Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Great American Read

Personally, I don't feel as if there is "America's favorite novel" or "The Great American Novel". I'm a librarian. If you have a favorite novel, it may not be your mother or sister or brother's favorite. And, I'm fine with that. I'm just happy we're all reading. But, tonight PBS is kicking off their search for "The Great American Read", and I'm going to watch. Of course I am. They're talking about fiction. I'm a genre reader, though, and even if I've read a fourth of the books on the list, they won't be my favorites.

But, we all love to read, right? So, just to get into the spirit of things, let's talk about our favorite novels. There are only a few books I reread, and most are nonfiction. The fiction titles are actually by authors who aren't American. I reread The Hobbit, and Louise Penny's mysteries. I loved Little Women and a children's book called Snow Treasure. I guess there's really no one book I would recommend to everyone.

What about you? Do you have one?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kaye Wilkinson Barley's Meanderings and Muses

When there's not enough time in the day to blog because I'm on review deadline for a journal, I like to share pieces from some of my friends. Kaye Wilkinson Barley is one of my best friends, my roommate for Bouchercons and travel companion to Paris. She has a fairly new feature on her site, Meanderings and Muses. It's called "From Inside My Book Fort". Kaye and guests read from favorite titles. I've read there a couple times. Kaye reads there, and some of her other friends have as well. We're reading from books we've enjoyed over the years. Today, I'm sending you to Kaye's website, if you have time.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Have You Heard? Murder Past Due by Miranda James

I want to make a couple comments before Sandie Herron's review. I'm back from New York City, and I'll eventually have a couple blog posts about the trip. Some of you might appreciate the photos of the exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters. It's a joint exhibit: "Heavenly Bodies and the Catholic Imagination". I have other photos as well, but a number from this exhibition. It takes a little while to download all the photos and write the pieces.

In the meantime, I'm always grateful that Sandie Herron contributes some reviews of audio books. I probably reviewed all of Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mysteries, but that doesn't mean I addressed how the books work for those who like to listen to them. Sandie does that for us. Thank you, Sandie.


Murder Past Due

Series: Cat in the Stacks Mystery Book 1
Written by Miranda James
Narrated by Erin Bennett
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: February 25, 2014

I very much enjoyed Miranda James's (Dean James) first entry in the Cat in the Stacks series MURDER PAST DUE.  This was a relatively simple story that gained speed as it unfolded.  By the end, we had been treated to several twists and surprises that pointed to an unlikely conclusion.

Taking place in the college town of Athena, Mississippi, we are introduced to Charlie Harris, who is widowed and whose adult children are on their own.  Living in a large home, Charlie took in boarders who attended Athena College.  This semester just one boarder - Justin Wardlaw, son of school and college classmate Julia Wardlaw - lived with Charlie and his cat.  Diesel was a Maine Coon cat; therefore he was large among cat breeds.  In fact, Charlie almost always took Diesel wherever he went bound by a harness and leash.

Another classmate of Charlie and Julia, Godfrey Priest, had gone on to become a famous and popular author.  He returns to Athena for several reasons.  He is to do a signing of his new book just published.  He also wants to donate his "papers" to the college where Charlie was the head archivist.  A dinner was planned to thank Godfrey for his donation; however, he never made it. Several people stopped by to see Priest, with his final visitor being Charlie Harris, who found Godfrey dead in his hotel room.

First we discover that Charlie’s boarder Justin is Godfrey's son from an affair he and Julia had many years ago.  From there clues began popping up, or at least now that there was a murder to solve, they became more apparent.  If I shared them now, there would be no reason for you to enjoy this cozy mystery.

There were some things that strained believability.  Justin acted younger than 18, but then he's just been told that the only father he ever knew is not his father and then his biological father, Godfrey Priest, is killed, all in one day.  Charlie tries to help since he knew everyone, but his involvement was unnaturally formal and friendly at the same time.  On getting to know Charlie better, we discover that he is a southern gentleman which explains the importance of proper manners to him.  Julia was around a bit too often, hovering over Justin.  When the Will was read, Julia wanted to know how much was in the estate, in dollars, a rude question at the time.

While there might have been some flaws, I felt the clues to the murderer were well placed and plausible.  Their presentation was unpredictable yet believable.  When we learn more behind the motives, clues came together to support the final resolution, even though my jaw dropped once or twice on the way.  

