Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sigh....I'm thinking...and taking a break...

Yes, another break.  So, I got my  blood test results back and they were not all that I had hoped.  I've improved in some areas and not in others.  I've worked hard, but I think my focus is going to have to be on some other things for a bit.  More doctor appointments and more tests.  Honestly, I'm not feeling all that well and I need to get to the bottom of why.  And also get some help in improving things.  I have lost over 20 pounds.  I am eating much better.  I am walking regularly.  I am about to start some strength training again soon.  But I need to quit spending so much time staring at my computer and sitting at my desk.

Here's my plan - I've got my September Bookish Nostalgia post for Tuesday of next week.  At that time, I'm going to take the rest of September off.  And think.  And make some decisions about my blog and the time I spend here and reading other blogs.  I suspect that you will see fewer posts and I also suspect that I'm going to need to cut back on reading and commenting on other blogs.

My reading has been off anyway in the last few weeks.  Can't seem to settle very well to a book.  When that happens to me, it's usually time for me to change it up.  Read something totally different or even not read much at all (I know - horrors!).

So, what do you think?  Will you stick around if I go off on another tangent for a bit?  If not, I understand.  Have a great September!  It's my favorite month.  I'll see you in October.  And I'll leave you with one of my most-loved songs from my youth.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Reading Habits Survey: this is how we do it...or rather how I do it!

I've noticed several blogs that I read on a regular basis sharing this little 'reading habits survey'.  I didn't note down all of them, but I did see Kim's on Sophisticated Dorkiness and Florinda's on The 3R's Blog.  Enjoyed both and thought I would join in.  So, here we go:

1.  Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
Yes, I have an office/library that is my very own.  It has my desk and computer and my bookshelves.  It also have my reading chair and lamp and little table for coffee or other beverage of choice.  I also read in bed before going to sleep.  I read at the breakfast table while eating.  I read standing up in the kitchen or sometimes in the family room while hubby is watching a TV show.  I read on the back porch occasionally, but not as much as I thought I would.  Summer is hot out there.  Winter is cold and breezy.  And then there are the bugs.  Our porch is not screened, sadly.

2.  Do you use a bookmark or a random piece of paper? 
I always use bookmarks if I'm reading a regular book.  I have a lot of them - bookmarks - well, I have a lot of books too, but I have a bedside drawer that has lots and lots of bookmarks.  These days, I read from my Kindle mostly.  I have more books there than in paper.

3.  Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or a certain amount of pages?
It depends.  I guess I prefer to stop at the end of a chapter, but sometimes, especially when reading in bed, I stop...right...there.  And sometimes, most notably when I'm reading a book that I'm not particularly excited about but must read for some reason, I read a certain number of pages.  Actually, these days there are very few 'must read' books in my life.  That whole '50-page-rule'.

4.  Do you eat or drink while reading?
I do, yes.  However, I've discovered that a lot of mindless eating was while I was reading.  In trying to lose weight and not eat without noticing, I've begun a campaign to only drink while reading.  I get caught up in the story and my hand will be putting things in my mouth and I don't even remember.  I drink coffee in the mornings and other things in the afternoons.  Trying to limit snacking to a few nuts or fresh fruit.

5.  Do you watch TV or listen to music while reading?
No.  I can listen to TV or music, but it wouldn't be my preference.  I'm home alone during the daytime and my house is quiet.  However, my husband is one of those people who almost automatically turns on the TV.  So, if he's home, it's a good bet that there is some noise.  I do have my reading room though and often retreat there if he's watching TV and I'm not.

6.  Do you read one book at a time or several at once?
I usually have one book that I'm reading in either print or e-book form and one book that I'm listening to.  I've never been one who could read 4 or 5 at a time.

7.  Do you prefer to read at home or anywhere?
I can read anywhere - truly.  However, I mostly read at home because that's pretty much the extent of my hobbies - reading.  If I'm waiting somewhere outside our house, I'm always reading.  Now that audiobooks are a big part of my life, I can be 'reading' at any time, no matter what my hands are doing.

8.  Do you read out loud or silently?
I don't read out loud to myself.  I do listen to audiobooks and I used to read a lot to our daughter.  Even when she was old enough to read her own books.  She always loved to have me read to her.  OK, does anyone read out loud just to themselves?

9.  Do you read ahead or skip pages?
I don't skip pages or skim books.  I either read them in their entirety or I don't.  Again, '50-page-rule'.  That being said, I do occasionally peek at the end.  I know, I know - sacrilege - or so my husband thinks.  Sometimes I just can't wait and sometimes I want to check and see if I guessed the killer or the twist.  I'm trying to not do this though.  But I could.  And I have.  LOL

10.  Do you break the spine or keep it like new?
I'm a little picky about that.  Well, more than a little picky.  In my mind, the book should look like you haven't read it when you finish reading it.  Understand?  It's the former library worker in me and the incredibly picky person in me.  I even try to get unbroken spines when I buy used books.

11.  Do you write in your books?
Hardly ever.  In college, I used to highlight, but I rarely read anything that would need me to write in the book.  I have occasionally put my name in a book.  And did you know they have these cool little post-its, tiny ones, that you can mark books?  Just saying...


Well, that seems to be it.  If you'd like to take the survey and share with people, feel free.  I think it's been fun hearing about 'how we read'.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

"To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."
          ~~William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"~~

This verse is just before the prologue of Rosamund Lupton's second book, Afterwards.  A beautiful little verse and it suits this book.  There are deep themes in Afterwards, which is a melding of a thriller and a story of deep family love.  I listened to this book on audio and enjoyed it very much.  It was narrated by Finty Williams, and she did a marvelous job.  I'll be looking for more books narrated by her.

