Saturday, December 16, 2017

Have You Heard? Charlaine Harris' Dead to the World

It's a busy time of year, evenings with friends and I'm also on deadline. So, once in a while, it's nice to be able to thank Sandie Herron and use one of her audiobook reviews. This time, it's Charlaine Harris' Dead to the World.

Dead to the World: Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery #4DEAD TO THE WORLD
Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Book 4
Written By Charlaine Harris
Narrated by Johanna Parker
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 10 hours
Publisher: Recorded Books (Dec 15, 2008)

Sookie Stackhouse is getting to know every type of supernatural being in the tiny town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. The “Supes” know Sookie is telepathic. Sookie considers reading minds a disability. It’s been difficult to find boyfriends when she always knows what they’re thinking. When vampires were proclaimed legal citizens three years ago, Sookie found vampire Bill Compton whose mind she could not read. She was a virgin until she met Bill, and oh my, what he taught her about sex.

In Sookie’s job as waitress at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill, she is mostly able to shield her mind from the cacophony of thoughts that swirl around her. However, this New Year’s Eve is different. Her ex-boyfriend Bill Compton is off to Peru to continue compiling a directory of vampires. Sookie is driving home following New Year’s celebrations, when she sees a partially naked man running for his life. When she stops to help him, she realizes that it is Eric, Bill’s boss in the hierarchy of vampires. Sookie has a love/hate relationship with Eric, but he doesn’t know who she is, or who he is for that matter.

Sookie calms Eric and takes him to her home where she calls Fangtasia, the vampire bar that Eric owns, to speak to Pam, his second in command. When Pam arrives at Sookie’s home the next day after dark, Pam tells her of an evil coven of witches who approached Eric and demanded money to not destroy his world. Hallow, the head witch, took a shine to Eric and offered a deal:  rather than a portion of the bar’s worth, Eric could spend several nights with her. Eric refused. When others tried to remove Hallow, Eric suddenly disappeared. Until this coven is found and the spell undone, all involved decide that the safest place for Eric is to remain with Sookie, especially since the witches have posted “wanted” posters to find Eric all over town.

The next day Sookie’s brother Jason doesn’t show up for work. With no other family than Jason, Sookie is lost for whom to turn to. She visits a fellow waitress who is a Wiccan who tells her Hallow called all the local witches together recently. She visits Jason’s last date, who is a shifter from Hotshot, and whose father takes a shine to Sookie. She visits Alcide, a werewolf she helped with a problem a short while back. She turns to the police. Even Sam, Sookie’s boss, a shifter himself, joins the various beings searching for Jason, protecting Eric, and finding and hopefully eradicating Hallow’s coven. Then the powers of the were-witches who drank vampire blood were revealed. Just when I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the supernatural beings, we learn about a fairy that saves Sookie’s life. The vampires lust after the fairy; the werewolves don’t really care for vampires, and Sookie is just dead tired and worried.

In the end, all’s well that ends well, but the ride there was twisted beyond my imagination. Sookie is the character that holds the entire story together with her very humanity among the witches, vampires, werewolves, shifters, and even the fairy. Her morality keeps the story centered and real so that it doesn’t whirl off into an incredulous fantasy.  Narrator Johanna Parker has skillfully brought us this far, but what will happen when the next full moon rises?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Thank you to Bill Crider

It's Friday, and, for "Friday's Forgotten Books", a number of us are telling stories about Bill Crider or reviewing his books. I could do either of those. I actually just met Bill a few years ago at Bouchercon in Raleigh. But, we'd been online "friends" for quite a while. It came as a complete surprise when he wrote about Lesa's Book Critiques for his column in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. I had no idea he was going to do that, and my sister's co-worker saw the column. I've always been grateful

Bill has frequently commented on the blog on Thursdays, when readers tell all of us what they're reading. He's chimed in, often mentioning older mysteries he's reading.

And, of course, anyone who follows Bill on Facebook knows about his VBKs, the Very Bad Kitties (now Very Big Kitties) that he rescued.



As a cat lover, I always loved to see these pictures.

I could review some of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes books. When I first read one, I thanked a fellow blogger, Kevin Tipple. Kevin's from Texas, so he had been a fan for a long time. Somehow, I had missed these books. They're fun, light-hearted in tone, but always cognizant of the seriousness of crime, especially murder. And, Bill often took on current issues.

That's what I'm going to share. In November, 2010, Bill agreed to write a post for me. It was in reaction to a discussion on the listserv, DorothyL. Bill defended people who use public libraries.

I will always be grateful, as so many of us are, for Bill's assistance. He embodies the phrase "a scholar and a gentleman". But, I'm grateful for his stories as well. Thank you, Bill, for supporting public libraries.

***** Bill Crider, In Defense of Library Patrons, Nov. 4, 2010

There was a big brouhaha on the listserv DorothyL this week when mystery author K.C. Constantine, who once wrote the Mario Balzac mysteries, was quoted as calling  "library users literary welfare bums."  And, his own website says, "In Bottom Line Blues he spent an entire chapter attacking public libraries."  Thank heavens, mystery author Bill Crider stepped up to the plate to say he always loved libraries, and had a number of stories about them.  I jumped on that, and asked him to tell us a few of those stories.

