Sunday, July 21, 2024

On My Radar: Kate Carlisle's The Knife Before Christmas!

 


Although my enjoyment of cozy mysteries has slackened in the past couple of years, there are still a few series that are favorites. Kate Carlisle's Fixer-Upper series featuring contractor Shannon Hammer is one of them. Carlisle has created a good solid cast, and she certainly knows how to craft intriguing mysteries. In addition, I always enjoy the contracting, architectural, and design elements that she incorporates into each book. (And I just have to tell you that the pink tape measures that Carlisle handed out one year are priceless. I still have two because it seems as though Denis wants nothing to do with a pink tape measure! All the others in the house disappear regularly.)
 
So I had a big smile on my face when I learned that there would be a new Fixer-Upper mystery this year. Let me tell you more about it! 


Available October 22, 2024!

 
Synopsis:

"Christmas has come to Lighthouse Cove, but business hasn’t slowed down for Shannon Hammer. She’s been contracted to renovate a local hotel owned by the Garrisons, a family that’s so devoted to the holidays they serve a seven-course dinner every night from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Last year’s festivities featured a train that transported guests around the breathtaking Cliffside property. This year, Shannon and her crew have been commissioned to build a Victorian-style carnival midway with games and prizes galore.

Everyone in town loves the hotel’s spirit, except the Garrisons’ children and their spouses, who are hum-bugged by the money being wasted on holiday cheer while their inheritance goes up the chimney. Things turn nasty when a mischief-maker close to the family is found dead. It’s up to Shannon and Mac to catch a sinister Scrooge before all of Lighthouse Cove receives coal for Christmas.
"


Each book in this series has Shannon and her crew working on something different: restoring old Victorian houses, a castle, installing solar panels-- you name it. Now it's a Victorian carnival midway. I'm really looking forward to it!

How many of you are familiar with this series? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Thursday, July 18, 2024

A Postcards from Arizona Weekly Link Round-Up

 


I was reminded recently of a favorite purchase when I was a child and on a summer road trip. One of the best places to stop was Stuckey's. Clean restrooms, good hamburgers, those pecan logs!, but-- most importantly-- the racks of postcards. I had a pretty decent collection of postcards from many of the places we visited, but I got rid of it years ago. Now I'm wondering how well the postcard market is doing. It's had to have taken a big hit from camera phones and the like. I might have to look into that... Any fellow (current or former) postcard collectors here?
 
 
Meanwhile, it's hot here in Phoenix. The only place I've been recently is the wound care clinic. Denis is still going on midnight swims and scaring the cats, and I'm about to finish a watermelon-colored baby blanket. All is well here, and I hope it is where you are, too. 
 
Stay healthy, stay cool, and read plenty of good books. Enjoy the links!
 


►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
 
►Book Banning & Censorship◄


 
 
►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
 
►Channeling My Inner Elly May Clampett◄
 
►The Wanderer◄
 
►Fascinating Folk◄
 
►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.

No matter how busy you may be, don't forget that quality Me Time curled up with a good book!

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Safety Net by Andrea Camilleri

 
First Line: The alarm clock started ringing wildly.
 
When a Swedish television series begins filming in Vigàta, there is a frenzy of excitement. This new series is set in 1950, and the director asks locals to track down movies and vintage photos to faithfully recreate the town as it looked at that time. 
 
Ernesto Sabatello finds some movies shot by his father up in his attic. The films-- dated from 1958 to 1963-- were always shot on the same day and always had the same location, the outside wall of a country house. Montalbano is intrigued by the mystery of Sabatello's story and begins to check it out.

Meanwhile, a middle school is threatened by a group of armed men, and when Montalbano and his team begin looking into the situation, the inspector finds himself taking a closer look at the students themselves... and even into the world of social media.

~

By this time (book 25 of 28 in the series), I feel as though Salvo Montalbano is a beloved uncle, and The Safety Net brings this wily curmudgeon into the world of teenagers and social media. It also brings him into a situation all too familiar to Americans-- gun violence in schools. 

