Friday, February 27, 2015

The February in Phoenix Weekly Link Round-Up

Another peaceful, balmy week has passed here at Casa Kittling. Rain is predicted by the weekend, and I hope we get some. Denis and I are planning a trip out on the Apache Trail soon to check on all the wildflowers that should be in bloom, and one to the Water Ranch to see how many of our feathered winter visitors are still here in town.

February in Phoenix
I just went out to take the photo to the left. The quality isn't very good. The brilliant sunshine here in Phoenix has a tendency to wreck havoc with colors. But that's a tiny sliver of my back garden-- the Tombstone roses are beginning to bloom and join the tiny yellow puffballs of the sweet acacia tree in filling the air with fragrance. It's the time of year thousands of people pay to come here to experience, and I know why.

I know all about the gloom of February. Of the cold. Of walking outside and feeling your nose hairs freeze when you take a breath. Of the patches of black ice and piles of dirty, gritty slush lining the streets. Or... *shudder* That will be the end of that! There's even waist-deep snow in Monument Valley.

If you aren't fortunate enough to be able to escape the snow and cold, please stay safe and warm-- preferably with a hot drink and a stack of good books. Take a look at the tiny white blossoms beginning to cover my fence and know that spring will come to you, too.

But these links will arrive even faster. Head 'em up! Move 'em out! 

Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits
  • Harper Lee isn't the only author who has a unearthed book being published this year. A discovered Dr. Seuss book will be in bookstores this summer.
  • A new Pirates of the Caribbean movie starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is currently filming in Australia.  Dead men tell no tales!
  • Statistics from the Cooperative Children's Book Center show that children's books are shifting toward diversity.
  • J.K. Rowling is a treasure. Have you read the letter she wrote to a fan she met on Twitter?
  • The Willard Library is considered by many to be the most haunted library in America.
  • A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been discovered in a man's attic. Of course there's a bit of controversy surrounding it.
  • Here's a businessman who knows how to treat his employees. 
  • How many of the greatest books by women have you read? (Me? 36 out of 102. Unfortunately I couldn't count the ones I started but didn't finish, or the ones sitting on my TBR shelves.)

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones
  • A vast bed of metal balls have been found in the deep sea.
  • Divers have found a record trove of gold coins (over 1,000 years old!) in the Mediterranean.
  • The warship that inspired The African Queen is still in operation at age 100. 
  • A Mayan mural reveals an ancient photobomb. 
  • Two new works by artist Paul Cézanne have been discovered.
  • Plague graffiti in a Cambridgeshire church reveals a heartbreaking find. 
  • Right here in the Phoenix metro area, a man found a $35,000 treasure at Goodwill.
  • Earlier this month I shared a link about the sweater once owned by Vince Lombardi that sold at a Goodwill store for 58¢. The auctioneers thought it would sell for $20,000. The operative word being "thought." 
  • German archaeologists in southern Egypt have found two statues of the goddess Sekhmet.
  • A CT scan has shown that there's more to this 1,100-year-old statue of Buddha than meets the eye.

Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett

The Happy Wanderer

I  ♥  Lists

Book Candy
  • Drool Alert! Put on a bib before you check out this delicious new bookstore that just opened in Romania!
  • Someone with a sense of humor created his own book sections at a local bookstore. 
  • Books a Million asked Twitter followers for photos of their to-be-read piles, and the followers obliged.

That's all for this week. Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a wonderful weekend-- and read something fabulous!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

By Book or by Crook by Eva Gates

First Line: Only in the very back of my mind, in my most secret dreams, did I ever dare hope I'd have such a moment.

For ten years Lucy Richardson has been a librarian at the Harvard Library and engaged (sort of) to her parents' choice of future son-in-law. But that relationship comes to a screeching halt, and Lucy decides to take the opportunity to make a clean break. 

She moves to North Carolina's Outer Banks to be near her aunt and cousin, and she becomes the newest librarian at the Lighthouse Library. She's doing what she loves in her favorite place in the whole wide world. But when a priceless first edition Jane Austen novel is stolen from the library's exhibit and the chairman of the library board is murdered, Lucy discovers that she's going to have to fight for the new life she's trying to create for herself.