Afterwards is a scary story.  It begins with a mother, Grace, who comes to her children's school on a sports day to pick up her 8-year-old son, Adam.  Soon after she arrives and as she is looking for her boy, it becomes apparent that the school is on fire.  Almost no one is in the building because of the special sports event, but Grace sees Adam and then doesn't see her 17-year-old daughter, Jenny, a teaching assistant at the school.  She rushes into the burning building to save her child.  Both Jenny and Grace are critically injured, along with another teen teaching assistant, Rowena, daughter of Grace's good friend Maisie.

The fire turns out to have been arson.  And here's where the book is a little different.  It's told from the viewpoint of Grace, who is in a coma.  Both Grace and Jenny are sort of spirits or ghosts in a way.  Their conscious minds are able to see and hear and move about the hospital, while their unconscious bodies remain in hospital beds.  They talk to each other, but they are not able to communicate with anyone else.  In this way, mother and daughter are witnesses to what happens at the hospital as Mike, Grace's husband, and Sarah, his sister, talk to doctors, sit beside them, and as the police investigation proceeds.

Sarah is also Detective Sergeant McBride and a police officer.  When her boss settles on a convenient explanation for the arson and identifies the person he believes set the fire, she resists his conclusions.  At great risk to her career, but out of love for both Grace, Jenny, and also Adam and Mike, Sarah pursues other angles.  Meanwhile, someone doesn't want Jenny to wake up.  Someone tries to kill her even within the walls of the ICU.  Jenny herself can't remember what happened exactly before the fire.  She's not sure why she was still in the building.  And so she and Grace listen and talk to each other and get to know each other as they never have before.  They begin to piece together what happened, just as Sarah is doing the same.

I know that some may feel that this storyline is quite unbelievable, but I liked it.  I was sympathetic to Grace, who loved her children so fiercely, and who thought she knew all about her teenage daughter, but of course she didn't.  It was hard for Grace to see that her little girl had grown up and was ready to move on to adulthood.  The mystery aspect was well done.  Lots of red herrings and individuals who might have been the arsonist.  The ending was different too.  Some were disappointed with it.  I was not.  For me, I knew what would happen, so unconventional though it was, I was satisfied.

I liked Grace as a mother who would basically do anything for her children.  But, I really liked Sarah, the aunt and sister-in-law of the women, who was a dedicated police officer.  She and Grace had never been close.  In fact, Grace was always a little jealous and a little intimidated by Sarah.  Mike and Sarah's parents had died young and she had been both mother and father to her younger brother.  Sarah was consumed by a protective love for all the family and Grace comes to see that and appreciate her sister-in-law so very much.  As I said, themes of deep family love here.  A very good read for me.

I've read Rosamund Lupton's debut novel, Sister, and like it a lot.  She has a new book coming out in February, The Quality Of Silence.  It is set in Alaska and you can be sure that I'll be picking it up when it is available.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Dead To The Last Drop

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

I love Cleo Coyle's coffeehouse mystery series.  Love it.  The new books usually appear in the winter and what's better than a great cup of coffee or a latte to sip while reading about murder and mayhem in the Village Blend?  This is the 15th book in the series and it's set outside of New York.  We are instead going to Washington D.C. and the Rose Garden - yes, that Rose Garden.  My pick for this week is:

Publication Date:  December 1st

After the White House asks coffeehouse manager and master roaster Clare Cosi to consult on the coffee service for a Rose Garden Wedding, she discovers a historic pot was used as a CIA "dead drop" decades before. Now long-simmering secrets boil over, scalding Clare and the people around her...

Clare's visit to the nation's capital is off to a graceful start. Her octogenarian employer is bunking with her in a charming Georgetown mansion, and she's invited to work with a respected curator on the Smithsonian's culinary salute to coffee in America.

Unfortunately, Clare's new Village Blend DC is struggling to earn a profit--until its second floor jazz club attracts a high-profile fan, the college-age daughter of the U.S. President. Clare's stock rises as the First Lady befriends her, but she soon learns a stark lesson: Washington can be murder.

First a stylish State Department employee suspiciously collapses in her coffeehouse. Then the President's daughter goes missing. Is she a runaway bride or is something more sinister in play? After another deadly twist, Clare is on the run with her NYPD detective boyfriend. Branded an enemy of the state, she must piece together clues and uncover the truth before her life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness come to a bitter end.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - Long Upon The Land

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 sharing the first few paragraphs of Long Upon The Land by Margaret Maron.  This is the 20th book in this author's Judge Deborah Knott mystery series.  It is a great favorite of mine, and I am very much looking forward to catching up with Deborah, her husband Dwight, and the extended Knott family.  See what you think:

     She first notices him because he always sits at a table off to the side of the USO club and he usually sits alone.  For some reason, he reminds her of her father, the only person in Dobbs that she misses.  Not her mother, not the friends she had gone to school with, and certainly not the boys who joined up as soon as they turned eighteen and who think she is counting the days till they return.
     KEEP UP THEIR MORALE! the posters urge; and to do her part, she writes weekly letters that give them news from home yet promise nothing, no matter what they might think.  If they survive the war--and one has already died in the Battle of Corregidor--they will come back and become doctors, lawyers, or bankers like their fathers before them.  They will be good men, pillars of the community, and they will live in big houses and buy their wives fur coats or take them to Europe every three or four years once things settle down over there, but she never plans to become one of those wives herself.  Turn into her mother?  Devote her life to maintaining a perfect home, to keeping up appearances?
     No--NO--NO!  She drops out of Saint Mary's after one semester.  "It's a debutante school!"
     "So?" says her mother.  Ever since Sue and Zell were toddlers, Mrs. Stephenson has dreamed of seeing her daughters make their debut together and she will never forgive the Germans for a war that has cancelled all debutante balls for the duration.
     "You keep saying what you don't want," her bewildered father says.  "What is it you do want, honey?"
     "I don't know," Sue cries.  "I don't know!  I just want to live a real life," which is the closest she can come to articulating this nameless yearning to be needed, to make a difference.


