Friday, September 28, 2018

Bookish Nostalgia - September 2018

Welcome to Bookish Nostalgia for September 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:

September 1998 - Dove in the Window by Earlene Fowler - I loved the 15-book mystery series that Earlene Fowler wrote from the years 1994-2011.  The Benni Harper books, set in San Celina, California, and all named for quilt patterns.  Dove in the Window is the 5th book.  I was fortunate enough to get to see Earlene at an author event a few years ago in Arizona.  And I was happy to tell her how much I had loved her books.  Wish she was still writing them. 

September 2003 - Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah - This author is one that has come to great acclaim in recent years with her books The Nightingale and The Great Alone.  I haven't read either of those, though they are on my massive TBR.  I read many of her books back 15+ years ago and Distant Shores is one that I enjoyed very much.  She has a way of telling about women and their lives that is very comforting. 

September 2008 - Counting On Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop - I'm finding that many of the books I read in 2008 are ones suggested to me by my co-workers at the library during that year.  I was working with several younger people who were getting their MLS degrees and they kept suggesting books for me to try.  Counting On Grace is by an author that you might know better as the author of The Castle in the Attic.  In 1910, Grace goes to work with her mother in the textile mill to be a 'doffer' for her mother's loom.  This job is best done by right-handed individuals and Grace is left-handed - there are mistakes.  The story tells of the early days of outrage about children working at such a young age.  It's a really, really good juvenile fiction tale.

September 2013 - The Stand by Stephen King - Last book I'll mention today is one of my favorite books ever, ever.  I first read The Stand when it was originally published in 1978.  I was in my senior year of college and I can still remember how it gripped me.  Good vs. evil - told in a very different way from what I had read before.  In 2013, I listened to it for the first time.  Again, I loved it.  I've been meaning to read it again at some point because I put it on my Classics list.  I though that 2018 would be the year, but I'll probably push it back to 2019.  Have you read The Stand?  Yes, it's long and it's very good.


And so we end this month's Bookish Nostalgia.  Hope you'll join me again next month to see what October books I remember from my journals.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - Trust Me - Hank Phillippi Ryan

Guppy Book of the Month

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

An accused killer insists she's innocent of a heinous murder.
A grieving journalist surfaces from the wreckage of her shattered life.
Their unlikely alliance leads to a dangerous cat and mouse game that will leave you breathless.

Who can you trust when you can't trust yourself? 

There are three sides to every story. Yours. Mine. And the truth.

And here's a little bit more about the story...taken from this author's website (media kit for Trust Me):

Trust Me begins with an introduction to a grieving journalist, Mercer Hennessey, trying to find a way to overcome her pain, and maybe even surface from the wreckage of her shattered life. She warily accepts an assignment to write the true-crime account of a riveting trial—much like the media-crazy Casey Anthony case that kept the country mesmerized and glued to the trial reporting. Did a beautiful young mother really commit the ultimate heinous murder?

The defendant insists upon her innocence, and Mercer, despite her intentions, begins to get sucked into the defendant’s story, getting closer and closer to the accused killer. But as she, and we, are compelled to find out what really happened, we see how perceptions can be upended, and that nobody may be trustworthy—even ourselves.

Photo by Iden Ford

Hank Phillippi Ryan is an on-air investigative reporter for Boston's WHDH-TV, winning 34 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. The nationally bestselling author of 10 mysteries, Ryan's also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, three Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. 

On top of all else going on in this wonderful author's life, she is a gifted auctioneer at many mystery conventions.  In fact, Hank is the person who encouraged me to bid and bid and bid on the Guppy Book of the Month prize.  She just kept saying 'and a little more, a little more, a little...'.  Finally, the very nice woman who was bidding against me threw in the towel and I won!  I have been most delighted with my books and was thrilled to receive a very kind note in my copy of Trust Me.  It feels good to support a great cause and also get so many fun books!

My deepest thanks to Hank Phillippi Ryan, who has remained involved with the Guppies and encourages writers everywhere.  She really pays attention to questions and gives of herself and her expertise.  Best wishes on the success of Trust Me!  I am hearing such good things and reading wonderful reviews - TRUST ME...


Oh, one more little tidbit I'll share or rather show.  Look at the book cover below and see if you can make out a hidden word when Trust Me is turned on it's side...do you see it?  Share below if you see something!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Into the Night

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.

The book I'm waiting on this week is the second book by the author.  I read her debut novel, The Dark Lake, earlier this year and liked it for the most part.  I certainly liked it enough to check out this one, #2 in the Gemma Woodstock series.  This week, I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  December 4th

With murders of the Melbourne's elite on the rise, Gemma Woodstock reveals a shocking secret at the center of a tight-knit group's rise to power.

Troubled and brilliant, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock finds herself lost and alone after a recent move to Melbourne, broken-hearted by the decisions she's had to make. Her new workplace is a minefield and the partner she has been assigned is uncommunicative and often hostile. When a homeless man is murdered and Gemma is put on the case, she can't help feeling a connection with the victim and the lonely and isolated life he led despite being in the middle of a bustling city.

