and individuals who love libraries banded together to create an application for the state funds. We appointed a task force to select the right site and a good architect. We held fundraising drives to raise money for costs that the bond funds wouldn’t cover. We held town meetings where residents debated the merits of shelving styles and carpet patterns. We cheered when a crane lifted a large magnolia tree over the roof and set it in place in the atrium that brings sunlight into the center of the building.
On the day of the grand opening, the town had a large and festive celebration. I had my own small private celebration as I wandered the stacks. There amongst the thousands of books on the shelves were a few that were written by me. I ran my fingers along the row of spines, gratified that there was no longer an empty space where my name belonged.
The library quickly became the heart of our community, serving the town as a cultural center, an educational center, and a place of entertainment. It warmly welcomes local authors.
When my novel House of Whispers came out, the librarian invited me to do a reading and talk. I’m not sure whether I qualified as culture, education, or entertainment, but that evening was one of my most rewarding experiences as author. The room was filled with friends, neighbors, well wishers, and supporters, all of them eager to hear about my new book.
Now House of Desire, the next in my Claire Scanlan Haunted House series, has been published. I’m eager to share this story at the library, to help readers there discover Claire’s mysterious world. She is a real estate agent with a talent she’d rather not have—when she goes into certain houses, she can sense presences and energies that no one else detects. When her philandering brother-in-law is accused of murdering a rival in a grand San Francisco Victorian, she must risk a perilous journey into the past to find the only witness—a time-traveling “soiled dove” from the 1890s who is invisible to everyone but Claire.
Sadly, the library is currently closed, thanks to the pandemic that has disrupted all of our lives so profoundly. It has just begun allowing curbside pickup service, a small hopeful step. I’m eagerly looking forward to the day when it will fully reopen, when I can find House of Desire on its shelves and share the book with its patrons. In the meantime I’m at home, at the computer, plotting out the next Claire Scanlan mystery.

Twitter: @MargaretLucke

Amazon link:

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Once You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka

I like Kristen Lepionka's mysteries featuring PI Roxane Weary for several reasons. The Columbus, Ohio setting always draws me in. But, Roxane herself is the biggest draw. She's a complex character with flaws and personal issues. But, she tries. She really tries to overcome her family and personal troubles. Sometimes, she's the biggest block to her own success.

Roxane was supposed to meet her brother Andrew early one morning for a nature hike. He doesn't show, but she runs into Rebecca Newsome, an experienced hiker. When Rebecca falls to her death on the trail, Roxane is the last person who spoke with the woman. Everyone blames Rebecca's dog for getting under her feet, but Weary is a little doubtful.

Then, Rebecca's daughter, Maggie, shows up at Roxane's office, wanting to hire her. Maggie thinks her mother was pushed, and she suspects Rebecca's ex-husband had something to do with the death. Weary tracks him down. He's a former cop, and he might be a jerk, but Roxane finds no evidence he's linked to his ex-wife's death. She just can't convince Maggie, her client, that he isn't responsible.

In the course of the investigation, Roxane follows a confusing trail from Toledo to Detroit to Windsor, Canada. How do a casino, a private club, and an evangelical home church connect to the victim? Why is the stepson of the church's pastor hiding in Rebecca's house? While Roxane immerses herself in the investigation, she can ignore her personal problems. She doesn't have to think about the woman she used to love, or the man who wants more than she's prepared to give. She doesn't have to think of her father, a dead cop, or a female cop, new to the local force, who resembles Roxane. Roxane Weary might find a solution to her case. She might learn if Rebecca Newsome was killed or not. It's going to be harder for her to deal with her own issues.

Once You Go This Far is an intriguing story. But, as I said earlier, once you're this far in the series, you're going to stay for the character of Roxane Weary.

Kristen Lepionka's website is

Once You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka. St. Martin's, 2020. ISBN 9781250309372 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Sandie Herron Reviews: The Murder Stone by Charles Todd

I'm on a weekend binge of reading for reviews right now, so I turned to Sandie Herron for help. This is a review of a book, instead of an audiobook, so it's not one of the "Have You Heard" pieces. Today, Sandie reviews a standalone by Charles Todd. I'm sure most of you have heard of Todd's Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford mysteries. Set in the same time period, this is The Murder Stone.