On a quiet August morning, Judge Deborah Knott's father Kezzie makes a shocking discovery on a remote corner of his farm: the body of a man bludgeoned to death. Investigating this crime, Deborah's husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, soon uncovers a long-simmering hostility between Kezzie and the slain man over a land dispute. The local newspaper implies that Deborah's family may have had something to do with the murder-and that Dwight is dragging his feet on the case.

Meanwhile, Deborah is given a cigarette lighter that once belonged to her mother. The cryptic inscription inside rekindles Deborah's curiosity about her parents' past, and how they met. For years she has wondered how the daughter of a wealthy attorney could have married a widowed, semi-illiterate bootlegger, and this time she's determined to find the answer.

But why are Deborah's brothers so reluctant to talk about the dead man? Is the murder linked to Kezzie's illegal whiskey business? And could his courtship of Deborah's mother have something to do with the bad blood between the two families? Despite Deborah's promise not to interfere in Dwight's work, she cannot stop herself from doing everything she can to help clear her brothers and her father from suspicion . . .


Have you read any of the books in this series?  I've been reading it for over 20 years.  And loving it.  The first book is The Bootlegger's Daughter.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

The Killer Next Door - hmm...what to say about this book.  Well, it was written by Alex Marwood.  It was definitely creepy and disturbing and has some awful characters.  It also had some genuinely nice characters, who looked out for others and took care of people and tried their best to do the right thing.  The problem was - what was the right thing?

I listened to The Killer Next Door as an audiobook and it worked well enough in that form.  It was narrated by Imogen Church and she did a great job with all the voices and accents.  I'll be looking for more books narrated by her.  Alex Marwood, the author, first wrote The Wicked Girls, which I read last year.  I liked that book and so decided to try this one.  I'm glad I did, but this book isn't for the faint of heart.  Not at all.

First of all, let me say that this book is set in London during a summer heatwave.  It was definitely not on my list of 'read cold books in summer'.  The heat was palpable, truly.  This is a story about a group of people who live in an old house in London that has been divided up into small apartments.  The area used to be a good one, but time has moved on and the horrible landlord has done very little to update, maintain or improve living conditions in the house.  He just shows up to collect the rent, act smarmy, and secretly check the cameras that he has hidden throughout.

The occupants include Collette, who is on the run from her old employer.  She saw something she shouldn't have.  There is Cher, a young woman, who is a runaway and who will have to do almost anything to get money.  In the attic is Thomas, a man who wants to be friends with the others - maybe.  There is an Iranian gentleman, who has run from his homeland and is seeking asylum in a country that he hopes will be better than the one he left.  There is a quiet gentleman, who plays his music loud and talks to no one.  And then there is Vesta, a retired elderly woman, who has lived in this house all of her life.  She'd like to move away to the seashore, but her rent level is controlled and this is home for her.  Besides, she likes to watch out for her neighbors.  

There is something that the neighbors don't know.  One of them is a killer - a person who is completely delusional and who has murdered over and over again.  That hot summer, an accident occurs and all the neighbors have to get to know each other better than they ever thought possible.  And the killer is looking for another victim.

I was caught up in this book fairly quickly.  It was obvious that secrets were everywhere.  All the characters had a backstory and we were clued in as the story progressed.  Let me be clear - this book has some graphic violence and some truly horrible scenes.  The killer mentioned has a particular way of dealing with the victims.  I was still interested, but will warn you that if you are listening to the story, it might be even more vivid.  I needed to know what was going to happen and that kept me going forward.  

This book was nominated for several mystery awards this year.  I think I can see why.  The story is absorbing, if pretty icky.  And will I read the next book by Alex Marwood?  Yes I will.  I give this book a 1-1/2 thumbs up - mostly for the graphic violence and description of same.  Also, I think I'll read the next book in print, just in case.  Ha!  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Join me at Sacred Grounds...

I wanted to do one more post about our trip to Ruidoso.  And this one I am linking to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.  If you are ever in Ruidoso, you must stop by this great little coffee/sandwich shop, Sacred Grounds.  They have a new location since we visited last and a much bigger setup.  It's really beautiful.  Here's the front:

Here is a picture of the inside.  There are lots of things for sale, in addition to tasty treats.  Bags of coffee and tea, cups and gifts of all kinds.  The coffee is great.  I'm sure the tea is too, but I haven't tried it yet.

And then there are the decks outside.  This shop backs up to a creek, which was merrily burbling along when we were there.  This area has had much more rain this year than in years past.  There are covered decks and then you can go down and there are more decks and then down again with more and more.  It's just lovely.  Here's a shot looking down at the creek:

We had a great lunch there one day.  I had a half turkey sandwich with some great veggies on some kind of crusty whole-grain bread.  The soup is tomato basil - delish!  A couple of slices of apple and the cookie was an oatmeal-cranberry.  Very yummy!

Later in the week, we went back for gelato.  Here's my tiramisu gelato.  It was great, but I will admit that I was tempted to get another cookie or a scone or a cinnamon roll.

In fact, before we left, we went back again one evening and got more gelato - mine was Key Lime Pie flavor - and I also got a new coffee mug and some pecan flavored coffee.  I haven't tried the coffee yet, but the mug is just about perfect.

