Thursday, March 31, 2016

Flame Out by M. P. Cooley

Flame Out is M. P. (Martha) Cooley's second book in her June Lyons mystery series.  I recently enjoyed reacquainting myself with June and her upstate New York home town of Hopewell Falls.  I read and reviewed the first book in the series, Ice Shear, last year and noted that this author had been nominated for several 'Best First Book' awards in the mystery community.  I was also happy to get to meet Martha and listen to her speak about her writing and characters at the recent Left Coast Crime convention.  The panel she was on was discussing big crime in small towns and placing the authors' protagonist in that type of situation.  It was quite interesting to me.

June Lyons (or Juniper, but don't call her that) came home to New York when her husband Kevin was very ill with cancer.  Both June and Kevin were FBI agents and they had one little girl together.  As Kevin's condition worsened, June needed help, so she resigned as a FBI agent, and took a job with the local police department - a beat cop essentially.  Her father is the retired police chief.

June is still working for the local police and she has certain things that she looks for on her patrol route.  Hopewell Falls is a town that has lost most of the industry that kept the townfolk employed for so many years.  There are abandoned warehouses and factories all around, perfect spots for nefarious activity.  June notices a problem in the parking lot of one of them - a gasoline slick - and calls for backup and the fire department.  She quickly checks out the building and is horrified to find an unconscious woman inside.  June rescues the woman, but the building burns quickly.  The woman remains in a coma and the authorities can't determine her identity.  Another discovery is made while clearing the burned structure - a false wall with barrels stored, most containing chemicals that should have been disposed of properly.  One barrel, however, holds the body of a dead woman.

The factory was owned by someone very familiar to June's father.  Thirty years before, the factory owner, Bernie Lawler, was convicted of killing his wife and son.  June's father was the police officer in charge of the case.  Evidence was strong enough to put Mr. Lawler in jail, even though the bodies were never found.  Have they just discovered Luisa Lawler?  The answer to this ends up being very personal to June's partner, Dave Batko.  His mother disappeared around the same time, never to return.

Once again, June's former colleague at the FBI, Special Agent Hale Bascom, is called in to assist.  June is asked to work with Hale since Dave's personal connection to the case makes his involvement problematic.  June and Hale delve into the doings of the town 30 years ago and find some very complicated issues.  Some relate to Dave's extended family, some to the Lawler crime, and some trace back to June's father and his police work.

I like June and her friends and family.  I'm even beginning to like Hale Bascom a bit.  The setting of upstate New York is pretty unfamiliar to me, so the inclusion of local culture was very interesting.  Dave's family is Ukranian and there were stories of their escape from Russia after World War II and the trials they had both in their home country and in the US after they arrived.  The crime and investigation kept my interest and further info about June's family, her mother especially, was welcomed.  Hale would like to talk June into coming back to work for the FBI, at least as a consultant, but she is very torn in her duty as a single mother and also as a new-ish member of the local police force.

So, was I pleased with the book?  Yes, I was and I'll continue to read Martha Cooley's books, hoping that the next in the series will be published before long.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday - Boar Island

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've read Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series for many years, but I skipped a few of the books when other series caught my attention.  Last year, my mystery group read Destroyer Angel and enjoyed it very much.  I'm excited this week to feature the next book in this series and love that it includes some of the same characters.  This week I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  May 17th

Anna Pigeon, in her career as a National Park Service Ranger, has had to deal with all manner of crimes and misdemeanors, but cyber-bullying and stalking is a new one.  The target is Elizabeth, the adopted teenage daughter of her friend Heath Jarrod.  Elizabeth is driven to despair by the disgusting rumors spreading online and bullying texts.  Until, one day, Heath finds her daughter Elizabeth in the midst of an unsuccessful suicide attempt.  And then she calls in the cavalry---her aunt Gwen and her friend Anna Pigeon.

While they try to deal with the fragile state of affairs---and find the person behind the harassment---the three adults decide the best thing to do is to remove Elizabeth from the situation.  Since Anna is about to start her new post as Acting Chief Ranger at Acadia National Park in Maine, the three will join her and stay at a house on the cliff of a small island near the park, Boar Island.

But the move east doesn't solve the problem.  The stalker has followed them east.  And Heath (a paraplegic) and Elizabeth aren't alone on the otherwise deserted island.  At the same time, Anna has barely arrived at Acadia before a brutal murder is committed by a killer uncomfortably close to her.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - Booked For Trouble

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 Booked For Trouble by Eva Gates.  This is the second book in the Lighthouse Library series and Eva Gates also writes under the name Vicki Delany (one of my favorite authors).  She began writing some cozies a couple of years ago and I've had this series on my radar since that time.  Doesn't a library in a lighthouse sound fun, if maybe a little cramped?  See what you think:

     I love my mother.  Truly, I do.  She's never shown me anything but love, although she's tempered it by criticism perhaps once too often.  She believe in me, I think, although she's not exactly averse to pointing out that I'd be better off if I did things her way.  She's a kind, generous person.  At least, that is, to those she doesn't consider to be in competition with her for some vaguely defined goal, or else watch out--she'll carry a grudge to the grave.  She may be stiff and formal and sometimes overly concerned with the observance of proper behavior, but she's also adventurous and well traveled.  And above all, her love of her children knows no bounds.
     I do love my mother.
     I just wish she weren't bearing down on me at this moment, face beaming, arms outstretched.
     'Surprise, darling!' she cried.


Lucy has finally found her bliss as a librarian and resident of the Bodie Island Lighthouse.  She loves walking on the beach, passing her evenings with the local book club, bonding with the library cat, Charles, and enjoying the attention of not one, but TWO eligible men.  But then her socialite mother, Suzanne, unexpectedly drops in, determined to move Lucy back to Boston—and reunite her with her ex-fiancé.