I love libraries. I love lighthouses. When I came across this first book in the Lighthouse Library cozy series, my eyes lit up, and when I discovered that "Eva Gates" is the pen name of one of my favorite authors, Vicki Delany, that was the icing on the cake. North Carolina's Outer Banks seems to be one of the hot settings for cozies, and By Book or by Crook fits right in with its neighbors.

I liked Lucy Richardson, even though she didn't win any points by staying in a relationship for ten years just to keep her parents off her back. Grow a spine, girl, because I have a feeling that those parents of yours won't be able to leave you alone in your new home! 

Lucy is surrounded by an excellent cast of secondary characters who are a good mix of supportive and irritating. Fellow librarian Charlene's passion for rap music is a running joke throughout the book, and it's a joke I enjoyed since I personally didn't have to listen to the music. I did find it a tad worrying that Lucy has two prospective beaus. She may not be ready for them yet, but I've learned to treat romantic triangles with a great deal of suspicion, thanks to Janet Evanovich. 

Lucy's fellow librarians are just the sort of people you'd want to work with, and here's hoping that Louise Jane never ever gets a permanent job in the lighthouse library. Louise Jane is the sort of person you'd just love to slap, and I figure the main reason why she so desperately wants to work in the library is that no one wants her there. (As you can see, this is a wonderful cast of characters because I seem to have gotten emotionally involved with them!)

Another perk of the book is that you really get a feel for what libraries have to deal with in this age of constant budget cuts. The author makes it clear that keeping libraries alive depends on the librarians, the patrons, and members of the library board and city government who all realize how vital these places are to communities.

The mystery in By Book or by Crook provides both the high and the low points of the book. The high point? The killer is hiding in the best place of all-- right out in plain sight, and I cannot believe I didn't figure out the person's identity. The low point? I had a very difficult time suspending my disbelief when it came to the lack of security in place at the library for the exhibit of priceless first editions of all of Jane Austen's novels as well as one of Austen's notebooks. I could easily go on in more depth about this, but I don't want to slip and give away too much of the story.

Lack of security aside, I really enjoyed this book. The author took the rather unfeasible idea of putting a library in a lighthouse and made it work with wonderful descriptive passages, an excellent cast, and an intriguing mystery. I'm looking forward to heading back to the Outer Banks for the next book in the series! 

By Book or by Crook by Eva Gates
ISBN: 9780451470935
Obsidian © 2015
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Lighthouse Library mystery
Rating: A-
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Killer Collection by Ellery Adams

First Line: The potter's hands were wide with short, thick fingers, gnarled and cracked from a lifetime of work.

As a writer for Collector's Weekly, Molly Appleby  has proven herself to have a sharp eye for quality and an ear for gossip, but little does she know that going with her mother to an exclusive kiln opening will have her using both skills to solve a murder.

George-Bradley Staunton has one of the very best collections of folk art pottery in the South, but his utter ruthlessness in amassing his treasures means that when he drops dead at the kiln opening Molly is attending, there are few who mourn him. However, when his death is ruled a murder, the suspect list is long and the police are stumped. Molly has to step in to help catch the killer before the body count rises.

Originally published in 2006 under the name J.B. Stanley, A Killer Collection is the first book in the three-volume Collectibles cozy series. The author has completely revamped each book to have them reissued under her pen name Ellery Adams. What I enjoyed most about this first book in the series were the behind-the-scenes action at an auction and all the good information about Southern folk art pottery-- and A Killer Collection absolutely glows whenever Adams describes the creative process as a potter sits at the wheel.

I was slightly less satisfied with the characters and the mystery. As a journalist Molly has the right training to ferret out the perpetrators of crime and to provide readers interested in collecting with plenty of good information. However, I didn't find enough there to make her stand out from all the other amateur sleuths available today. And for all the readers who prefer justice to prevail and all their plot threads neatly tied up in bows by book's end... they may be left feeling a bit dissatisfied. I have to admit that I didn't particularly care for the way Molly dealt with the information she had.

All in all, the book is enjoyable in its depiction of folk art pottery, its history and traditions as well as in showing us the evolution of a writer.

