Friday, February 24, 2017

The Planned Obsolescence Weekly Link Round-Up




Remembering how things used to be can be both a blessing and a curse. What's got me thinking about the Good Old Days? My front-load high-efficiency washing machine.

Nothing like this model, which is similar to the one my grandmother had for years. These old wringer washing machines weren't the safest things on the block, and my grandmother's even contributed to family lore when my mother was a child and Aunt Lois got a certain body part caught in the wringer. But that's as far as I'm going to go with that....

Eleven years ago, I bought my current washing machine after my twenty-seven-year-old one (purchased by my mother) curled up its toes. I was expecting the same sort of longevity. Wrong!

When its spin cycle started sounding like a 747 taking off at Sky Harbor, Denis called our trusted repair company, and they sent out one of their technicians. The diagnosis wasn't good. It would cost more to fix my washer than it would to go out and buy a new one.

"That's what we're seeing nowadays," the tech said. "Washing machines-- whether they're top-load or front-load-- last only ten to twelve years. On the other hand, most cars used to be worn out once they'd been driven 100,000 miles. Now we're seeing several models that are only getting started at that point."

How I long for the Good Old Days of 20,000-load washers! But while I'm waiting for the delivery folks who will be installing my new one, I'll head on out to the link corral!

 

►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • These vivid bird photographs nearly fly off the screen. 
  • Twelve photos of birds being birds.
  • A character from the Harry Potter books has provided a name for a new species of crab
  • I never tire of this video about the interconnectedness of nature. All living things are on this planet for a reason. Just because we do not understand that reason doesn't mean something doesn't deserve to live.
  • When the Oregon Zoo closed for a snow day, the animals had an absolute blast. 

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • Alaska's Dr. Seuss House
  • Goderich, Ontario, is to be transformed into Harry Potter World for an October fan festival. 
  • Researchers think they've found a mini-continent in the Indian Ocean.
  • Every part of the tiny Polish village of Zalipie is covered in lovely floral painting.
  • The cliff dwelling here in Arizona that was saved by Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Gardiners Island has been owned by the same family for 400 years, and its history includes a witch hunt and a pirate.  

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • The life and times of Ida B. Wells, one of intersectional feminism's founders. 
  • The true story of "Hidden Figures," the forgotten women who helped win the space race. 
  • World War II Spitfire pilot Mary Ellis from the Isle of Wight has turned 100.

►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 great weekend, and read something fabulous!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor


First Line: There have been two moments in my life when everything changed.

Little did Madeleine Maxwell know, but when she was employed by St. Mary's Institute of Historical Research, she'd just found the perfect job. "Max" becomes a part of St. Mary's historical research team. They don't do "time travel," they "investigate major historical events in contemporary time." The historians of St. Mary's observe and document in order to find the answers to many of history's unanswered questions. But in this first Chronicle of St. Mary's, Max and the others discover that it's not just history they're fighting.

I was in the perfect mood for this book. I've always enjoyed a good time travel tale, and when Max started walking through the venerable halls of St. Mary's and seeing signs labeled "Blast Doors" and "To Sick Bay," I knew I was going to have fun. And this is the major purpose of Jodi Taylor's book-- to have fun. 

To those readers who like plausible explanations and tons of science and techno-speak, you're going to have to look elsewhere. In her acknowledgements, Taylor says, "I made all this up. Historians and physicists-- please do not spit on me in the street." I found Just One Damned Thing After Another to be filled with wit and laugh-out-loud moments. Taylor sets some very simple ground rules for her notion of time travel, and her wonderful character, Madeleine Maxwell, chews through every bit of the scenery with total aplomb. Here's how Max feels about time and punctuality:

Time is important in our organization. If you can't even get to an appointment in your own building on time, they argue, you're not going to have much luck trying to find the Battle of Hastings.

If you're in the mood for something with an intriguing premise and an entertaining mystery, something that's light and loads of fun, you may just enjoy this first Chronicles of St. Mary's book as much as I did. It won't take me long to sample another!
   

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
eISBN: 9781681468822
Accent Press © 2015
eBook, 328 pages

Time Travel, #1 Chronicles of St. Mary's
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.  