It's hard not to like an author whose biographical sketch on his website includes information about his three cats.   Crider taught English at the college level for years, but his Ph.D. dissertation was on the hardboiled detective novel.  In the mystery field, he's best known for his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, described as "The adventures of a sheriff in a small Texas county where there are no serial killers, where a naked man hiding in a dumpster is big news, and where the sheriff still has time to investigate the theft of a set of false teeth."

So, thank you, Bill, for taking time to tell us a few stories about libraries.  


Library Stories




I’ve subscribed to DorothyL, the crime and mystery e-list, for more years than I can remember. Usually I just lurk these days, but when someone mentioned K. C. Constantine’s comment that library users were “literary welfare bums,” I was moved to put in a good word for libraries and library users, mainly because I am one. A library user, that is, not a library. I didn’t think anyone would notice, but someone did. So here I am.

I grew up in a house without many books. In fact, I still have the five or six books I owned as a child, including the remains of the Mother Goose book with which I supposedly met my father at the door every afternoon, demanding that he “‘ead Mama Goose.” But if I didn’t have many books, I had a mother who knew where to get them, and that was the public library. As I mentioned on DL and have mentioned elsewhere, one of my earliest memories of my mother is of her holding me up so I could reach the library shelves and pick out a book. I still remember the book, which was Clementina, the Flying Pig. Sometimes nostalgia tempts me to buy a copy of it, but when I look at the prices it commands, I decide that nostalgia is too expensive these days. At any rate, I loved that book, and I’m sure my mother read it to me many times. Maybe its influence on me has never died, as witness the title of my forthcoming (in 2011) Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel, The Wild Hog Murders. That might seem a pretty slim connection to you, but please remember this story when you seen the cover for the book. I’ll put it on my blog soon.

But I digress. I was going to tell some library stories. The two libraries in Mexia, Texas, became like second homes to me as I was growing up. There were two because the original library was replaced by the Gibbs Memorial Library, a fine air-conditioned building that wasn’t exactly structurally sound and that has now been replaced by a third library, an even finer one with the same name. The first library is still there, by the way, but it’s now a part of the Christ Episcopal Church complex. And sure enough, I’ve digressed again. I have a tendency to do that. I’d better stop.

Here’s a library story for you. When I was in college, a friend of mine and I were home for some holiday or other. We began talking about Dr. Seuss and how much we’d liked certain of his books when we were kids, McElligot’s Pool being a particular favorite. We decided we had to read the book again, so we were off the Gibbs Memorial Library. The book was right where it had always been, and we sat down to read it. Mind you, we were in the room with the children’s books, and the tables and chairs weren’t built for two guys of our size. We didn’t care. We sat in the little-bitty chairs, our knees sticking out above the table top and started reading. Pretty soon we were having a wonderful time. Maybe we even did a little reading aloud: “Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish, . . .” Pretty soon after that the librarian came in. We must have been quite a sight, and we’d forgotten about being quiet. Even though there was nobody else in the room, we got shushed. We were also asked to leave the children’s room because we might break the chairs. I had my doubts. Those were study chairs, solid wood. But we went quietly. It’s the only time I was ever chastised in a library.

Or maybe not. There was the time when I was a bit younger and had discovered the wonders of photography magazines. Those were in the periodicals room, and I believe the library had subscriptions to only one of them, maybe Modern Photography. Memory grows dim. At any rate, the attraction of the magazine (at least to me) wasn’t the amazing photography hints (shoot at 1/32 of a second at f/2.4) as the occasional “art studies.” I didn’t know much about art, but I knew what I liked. So did the librarian, who wandered through one day and happened to notice my choice in “reading” material. She obviously thought I should try something else, though she didn’t take the magazine away from me. Instead she suggested that I try a different one, maybe Boy’s Life. I put down the photography magazine and picked up Boy’s Life, which I glanced through until she left the room. Then it was back to my studies.

Yes, I was the only one in the room. I often was, and for years I’d spend hours there reading magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic, which I suspected that no one else in town cared about. I loved Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post and Life. Not to mention Mechanix Illustrated, where I discovered the writing of Tom McCahill, whose prose I greatly admired. He coined the phrase “zero to sixty” in his road tests, but that was the least of it. If you like wild metaphors, you can’t go wrong with Tom McCahill. I wanted to be Tom McCahill when I grew up. Didn’t make it, though.

When I was in graduate school, I was finally able to get a “stack permit” to enter the vast holdings of the main library at The University of Texas at Austin. What a great time I had there, when instead of doing research on the papers that were due in my classes, I could pore over the bound back issues of The New York Times Book Review. I read every single one of Anthony Boucher’s “Criminals at Large” columns with a pen in one hand and a note pad beside me. I wrote down the titles of practically everything he recommended. The paperback originals, I bought in used-book stores. The hardcovers, I checked out of the library, which had a wonderful and up-to-date collection. Those were the days. 

