Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring Break - Back in a couple of weeks...

I wanted to let everyone know that I'm going to take a break from the blog for at least a couple of weeks - maybe three.  I'm going to be attending the Malice Domestic mystery conference and we've also got some things going on with family and friends.  Seems like a good time to step away for a bit.  Plus, I want to read a bunch.

I'm planning on coming back in mid-May with several days of posts relating my Malice Domestic adventure.  I've done that before and several have said they would like to 'virtually' attend again.  I love sharing my pictures and tales, but I will note that it does take a bit of time to put those posts together.  So, watch for them, probably the week of May 14-18.

One nice thing is that I should have a number of books to talk about, though the reviews may be a few weeks behind the actual date read.  This won't be my only break in upcoming months.  We've got several getaways planned for summer and fall, plus it's nice to just read sometimes.  I'll likely not be commenting much during the break, but I'll be reading your blog posts.

A happy personal note is that my husband is completely finished with his cardiac rehab and is back to a normal work and golf life.  He is doing very well, and he and I both have changed a lot of things about our eating and exercise life.  One day before long I'll post a 'before and after' picture of myself.  I've lost over 80 pounds and I think it's such a positive change for me.  I'm not quite finished, but the health benefits are clear.  I've got a few more wrinkles evident now and have had to buy some new clothes (I know, a terrible thing!), but I'm never quitting this lifestyle again.  My promise to myself.

Take care everyone and I'll see you soon! 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Bookish Nostalgia - April 2018

Welcome to Bookish Nostalgia for April 2018.  I've kept records of books I read for over 25 years and I enjoy looking back through my reading journals to see what I was reading 5, 10, 15, and 20 years ago.  Let's see what I remember about what I was reading in those years:

April 1998 - Blind Descent by Nevada Barr - This is the 6th book in Nevada Barr's mystery series featuring Park Ranger Anna Pigeon.  It's probably my favorite in the series.  I think in part that was because I had visited the national park where it's set - Carlsbad Caverns.  If you've never read this series, the 1st book is Track of the Cat.  Anna is a ranger with US National Park System and in this book, she's sent below ground - way below ground and to small, tight spaces.  The narrative is very, very vivid and I can remember barely breathing.  It's a good one.

April 2003 - Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah - As I've mentioned many times, I don't read very much non-fiction and so I'm not sure what made me pick Falling Leaves to read.  The author, Adeline Yen Mah, tells the story of her young years when she was unwanted by her family.  Her mother had died and her father married again.  A sort of Cinderella tale and, in fact, this author also has a young adult version of it, Chinese Cinderella.  It was a very poignant story.

April 2008 - The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares - I was working at the Austin Public Library in 2008 and several of my young colleagues were getting their MLS degrees.  There were a couple who were adamant about making sure I read the newest young adult fiction - which was fine.  I loved them stopping by my desk and telling me that they had another book for me to try.  The Second Summer of the Sisterhood is the 2nd book in this author's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  I did enjoy the first book and liked this one as well.  I can't recall whether I read the 3 books that come after this one.  I should do that.  Ha!

April 2013 - A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy - I think I picked up this book very soon after it was published after the author's passing.  I always loved Maeve Binchy's books and was very sad to know that there wouldn't be any more of them.  The first one I read was Circle of Friends, after I watched the movie which starred Minnie Driver.  And I also remember reading The Glass Lake on a vacation to Bend, Oregon.  It's amazing how some books are so vivid in your memories, partly because of where you read them.


And so we end this month's Bookish Nostalgia.  Have you read any of these books or authors?  Hope you'll join me again next month to see what May books I remember from my journals.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Wildling Sisters - Eve Chase

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

First Paragraph(s):

No one of us can bear to touch his belt, so horrifyingly intimate.  But as we drag him across the lawn, it plows into the soil.  He's heavier than he looks, unwieldy.  Every few steps we stop and catch our breath, startling in the dawn light, daring one another to look down at the unbelievable fleshy fact of him, the childlike abandon of his outstretched arms.
     Daisies are stuck to him now, their pink-white petals opening to the sun that is rising at a worrying speed behind the orchard.  There's something very wrong about these daisies, stars in the dark sticky of his hair.  Dot leans forward as if to pluck them out, sit down, and thread them into a chain over the hammock of her gingham skirt.  If she did it wouldn't make anything stranger.