So, if you wish to visit Ruidoso, winter (there's skiing near) or summer, stop by Sacred Grounds for a little of this and a little of that.  You won't be sorry.  I promise.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Visit to Books Etcetera in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Today I want to tell you about a great independent bookstore that operates in the main shopping district of Ruidoso, New Mexico.  I've written about this bookstore before on my other blog (the one I deleted), but I wanted to highlight it again.  It's called Books Etcetera and it's a little gem.  Here's the front:

Becky is the owner and Carla was manning the desk the two times that I visited on this trip.  I had a very nice conversation with Carla about bookstores, blogs, and New Mexico mystery writers.  She gave me a couple of great suggestions for new authors to try, which I'll share below.

This shop carries a great selection of books for all ages.  It also has some needlework and knitting supplies, kids toys, and other gift items.  A little of this and a little of that.  They do have some discounted books to check out as well.  Here's the interior:

And I can't forget the picture I took of Sabrina, the cat that belongs to Books Etcetera.  She was quite comfortable lounging on her own 'private' book cart.  Isn't she a sweetie?

Carla pointed me to two mystery series that I want to check out.  So, naturally, I bought the first book in each series.  First we have End Of The Road by Amy M. Bennett, a local author.  In fact, Amy Bennett has worked at a shop nearby, Noisy Water Winery.  It's not right next door, but very close.  And I managed to get a signed copy!

The second book was The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras.  The author is J. Michael Orenduff.  There are several books in the Pot Thief series.  Both of the books have been winners of the Dark Oak Mystery Contest.  Mr. Orenduff, who at one time was president of New Mexico State University, has won a Lefty Award for best humorous mystery.

I'm looking forward to trying both these books and I'm always happy to support independent bookstores.  If you ever find yourself in Ruidoso, New Mexico, stop by Books Etcetera and visit with Becky, Carla, and Sabrina.  You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen + Giveaway

When I was first asked if I'd like to read The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and her son, Roy Johansen, I jumped at the chance.  I had not read the previous two books in this particular series, but I had read several books in Iris' Eve Duncan series and liked them very much.  Being the 'read series in order' person that I am, I went ahead and read the first two books, Close Your Eyes and Sight Unseen.  My experience with all three of these books was mostly positive, but I do have some issues.  And I'm struggling a little bit with what to say here about those issues.  Let's just talk, OK?

The main character in these books is Dr. Kendra Michaels.  She is a music therapist by profession and she also assists the FBI and police with crime investigations.  Kendra was born blind and spent the first years of her life in the dark.  She had a special operation using stem cells when she was 20 that basically caused her corneas to grow properly.  Partially due to her initial blindness, her other senses are extraordinary.  When she sees a crime scene, she picks up on all kinds of details that even the best forensic scientists may miss.  Did you ever see the TV show The Mentalist?  Not exactly the same thing, but with the same sort of result.

Kendra has a complicated relationship with almost everyone she's ever known.  She does have some close friends and her mother is very much present, but she is not really what you'd call a 'people' person.  She's a great investigator.  She's an abrasive, belligerent, prickly, control-obsessed individual.  I found it very, very hard to like her.  Her emotions are hidden well, but they definitely exist.  She has extremely high expectations for herself and places herself in danger often.  She does have people that she loves fiercely, but she wants to control their actions too, often for their own safety.

The Naked Eye brings back a serial killer that Kendra had helped put in jail much earlier in her career.  In the second book, this man was supposed to have been executed by lethal injection.  Kendra was positive that the convicted killer had somehow finagled a way to not only escape his punishment, but escape jail, period.  The story also includes characters from the Eve Duncan series and they play a big part.  As Kendra has been trying to convince her contacts at the FBI and her sometimes investigative partner, Adam Lynch, that Eric Colby is at large again, a journalist that wrote a scathing article about Kendra is murdered.  Evidence is left that implicates Kendra, who is sure this is the work of Colby.  And the search is on.

I enjoyed the thrill of the chase that the authors wrote in The Naked Eye.  I liked seeing Eve Duncan and really liked the characters of Beth and Sam.  The tension was intense and I wanted Kendra and company to succeed in finding Eric Colby and make him pay for all his crimes.  I also wanted Kendra is ease up a little on herself and others.  I will say that she seemed a slight bit more mellow in this book.  Maybe she's learning.

So, will I read the next book in the series, providing there is one?  Maybe.  I don't think I'd rush to read it, but yes, probably.  I need to see if Kendra can learn and grow and change.  I also would like to see what happens with Adam Lynch, who I like very much.  I do think that I need to go back and see where I left off in the Eve Duncan series.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with copies of all three books.  I think I'm the last stop on this tour, but here's the link to the other participants.


I am able to offer a giveaway of the first book in the series, courtesy of the publisher.  This is for Close Your Eyes, and it is limited to US/Canada only.  If you'd like to win a copy, please make sure that I can find your email address somehow, either through your comment or through the link to your name.  I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on Thursday, the 27th, at 8:00 AM.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Secret Life Of Anna Blanc

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

The book I'm featuring today is a debut novel by an author who grew up in California, got educated in California (PhD in Health Services), conducted research in her field for 12 years, travelled to such diverse places as Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea, and now lives in Denver, Colorado, with her family and pets.  I'm looking forward to learning more about Jennifer Kincheloe and her historical mystery protagonist, Anna Blanc.  And, by the way, I love the cover.  My choice for this week:

Publication Date:  November 3rd

It's 1907 Los Angeles.  Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels—but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading.  She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals.

Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department.  There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate.  Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. 

