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Monday, November 26, 2018

Jingle, jingle...winter holiday break...


Jingle all the way....to a winter holiday break...

Yes, I'm taking a break until later in December.  I'll be back around Christmas and will then have a post or two about what I've loved about my reading life in 2018.  I'll also share a post about what's upcoming (or at least planned) for 2019.

Have a fun, relaxing, 'Happy Snowman'-type December - don't try to do too much - take a minute to 'just breathe' and 'enjoy the Season'!  My wish for everyone is to watch for the JOY.  It's there, if we look for it.  Take care and see you soon! 


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!!



Wishing everyone in the US a very Happy Thanksgiving!  May you and yours take a moment today to share a few things you are grateful for.  I love doing this.  High up on my list would be the great blessing I receive from the friendships I've made through this blog and my reading life.  So, yes, thanks for being my friends - whether you reside in the US or elsewhere.  Thanks for being YOU!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - A Matter of Blood - Catherine Maiorisi

Guppy Book of the Month

Welcome to the next 'Guppy Book of the Month' post!  I'm very excited about highlighting the books that I'll be receiving as part of my special Live Auction win at Malice Domestic 30.  Each time I receive a book, I'll tell a bit about it and also a bit about the author.  No promises as to when I'll get it read and my thoughts shared, but if it looks great to you, check it out at your local library or bookstore.  Some of these books will be debuts and some will be from authors already established.




Just back from her second tour in Afghanistan, NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli goes undercover to expose a ring of dirty cops. But when she’s ordered to kill to prove her loyalty, she aborts the operation without having identified the leaders. Now, Corelli is the one exposed. With her brothers and sisters in blue ostracizing her, can she trust Detective P.J. Parker to watch her back?

Parker is the daughter of a vehement critic of the NYPD. But that doesn’t stop her from wanting to work in the homicide division. And wanting to learn from the best. Unfortunately, Chiara Corelli is the best…even if she is the most hated detective in the department.

Without Parker, Corelli will be condemned to desk duty. Corelli is Parker’s only chance to work in homicide. Will the two women put aside their fears and join forces to solve a brutal murder and identify the leaders of the dirty cops before they get to Corelli’s family?



From the author's website (including the picture):

Catherine Maiorisi lives in New York City and often writes under the watchful eye of Edgar Allan Poe, in Edgar’s CafĂ© near her apartment.

Since she found her imagination, writing has been like meditating for Catherine and it is what she most loves to do. But she also reads voraciously, loves to cook, especially Italian, and enjoys hanging out with her wife and friends.

Catherine writes both mystery and romance novels and short stories. Her  recently published mystery, A Matter of Blood, was the very first fiction she wrote and the first in her planned NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery series. Over the next thirteen years, Catherine rewrote and edited that manuscript to bring it up to her standard for publication. While working on A Matter of Blood she continued to write new material, including the second in the NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery series, The Blood Runs Cold, which will be published in February 2019.

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I love the idea of writing under the 'watchful' eye of Edgar Allan Poe, don't you?  Or would that be too much pressure?  Ha!  I was delighted to receive Catherine's first book as part of my 'Guppy' prize.  Though I don't think I've met Catherine as yet, I'm certain that I've seen her at the Malice Domestic conference.  Perhaps we can rectify that if I'm able to attend again at some point.  

Catherine, thank you so very much for sending me a copy of A Matter of Blood.  I look forward to reading it and also will be putting your second book, The Blood Runs Cold, on my list.  My very best wishes for success in your writing life!  Now, I'm off to read...

Friday, November 16, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - Deadly Solution - Keenan Powell

Guppy Book of the Month

Welcome to the next 'Guppy Book of the Month' post!  I'm very excited about highlighting the books that I'll be receiving as part of my special Live Auction win at Malice Domestic 30.  Each time I receive a book, I'll tell a bit about it and also a bit about the author.  No promises as to when I'll get it read and my thoughts shared, but if it looks great to you, check it out at your local library or bookstore.  Some of these books will be debuts and some will be from authors already established.