I’ve run on too long here, but it’s no wonder. Call me a literary welfare bum if you will, but I love libraries. Let me mention just one more thing about my hometown library, the annual reading game. As you can see from the newspaper article, I was a pretty good reader even 60 years ago. However, I was humiliated and trounced in the 1951 game by Jessie Lou Lively. How could she possibly have read so many more books than I did? I have no excuse. Well, okay, I have one. She was older than I was. Maybe that explains it.

The librarian whose name you see in the article was an older woman with hair that had once been red but was at that time mostly gray. Mrs. Armstrong. I thought she was wonderful. I still do.

  
  
  
On behalf of all librarians, Bill, and all of us who grew up using, and loving public libraries, Constantine's "literary welfare bums," thank you. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What Are You Reading?

It's my busy week, so I won't have much reading time until next Wednesday. I've actually only read one more story in Connie Willis' A Lot Like Christmas than the last time I mentioned that book. Others are piling up. I'm hoping I'll actually have some reading time over the holidays. But, there's Christmas Eve with friends and a movie I want to see and...I know you understand this time of year.


What are you reading? Are you finding some reading time in December?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Have You Heard? Victoria Laurie's Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye

Those of us who are avid mystery readers usually like to start at the beginning of a series. When Sandie Herron sent me the reviews of the audiobooks of Victoria Laurie's Psychic Eye series, she was wise, and started with the first in the series. Today, thanks to Sandie, we have a review of the audiobook of Laurie's Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye.

Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria LaurieAbby Cooper, Psychic Eye
Series:  Psychic Eye Mystery Book 1
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 9 hrs and 27 mins
Publisher:  Audible, Inc.  
Release Date:  March 2, 2010
ASIN B003AOVPB6
**** stars





I really enjoyed the introduction to the Abby Cooper series by Victoria Laurie.
I've never been to a legitimate psychic, and I found her "reading" process fascinating.
It was always fun when she called out an impromptu reading or impression to the person
she was talking with, not intentionally doing a reading. The recipient of this mini-reading
is almost always surprised and shocked.

Abby's calendar was full to overflowing, booked months in advance. When Abby did a reading, she recorded the entire session on tape. It seemed a bit odd to me that she then handed over the tape to the client without making a copy or even making notes, as far as I could tell. Some of those notes might have helped her when the police came calling with one of her tapes taken from the victim's pocket. For this story, the reading was extremely recent, so Abby remembered many of the details, but I wonder how clear all those details from clients seen infrequently would stay.

Abby was fortunate to have so many friends help her out when she ended up in danger and couldn't go to work, for instance, and her entire schedule needed to be changed. She had a great handyman who worried about her, too, and performed great feats for Abby in fixing many construction projects.

It was the police officer who Abby fancied. They'd actually met first via a dating service where they had gotten along. When she needs a friendly neighborhood cop, she's glad it's Dutch. They had an instant camaraderie on the police case because of it, and Abby didn't want that friendship to distort the help she had offered to the police.

Abby's psychic ability was incredibly well accepted by her co-workers and clients. I was glad when Dutch began looking up the history of psychics in general as well as psychics from a law enforcement point of view. His behavior seemed reasonable and fair. The description originally given to "Dutch" led me to believe that he was younger than I suspected. It was later revealed that he had a serious relationship eight years prior, so that gave us an inkling of his age to be about 30. Abby's age was also later revealed to be about the same.

I found, however, that the narrator's voice sounded older than the way Abby was portrayed; her age was given in the second book as well which reinforced my feeling that an older woman than Abby was narrating.  However, she had loads of life in her voice and portrayed a good range of emotions so eventually this age feeling fell away and was forgotten.  This only occurred in the audiobook, so it does not reflect on the printed copy.  

Sandie Herron

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Case of Syrah, Syrah by Nancy J. Parra

Amateur sleuth Taylor O'Brian asks, "What could possibly go wrong?" Everything, beginning with Taylor herself in Nancy J. Parra's first Wine Country mystery,  A Case of Syrah, Syrah.

When Taylor's Aunt Jemma had heart problems, Taylor moved to her aunt's small winery in Sonoma County, California. After six months, though, she's restless and ready to launch her own business, Taylor O'Brian Presents "Off the Beaten Path" Wine Country Tours. "What could possibly go wrong?" She bought a small van to transport groups. She has insurance. Her first venture is with the staff of the yoga studio where she and her best friend, Holly, take classes. Granted, Laura, the owner of the studio, is a micro-manager, but the tour doesn't last forever. In fact, for Laura, it's over when she goes missing and Taylor and Laura's husband, Dan, find her body. And, Taylor's business may be over quickly. Her corkscrew is found in Laura's neck. Everyone else seems to have some sort of alibi, which puts Taylor on the top of the suspect list.