 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Darkness Knows by Cheryl Honigford


First Line: Vivian's scream was a thing of beauty-- startling and pitch-perfect, as usual.

It's October 1938, and radio is king. Vivian Witchell has landed a recurring role on a popular detective serial, The Darkness Knows, and she's determined to do whatever it takes to become a star. But when you're an actor, your career can change direction in a heartbeat. When Vivian walks into the employee lounge and finds the body of the radio station's biggest (and most hated) star, she's horrified to discover that the dead woman is clutching a letter that identifies her as the next victim. Now Viv's got a lot more on her mind than remembering her lines.

Cheryl Honigford's first Viv and Charlie mystery brings to life the days of radio serials. As a child, my mother would sit with my grandmother in the dark listening to their favorite radio programs. My mother's was The Shadow Knows, which reminds me of the title of this book, so I was favorably inclined toward The Darkness Knows from the beginning. I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed.

As I've already said, Honigford added just the right amount of historical detail to put me right in the middle of the golden days of radio. Radio stars aren't any different from Hollywood stars. Those starting out in their careers are cutthroat when it comes to obtaining the right parts that will get them noticed and lead to fame and larger paychecks. Viv had to deal with this just as much as she had to deal with finding a killer.

This leads me to Viv's character. She's a likable enough person, but she's not the girl next door. She's ambitious. She's self-centered. A lot of the things she does in The Darkness Knows are publicity stunts aimed at furthering her career, and she does them cheerfully. Honigford does an excellent job walking a tightrope with Viv's characterization. Viv is nice... but not "too" nice.  On the other hand, working class Charlie the private detective I thought was completely likable. If there was anything about these two characters that I really didn't care for, it was the amount of romance between them in the story. That's just not my thing, although I know I'm probably in the minority.

Even though I knew the bad guy from the start, I still enjoyed reading this first Viv and Charlie mystery. The period Chicago "radio days" detail drew me right in, and I enjoyed watching how long it took the others to figure out whodunit.  Shame on me! 

The Darkness Knows by Cheryl Honigford
ISBN: 9781492628613
Sourcebooks Landmark © 2016
Paperback, 352 pages

Historical Mystery, #1 Viv & Charlie mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


March 2017 New Mystery Releases!


I thought last month was a gold mine for new crime fiction, but March is its equal, I am thrilled to say! I even think I have more than my normal "baker's dozen" picks, and they're a good blend of trusted and new authors.

I've grouped all my choices by their release dates, and I've included all the information you'll need to find them at your favorite libraries and bookstores. Book covers and synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

I'm so anxious to start sharing that I'm not going to wax poetic about the weather here in Phoenix or anything else. Let's get to these new books!




=== March 7 ===


Title: Fractured Families
Series: #4  in the Lottie Albright series set in western Kansas.
ISBN: 9781464205613
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Hardcover, 294 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "The discovery of the body of a young man inside the mausoleum of the Civil War veteran who commissioned this bizarre sculpture park makes the blood of Undersheriff Lottie Albright and her husband’s Aunt Dorothy run cold. Dorothy Mercer, paying a visit to Western Kansas from Manhattan, may be a bestselling mystery novelist, but she is truly shocked confronting murder firsthand. But the real bone-chiller is yet to come.

With snow coming on, Lottie and Dorothy act quickly to preserve the crime scene while awaiting the arrival of Sheriff Sam Adams. Eyes, and boots, on the ground, they measure and photograph underneath the park’s bizarre parade of tree-high sculptures. Why would they look up?

Reaching Woman stands some forty feet in the air, trapped in stone. And in her arms―a ghastly bundle. It takes the sharp eyes of the old sheriff to spot her burden. It breaks all hearts when it’s brought to earth, a second body, so fresh, so frozen, so forlorn.

Lottie, transitioning from local historian to the politicking necessary to organize a regional crime center, is made the lead investigator. It’s a test of the concept and of her role as its director. She needs investigators, forensics, technology, manpower―and a psychologist to pit wits with a clearly deranged killer. Her twin, Kansas City’s Dr. Josie Albright, is the perfect choice.