THE MURDER STONE                                                                   
By Charles Todd
Bantam Books (November 4, 2003)

Francis Hatton died in 1916 while the Great War raged in Europe, and life changed forever.   The old man took ill after the black-rimmed telegram arrived announcing the death of his last grandson.  He died a short while later, once his granddaughter had returned from her Red Cross duties in London.   In another time he would have had his two sons, their wives, and his six grandchildren and his many servants from River’s End estate to mourn his passing.  But in this time he had been left one by one by all of them but the youngest, Francesca, who is now his sole heir. 

Little does Francesca realize that with the inheritance of River’s End comes a peculiar request to move a white stone that she and her cousins in their many games had called the Murder Stone.  In addition to River’s End in Devon, the Will mentions estates in Sussex and Essex, of which she knew nothing.  This is only the beginning of the numerous secrets and rumors and whispering that begin with Francis Hatton’s death.  Along with the Will was a sealed letter with no signature that simply stated “May you and yours rot in hell then.  It is no more than you deserve.” 

Bewildered and grieving and very much alone, Francesca must see to the funeral and burial.  Before she can even do so, Richard Leighton comes calling, insisting that Francis Hatton had killed his mother and buried her; he wants her body to put to rest.  Another man claims Francis Hatton stole his estate in Essex in a card game and demands the prerogative to buy it back since it rightfully belongs to his family who had held title for over 400 years.  Yet another gruff man attends the funeral and inspects the entire house uninvited searching for a box of ledgers for which he claims to have paid an exorbitant price.  A young woman claiming to be Francesca’s nanny asks if Francis Hatton had left her any money in his Will, yet neither Francesca nor her housekeeper recognize her.

It is shortly after the funeral that Francesca realizes, “If there was only someone she could confide in – trust with her questions, with her doubts and fears.  But where to put that trust?  That was the price of being the last of the Hattons.  She could rely only on her own instincts, her own wisdom.  Her own courage.”  This very sentence is what carries the rest of this excellent novel as Francesca learns the secrets Francis Hatton left behind.

Charles Todd’s writing has an aura about it that transported me back in time.  The time period is the same as his excellent Ian Rutledge series and deals with the similar theme of the effects of war on men and women, but if it is possible, from an even closer viewpoint.  Todd writes just as if he were an author in 1916 and represents the vastly different way of life with such expertise.  The action is not the same as that of a present day thriller; he deals more with the details of how people interact and react and their relationships with each other.  Please don’t misunderstand, however, because there is very real suspense and intrigue here.  The nuances are finer and more intricate.  The impact of small details carry through and drive the story.

The unveiling of the many secrets held by Francis Hatton and others was deliciously enthralling.  How interconnected they all became in the end was fascinating to read.  It is Francesca Hatton, sole heir of Francis Hatton, who must decide what do.  I certainly enjoyed following along on her journey.

The Murder Stone by Charles Todd. Bantam, 2003. ISBN 978-0553803488 (hardcover), 368p.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Winners and Give Me a B Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Dianne O. from Oak Park, IL won And Then There Were Crumbs. Cobblered to Death is going to our first winner from Alaska, Pam M. at JBER, AK. The books are going out in the mail today.

The authors this week have last names beginning with B. Let's start with C.J. Box' Long Range. Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett reluctantly joins the rescue efforts for the victim of a startling grizzly attack. One survivor tells a bizarre story, but just when Joe begins to suspect the attack is not what it seems, he's brought home for an emergency. Someone has targeted a prominent local judge, shooting at him from a seemingly impossible distance. But, it's the judge's wife who is severely wounded, and Joe's best friend falls under suspicion.