A Killer Collection by Ellery Adams
eISBN: 9781940846408
Beyond the Page Publishing © 2015
eBook, 189 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Collectibles mystery
Rating: B-
Source: Net Galley  

March 2015 New Mystery Releases!

With the horrendous winter that so many people are experiencing, I almost feel guilty for living in balmy Phoenix, Arizona. Notice that I said "almost." I knew when I lived in cold country that I didn't do low temperatures, snow, and ice very well, so I moved out at the first opportunity. I've had my share of looking out to see snow packed against the windows, ice that downed power lines so I had to read by the light of a kerosene lamp and have the room heated by the oven on a gas stove. No, I'm very happy where I am-- even when it gets hot. I just hope that all of you experiencing a Siberian winter are staying safe and warm!

And just in case you may need some new reading material, I've rounded up my picks of the new mysteries that are being released throughout the month of March. They're grouped according to release date, and I've included all the information you'll need to order them from your favorite "book procurement sites." Book synopses are courtesy of Amazon.  Happy Reading!

=== March 1 ===

Title: The Death Season
Author: Kate Ellis
Series: #19 in the Wesley Peterson police procedural series set in South Devon, England.
ISBN: 9780349403137 
Publisher: Piatkus
Hardcover, 304 pages

Synopsis: "When a middle-aged man is found dead in a hotel room, it seems like a routine matter—until it becomes clear to DI Wesley Peterson that it is a case of cold blooded murder and that the identity the victim has been using isn't his own. Then DCI Gerry Heffernan, frustrated at being given only cold cases during his recovery from being shot in the line of duty, discovers from a DNA review that Wesley's mystery man was responsible for the murder of a child back in 1979. But soon, as Wesley delves in to the events of the past more people die. Meanwhile archeologist Neil Watson is investigating a ruined village that tumbled into the sea during a storm at the time of World War I. Events take a cryptic turn when he encounters a 100-year-old mystery with echoes in the present. As a terrifying truth is revealed, Wesley has to face a great danger, especially if he is to save someone very precious to him." With its perfect blend of history and crime, this has been one of my favorite series since the first book!

=== March 3 ===

Title: Dead to Me
Author: Mary McCoy
Debut YA mystery set in 1940s Hollywood, California
ISBN: 9781423187127
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Hardcover, 304 pages

Synopsis: "'Don't believe anything they say.'

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her--and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn't a kid anymore, and this time she won't let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets--and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie's attacker behind bars--if Alice can find her first. And she isn't the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

Title: The Edge of Dreams
Author: Rhys Bowen
Series: #14 in the Molly Murphy historical series set in New York City
ISBN: 9781250052025
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "Molly Murphy Sullivan’s husband Daniel, a captain in the New York City police force, is stumped. He’s chasing a murderer whose victims have nothing in common—nothing except for the taunting notes that are delivered to Daniel after each murder. And when Daniel receives a note immediately after Molly and her young son Liam are in a terrible train crash, Daniel and Molly both begin to fear that maybe Molly herself was the target.

Molly’s detective instincts are humming, but finding the time to dig deeper into this case is a challenge. She’s healing from injuries sustained in the crash and also sidetracked by her friends Sid and Gus’s most recent hobby, dream analysis. And when Molly herself starts suffering from strange dreams, she wonders if they just might hold the key to solving Daniel’s murder case

Title: The Perfect Game
Author: Leslie Dana Kirby
Standalone contemporary thriller set in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona
ISBN: 9781464201776  
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Paperback, 338 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Lauren Rose has recently moved to Phoenix to begin a new life as she starts a prestigious emergency medicine residency, but she could end up doing life in the Arizona State penitentiary instead. Lauren has always lived in the shadow of her more glamorous sister Liz, the wife of baseball superstar Jake Wakefield. But when Liz is found viciously murdered in her Scottsdale home, the spotlight turns to Lauren as prime suspect in the high-profile investigation. Having lost both parents at an early age, Liz’s death leaves Lauren all alone in a new city. Jake’s support proves invaluable as she navigates the nightmare her life has become. As Lauren spends time with Jake, they develop a closeness that she finds both comforting and confusing. It’s an intimacy forged by their shared grief, their mutual love of baseball, and by the thrill of him pitching a perfect game for the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Scottsdale police repeatedly question Lauren. She objects to a lie detector test as bad science. An arrest warrant is issued. The ensuing trial leads the evening news every night as a rabid public just can’t get enough of the sordid proceedings, quickly dubbed The Trial of the Millennium. Will the outcome be influenced by this media circus? The Perfect Game is Leslie Dana Kirby’s compelling debut novel.