If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancĂ© finds out, he'll cancel the wedding and stop pouring money into her father's collapsing bank.  Midway into her investigation, the police chief's son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity.  And shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail.

Anna must choose—either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancĂ©, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - The Truth Of All Things

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 sharing the first few paragraphs of The Truth Of All Things by Kieran Shields.  As usual, I'm reading ahead for my mystery group selections.  In October, we'll be discussing mysteries set in the Victorian Age or at least the 1800's.  This is a book I've had on my shelf for a long time.  It's set in Portland, Maine in the year 1892.  See what you think:

     At the sound of footsteps in the alley, Maggie Keene dimmed the gas lamp and sidled up to the room's only window.  She eased the curtains aside, her fingers barely touching the paper-thin material for fear it might tear and crumble.  The gap between two neighboring tenement houses allowed a slice of moonlight to pierce the narrow passageway below.  A man in a brown derby hurried past, stepping over the remains of a smashed crate.  The splintered boards lay scattered on the ground like animals bones bleached a ghastly white by long exposure.
     Maggie cupped a hand against the glass and peered in the other direction.  There was still no sign of John.  Her eyes drifted past the lights of the Grand Trunk Railway Station, down toward the waterfront of Portland, Maine.  The harbor was a dark canvas, interrupted only by a scattering of ships' lamps bobbing on the tide.  She smiled at a faint memory: fireflies hovering over a field on a summer night.  She clung to the image for a few seconds until the distant lights began to blur.  The laudanum mixture made her feel remote and empty.  It threatened to lull her to sleep until a familiar pain twisted in her gut.  A vague, unformed prayer sped through her mind, begging God to let her be all right.


Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning....

When newly appointed Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute's murder in Portland, Maine, he's surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork.  He's even more surprised to learn that this death by "sticking" is a traditional method of killing a witch.

Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey.  Distrusted by officials because of his mixed Abenaki Indian ancestry, Grey is even more notorious for combining modern investigative techniques with an almost eerie perceptiveness.  Although skeptical of each other's methods, together the detectives pursue the killer's trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England.

Before the killer closes in on his final victim, Lean and Grey must decipher the secret pattern to these murders--a pattern hidden within the dark history of the Salem witch trials.


Do you think you'd keep reading?  This seems like just the sort of book that would fit with a theme of gothic Victorian mysteries - even if it's set in America and not foggy London.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Friday On My Mind by Nicci French

Friday On My Mind is the 5th series book written by husband and wife writing team, Nicci Gerard and Sean French.  Also known as Nicci French.  Yes, it's another in the ongoing saga about Dr. Frieda Klein, psychotherapist and most awesome character.  This book has just recently been published in the UK.  I have no idea when it will come out in the US.  Naturally, I couldn't wait.

I'm a little torn as to what to say exactly about the Friday entry to the series.  I liked it...I did, but....it isn't my favorite.  How does that happen, do you think?  You have characters or settings that you enjoy so very much.  You love reacquainting yourself with all the aspects of the series that set your little heart tingling.  And then, well, not exactly a letdown, but just not as much as you hoped for.  But don't let me put you off.  Let's talk about the story.

A body has been discovered floating in the Thames.  It's a man and police are trying to identify this individual.  He has a hospital band around his wrist.  It says 'Dr. F. Klein'.  Naturally, the authorities first think that the man is this Dr. Klein.  Very soon, they realize that Dr. F. Klein is our own Frieda and so the question is first of all, who is the man, and then, where is the woman who belongs to the hospital band?

It doesn't take long before Frieda is indeed the focus of the police inquiry and the prime suspect.  Instead of our usual group of officers, we are introduced to DCI Sarah Hussein and DC Glen Bryant.  DCI Hussein is briefed early on in the investigation by Commissioner Crawford regarding the Met's prior dealings with Dr. Klein.  He also has her talk to Dr. Hal Bradford in order to get the 'official' scoop on Frieda's mental status.  Now, we know from previous books that Crawford and Bradford are not fans of Frieda - not fans, not friends, not rational about her at all.  Sarah Hussein, who seems to be an able police officer, is skillfully pointed toward Frieda and warned off of all of Frieda's friends and colleagues.

What does our intrepid Dr. Klein do?  She puts all her clients on hold, closes up her house, and disappears, with the help of a few individuals.  Frieda knows that she will have to find out what happened to this murder victim herself.  She can't involve her usual group because all of them are at risk of being charged with obstruction and arrested.  She especially can't consult with DCI Malcolm Karlsson, because any contact would put his career on the line or end it.  She isn't sure whether this is the work of her own personal nemesis, Dean Reave, but she needs to find out.

I was a big fan of the previous book, Thursday's Children.  It took the reader back to Frieda's hometown and to an incident that had haunted her for many years.  Even though it was, for the most part, set outside of London, it brought Frieda closer to many of her friends.  They persisted in helping her.  And she had to let them.  This book again sees her faithful friends helping her, often at great risk to themselves.

However, I felt it was a little scattered in focus.  Frieda goes from place to place trying to learn more about the crime and then she seems to not be as intuitive as usual when information is right in front of her.  She is hiding from the police, but she keeps showing up at places where she might be seen and recognized.  And I would sigh.  I guess part of my disappointment is that we usually get further in each book with untangling Frieda's own character and that didn't seem to happen here.  I really didn't feel like I understood any more about any of our usual group, except maybe to reinforce how much I dislike the commissioner.  I'm hoping that he will get his comeuppance sooner rather than later.