Under other circumstances, Taylor might have been interested in either Sheriff Hennessey or her attorney. But, neither can keep her out of jail as she bumbles along, talking to too many people, and turning in evidence that no one else found. Taylor's aunt puts her winery up as a bond, but Taylor still ends up in handcuffs, an orange jumpsuit, and with a night in jail. With business suffering, Aunt Jemma suggests they investigate, and Taylor and Holly jump into the investigation wholeheartedly. That also means Taylor puts her mouth and her feet in all the wrong places, including another murder scene.

And, that's my problem with Taylor O'Brian and Parra's book. Despite all the advice from her own attorney and the sheriff, Taylor persists in doing all the wrong things. She talks to people she's not supposed to, goes places where she shouldn't go. She comes across as oppositional, willful, and naive for a twenty-eight-year-old. Others may say all amateur sleuths in cozy mysteries investigate their own cases. But, most of them don't appear as immature and reckless as Taylor does.

I am curious, though, as to how Parra will address the fires in Sonoma County in future books. However, after the incidents in A Case of Syrah, Syrah, I wouldn't trust Taylor O'Brian to lead a tour group.

Nancy J. Parra's website is www.nancyjparra.com

A Case of Syrah, Syrah by Nancy J. Parra. Crooked Lane Books. 2017. ISBN 9781683314332 (hardcover), 320p.

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


Monday, December 11, 2017

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert

Victoria Gilbert launches a new cozy series, the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries, with A Murder for the Books. Fans of Miranda James and Jean McKinlay can welcome a new librarian amateur sleuth to the fold. The story involves a cold case, current crimes, research, a budding romance, and a little woo woo. Add in the humor. What fan can resist this recipe for a cozy mystery?

Amy Webber abruptly left her position at Clarion University after a thrown drink, aimed at her cheating boyfriend, hit the dean of music instead. Now, she's the library director in her historic family hometown of Taylorsford, Virginia. The library archives attract all kinds of people, including Doris Virts, a woman with dementia who often hides from the "person following her". It also brings in Amy's new neighbor, Richard Muir. The handsome dance instructor at the university inherited his house from his great-uncle, and wants to do some research. But, Amy's instruction is cut short when they find Doris' body in the archives. Evidently, someone was following Doris.

Amy's Aunt Lydia has stories to tell about the victim. Those stories and the pair's continued research leads them down an unexpected path of history, towards multiple deaths at an orphanage, a woman accused of witchcraft, and blame that could be laid on members of Amy's own family. And, all of that research could lead to a killer in Taylorsford.

As I said, this mystery kicks off a new series in fine style. Who can resist a librarian sleuth, a cold case with local history, romance, and humor? A Murder for the Books is an appealing start.

Victoria Gilbert's website is www.victoriagilbertmysteries.com

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert. Crooked Lane Books. 2017. ISBN 9781683314394 (hardcover), 336p.

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




Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust

In a twist for a cozy mystery, the police chief is the primary suspect who has been suspended, so he needs help from the amateur sleuth. Gail Oust's fifth Spice Shop Mystery,Ginger Snapped, is an entertaining story with Southern charm, small town gossip, a touch of romance, and, of course, the mystery itself.

Piper Prescott, owner of Spice It Up!, feels a pang whenever she sees Police Chief Wyatt McBride with realtor Shirley Randolph. Yes, the two make an attractive couple, but Piper was just starting to get over her initial reaction to McBride. A year earlier, he suspected her of murder, but they've moved past that. Everyone in Brandywine Creek has McBride and Randolph pegged as a couple.

When McBride finds Shirley's body on his property, it doesn't take long for the gossip mill to start grinding again. With the mayor hightailing it to Florida, the acting mayor, Piper's ex-husband, suspends McBride. Because he had a couple dinners with his realtor, everyone sees him as the primary suspect. Everyone sees him that way, except Piper and her best friend, Reba Mae. They're afraid he's being railroaded, and he'll need some help to prove his innocence. With Piper's growing reputation as an amateur sleuth, and her attraction to McBride, she's just the one to tackle the case.

Piper capitalizes on all the small town gossip in Ginger Snapped. The enjoyable story features mature  characters with a sense of responsibility, to the town, to family, to the truth. Oust's inclusion of facts about spices is worked naturally into the book. This one is a treat for any cozy mystery reader.

Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust. St. Martin's Minotaur, 2017. ISBN 9781250081261 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! by Ree Drummond

Actually, Ree Drummond's latest cookbook has one more subtitle. It's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives. And, even if you seldom cook, this is a scrumptious cookbook to browse.

Ree Drummond, blogger turned cookbook author and television celebrity, begins this latest cookbook with a collection of her favorite things. It includes her "20 Favorite Pantry Items", favorite freezer staples, refrigerator staples, and favorite cuts of beef. Then, as in most cookbooks, it's broken down by breakfast, lunches, appetizers, suppers. But, she also categorizes recipes by the length of time it takes to cook them. There are beautifully photographed step-by-step directions, along with options for changing up the recipes.