Then a movie star is killed in bizarre circumstances on the set of a major film shoot, and Gemma and her partner Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet have to put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries surrounding the actor's life and death. Who could commit such a brazen crime and who stands to profit from it? Far too many people, and none of them can be trusted.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Let the Dead Rest - J. P. Choquette

Let the Dead Rest by J. P. Choquette

First Paragraph(s):

The doorbell pealed, a tumbling chime of notes that finished several long minutes before I opened the heavy old door.  A small box lay on the mat, covered in brown paper.  It was addressed to me in beautiful cursive.  There was no return address.  I looked up to wave at the delivery driver, to thank him for his trip up the treacherous drive, but his truck was already gone.
     Cold air tangled in my hair and twined around my ankles.  Shadows of the leaves overhead danced across the surface of the package.  The box was about twelve inches long and half as wide.  I turned it over in my hands, but there were no other markings on it.  I went back inside and closed the door before Sampson escaped.
     I carried the box to the kitchen counter.  The wide pine boards were warm under my bare feet and sunlight fell in slanted beams across the old room.  With scissors, I cut away the paper and then slit the tape that held the cardboard box closed.  The paper fell away.  Inside the box lay a note, in the same beautiful cursive, on top of a mound of packing peanuts.
     'To Isabel.'

My Thoughts:

J. P. Choquette's new book was perfect for my first read of this fall's R.I.P. XIII Challenge.  Just take a look at that cover with the 'creepy doll'!  Yes, I am rather fascinated with creepy dolls - all the way from Betty Ren Wright's The Dollhouse Murders (which I read to my daughter when she was in elementary school) to Hallie Ephron's You'll Never Know Dear (which I talked about last year here).  Also, what is it about the woods of New England, Vermont in particular?  There are always spooky houses and rustling leaves and winds that whip around.  There are secrets and hidden things and perhaps a little gravestone.  Have I piqued your interest yet?  Good - let me tell you more.

Told in two time periods, Let the Dead Rest, gives us Etta in the 1940's and Isabel in the present day.  Both live in the same area, though I'm not sure it's in the same house.  Etta has been waiting for her young man to return from WWII.  They have plans to be married and settle down to raise sweet children.  Isabel is a loner.  She took care of her parents until they died and her only brother lives across the country with his family.  He has been encouraging Isabel to get out more or perhaps sell their childhood home and move closer.  Isabel is an artist who creates dolls.  She has a studio in her home and she's recently been told that her work will be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It's her life's dream and she's very busy trying to get ready for that show.  Into the lives of both of these women comes Gerda, a doll that might or might not be haunted in some way.  Certainly, things are about to change, not necessarily for the better.  And that's all I'll say about the plot. 

I've been talking a bit with J. P., the author, as she's commented on my blog here and others as well.  I was pleased when she did a guest post a few weeks ago about 'taphophilia', a very interesting topic it turned out.  Now I know what she ponders as she walks through her Vermont woods - all sorts of Gothic things.  Ha!  I liked the duality of this story and figured out a few things, but not all.  I also liked the info about creating dolls and decided that the research involved must have been really involved and also fascinating.  So, will I read more of her books?  Definitely.  This one get two thumbs up for spookiness!


Some secrets are better left buried…

In 1944, Etta Hayes is nineteen and over-the-moon in love with her recently returned soldier. She dreams of having babies, a little house and a white picket fence. But the doll her fiancĂ© brought back from overseas casts an eerie shadow over their lives. As she digs into the doll’s past, Etta learns the horrible secrets it contains. Secrets she wished she’d never gone looking for.

When present-day artist, Isabel Joven, receives a mysterious vintage doll, she’s intrigued. But then sinister things begin to occur in her rambling farmhouse deep in rural Vermont. And Isabel begins to question every truth she’s ever believed.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Vacation Reading and Listening...short thoughts...

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I read a bunch of books on our vacation to New Mexico.  I'm going to try to share a few short thoughts about them.  I won't do full reviews, but if you are interested, please go check them out at your local library.  Several of these were audiobooks or read/listen combos.  Here we go:

Black Rabbit Hall - Eve Chase

First sentence:  I feel safe on the cliff edge, safer than in the house, anyway.

I read this author's second book, The Wildling Sisters, earlier this year and liked it a lot.  I also liked Black Rabbit Hall very much.  It was quite the Gothic tale, told in two time periods.  Loved that.  Amber is in the past and Lorna is in the present.  This would have been a good choice for R.I.P.  Family secrets, an old house on the Cornwall coast, what's not to like?  Narrated by several, this one is recommended.

Girl Last Seen - Nina Laurin

First sentence:  The night is so bright it hurts her eyes.

Another debut novel, this one tells of two girls who went missing over thirteen years apart.  The main character, Lainey, escaped from her kidnapper.  Now another girl has been taken.  Lainey has been messed up ever since she was found.  Lots of self-destructive behavior, but certainly not unexpected.  The story definitely held my interest.  Narrated by Vanessa Johansson.  Another book by this author, What My Sister Knew, has recently been published.

