Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Long Upon The Land

This is a weekly event that highlights a book that we can't wait to be published.  It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Margaret Maron is a favorite author of mine and has been for many, many years.  She writes the Judge Deborah Knott mystery series and I am always so very happy to see that a new book will be coming out soon.  Her books are must-buys for me and I read them right away.  So, I'm current on this series.  Deborah is a district court judge and her husband, Dwight, is a Sheriff's Deputy who investigates major crimes.  Deborah has 11 brothers and a huge family.  Her father, Kezzie Knott, was a bootlegger in his early years.  The first book in the series is The Bootlegger's Daughter.

Margaret Maron was a recipient of the Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America in 2013.  She will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, being held in Raleigh, North Carolina in October.  I'm looking forward to the 20th book in the Deborah Knott series:

by Margaret Maron
Publication Date:  August 11th

No one in Judge Deborah Knott's family knows the meaning of the inscription on their late mother's cigarette lighter, which young Susan Stephenson acquired near the end of World War II. Whose initials are ''W.R.M.'' and why is it engraved with ''Happy 25th Leslie''? Meanwhile, Kezzie Knott has discovered the body of a man who used to make whiskey for him back when he was running white lightning. What was he doing on Kezzie's land, and why was he bludgeoned on the head three separate times? While her husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, investigates, Deborah meets a woman who could help her identify the lighter's original owner.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Ten Books With Characters That Live In Texas and amazingly are not even mysteries...

This is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where bloggers relate their "top ten" of a certain topic.  This week's topic - Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who ______.  Well, I decided to feature books with characters that live in my home state of Texas.  And they are not even mysteries.  Take note - that probably won't happen very often - the no mystery thing.  I have read some of these, but not all.  Some have been adapted for film or TV.  Likely you will recognize those.  So come on down, y'all - welcome to Texas - The Lone Star State.

1. Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger - I have read this non-fiction book, which tells about the famous Odessa Permian High School football team.  I went to high school in Austin and, believe me, everyone knew about Odessa Permian.  And football is a big deal here, but it's not the only sport.  Many have likely watched the TV show, Friday Night Lights.  I have not.  I did marry a high school football player.  He married the quiet girl, who barely said boo to anyone.

2. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson - I have not read this non-fiction account of the terrible 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas.  It tells of the early days of the U.S. Weather Bureau and Isaac Cline's belief that nothing could fatally damage the city of Galveston, where he was based.  He was wrong.  Hurricanes are a fact of life for the states that surround the Gulf of Mexico.  If you've spent any of amount of time in this area, you're familiar with severe storms.

3. Monday, Monday by Elizabeth Crook - I read this book last year when it was the Mayor's Book Club selection for an all-city read at the Austin Public Library.  Monday, Monday begins on the University of Texas campus on a hot summer day in August, 1966.  That was the day that Charles Whitman went up to the top of the UT Tower and used a sniper rifle to kill 16 people and wound 32 others.  This is a fictional account of that tragedy and the story of 3 students caught up in that event.  It relates their lives for the next 40 years.  I really enjoyed it, especially because of the care the author took to research the settings of Austin and other Texas locations.

4. You Know When The Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon - I also read this book with a book group and emailed a bit with the author.  It is a series of stories about soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, a few miles north of Austin.  There are stories of the soldiers themselves, but mostly it's about their families, their wives and husbands and how they cope or don't.  The author is herself a military wife and she writes with knowledge and experience.  A powerful book that I recommend highly.

5. Texas by James Michener - I read this book many years ago, in the time that I read long, long books fairly regularly.  If you've never read a Michener book, they are very detailed and have meticulous research and they are long........long.  This is a history of the land of Texas, the state of Texas, the nation of Texas, and all the people who have called this area their home.  I loved it.  The story goes from prehistoric times to the Spanish discovery and then all the way to the Space Age.  Through all of our six flags.  An epic journey.

6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King - I have not read this one yet and will likely try it on audio.  I do understand that there will be a TV adaptation next year with James Franco as the lead.  I am a big Stephen King fan and I'm interested in this book with the famous date - the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX.  I was a little girl at the time and don't have much memory of the day, but I do remember that my father, who worked for the state police, had to help with a small part of the investigation.  Our Texas Governor John Connally was also wounded in that tragedy.  11/22/63 tells the story of a man who is able to time travel and has the ability to possibly change history.

7. Giant by Edna Ferber - Another one that I have not read.  I have, however, seen the movie adaptation several times.  It stars Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean and is a classic.  The story is about cattle, big landowners, and the discovery of oil.  And, no, not everyone who lives in Texas was raised with cattle or has struck oil or owns a lot of land.  But the sight of cows and oil derricks and wide open spaces is quite familiar to me.

8. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry - I have not read this book, but I did see the TV adaptation with Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall.  An epic story of the American West in the late 1800's - cattle drives, Texas Rangers, outlaws, horses, small towns, dust, violence.  This book and the ones that come after have it all.  My husband loved it.