To make matters worse, Suzanne picks a very public fight at the local hotel with her former classmate Karen Kivas.  So, when Karen turns up dead outside the library the next morning, Suzanne is immediately at the top of the suspect list.  Now Lucy must hunt down a dangerous killer—before the authorities throw the book at her poor mother…


I won this book at a panel that Eva Gates/Vicki Delany appeared on at Left Coast Crime.  I told her that I was going to pass it along to a member of my mystery group - which I will do.  Just as soon as I finish it.  If lighthouses or cozies aren't your preference, try Vicki Delany's Constable Molly Smith series, set in British Columbia.  It's great!  The first book is In the Shadow of the Glacier.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon

Pane and Suffering is Cheryl Hollon's first book in the Webb's Glass Shop mystery series and I enjoyed it very much!  First of all, I had the pleasure of meeting Cheryl at the Poisoned Pen Breakfast at Left Coast Crime.  She and I were both seated at Mary Anna Evans' table and I enjoyed visiting with Cheryl about her books and writing.  Secondly, I've always been fascinated with stained glass and glass blowing.  Once upon a time, in my former life as a tax auditor, I visited a local shop that created all kinds of lovely glass treasures.  And I got to take a tour and see how things were done.  Since that time, I've been attracted to glass shops of all kinds.  So, this book and series were perfect for me to sample.

In Pane and Suffering, Savannah Webb has come home to St. Petersburg, Florida, for her father's funeral and also to decide what's to be done about Webb's Glass Shop, her dad's store.  Savannah herself is a talented glass artist, but she lives in Seattle and doesn't plan to move across the country.  She wants to pass the shop along to her father's good friend, Hugh.  Unfortunately, Hugh is also found dead of a heart attack.  Both gentlemen that work in the shop gone within the space of a few days?  Fishy.  Definitely fishy.  As it becomes clear that there's more going on, Savannah dives into an investigation, using notes and clues that her father has left.  Yes, Savannah's father had a former career as a cryptographer and he wanted his daughter to understand what could possibly happen to him.  Now Savannah must fend off two unpleasant men who want to buy her shop, teach a beginner's class in creating a stained glass window hanging, and unravel clues.  The police are slow to help, but they finally get on board.

Filled with info about stained glass creation, cryptography, geocaching, and even beer and ale selections, this first book in the series has lots going on.  I did enjoy meeting Savannah and the people who come to be on her 'team' of sleuths.  I'm hoping that some of them will appear again and that we will learn more about methods of creating glass treasures.  I guessed the solution to the mystery, but I often do that.  It did seem that Savannah was on the fence a little long regarding her ultimate decision to stay in St. Petersburg, but again, first book.  I make allowances.  I look forward to reading the 2nd book, Shards of Murder, which was recently released.  The 3rd book, Cracked to Death, will come out in the summer.  I can't wait!

Cheryl Hollon lives in St. Petersburg and is a full time writer and delighted with that fact.  She and her husband have a glass studio behind their home, where they create all kind of wonderful glass treasures.  If you like watching glass artists create, you just might like this fun cozy.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

As I've been casting about for books to add to my Gothic Fiction challenge, I decided to try listening to one of Kate Morton's books on audio.  I have loved Caroline Lee's narration of favorites by Liane Moriarty and found that she also narrates Kate Morton's books.  I had read The Distant Hours in the past, enjoyed it, but hit upon The Forgotten Garden as a place to start listening.  And I am so glad that I did!  If you love tales of windswept houses on Cornish cliffs or lost children or fairy tales with wicked queens or if you loved The Secret Garden, you should definitely try The Forgotten Garden.  Let me start with a quote:

     Cassandra couldn't help herself.  She curled up on her side in the center of the camp bed.  It was the perfect place for reading, cool and quiet and secret.  Cassandra always hid when she read, though she never quite knew why.  it was as if she couldn't shake the guilty suspicion that she was being lazy, that surrendering herself so completely to something so enjoyable must surely be wrong.
     But surrender she did.  Let herself drop through the rabbit hole and into a tale of magic and mystery, about a princess who lived with a blind crone in a cottage on the edge of a dark wood.  A brave princess, far braver than Cassandra would ever be.

I loved this passage and thought about how like my young self it was.  I used to curl up in corners and beneath covers and behind chairs to read as kid.  And read and read and read.  So what happens in The Forgotten Garden?  Well, it begins with a little girl who is discovered all alone on the wharf in Brisbane, Australia.  The year is 1913 and she's sitting there with her small suitcase as if she's waiting for just the right family to come along.  In fact, the wharf master discovers the small child and takes her home, hoping to find the people who belong to her.  It never happens though and he and his wife raise the little girl, who they name Nell, as one of their own.

When Nell is 21, her father tells her how she came to be part of their family.  And this changes Nell's life forever.  The little suitcase contains few items, but most importantly, it contains a book of fairy tales, and the connections of these stories and Nell and a large and desolate house on the Cornish coast make up The Forgotten Garden.  The book is told with chapters alternating between various important dates from the early 1900's to 2005, when Nell's granddaughter, Cassandra, finally discovers all the secrets that have been hidden for so many years.  Some might find the shifting time and location device to be hard to follow, but I loved it.  So many characters, all connected, and how did the pieces fit together?  I puzzled and puzzled and still didn't figure out everything.

There are fairy tales, written by The Authoress, Eliza Makepeace, included.  There is indeed a lovely garden, hidden behind walls and set on a windswept coast.  There is a cottage and there are wicked characters and good and true characters as well.  The author of The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, even makes a small appearance.  And there are Gothic overtones galore.  Perfect!

Again, I'll highlight the really excellent narration performed by Caroline Lee.  She does a great job with all the accents and I look forward to listening to more of Kate Morton's books read by Ms. Lee.  The audio runs just over 20 hours, so be prepared for a longer listen.  I can't wait to move on to Morton's other 4 books.  Have you read any of Kate Morton's books?  Which is your favorite?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Day in the Life 2 - Blogger Event - Kay's day...same place...another year...