Less than a year after drinking sidelined her career as a public defender in Anchorage, Alaska, Maeve Malloy is asked to defend an Aleut Indian accused of beating another homeless man to death. With no witnesses to the crime and a client who claims to have no knowledge of the night of the murder due to a blackout, the case is stacked against them.

As Maeve works to maintain her sobriety, she and her investigator Tom Sinclair search for answers in homeless camps, roadside bars, and biker gang hangouts. When they uncover more than a few people with motives all their own for wanting the victim dead, they are determined to prove their client's innocence before he is sentenced to a life behind bars for a crime he swears he didn't commit.

When Maeve and Tom discover there may be a link to an unusually high number of deaths among the homeless community, the search is on for a killer hunting among the most vulnerable members of society.


From the author's website

From the author bio at the end of Deadly Solution:

Born in Roswell, New Mexico, several years after certain out-of-towners visited, Keenan Powell, the daughter of an Air Force pilot, grew up moving from base to base.

The family ultimately settled in northern California where she obtained a Bachelor's of Science in Broadcast Communication Arts from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctorate from McGeorge School of Law.  One summer during law school, she visited a friend in Anchorage, Alaska.  Upon stepping off the plane, she picked the next place to go.  The day after graduation, she moved to Anchorage.

A past winner of the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant, her publications include 'Criminal Law 101' in the June 2015 issue of The Writer magazine and several short stories.  She is currently writing the legal column, 'Ipso Facto' for the Guppies' newsletter, First Draft, and blogging with the Mysteristas

She still lives, and practices law, in Anchorage.  When not writing or lawyering, she can be found riding her bike, hanging out with her Irish Wolfhound, studying the concert harp, or dinking around with oil paints.

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What an interesting and varied biography Keenan has!  All the way from the hot of Roswell, NM (trust me - I've been there) to the cold of Alaska (I've not been there as yet).  I am almost certain that Keenan and  I shared monitoring duties at a Malice Domestic panel a couple of years ago, and I'm delighted that her first book was one of the ones that I received as part of my 'Guppy' prize.  I love books set in 'cold' locations (sorry, Roswell) and I am very much looking forward to learning more about Maeve Malloy.

Keenan, my deepest thanks for my copy of Deadly Solution!  And my best wishes on continuing your writing career.  I'll have to take a look at the Mysteritas blog as well.  I see several familiar names.  Now, off to do more reading...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Hour of Death - Jane Willan

The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

First Paragraph(s):

When Sister Agatha slipped through the wrought-iron gate in front of Gwenafwy Abbey and started down the winding lane that led to the village, the sun had barely risen over the tower of Pryderi Castle.  She smiled at the sound of the familiar click of the latch as the gate shut behind her.  How many times over the years had she heard that gate catch and click as she headed down Church Lane on the short walk to the village?  Gwenafwy Abbey, an Anglican religious order of the Church in Wales, with the mountain range of Snowdonia to its east and the Irish Sea a few miles to the north, had been her home for nearly four decades.  She had grown up on a sheep farm just a stone's throw from the abbey and her earliest childhood memory was the gentle peal of the chapel bell calling the sisters to prayer.
     She pulled out her mobile and glanced at it.  The library meeting started at half eight, which meant she had just enough time to make the brisk ten-minute walk into the village of Pryderi and to the public library on Main Street.  Pryderi, tucked into the heart of the heather-clad summits of the Clwydian Range, had sat at the bottom of a steep hill since before the Norman invasion, as though one day it had tumbled down and then reassembled itself at the bottom.  In contrast, Gwenafwy Abbey sat perched at the top of the same steep incline, as though graciously keeping watch over the comings and goings of the small community.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in Jane Willan's series that's set in Wales.  I read the first book, The Shadow of Death, several months ago and liked it so much.  I liked this one just as much, maybe more.  And I listened to it on audio narrated by Helen Lloyd, who is Welsh herself.  It was lovely to listen to her accent and also to hear her pronunciation of those Welsh locations and words that I wasn't sure of.  Sister Agatha is still working on her mystery novel.  She has her podcasts to listen to and she has her fictional heroes to try to emulate.  She often thinks - what would Armand Gamache do?  Or Inspector Barnaby or Stephanie Plum?  Or Miss Marple?