Title: Murder on the Champ de Mars
Author: Cara Black
Series: #15 in the Aimée Leduc private investigator series set in Paris, France
ISBN: 9781616952860
Publisher: Soho
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Paris, April 1999: Aimée Leduc has her work cut out for her—running her detective agency and fighting off sleep deprivation as she tries to be a good single mother to her new bébé. The last thing she has time for now is to take on a personal investigation for a poor manouche (Gypsy) boy. But he insists his dying mother has an important secret she needs to tell Aimée, something to do with Aimée’s father’s unsolved murder a decade ago. How can she say no?

The dying woman’s secret is even more dangerous than her son realized. When Aimée arrives at the hospital, the boy’s mother has disappeared. She was far too sick to leave on her own—she must have been abducted. What does she know that’s so important it’s worth killing for? And will Aimée be able to find her before it’s too late and the medication keeping her alive runs out?

Title: Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Japan
Author: Vasudev Murthy
Series: #1 in the Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years historical series set in Japan and various other locations
ISBN: 9781464203633
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Hardcover, 275 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "It’s 1893. King Kamehameha III of Hawaii declares Sovereignty Restoration Day ... Tension grows between China and Japan over Korea ... The Bengal Famine worsens ... A brilliant scientist in Calcutta challenges the system … The senior priest at Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji temple is found dead in mysterious circumstances. Dr John H. Watson receives a strange letter from Yokohama. Then the quiet, distinguished Mr. Hashimoto is murdered inside a closed room on a voyage from Liverpool to Bombay. In the opium dens of Shanghai and in the back alleys of Tokyo, sinister men hatch evil plots. Professor Moriarty stalks the world, drawing up a map for worldwide dominion. Only one man can outwit the diabolical Professor Moriarty. Only one man can save the world. Has Sherlock Holmes survived the Reichenbach Falls? In a seriocomic novel that radically ups the ante, Sherlock Holmes and Watson find their match in more than one man (or indeed, woman) as a clock inexorably ticks. History, mystery, romance, conspiracies, knife-edge tension; a train in Russia, roadside crime in Alexandria, an upset stomach in Bombay, careening through Cambodia, nasty people in China, monks in Japan–here’s a thrilling global chase that will leave you breathless (occasionally with laughter) as the Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years series begins."

Title: Too Bad to Die
Author: Francine Mathews
Standalone historical thriller set in Egypt and Iran
ISBN: 9781594631795
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Hardcover, 368 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "November, 1943. Weary of his deskbound status in the Royal Navy, intelligence officer Ian Fleming spends his spare time spinning stories in his head that are much more exciting than his own life…until the critical Tehran Conference, when Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Josef Stalin meet to finalize the D-Day invasion.

With the Big Three in one place, Fleming is tipped off that Hitler’s top assassin has infiltrated the conference. Seizing his chance to play a part in a real-life action story, Fleming goes undercover to stop the Nazi killer. Between martinis with beautiful women, he survives brutal attacks and meets a seductive Soviet spy who may know more than Fleming realizes. As he works to uncover the truth and unmask the assassin, Fleming is forced to accept that betrayal sometimes comes from the most unexpected quarters—and that one’s literary creations may prove eerily close to one’s own life.

Brilliantly inventive, utterly gripping and suspenseful, Too Bad to Die is Francine Mathews’s best novel yet, and confirms her place as a master of historical fiction

=== March 10 ===

Title: Endangered
Author: C.J. Box
Series: #16 in the Game Warden Joe Pickett series set in Wyoming
ISBN: 9780399160776
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Hardcover, 384 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "She was gone. Joe Pickett had good reason to dislike Dallas Cates, even if he was a rodeo champion, and now he has even more—Joe’s eighteen-year-old ward, April, has run off with him.