My Thoughts:

The Wildling Sisters is Eve Chase's 2nd book after Black Rabbit Hall.  That one resides on my bookshelf, as yet unread by me.  Story of my life - 'as yet unread by me' - ha!  I'll get to it soon, hopefully.  In any case, I decided to listen to this book about sisters on audio, narrated very well by Clare Corbett and Emilia Fox.  Two narrators because this is a tale told in two periods of time, 50 years apart.  Margot Wilde and her three sisters, Dot, Pam, and Flora, come to Applecote Manor in 1959 to spend the summer with their aunt and uncle.  The sisters are 17, 16, 15, and 12 and not very happy about the arrangement.  They used to love visiting Applecote, but that was when their cousin, Audrey, was there.  Audrey disappeared five years ago and that mystery hangs heavily over the house and couple who live there.

In the present day, Jessie and her husband, Will, decide to purchase Applecote Manor.  They are trying to simplify and slow their busy London life.  They have two daughters, Bella (a teenager who is Jessie's stepdaughter and still grieving and lashing out because of the death of her mother) and Romy (a toddler).  Unfortunately, Will very quickly has to return to London and spend more and more time there because of business problems.  Jessie struggles to keep her wits about her as this old house they bought needs lots of attention and Bella is more than a handful.  The old mystery, never solved, regarding Audrey Wilde's disappearance intrigues Bella and she spends a lot of time obsessing over it and actually finding some objects that might or might not be related.

I liked this story of two families, both struggling with emotional issues and grief.  This book has the mystery of the missing girl from long ago, but it also has a poignant story of sisters and their bonds and relationships.  Each sister is unique and the author's characterization is well done.  Margot takes the lead telling the story in the past, with Jessie narrating in the present.  There are Gothic overtones, as one might expect with an old house and overgrown garden.  There are secrets to be revealed.  And there is love and understanding in the end.  This one is recommended.


Four sisters. One summer. A lifetime of secrets.

When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Corpse at the Crystal Palace

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

I'm particularly pleased to see the book I'm featuring this week.  I've read many books in this series, but not quite all.  And it's been several years since the author had a new Daisy Dalrymple mystery - this is #23.  This week, I'm anxiously waiting on:

Publication Date:  July 3rd

April 1928: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is visited in London by her young cousins. On the list of must-see sites is the Crystal Palace. Discovering that her children's nanny, Nanny Gilpin, has never seen the Palace, Daisy decides to make a day of it—bringing her cousins, her 3-year-old twins, her step-daughter Belinda, the nurserymaid, and Nanny Gilpin. Yet this ordinary outing goes wrong when Mrs. Gilpin goes off to the ladies’ room and fails to return. When Daisy goes to look for her, she doesn't find her nanny but instead the body of another woman dressed in a nanny's uniform.

Meanwhile, Belinda and the cousins spot Mrs. Gilpin chasing after yet another nanny. Intrigued, they trail the two through the vast Crystal Palace and into the park. After briefly losing sight of their quarry, they stumble across Mrs. Gilpin lying unconscious in a small lake inhabited by huge concrete dinosaurs.

When she comes to, Mrs. Gilpin can't remember what happened after leaving the twins in the nurserymaid's care. Daisy's husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the murdered nanny. Worried about her children's own injured nanny, Daisy is determined to help. First she has to discover the identity of the third nanny, the presumed murderer, and to do so, Daisy must uncover why the amnesic Mrs. Gilpin deserted her charges to follow the missing third nanny.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie - Classics Club Read #3

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

First Paragraph(s):

It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria.  Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express.  It consisted of a kitchen and dining car, a sleeping car and two local coaches.
     By the step leading up into the sleeping car stood a young French lieutenant, resplendent in uniform, conversing with a small lean man, muffled up to the ears, of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward curled moustache.

My Thoughts:

First of all, I was supposed to be reading The Woman in White for the latest Classic Club Spin.  Yes, well, that didn't work out.  I'll do it at a later time.  Instead, I switched to one of my favorite Christie books - Murder on the Orient Express.

I think that I originally knew of this book as a film adaptation in 1974, which is still my favorite of the movies/TV versions.  After that, I read the actual story in print.  And this time (have no idea how many times I've read the book), I listened to David Suchet's excellent narration.  He is my favorite Poirot, but it's also kind of unsettling to hear him speak in his 'normal' British voice.