9. The Liar's Club by Mary Karr - I read and discussed this book with a group several years ago.  It is a memoir of the life of American poet Mary Karr and her Texas childhood in Port Arthur, an oil refinery town.  She had quite the interesting family.  This book was on front end of the memoir trend and it is a good one.

10. The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie de Paola - I read this children's book many, many times to my daughter and it was one she took with her when she grew up.  The bluebonnet is the Texas state flower and it appears in the springtime.  It's especially vivid and plentiful when we have had a lot of rain, like this year.  This story is about a little Comanche girl whose tribe is threatened by a drought.  She sacrifices her greatest possession and the Great Spirit not only sends the needed rain, but also sends the bluebonnet flower.  The pictures below were taken in my yard and they are indeed bluebonnets.  And bluebonnets and the other wildflowers that we have here are my favorite part of spring.

Hope you've enjoyed this little tour of my home state of Texas.  If you haven't visited, you are most welcome to come by and see what we have to offer.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tuesday's Gone by Nicci French

Tuesday's Gone is the second book in Nicci French's mystery series.  Frieda Klein is the main character and she is a very interesting woman.  OK, before I begin sharing my thoughts on the book, let me say that it took me forever and a day to read this book.  Almost two weeks.  It wasn't the writing and it wasn't the story and it wasn't the characters.  I honestly can't say why my reading speed lagged so tremendously.  I think I mentioned a couple of days ago that I felt I might be heading into a slump.  Anyway, I listened to the first book, Blue Monday, on audio and I've already decided that the third book, Waiting For Wednesday, will be an audio book as well.  I think, for me, some series just work better at times as a listen.

Back to Dr. Frieda Klein and Tuesday's Gone.  This book begins with a truly gruesome scene, discovered by a social worker on a random visit.  A woman, Michelle Doyce, who has mental issues, is found taking care of a dead man - a naked dead man.  She's trying to serve him tea and she doesn't seem to understand that he is dead.  This woman is not able to communicate with DCI Karlsson and his team.  He brings in Frieda to see if she can talk to Michelle and also help them discover the identity of the corpse.

It turns out that the man, Robert Poole by name, was a sort of con artist who was able to ascertain what people needed most, be it attention or comradeship or fitness counseling, and give it to them - for a price - a very large price.  The journey of discovering Robert Poole's killer and how he came to be in Michelle Doyce's apartment is very complicated.  Frieda genuinely wants to help each and every person she runs across in the investigation, which really is not possible or wise.  Characters appear from the previous book, good and bad.  We meet another member of her family, of which we still know very little.  We see a bit more about Karlsson's team and also meet an man who is consulting with the police bosses to make things more efficient - or to advise on budget cuts.  And Frieda is also not convinced that the perpetrator from the previous book is really gone for good.  She feels someone watching her.  It's a twisty, turny story with a lot of red herrings.

Again, Frieda is maybe the most complicated character of all.  We learn a bit more about her, but not so much.  I'm still very intrigued, but I want to understand why she is so calm and even-tempered or appears so anyway.  How did she get that way?  She's accused of several things in this book, hounded by reporters, ignored by many of the police contacts, and still...she maintains her calm.  Not without cracks inside though, as we are beginning to see.  I'll leave you with a couple of quotes about Frieda:
As always, walking was a way of thinking.  The houses flowed past her, the pavements pressed against her feet, and the wind blew her hair back and filled her lungs.
 There was a quality of deep reserve about her (Frieda), thought Tessa.  She was in the room and yet somehow standing back from it.  She gave you her full attention, and yet at the same time you felt she had a core of isolation of separateness.  It made her a kind of magnet.

As I said above, the third book in the series is Waiting For Wednesday.  I look forward to reading it soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dewey's Readathon - Final Thoughts

I had a great time participating in the readathon.  I really couldn't remember if I had done it before, but I do know that I was amazed at the number of people that joined in.  I volunteered to help cheer and was assigned to Team Mr. Popper.  It was a lot of fun to go around and see what others were reading, what they were eating, and where they were from.  This thing is worldwide.  Just amazing!  And I was astounded at the amount of work it takes to sort everyone out and keep up with all the challenges and cheerleaders and prizes and winners and so many social platforms.  Wow!

I was very unstructured in my aims today, other than cheering.  I managed to make it to all the blogs my team was cheering for, plus a bunch more that weren't on my team.  I took a break early in the day - morning - to go walk at the gym/rec center and run a few errands.  I mostly listened to books today, managing only a few pages in regular books.  Probably about 50 or so, but I didn't keep up really.

I listened to over 4 hours of audiobooks.  I finished The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling.  That is the book selection for my mystery book group that will meet next week.  I won't be reviewing that one until after the book group meeting.  I began another book, an Agatha Christie favorite, Murder On The Orient Express, and got a few minutes into that one.

I knew going in that I wouldn't be staying up and reading far into the night.  So, I took myself off to bed at around my usual time.  Overall, I managed about 12 hours - probably half of it reading in some form and about 6 hours cheering.  It was fun.  It was exhausting.  And I'll likely do it again if things allow in the fall.