Welcome to the 2nd annual (hope it's annual!) 'A Day In The Life' event, hosted by the extremely lovely, busy, fabulous Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity!  Do you read Trish's blog?  If you don't, you totally should.  Get on that, please!  This is just a simple, ordinary day for many of us and we're choosing to share it with all of you - with pictures.  I participated in this last year here (you can take a look if you like, but no worries if you don't like) and had a great time checking the other 'day in the life' posts.  When Trish announced it again this year, I was so excited!   So here we go!

I'm Kay and I am a blogger of a 'certain age' - between 55 and 60.  I live with my wonderful husband of 35 years in Central Texas, just north of Austin.  Our house sits in the country and so it's about 15-20 minutes to anywhere.  We have one lovely daughter and one great son-in-law.  They also live in Austin.  I used to work at the Austin Public Library, among other careers, but now I volunteer there and moderate a Mystery Book Group at the branch where I formerly worked.  This was my ordinary day on Friday, March 11th.

5:00 AM - Yes, we get up early here.  Sadly, no coffee when I got up this morning.  Hubby had to stop at Starbucks and I'm headed to get some blood work done for a doctor appointment next week (had to be fasting).  I can't tell you how sad I am to see my coffee pot empty.  Sigh.  Later.

7:20 AM - Blood work is finished and as you can see, I got to sport a vivid blue bandage thing - at least for a few minutes.  Where am I going now?  Coffee....I need coffee....home or coffee shop - that is the question.

8:00 AM - Yay for coffee!!  I know - I'm going on and on about it, but it's my favorite thing about the morning.  I decided to head home and not be tempted to grab a scone for breakfast.  Instead, I had some very healthy cereal.  And coffee.  Plus reading blogs.  That's my early morning routine.

10:00 AM - It's raining outside this morning in Central Texas.  In fact, it's been raining a bunch this week - which we need - but that doesn't work out well for my morning walk.  I'm heading to the rec center to walk on the indoor track.  What you see above are my wireless headphones.  I love them so much!  I listen to a lot of audio books.  Last year, almost 50% of my reading was in audio format.  A very good thing as that meant that I was up and about more.  I listen in my car and while I'm doing chores around the house and while I'm walking and exercising.  I use Audible and my phone and my really cool lime green wireless headphones.

10:30 AM - I really had to work at it to catch these photos without other people in them!  I didn't want to have to explain that they might appear on my 'day in the life' blog post.  Ha!  I did want to show a couple of shots of the indoor walking/running track that my local rec center has.  Isn't it great?  I live in Central Texas, which is very hot in the summer.  And that time for us runs from about April (or even March) through mid-November usually.  Me, I have to talk myself into exercise each and every time.  Truly.  This climate-controlled walking track is perfect.  I toodle along at a fairly fast pace for a couple of miles, listening to my audio book, and honestly not noticing that I'm actually doing something good for my body.  It's very popular at certain times of day.  It's on the second floor and down below is the room with the exercise machines/equipment (1st picture) and basketball court (2nd picture).  Cool huh?

1:30 PM - I've been home, doing some chores and eating lunch.  Now, I'm going to sit down for few minutes and read Scene of Climb on my Kindle.  I really enjoyed this first book in Kate Dyer-Seeley's mystery series that's set in the Pacific Northwest.  Can't wait to get back to it!  I usually read for a while in the afternoons - well, let's face it - I read whenever, but after lunch is a good time for me to take a break for a bit.

3:00 PM - Can you see what's on top of my front porch light?  Yes, it's a bird nest.  I love the birds singing and flying around my house.  Truly, I love them.  I do not love them building this nest on my front porch light.  This is the 3rd year in a row and we have tried to discourage them, but we haven't hit on the right plan yet.  And now it's built.  With eggs inside no doubt.  The issue is that my front porch is a mess with bird poop everywhere for months on end.  I've even been hit in the head with falling 'mess' .  Sigh.

3:20 PM - These are bluebonnets, the Texas state flower.  We have a few each year in our yard, not from planting them, but from seeds blowing in and taking root.  The highways are covered with these blooms in late March and April and I look forward to them every single year.  If we get a decent amount of rain, they are glorious.  If not, well, they are a little sparse.

6:00 PM - It's Friday night and for us that almost always means Mexican food.  I usually meet my husband for dinner on Friday's at one of several favorite restaurants.  Chips and salsa, what can be better?  We share chicken fajitas and maybe some queso.  A perfect end to the week.  

Well, that's all I've got for this 'Day in the Life'.  We came home after the Mexican food and watched a little TV and then it was time to head to bed.  Thanks for joining me on what was a fairly typical day for me.  I listened to 3 hours and 47 minutes of my audio book.  I read 25% of my e-book.  I walked 2.25 miles.

Oh and, as an update, since I'm writing this on Friday, March 18th, a week after these pictures were taken, I got a good report from my doctor about the blood work I had done and I'm so happy for that.  Eating better, losing almost 30 pounds (so far) and including almost daily walking has made my numbers so much better - my 'almost diabetes' is definitely 'no diabetes'!!!  Yay for me!!! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

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 Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson.  I've mentioned that we spent several years living in the Portland, Oregon area during the 90's.  I loved living so near snow capped mountains and I became really fascinated by Mount St. Helens, which had erupted on May 18, 1980.  By the time we lived near it, the area had recovered somewhat and there was a visitor center that could be toured.  I was very interested in Mr. Olson's book.  See what you think:

     In the year 1980, toward the end of March, newspapers and television stations began reporting on a series of strange events taking place in a largely unknown corner of the western United States.  A volcano in southwestern Washington State known as Mount St. Helens was threatening to erupt.  A crater had opened on the summit of the mountain and was spewing ash and steam thousands of feet into the air.  Earthquakes were shaking the volcano so violently that people nearby said it was like being on a ship at sea.  State officials, based on geologists' predictions, were telling residents and visitors to stay away.  Floods, mudflows, and withering blasts of superhot gas could, with little warning, sweep away trees, houses, and people.
     It was a wonderful diversion at an unhappy time in the nation's history.  In 1980 the United States was still recovering from the traumas of Vietnam, Watergate, and the oil embargoes of the 1970's, which had temporarily deprived Americans of one of their most cherished freedoms--the right to drive anywhere, anytime, for as long as a person might want.  A long presidential campaign was just getting under way between an unpopular sitting president, Jimmy Carter, and the eventual Republican nominee, a former California governor and movie star named Ronald Reagan, who promised to return the nation to its former glory.  Students backed by the revolutionary government of Iran were holding fifty-two Americans hostage in the US embassy.  The most popular music of the time was disco, fashions ran from bell-bottoms to peasant blouses; and men sported bushy mustaches and long sideburns.  In a 1976 magazine article, Tom Wolfe referred to the 1970's as 'The Me Decade' for the period's pervasive dissatisfaction and devotion to personal transformation, and the label seems more appropriate than any decadal label coined since.


For months in early 1980, scientists, journalists, sightseers, and nearby residents listened anxiously to rumblings in Mount St. Helens, part of the chain of western volcanoes fueled by the 700-mile-long Cascadia fault.  Still, no one was prepared when an immense eruption took the top off of the mountain and laid waste to hundreds of square miles of verdant forests in southwestern Washington State.  The eruption was one of the largest in human history, deposited ash in eleven U.S. states and five Canadian provinces, and caused more than one billion dollars in damage.  It killed fifty-seven people, some as far as thirteen miles away from the volcano’s summit.

Shedding new light on the cataclysm, author Steve Olson interweaves the history and science behind this event with page-turning accounts of what happened to those who lived and those who died.

Powerful economic and historical forces influenced the fates of those around the volcano that sunny Sunday morning, including the construction of the nation’s railroads, the harvest of a continent’s vast forests, and the protection of America’s treasured public lands.  The eruption of Mount St. Helens revealed how the past is constantly present in the lives of us all.  At the same time, it transformed volcanic science, the study of environmental resilience, and, ultimately, our perceptions of what it will take to survive on an increasingly dangerous planet.

Rich with vivid personal stories of lumber tycoons, loggers, volcanologists, and conservationists, Eruption delivers a spellbinding narrative built from the testimonies of those closest to the disaster, and an epic tale of our fraught relationship with the natural world.


I know the paragraphs I shared above are a little long, but I liked the retrospective of the 80's.  Who remembers that time and who remembers the day Mount St. Helens erupted?  I do.  Where were you on May 18, 1980?  I look forward to reading more about that time, that event, and the lore that surrounds it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley

Scene of the Climb is the first book in Kate Dyer-Seeley's cozy mystery series that is set in Portland, Oregon - one of my favorite places!  I was so glad to get to discover Kate and her series when she was on a panel at Left Coast Crime.  The panel was Murder in the Great Outdoors and this series definitely includes a murder and the great Oregon outdoors.

So what's Scene of the Climb about - well, let me tell you.  Meg Reed has grown up in the Portland area, the daughter of an investigative reporter for the local 'big' newspaper.  Her father was well known in those circles, but he was killed in a tragic accident.  Meg got her degree in journalism just in time for the 'big' paper to begin laying off reporters.  She needs a job badly and so through a set of quirky circumstances involving a pink umbrella, she's offered a chance to work for Greg Dixon, editor of Northwest Extreme magazine.  Portland is filled with interesting people - some are definite outdoor enthusiasts and some are more into the brewpubs, great food, and hipster fashions.  Guess which type Meg is - hint: she wears lots of pink and has a fear of heights - oh, and she loves beer.

Regardless, Meg is resolved to do a good job for the magazine and she's pretty sure she can bluff her way through any 'extreme' stories that she's assigned.  She really didn't count on having to write about a new reality TV show that's all about adventure.  She also didn't count on having to follow the TV crew and contestants through the Columbia Gorge, climbing slippery trails, trying not to look over the ledges at the beautiful vistas.  Meg is struggling to catch up with everyone when she witnesses a man plummeting over a cliff.  What has happened?  Is he dead?  Was he pushed?  After speaking with the sheriff and telling all she knows, Meg finds herself wondering how this 'accident' occurred and whether the feeling she has that someone is following her is real.  Did she catch something in the photos that she snapped?  What about the slight glimpse of someone off the trail?  As Meg begins to channel some of her father's investigative talents, she's about to find out that murder is another kind of 'extreme sport'.

It's been quite a while since I read a cozy mystery and this was a good place to begin again.  I loved the Oregon descriptions that Kate Dyer-Seeley included in this book.  She took us through the city of Portland and then up and down the Columbia Gorge, making me remember and see that gorgeous area throughout the book.  Once upon a time, we lived in Portland for about 3 years.  We traveled all over that area, across to Washington and north to Seattle, from the Pacific and wonderful Oregon Coast to the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains and the dry places located in that part of the state.  The Columbia Gorge is really beautiful at all times of the year.  I have pictures of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helen's, and Multnomah Falls all over my office/library here at home.  As I was reading about them, I was glancing up over and over to smile and think how much I enjoyed living in the Pacific Northwest for that short period of time.  So, I can give a big thumbs up to this author's Oregon setting.