The story is probably familiar to almost everyone.  A murder aboard a train crossing Europe - the Orient Express.  A wonderful 'locked room' mystery with so many characters that it's perfect for 'big name' film stars.  Hercule Poirot is just the detective to solve the crime as the train is stuck in the snow and the usual methods of detection are not easily available.  Therefore, 'the little gray cells'.

It turns out the murdered man was a using a false name.  He was connected with a very famous kidnapping case in the US - much like the Lindbergh child in 1932.  Christie changed some details in her 1934 book, but obviously it was used as inspiration.  And it seems that the author had also traveled on the famous train herself in 1928. 

The 1974 film version won several awards and, as I mentioned, remains my favorite.  I did not care for the TV version starring David Suchet (a great Poirot) as much.  It was too dark.  We also saw the newest film that came out last year featuring Kenneth Branagh.  It was good enough, but I had a really hard time looking at those mustaches on Branagh.  Ha!  The scenery was quite vivid in the new movie.  So, tell me, have your read this book or seen the movie?  Which is your favorite?       


“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man's enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Entry Island - Peter May

Entry Island by Peter May

First Paragraph(s):

It is evident from the way the stones are set into the slope of the hill that industrious hands once toiled to make this pathway.  It is overgrown now, the shallow impression of a ditch on one side.  He makes his way carefully down toward the remains of the village, pursued by the oddest sense of treading in his own footsteps.  And yet he has never been here. 
     The silhouette of a broken-down drystone wall runs along the contour of the treeless hill above him.  Beyond it, he knows, a crescent of silver sand curls away toward the cemetery and the standing stones on the rise.  Below him, the footings of blackhouses are barely visible among the peaty soil and the spikes of tall grasses that bend and bow in the wind.  The last evidence of walls that once sheltered the families who lived and died here. 

My Thoughts:

I wrote about reading this book a while back, but it was included with other short reviews.  I decided to repeat my thoughts below, but also include a few more things about the book.  It was really well done on audio by the wonderful Peter Forbes.  Also, look below for another video (courtesy of the author's website) - Peter May discussing Entry Island. 

Entry Island has two storylines - one with a current setting - a murder investigation in a small group of islands off the coast of Quebec, Canada.  The other story is historical - the mid-1800's as people are forcibly moved by local gentry from the Scottish Isles to Canada.  The two stories are connected loosely at the beginning and then the reader comes to understand that they are interwoven tightly.  Homicide detective Sime Mackenzie is the main protagonist, along with the wife of the murder victim.  The setting is incredibly vivid, both in Canada and Scotland.  This author has a way of writing about the Isle of Lewis that makes the reader want to jump on a plane and go there immediately.  I really, really enjoyed this book.  The setting, the characters, the stories.  Highly recommended.


When a murder rocks the isolated community of Entry Island, insomniac homicide detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at St. Hubert airfield bound for the small, scattered chain of Madeline Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as part of an eight-officer investigation team from Montréal.

Only two kilometers wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of just more than 100 inhabitants, the wealthiest of whom has just been discovered murdered in his home. Covered in her husband's blood, the dead man's melancholy wife spins a tale for the police about a masked intruder armed with a knife.

The investigation appears to be little more than a formality--the evidence points to a crime of passion, implicating the wife. But Sime is electrified by the widow during his interview, convinced that he has met her before, even though this is clearly impossible.

Haunted by this strange certainty, Sime's insomnia is punctuated by vivid, hallucinatory dreams of a distant past on a Scottish island 3,000 miles away, dreams in which he and the widow play leading roles. Sime's conviction soon becomes an obsession. And despite mounting evidence of the woman's guilt, he finds himself convinced of her innocence, leading to a conflict between the professional duty he must fulfill and the personal destiny he is increasingly sure awaits him.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Good Liar - Catherine McKenzie

The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

First Paragraph(s):

I was late.  That's why I wasn't there when it happened.
     Not in the building, not even that close.
     I lost track of time that morning trying to get the kids organized and out the door.  It happens sometimes.  I'll have everything under control and then--poof!--an hour will have gone by and we've missed whatever deadline we were supposed to hit.  School drop-off, a kid's birthday party, even an airplane once, despite the fact that we were in the terminal with plenty of time to get to our gate before pushback.