The Fate of Mercy Alban - Wendy Webb

First sentence:  People were gathering at Alban House for the family's annual summer solstice party--a happy occasion.

Another book that would make a good R.I.P. choice, this story involves Grace Alban returning to her childhood home upon the death of her mother.  Her teenage daughter is with her and they find a lot of things that they didn't expect.  There are secrets, of course, and hidden passages and a family curse.  Yes, there's that Gothic element again.  I read another book by this author earlier this year, The End of Temperance Dare.  I fully intend to sample her other two books and then another will be published later this fall.  Yay!  Narrated by Kirsten Potter.

Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle

First sentence:  My phone is already buzzing with work email as I rush Ethan through his morning routine.

I've read other books by this author and so I was prepared to like this one.  I did, with some reservations.  I will say that the end of the book, the last few sentences, were quite chilling to me.  Anyway, narrated by Vanessa Johansson and Sarah Naughton, it's about a couple of families and another missing/kidnapped child - a boy this time.  Kat Jenkins is woken by the police telling her that Ethan, her 9-year-old, has disappeared on a school camping trip.  Ethan is a highly intelligent child that suffers a bit (or more than bit) of bullying at his school.  We also get to know another mother, Stef, the wife of the mayor of Atlanta.  Her son was also on the trip.  I liked this, but got quite frustrated with both mothers.  However, I wanted to know how it ended.  Not my favorite of this author's books, but good enough.

Bonfire - Krysten Ritter

First sentence:  My last year of high school, when Kaycee Mitchell and her friends got sick, my father had a bunch of theories.

I'll be the first to admit that I tried this book because I've watched Krysten Ritter's portrayal of TV's Jessica Jones.  I was rather fascinated with the idea that she had written a thriller.  It was pretty good.  Narrated by Karissa Vacker, we read how Abby Williams comes back to her small Indiana hometown with a group of lawyers checking into reports that a local manufacturer is behind some water problems.  What we actually know is that Abby wants to find out about what happened after her childhood friend disappeared (or left) after high school.  I was absorbed in the story.  As I said - it wasn't bad.  I'll be curious to hear if Krysten Ritter pens another novel.

The Late Show - Michael Connelly

First sentence:  Ballard and Jenkins rolled up on the house on El Centro shortly before midnight.

This is the first book by Michael Connelly that I've read (or rather listened to).  Narrated by Katherine Moennig, it's also the first in a possible new series by Connelly - the Renee Ballard series.  And it was our Mystery Book Group read for September.  My husband and I both listened to this one as we drove to New Mexico.  I think we both liked it, though it did start out a little slow.  If you don't know Michael Connelly, he writes the Harry Bosch books, as well as the Mickey Haller series.  There will be a Ballard/Bosch novel called Dark Sacred Night coming out in late October.  I'm planning on reading that one.  I liked Renee Ballard.  She definitely goes her own way and doesn't always 'follow the rules'.  She has a great dog, Lola.  Recommended!

Twisted River - Siobhan Macdonald

First sentence:  She would never have fit as neatly into the trunk of his own car.

How's that for a first sentence?  This one was told from the viewpoint of four different characters and also narrated by four people.  I liked that.  It was a house swap story (and published in 2016, so not new).  One couple from Limerick, Ireland and one from New York.  Bad things definitely happen to both couples.  Lots and lots of secrets.  Stuff you didn't expect.  I thought I had this one figured out early on.  Trust me - I did not.  I don't think this author has written another book since, but I'll be watching if she does.


Think that covers it.  As I said, if you think any of these sound good, try your library.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Day of the Dead - Nicci French

The Day of the Dead by Nicci French

First Paragraph(s):

It was a Monday morning, it was bright, it was warm, too warm for late autumn, and Charlotte Beck was about to experience the one really dramatic thing that would happen to her in her entire life.  She wasn't ready for it.  She didn't feel ready for anything.
     She was maneuvering a chaotic little group up Heath Street, as she did every weekday.  She was steering a buggy containing ten-month-old Lulu.  On her left side two-and-a-half-year-old Oscar was pushing himself on a little scooter.  Round her right wrist was one end of a dog lead and the other end was attached to a black Labrador puppy called Suki.  Everything looked like it was in fog, but it wasn't real fog.  It was the fog of tiredness that had hung stolidly over Charlotte's world for the previous six months.  Lulu didn't sleep at night.  She shouted and she screamed and nothing helped, nothing that Charlotte tried, nothing that the experts recommended.
     Instead Lulu slept during the day.  She was asleep now, contentedly under a blanket in her buggy, a pacifier lodged in her mouth.  Every so often, Charlotte leaned over to peer at her.  She looked peaceful and angelic.  It was difficult to believe that that smooth little face with its long eyelashes and pink cheeks could do so much damage to a grown woman.  Charlotte felt so tired that it hurt.  Her eyes were stinging with it, her skin felt stretched, her joints were aching.  She was only thirty-one.  It couldn't be arthritis, could it?  Could lack of sleep damage your bones?  It felt like it.