I liked Meg and thought she was quite funny.  She misses her father, doesn't get along very well with her mother, and then there's her Gam (her grandmother).  Gam too fits right in to certain aspects of this area.  She's a 'new ager', a shaman, a Reiki healer, and all about crystals and zapping you with special energy.  Meg is a newbie to the extreme sports world, but she is a good reporter.  She asks the right questions, but probably puts herself in harm's way too often.  She'll learn.  I had the solution figured out fairly early on, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the setting and getting to know Meg, her friends, and her world.

I look forward to the next book in the series, Slayed On The Slopes.  It takes place on Mt. Hood and involves an elite rescue squad and winter weather.  And the 3rd book will be published next week.  It's entitled Silenced in the Surf.  Picture windsurfing in Hood River.  I am not an extreme sports participant myself, but I'll sure have a good time reading about those who are - plus a little crime and murder.        

Friday, March 18, 2016

Chaos Theory by M. Evonne Dobson

Chaos Theory is the debut novel by M. Evonne Dobson.  I met Ms. Dobson at Left Coast Crime and had a good time chatting with her about library work and her YA mystery, published by The Poisoned Pencil.  I told her that my mystery book group would be reading Young Adult mysteries for April and her story sounded like one I definitely wanted to try.

First of all, let's talk about chaos theory a little bit.  Have you heard of the 'butterfly effect'?  It's the idea that small things can cause larger effects at a later time.  Like a butterfly flaps it's wings in one part of the world and this sets in motion changes that will cause a horrific storm later in another part of the world.  Chaos theory is a mathematical study of this premise.  How does it relate to a debut YA mystery?  Let me tell you.

Kami is a 17-year-old high school junior.  She is very smart, maybe too smart.  She is very good with data, not so wonderful at reading emotions.  Kami likes to really think things through.  She plays the flute in the band, wins science fair competitions, wants to go to MIT and also takes martial arts classes.  She's running an experiment in her locker at school that relates to chaos theory.  And she lost her grandmother to cancer recently.  Kami has put up walls because she just can't think about her grandma right now.  The feelings are much, much too big.  Turns out Kami is pretty much a born investigator and this is the first book in 'The Kami Files'.

When Kami's friends, Sandy and Sam, tell her about Daniel, a new guy at their school whose sister, Julia, died recently of a drug overdose, she's not all that interested.  However, she sees Daniel again at her martial arts class and hears more rumors that he's a dealer.  As Daniel and Kami's paths cross several times more, she becomes convinced that Daniel is not involved with drugs.  He's trying to find who gave Julia the drugs and he's working with the police as an informant.  Eventually, Kami, Sandy, Sam, and another friend, Gavin, jump in to help Daniel and then things get really complicated.

I had a good time reading Chaos Theory.  It was a little slow to start, but once things got up to speed, I flew right through it.  Kami is a great character.  She sounds very real, sort of an updated Nancy Drew or less blonde Veronica Mars.  Her group of friends has a definite Scooby gang feel and they each bring strengths to what becomes a fairly sophisticated investigative team.  Their time together takes them to skate parks, horse stables, and a pharmaceutical company, where Kami goes undercover as an intern.  In actuality, Kami's locker chaos theory experiment moves from her locker to her life and she learns that small actions can have wide and far-reaching consequences for all.

I give this Young Adult mystery a two-thumbs up endorsement.  I look forward to reading more adventures of 'The Kami Files' and getting to know her and all her buddies better.  There is a short story starring the same characters called Politics of Chaos that has been published in a Sisters in Crime anthology and another entitled Elemental Chaos that will appear in the 2016 Malice Domestic Anthology.

Thanks to the author, Meg Dobson, who gifted me with Chaos Theory.  I do appreciate it and will be glad to see where Kami and her friends take their investigative team in the future.  I'll leave you with a quote.  Kami is realizing what she and her friends can accomplish, even though they are 'just kids':
'I want to go back to looking down on the world--not connected to it or the people in it.  That cold scientific data that I've hidden behind all my life has been cut away.  I'm free-falling into the chaos below.  This isn't about numbers and data.  What we're doing is important.  It isn't a scientific puzzle to solve anymore.  This is about saving real lives.'

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

Missing Pieces is the newest book written by Heather Gudenkauf.  I have meant to read one of her books for years and probably own most of the rest of them.  I've heard really good things about them and decided this was where I would begin.  So, what did I think?  Well, it was an interesting story, but it did leave me with some questions and a tiny bit of dissatisfaction.  Let me tell you more.

Our story begins with Sarah and Jack Quinlan returning to his hometown of Penny Gate, Iowa.  Jack's Aunt Julia has been in an accident and she's hospitalized in critical condition.  His aunt and uncle opened their home to Jack and his younger sister, Amy, after their mother and father died.  Amy still lives in Penny Gate, but her life has been difficult due to many bad decisions.  Jack left Iowa for college, met Sarah and moved to Montana, where they had two daughters who are now college age themselves.  Sarah thinks that she and Jack have been pretty happy with their life.  She thinks that she knows most things about him and his family, even though she's had very little contact with them.  She thinks wrong.

After arriving in Iowa, the Quinlans meet the rest of the family at the hospital where Julia lies in a coma.  And slowly, things begin to change.  Sarah finds out that Jack's parents were not killed in a car accident.  His mother was murdered.  His father was suspected of being the killer.  And that's not all.  As the hours pass and Julia's condition deteriorates, Sarah's old journalistic instincts come into play.  An advice columnist now but formerly an investigative reporter, Sarah is faced with the knowledge that her husband has lied to her and kept a lot about his life secret.  Jack's family is grieving and worried, but acting oddly.  Sarah doesn't know these people well enough to judge whether they are hiding things too.  Did Julia actually have an accident or did someone try to hurt her?  As Sarah digs and digs, she places herself in danger.  What happened so many years ago and how does it relate to the Quinlan family today?