The Hour of Death includes the death of a local volunteer leader - was she murdered or was it a heart attack?  The nuns are also trying to deal with a sudden popularity of their cheese through online orders.  There is a developer that wants to put a bunch of homes near the Abbey and change the village in what he thinks is a good way, a proposal that horrifies the nuns and Father Selwyn.  Lots to talk about over pastries and tea.  And the action really ramped up as the book came to a close.  I thought Jane Willan did a great job with the mystery and I'll definitely look forward to more visits to Wales and Gwenafwy Abbey.  So, Jane, what about #3?  Working on that one?

By the way, Jane contacted me very kindly and offered me a copy of The Hour of Death.  I thank her for that and, since I had already gotten the audio, I'll pass that copy on to my mystery group with high praise.  Hope they love it too.  Seriously, try this series.  It's a fun one with lots of depth. 

Blurb:

Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn make sleuthing a work of art. But will they paint themselves into a corner when they investigate the Village Art Society president’s death?

As Yuletide settles upon Gwenafwy Abbey, the rural Welsh convent’s peace is shattered when Tiffany Reese, president of the Village Art Society, is found dead on the floor of the parish hall. Sister Agatha, whose interests lie more with reading and writing mystery stories than with making the abbey’s world-renowned organic gouda, is not shy about inserting herself into the case. With the not-entirely-eager assistance of Father Selwyn, she begins her investigation.

Sister Agatha has no shortage of suspects to check off her naughty-or-nice list, until finally, Tiffany’s half-brother, Kendrick Geddings, emerges as the prime suspect. There never was any love lost between Tiffany and Kendrick, and of late they had been locked in a vicious battle for control of the family estate. But if Sister Agatha thinks she has the case wrapped up, she’ll have to think again.

As the days of Advent tick by, Sister Agatha is determined to crack the case by Christmas in The Hour of Death, Jane Willan’s perfectly puzzling second Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Stone Circle



I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

**Update - This will be the last of these weekly suggestions that I will do for this year.  I'm going to take a break from them.  Considering my plan for next year - reading lots of older titles and series - I may or may not resume the 'new book' highlights.  Perhaps I'll do an older title highlight or something similar.  I know several bloggers who do that.

Last week I featured Elly Griffiths' new standalone title, The Stranger Diaries.  I mentioned that she would also have a new Ruth Galloway book in the spring.  So, here you go.  This week, I'm waiting on:



(Ruth Galloway #11)

Publication Date:  US - May 7th, UK - February 7th

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters. They are anonymous, yet reminiscent of ones he has received in the past, from the person who drew him into a case that’s haunted him for years. At the same time, Ruth receives a letter purporting to be from that very same person—her former mentor, and the reason she first started working with Nelson. But the author of those letters is dead. Or is he?

The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Clockmaker's Daughter - Kate Morton

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

First Paragraph(s):

We came to Birchwood Manor because Edward said that it was haunted.  It wasn't, not then, but it's a dull man who lets truth stand in the way of a good story, and Edward was never that.  His passion, his blinding faith in whatever he professed, was one of the things I fell in love with.  He had the preacher's zeal, a way of expressing opinions that minted them into gleaming currency.  A habit of drawing people to him, of firing in them enthusiasms they hadn't known were theirs, making all but himself and his convictions fade.
     But Edward was no preacher.
     I remember him.  I remember everything.

My Thoughts:

Ah, I was so happy to see a new book by Kate Morton.  I haven't read all her books, but I've read maybe 3 of them.  Loved all the ones I've sampled.  I listened to this one on audio and it's a long book - 22+ hours - narrated by Joanne Froggatt.  Joanne played Anna Bates on Downton Abbey and so her voice was familiar and lovely.  She did a good job.