My Thoughts:

I was greatly anticipating and also sort of dreading this eighth book in the Frieda Klein series.  It's written by husband/wife team, Sean French and Nicci Gerard.  I have so enjoyed each and every one of the books that relate the journey of psychologist Frieda and her varied group of friends and colleagues.  A story that also has included that most twisted and creepy character, Dean Reeve.  I put off reading it and then dived in and read it slowly, ever so slowly.

I really enjoyed The Day of the Dead.  Frieda doesn't actually enter the tale for a while.  She has gone into hiding because she wants to protect her loved ones, friends, colleagues.  That most evil man, Dean Reeve, has a way of 'keeping Frieda from harm', but also ridding her of anyone he suspects she loves.  The story here begins with a very odd car accident - a car that is piloted by a man that seems to be dead.  And we go on from that point.

So, was I pleased?  Yes, I was.  Did Nicci French tie up all the ends?  Mostly.  Did we get to visit with all the characters that I wanted to check in with?  Yep.  Am I beyond eager to see what this writing duo has next for us as readers?  Can't wait.  Am I tempted to go back and reread all of the Frieda books?  Oh, yes.  May just do that over the winter.  This series is highly recommended.   


A decade ago, psychologist Frieda Klein was sucked into the orbit of Dean Reeve -- a killer able to impersonate almost anyone, a man who can disappear without a trace, a psychopath obsessed with Frieda herself.

In the years since, Frieda has worked with -- and sometimes against -- the London police in solving their most baffling cases. But now she's in hiding, driven to isolation by Reeve. When a series of murders announces his return, Frieda must emerge from the shadows to confront her nemesis. And it's a showdown she might not survive.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - Exacting Justice - T.G. Wolff

Guppy Book of the Month

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

1st in the De La Cruz Case Files

In the war on drugs, a deadly new front has opened… 

An unknown killer is waging a war on drugs. The murders are horrendous but with a silver lining—now stop signs are the only objects lingering on corners in the city’s toughest neighborhoods. Half the city calls for the police to end the killer’s reign. The other half cheers the killer on, denouncing the tactics but celebrating the progress police haven’t been able to achieve.

The gritty details of Cleveland’s drug underworld are nothing new to Homicide Detective Jesus De La Cruz. Two years earlier, Cruz worked undercover narcotics and was poised for a promotion that would have placed him in a coveted position within the drug organization. The deal went bad. Now he has a new face, a new job, and a new case.

The killer moves through the streets with impunity, identity still unknown. Demands for progress from his superiors, accumulated grief of the victim’s relatives, growing pressure from the public, and elevated stress from his family quietly pull Cruz apart. With no out, the detective moves all in, putting his own head on the line to bait a killer.

Image from Down & Out Books

T.G. Wolff is an author, but she's also a very busy civil engineer.  She writes in her spare time after spending her days trying to work at keeping our water clean and our communities safe.  She says that she knows she's not a cop or a lawyer, but she likes to give us a puzzle to solve.  She creates the crime, and then works backwards to give us the clues to solve it.  I love that because I know that I often read mysteries for the puzzle and I tend to analyze a lot as I go along.  I suspect I'll enjoy T.G.'s style of writing.  Exacting Justice is her first book, I believe.

T.G. wrote me a very kind note thanking me for being the winner of the 'Guppy' prize.  She also sent along a great carrier bag for 'all your great books'.  The bag includes a very cool logo of a 'wolf'.  Thanks so much for the book and bag, T.G.!  And best of luck in your writing!  Can't wait to 'solve the puzzle'!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Clockmaker's Daughter

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 really excited about this week's book and it's an author that fits in very well with the R.I.P. Challenge.  Many of her books have a real Gothic feel.  I've read maybe 3 or 4 of them and would like to catch up on her backlist.  This week, I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  October 9th

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Not That I Could Tell - Jessica Strawser

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

First Paragraph(s):

Ever wonder what your friends really think of you?
     I take a lot of care in my appearance, for instance.  I'm a small-town doctor's wife, so I need to look the part--even if I don't feel the part.  And I have twins enrolled in pre-K at a charter school so obsessed with freethinking it will shove free thoughts down your throat.  So I make sure it's obvious to everyone there what happy, healthy, cherished little people my kids are.  I never forget to dress in their pajamas for pajama day.  I always sign up to bring the most elaborate snacks to the class parties.  I help other moms in the parking lot when their pumpkin seats jam or their strollers collapse.  I make a point of knowing all their names.
     You probably think I care a lot what my friends think.
     I don't.
     None of this charade is for them.
     It's no great accomplishment to get someone to believe a lie.  It's not that hard, really.  Look at me: doctor's wife, working mom, good neighbor.  You've already summed me up, haven't you?  You're already filling in the blanks.