Frank Dimon at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, a reluctant champion of the regional concept, believes too many members of Lottie's family―her veterinarian/deputy husband Keith, Josie, even Dorothy―are on Lottie’s team. But Frank’s insertion of a forensic psychologist of his own choosing sets off a ferocious conflict between Josie and his appointee, Dr. Evan Ferguson, as a hastily assembled crew from the region's counties pits rural wisdom against the KBI's sophisticated methods. Frustration mounts and urgency grows as more statues of women cradling victims are found, the vicious winter weather aiding the psychopath’s work.

No matter how cutting edge the technology, you can’t beat luck. In a break from the stress, Lottie begins to read a Commonplace Book deposited at the Historical Society. As she follows the heartbreaking words penned by a desperate, shunned child of stunning inner beauty and strength, his observations provide the key―at a terrible cost.


Title: Burials
Series: #10 in the Faye Longchamp series set in Oklahoma.
ISBN: 9781464207501
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Hardcover, 302 pages

Synopsis: "A woman waits under five feet of dirt--a woman who is now nothing but bones stained the deep red of Oklahoma clay. A delicate silver necklace, a handful of ancient pearls, and a priceless figurine rest with her. Twenty-nine years is a long time to wait for a proper burial.

Faye Longchamp-Mantooth, who runs a small and shakily financed archaeological consulting firm with her husband, Joe, has come to Sylacauga so she and Joe can join his father, Sly Mantooth, in dispersing his mother's ashes. Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a proper ceremony.

Faye has partially financed the trip by hiring on to consult on the reopening of a site closed down 29 years ago when archaeologist Dr. Sophia Townsend disappeared--for good. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation intends to create a park if nothing sacred lies in the soil. What no one expects is the lonely red bones that emerge as the backhoe completes its work. Inevitably they prove to be those of Sophia Townsend. And examination shows Sophia was first killed by a blow to the head.

Chief Roy Cloud of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Lighthorse Tribal Police hires Faye, who clearly can't be a suspect, to consult. Which is fine with Faye, who won't rest easy until Sophia's murder is solved. But the investigation comes uncomfortably close to home when she learns that her father-in-law knows more about the dead woman than he is willing to admit. So, it appears, does everyone in tiny Sylacauga.

Dr. Sophia Townsend had possessed a sexual magnetism as forceful as an Oklahoma tornado, and she had never hesitated to use it to manipulate everyone around her, people whose hearts she broke and whose marriages she destroyed. Was she killed by one of her lovers, or by one of their wives? Or by the woman who became enthralled with her? Or maybe Sly Mantooth? Or was something else elemental--greed, buried treasure, fame--at work?

Faye's obsession with this case tests her professional ethics and it tests her marriage. Such was the power of Sophia Townsend that, twenty-nine years after her murder, she wreaks havoc (along with the weather) once again.
"


Title: A Climate of Fear
Author: Fred Vargas
Series: #8 in the Commissaire Adamsberg series set in France.
ISBN: 9780143109457
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback, 416 pages

Synopsis: "A woman is found murdered in her bathtub, and the murder has been made to look like a suicide. But a strange symbol found at the crime scene leads the local police to call Commissaire Adamsberg and his team.

When the symbol is found near the body of a second disguised suicide, a pattern begins to emerge: both victims were part of a disastrous expedition to Iceland over ten years ago where a group of tourists found themselves trapped on a deserted island for two weeks, surrounded by a thick, impenetrable fog rumored to be summoned by an ancient local demon. Two of them didn’t make it back alive. But how are the deaths linked to the secretive Association for the Study of the Writings of Maximilien Robespierre? And what does the mysterious symbol signify?


Title: The Silence of the Flans
Series: #2 in the Emergency Dessert Squad cozy series set in Ohio.
ISBN: 9780425280904 
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Baker Winnie Johnson does her best work when the heat is on. As owner of the Emergency Dessert Squad, she has a deft touch in the kitchen and a soft spot for lost causes. So when her business professor beau, Jay Morgan, expresses misgivings over having to fail one of his fourth-year students, Winnie cooks up a sweet solution.