Or, maybe you want to travel to Burning Lake, New York with Alice Blanchard's Trace of Evil. Rookie detective Natalie Lockhart has been tasked with uncovering the whereabouts of nine missing transients who have disappeared over the years, wrestling with the town's troubling history and the scars left by her sister's unsolved murder years earlier. Then a beloved schoolteacher with her own secrets is found dead. There's a suspect, but the suspect is in a coma, collapsed only hours after the teacher's death. There are far-reaching consequences in this case.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at You subject line should read either "Win Long Range" or "Win Trace of Evil." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, July 23 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

What Are You Reading?

First, how are you doing this week? What's happening in your state? Is it mandatory you wear a mask in your state or community? Please stay safe. I want all of us in this book circle to be here every week.

I can tell you what is next on my pile, but I haven't started it yet. I have three books to read for Library Journal by Monday. Really no problem, but no time to read from my TBR pile. I have a book called The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop by Timothy Cotton. Maybe you're one of the 304,000+ people (as I am) who "liked" the page for the Bangor Maine Police Department. Timothy Cotton, a detective lieutenant with them, was asked by the police chief to handle their Facebook page. He, along with all of us, discovered he has a gift for humor, warmth, and a touch of sarcasm. He's a recipient of the Erma Bombeck Award for humor. I can't wait to read his stories.

What about you? What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Of Mutts and Men by Spencer Quinn

I don't catch all the Chet and Bernie books, but I was ready for a new one when I reviewed Spencer Quinn's Of Mutts and Men. As a former resident of Arizona, I can understand Bernie's constant worry about water in the desert. This time, it's front and center in the new book. Chet, of course, never quite understands, but if Bernie's worried, Chet is too.

Chet the dog and his partner, Bernie Little, of Little Detective Agency accidentally stumble across a case involving water in the desert. The team had just retrieved a stolen painting when they meet Dr. Wendall Nero, a hydrologist who specializes in the study of water and its practical uses. Dr. Nero asks if they're interested in a case, and invites them to his trailer in Dollhouse Canyon. By the time Chet and Bernie arrive the next day, Wendall has been murdered, his throat slit.

The sheriff is not available, so the team has to deal with a not-so-bright deputy sheriff. But, Chet finds a clue that leads them straight to a trailer, and a man who has a knife and Wendall's wallet. Of course the deputy is satisfied that he has his killer. But, Bernie is doubtful. Bernie's on-going investigation leads to Chet's kidnapping. Of course, Chet escapes as only he can, and finds his way back to his beloved Bernie.

Bernie doesn't believe the suspect actually killed Dr. Nero. His investigation leads to a high-powered firm with international connections. Fans of the series will not be surprised that it also leads the duo into more trouble. The leisurely paced mystery follows the detectives as they meander through the case. It also feels as if the story meanders through Chet's mind, which is part of the pleasure of this series.

Chet and Bernie's fans return for Chet's narration and his simple adoration of his partner. Although the murders always trigger the investigations in these books, let's face it. Readers enjoy the feel-good books about a dog and his beloved owner. They're both portrayed with all their flaws and insecurities. Chet's narration provides the humor for this beloved long-running series.

Spencer Quinn's website is

Of Mutts and Men by Spencer Quinn. Forge, 2020. ISBN 9781250297693 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Lori Allen, Guest Author

Lori Allen is owner/operator of one of the biggest and busiest bridal mega-salons in the country, Atlanta’s Bridals by Lori. But she’s also a wife, mother, grandmother, and breast cancer survivor.
Whether you’re feeling invisible, disappearing into the fabric of your couch a little more every year, or simply being indecisive about what’s next, Lori offers herself as the poster child of what to do, not do, and how to see your way through the unexpected.
From the star of “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta”, now filming its eleventh season for TLC, comes a book and a life-makeover movement for women approaching fifty and beyond. In Say Yes to What’s Next she addresses essential issues such as “Get off the couch and live your passion”, and “Marriage is awesome, but it’s no fairytale.”

Here's Lori Allen's guest post.