And then comes even worse news: The body of a girl has been found in a ditch along the highway—alive, but just barely, the victim of blunt force trauma. It is April, and the doctors aren’t sure if she’ll recover. Cates denies having anything to do with it—says she ran away from him, too—and there’s evidence that points to another man. But Joe knows in his gut who’s responsible. What he doesn’t know is the kind of danger he’s about to encounter. Cates is bad enough, but Cates’s family is like none Joe has ever met before.

Joe’s going to find out the truth, even if it kills him. But this time, it just might

Title: The Valley
Author: John Renehan
Standalone thriller
ISBN: 9780525954866 
Publisher: Dutton
Hardcover, 448 pages

Synopsis: "Black didn’t know its name, but he knew it lay deeper and higher than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Everything about the place was myth and rumor, but one fact was clear: There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst.

When Black, a deskbound admin officer, is sent up the Valley to investigate a warning shot fired by a near-forgotten platoon, he can only see it as the final bureaucratic insult in a short and unhappy Army career. What he doesn’t know is that his investigation puts at risk the centuries-old arrangements that keep this violent land in fragile balance, and will launch a shattering personal odyssey of obsession and discovery as Black reckons with the platoon’s dark secrets, accumulated over endless hours fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land

=== March 17 ===

Title: A Dangerous Place
Series: #11 in the Maisie Dobbs historical series set in Gibraltar
ISBN: 9780062220554
Publisher: Harper
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Four years after she set sail from England, leaving everything she most loved behind, Maisie Dobbs at last returns, only to find herself in a dangerous place....
In Jacqueline Winspear‘s  powerful story of political intrigue and personal tragedy, a brutal murder in the British garrison town of Gilbraltar leads Maisie into a web of lies, deceit, and peril.

Spring 1937. In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability—and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure. Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India. But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England; her aging father Frankie Dobbs is not getting any younger.

But on a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn’t ready to return. Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, “You will be alone in a most dangerous place,” she disembarks in Gibraltar. Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.

Yet the danger is very real. Days after Maisie’s arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar’s Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service. Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on “the Rock”—arguably Britain’s most important strategic territory—and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process. At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way."  

=== March 24 ===

Title: Inspector of the Dead
Author: David Morrell
Series: #2 in the Thomas de Quincey historical series set in London
ISBN:  9780316323932
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters. Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.

This killer targets members of the upper echelons of British society, leaving with each corpse the name of someone who previously attempted to kill Queen Victoria. The evidence indicates that the ultimate victim will be Victoria herself.

=== March 31 ===

Title: The Strangler Vine
Author: M.J. Carter
Series: #1 in the William Avery and Jeremiah Blake historical series set in India
ISBN: 9780399171673
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Hardcover, 384 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "India, 1837: William Avery is a young soldier with few prospects except rotting away in campaigns in India; Jeremiah Blake is a secret political agent gone native, a genius at languages and disguises, disenchanted with the whole ethos of British rule, but who cannot resist the challenge of an unresolved mystery. What starts as a wild goose chase for this unlikely pair—trying to track down a missing writer who lifts the lid on Calcutta society—becomes very much more sinister as Blake and Avery get sucked into the mysterious Thuggee cult and its even more ominous suppression.

There are shades of Heart of Darkness, sly references to Conan Doyle, that bring brilliantly to life the India of the 1830s with its urban squalor, glamorous princely courts and bazaars, and the ambiguous presence of the British overlords—the officers of the East India Company—who have their own predatory ambitions beyond London's oversight

Title: Game of Mirrors
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Series: #18 in the Inspector Salvo Montalbano police procedural series set in Sicily
ISBN: 9780143123774
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback, 288 pages

Synopsis: "Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels have become an international sensation, with fans eagerly awaiting each new installment.

In Game of Mirrors, Inspector Montalbano and his colleagues are stumped when two bombs explode outside empty warehouses—one of which is connected to a big-time drug dealer. Meanwhile, the alluring Liliana Lombardo is trying to seduce the Inspector over red wine and arancini. Between pesky reporters, amorous trysts, and cocaine kingpins, Montalbano feels as if he’s being manipulated on all fronts. That is, until the inspector himself becomes the prime suspect in an unspeakably brutal crime

Title: The World Before Us
Standalone literary mystery
ISBN: 9780553418521
Publisher: Hogarth
Hardcover, 368 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare.  She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.

Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project--an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past--Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared over one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.

In riveting, beautiful prose, The World Before Us explores the powerful notion that history is a closely connected part of us--kept alive by the resonance of our daily choices--reminding us of the possibility that we are less alone than we might think

Title: Whiskers of the Lion
Author: P.L. Gaus
Series: #9 in the Michael Brandon series set in Ohio Amish country
ISBN: 9780142181737
Publisher: Plume
Paperback, 256 pages

Synopsis: "P. L. Gaus’s widely praised Amish-Country Mysteries continue to 'probe the tension between the self-reliance of the Amish world and the urgencies of the English world' (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
In Whiskers of the Lion, Sheriff Bruce Robertson is charged with finding a young Amish woman on the run from a murderous drug ring so she can testify in federal court. Wrestling with a recurring childhood nightmare of a deadly lion, the Holmes County sheriff finds himself torn between allegiance to the legal system he upholds and the beliefs of the people he is sworn to protect.

Whew! March sure does have a bumper crop of crime fiction for all of us readers, doesn't it? You all can see which titles caught my eye. Which one(s) caught yours? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

First Line: "Oh, just kill me now!"

Samantha Clair is an editor for the London publishing house Timmins and Ross. Until Inspector Field shows up at the office, Sam had been having a normal day, but when he's very insistent about the receipt of a package addressed to Sam, she knows something is wrong. That something wrong has been caused by one of her favorite authors, Kit Lowell, whose gossipy books focus on the world of fashion. Kit's latest is all about a recent fashion industry scandal, so there's all the usual legal prep to insure against libel, but someone out there really doesn't want that book to be published and will go to any lengths to stop it.

Reading A Murder of Magpies will make you feel as though you've just been dished some of the juiciest dirt on the publishing business, and author Judith Flanders has found the perfect character to tell us all about it. Sam Clair has an infectious snarky wit that's almost impossible to resist. She is a very self-contained character who, for some reason, has chosen to live her life on the outside. It can't have everything to do with her annoyingly perfect lawyer mother Helena, and I'd love to know more. (Yes, that means I hope we'll be hearing more from Sam.)

As clever as she is, she doesn't always get it right, and one of the funniest threads in the book concerns the trials and tribulations she has with her bestselling author and the author's latest book, which Sam believes is a total disaster. This editor thinks she has an inside edge on almost everything-- like when she goes to question someone because she thinks she-- as a middle-aged woman-- will get more out of the person than the police ever would. (She just may have something there.)

Flanders really ups the ante on readers' sleuthing skills because what is originally thought to be a missing persons case morphs into something much larger and complex. Something that the police are going to have difficulty in handling but is perfect for the sharp eyes and minds of Sam and her mother. Watching these two women dig for the truth is worth the price of admission, and as I've already said, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more about Samantha Clair.

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders
(APA Writer's Block)
eISBN: 9781466860285
Minotaur Books © 2015
eBook, 286 pages

Amateur Sleuth
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Jenn McKinlay and Beth Kendrick at The Poisoned Pen!

With the shifts that Denis works, he can't come with me to any Saturday events at our favorite bookstore. In fact, when I jumped in the Jeep and headed to The Poisoned Pen, he was still sleeping peacefully. At least I knew he'd be awake when I got home. I always like giving him a send-off when he leaves for work, and this one would be special because author Jenn McKinlay graciously allowed me to bring along a doggie bag so I could snag one of her cupcakes for him. (Ain't she sweet-- and those cupcakes from Gigi's are scrumptious!)

Arriving at my destination was a bit interesting due to road closures for the Parada del Sol parade route, but I would not be denied. When I walked into the bookstore, it was humming with activity. Thousands of people come to the Valley of the Sun every year for baseball's spring training, and it seemed that many of them were in The Poisoned Pen looking for something to read. 

The latest book haul...
I quickly reserved my seat, reserved a copy of Andrea Chapin's The Tutor, and made my purchase. What I did next surprised The Poisoned Pen staff members: I asked them to sign the dedication page of Jenn's latest Hat Shop mystery, At the Drop of a Hat. Jenn has a wonderful dedication to Barbara Peters and the bookstore staff in this book, so my copy is filled with autographs!