With his trademark humor, Andrea Camilleri sets us down in a town seething with excitement over the presence of a film crew in its midst. Some of the situations Montalbano and his team have to deal with are quite funny. But Camillleri can be quite serious, too.

The author shares his opinions about gun violence in schools as well as what he thinks about the internet and social media. ("How was it possible... that this vast new realm had only created a multitude of loners...?") And Montalbano shines when dealing with teenagers in this story. He starts out believing that he doesn't even come close to speaking the same language as the youngsters, but once he begins to apply himself to the task, he's better at it than he'd imagined. And-- wonder of wonders-- he even sits down with Catarella to do some work on the computer!

I've loved this series for a good long time. I love the setting, the food, the humor. The mystery of the home movies here in The Safety Net is a good one as well. But what I really love is Salvo Montalbano, a man so particular about his food that, if you invite him to dinner and he makes an excuse not to come, you know you're a bad cook. I hate to see my time with this series getting nearer to the end.

The Safety Net by Andrea Camilleri
Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartorelli
eISBN:  9780525506621
Penguin Books © 2020
eBook, 269 pages

Police Procedural, #25 Inspector Montalbano
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

While Miz Kittling Knits: !mpossible

 

 
I think I'm the same type of knitter that I am as a reader. I read two books at the same time (one physical and one eBook), and I have two knitting projects going on at the same time. Right now, I'm working on a baby blanket as well as washcloths for the main bathroom. The second is an ongoing one that will eventually wind up with several photos because I've fallen in love with a certain yarn, and I don't know when to stop. The woman who comes in every other week to do some housecleaning seems to love this particular yarn, too, because she keeps an eye on what I'm making from it.

But that is not the project that I'm going to share with you today. Today, it's a lightweight afghan from a simple pattern using moss (seed) stitch borders all around with a stockinette stitch central panel. I used US size 6 circular needles and an acrylic yarn with a metallic thread running through it. I fell in love with this yarn well over a decade ago, bought as many skeins of it as I could, and it took me this long to figure out what I wanted to make with it. I won't give you the particulars because the yarn has been discontinued for years. I will tell you the color, though-- Peacock-- and it is the closest thing I've seen to all the colors in peacock feathers that I've ever seen.

 
The finished afghan


A closeup for the colors. The blue metallic glint refuses to show itself.

 
I chose a simple pattern for this yarn because I wanted to showcase the colors. It's light and soft, perfect when there's a slight chill in the air.
 
Now... what have I been watching while I've been stitching away?
 
 

 
I've been a fan of Jeopardy!-type quiz shows since I was a child (and Art Fleming was the host of Jeopardy!). Do I still watch Jeopardy!? You bet, though I still mentally hear Johnny Gilbert announce, "And here's the host of Jeopardy!-- Alex Trebek!"

I don't know what made me click on !mpossible from the Roku screen, but I almost immediately became hooked, and Denis and I both enjoy watching an episode or two every evening. Here's a brief synopsis from the IMDb website: "Rick Edwards hosts the daytime quiz show in which 21 recurring contestants must avoid choosing the impossible answer as they compete for the chance to win 10,000 pounds."

It is a UK-based quiz show, and whenever the questions or categories involve politics or sport, I might as well take a nap because I know next to nothing about UK politics or cricket or soccer. I have found, however, that I'm pretty darned good when it comes to picking the impossible answers even when it's a subject I know little about. Go figure. 
 
I like testing my knowledge on a quiz show that's not geared toward Americans, and... well... umm... I have a guilty secret. I also enjoy looking at Rick Edwards, the host.
 
Can you really blame me?



Monday, July 15, 2024

Pentimento Mori by Valeria Corciolani

 
First Lines: Yellow. Everything is dry and yellow.
 
Art historian Dr. Edna Silvera becomes an amateur detective when she stumbles across a medieval painting in recently murdered Nando Folli's junk shop. She also turns into a thorn in Public Prosecutor Jacopo Bassi's side as she tries to learn more about the painting and why the junk dealer died.
 