I was quickly drawn into Sarah and Jack's story.  Aunt Julia's accident and their trip to Iowa kept me turning the pages.  Learning that Jack had been hiding things for over 20 years and puzzling out what those things might be was interesting.  I read a lot of crime novels, so I guessed a solution pretty early on in the book.  But, that's more my familiarity with mysteries probably.  My issues came when I felt that Sarah's decisions didn't make a lot of sense.  She kept changing her mind for one thing and she was very quick to mistrust her husband.  Yes, he had kept things from her, but still...as a former investigative reporter, her methods seemed a bit erratic.  One of the characters that assisted Sarah in her quest and the actions that character took seemed way too simplistic.  And the whole scene in the library where Sarah was making copies was unbelievable.  Small town library.  Everyone would know what she was doing - certainly the librarian.

I also didn't feel that I knew Jack very well and didn't get enough info about why he acted the way he did through the years.  I felt the same about some of the other characters.  Sigh.  I guess this probably was not the book for me to start with in reading Heather Gudenkauf's writings.  I liked it well enough to keep reading, but I was frustrated multiple times and rolled my eyes.  I give this book one thumb up and one thumb down.

I am willing to take another chance on a Gudenkauf book though.  Have you read this book or any of her others?  What was your experience and do you recommend another one as a better book?  Reactions seems to be mixed about Missing Pieces, so I think my experience is not unusual.  Again, maybe I'm too well versed in mysteries and crime stories.  Tell me what you think - please!  And thanks.  Would I recommend this one?  Maybe to people who don't read a lot of crime novels or who like more gentle and less complicated mysteries.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday - A Great Reckoning

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.  Every year, I eagerly await the unveiling of the cover and blurb for Louise Penny's new book.  This is 'hot off the unveiling' from earlier this week - the book I'm featuring and waiting for is:

Publication Date:  August 30th

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity.  But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.  Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets.  To an old friend and older adversary.  It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go.  But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor.  And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets.  Tattooed and pierced.  Guarded and angry.  Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up.  And yet she is in the academy.  A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime.  The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - Scene Of The Climb

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 Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley.  I met this author at Left Coast Crime and immediately wanted to read this first book in her cozy series that is set in the Pacific Northwest.  We lived in that area for a few years in the '90's and I do love to visit when we can.  Kate made me laugh as she talked about her protagonist Meg Reed.  See what you think:

Angel's Rest Summit, Oregon
     My fingernails dug into the soggy dirt as my body lurched closer to the sheer cliff face.  I desperately jabbed deeper into the ground for traction.  It didn't work.
     I kicked frantically into a boulder on my right, trying to slow my momentum.  The trail was disappearing in front of me.  Fast.  Two more feet and I would launch over a ledge, straight down the side of the rock face.
     That's when I heard the scream.  It took a minute to sort out whether the sound was coming from my lungs or somewhere ahead.  Definitely ahead.
     I skidded over slick jagged rocks.  They jammed into my exposed skin and snagged my paper-thin T-shirt.
     ...not the shirt.  I'd spent a wad of cash I didn't have on the shirt.  When I spotted it on the rack with its pale pink ivy vine design and the words 'Live. Love' on the front, it spoke to me, as Gam likes to say.  Plus, it's the perfect blend of Northwest chic--equal parts hippie and hipster.
     At that moment I looked up to see a man's body plummet over the ledge.
     I should have been concerned that I was losing ground and about to fly off after him.  Instead, all I could think about was that I never should have taken that umbrella.


Portland, Oregon, is the perfect fit for someone like Meg Reed.  It's a city with a small town feel, where she can crash on the couch of her best friend Jill, now that she's graduated from journalism school. . .

But a girl needs a job, so Meg bluffs her way into writing for Northwest Extreme magazine, passing herself off to editor-in-chief Greg Dixon as an outdoor adventure enthusiast.  Never mind that Meg's idea of sport is climbing onto the couch without spilling her latte.  So when she finds herself clawing to the top of Angel's Rest--a two-thousand-foot peak--to cover the latest challenge in a reality TV adventure show, she can't imagine feeling more terrified.  Until she witnesses a body plummet off the side of the cliff.  Now Meg has a murder to investigate.  And if the climbing doesn't kill her, a murderer just might. . .


It's been a while since I read very many cozy mysteries, but I'm game to try them again.  This seems like a good place to start and I'll enjoy the local culture very much.  I miss living in Oregon.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bookish Nostalgia - March 2016

Welcome to March and this month's Bookish Nostalgia!  I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I do.  Such fun going back through my notebooks and pondering over the books listed in each month - should I choose this one or, no, choose that one.  I'm also really glad when there is an assortment of types of books that 'spoke' to me each time.  That seems to be the case for these March entries.  Let's begin:

March 1996 - Contagion by Robin Cook - Did you ever read books by Robin Cook?  A doctor who wrote medical thrillers - like Michael Crichton.  I haven't read one of his books in a long time, but for a while, I think I picked up every one.  I started with Coma and went on from there.  Contagion was about managed care and how big business (HMOs) was making people sick so that they didn't have to lessen their profits or that's what the pathologist character surmised.  Rare diseases were killing people at a New York hospital and time was running out.

March 2001 - The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman - This is a non-fiction book about the clash between two Hmong parents with traditional beliefs in spirits and sickness of the soul and their daughter's pediatricians representing Western medicine.  It won a National Book Critics Award, and I thought it was very, very good.  Such a dilemma between parents who want to heal their daughter with the traditional medicine of their people and doctors who want to give her anti-epileptic drugs.  Highly recommended.

March 2006 - Witch Way To Murder by Shirley Damsgaard - This is the first in a cozy series that is touted to be Bewitched meets Murder She Wrote.  I just remember it was a fun book.  Ophelia is a small town librarian and also a psychic (which she hates).  She has a grandmother named Abby, a kindly witch.  Ophelia doesn't want to have anything to do with her gift.  She has guilt over not saving her best friend.  However, both Ophelia and Abby have to get involved when a drug ring comes to town and someone dies and there's a nice looking man hanging around the library.  You get the picture.  I think there are 6 or 7 books in this series.