Thanks so much to all who worked so hard to make this event a success!  And thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello and cheer me on!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon? Yes, please!!

I'm participating today in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon.  I'm pretty sure I've participated before in years past, but honestly, I can't remember.  In any case, my plan for today is very, very unstructured.  I have no particular stack of books to read.  I have no plan to read for the whole 24 hours.  I'm going to participate as my schedule today allows.  And I will come back afterward or likely tomorrow morning early and update this post with some thoughts on what I read, perhaps some statistics (no promises there though), and a farewell to the April 2015 Read-a-thon.

So, the reading is supposed to begin in my part of the world at 7:00 AM.  I am going ahead and having this post go live at my normal time.  I have volunteered to help out with cheerleading and that will be what part of my time will be spent doing.  I am on Team Mr. Popper!  How fun is that?

The books I'll be listening to and reading are located in my sidebar under 'Currently Reading' and 'Currently Listening To'.  I'll update if I finish either.

Don't think I have any cute little cheers, but I'll be stopping by some blogs to say, "good luck and enjoy, enjoy!".  And it begins...one Saturday in April, just as I thought I had my day planned, I picked up my book and.....

UPDATE at 5:00 PM

Well, I have finished my audiobook and started another one.  Have read only a few pages in my regular book, but I'm OK with that.  I have a lot more time to read on a regular basis than many.  I have cheered and cheered and cheered!  That part has been lots of fun and people are in so many places throughout the world.  Wow!  I took a break this morning, went to the gym, walked and biked and then ran some errands.  I will do a completion post tomorrow morning and it will be a separate post.  That's all for now.  Will see all of you on the flip side or early tomorrow!  Good luck to all and mostly, enjoy yourselves.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Thank God I'm a country girl....and not afraid of big, big bugs!

How many of you remember John Denver's song, Thank God I'm A Country Boy?  Well, today when I was beating on this big, big, big (8 inches) Texas redheaded centipede that was on my back porch, this song was ringing in my ears.  And I started laughing and kept beating (after having taken a picture to text to my husband, of course)!  Sadly, that centipede is no more.  In case you wonder, these centipedes can not only sting you with the fangs by their heads, but also with their legs.  You can listen to the song first and then you can see my icky bug.

I've been thinking about doing a blog post sharing the creatures that we have had visit us since we've moved out of the city and into the country.  Some are happy and cheerful and fun.  Some are definitely not.  I think I did this on my other blog that was deleted.  It mostly featured bugs, spiders and the like.  We have more than bugs though.  It's always an adventure to see what I run across.  And I am so not a country girl.  Even after almost 4 years.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill

The Betrayal of Trust is the 6th book in Susan Hill's series featuring DCS Simon Serrailler and his family and colleagues at the Lafferton Police.  I again listening to Steven Pacey's expert and soothing narration of the story.  There were many things I liked about this book and there were several that I was not as pleased with.  It does not concern the writing, which was lovely as always.  It is about Simon himself and some of his decisions and actions, as well as other aspects of the book that were not pulled together and sorted out as well as I would have liked by the end.  Left hanging is another term.  This, of course, means that I will need to get to the next book in the series, A Question of Identity, sooner rather than later.

As The Betrayal of Trust begins, Lafferton and the southern part of England is experiencing horrific weather.  There is flooding in many parts of the area, including around the cathedral and streets surrounding.  Simon has to be picked up from his apartment in a boat.  After the water has receded, it is apparent that there has been a landslip on the moor and this has caused two bodies or rather skeletons to be uncovered.  The first proves to be that of Harriet Lowther, a 15-year-old who went missing 16 years before.  The other is a grown woman who seems to have been buried around the same time, but whose identity is not known.

The police are in a bad spot at the moment.  There are huge budget cuts and money is an issue all around.  Simon's boss is out after surgery and her assistant doesn't think much of spending a lot of time and resources investigating a missing person case from such a long time ago.  He allows Simon to continue, but gives him no personnel to assist him.  Cold cases are always tricky and this one is no exception.

Meanwhile, what's happening to the other characters that we have come to know and love?  Simon's sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon, has completed her course in palliative care and now has a young medical student, Molly, living with her family in order to assist Cat with her three children.  Cat is adjusting very slowly to being a widow, but she and her children are still having problems.  Simon's father and stepmother also are having some issues and Simon's relationship with his father is no better.  And, yet again, Simon has fallen for a woman who is unsuitable for a long-term relationship or perhaps any relationship.

The theme of this book seems to be sad life situations that are almost impossible to live with and yet must be endured.  There are several individuals with incurable diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Motor Neuron Disease.  There is a whole storyline and discussion of end-of-life decisions and whether suicide, doctor assisted or not, is ever appropriate.  The toll these type of conditions take on both the patient and the family members is considered.  And again, loneliness is part of the narrative.  All in all, not a cheerful book in any way.  Almost too grim and depressing.