My Thoughts:

This is another audio from my library - my hold finally became available.  I read Jessica Strawser's first book, Almost Missed You, last year and liked it.  I knew that this one had been a 'Book of the Month' pick, so I decided to try it too.  Some of the set-up was familiar - neighborhood women friends - kids are playmates - secrets told or not - and then, someone is gone.  The police step in - lots of questions - how well do we know each other - what's being hidden - more secrets.  The audio was narrated by Erin Bennett.  She did a good job.  And I did like the story, though I guessed a lot - not quite all though.

I liked the characters that Jessica Strawser sets in this suburban Ohio neighborhood, the women, the kids, one of the men.  The wink at the preschool/charter school dynamics was funny and probably way too true - the gossip, the over-the-top requirements and 'rules'.  There was a lot of relationship talk - between the friends, the spouses, the individual women's families growing up, some of their sisters - all was believable to me.  The case of the woman who is gone, along with her kids, is investigated and then becomes cold.  It's hard to know if foul play is involved - possibly.  Eventually, there are a few real surprises.  And answers.  I was satisfied.  And, yes, I'll be reading this author's next book, which will come out in the spring. 


When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Sixes - Kate White

The Sixes by Kate White

First Paragraph(s):

Something wasn't right.  She sensed it as soon as she began to walk across the quad that night.  The weather was practically balmy, weird for late October, and yet the air carried the pungent smell of wood smoke.  But that wasn't the reason things seemed strange to her.  It was the deserted pathways.  Though Phoebe wasn't really used to the place yet, she expected to find more than just a few people crossing campus at eight o'clock on a Friday night.
     She'd veered left, planning to exit through the eastern gate, when with a start she discovered where everyone was.  About forty people--both students and faculty--were congregated in front of Curry Hall.  In the two months she'd been at Lyle College, she'd noticed that kids often relaxed outside this particular dorm, tossing Frisbees or lolling on the slope of the balding lawn, but tonight everyone was standing, their arms folded and their backs stiff, as if poised for news.
     As she drew closer, she saw what was drawing their attention: two campus police, as well as a local town cop, were speaking to an auburn-haired girl who appeared to be fighting back tears.  The dean of students--Tom something--was there, too, head lowered and listening intently to the girl.

My Thoughts:

I've been having a good time checking out older audios from my library.  I ran across The Sixes recently and remembered that I wanted to try another book by Kate White.  I also remembered that I was hoping I'd like the protagonist a bit better than the one in her book I read previously, The Secrets You Keep.  It was a win-win for me.  Narrated by Jennifer Cohn, The Sixes did indeed keep my interest.  And I did indeed like Phoebe Hall.  She begins teaching at Lyle College after being accused of plagiarizing in her latest book.  Phoebe's old roommate from boarding school is the president of the small college and offers her an opportunity to take a break.  Of course, who knew that a young female student would turn up dead?  Or that there was a secret group of women, known as 'The Sixes', who take the 'mean girls' designation to catastrophic levels.

Even though the story here was not completely new, I did race through the book.  It's an older one, published in 2011, and so some of the 'ripped from the headlines' parts were familiar.  I liked Phoebe and, though she had a tendency to ask questions and dig until she put herself in danger, the campus police and local cops were not terribly responsive.  In fact, they might be part of the problem.  It was hard to know who might be involved in the crimes.  There were lots of possibilities and the author shared just enough to make it possible that the perpetrator could be one of several.  I guessed a few things and missed a few.  If I run across another of Kate White's books, I'll try it.  I had a good time with this one. 


Phoebe Hall’s Manhattan life is unexpectedly derailed off the fast track when her long-term boyfriend leaves her just as she is accused of plagiarizing her latest bestselling celebrity biography.  Looking for a quiet place to pick up the pieces, Phoebe jumps at the offer to teach in a sleepy Pennsylvania town at a small private college run by her former boarding school roommate and close friend, Glenda Johns.  But behind the campus’s quiet cafes and looming maple trees lie evil happenings. The body of a coed washes up from the nearby river, and soon hidden secrets begin to surface among the students: rumors of past crimes and abuses wrought by a disturbing secret society known as The Sixes.

Determined to find answers and help Glenda, Phoebe embarks on a search for clues – a quest that soon raises dark memories of her boarding school days.  Plunging deeper into danger with every step, Phoebe knows she’s close to unmasking a killer.  But with the truth comes a deeply terrifying revelation: the past can’t be outrun… and starting over can be a crime punishable by death.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Blackbird Season - Kate Moretti

The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti

First Paragraph(s):

The day the birds fell, I dealt the tower card.  Everyone always said to never read your own cards, but who...was gonna read mine?
     People believe, though.  I don't, but other people do.  I was more interested in the idea that there was magic in the world at all.  I found a book in the library and I've been reading my own cards every morning since.  But two things happened at once, two days in a row, and you should know about them.  First, I found a blackbird, just like the others.  Perfect.  Smooth.  Soft. Like it has just stopped breathing.  Except, this one had a hole where its left eye should have been.  I've never seen that before.  The next day, I did a reading and dealt the tower card, the one with that one-eyed raven on it.  And then, just when I thought the world was mocking me, it rained starlings.
     I try not to believe in signs.  But sometimes they're just so...obvious.