I then sat down in the back to read a few pages of my advance reading copy of Vasudev Murthy's Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Japan, a book from Poisoned Pen Press that will be released next month. I didn't get all that much read though because I was having too much fun people watching. Customers were browsing the shelves and eyeing the little Valentines and Hershey's Kisses that were placed on each of the event chairs. I was really looking forward to this event because Beth Kendrick was appearing with Jenn McKinlay. I've met this author at CozyCon, and I know she's a lot of fun. 

Let the fun commence!

L to R: Barbara Peters, Beth Kendrick, Jenn McKinlay

The event began with Jenn reading her dedication to Barbara Peters and the staff of The Poisoned Pen. "Everyone needs a safe place. This is my safe place," Jenn told us, "and I'm not saying this because I'm sucking up!"

Barbara then told us that she'd been trying to get Beth here for a long time, but one life event after another kept striking Beth, and she wasn't able to come. "This year is okay-- so far!" Beth laughed.

I don't remember exactly how talk then moved to the world of public relations (hereafter referred to as PR), but it did. Beth knew someone who had been the PR for the K******ians and let us know that it was a nightmare job. "Which rock group was it that always wanted a big bowl of brown M&Ms in their room?" Jenn asked. Someone replied that it was Van Halen. "My husband is a musician; you'd think I'd know that already!" Jenn shrugged. "Anyway, someone told me that if Van Halen walked into their hotel room and saw that bowl of M&Ms, they could tell that the PR person knew how to follow instructions and that it should be a good show."

"That makes sense," said Barbara.

"Yes, it does," said Beth, "but that wasn't the case with the K******ians!"

Barbara had had her own run-in with PR work. "That one little taste told me that if that was my life, I'd be suicidal!" I think most of the people in the bookstore agreed with her assessment. (In other words, let 'em get their own darned M&Ms!)

Plotter or Pantser?

Beth Kendrick
Beth then began to tell us a bit about her latest book, New Uses for Old Boyfriends, which isn't a series book even though it returns to Black Dog Bay, a setting that features in another of her novels. We all laughed at her insistence; however, in her defense, the setting may be the same, but the story concerns different characters. When complimented on the title, Beth thanked us and said that she has a good friend who is her "title genie."

"There are no ugly, boring people in Black Dog Bay," Barbara observed. 

"There are. She just doesn't write about them," Jenn quipped.

Beth turned to Jenn and asked, "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" Need a translation? Beth wanted to know if Jenn works with an outline-- or plot-- of her book as she writes, or if she writes by the seat of her pants-- no outline whatsoever. Jenn is a plotter, which she'd have to be with all the series she writes.

"I tried plotting with one of my books," Beth said. "Two-thirds of the way through writing the book I knew I'd chosen the wrong hero. I had to rewrite 400 pages!" Turning to Jenn, she asked, "This doesn't happen to you?"

"No-- I'd kill myself!" Jenn exclaimed. "I need a map before I begin writing."

Both Jenn and Beth agreed that the middle part of the book was the most difficult to write, with Beth calling it "the doldrums." 

Barbara Peters
"Someone once said that way too many books have way too much middle and I agree," Barbara said. "I go through hundreds of books a month, and if they start bogging down in the middle, I start flipping pages. I just find it funny that the part you two struggle with is the part I skip!" Spoken like a true Editor-in-Chief!

Jenn mentioned her contract, thinking that it said her books should each be 65,000 to 75,000 words. "I don't read that stuff. They're just guidelines anyway," she said with a smile. I sat there wondering how she knew I'd watched Pirates of the Caribbean that week and she'd immediately made me think of the pirate code of parley.

"My contract says 80,000," Beth remarked.

"Oh, you read yours!" Jenn said.

"I have too many lawyers in my family," Beth replied. "Besides, I'm a Type A, I need a goal!"

Jenn stared at Beth in disbelief. "But you're a pantser! This makes no sense!"

Do you feel a draft?

This comedy duo had all of us in the palms of their hands, and they next led us into the world of the draft.

Jenn McKinlay
Beth asked Jenn, "How many drafts do you write? I write three."

Jenn looked at her and held up her pointer finger. "One. I write one." Beth stared at her in disbelief.