~
 
Valeria Corciolani's Pentimento Mori was irresistible to me because it's almost impossible for me to turn down a mystery that deals with any art history. In that respect, this first Edna Silvera mystery is brilliant. In fact, the fascinating nuggets of history and art often outshine the plot. I soaked up each one of Corciolani's factoids, including the significance of colors and pigments in medieval art as well as why Popes bless people with three fingers. 

Some of the similes used in Pentimento Mori are a bit clunky and make me think that they sound better in the original Italian, but that didn't stop me from trying to solve the mystery, and it certainly didn't stop me from liking the misanthropic Dr. Edna Silvera with her chickens named after movie stars. There is also quite a bit of humor to be found, and between the mystery, the characters, and the humor, I was reminded of my favorite Italian mystery writer, Andrea Camilleri.

Between the art history and the reminder of Camilleri, I am looking forward to seeing Edna Silvera again. She's the kind of quirky character that I love.

Pentimento Mori by Valeria Corciolani
Translated from the Italian by Unknown.
eISBN: 9781948104289
Kazabo Publishing © 2024
eBook, 299 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #1 Edna Silvera
Rating: B+
Source: the publisher

Sunday, July 14, 2024

On My Radar: Jenn McKinlay's A Merry Little Murder Plot!

 


Although my cozy mystery reading has fallen off a bit in the past few years, there are favorite series that I refuse to abandon. Jenn McKinlay's Library Lovers mystery series is one of them. McKinlay not only is one of the nicest, funniest people you will ever meet but she is also a former librarian and a very talented writer. Entries in her Library Lovers series have been enshrined on my Best Reads lists (like this year's, for example).

So... when I learned that there was a Christmas-themed Library Lovers mystery being released this year, I think the next-door neighbors might've heard a resounding "Yippee!"  from this direction. Let me tell you more about it!


Available October 8, 2024!


Synopsis: 
 
"During the most wonderful time of the year, famous author Helen Monroe arrives in Briar Creek to be the writer in residence, but her “bah humbug” attitude excludes her from the many holiday celebrations the town residents enjoy. To try to spread some Christmas cheer, library director Lindsey Norris invites the new writer in town to join her crafternoon club. Helen politely refuses and when an altercation happens between Helen and another patron, Lindsey begins to suspect the author has been keeping to herself for a reason.

Another newcomer, Jackie Lewis, reveals she’s visiting Briar Creek to be near Helen because she believes they are destined to meet. Having dealt with a stalker in the past, Lindsey feels compelled to tell Helen about Jackie, as she suspects that Helen is unaware her “number one” fan is in town.

When Jackie’s body is later discovered in the town park beneath the holiday-light display with a copy of Helen’s latest manuscript in her hand, the reclusive novelist becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her self-proclaimed mega-fan. Helen’s frosty demeanor melts when Lindsey offers her help, and now the librarian and her crafternoon pals must prove the author innocent before "The End" becomes Helen's final sentence.


I wonder why Jackie Lewis automatically made me think of Annie Wilkes, the Number One Fan in Stephen King's Misery? (Yet here, she's the one whose ticket is punched...) Regardless the character she reminded me of, A Merry Little Murder Plot certainly sounds like another excellent entry in this fun series, and I look forward to reading it! Are there any other Library Lovers fans out there? (I bet there are!)



Thursday, July 11, 2024

A Coming and Going Weekly Link Round-Up

 


This week is one of people beating paths to our door, and the two of us beating paths to various doctors' appointments, so I'm getting this post done early. 

Denis finally got the latest news on his back. Surgery isn't necessarily required, but may have to be done in the future. If so, it won't be nearly as invasive as his first back surgery, so that's good news. (By the way, he has TWO loose screws, not just one.) Most of his pain stems from the narrowing of the channel that his spinal cord runs through, and that narrowing is due to arthritis. Denis is going to check with his pain doctors to see if he's eligible for an epidural. I hope he is because I don't like to see this darlin' man in pain.