My Thoughts:

The Blackbird Season is the second book I've read by Kate Moretti.  Last year, I read The Vanishing Year and I fully intend to read her brand new one, In Her Bones.  I saw on another review someone mentioned that black birds and tarot cards were a part of several books they had read recently.  That applies to me as well.  Interesting how certain things seem to trend a bit, even if the books are published at different times or in different years.  In any case, yes, this book does involve some black birds - it begins with a bunch of birds (hundreds) falling on a baseball field during a game.  A curious occurrence and one that had to be investigated.  Naturally, the press is involved and while there, one of the reporters discovers another story - the high school baseball coach embracing a female student.  Later, that same student goes missing.

As in this author's first book I read, the characters are certainly flawed and many are hard to like or sympathize with.  However, I was sympathetic to the plight of this Pennsylvania town.  The main industry, a paper mill, closed, the mall is dying, the kids just want to get out and move away.  The baseball team is still thriving with a star pitcher, but now the coach is in trouble.  He and his wife have had problems and struggles, especially since their 5-year-old son was diagnosed on the spectrum.  Another friend and teacher has lost her husband to cancer and is trying to adjust to widowhood.  The story is told from the viewpoints of four characters: the coach, the coach's wife, the other teacher friend, and the missing girl.  As I listened to this on audio, it was very clear who was speaking.  It was narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Gibson Frazier, Joy Ozmanski, and Rebekah Ross and well done.

The tale meanders around a bit, but in the end, the solution was not unexpected to me.  There were enough clues to discern who and what and why.  I don't think I liked this one quite as much as The Vanishing Year, but I'll be trying In Her Bones.  Kate Moretti has a way of making the reader want to find out what's to come.   


In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.

Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Under a Dark Sky - Lori Rader-Day

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day

First Paragraph(s):

A few years ago

In the dim of the truck's dashboard lights, Bix's hand reached toward the steering wheel.  'Hold on a second,' he said.
     'At ease, soldier.' I swatted him away and kept my eyes on the road.  We'd already had this argument back in the parking lot of the bar where we'd met the guy from his old unit and his wife.  Out of earshot, of course, closing ranks.  He usually drove--he couldn't stand to be a passenger--but he'd had one too many at dinner.  Three too many.  Even so, I'd had to go low to get the keys from him.  You get a DUI, I'd said.  I'll have to drive you everywhere for a year.  I didn't know if that's how it went or not, but neither did he, and also he was drunk.
     'Take a nap or something,' I said.
     'Pull over.'

My Thoughts:

When I first heard about this book while I was at Malice Domestic this spring, I knew I'd be reading it.  I've read and enjoyed other books by this author.  However, I was also fascinated to hear that it was set in a 'dark sky park' - a type of park that I didn't even know existed.  Lori has modeled the park in her story after the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, Michigan.  A dark sky park is a place committed to protecting and preserving 'natural darkness'.  So, no artificial light and areas set aside to be able to view the sky 'naturally'.  Lori also provides a link to the International Dark-Sky Association and how to find one of these areas.  All the information regarding stars and this type of recreation area was really interesting.  The mystery was also quite good.

Lori Rader-Day does an excellent job of writing about women who have had trials and serious challenges in their lives.  Then she sets them into complicated situations with others and, of course, there is always a crime.  Eden Wallace is just such a woman and her life has certainly had some recent trials.  After losing her husband, she discovers that he had planned a trip to a dark sky park for their anniversary.  What he didn't know was that Eden would become dark-phobic.  She rarely sleeps (which messes up your mind completely, by the way) and has turned her life upside down in order to 'keep the lights on'.  So why would she go?  And who are all these other people who are also staying in the guest house?  Why does one of them end up dead in the middle of the night?  Well, you'll have to read this book to find out.

I liked the protagonist, though it was a bit hard to understand her thinking at times.  I couldn't help but sympathize and want to help her.  The other characters ran the gamut from highly annoying to OK-ish.  I wanted Eden to get better, to recover from her phobia, to move on with her life and find some joy.  First of all though, she had to survive not only the dark, but also the investigation by the local police, who seemed a bit clueless about how to catch a murderer.  In the end, I was well pleased.  And I'll definitely be watching for Lori's next book.  Recommended!


Only in the dark can she find the truth . . .

Since her husband died, Eden Wallace's life has diminished down to a tiny pinprick, like a far-off star in the night sky. She doesn't work, has given up on her love of photography, and is so plagued by night terrors that she can't sleep without the lights on. Everyone, including her family, has grown weary of her grief. So when she finds paperwork in her husband's effects indicating that he reserved a week at a dark sky park, she goes. She's ready to shed her fear and return to the living, even if it means facing her paralyzing phobia of the dark.