My Thoughts:

Catherine McKenzie is an author that I've enjoyed in the past.  Her books Smoke and also Fractured were suspenseful reads for me.  The Good Liar is her latest book and I liked it as well.  Three women are connected by an event that happened a year ago - a tragic explosion in downtown Chicago.  Each of them reveals their story a bit at a time.  A documentary is being made about some the families affected and so part of the tale is told in interviews with the filmmaker.  As the title indicates, there are lies and secrets.  All the women are hiding something and, eventually, all is known.

As I said, I've liked Catherine McKenzie's books and struggle a bit with how to relate my thoughts.  This book has great reviews and they are deserved, to a certain extent, in my opinion.  I do think that I am maybe a bit too savvy about 'twists' in the story.  I normally don't mind when I guess all secrets, but I found this one a bit too predicable for me.  It may have just been my mood or, as I've shared lately, I'm needing to slightly limit my 'domestic thriller' books.  I've gotten a little burned out.  So, all this means - please don't let me discourage you from trying this one.  However, I'm off to find a something different - at least for now. 


When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.

A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Lewis Man - Peter May

The Lewis Man by Peter May

First Paragraph(s):

On this storm-lashed island three hours off the north-west coast of Scotland, what little soil exists gives the people their food and their heat.  It also takes their dead.  And very occasionally, as today, gives one up.
     It is a social thing, the peat-cutting.  Family, neighbours, children, all gathered on the moor with a mild wind blowing out of the south-west to dry the grasses and keep the midges at bay.  Annag is just five years old.  It is her first peat-cutting, and the one she will remember for the rest of her life.

My Thoughts:

I have been enjoying my time visiting Peter May's trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  The Lewis Man is narrated by Peter Forbes (who narrates this whole trilogy plus Entry Island).  His voice is great and his pronunciation of the difficult Gaelic words is spot on.  I also want to say that I'll be moving on to the third book, The Chessmen, next.  I've already written about that one here and won't be including another review.  If you'd like to see my thoughts, click on the link above.

After the events related in The Blackhouse, Fin Macleod has resigned his job, agreed to a divorce from his wife, and moved to Lewis planning to renovate his parents' old croft.  Not long after he arrives, DS George Gunn crosses his path and tells him of a body that's been found in the peat.  It appears to have been there for 50 years or so and, more importantly, DNA has shown that the dead man is related to Tormod Macdonald, Marsaili's father.  Tormod is suffering from advanced dementia and Marsaili's mother has passed responsibility for him on to her daughter.  Since a police investigation into the circumstances of the death is imminent, Fin must step in to assist.

This book is probably my favorite of the trilogy.  The story is related in pieces as Fin tries to determine what exactly happened years ago and how Tormod is connected.  Tormod himself relates part of the story through memories (his past thoughts are much more coherent than his present day).  Dealing with and relating to a person with advanced dementia is tough and very, very poignant.  Fin is better able to handle the queries, but it's not easy peeling back the layers of time.  And then things get much more dire as a present day threat presents itself.  The book comes to a most dramatic and shocking ending.  As with the previous book, the setting is vividly described and traditions and customs revealed in interesting ways.  Highly recommended.


In The Lewis Man, the second book of the trilogy, Fin Macleod has returned to the Isle of Lewis, the storm-tossed, wind-scoured outer Hebridean island where he was born and raised. Having left behind his adult life in Edinburgh--including his wife and his career in the police force--the former Detective Inspector is intent on repairing past relationships and restoring his parents' derelict cottage. His plans are interrupted when an unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog. The only clue to its identity is a DNA match to a local farmer, the now-senile Tormod Macdonald--the father of Fin's childhood sweetheart, Marsaili--a man who has claimed throughout his life to be an only child, practically an orphan. Reluctantly drawn into the investigation, Fin uncovers deep family secrets even as he draws closer to the killer who wishes to keep them hidden.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Last Thing I Told You

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

I've read one other book by Emily Arsenault, In Search of the Rose Notes, but have meant to read more.  This week I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  July 24th

I hear myself whispering. Not again. Not again.