I did think I figured out the solution to the crime and the murderer and was turning pages rapidly at the end of the book to see if I was right.  A few threads were left open for upcoming books.  There is a man who shows up a couple of times at police headquarters that seems to know a lot about Frieda.  We're not sure what part he will play.  Will I be eagerly anticipating the Saturday book?  Absolutely!!  I'm not sure how long the series will continue, but I'll keep reading.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Here's what I've been up to...Ruidoso and some health stuff...

I thought I would give a little update on some of my summer health goals and also share a few pictures from a trip we recently took to Ruidoso, New Mexico.  I think I'll start with the mountains and the coolness.  Central Texas is hot, hot, hot in the summers, but we've been a bit lucky this year or rather we were earlier this year.  Lots of rain - well, too much rain at one time in late May and June.  July, however, did not see us with one single drop of rain and I'm thinking that there has not been any in August either.  And it's hot, with way too much humidity.

We escaped to New Mexico for a week - Ruidoso to be exact.  It was lovely.  Temperatures in the high 70's (and a few low 80's) during the day and 50's at night.  And some rain.

Here's a lovely picture of the Sierra Blanca mountains in the golf community of Alto, just north of Ruidoso.

This is a shot my husband took early one morning from the golf course at the Inn Of The Mountain Gods - a resort in the Ruidoso area that is owned by the Apache Tribe.

The hubby golfed and I spent a lot of time on this front porch of the house where we stayed, reading of course.  It was a log home and all the wood was really beautiful.

This is a whimsical little bear on the back porch/deck area.  Isn't he cute?  And yes, there are actually bears in the area.  Trash has to be placed in steel dumpsters located on the streets of the town.  They have heavy lids so the bears and other creatures will stay out.  There are a lot of elk and deer as well.  And a few mountain lions.

I'll share more about a couple of places in Ruidoso next week.  I have one post about a bookstore that I love to visit each time we go and also I'll have a Weekend Cooking post about a great coffee/sandwich/cookie/gelato shop.  It's called Sacred Grounds and I love it.

Otherwise, my quest to shed some pounds, avoid a diabetes diagnosis, and improve my blood work numbers will hopefully be successful.  I've lost 20.4 pounds since late May.  I have worked hard at eating better and also moving more.  My doctor had told me to work on this for 3 months and then we would do the testing again.  Well, I went on Tuesday morning early to get my blood drawn.  I don't have the test results back yet, but I am hopeful for better numbers and no additional meds.

I also had a dermatology appointment this week to check several little spots on my face and legs.  I have had some skin cancers in the past and so must go in for skin checks periodically.  Happily, the spots were benign and so I'm cleared for another 6 months.  Unhappily, a tendency toward skin cancer has been something I have passed on to my daughter.  She has had Mohs surgery on her scalp in the past and recently found that she had more basal cell carcinomas on her scalp again and also on her nose.  I went with her on Wednesday when she had Mohs surgery on her nose.  It was fairly extensive, but she is feeling better now.  She has one more scalp surgery to get through and then will be cleared for 6 months too.

Oh, and I have to have a crown on one of my back upper molars next Friday.  Sigh.  I'm not a very happy camper in the dental chair.  But, needs must.  I've only ever had one other crown and then that tooth had to have a root canal a few years later and then it got an abscess and had to be extracted.  And then I got a tooth implant, which took forever, but has been very successful.  I'm crossing my fingers that this crown will not have issues.

Only an eye exam will remain and then I'll be finished with doctor appointments for a while.  Whew!  Sometimes it seems that by the time you get through checking all these parts of you, it's time to begin again.

School starts here in our area week after next and that must mean that fall is coming.  I'm looking forward to cooler weather.  Ha!  Seriously, it will be weeks and weeks before that time comes, but I can hope can't I?  

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Why did I wait so long to read Peter Swanson's book, The Kind Worth Killing?  I can't imagine, but I am so very glad that I decided to experience this twisty, creepy, 'mess-with-your-mind' story as an audiobook.  It was very ably narrated by several people, Johnny Heller, Karen White, Kathleen Early, and Keith Szarabajka.  I'm not certain if I've heard any of these voices before, but I do know that I completely enjoyed this method.  Each voice was distinctive and easy to listen to.

All of you know that I read a lot of mysteries and psychological thrillers.  It's my 'go-to' type of book.  I also like movies and TV shows that relate the same sort of story.  The puzzle and figuring out how the author gets from Point A to Point B is great fun for me.  I was quite happy to go along with Peter Swanson's so-called 'update' of the tale, Strangers On A Train, penned by noted author Patricia Highsmith and filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.  I think one day, someone will be relating that a future author will have written an 'updated' version of The Kind Worth Killing.  I really do.

In this book, which by the way has some freaky and very odd characters, a man by the name of Ted is in an airport bar in London.  He meets a woman named Lily and they have a drink together and talk a little bit.  They find themselves on the same flight and manage to sit next to each other.  They talk further, sharing rather personal details of their lives - playing a 'truth' game - and Ted tells Lily that his wife, Miranda, is cheating on him.  Or so he thinks.  He's really, really angry with her.  Can't think what he might do next.  Says he'd really like to kill her.  And Lily says, 'I think you should...and I'd like to help'.

Our story is told from several different viewpoints and I'm not going to relate names or tell anything more about them.  That's part of the puzzle.  Suffice it to say that a plan is made.  And then it might or might not turn out the way the reader would assume.  There are connections within connections within connections.  The narrative switches back and forth as we find out all kinds of very bad things about almost everyone we meet.  And you still don't know everything.