But when she arrives at the park, the guest suite she thought was a private retreat is teeming with a group of twenty-somethings, all stuck in the orbit of their old college friendships. Horrified that her get-away has been taken over, Eden decides to head home the next day. But then a scream wakes the house in the middle of the night. One of the friends has been murdered. Now everyone—including Eden—is a suspect.

Everyone is keeping secrets, but only one is a murderer. As mishaps continue to befall the group, Eden must make sense of the chaos and lies to evade a ruthless killer—and she'll have to do it before dark falls…

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Silver Anniversary Murder

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.

The author I'm featuring this week, Leslie Meier, is someone whose books I've been reading for a really long time - since the early 1990's.  This week's book is the 25th in her Lucy Stone series and it has an appropriately 25th-ish title.  I met Leslie at the Malice Domestic mystery convention last year and talked about that experience here.  I told her that her first book, Mistletoe Murder, was on my 'comfort' list and that I'd read it several times because it always made me feel good.  She was very kind and thanked me for telling her.  This week I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  September 25th

Much has happened since Leslie Meier first introduced her beloved sleuth Lucy Stone with Mistletoe Murder. Many holidays and bake sales have come and gone, Lucy’s children have all grown up. But even after twenty-four books into the bestselling series, murder is never out of the picture . . .

As Tinker’s Cove, Maine, buzzes over a town-wide silver wedding anniversary bash, Lucy is reminded of her nuptials and ponders the whereabouts of Beth Gerard, her strong-willed maid of honor. Lucy never would have made it down the aisle without Beth’s help, and although the two friends lost touch over the years, she decides to reach out. It only takes one phone call for Lucy to realize that a reunion will happen sooner than later—at Beth’s funeral.

Beth, who was in the process of finalizing her fourth divorce, had a reputation for living on the edge—but no one can believe she would jump off a penthouse terrace in New York City. The more Lucy learns about Beth’s former husbands, the more she suspects one of them committed murder. 

Summoning her friend’s impulsive spirit, Lucy vows to scour New York from the Bronx to the Brooklyn Bridge in search of the killer. With each ex dodgier than the last, it’s not long before Lucy’s investigation leads her to a desperate criminal who will do anything to get away—even if it means silencing another victim . . .  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Game For All the Family - Sophie Hannah

A Game For All the Family by Sophie Hannah

First Paragraph(s):

The people I'm about to meet in my new life, if they're anything like the ones I'm leaving behind, will ask as soon as they can get away with it.  In my fantasy, they don't have faces or names, only voices--raised, but not excessively so; determinedly casual.
     What do you do?
     Does anyone still add 'for a living' to the end of that question?  It sounds stupidly old-fashioned.
     I hope they miss out the 'living' bit, because this has nothing to do with how I plan to fund my smoked-salmon-for-breakfast habit.  I want my faceless new acquaintances to care only about how I spend my time and define myself--what I believe to be the point of me.  That's why I need the question to arrive in its purest form.
     I have the perfect answer: one word long, with plenty of space around it.

My Thoughts:

A Game For All the Family is the first book I've read by Sophie Hannah.  She's an author that has been on my TBR list for a really long time.  She's also the author that the Agatha Christie family gave permission to continue the Hercule Poirot series (not sure how I feel about that, but I've not read any of the books).  She has a long-running crime series featuring two police detectives.  I ran across this book on my library's website on audio and decided to try it as my first Sophie Hannah book.

And this may have been one of the oddest books I've ever read.  First of all, the narration was good.  There were three narrators - Lucinda Clare, Fiona Hardingham and Gavin Stenhouse.  No issues with that.  Billed as a 'psychological thriller with an unforgettable ending', it was the story of a family who leaves London and moves away when the mother decides to 'do nothing' or rather just not work any longer.  There is a 13-year-old daughter and a husband who is an opera singer.  Told with scenes from the life of this family and also as a story, purportedly written by the daughter for a school assignment, the narrative switches back and forth.  The daughter's story is about a family with three children - all girls - one a murderer.  Meanwhile, in real life, the mother starts receiving threatening calls from a woman who tells her to return to London or else she and her family will regret it.  Oh, and the daughter's best friend at school, a boy named George, has been expelled, but the school head says he doesn't exist.  That's all I'll say about the plot.

It was hard for the reader to know which way was up or down or sideways.  The fictional school assignment had the strangest family - the sort of people who would be in a Miss Perigrine book, without the unique abilities.  The reader can't decide if that story is real or has real elements.  Plus, is there a George?  I decided to just go along for the ride and see how it all played out.  I liked it well enough that I'll definitely read another book by Sophie Hannah.  However, I could see why it got mixed reviews.  Let me know if you've read this one.  I'm curious about other opinions.


You thought you knew who you were. A stranger knows better.

You’ve left the city—and the career that nearly destroyed you—for a fresh start on the coast. But trouble begins when your daughter withdraws, after her new best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school.