Why did I ever come back here? Surely because of you. Because I thought of something I’d always meant to tell you. Because you were the only one I ever really wanted to tell it to…

Therapist Dr. Mark Fabian is dead—bludgeoned in his office.

But that doesn’t stop former patient Nadine Raines from talking to him—in her head. Why did she come back to her hometown after so many years away? Everyone here thinks she’s crazy. And she has to admit—they might have good reason to think so. She committed a shockingly violent act when she was sixteen, and has never really been able to explain that dark impulse—even to Fabian. Now that Fabian’s dead, why is she still trying?

Meanwhile, as Detective Henry Peacher investigates Fabian’s death, he discovers that shortly before he died, Fabian pulled the files of two former patients. One was of Nadine Raines, one of Henry’s former high school classmates. Henry still remembers the disturbing attack on a teacher that marked Nadine as a deeply troubled teen.

More shockingly, the other file was of Johnny Streeter, who is now serving a life sentence for a mass shooting five years ago. The shooting devastated the town and everyone—including Henry, who is uncomfortable with the “hero” status the tragedy afforded him—is ready to move on. But the appearance of his file brings up new questions. Maybe there is a decades-old connection between Nadine and Streeter. And maybe that somehow explains what Nadine is doing in Fabian’s office nearly twenty years after being his patient. Or how Fabian ended up dead two days after her return. Or why Nadine has fled town once again.

But as Nadine and Henry head toward a confrontation, both will discover that the secrets of people’s hearts are rarely simple, and—even in the hidden depths of a psychologist’s files—rarely as they appear.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Conspiracy in Belgravia - Sherry Thomas

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

First Paragraph(s):

Thank goodness for a blatantly obvious murder.  
     Inspector Treadles did not say those words aloud--that would be disrespectful to the deceased.  But he most certainly entertained the thought as he made his way, Sergeant MacDonald in tow, to the house where the body had been found.
     After the taxing irregularities of the Sackville case, a run-of-the-mill murder would be calming and restorative.  He looked forward to gathering clues.  He looked forward to questioning witnesses.  He looked forward to assembling an account that would serve as the crown's evidence.
     He looked forward to handling every aspect of the work on his own, without needing to turn to anyone else for help.

My Thoughts:

I am really liking Sherry Thomas' series featuring Charlotte Holmes (aka Sherlock) and Mrs. Watson.  A Conspiracy in Belgravia is the second book and it added new and intriguing characters and problems to this 'twist' on the Sherlock theme.  We now are introduced to Lord Ingram's brother, who solves 'interesting' problems for the crown (Mycroft Holmes).  And Moriarty has entered the story and shadows are everywhere with his influence.  There are ciphers to interpret, dead bodies, secrets galore, Charlotte's sister Livia's mystery man, Mrs. Watson's niece, and a Holmes half-brother.  Also, Mrs. Watson begins training Charlotte in self-defense, which is a bit of a tough proposition because our 'Lady Sherlock' likes her tea cakes a lot more than exercise.  In the end, most of the answers to the problems presented are revealed...or are they?  Guess we'll have to find out in the 3rd book, The Hollow of Fear, which will be published in early October.  I can't wait!


Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.

Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Can you solve the puzzles, unlock the many locks and 'Escape'?

Today, I want to brag a little bit on my daughter and son-in-law.  They are incredibly creative people.  In real life, she's a labor-and-delivery nurse and he's a project manager.  However, they are also great cooks (him-BBQ, her-cupcakes to die for) and amazing party planners.

Have you heard about the 'Escape' events or rooms that have become popular?  Our area has a number of them and our kids have visited many, along with some of their good friends.  Usually, these involve some sort of theme and then clues to unlock the room and 'Escape'.  Recently, they decided to turn their whole house into a series of 'Escape' rooms and throw a Mystery Party for their friends to try it out.  My husband and I got a preview, along with our son-in-law's mother.  We decided that it was quite ingenious in many areas and we would have struggled for a long time to figure most parts out.

There was a theme and a video setting the stage - a murder had occurred.  Ten friends were invited and were emailed their 'character' details.  There were 6 suspects and 4 detectives.  The goal was to discover the Murderer and arrest that person.  Like a life-sized Clue Game, only with ciphers and locks and secrets.  See what you think:

Everyone is locked in!

After watching the video and setting the stage, clues will be found in the jigsaw puzzle.  Or maybe not!