For me, this was the best sort of twisty thinking.  I will be very curious to see if someone doesn't decide to make a movie of this book.  Not really sure how it would work, but it might be interesting.  I will definitely be looking up Peter Swanson's previous book, The Girl With A Clock For A Heart.  I have no idea what that one is about, but I'll check it out.  And, I'll also be watching for his next book.  I'll leave you with one sentence that struck me:

"Be mindful of death."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

After The Fire by Jane Casey

Jane Casey has a firm fan in me with her Maeve Kerrigan crime series.  So much so that I couldn't wait for the US publication of the 6th book, After The Fire.  I pre-ordered it and, soon after receiving it, placed myself right back into Maeve's world.  And I was very happy.

After The Fire begins a few weeks after the previous book, The Kill.  Some of the storylines continue, namely we find ourselves again at the Maudling Estate.  Plus, Maeve's stalker, which we first met in The Reckoning, appears again.  You may be wondering if you need to read previous books before this one.  Well, that's always my preference.  The author actually has a note in the front of the book stating that it isn't required to understand this book, but she does say that some story arcs continue over.  Your choice.  Here's the beginning of After The Fire:

There were 224 residents of Murchison House on the Maudling Estate in north London, and on a cold grey late November day not one of them was expecting to die.  Some were hoping to die.  Some were waiting to die.  But no one actually expected to die that day.

A fire breaks out in Murchison House on the Maudling Estate and races through several stories of the housing project in a very short period of time.  As might be expected, the elevators are unworkable, the smoke alarms may or may not be operational, the CCTV cameras are damaged, and so the residents make a mad dash down the stairs to the ground level.  It's unclear which floor was the actual centerpoint of the blaze - the 10th, 11th, who knows?  After the fire is extinguished and many people are taken to the hospital, several bodies are found.  One of them is MP Geoff Armstrong, a character that we met in the previous book.  He seems to have jumped to his death from an upper story window.  And he is the reason that our police crew, DC Maeve Kerrigan, DI Josh Derwent, and my 'favorite' boss (not even) in temporary command, DCI Una Burt, are brought in to investigate.

There was a lot going on in the upper floors of Murchison House and Kerrigan and Derwent and other colleagues are assigned various apartments and residents to check out.  The author has provided us with a bit of what was happening prior to the fire and then we follow along as more and more information is uncovered regarding the various individuals.  Yes, Geoff Armstrong is the most 'important' of the victims, but a lot of secrets and potential criminals resided here.  Any one of them, or someone connected with them, could have set the fire.  And all the threads have to be followed to a conclusion.  I believe that's all I'll say about the plot, other than the fact that stalker Chris Swain is still around.  And Maeve is very much aware of him.

OK, as I've shared before in my reviews of previous books, I love these characters.  I love Maeve and I love Josh Derwent.  Many people think of him as bullying and controlling.  He is.  I still love him.  I feel that I see his deep loyalty and honor and goodness underneath.  He is very prickly and rude at times.  However, he has a definite soft spot for certain people or types of people.  And he is Maeve's friend, even if he isn't always the most gentle or kind of characters.

Maeve herself is a bit odd in this book.  I'm worried about her, but think part of her issues may be due to the stress of the stalker.  She is still too wrapped up in how she is perceived in her job.  She won't ask for help.  She thinks that Rob's leaving is her fault (I disagree).  She's not in the best of health.  I'm hoping that she will be in a better place in her head in the upcoming books.

So, some overarching issues are resolved in After The Fire.  Some are not.  All the questions about the fire and the angles included regarding the residents of Murchison House are mostly cleared up and are not all that hard to figure out.  But there are some great scenes here and great tension and thrills.  There is sadness and grief.  I was pleased overall.  And will I read the next book in the series?  Absolutely.  Now to wait for it.

After The Fire was just recently published in the UK.  I ordered it from there.  Not sure what the publish date will be for the US - perhaps next year?  It would be nice if all books would come out at the same time all over, wouldn't it?  The first book in this series is The Burning.  I recommend that you meet Maeve Kerrigan.  Jane Casey's writing is addicting for me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Splinter The Silence

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

Val McDermid is one of my favorite authors.  I love her characters of psychologist Tony Hill and police detective Carol Jordan.  I've also read a couple of her standalone books.  And I enjoyed the dark TV adaptations of the Hill/Jordan series called Wire In The Blood, which starred Robson Green.  I know it wasn't for everyone, as it was a bit grim.  However, sometimes, I really like grim.  My book for this week is the 9th book in the series:

Publication Date:  December 1st

 Is it violence if it’s virtual?  The outspoken women targeted by the increasingly cruel internet trolls and bullies would probably say so.  For some of them, the torrents of bile and vicious threats prove too much.  They begin to silence themselves in a series of high-profile suicides.

Or do they?  Tony Hill isn’t convinced.  But he’s the only one.  Former cop Carol Jordan is too busy messing up her life to care.  Until she gets an unexpected second chance.  Now it’s game on, and the stakes have never been higher.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - Seveneves

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 sharing the first few paragraphs of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.  This book is way outside of my norm, but somehow, I'm intrigued and interested.  At least enough to try it.  See what you think:

     The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.  It was waxing, only one day short of full.  The time was 05:03:12 UTC.  Later it would be designated A+0.0.0, or simply Zero.
     An amateur astronomer in Utah was the first person on Earth to realize that something unusual was happening.  Moments earlier, he had noticed a blur flourishing in the vicinity of the Reiner Gamma formation, near the moon's equator.  He assumed it was a dust cloud thrown up by a meteor strike.  He pulled out his phone and blogged the event, moving his stiff thumbs (for he was high on a mountain and the air was as cold as it was clear) as fast as he could to secure the claim to himself.  Other astronomers would soon be pointing their telescopes at the same dust cloud--might be doing it already!  But--supposing he could move his thumbs fast enough--he would be the first to point it out.  The fame would be his; if the meteorite left behind a visible crater, perhaps it would even bear his name.
     His name was forgotten.  By the time he had gotten his phone out of his pocket, his crater no longer existed.  Nor did the moon.


