Monday, July 13, 2020

Murder at the Falls by Arlene Kay

First Lines: Call me grateful. Not a do-gooder and certainly no philanthropist, but someone who firmly believes in giving back and doing my part.

Keats and Poe, the two Malinois war dogs belonging to army veteran Persephone "Perri" Morgan, have earned their therapy dog certification, so Perri and her best friend Babette Croy take their dogs to an upscale senior living facility to spend time with the residents. The Falls may have all the comforts (and then some) of home, but secrets fester behind its walls: missing valuables, feuds, and one resident even fears for her life. Magdalen Melmoth swears she's being targeted because she's the granddaughter of Oscar Wilde-- and her legacy includes an unpublished Wilde novel which could be worth millions if authenticated.

With the help of her boyfriend, investigative journalist Wing Pruett, Perri wants to outsmart a very determined killer before anyone else dies.

I really, really wanted to like Murder at the Falls, especially as I learned more about Persephone "Perri" Morgan. An orphan, foster child, and army veteran, her voice drew me right into the story. I also liked the working dog aspect and how Keats and Poe (both war heroes with the medals to prove it) could be retrained as therapy dogs to work with seniors and in such programs as Children Reading to Dogs. But... there were problems.

One resident at The Falls, the upscale senior living facility, described what Perri and her friends were doing as "Murder, She Wrote with dogs." That's a superficial fit all right, but Jessica Fletcher wouldn't write such a disjointed story. Too many aspects were trotted out and then disappeared for many chapters. Magdalen Melmoth? Here for a few chapters and then gone. The hunt for the Oscar Wilde manuscript? A hot topic, and then it, too, disappears. The whodunit wasn't particularly difficult either once I began tallying up which characters vanished for a while and which ones didn't.

However, when all is said and done, there are two things that got right up my nose more than the disjointed plot: the characters of Wing Pruett and Babette Croy. Wing Pruett did help out from time to time, but his main function seemed to be window dressing-- as if Perri was supposed to have a handsome boyfriend so-- ta dah!-- here he is. As for Babette Croy... I'm afraid that, once I get started on her, I won't know when to stop. Suffice it to say that she's a "diva-Zilla," the one type of character guaranteed to make me want to throw a book against the wall. Southern-deep-fried, beauty pageant winner, Miss Congeniality winner, she calls in airstrikes on any gray hair or wrinkle that comes within ten miles. Naturally, her clothes and makeup must always be perfect. It goes without saying that she must also be the center of attention at all times, and... gack! Consider that subject closed, y'all!

This is the first Creature Comforts mystery that I've read, and although there are things about Murder at the Falls that I liked, I won't be returning. I'm afraid of what I would do to Babette.

Murder at the Falls by Arlene Kay
eISBN: 9781516109326
Lyrical Underground Press © 2020
eBook, 296 pages

Cozy Mystery, #3 Creature Comforts mystery
Rating: D
Source: Net Galley

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Win an Autographed Copy of J.A. Jance's Credible Threat!

It's been awhile since my last giveaway, probably because reading a lot of eBooks meant that I had nothing to give away, but now I do have something: an autographed hardcover copy of J.A. Jance's Credible Threat.

I reviewed the book just a few days ago, if you care to refresh your memory, and here's a synopsis of the book:

"Years after her son’s fatal overdose, grieving mother Rachel Higgins learns that his addiction may have grown out of damage suffered at the hands of a pedophile priest while he was in high school. Looking for vengeance, she targets the Catholic Church’s most visible local figure, Archbishop Francis Gillespie. When the archbishop begins receiving anonymous threats, local police dismiss them, saying they’re not credible. So he turns to his friends, Ali Reynolds and her husband, B. Simpson.

With B. out of the country on a cybersecurity emergency, it’s up to Ali to track down the source of the threats. When a shooter assassinates the archbishop’s driver and leaves the priest himself severely injured, Ali forms an uneasy alliance with a Phoenix homicide cop in hopes of preventing another attack. But Ali doesn’t realize that the killer has become not only more unhinged but also more determined to take out his or her target.

Now let's get down to the basics.

~~~What One Lucky Person Will Win~~~
  • One autographed hardcover edition of J.A. Jance's Credible Threat, the 15th book in the Ali Reynolds mystery series. It has a protective mylar cover on the dust jacket, and has been gently read once.