I will hope for less conflict within the Serrailler family in the next book.  I'll hope that a couple of threads that were left unfinished are tied up a bit better.  I'll hope that Simon doesn't do something that I will find hard to endure in his quest for the woman that he met in this book.  Like a book or two previously, I felt the need to smack him or just give him a good talking to.  I liked Molly, the medical student that has come into Cat's life and hope to see her again.  And I hope that Cat herself can come to a more peaceful place in her work and with her children and as a single woman with massive responsibilities.  Sometimes, I think that Cat and not Simon wins for favorite character for me.

The next book is A Question of Identity and I'll likely listen to it soon.  Only one book will remain after that and then the wait will begin to see when and if another book will be added to this series, which is probably my favorite find of 2015.  If you are curious, I've reviewed all the books I've read by Susan Hill this year - the first is The Various Haunts of Men.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Nature of the Beast

This is a weekly event that highlights a book we can't wait to be published.  It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Louise Penny is a favorite author of mine, maybe my most favorite.  Her mysteries set in Three Pines, a village in Quebec, are always anticipated, read quickly, and then maybe read again.  At this point, there are 10 books in the series and the 11th will be published in the late summer.  Armand Gamache is the protagonist and he is now retired from his Chief Inspector duties with the Surete' du Quebec.  He and his wife have moved to Three Pines, the place that is not on any map and that is only discovered when it is needed by an individual.  It's a sort of Shangri-la, a Brigadoon, a refuge from the storms of life.....but, there are also dark things that lurk.  There always have been, for if one is in a refuge, the edges harbor monsters.  My book for this week:

Publication Date:  August 25th

Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.

But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.

And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.

And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.

A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - Touch Not The Cat

Each Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first part of a book that she is reading or thinking about reading.  This week, I'm reading an old favorite, Touch Not The Cat by Mary Stewart.  Here's a few paragraphs to set the scene at the beginning of a well-loved (by me) story:

     My lover came to me on the last night in April, with a message and a warning that sent me home to him.
     Put like that, it sounds strange, though it is exactly what happened.  When I try to explain it will no doubt sound stranger still....
     Yes, I'm awake.  What is it?  But the trouble was there already, in the room.  It settled over me in a formless way, like fog; no colour, neither dark nor light, no smell, no sound; just a clenching tension of pain and the fear of death.  The sweat sprang hot on my skin, and the sheet scraped under my nails.  I sat up.
     I've got it, I think.  It's Daddy.....He must have been taken ill again.
     Yes.  There's something wrong.  I can't tell more than that, but you ought to go.
     I didn't stop to wonder how he knew...it had got to him.  It had reached him, and now it had reached me.
     Can you read me, Bryony?  You're a long way off.
     Yes, I can read you.  I'll go...I'll go straight away, tomorrow--today?  There was a flight at eight; they would surely take me...Then urgently, projecting it with everything I had:  Love?
     It was fading.  Yes?
     Will you be there?
     Again, denial printed on the dark; denial, regret, fading...
     Oh God, I said soundlessly.  When?
     Something else came through then, strongly through the fading death cloud, shouldering it aside; comfort and love, as old fashioned as potpourri and as sweet and sane and haunting.  It was as if the rose shadows on the ceiling were showering their scent down into the empty room.  Then there was nothing left but the shadows.  I was alone.
     I threw the sheet off and knotted a robe round me, and ran for the telephone.
     As I put a hand on it, it began to ring.

And here's a publisher's summary of the book:

After the tragic death of her father, Bryony Ashley returns from abroad to find that his estate is to become the responsibility of her cousin Emory.  Ashley Court with its load of debt is no longer her worry.  But there is something odd about her father's sudden death ...Bryony has inherited the Ashley 'Sight' and so has one of the Ashleys.  Since childhood the two have communicated through thought patterns, though Bryony has no idea of his identity.  Now she is determined to find him.  But danger as well as romance wait for her in the old moated house, with its tragic memories ...

So, what do you think?  Would you keep reading or is this a little too "far out" for you?

Monday, April 20, 2015

In which I discuss my love of re-reading -- do you, don't you, should you???

As I begin this little personal indulgence of pondering  or musing about my habit of rereading books, I'm going to first share three quotes:

"Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.   ~~Francois Mauriac~~

When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.     ~~Clifton Fadiman~~

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.     ~~W. Somerset Maugham~~

I want to talk a little bit about rereading books.  Do you have this practice?  Do you go back to the books you read when you were younger and see if they hold up well?  Or do you finish a great book and turn back to the first page and begin again?  Or maybe you've enjoyed a book in print form and then later, you try it in audio format.

I will confess that I am a rereader from way back.  I think I've shared that my parents did not indulge my wish to physically own books when I was growing up.  I had a few, a very few.  However, money was tight and they felt that the library could provide any books I might need or want.  Which was fine until we'd go and spend 2 weeks at my grandmother's house.  I'd take armloads of books that were checked out from the library, but I'd finish them - so, I'd start over and read them again.