What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb.  In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.


As I said, I'm not much of a science fiction reader or even a reader of dystopian books at all.  However, I have read a few in my younger years, notably Alas Babylon and Lucifer's Hammer.  We'll see if this one works for me.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Open Road Media and finding some old favorites...

I've shared how much I love looking back at favorite books I've read in the past and sometimes rereading them to see if I still love them as much.  However, this is a difficult proposition at times because...well...I'm not in my 20's or 30's or even 40's anymore.  The books I read at those stages may not be available at bookstores or libraries and may even be out of print.  Or I might find that copies are very few and far between.  They may have been weeded from library collections and even if they can be found at used bookstores, they might be prohibitively expensive.  Scarcity and well-loved books may mean prices go up, up, up.

That's why I'm happy to tell you about a publisher I've found that is sharing backlists, classic books, and books that have been out of print with a new generation in the form of e-books.  Open Road Media is their name, and I've found that they are digitizing some of my old favorites.  I know not everyone loves e-books, but I think it's great to make older books available in this format.  There are many reasons why I love my e-reader, but one is that I can make the font larger and copies of books published in years past often had really small print.  I know that some of you understand what I'm saying!

I was delighted to find books by Lawrence Sanders, Robert R. McCammon, William Bernhardt, Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell, Donald E. Westlake, Patricia Wentworth, Jane Haddam, Jane Langton, and some early Anne Perry.  Also, there were juvenile fiction authors that included Betty Ren Wright, Caroline B. Cooney, Lois Duncan and Robin McKinley.  You may not be familiar with these authors, but although many were midlist authors, they had legions of fans.


I was most delighted recently to see that Barbara Parker's series featuring lawyer Gail Connor was available.  The first book is Suspicion of Innocence.  I loved this series, which had 6 books, I believe.  Barbara Parker died in 2009.  I look forward to reading these books again.

I also found a much loved book that I first read in my late teens, I think.  It's Marlys Millhiser's time-travel novel, The Mirror.  In this one, Shay Garrett finds herself back in time after looking in the mirror that belonged to her grandmother, Brandy.  In fact, Shay is in Brandy's body and Brandy is in Shay's.  I actually have a print copy of The Mirror, but I'm thrilled to have it as an e-book.

Lastly, I noticed that a book that I've looked at time and time again over the years has recently been made available.  It's The Eight by Katherine Neville.  This book concerns an ancient chess set and the women who are on a quest to reunite all the pieces.  I had been told years ago that I should read this book and now, I plan to.  

So, take a look at Open Road Media's website here.  They often share their new publications on Netgalley.  You might find just that treasure that you've been missing all these years.     

Friday, August 7, 2015

Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly

Just What Kind Of Mother Are You?  Haven't all of us asked ourselves that question at one time or another?  Or have you?  I certainly have, especially in my daughter's younger years when we were shuttling around to all kind of activities and I was signing up for this event and that one.  So afraid that I would forget something.  Paula Daly's book, which was her debut I think, was a definite page-turning thriller.  I listened to it on audio and it was narrated by Laura Brattan.  She did a decent job, although she did get really into character and so when there was crying or yelling, she performed that as well.  A little different, but very dramatic.

In this book, we meet Lisa Kallisto, who has three children, a husband, a very demanding job running an animal shelter, and lots and lots of responsibilities.  Lisa feels totally overwhelmed most of the time and her life is indeed a whirl of activities.  She grew up as an only child of a single mother and so her vision of what it's like to have an organized well-run household is a bit unrealistic.  Lisa never feels that she measures up, although I thought she was doing pretty well, all things considered.  She'd like to be more like her friend, Kate, who is the mainstay of the school event calendar and who always knows what's going on with her two children and who manages to have a beautiful, perfect house, etc., etc.

This story, which is told over the course of a very few days, begins with Lisa hurriedly trying to get her kids off to school one morning.  She gets a call from Kate, who asks her how the girls are doing.  Lisa, who is distracted, says fine and continue on with her morning.  All is not fine though.  It turns out that Kate's daughter, Lucinda, is missing.  She was supposed to be spending the night with Lisa's daughter, Sally, but Sally was ill and missed school.  Lisa, who completely forgot about the sleepover, neglected to call Kate to cancel and no one knows what happened to Lucinda after school the day before.  Lucinda is the second girl to be snatched in just a few days.  There's someone out there that is preying on teenagers, and Lisa feels that Lucinda's plight is all her fault.

I'm not going to reveal any more of the plot other than to say that Lisa is blamed by Kate's extended family, and she does everything she can to try and help the police find out information.  The story is told from various viewpoints, including that of the female police detective that works on the case.  There are secrets galore.  Lisa sees people in one way because of her insecurities over finances and her upbringing.  It turns out that few of the people we meet are really who they appear to be.  Their lives are quite, quite different.

I was completely caught up in the drama here and found reasons to continue listening, just to see what would come next.  The resolution was not completely unexpected to me, after a couple of secrets were revealed, but I was kept guessing.  No one is what they seem.  I liked the harried mother, Lisa, and felt quite sorry for her.  I liked the female detective and would hope that perhaps we might see her again in another book.  And again, this was a cold book, set in the time just before Christmas.  A nice plus for my 'read cold in summer' quest.  I would definitely read another book by Paula Daly.  She has a new one coming out in September called The Mistake I Made.

Have you read this book or another by this author?  What did you think about it?  I'd love to know.