A friend sent me this New Yorker cover in the mail, saying "That's me. You, too?" 

We've been breaking all sorts of heat records here in Phoenix, but I can't say that I've ever been tempted to do what the man on the New Yorker cover is doing. For one thing, our refrigerator is old and doing something like that would guarantee its death. Nope, air conditioning, a helpful fan or two, and plenty of cold drinks does me just fine.

Here's hoping you're all cool and healthy wherever you are, and that you have plenty of good books to read. Enjoy the links!


►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
 
►Book Banning & Censorship◄



►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
 
►Channeling My Inner Elly May Clampett◄
 
►The Wanderer◄
 
►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Move over, Genghis Khan, many other men left huge genetic legacies.
  • How self-taught guitarist Libba Cotten became a music legend.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton is publishing a new memoir in September.
  • Fanny Angelina Hesse, the forgotten woman who revolutionized microbiology with a simple kitchen staple.
  • The USPS commemorates Alex Trebek with a Forever Stamp in the form of a Jeopardy! question.
  • Who was "Lisa Ben," the woman behind the U.S.'s first lesbian magazine?
  • Edith Wharton: A Writer's Reflections.
  • Pathbreaking South African horseman Enos Mafokate is handing a new generation the reins.
 
►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.

No matter how busy you may be, don't forget that quality Me Time curled up with a good book!

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Wild Swimmers by William Shaw

 
First Line: It came down to a choice between two directions, north or south.
 
Approaching the beach to search for a missing woman, Detective Sergeant Alexandra "Alex" Cupidi heads north while her teenage daughter, Zoë, goes south. It's a decision that Alex wishes she could remake because Zoë is devastated when she finds a dead body on the shore. Mimi Greene was a regular wild swimmer with a group of close friends, and it was very much out of character for her to be swimming alone-- especially in bad weather. It's not long before Cupidi thinks this is more than an accidental drowning.

Meanwhile, her friend and colleague Jill Ferriter has received a letter from a man claiming to be her father. Stephen Dowles was convicted of two murders and has spent the last twenty years in prison. 

With Alex obsessed with the investigation surrounding Mimi Greene's death and her daughter's fragile emotional state, Jill must rely on former police officer Bill South to uncover the facts around Dowles' conviction, and he begins revisiting old colleagues and criminals.

~

William Shaw's Alexandra Cupidi series is one that I love. I can hear the birds calling overhead and taste the salt in the air while I search for shells in the sand. Yes, he puts me right in the middle of the setting. Having written a couple of standalone thrillers, I was ecstatic to see that he'd come back to this area and these characters again.

As always, the mysteries concerning the wild swimmer and the convicted killer are strong ones with plenty of twists and turns, but it's the cast of characters that I love seeing again and again. After being a hermit for several books, it would appear that Bill South has finally begun to heal from the emotional turmoil of The Birdwatcher as he takes a larger role in The Wild Swimmers. And speaking of wild swimmers, the group of women that Mimi Greene had joined is a strange collection of personalities.

The two main characters, Alex and her daughter Zoë have come full circle. The trauma of finding Mimi has made Zoë terrified of being in a setting in which she had been passionately in love. And with all the determination of a nineteen-year-old, she is now acting older and more judgemental than her mother. Alex, who used to be a certified city girl who hated the country, now loves the beaches and marshlands of southeastern England. The only way Alex hasn't really changed is in her tendency to jump in before she thinks-- sometimes with dangerous consequences, sometimes not.

If you love strong mysteries peopled with multifaceted characters who live in a setting you can see and hear and feel and taste, you must read this series. Start with The Birdwatcher so you don't miss one little bit!

The Wild Swimmers by William Shaw
ISBN: 9781529420128
riverrun © 2024
Hardcover, 384 pages
 
Police Procedural, #6 Alexandra Cupidi
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon UK