In my teens, I'd read sweet love stories and scary ghost stories and pretty much anything that wasn't "assigned" by my English teacher - well, I did read my assignments but never twice.  In my 20's, I discovered that I loved going back to well-loved books from my teens and taking another look.  And I've continued that practice off and on up until now.

Why, you might ask?  Well, I know that I'll never get to read all the books that I want to read in my lifetime.  I know this.  However, sometimes I just need a story that I'm familiar with for the comfort value.  It's like a warm blanket or a cup of hot chocolate or a hug from my mother.  At tough times in my life, I find myself picking up books that I remember so well and also remembering how they made me feel.  Safe, secure, a refuge as Mr. Maugham states in the quote above.

I also use rereading as a technique to bump myself out of a reading slump and have done this for years.  And I'm feeling a slump coming on lately.  Hence, my thoughts on rereading.  I'm not sure if I will write reviews for the books that I've read in the past.  I may, since this blog is pretty new, but I may not.  So, if you notice a lack of book reviews here for a period of time, I might be in rereading mode.

My favorite go-to books are varied.  Authors might include:  Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, Louise Penny, Debbie Macomber, Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, Nora Roberts or so many that I've talked about as favorites.  

OK, now I want to hear your thoughts.  Do you read books for a second or third or endless amount of times?  Or are you a 'been there, done that' kind of reader?  I'd love to know and I'd also love to know a few of the books that you consider your favorites to visit again.  Who knows?  I might have forgotten one that I'd like to go back to for the second time.  And thanks for sharing!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Let talk about coffee and Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mysteries...

Are you a coffee drinker?  Is it the best part of waking up?  Do you enjoy a good mystery along with your coffee?  Well, pull up a chair and let me pour you a cup and let's talk.

First, let's talk about coffee.  I grew up drinking coffee from the age of about 5 or so.  You know the kind of coffee I mean - a tiny bit of coffee and a lot of milk.  Both my grandmothers had a morning cup and when we visited, they would sneak me a latte.  Of course, at the time I didn't know that I was drinking a latte.  Me, so ahead of the trends.

In the mid-90's, my family moved to Portland, Oregon for 3 years and I found myself in coffee heaven.  Oh my word!  What a place!  Starbucks had not made it's way to the Texas yet and so we didn't know about all the many lovely drinks that we could discover, along with just regular yummy coffee.  By the time we moved home, Starbucks had arrived, much to my delight.

And now, honestly, if I had to pick just one drink for the rest of my life, other than water, I would choose coffee.  That first sip in the morning - such a treat.  I allow myself two cups, large cups, each morning, full leaded and then I'm done.  Age has sadly made the caffeine not so wonderful after the noon hour.  But that first sip....

Now, on to coffeehouse mysteries.  I've shared lately that one of my goals this year is to catch up on a few favorite mystery series.  Several years ago, I started reading Cleo Coyle's coffeehouse mysteries and I loved them.  The main protagonist is Clare Cosi, who manages the historic Village Blend Coffeehouse in New York's Greenwich Village.  Her ex-mother-in-law, Madame, is the owner and her ex-husband Matt Allegro is the coffee buyer.  This all sounds very sweet and charming and delicious, but then murder and other crimes creep in and with them, Lt. Mike Quinn.  The first book in the series is On What Grounds and the latest and 14th book is Once Upon a Grind.  In between are lots and lots of wonderful coffee facts, a fair amount of bodies, and an amazing amount of great recipes.  Oh, did I not say that?  The Village Blend sells all kinds of lovely food and Cleo Coyle give us several recipes with each book.  Yummy!

Cleo Coyle is actually the husband and wife writing team of Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.  They live in New York and so these books have a completely authentic flavor.  I love the coffee trivia and lore that are included.  I love the recipes.  And I love the characters.  Clare has a fairly complicated life, juggling the coffeehouse and dealing with employee issues, ex-husband issues, ex-mother-in-law issues, grown daughter (yes, she and Matt have a grown daughter, Joy) issues, and lovely Lt. Quinn issues.  These are cozies, but with a definite bite to them.

I am a bit behind in my reading of this series, like 7 books behind.  For shame!  I'll be including a coffeehouse mystery in my reading soon and will pick up with Holiday Grind.  I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things with Clare and company.  Oh, also, Cleo Coyle participates in Mystery Lovers Kitchen, a blog run by 8 mystery authors.  It has so many lovely recipes.  You should check it out.  So, are you a coffee aficionado?  Or have you read any of the coffeehouse mysteries?

Linking this post to Weekend Cooking on Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill

The Shadows in the Street is the 5th book in the Simon Serrailler crime series.  The author is Susan Hill and if you've been reading this blog for the last few months, you know that I have been listening to this series on audio - and loving it.  Again, Steven Pacey is the narrator and a fine job he does.  I only have 3 more of this series to go and then I'll be current.  Not sure what I'll do then, but hopefully another series will appear and fill the gap.