I don't cook much. However, just as I watch her television show, "The Pioneer Woman",  for the glimpses of ranch life, I read the cookbook and appreciated the glimpses of her family, ranch life, and the animals on the farm. She has photographs sprinkled throughout the book. Fans of the show will appreciate photos of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, "The Merc", the new store and restaurant that she and her husband, Ladd, renovated and opened. There are photos of the dogs, cattle, and even a ranch cat. There are also family stories, including one about her father-in-law, Chuck. And, if you've been watching the show as long as I have, her poem may bring a sniffle or two. It's "Ode to Charlie", the Basset hound that was always around, until he died.

Most of the recipes are not too complicated. As she says, they're intended for people with busy lives. The cookbook is beautiful, filled with photos of all that comfort food. It might be a perfect gift for someone who enjoys home cooking.

Ree Drummond's website is www.thepioneerwoman.com

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives by Ree Drummond. William Morrow, 2017. ISBN 9780062225269 (hardcover), 382p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, December 08, 2017

I'd Rather Be Reading by Guinevere De La Mare

I'm a sucker for books about books or reading. Guinevere De La Mare's little book is really just a gift item, but it has a few charming pieces in it. I'd Rather Be Reading is subtitled "A library of art for book lovers."

Guinevere De La Mare opens the book with an essay that is touching at times. She led a rebellion in kindergarten because she didn't want to learn to read. She enjoyed having family members read to her. When she decided to learn, she said she owed her love of reading to her grandmother, who was the director of her preschool. But, school almost destroyed her love of reading. In high school when she had to analyze the texts of books, it killed her love of reading. I could understand her comments. "What happened to willingly suspending our disbelief?" She said it was her first breakup with books because the magic was destroyed.

However, her book shows some of the magic, in artist's paintings and in photographs. There are a number of pictures of books. There are also quotes, "Less Selfies. More Shelfies." Interspersed between the artwork and the essays were poems about books and reading.

I wasn't a big fan of Maura Kelly's essay in which she recommended reading more classics. But, Ann Patchett wrote about trying to come up with a list of her favorite books. And, Gretchen Rubin offered "13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done".

I'd Rather Be Reading didn't really offer anything new. As I said, it's really just a little gift book if you're looking for something for the reader in your life.

Guinevere De La Mare's website is http://guineveredelamare.com/about

I'd Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers by Guinevere De La Mare. Chronicle Books, 2017. ISBN 9781452155111 (hardcover), 96p.

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

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Bill Crider and What Are You Reading?

This first note is one I hate to share. Bill Crider often posted on Thursday's What Are You Reading blog. Although he had read my blog for years, I didn't meet Bill until Jeffrey Meyerson introduced me to him at Bouchercon in Raleigh. He had already started his cancer treatment when he came to New Orleans Bouchercon, and I know so many of us were glad to see him. Before I ask what you're reading, I'm going to share Bill's message on his blog from Tuesday. I know I spent Tuesday evening and times on Wednesday crying. Here is his message.







Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Update

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog.  I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care.  A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left.  The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I've made a lot of friends here.  My only regret is  that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block' fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins' latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand,  which is a collection of two novellas, "A Bullet for Satisfaction," an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and "The Last Stand," the last thing that Spillane completed.  It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I'll never read.  But I've had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it.  Much love to you all.





























It almost seems meaningless to ask what you're reading after Bill's post. But, considering that his post was about the books he wouldn't get to finish, I think those who want to share should. I've just started Connie Willis' A Lot Like Christmas, an update of her wonderful collection, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. If you don't know Willis, she's a science fiction author who loves Christmas and has written wonderful stories to celebrate the season. They're in a variety of genres.

But, I'm actually on a train right now heading to Chicago. So, I'll read your comments as I can, picking them up on my cell phone.

If you want to share, what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Man Found Dead in Park by Margaret Coel

Margaret Coel wrapped up her Father John/Vicky Holden series with Winter's Child. That doesn't mean she said goodbye to her characters. In her illustrated novella, Man Found Dead in Park, she brings together Vicky Holden and her reporter from Denver, Catherine McLeod. And, in a special treat for mystery fans, Craig Johnson wrote the cover copy; Anne Hillerman did the introduction, and Keith McCafferty penned the Afterword. And Phil Parks' illustrations bring the characters to life.

The story actually begins with autobiographies of Holden and McLeod. While Coel's fans probably know the story of Vicky Holden, the Arapaho attorney who works with clients in Wyoming, many may not realize that Catherine McLeod was adopted when she was five years old. She knows nothing about her mother, except she was an Arapaho. So, when her story takes her to the Wind River Reservation, she's reluctant and eager at the same time.

In Denver, Catherine was called to the scene of a shooting in the Indian neighborhood. No one will talk to the police. No one will talk to McLeod's fellow journalist. But, women will talk reluctantly to Catherine because she is one of them. She uses her anonymous sources to report that one man killed the other, to get the names. She also learns that the Mexican Sinaloa cartel is using tribe members from Denver to introduce them to people on the Wind River Reservation. They are taking meth to the reservation.