As I said, this is a long book and it's set across many, many years.  Morton does take the story back and forth and there are certainly characters upon characters.  I know that many have not been as pleased with it as they hoped.  I've read several reviews where the readers thought there was too much going on, too many people, too much time change, confusing.  And I do understand that.  Honestly, for me, it was wonderful.  I wasn't in a hurry as I listened to it.  Other than having to pay close attention to the character names and keep up with where we were, I loved it all over the place.  So very Gothic - that house, Birchwood Manor - fairies and spirits, secrets and hiding places, art thieves, murder, beautiful music and a lovely setting.  It all ties together in the end.  I was most pleased.  If you've read this, tell what you experienced - good or bad.   

Blurb:

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker's Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Thousand Doors: An Anthology of Many Lives - Edited by J.T. Ellison

A Thousand Doors: An Anthology of Many Lives - Edited by J.T. Ellison

First Paragraph(s):

The day Mia Jensen died dawned cold and harsh under a brittle sun that barely warmed the streets.  Clouds like frothy ash never released their hold on the sky, and people were angry with each other and the world.  It was that sort of day, the kind when nothing is right, everything is wrong, and people long for evening, for the gentle cradle of their beds and dreams.  Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day, they said to one another, nodding, everyone a sage, everyone holding out that small bit of hope that yes, tomorrow would be a new day, tomorrow can and will bring something new and better and good to our lives.
     This was not the case for Mia.
     For Mia, there was no warm, soft bed and chirpy dreams, no reading of the latest chapter of the latest book, no brushing of teeth or braiding of hair or relaxing soak in the tub before slipping into pajamas.  No glass of red wine with dinner, pot roast started in the slow cooker before she left the house, with multicolored carrots and potatoes because eating the colors of the rainbow will make her healthy.  No trip to the gym after work to burn off the calories of lunch and the frustrations of her day.  No texts to friends about cocktails, no kisses, no hugs.  No sex on the desk.  No shrugging off camel-hair coast in the green room, no powder and pancake before the 3 p.m. promo slot.
     None of it, because at 8:03 p.m., after unexpectedly quitting her lawyer's office and fleeing to the ironic safety of her home, Mia Jensen was stabbed to death in her kitchen.

My Thoughts:

I am not much of a short story reader.  Not sure why exactly except they are just 'short'...not long enough usually for me to feel a part of the story.  However, when I ran across this anthology and read a bit about how J.T. Ellison had been considering this main character and how to tell her story since 2010, I was intrigued.  Ellison said that she presented this book to her agent as 'Sliding Doors meets The Lovely Bones'.  She wanted Mia to have several completely different lives, ones that she had not personally written.  So, she asked several author friends to help and A Thousand Doors was the result.  I've read books by 5 of the 15 authors included.  I liked all their books and had heard good things about the books of several more.  I took a chance.

J.T. Ellison sets the stage with the beginning of Mia Jensen's journey and she writes the conclusion to the book as well.  In between, Mia sees different ways her life could have turned out if she had made other choices.  As each chapter is written by a different author, those lives are quite varied.  In some of them, Mia is a person you'd want to know and in some, not so much.  I liked some of the stories better than others but overall, I was impressed.  And I liked how it wrapped up.  If you'd like an anthology that's a little different, you might try this one.  I can guarantee that it will make you want to check out the various authors' backlists.  Wonder if there are other books similar to this one?  Do you know of any?  This was a good change-it-up book. 

Blurb:

The day Mia Jensen died, she finally got to live.

WHAT IF…

We’ve all played the “what if” game. For Mia Jensen, “what if” is a fact of life. Dissatisfied with her choices, she often dreams about what could have been. Now she has the chance to know. But that knowledge is going to cost her dearly. Only through death can she fully realize the value of her life.

Friday, November 9, 2018

IQ - Joe Ide

IQ by Joe Ide

First Paragraph(s):

Boyd parked his truck across the street from the school and waited for the bell to ring.  It was ninety-plus degrees outside, the air in the cab as still and stifling as a closed tomb.  Boyd's fishing cap was dark with sweat; streams of it trickling down his face, getting in his eyes, and making his sunburn sting.