Susan Hill's books are mysteries, yes, but they are also character studies of the Serrailler family and, in addition, include morality and health issues.  This book takes on prostitution and gives us a personal look at a few of the woman who are in the game, their lives and children.  There is a mental health storyline, the ravages of a person suffering from bipolar disorder and how it affects that person's loved ones.  There is a theme of loneliness in the book and how some cope with it or don't.

 The character studies include Simon Serrailler's police colleagues and changes in personnel, Cat Deerbon's decisions as she tries to go on with her medical career in the wake of a personal tragedy, and Simon himself, always attempting to figure out whether to indulge his artistic side or his logical police superintendent half.  As our story begins, Simon is on leave and enjoying a holiday time on a Scottish island.  His superiors have insisted that he get away and it has been good for him to do so.  His sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon, has been adjusting to a new normal and is questioning whether general practice is what she wishes to do in the future.  Her heart lies with the hospice patients and she is mulling over some decisions that will allow her to spend more time with her children and make her job more rewarding.

Two local prostitutes have been brutally strangled near the canal.  Simon is called back to head up the investigation.  He and his team, which includes a new Detective Sergeant, are working hard, but making no headway in solving the murders.  There are people who reach out to the women, trying to help them with food, hot drinks, and clean needles.  Could the murderer be hiding among these individuals?  Several men are brought in and questioned.  And then another woman disappears and another.  Simon is getting all kinds of pressure from above and from the community.

Lafferton's cathedral is going through a transition as well, with a new head, whose wife wants to institute an extensive program to help the prostitutes.  The new dean or head is making waves among the congregation for the many updates he is proposing.  All that grinds to halt though when the dean's wife herself goes missing.  And before Simon and his team can catch the killer, that person gets way too close to someone Simon cares for.

Again, there are changes in store for our characters in the coming books.  Susan Hill is not an author to be averse to big challenges for the characters she creates.  The next book in the series is The Betrayal of Trust and I'm happy to say that I have that one loaded on my phone and am ready to begin listening.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Night Sister

This is a weekly event that highlights a book we can't wait to be published.  It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I'm excited to see that Jennifer McMahon has a new book coming out at the end of the summer.  I read her latest, The Winter People, earlier this year and shared my thoughts here.  This author's books are always mysterious - sometimes a crime is involved and sometimes there is a hint of the supernatural - usually both.  Lovely.  My selection for this week is:

by Jennifer McMahon
Publication Date:  August 4th 

Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kay's Top 10 Most Inspiring Quotes From Books...a look back to the younger set because sometimes children's books say it best!!

This is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where bloggers relate their "top ten" of a certain topic.  This week's topic - Top 10 Inspiring Quotes From Books (anything that inspires you, challenges you, makes you think, encourages you).  I love this week's topic and in order to give my top 10, I took a look back at what are often considered children's books.  You know, sometimes so-called "children's" books have some very, very wise sayings.  Five are from Harry Potter books and five are found in Dr. Seuss books - plus there is a bonus entry.  Here's what I found, first from Harry Potter:

There are all kinds of courage.  It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
~~Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone~~

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.
~~Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone~~

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
~~Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets~~

If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
~~Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire~~

Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort.  Remember Cedric Diggory.  
~~Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire~~

Here's what I found in the wisdom of Dr. Seuss:

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
~~How the Grinch Stone Christmas~~

A person's a person no matter how small.
~~Horton Hears a Who!~~

We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad!  For every voice counts!
~~Horton Hears a Who!~~

I know up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here on the bottom,
We too should have rights.
~~Yertle the Turtle~~

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.
~~Oh, The Places You'll Go!~~

And just for a bonus entry, this quote is from one of my daughter's favorite books when she was a wee one.  It's by Judith Viorst and says:

It's been a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY.  My mom says some days are like that.  Even in Australia.
~~Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day~~

So what are some of your favorite quotes that inspire you or motivate you or get you going?  Share, share! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Under Cold Stone by Vicki Delany

Another series caught up!  I am very pleased with my progress this year in my goal of catching up on several mystery series that I had fallen behind reading.  For me, sometimes it just takes a little focus and a little planning to accomplish this.  I do like reading mystery series, but I also enjoy non-series books and so it's a juggling act.

Under Cold Stone is the 7th and latest book in Vicki Delany's Constable Molly Smith series.  It takes place, for the most part, outside of Trafalger, British Columbia and instead sets us down in the lovely town of Banff, Alberta.  You can see an artist's rendering of the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel on the cover.   And again, the setting plays a big part in the narrative from that gorgeous and expensive hotel to other local sights.  I loved it. I listened to this book and it was read by Carrington MacDuffie.

Molly Smith's mother, Lucky, is dating Molly's boss, Chief Constable Paul Keller, which has been a bit disconcerting for all of them.  However, time has passed and now that Molly herself is engaged to RCMP Officer Adam Tocek, she is looking more favorably on the situation.  It's Thanksgiving time, which is in October in Canada, and Lucky and Paul are on a short vacation to Banff.