Some hints were on the back of the wall decorations.

A map of select locations in Austin - pictures corresponding on the walls - make sure to follow in the right order...

The 'master' map showing all the rooms and the clues and locks.  Complicated, right?

The Library - clues maybe hanging from the ceiling or in the bookshelves - wait, some were on the dolls' feet!

Another view of the Library - a desk calendar was not to be overlooked...

A maze with a magnet and a key - my husband had no trouble deciphering how to retrieve the key.

The Theater had the maze, a recording to listen to for hints, and the chain on the floor.  That chain had to go out the window, drop down below to another window, and then the back door could be unlocked.

The Poker Room - all 4 walls were a 'word search' puzzle, plus the number of poker chips and the playing cards were also clues.

A rope puzzle box - I would never have untangled it.  Our son-in-law built all the wooden puzzles and mazes.

Giant decoder ring - can you figure out the cipher?

Solution was in this trunk - so, who was the murderer?  Only the detectives know!


The party went very well, I'm told.  Everyone had a great time!  It took about 4-1/2 hours and the participants arrested the wrong person - Ha! - however, gift cards were handed out as prizes.  Pictures were taken of each person in 'character' and the group is off to find their next 'Escape' adventure.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation - From Memoirs of a Geisha to Different Seasons

I'm here with Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. She chooses a book as a starting point and then links to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The starting book in this month's chain is one that I read many years ago with an online book group.  Seems like it was quite popular at the time - Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

I remember really liking this book and also learning a lot about a way of life that I knew nothing about.  A life in which women had few choices and many 'societal rules'.  

Connecting to women,  societal rules, few choices, I'm moving on to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.  Another book I discussed with a book group.  Setting her book in China, Lisa See tells a historical story of friendship and sorrow.  The foot binding descriptions were heartbreaking.

Also set in China is Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine.  This book is the first in an award-winning mystery series featuring Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police.  I read and discussed this one with our mystery book group a few years ago.  A lot of politics crowds the Inspector's investigation and it was quite an interesting story.

Another mystery set in China and a mystery book club selection was Eliot Pattison's The Skull Mantra.  Inspector Shan Tao Yun has been imprisoned in Tibet for having offended some high ranking officials in Beijing.  While there, he is called upon to investigate a murder.  This book won the 2000 Edgar Award for 'Best First Novel'.  It was well deserved.

Tana French won the 2008 Edgar Award for 'Best First Novel'.  Her debut book was In the Woods and it's the lead-off book for her Dublin Murder Squad series.  This is such a good book.  I've read it more than once and enjoyed it each and every time.  Telling the story of three children who get lost in the woods and then only one is found, it definitely deserved a 'Best First' award. 

Another debut thriller, The Chalk Man also tells of a group of kids who live in a small English village.  It's 1986 and all is well - and then it's not when they discover a body.  This book by C. J. Tudor is told in two time periods - 1986 and 2016.  The kids are grown, but the little chalk figures they used for secret messages have reappeared in their lives.  A very bad thing.

Our last link is to a novella in Stephen King's book, Different SeasonsThe Body is the story that the movie Stand By Me was based upon.  Again, we have a group of young friends and the search for a body.  This tale is being published for the first time as a stand-alone book this summer.  

I again had a great time creating a chain of books.  I never know where I might end up.  We've started with a book about Geishas and ended with a coming-of-age novella about 12-year-old boys looking for a body.  The connectors were 'Women, Societal Rules, Few Choices'; 'China'; 'Mystery Book Club Selections'; 'Edgar Award for Best First Novel'; 'Debut Thriller'; 'Group of Kids'; 'Search For a Body'.  And I've actually read most of these books.  Next month, May 5th, I'll be on a blog break, but I'll hope to be back for this event in June.   

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Blackhouse - Peter May

The Blackhouse by Peter May

First Paragraph(s):

They are just kids.  Sixteen years old.  Emboldened by alcohol, and hastened by the approaching Sabbath, they embrace the dark in search of love, and find only death.
     Unusually, there is just a light wind.  And for once it is warm, like breath on the skin, caressing and seductive.  A slight haze in the August sky hides the stars, but a three-quarter moon casts its pale, bloodless light across the compacted sand left by the outgoing tide.  The sea breathes gently upon the shore, phosphorescent foam bursting silver bubbles over gold.  The young couple hurries down the tarmac from the village above, blood pulsing in their heads like the beat of the waves.