You beg the principal to reconsider, only to be told that George hasn’t been expelled. Because there is, and was, no George.

Who is lying? Who is real? Who is in danger? Who is in control? As you search for answers, the anonymous calls begin—a stranger, who insists that you and she share a traumatic past and a guilty secret. And then the caller threatens your life. . . .

This is Justine’s story. This is Justine’s family. This is Justine’s game. But it could be yours.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Emma in the Night - Wendy Walker

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

First Paragraph(s):

According to the Greek myth, Narcissus was a hunter who was exceptionally beautiful and proud.  He was so proud, in fact, that he rejected anyone who tried to love him.  Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, decided to punish Narcissus.  She lured him to a pool of water where he was able to see his own reflection.  He fell madly in love with himself and stared at his reflection until he died.

We believe what we want to believe.  We believe what we need to believe.  Maybe there's no difference between wanting and needing.  I don't know.  What I do know is that the truth can evade us, hiding behind our blind spots, our preconceptions, our hungry hearts that long for quiet.  Still, it is always there if we open our eyes and try to see it.  If we really try to see.

My Thoughts:

As you can see above, the first part of this book tells the reader of the Greek myth about Narcissus.  I always thought it was kind of humorous - falling in love with one's reflection - but in Emma in the Night - scary!  Two sisters disappear.  After three years, the younger sister shows up again.  The FBI had been involved with the original event and the same forensic psychiatrist returns, along with her partner, to determine what happened.  Dr. Abby Winter knows about girls who are raised in homes where someone might have narcissistic personality disorder.  She wrote her thesis on that mental illness.  And she's not sure exactly what happened here, but she's going to find out.

I remember hearing about this book when it was originally published last summer.  I ran across it on the library audio list and decided to listen to it narrated by Julia Whelen and Therese Plummer (both very good).  Told from the viewpoints of Dr. Winter and also Cass Tanner, the sister that returns, the reader isn't sure what is what or who is telling any sort of truth.  And then the story turns upside down.  Where is Emma?  Where has Cass been all this time?  I was really caught up in the story and guessed one thing and then another.  It was definitely a book that was hard to put down or quit listening.  Very compelling - I liked it a lot.  Now to wait and see what Wendy Walker writes next. 


One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Story of a New Name - Elena Ferrante

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

First Paragraph(s):

In the spring of 1966, Lila, in a state of great agitation, entrusted to me a metal box that contained eight notebooks.  She said that she could no longer keep them at home, she was afraid her husband might read them.  I carried off the box without comment, apart from some ironic allusions to the excessive amount of string she had tied around it.  At that time our relationship was terrible, but it seemed that only I considered it that way.  The rare times we saw each other, she showed no embarrassment, only affection; a hostile word never slipped out.
     When she asked me to swear that I wouldn't open the box for any reason, I swore.  But as soon as I was on the train I untied the string, took out the notebooks, began to read.  It wasn't a diary, although there were detailed accounts of the events of her life, starting with the end of elementary school.  Rather, it seemed evidence of a stubborn self-discipline in writing...

My Thoughts:

The Story of a New Name is the second book in Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Quartet.  Am I surprised that I decided to read it?  Yes I am.  Am I shocked that I finished it?  Yes I am.  Have I gone on to start listening to the third book in the quartet?  Yep.  This book was narrated by Hillary Huber and she's very good with the narration.  My husband asked me what I was listening to and I told him it was an 'Italian soap opera' - sort of.  And this long and epic tale is kind of like that - All My Children in Italy of the 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond.  So many characters, central of which are Lila and Elena, the two friends from 'the neighborhood' and their intertwined relationship over decades.  It tells of women's roles at that time, of poverty, of a desire to better oneself, of families, of people who had so little and, of course, there is drama.  Lots of drama.  These books remind me a bit of the long, long epics that were popular in the '70's and '80's.  I read a lot of those.  Books by James Michener and John Jakes, Susan Howatch, Herman Wouk, and James Clavell.  Perhaps that's why these are speaking to me.  In any case, I now need to know how the story plays out.  I'm in it until the end. 

**Update - I did finish listening to the 3rd and 4th books in the quartet.  Whew!  What a long story.  Lots of drama, as I said above.  It didn't really end with a bang, but I was happy enough with the ending.  I'm not going to do separate posts for those, but if you'd like to check them out, they are Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (3rd) and The Story of the Lost Child (4th).  Now I need to get back to my normal mystery novels.  Give me some crimes to solve, please.


In The Story of a New Name, Lila has recently married and made her enterée into the family business; Elena, meanwhile, continues her studies and her exploration of the world beyond the neighborhood that she so often finds stifling. Love, jealousy, family, freedom, commitment, and above all friendship: these are signs under which both women live out this phase in their stories. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila, and the pressure to excel is at times too much for Elena. Yet the two young women share a complex and evolving bond that is central to their emotional lives and is a source of strength in the face of life's challenges. In these Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante, gives readers a poignant and universal story about friendship and belonging.