Lucky gets into an altercation at a local coffee shop with two very rude young men, which upsets her day.  All she was asking was that they respect the fact that there was a line and wait their turn.  One of the men shoves her to the ground and it seems no one notices.  The next day, Lucky and Paul run across the same two men in a restaurant and to Lucky's horror, one of the men turns out to be Paul Keller's estranged son, Matt.  It doesn't seem like the estrangement will get any better after Paul shouts at his son for his companion's treatment of Lucky, but later that night, Matt phones his father and tells him he's just discovered the body of one of his roommates.  Paul tells Matt to call the police, but instead, Matt disappears and is then suspected of the murder by the local police.

Meanwhile, back in Trafalger, Molly Smith is trying to figure out how to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for Adam and herself.  She receives a call from Lucky telling her of Matt's appearance and subsequent disappearance.  Molly had been in high school with Matt and offers to come to Banff to support Lucky and her chief.  Detective Sergeant John Winters has been left in charge while Paul Keller is on his little vacation and he had hoped for a quiet holiday time.  Unfortunately, that is not the case when protests begin against a company that is building a resort community in the area.  Trouble is popping up all over and eventually the murder and the protests are determined to be somewhat connected.  And things get complicated.

As I've said before, I love the setting of British Columbia that this author uses for her series.  And, in this book, she takes us to another part of Canada that I would also love to visit - Banff.  Sigh.  One day.  It was quite interesting to have Molly and company in another location.  The hotel sounded lovely and the author brought out the dilemma of a lot of resort towns - where can the staff of the pricey hotels and restaurants afford to live.  Various other tourist spots are mentioned and, of course, I had to go look them up.  I was also glad to see that Trafalger and John Winters, Adam Tocek, and Norman, the police dog, were not left out.  The mystery itself was not all that difficult to unravel, but I enjoyed visiting with the characters again.

Vicki Delany has a new cozy series going.  It's written under the name of Eva Gates and the first book, By Book or By Crook, was published recently.  I'm not sure when she will get back to Molly and Trafalger, but I'll be waiting.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Weekend Cooking - What's in your recipe archive??

This post will be linked to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, which is open to anyone who has a food-related post to share.  Take a look.  There's always something tasty to talk about each weekend.

I have been acquiring quite a few new cookbooks recently, and I've done a weeding of the ones I had on my shelf for a long time that got little use.  And I've been considering whether to document some of my older recipes somehow before the paper they are on actually falls apart.  Age, it gets to all of us, right?  Even your old recipes.

My husband and I have been married almost 35 years.  When I had my wedding shower, all those years ago, one of my mother's friends presented me with this little beige box, filled with index cards.  On those cards, she had taken the time to write down probably close to 100 recipes that she used day in and day out for her family.  Such a kind woman and I remember her so well.  She didn't have a lot of money for a wedding gift, but she told me that she wished that someone would have given her some tried and true, tested recipes as a young bride.  I have used that little box and those suggestions ever since, stuffing it full of other recipes that I wrote out on cards or clipped from magazines.  As you can see, it is well loved.

One of the recipes that I have displayed is for Baked Beans and it is one that lovely lady shared .  I've used it for baked beans forever.  It may not be the healthiest anymore, but my family loved it and it's one that my daughter copied out for her kitchen when she got married.  The other recipe there is one that my husband, who was my boyfriend then, wrote out for me when we were teenagers, probably 5 years or so before we married.  It's for Jiffy Cobbler, his Dad's recipe, and it is still a good one.  I noticed a cobbler recipe very like it in one of the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks.  As you can see, both of those recipes have been used often and are well stained to prove it.

Do you have a few recipes such as these?  What I would call a recipe archive.  I bet you do.  Have you transferred them to a more permanent home?  I'm still on the fence as to whether to scan all of mine.  I have a feeling that looking at them on a computer or iPad screen won't be the same as pulling them out of my little recipe box.  I'm going to share the Baked Beans recipe below, just as she wrote it, and thank you Miss Beth for your kindness.  I miss you.

Baked Beans

 1 large can pork & beans
1 dash maple syrup
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 cap hot sauce
1 tsp. curry powder
1 med. onion (minced)
1/2 green pepper (minced)
1 stem celery (minced)
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. bacon drippings or Wesson oil

Stir together all ingredients and pour into large baking dish.  Bake at 300 degrees for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Kay's notes - I usually use more celery and a whole green pepper and a really big can of pork and beans or 2 or 3 regular sized cans.  No bacon drippings, but some olive oil instead.  If you don't like curry powder, it could be left out and other ingredients adjusted as well to suit your taste.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tell Me No Secrets by Julie Corbin

Tell Me No Secrets is Julie Corbin's debut novel and it was published in 2009.  I can't remember where I picked up the mass market paperback I have, but I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.  I shared the prologue of the book a few days ago in a Tuesday - First Paragraph post here.  It begins:

They say that everybody has a secret...