In Wyoming, an ex-con, Arch Walksfast, is shot and arrested for killing a Mexican drug dealer in a meth house. His brother asks Vicky Holden to defend him, saying his brother is a user, but not a killer. With the small amount of evidence pointing to Arch, Vicky doesn't have a great deal of hope. Then, Catherine McLeod shows up to meet with Vicky.

Margaret Coel has always used her mysteries to point out issues affecting the Arapahos and the current world. There's just enough character development in this novella to highlight the strong women at the forefront of the fight for answers. It's an unusual format, an unusual book. But, it's a fascinating look at a contemporary crisis.

Note: You're stuck with my photo of the book because I couldn't find a picture of the cover.

Margaret Coel's website is www.margaretcoel.com

Man Found Dead in Park by Margaret Coel. Illustrated by Phil Parks. ASAP. 2017.  ISBN 9781892011640 (hardcover), 135p.

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

I wish I could tell when authors are ending a series or ending a storyline. This is the second book I read in three days that might be doing either. Maggie McConnon does end a three book arc in Bel, Book, and Scandal. There was a shocking conclusion, but the series could go on. We'll see.

For three books and fifteen years, chef Belfast McGrath has been wondering what happened to her childhood best friend Amy Mitchell. Because Bel came home without Amy on a party night when they were eighteen, the town of Foster's Landing has always looked on Bel with suspicion. Did Bel know what really happened? That suspicion drove Bel away from home, but when her relationship and her professional reputation crashed all on one night, she returned to Shamrock Manor, the Irish wedding center owned by her parents where her four older brothers performed in the band. She's the chef there, but she lost her high school sweetheart to the prettiest girl in town, and she recently lost another boyfriend. With Amy missing, Bel has been afraid to trust and afraid to open her heart.

It's the stepmother of a bride-to-be who leaves a newspaper at Shamrock Manor, and Bel is stunned to see Amy's picture. All these years later, she recognizes her friend, and is determined to track her down. Where is Amy, and what has she been doing? It seems she was once at a commune in upstate New York, not far from Foster's Landing. With a surprise ally, Bel goes searching for answers to the questions that have been plaguing her for fifteen years.

Maggie McConnon's Bel, Book, and Scandal appears to be a cozy, with the humor, the weddings, the music. But, it has dark undertones that have haunted Bel and all three books in the series. McConnon ends the arc with a surprising conclusion that leaves the series open. And, Bel's ally in this mystery is a fun addition. Professor Alison Bergeron makes more than a cameo appearance. Alison is the amateur sleuth in McConnon's other series, the Murder 101 books written as Maggie Barbieri.

Will Bel McGrath learn to trust again? Will the series continue now that Amy's storyline is over? Who knows? Maggie McConnon has left us all hanging with an ending filled with possibilities.

Maggie McConnon's website is http://maggiebarbieri.com/

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon. St. Martin's. 2017. ISBN 9781250077301 (paperback), 320p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy from the publisher.



Monday, December 04, 2017

The Silent Second by Adam Walker Phillips

Who would ever expect a Human Resources manager to be a successor to Raymond Chandler? Adam Walker Phillips' Chuck Restic walks Chandler's mean streets of Los Angeles in the debut mystery, The Silent Second. It's an unusual combination, HR professional and amateur sleuth, but it works.

Chuck Restic had one good idea, an idea that shot him to HR executive in his company. Now, he's been there for twenty years. He's as bored with his life as his wife was. She left him, and now he's just going through the motions. As he tells it, he isn't surprised when an always-complaining associate complained about a co-worker. He is surprised when Ed Vadaresian doesn't show up for work again, and is officially declared a missing person.

Chuck's curiosity sends him to Vadaresian's home in the Armenian neighborhood in Glendale. He's told stories about Ed's business dealings and that the man is back in Armenia. Before he knows it, he's digging into Ed's personnel files, where he discovers real estate holdings. Restic is already in deep. Before he knows it, he's investigating real estate, checking on his wife's relationships with entrepreneurs, and asking questions. He's hanging out with a reporter friend and cops. When a friend is murdered, and Chuck is beaten up by thugs, he knows he's in dangerous territory. But, Chuck Restic has never felt so alive.

With his melancholy attitude and knowledge of HR jingoism, Chuck Restic makes a perfect narrator. The author, and the character, show a knowledge of Los Angeles that adds to the atmospheric story. There's a hopelessness at times that is perfect for this novel. Adam Walker Phillips' debut mystery, The Silent Second, introduces an amateur sleuth worth following.

Adam Walker Phillips' website is www.adamwphillips.com

The Silent Second by Adam Walker Phillips. Prospect Park Books, 2017. ISBN 9781945551048 (paperback), 280p.

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

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner

Hilary Bonner launches a new British police procedural series with a gripping story with an unusual twist at the end. However, Deadly Dance's protagonist is a little too cold as a lead character. He is a character with a few problems, and we'll see if he becomes a little more likable as the series continues.