March 2011 - Virgin River by Robyn Carr - I love this book and the ones that come after it.  Virgin River is the first book in a wonderful romance series that contains over 20 books.  It's set in the beautiful Northern California mountains and is a very well done series and lots of fun.  I read a lot of these books at times when I was struggling with tough emotional things.  They were perfect.  In this book, Melinda is hired to assist the local doctor as a midwife/nurse practitioner.  She's been widowed and needs a change of scenery from the big city.  However, the cabin she's been promised is awful and the old doctor doesn't want her help.  She decides that she'll stay the night and go home.  Next morning, she finds a baby abandoned on the front porch and she also comes across Jack, a former marine and owner of the local bar and grill.  And life is never the same again.


So, there you go.  March books for the last 20 years.  A medical thriller, a non-fiction award winner, a cozy mystery, and a romance.  I do step out of my mystery world on occasion.  See you next month!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Left Coast Crime - 2016 - A Sum Up of a fabulous trip, plus 'Shout outs' to 'New to me' authors...

Welcome to my last post about Left Coast Crime 2016!  Part of why I've done this is to give myself a place to 'remember' what transpired.  And a place to refer back in case a certain author's name is 'on the tip of my tongue', but no name appears.  I appreciate everyone who has stopped by to read about LCC!  So, here's a couple of shots of what I saw of Phoenix for this trip.  We vacation here fairly often, so I'll catch up with the outdoors on our next trip.  These are from the 18th floor of the Hyatt, which is where our room was located.  Phoenix is great in the winter and early spring.  Maybe a little rougher in the summer.  Heatwise, I mean.  The weather during this trip was perfect golfing weather.  And that big guy I'm married to, well, he had a great time.

I promised to give a summary of the awards that were presented at the Saturday night banquet and here they are (starred entry is winner):

Best Humorous Mystery

Best Historical Mystery
(Bruce Alexander Memorial, covering events before 1960)

Best LCC Regional Mystery
(Mountain Time Zone and west to Hawaii)

Best World Mystery
(set anywhere outside the LCC region)

Finally, I want to give a bit of a shout-out to a few authors that were especially kind, made me laugh, or their book sounded so very interesting or maybe all three.  Ha!  

Becky Clark was one of the first authors I even saw at the conference.  She was sitting near me when I ate breakfast early Thursday morning.  Then I saw her at the Speed Dating.  And on the 18th floor.  And in the atrium.  She has a very cheerful personality and so I've decided if her books reflect her humor, they will be a lot of fun.  Her first book was Banana Bamboozle and it's followed by Marshmallow Mayhem.  Check them out!

I had a good time chatting with Erika Chase on more than one occasion.  She writes the Ashton Corners Book Club mysteries, the latest of which is Law and Author.  Erika also has another series, written under the name Linda Wiken.  The first book in the Dinner Club cozies will be published in July.  It's called Toasting Up Trouble and features the Culinary Capers Dinner Club.  Recipes included.  

Another author that caught my eye or my interest with her book was Kris Calvin.  Her debut book is One Murder More and the protagonist is a lobbyist in California, Maren Kane.  Kris herself is a former elected official and so politics is her specialty.  I'm not very fond of politics myself, but she made her book sound like one I'd be glad to sample.  So I shall!  Plus her 'swag' was in the form of a door hanger that says 'Don't Bother Me - I'm Reading'.  Perfect!!

One last list of authors and their latest books.  Had chats with all these ladies:

Sandra Bolton - Key Witness (New Mexico)
Sheila Lowe - What She Saw and also the Forensic Handwriting series, which begins with Poison Pen


As you can probably tell, I had a wonderful time at Left Coast Crime 2016!  Thanks for reading about my adventure.  Left Coast Crime 2017 will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii and the dates are March 16-19, 2017.  Honolulu Havoc will give a Lifetime Acheivement Award to both Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman.  Guests of Honor will be Dana Stabenow and Colin Cotterill.  Toastmaster will be Laurie R. King and the Ghost of Honor will be Earl Derr Biggs, creator of Charlie Chan.  Am I going?  Well, you never know!  You should think about it if you love mysteries.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Left Coast Crime - 2016 - The Eats with books on the side, plus Author Speed Dating...

My Left Coast Crime 2016 post for today is about some of the special events that were included in the conference.  Most of these included food.  The first one did not - well, many of the author brought chocolate or other treats, which provided sustenance for us - the participants who felt their heads spinning around!

The very first event I attended, right after visiting the registration table, being handed my envelope with 'Lefty ballot', award banquet tickets, and other essentials (like my book bag) - oh, and picking the award banquet table where my hubby and I would sit was - wait for it - Author Speed Dating.  In fact, Cathy and I were almost late and quickly took our seats.

Author Speed Dating

I have no pictures.  Didn't even think of that.  There were 2 authors already sitting at our table when I took my seat.  Here was the concept - something like 36 authors would very quickly tell us about their books.  They would go from table to table in pairs and the tables were numbered.  They would each have 2 minutes to give us their pitch.  One would begin talking and after 2 minutes, a bell would ring.  The other would talk.  Bell rings again.  Authors jump up and run to next table.  We greet 2 more people.  This went on for 2 hours.  It was.....mind boggling....and I'm not kidding.