5 Ways to “Say Yes” to Summer Fun with Lori Allen

You don’t need a family beach getaway to enjoy the outdoors this summer! Whether you’re still sheltering at home, or you’re able to incorporate some loved ones back into your life, here are 5 of my favorite outdoor summer activities:

·       Grilling & Eating Outdoors – Whether you have a permanent outdoor kitchen or you have a simple grill set up in your backyard, grilling and eating outdoors is the quintessential taste of summer. I love when my husband Eddie grills steak, chicken or veggies for us. We enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, and those long, lazy days of summer. 

·       Gardening – I cannot get enough of summer gardening! I’ve become the stereotypical Southern woman complete with floppy hat and gardening gloves, who spends the summer tending to my flower bed and all my spring planting. Check out this blog post with some of my favorite Southern gardening tips.

·       Lawn games – We like to take advantage of our beautiful yards and set up some lawn games! Bocce ball, cornhole with your family, even giant games of connect four and chess/checkers are great activities to play with your spouse, friends, and your grandkids!

·       Reading – I don’t have to tell you that reading outside is one of the great pleasures of summer. If you have a front porch or back patio, they make a shady, cozy spot for reading an afternoon away!

·       Watching the sunset – When was the last time you made a conscious decision to just watch the sunset? We get so caught up in our day to day lives, that we forget to witness God’s beauty! In the summer, I like to relax on a lounge chair and just watch the sunset through the trees. When the sky turns those glorious shades of pastels, it makes me feel so happy and alive.

Find more great tips in Say Yes to What’s Next” by Lori Allen.

Say Yes to What's Next by Lori Allen. Thomas Nelson, 2020. ISBN 9780785234135  (hardcover), 240p.

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O'Neal

I've been reading and admiring Barbara O'Neal's novels since she wrote them under the name Barbara Samuel. I read her latest, The Lost Girls of Devon, under the guise of a mystery. Yes, there is a disappearance and several murders. But, this is actually a story that examines the relationship between four generations of the Fairchild women. It doesn't have the magical realism focus that some of O'Neal's earlier books do. But, there's a magic and strength in nature and love and family that is the emphasis of this story.

Lillian Fairchild may be close to ninety, but the mystery writer is still tuned in to the atmosphere and conversations in the Devon village of Axestowe. Something is going on in the village. She calls her granddaughter, Zoe, to tell her Diana, Lillian's home nurse, once Zoe's best friend, has been missing for two weeks. Zoe, who feels guilty for her year-long argument with Diana, packs up her teen daughter, Isabel, and returns to the one place that was always home, Lillian's Woodhurst Hall.

Zoe spent years living with her grandmother after her mother, Poppy, left her there, promising to return. A lonely, needy Zoe wrote to her mother weekly, begging her to return. But, it was only after Zoe moved to New Mexico as an adult, married, and had a daughter, that Poppy returned from her travels in the East. Now, Poppy might have a popular shop, The Kitchen Witch, but Zoe has never forgiven the mother who abandoned her. Instead, Zoe's trapped in her feelings of hate and abandonment, never able to trust that people she loves won't leave her.  And, she argued with Diana, feeling betrayed, when Diana befriended Poppy.

Zoe even feels as if her first love, Sage Cooper, picked Poppy over her. But, with Lillian's health fading, and Zoe's own daughter, Isabel, struggling with depression as a result of an unknown trauma, there's no choice but to allow Poppy to have a role in the Fairchild relationships. But, Zoe won't do that graciously, or with love.

While the community comes together to search for Diana, and, then the police look into the murder of a young woman left on the beach, that's a vehicle the author uses to bring this family, and Sage, back into the same circle. It's those relationships, and that circle that is the heart of the story.

Barbara O'Neal specializes in novels featuring broken women who are forced to gather their strength and regroup. They are realistic, believable characters who have been hurt, or, have hurt others. It's O'Neal's role to show women who grow stronger, who heal, who find strength in other women. The Lost Girls of Devon, on the surface, is the story of several women who have gone missing. It's actually a heartbreaking, and heartwarming, story of lost girls who need the support of other women.

Barbara O'Neal's website is

The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O'Neal. Lake Union Publishing, 2020. ISBN 9781542020725 (paperback), 307p.

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