"How many of you were here last week for Kristin Hannah?" Barbara Peters asked. "This woman writes beautifully, and she's been doing it for over twenty-five years. When she is writing a book, she writes thirty drafts!" We all sat there in stunned silence. "The only reason I brought this up is to show you that a book is a living, changing entity. You only see the finished product. You have no idea how many lives a book touches on the way to its publication."

"I've written eight books in my Cupcake Bakery series now," Jenn said. "A lot of the backstory has already been done. I know these people. I know their mannerisms, their quirks. But when I wrote my first book, I think I went through five drafts."

Hats, Hot Guys, and The Next Big Thing

Available Now!
In referring to her latest book, Beth told us, "I had the idea of bringing this character-- a flight attendant who's used to traveling, to always being on the move-- to this small town, and she's stuck there."

Jenn smiled. "Add a dead body, and you'd have a cozy!" which led her to talk a bit about her latest hat Shop mystery, At the Drop of a Hat (once we'd stopped laughing).

Jenn is contracted to write five books in the Hat Shop series, but she's hit a snag. After too many bad choices in men her main character, Scarlett Parker, has taken a vow of celibacy. "She won't be 'there' at book five, and I can't just leave her hangin' there not gettin' any," which brought many sympathetic laughs from the audience. (That, and we were all glad there'd be at least one extra book in the series.)

Available Now!
When At the Drop of a Hat debuted at #15 on the New York Times Bestseller List, her agent told her, "We might be going past six!" If you thought we let that news go past without clapping and cheering, you'd be sadly mistaken.

Jenn avidly watched all the coverage of the royal wedding of William and Kate, and when she saw Princess Beatrice's hat, her first thought was, "I'd kill the guy who made that hat!"-- and a mystery series was born.

Also author of the Cupcake Bakery cozy series, Jenn said, "Who knew cupcakes would still be going strong?"

Barbara replied, "I think I know what the next big thing will be: making your own chocolate, which is evidently a very involved process. I watched Chef on Netflix about a chef who sets up a food truck. I really enjoyed it." Looking at Beth, she continued, "I can see it now. There's going to be a food truck roll into this little town of yours...."

"Black Dog Bay!" Beth exclaimed. "It's the best place in America to bounce back from a break-up. That's why there are all those hot guys in town!"

And you thought you'd never learn why there were no ugly, boring people in Black Dog Bay. Just remember-- if you read Beth's next book and there's a food truck in Black Dog Bay, you heard it here first!

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Mummy of a Weekly Link Round-Up

You know what one of the biggest winter draws in the Valley of the Sun is? Baseball's spring training. And can I ever see a difference in the traffic! On my way to The Poisoned Pen last Saturday, the streets were clogged with out-of-towners going well below the speed limit because (1) they didn't know where they were going, and/or (2) they were scared to death of driving in a big city. Oh well. They bring lots of money, and I can sympathize with anyone who wants to get away from their horrid winter weather to soak up our balmy temperatures and brilliant blue skies.

Another progress report!

Remember that afghan I've been working on? It's finished! Since Denis laid claim to it, I made him "model" it for us. Following in my mother's footsteps, I decided to knit an afghan that you can really wrap yourself up in. It's soft and lightweight and warm. In fact, I had to be careful how I draped the thing as I worked on it so I wouldn't overheat. Look at the size of it-- I may as well start stitching a bedspread for our king-sized bed next! The other photo shows the afghan neatly folded and a project that I finished in two evenings. No, I have no need of a warm scarf here in Phoenix, but I have many friends and relatives who live in cold country, and I made suggestions and have taken some requests for color combinations, length, etc. From the looks of things, I'll be needing those 72 skeins of yarn I ordered last week!

Oops. Put down the knitting needles and round up those links, Cathy! Head 'em up, move 'em out!

Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones

Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett
  • I wonder if I'll be knitting sweaters like this when I'm 109?
  • Some scientists are working on reviving extinct species. (Shades of Jurassic Park!) As much as I love critters, I don't think I want a wooly mammoth trampling my petunias.

The Happy Wanderer

I  ♥  Lists

That's all for this week. Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a wonderful weekend, and read something fabulous!