My Thoughts:

This is not the first time I've read Peter May's The Blackhouse.  In fact, I think this might be the third or fourth time I've read it.  A couple of times in print and a couple on audio, narrated by Peter Forbes.  He does a great job.  I've mentioned more than once that I love this author's trilogy set on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  May will be 'Peter May' month for our mystery group.  Each of us will read a book or several books by the author and then, well, we'll talk about them.  I decided to fulfill part of my job as 'moderator' by immersing myself in the Isle of Lewis - audio style.  I've completed The Blackhouse and am on to The Lewis Man and then The Chessmen.

The Blackhouse tells of Detective Inspector Fin Macleod who returns to his home village in order to consult about a recent murder on the island.  Fin hasn't been back for 18 years.  Lewis contains a lot of memories, old friends and a special woman, and some deep, dark secrets from his youth.  As he investigates and questions the locals, along with DS George Gunn (great character, by the way), Fin is reminded of many things that he has tried to forget.  His marriage is definitely on the rocks and he and his wife in Edinburgh are dealing with the accidental death of their young son.  Fin is in a dark place in his head, but there are darker places still to discover.

Word of warning - this book contains a local custom or tradition of hunting a certain type of bird and killing large numbers of them.  Just so you know.  There are some fairly graphic descriptions of this, plus a number of violent crimes mentioned.  These islands are quite interesting to me and starkly beautiful.  I've included a video below that comes from Peter May's research on the Isle of Lewis.  A lovely musical accompaniment is Capercaillie's 'An Gille Ban'.  More info here on the author's website.  The music is haunting and perfect for this book.  Let me know what you think if you decide to read the book or just watch the video.  Peter May has also written a 'coffee table' type book entitled Hebrides.   It has the most gorgeous photographs and history.  These books are highly recommended.


When a grisly murder occurs on the Isle of Lewis that bears similarities to a brutal killing on the mainland, Edinburgh detective and native islander Fin Macleod is dispatched to the Outer Hebrides to investigate, embarking at the same time on a voyage into his own troubled past.

As Fin reconnects with the people and places of his tortured childhood, the desolate but beautiful island and its ancient customs once again begin to assert their grip on his psyche. Every step toward solving the case brings Fin closer to a dangerous confrontation with the dark events of the past that shaped--and nearly destroyed--his life.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Comforts of Home

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

A while back I read (or rather read/listened to) the 8 books that made up the Simon Serrailler mystery series.  I really liked most of the stories and thought that there might not be any more.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there will indeed be a 9th book.  It won't be published until the fall, but still...I'm so excited.  This week I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  November 20th

His last case put Simon Serrailler in mortal danger and left him confronting a new reality. Recovering on the remote Scottish island of Taransay, his peace doesn't last long. He must take on a murder inquiry for the local police who are struggling to deal with a massive terrorist incident. 

It's good to be back on the job. When Simon returns to Lafferton, an arsonist is on the rampage and a woman whose daughter disappeared some years before is haunting the police station seeking closure. She will not let it rest, and Simon is called in to do a cold-case review. 

At home, Simon is starting to get used to having a new brother-in-law - in the form of his Chief Constable Kieron Bright. His sister Cat has embarked on a new way of practicing medicine, and his nephew Sam is trying to work out what to do with his life. Their tricky father, Richard, is living in France with a new companion. But things change, as always, and in a way which does not make Cat's chief constable husband very happy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Sherlockian - Graham Moore

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

First Paragraph(s):

August 9, 1893

Arthur Conan Doyle curled his brow tightly and thought only of murder.
     'I'm going to kill him,' Conan Doyle said as he folded his arms across his broad frame.  High in the Swiss Alps, the air tickled Arthur's inch-thick mustache and seemed to blow straight through his ears.  Set far back on his head, Arthur's ears always appeared to be perking up, listening to something else, something distant and behind him.  For such a stocky man, he had a nose that was remarkably sharp.  His hair had only recently begun to gray, a process that Arthur couldn't help but wish along.  Though he was but thirty-three years of age, he was already a celebrated author.  An internationally acclaimed man of letters with light ocher hair would not do so well as a wizened one, now, would he?