All murders are troubling, but the victim of a killing in Bristol is a little too close to home for Detective Inspector David Vogel. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke is the same age as Vogel's own daughter. Melanie is found behind trash bins in the red light district, just hours after her mother reported her missing. But, Melanie's secrets led her to that spot, and the police have to discover what she was hiding. Naturally, they look at her father and stepfather. Their alibis are a little shaky, and when there's a DNA match, it seems they've found a killer. But, Vogel is a little uncomfortable with the results. A call from his former boss in London leads him to suspect there is a serial killer out there.

Three suspects tell their story in this suspenseful novel. The methods used, and the victims, indicate a wide pattern of crime. But, it will take a story from the one who got away to set the police on the right track. None of the police saw the direction this case will take.

DI Vogel is a little too uptight for my taste. He really only becomes human when he's home with his wife, his sounding board and support system. And, he's struggling with his own family issue, one he hasn't revealed to his wife. That's a story that will turn his life upside down. Despite his problems, he's a thoughtful, capable team leader who is blindsided.

Despite Vogel's stuffiness, I'm looking forward to the next in the series. Deadly Dance is a well-developed procedural with a villain who leads the police down a twisted path.

Hilary Bonner's website is www.hilarybonner.com

Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner. Severn House. 2017. ISBN 9780727887344 (hardcover), 256p.

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


Saturday, December 02, 2017

January Treasures in My Closet

It seems so early to be talking about January books, but I'm already reading February releases, so it's time. And, the sooner we get to these, the sooner winter is over. So, let's jump right in. It's a wonderful collection to kick off 2018.

Marie Benedict, the author of The Other Einstein, now brings us a historical novel about an Irish maid and Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie's Maid. Clara Kelley is actually a poor farmer's daughter, not the experienced Irish maid hired to work in one of Pittsburgh's grandest households. She serves as a lady's maid, but eventually Carnegie begins to rely on her for business advice. Even though when Andrew Carnegie becomes more than an employer, Clara Kelley can't let her guard down. (Release date is Jan. 16.)





New York Times bestselling author Melanie Benjamin returns with The Girls in the Picture. It's a novel of the powerful creative friendship between two legends - superstar Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion - who defied the early Hollywood system...and triumphed. (Release date is Jan. 16.)








Nothing defines cozy mystery like a donut shop. Survival of the Fritters is the first in Ginger Bolton's new series, featuring a widow and donut shop owner. When a regular at the shop is killed, Emily Westhill is drawn into the case in the town where her familiarity with everyone draws the killer's attention. (Release date is Jan. 30.)







The men in my sister's family are all waiting for Pierce Brown's new book, Iron Gold. It's the fourth book in the Red Rising Saga. A decade earlier, Darrow was the the hero of the revolution. But, the Rising only brought endless war. Now, he'll risk everything, hoping to save everyone. (Release date is  Jan. 16.)







Jayne Ann Krentz' books are always exciting. Her latest, Promise Not to Tell, is about a terrifying legacy. Seattle gallery owner Virgina Troy and PI Cabot Sutter share a common past. They spent time in a cult as children, until a devastating fire destroyed the compound, killing Virginia's mother. But now an artist has taken her own life, and has left behind a painting that will make them both doubt everything about he so-called suicide - and their own pasts.  (Release date is Jan. 2.)





One of Brooklyn's first female detectives returns in Lawrence H. Levy's latest mystery, Last Stop in Brooklyn. A convicted man's brother wants Mary Handley to reopen a murder case, convinced his brother didn't kill a prostitute. Before she can solve the case, she uncovers disturbing evidence, and has to turn to a surprising ally, police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






Those of us who appreciate classic crime stories and police procedurals will enjoy The Long Arm of the Law: Classic Police Stories, edited by Martin Edwards. The anthology includes background information on the British authors as well as a collection of little-known stories. (Release date is Jan. 2.)








Meet bounty hunter Alice Vega in Louisa Luna's Two Girls Down. When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated family hire a bounty hunter to do what the authorities cannot. The local police department shuts her out, but Vega enlists a disgraced former cop to help cut through the local politics. Now, the two must untangle a web of lies, false leads, and dangerous relationships. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae takes us back to Scotland where Inversgail welcomes back native environmental writer Daphne Wood. But, Daphne upsets most people in the town. Then, she pushes bookshop owner Janet Marsh and her friends to investigate the death of a visitor, found outside a pub. Daphne's pushiness will only lead to trouble. (Release date is Jan. 2.)







I'm excited about Sujata Massey's new series. The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s Bombay, introduces Perveen Mistry, one of the first female lawyers in India. She's investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a murderous turn. (Release date is Jan. 9.)