Room full of people.  All talking or 36 of them talking.  Bell rings over and over.  It was loud and not exactly chaotic, because it was organized, but I felt shell shocked.  I loved it and loved hearing about all the books.  All of the authors brought stuff - swag - bookmarks or postcards or little giveaway things or 'candy'.  You see why the sugar was needed for energy.  Ha!  The table also included a pitcher of ice water and glasses.  It was supposed to be for the authors.  We drank most of it.  Ha!  Sorry authors.  I was very interested in many of the books, but I'll just mention 5 from this group:

Gwen Florio - Disgraced (just published Tuesday) - Lola Wick series
Leslie Budewitz - Guilty As Cinnamon - Spice Shop series
Jennifer Kincheloe - The Secret Life of Anna Blanc (nominated for Bruce Alexander Historical Award)
Diane Valllere - A Disguise To Die For (nominated for 'Lefty' for another book)
Julie Mulhern - Clouds In My Coffee (3rd in her Country Club Murder series set in the 70's - out in May) - this series has appeared on many blogs that I read

Afterwards, I felt like I need a little 'quiet room'.  However, we went to lunch instead.

Debut Writers Breakfast

Friday morning, bright and early, I attended the Debut Writers Breakfast hosted by Mike Belefer.  He's pictured above with Toastmaster Catriona McPherson.  The food was fine, but I'm not going to talk about food.  I was definitely hoping for an event with a little less volume for my ears.  The idea here was for authors who had their debut novel published in 2015 or early 2016 to have a time for introductions - themselves and their book.  There were 38 authors.  We entered the room, got our food, picked a table that was hosted by 1 or 2 of the debut authors and sat to eat.  Meanwhile, each of them was introduced by Mike and then they had 1 minute to share with the audience.  I loved it.  I got to sip coffee and listen for 1-1/2 hours.

My table was hosted by Janet Finsilver and I enjoyed talking with her about her first book, Murder at Redwood Cove.  It's a cozy set in a Northern California B&B.  There's also a service dog who detects cancer.  I bought Janet's book later and got her to sign it.  Also hosting my table was M. Evonne (Meg) Dobson, who has written one of the first YA books in The Poisoned Pen Press' new arm, The Poisoned Pencil.  It is titled Chaos Theory.  Meg was so kind as to gift me her book after her presentation.  One other author that I'll highlight is Katherine Prairie and her book Thirst.  Set in Canada, I was very intrigued and have purchased it for my Kindle since coming home.

Meet the Canucks Reception

Friday afternoon at 5:30, I attended the 'Meet the Canucks' event.  Vicki Delany is President of the Crime Writers of Canada and she welcomed us to meet her compatriots from 'up north'.  They had a fun little game for attendees.  We were supposed to make our way around to 18 different little tables and 'meet' each author - and answer a question about their writing or books.  It was fun, and I managed to talk to all of them and fill out my sheet.  Some authors I was familiar with and some I was surprised at their Canadian connection.  Those who finished their 'treasure sheets' were eligible for a prize and I won one!  Hilary Davidson drew my name and gifted me with her most recent book, Blood Always Tells.

I want to highlight 3 other authors that I met at this event:

M.H. Callway - Windigo Fire - First author we heard at Speed Dating - was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award for this book under Best First Novel category.  This award is Canadian as well.

Cathy Ace - The Case of the Missing Morris Dancer (WISE Enquiries Agency series) - She is the VP of the Canadian Writers and speaks with a lovely Welsh accent.

Victoria Abbott (Mary Jane Maffini) - The Marsh Madness (Book Collector series) - Mary Jane writes with her daughter, Victoria Maffini, as Victoria Abbott.

Discover Mystery Breakfast - Hosted by Poisoned Pen Press

Saturday morning brought a breakfast that I was very much looking forward to.  The Poisoned Pen Press hosted us and brought 22 of their authors to meet and greet attendees.  The picture above shows Barbara Peters, one of the founders of PP, welcoming us.  Since I had already talked with several of my favorite PP authors, I decided to sit with an author whose books I haven't read, up to now, Mary Anna Evans.  I had bought the first book in her Faye Longchamp series, Artifacts, the day before and there on the table was another in the series as a gift, Rituals.  Double bonus!  Mary Anna and I got to visit a bit.  She lives in Oklahoma and is a professor at OU.  I said I was from the land of 'burnt orange' and we discussed Univ of TX and Univ of Okla rivalry.  It's all good.  Ha!

On my other side was a very nice author, Cheryl Hollon.  She told me about her Webb's Glass Shop series, the latest of which is Shards of Murder.  I enjoyed hearing about her journey as a writer and look forward to reading her books, 2 out so far and another to be published later this year.  Barbara Peters introduced all the PP authors, but they didn't speak individually.  I made it around to see Betty Webb, who writes the Lena Jones series.  Desert Wives was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.  I also met and spoke with Leslie Dana Kirby about her debut book, The Perfect Game.

'Lefty' Awards Banquet

Finally, the 'Lefty' Awards Banquet, which took place Saturday evening.  As we each passed through registration earlier in the conference, we were told to select an author's table for the banquet.  I had gotten my husband a ticket to the banquet as well, so I was looking for 2 seats (and missed out on Deborah Crombie's table because of that - I'm a wonderful wife, right?).  Michael Sears was a good alternative and our location in the large ballroom was ideal.  Sears (pictured above) writes about Jason Stafford, a financial crime investigator with a small son who is autistic.  His books are very good and the latest is Saving Jason.  The food was decent and I enjoyed my salmon and cheesecake.

The program included announcements of the 4 'Lefty' Awards, about which I'll share the specifics tomorrow.  It also included the conclusion of the Silent Auction that had been going on all through the conference.  Each Left Coast Crime conference has a silent auction and quilt raffle to benefit a literacy program specific to the area where the conference is held.  This year's charity was KidsRead USA, an Arizona non-profit that encourages children to love books and has gifted more than 40,000 books to 3rd graders in the Phoenix area.  Several big auction items were bid on and awarded at the banquet and the conference raised several thousand dollars for this great charity.


Last post tomorrow - a 'sum-up' of LCC, who won the awards, and a few more 'shout-outs' to some worthy authors.