My Thoughts:

The Sherlockian was the 3rd book I've read to fulfill my mystery group's April theme of Sherlock Holmes.  I listened to this book narrated by James Langton.  The Sherlockian was a different sort of tale.  Told in multiple time periods and taking the reader back and forth between scenes of Arthur Conan Doyle himself and a present day Sherlock enthusiast, it was interesting enough, but this book is probably my least favorite of the three I read for the theme.  Harold White has just been inducted into The Baker Street Irregulars, a society only open by invitation for serious Sherlock scholars.  He has heard about the 'missing diary' of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but never thought he would actually be hunting for it.  Doyle had 'killed' Holmes in print and then brought him back to life a few years later.  This missing diary supposedly reveals the 'why' that so many Sherlock scholars had puzzled over - plus, it would be worth millions in the present day.

I did enjoy the various cameos and mentions of other authors in the late 19th century time period.  Conan Doyle is investigating some crimes himself, along with his friend, Bram Stoker (yes, the creator of Dracula), searching for the murderer of several young women.  Stoker serves as 'Watson' to Doyle's 'Sherlock'.  Each chapter had a quote from a Sherlock story that was a clue for what would transpire within.  And there was a pretty extensive 'Author's Note' explaining more about where Graham Moore got his ideas, what was 'real' and what was not, along with several suggestions for further research.  This was the author's debut book.  He has since written a second book, The Last Days of Night, and he was also the screenwriter for The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing.  I did like that movie and may at some point try Moore's second book.  As for Sherlock, well, I think I've got some great books to share with the group.


In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective's next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning-crowds sported black armbands in grief-and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin.

Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had "murdered" Holmes in "The Final Problem," he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.... Or has it?

When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold-using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories-who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Dark Angel - Elly Griffiths

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

First Paragraph(s): 

'This grave has lain undisturbed for over two thousand years.'  Professor Angelo Morelli speaks directly to the camera.  'This countryside has been the scene of invasion and battle from the Neolithic times until the Second World War, when the German troops fought Italian partisans in the Liri Valley.  In all that time, this body has lain under the earth.  Now, we are going to exhume it.'

My Thoughts:

Elly Griffiths writes the Ruth Galloway mystery series and it is definitely one of my favorites right now.  The Dark Angel is the 10th book and, though I know it's not yet published here in the US (coming in May), it's been out in the UK since early February.  Which in my mind makes it fair game for reading and sharing.  Ruth has been asked to consult in Italy by a colleague she met quite a while back, Angelo Morelli.  Since she's been a little down emotionally because of various events, a trip is quickly planned that will include Ruth, her daughter, Kate; Ruth's friend, Shona, and her young son.  Parts of the trip go well.  And parts definitely do not.  There is an earthquake, someone is killed, and secrets that go back to World War II are revealed.

Meanwhile, we are also keeping up with what's going on in Norfolk and DCI Nelson's life.  A man that Nelson helped put in prison over a decade ago for murder has been released.  Nelson is warned about it because that individual threatened to get even with Nelson and others on the arresting team.  As the story shifts back and forth between settings, this reader was glued to the pages.  I know that some feel like there is a little too much personal life in many of these books, but I like revisiting all the characters we've come to know.  And this book contains a lot of that side of things.  I also enjoyed the World War II info and trivia and the bright, sunny Italian location.  I often feel that taking the characters out of their 'hometown' gives a series a boost and allows an author to bring in new challenges.  I was very pleased with The Dark Angel and will once again be eagerly anticipating the next Ruth Galloway mystery.   


It’s not every day that you’re summoned to the Italian countryside on business, so when archaeologist Angelo Morelli asks for Ruth Galloway’s help identifying bones found in the tiny hilltop town of Fontana Liri, she jumps at the chance to go, bringing her daughter along with her for a working vacation. Upon arriving, she begins to hear murmurs of Fontana Liri’s strong resistance movement during World War II and senses the townspeople are dancing around a deeply buried secret. But how could that be connected to the ancient remains she’s been studying?

Ruth is just beginning to get her footing in the dig when she’s thrown off-guard by the appearance of DCI Nelson. And when Ruth’s findings lead them to a modern-day murder, their holidays are both turned upside down, and they race to find out what darkness is lurking in this seemingly picturesque town.