Tell Me No Secrets is the story of Grace Adams, mother of twin teenage girls, wife of Paul, artist, friend, and woman with a secret in her past.  She lives in a small village in Scotland, on the sea, and has lived there for most of her life.  Her parents still live nearby and she shares her office with a good friend, Euan, who used to be the boy next door.  Euan and Grace were a couple when they were teenagers, but time passed and they both married other people, lived in other places, and are now back in their home town.

Grace has struggled with a secret for 24 years, feeling guilt and responsibility for something that happened when she was 16 years old.  While a leader on a camping trip with the Girl Guides (like Girl Scouts), a tragedy occurred.  Rose, a 9-year-old girl from Grace's tent, was drowned.  Grace and her best friend, Orla, another leader, tried to revive Rose, but to no avail.  It was ruled an accident and only Grace and Orla knew that it might not have happened just that way.

After all this time, Orla has returned to the village.  She contacts Grace and tells her that she needs to see her.  Orla says it is time to tell the truth about that day in the woods and that they will feel so much better when Orla shares what she knows with Paul, Grace's husband, with Grace's daughters, with Euan, and with the police.  Grace has not seen Orla since she returned from that awful trip, 24 years ago.  She is terrified that her whole life is about to be ruined and tells her "old friend" this.   Orla is relentless and Grace begins to realize that something is very, very wrong here.  What does Orla actually know about Rose's death?

This book is quite gripping, especially as you begin the tale.  It is the story of obsession in many forms.  It is the story of secrets kept and things remembered or maybe not remembered exactly right.  It's one of those books that you go along reading and you think you know what is going on - you suspect what the answer will be and then you realize that everything is upside down.  The story flips and you find yourself with a completely different viewpoint and nothing is what you thought.

There is more than one character that is lying.  More than one with a cruel streak.  More than one who is obsessed to the point of madness.  And more than one who might be willing to kill.

Now, all that sounds very thrilling.  And I did enjoy the book, mostly.  I just had a couple of issues with Grace.  I understood that she wanted to protect her family and I understood that she was guilt-ridden over that long-ago situation.  Euan was a good friend to her when they were kids and also now as adults.  Orla was a good friend in the past, but her actions now seem very manipulative and it was hard to guess her end game.  Mostly, I wanted Grace to stop making such poor decisions about how to go about solving her problems, stop being so dependent on Euan, stop making me want to shake her and say, "it's not all about you!".  And so, it took me longer to read this book in spite of the thrills and chills and craziness.  I had to take breaks to calm my irritation with Grace.  There was no chance that I wasn't going to finish it though.  I had to know if my guesses were correct.  And they were - sort of.  I give it a mostly thumbs up, a thumb and 3/4 thumb up.

I have two more of this author's books, Do Me No Harm and Where The Truth Lies.  I'll hopefully get to them soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Kill by Jane Casey

Well, I've done it.  Gotten caught up with all the DC Maeve Kerrigan books that Jane Casey has written up to this point.  First of all, The Kill, the 5th book in the series, will not be published in the US until June 2nd.  It is already available in the UK and somehow the audio is also available at this time.  I'll try to be careful about spoilers, but just saying...

I loved this book.  And I listened to it and liked the narrator, Sarah Coomes, fairly well.  Her male voices were a tiny bit wonky, but not too much and I could not wait until June.  So, a listen it was.

The book begins with our characters outside of London attending a wedding of a colleague.  Everyone is there, but some are still technically on duty, so having to abstain from the alcohol.  And it's a good thing as they get a call to return to the city ASAP.  A policeman has been shot on his way home from his shift.  The murder site is a park and the witnesses were badger watching (is that really a thing?).  Maeve leaves her boyfriend, Rob, behind at the wedding and travels with DI Josh Derwent to begin the investigation.  Since the victim is a police officer, everyone is being especially careful and diligent.  When they inform the officer's family of his death, the wife and daughter seem a bit off.  Cold and uncooperative would be their reactions.

As Superintendent Godley's team is primary on this case, everyone is putting in the hours.  And then it happens again.  This time several police officers are down.  Everyone is in a panic and the media descends with hard questions.  Pressure abounds from the upper echelon of police administration and other government types.  Who is doing this?  How are these crimes connected?  Is any police officer safe?  The answer is no.  Superintendent Godley doesn't seem himself and Maeve can't help but remember a secret that she knows about him.  Should she confront him or tell Derwent?  And Maeve's own home life with Rob becomes incredibly complicated all of a sudden.

We get to see more about all of our favorite characters, Maeve and Rob, Derwent, and also Godley.  Different facets of each of their characters are revealed.  Meanwhile, someone is running around London killing members of the police and getting away with it.  Trust me, you don't want to miss reading this one.  Some issues from previous books are resolved and, of course, more arise.  And may I just say, I can't stand Godley's second in command, DCI Una Burt.  Cannot. Stand. Her.  That's all I'll reveal, but sheesh....what an awful woman.

I understand that the next book in this series will be published in the UK this summer.  I might have to order it.  If you've not read this series, it begins with The Burning.  Highly recommended.