HR executive-turned-amateur sleuth Chuck Restic returns in The Perpetual Summer by Adam Walker Phillips. A missing teen leads Restic to a high-profile fight over a new art museum and a forty-year-old murder that won't stay in the past. Anyone can be behind the teenager's disappearance: her fitness-obsessed mom, switchblade-toting chauffeur, personal life coach, or even the girl herself. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






Dominic is the second Hollow Man novel by Mark Pryor. Dominic's secret, that the charming Englishman, prosecutor, and musician, is also a psychopath is only known by two other people. They also know a year ago he got away with murder. Now, when a homicide detective starts digging up that case, one of those people offers to take care of the situation, permanently. (Release date is Jan. 2.)






Deanna Raybourn's third Veronica Speedwell mystery, A Treacherous Curse, is delightful. When a photographer disappears from an Egyptian dig, taking a diadem with him, Veronica and Stoker are drawn into the case by the connection to Stoker's past. Readers of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books, and Jane Eyre fans should pick up this book. (Release date is Jan. 16.)







Popular lawman Samuel Craddock returns in Terry Shames' A Reckoning in the Back Country. When a physician disappears, and appears to have been attacked by vicious dogs, Jarrett Creek police chief Craddock suspects there may be a dog fighting ring operating in the area. Now, Craddock has to be careful because lawmen who meddle in dog fighting in Texas put their lives at risk. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






I learned more about the European refugee crisis from Jeffrey Siger's mystery, An Aegean April, than from anything I've read in the news. When a refugee is arrested for the vicious murder of a wealthy Greek shipowner, an American woman affiliated with a refugee organization contacts Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis. When the Easter holiday slows down the investigation, she draws the media's attention, along with a killer's. (Release date is Jan. 2.)






In Randall Silvis' Walking the Bones, Sergeant Ryan DeMarco is still reeling from the case that led to the death of his best friend. Now, he just wants to lay low with his new love. But, when they arrive in her southern hometown, he's roped into an investigation. All DeMarco knows is that it's an unsolved case, the bones of seven young girls, picked clean and carefully preserved, discovered years ago. (Release date is Jan. 23.)






Teresa Trent's Murder of a Good Man is the first Piney Woods mystery. When New Orleans native Nora Alexander arrives in Piney Woods, Texas, she only meant to deliver a letter from her deceased mother. But the police chief asks her to stay in town when the letter's recipient ends up dead, and Nora's the only one who seems to have a reason to hate the man. (Release date is Jan. 15, no jacket cover available.)

In C.J. Tudor's The Chalk Man, a man has to return to an event of his childhood to find the truth about his small English village. In 1986, Eddie and his friends ride their bikes, avoid bullies, and have a secret code, little stick figures of chalk men left as hidden messages. Then, a mysterious chalk man leads them to a dismembered body. Thirty years later, Eddie gets a letter with a single chalk stick figure. When one of Eddie's old friends ends up dead, Eddie returns to find the truth. (Release date is Jan. 9.)

There are so many enticing books this month that I can't cover all of them. Here are the other January releases. I may have missed some, even in my own place. Have I missed anything you're waiting to read?

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht (Jan. 30)
The Monk of Mocha by Dave Eggers (Jan. 30)
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances (Jan. 30)
Killer Choice by Tom Hunt (Jan. 30)
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson (Jan. 16)
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (Jan. 9)
The Black Painting by Neil Olson (Jan. 9)
The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce (Jan. 9)
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Jan. 9)
The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith (Jan. 23)



Friday, December 01, 2017

Winners & Another Christmas Mystery Giveaway

First, those of you waiting to see the January Treasures in My Closet, please come back tomorrow. Today's a giveaway. When the first falls on a Friday or holiday, it always makes it awkward. It will be up tomorrow.

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Ginger Snapped is going to Bonnie P. of Palo Alto, CA. Judith B. from Battle Creek, MI won Bel, Book and Scandal. The books will go out in the mail today.

Here are a couple notes for this last giveaway of December. First, it's the last giveaway until January. I usually close down the contests for most of December so I don't have to go to the post office. The new giveaway will kick off on Jan. 5. Second, this contest will run through Friday, Dec. 8 because of my schedule. I'll pick the winners, and get the books out on Saturday.

Now, what you're really waiting for. What are this week's books? I have a copy of Wendy Tyson's Seeds of Revenge. Megan Sawyer braves a December snowstorm to promote her fresh greenhouse greens to Philadelphia chefs. On her way home to Winsome, she picks up a stranded woman. Becca Fox is heading to her aunt's house for the holidays. But, Becca's aunt also invited her estranged father. When the man ends up dead, Megan is caught up in a story that affects the entire town, including her own family.





Or, you could win a hardcover of Rhys Bowen's latest Molly Murphy book, The Ghost of Christmas Past. Molly and her family are grateful to escape to a mansion on the Hudson for Christmas. But, they find themselves caught up in a family drama, and tragedy, when a young girl shows up, claiming to be the daughter that disappeared ten years earlier.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Please email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Seeds of Revenge" or "Win The Ghost of Christmas Past." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. As I said, the contest winners will be announced next Saturday, Dec. 9.