She’ll offer an extra credit opportunity in exchange for a little help with her growing business. But when her protégé’s first dessert delivery poisons a student journalist, the publicity threatens to burn Winnie’s business to a crisp. Now the entrepreneur-turned-detective must uncover the ingredients behind a recipe for murder before she crumbles under pressure...


=== March 8 ===


Title: Blood's Echo
Author: Isabella Maldonado
Series: #1 Veranda Cruz police procedural set in Phoenix, Arizona. 
ISBN: 9780738750804
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Paperback, 312 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Detective Veranda Cruz leads an elite task force on the Phoenix Police Drug Enforcement Bureau. Bartolo Villalobos is the heir apparent to the most powerful cartel in the world. No one in the department suspects the secret motive behind Veranda’s obsession with the cartel . . . until an operation goes horribly wrong.
Targeted by an increasingly unstable drug lord, Veranda must protect her family and stay clear of adversaries within the force while she sets a trap for Bartolo. As the desert action heats up, Veranda and her new Homicide team―along with an arson investigator who kindles a flame for her―are all drawn into a deadly gambit. Taking down Bartolo is the ultimate goal, but is Veranda ready to trade life for justice?
 



Title: Reservations
Author: Gwen Florio
Series: #4 in the journalist Lola Wicks series set on Arizona's Navajo Reservation.
ISBN: 9780738750422
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Paperback, 312 pages

Synopsis: "Journalist Lola Wicks would much rather pursue a story than spend time with people she barely knows. So when an eco-terrorist bombing escalates the controversy surrounding a new coal mine on Arizona’s Navajo Reservation, she’s almost relieved to have a distraction from meeting her in-laws.

But as the violence gets worse and Lola digs deeper, she can’t escape the feeling that her husband’s family is somehow involved―a suspicion that jeopardizes not only her marriage, but also her life
." 



=== March 14 ===


Title: Elementary, She Read
Author: Vicki Delany
Series: #1 in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop cozy series set on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
ISBN: 9781683310969
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.
The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.
"


Title: Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table
Series: #3 in the Kelly Jackson cozy series set in fictional Redwood Cove, California.
ISBN: 9781616509347 
Publisher: Lyrical Underground
Paperback, 190 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Poisons, prophecies-and a peculiar past . . . When a local woman begins searching for a couple she hasn't seen since the 1960s, Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast manager Kelly Jackson and the crime-solving group, the "Silver Sentinels," are quick to help out. They're also quick to guess that they're in over their heads after the woman is found dead beside the body of a Greek fortune teller-and a fellow Sentinel gets attacked. As Kelly juggles work and her responsibilities at a food and wine festival in town, she and her sleuthing posse must confront a killer obsessed with old secrets . . . and solve a murder mystery more than fifty years in the making . . . 


Title: In This Grave Hour
Series: #13 in the Maisie Dobbs historical series set in England.
ISBN:  9780062436603
Publisher: Harper
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "Sunday September 3rd 1939. At the moment Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts to the nation Britain’s declaration of war with Germany, a senior Secret Service agent breaks into Maisie Dobbs' flat to await her return. Dr. Francesca Thomas has an urgent assignment for Maisie: to find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy, some twenty-three years earlier during the Great War.

In a London shadowed by barrage balloons, bomb shelters and the threat of invasion, within days another former Belgian refugee is found murdered. And as Maisie delves deeper into the killings of the dispossessed from the “last war," a new kind of refugee — an evacuee from London — appears in Maisie's life. The little girl billeted at Maisie’s home in Kent does not, or cannot, speak, and the authorities do not know who the child belongs to or who might have put her on the “Operation Pied Piper” evacuee train. They know only that her name is Anna.

As Maisie’s search for the killer escalates, the country braces for what is to come. Britain is approaching its gravest hour — and Maisie could be nearing a crossroads of her own
."
 


Title: Skeleton God
Series: #9 in the Shan Tao Yun police procedural series set in Tibet.
ISBN: 9781250067623 
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "In Eliot Pattison's Skeleton God, Shan Tao Yun, now the reluctant constable of a remote Tibetan town, has learned to expect the impossible at the roof of the world, but nothing has prepared him for his discovery when he investigates a report that a nun has been savagely assaulted by ghosts. In an ancient tomb by the old nun lies a gilded saint buried centuries earlier, flanked by the remains of a Chinese soldier killed fifty years before and an American man murdered only hours earlier. Shan is thrust into a maelstrom of intrigue and contradiction.