A great first mystery in the Cat in the Stacks series.  I would enjoy seeing Charlie and Diesel in a certain sequel.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe

For a while, Mary Alice Monroe wrote one of her Beach House books every five years. I'll admit, it always took time for me to remember the family and the relationships. Fortunately for those of us who love to go back to the Isle of Palms, Beach House Reunion was published only one year after Beach House for Rent. Three years have passed, and it's time for the Rutledge women to once more return to the refuge of Primrose Cottage on the Isle of Palms.

Cara Rutledge inherited Primrose Cottage from her mother, the island's original turtle lady, Miss Lovie. She inherited neighbors, and the shelter of the cottage that has gone through hurricanes, love and death. Now, three years after her beloved husband's death, Cara has quit her job and returns, bringing one-year-old Hope, the daughter she adopted. But, Cara discovers it's hard to work at home and take care of a baby. Fortunately, her niece, Linnea, has learned it's hard to be a recent college graduate without a job and live with her parents. Her aunt's need for a nanny coincides perfectly with Linnea's need to escape the family home in Charlotte.

Summer on Isle of Palms is always a special time. It's turtle nesting season. Lovie's greatest gift to the women in the family, and the friends of the family, was her passion for the ocean and its creatures, especially the turtles. It's also the time that Cara and Linnea find the strength and support they need, men who share their love for the South Carolina Lowcountry and island life. Monroe entwines the story of the turtles and their life cycle with the story of the Rutledge women. While men in the family can be demanding, angry, and, sometimes abusive, the women find the source of their strength and life on the island.

While summer is the time to gather strength, September brings storms, both in nature and in the Rutledge family. Hurricane Irma will bring changes to everyone's life, violence that was foreshadowed in the book. It's going to take the beach and the strong Rutledge women to change the course of the family.

If you haven't read the previous four books in the series, I'd suggest you go back and meet Lovie and her daughter, Cara, for the first time in The Beach House. Don't worry if you can't, though. The other books will reintroduce you. But, be prepared. These are emotional stories of mothers and daughters, close friends, and the strong bonds formed by women who need and support each other. They're stories that are dependent on nature, ones that emphasize the importance of the connection to life with nature. And, I cried through the entire last two chapters of Beach House Reunion.

It's a book that's filled with ocean life, passion, and family love. Beach House Reunion offers shelter. If you read it, seeing island life as a refuge, you may end up in tears as well.

Mary Alice Monroe's website is www.MaryAliceMonroe.com

Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe. Gallery Books, 2018. ISBN 9781501193293, 384p.

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

A 1920s Giveaway

This week's contest features two mysteries set in the 1920s, one in India, and one in England. I think you'll enjoy these books, if you win.

Abir Mukherjee's second mystery, A Necessary Evil, is set in India. And, let me assure you, you don't need to have read the first book, A Rising Man. I hadn't read the first when I reviewed this. Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant "Surrender-Not" Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force investigate the assassination of a Maharajah's son. It's an intricately plotted, elaborate mystery, atmospheric and dramatic. Wyndham, the narrator, is honest about his flaws. He's a brooding, complex character. But, there's also a great deal of humor in this story.

Or, you can enter to win a series debut. Barbara Cleverly's Fall of Angels is the first Detective Inspector Redfyre Investigates mystery. Set in Cambridge in 1923, it introduces Detective Inspector John Redfyre, an educated veteran of the Great War. He's the perfect detective on the scene to investigate when a young woman, a trumpeter, suffers from a near fatal fall at a Christmas concert. This is a mystery of its time, with suffragettes and music and changes in society.

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 A Necessary Evil" or "Win Fall of Angels." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, May 24 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Oh, my gosh! I feel as if I let you all down. I thought I had already posted What Are You Reading? It's probably too late in the day, but feel free to jump right in. What are you reading or listening to?

I'm in New York City. Would you believe I left the book I'm reading on the table at home? Yes, I do have a couple others with me, which I haven't cracked, but I would have read that on the plane if I'd had it. Oh, well.

I'm sorry! I know you're all going to tell me that's okay, but I'm disappointed you couldn't drop in and share your reading this week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On Our Way

My sister, Christie, and I are heading to New York City today. Well, Nashville to the airport, first, and then New York. It's my latest Broadway trip. I really wanted to see "Carousel". We have tickets to three other shows, and we hope to get to the Met and the Cloisters to see the "Heavenly Bodies" exhibit.

So, there will be no blog on Wednesday this week. Thursday is "What Are You Reading?" Friday, I'm launching a new giveaway. We'll be home on Friday, so you can expect pictures, probably on Sunday, unless I have time to do some writing for Saturday. We'll see.

Chat soon!