My Thoughts:

IQ is the first in Joe Ide's series featuring a very modern day 'Sherlock', and it has won multiple awards in the crime fiction community.  This was the November selection for our mystery book group.  Though the language is a bit rough, it fits with the setting and the characters, and it was probably more apparent because I listened to this one on audio, ably narrated by Sullivan Jones.  There are rappers, hit men, attack dogs, and a very urban set of characters.  There is also Isaiah Quintabe.  He dropped out of high school and the honors program, where he excelled, after his older brother, Marcus, was killed in a hit-and-run.  Marcus wanted Isaiah to use his gifts to help people, to give back to the community.  And after some tough times surviving when he's left on his own, that's what Isaiah (IQ) tries to do.

I liked this book and can see why it's been praised by many in the mystery world.  It's different and unique.  As I said, some salty language and some violent situations, but the characters are compelling.  Isaiah's backstory is interspersed with his current jobs.  The reader comes to know how IQ came to be and how Isaiah didn't always make the best decisions as he tried to survive and deal with his massive grief.  However, he has learned from his mistakes and now attempts to make his late brother proud.  I'll be curious to find out how it came across to the rest of the mystery group.  And I'm planning on reading the other two books in the series - Righteous and Wrecked (which was just published).  I think if you're a fan of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, you might like this one.

**Update - Since I wrote this review, I've also listened to the second book in the IQ series, Righteous, narrated by the same person.  I liked it mostly.  In it, Isaiah discovers a lot more about his brother's death, investigates in Las Vegas, and get caught up in a gang war.  Lots of people die.  Isaiah and his colleagues definitely don't follow the law very closely.  I can see why the series is well-liked, but it reminds me of several popular TV series that have main characters that are anti-heroes.  I'll take a break from these books for now and perhaps come back to the third book after a few months. 

***Second Update - We had the discussion of IQ earlier this week in the mystery group.  Most liked it, some did not, some didn't finish it.  We talked about the Sherlock influence and also mentioned that even though the language was 'rough', it fit the setting.  There were a lot of great points discussed.  I'd say it was a success - from my viewpoint as the 'book selector' anyway.

Blurb:

East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch.

They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he's forced to take on clients that can pay.

This time, it's a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - A Short Time To Die - Susan Alice Bickford

Guppy Book of the Month

Welcome to the next 'Guppy Book of the Month' post!  I'm very excited about highlighting the books that I'll be receiving as part of my special Live Auction win at Malice Domestic 30.  Each time I receive a book, I'll tell a bit about it and also a bit about the author.  No promises as to when I'll get it read and my thoughts shared, but if it looks great to you, check it out at your local library or bookstore.  Some of these books will be debuts and some will be from authors already established.



Nominated for Best Debut Mystery at 2018 Left Coast Crime 

Walking home on a foggy night, Marly Shaw stops in the glare of approaching headlights. Two men step out of a pickup truck. One of them is her stepfather. A sudden, desperate chase erupts in gunshots. Both men are left dead. And a terrified girl is on the run—for the rest of her life . . .

Thirteen years later, human bones discovered in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California are linked to a mother and son from Central New York. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Detective Vanessa Alba and her partner, Jack Wong, dive into an investigation that lures them deep into the Finger Lakes. They find a community silenced by the brutal grip of a powerful family bound by a twisted sense of blood and honor, whose dark secrets still haunt the one family member who thought she got away . . .



From Susan's website:

Susan Alice Bickford was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Central New York.

After she discovered computer graphics and animation her passion for technology pulled her to Silicon Valley, where she became an executive at a leading technology company.

She now works as an independent consultant, and continues to be fascinated by all things high tech. She splits her time between Silicon Valley and Vermont.

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I'm always really interested in the books that get nominated as 'Best Debut' for any award event.  I'm sure the authors are so pleased that their wonderful creation is appreciated by many.  Therefore, I was really thrilled to get a copy of A Short Time To Die and find a new-to-me author to follow.  After taking a look at Susan's website, I noticed that she has a new book coming next year entitled 'Dread of Winter'.  Just the cover made me cold.  Ha!  Since I've found that A Short Time To Die also includes cold weather, these would both be perfect for my rule of 'read cold books in the heat'.  Lovely!

My deepest thanks to Susan for sending me a copy of A Short Time To Die.  I am very much looking forward to reading it and have also added Dread of Winter to my list.  Susan, wishing you much luck in your writing endeavors!