The Tibetans are terrified, the notorious Public Security Bureau wants nothing to do with the murders, and the army seems determined to just bury the dead again and Shan with them. No one wants to pursue the truth–except Shan, who finds himself in a violent collision between a heartbreaking, clandestine effort to reunite refugees from Tibet separated for decades and a covert corruption investigation that reaches to the top levels of the government in Beijing, China. The terrible secret Shan uncovers changes his town and his life forever.


=== March 21 ===


Title: A Twist of the Knife
Series: #3 in the series featuring ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn set in Florida.
ISBN: 9781250074515
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn, now happily settled in Tucson, doesn’t visit her family in Florida much. But her former partner on the force, Laura Coleman―a woman whose life she has saved and who has saved her life in turn―is living there now. So when Laura calls about a case that is not going well, Brigid doesn’t hesitate to get on a plane.

On leave from the Bureau, Laura has been volunteering for a legal group trying to prove the innocence of a man who is on death row for killing his family. Laura is firmly convinced that he didn’t do it, while Brigid isn’t so sure―but the date for his execution is coming up so quickly that they’ll have to act fast to find any evidence that may absolve him before it’s too late…
"
 


Title: Single Malt Murder
Series: #1 in the Whisky Business series set in Scotland.
ISBN: 9780399179051
Publisher: Random House Alibi
eBook, 300 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "When Abi inherits her uncle’s quaint and storied single malt distillery, she finds herself immersed in a competitive high-stakes business that elicits deep passions and prejudices. An award-winning photojournalist, Abi has no trouble capturing the perfect shot—but making the perfect shot is another matter. When she starts to receive disturbing, anonymous threats, it’s clear that someone wants her out of the picture. But Abi’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Arriving on the scene with her whisky-loving best friend, Patrick, and an oversized wheaten terrier named Liam, Abi seems to put everyone in the bucolic village on edge—especially her dour but disturbingly attractive head distiller. Acts of sabotage and increasingly personal threats against Abi make it clear that she is not welcome. When one of Abi’s new employees is found floating facedown in a vat of whisky, Abi is determined to use her skills as an investigative journalist to identify the cold-blooded killer and dispense a dram of justice before he strikes again. But distilling truth from lies is tricky, especially when everyone seems to have something to hide.
 


=== March 28 ===


Title: The Devil's Feast
Author: M.J. Carter
Series: #3 in the Avery and Blake historical series set in England.
ISBN: 9780399171697
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Hardcover, 432 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "London, 1842. Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club—a death the club is desperate to hush up. What he soon discovers is a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade. At the center is its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, “the Napoleon of food,” a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted, for where is his mentor and partner in crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death is only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?
"
 


Title: Tightening the Threads
Author: Lea Wait
Series: #5 in the Mainely Needlepoint cozy series set in coastal Maine.
ISBN: 9781496706287 
Publisher: Kensington
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Antique dealer Sarah Byrne has never unspooled the truth about her past to anyone not even friend and fellow Mainely Needlepointer Angie Curtis. But the enigmatic Aussie finally has the one thing she s searched for all her life family. And now she and long-lost half-brother, Ted Lawrence, a wealthy old artist and gallery owner in town, are ready to reveal their secret connection . . .

Ted s adult children are suspicious of their newfound aunt Sarah especially after Ted, in declining health, announces plans to leave her his museum-worthy heirloom paintings. So when Ted is poisoned to death during a lobster bake, everyone assumes she s guilty. If Sarah and Angie can t track down the real murderer in time, Sarah s bound to learn how delicate and deadly family dynamics can truly be . . .
"
 



What a fantastic group of books! Cover Love shout-outs to Blood's Echo, Reservations, In This Grave Hour, and that fabulous house on Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table.

Which titles made it to your own wish lists? Inquiring minds would love to know! (And while I'm wondering, I'll head over to my "upcoming review pile." I have some books to finish....