~~~The Rules~~~
  1. To be entered in the drawing, send an email to kittlingbooks(at)gmail(dot)com.
  2. The subject line of your email must read Credible Threat Giveaway.
  3. The body of your email must have your name and mailing address.
  4. Send your entries to me by noon, Sunday, July 19, 2020.
  5. Due to the high cost of postage, this giveaway is open to US residents only.

~~~The Small Print~~~
Very Important: If your emails are missing any of the required information, i.e., the correct subject line and your name and mailing address, you will not be entered to win. How do you know if you've been entered? If you have not received an email from me within 24 hours which says, "Your entry has been received. Good Luck!" you'll know something went wrong. That's okay. Try again!

The winner will be notified by email, and the announcement will be made here on Kittling: Books on Monday, July 20, 2020. The book will go out in the mail the very next day.

Now it's time to fill up my inbox with entries!

Friday, July 10, 2020

A Helping Hand Weekly Link Round-Up

There's no doubt about it, these are tough times for so many. A person can want to help but still be confused as to the best way to go about it. One of the easiest ways to help is something very simple: suck it up and wear a mask. Don't whine about it. Don't make excuses. Wear a mask. Denis wears hearing aids, and the normal masks you see most people wearing play merry hell with those hearing aids. What did he do? He found a style that keeps him safe and still allows him to hear fuss-free.

How else can we help? Someone in Washington, DC wants to gut the U.S. Postal Service. I don't want to see this happen, so I'm buying stamps. I'm giving the USPS some of my hard-earned money. Now I'm writing snail mail letters and sending cards, and at the rate I'm going, I'll need to get online and order more international stamps soon. If you don't want something to disappear, USE IT. (Same principle for muscle tone and strength, eh?)

The publishing industry has been in a flap for months now. People trying to work from home. Paper supplies disrupted. The ongoing nightmare with book shipments. Bookstores trying to keep from going under. What can we book lovers do to help?

Well... I'm ordering books from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore. I work on their Pinterest boards, and it never fails that, when I start pinning the new books they have for sale, I find several that I have to have. I order the books online and have them shipped to me. It helps my favorite bookstore stay open during these very confusing and complicated times-- and it often leads to giveaways.

I found this week's photo on Facebook. I really like watching the reboot of Star Trek with actor Chris Pine starring as Captain James T. Kirk. It did my heart good to see that he's doing his part to keep his favorite bookstore open, too. That's a big bag of books... AND he's wearing a mask. Now that's sexy! (Never thought you'd see me use the word "sexy" here on the blog, did you? I may not talk about it, but I know what it is! *grin*)

I know what so many of you who read this blog are lending helping hands, too, but don't forget to be kind to yourself as well. This is new territory for all of us. We need all our wits-- and our kindness-- about us.

Now on to those links! Head 'em up! Moooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Stop what you're doing and look at all these baby animals just born at the Columbus Zoo.
  • Hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana leading experts to fear that there could be a dangerous neurotoxin spreading through one of Africa's largest conservation areas.
  • Scientists have proposed a new name for nature in the time of COVID-19: the "Anthropause."
  • Why fireworks scare some dogs but not others.
  • North American rabbits face a deadly virus.
  • Horses make window calls during an uplifting visit to an Indiana nursing home.
  • Norway lobsters crush ocean plastic into even smaller pieces-- and that's bad.
  • An army of hungry ducks keeps this historic South African vineyard pest-free.

►Fascinating Folk◄

►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.

Stay safe! Stay healthy! --and don't forget to spend some time curled up with a good book!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Credible Threat by J.A. Jance

First Line: On a mid-March afternoon as the sun drifted down over Piestewa Peak, seventy-year-old Rachel Higgins wrapped her sweater more tightly around her body and took another sip of her vodka tonic.

Rachel Higgins' life has been limping along for years, but the bottom drops out of her world when she learns that her beloved son's addiction and fatal overdose may have been caused by the damage he suffered at the hands of a pedophile priest when he was in high school. Now Rachel is completely focused on vengeance, and she chooses the Catholic Church's most visible local figure, Archbishop Francis Gillespie, as her target. When Gillespie begins receiving death threats, the police dismiss them, saying they're not credible. When the threats don't stop, he turns to his friends, Ali Reynolds and her husband, B. Simpson.

B. is out of the country on a cybersecurity emergency, so it's up to Ali to track down the source of the threats. When the archbishop's driver is assassinated and the archbishop himself severely injured, Ali forms an uneasy alliance with a Phoenix homicide cop in hopes of preventing another attack. It's going to take all their expertise and a large helping of luck for them to succeed because, having missed her target once, the killer has become more unhinged and even more determined to succeed.

Although the synopsis of Credible Threat tries to cloak the identity of the person out to kill Archbishop Gillespie, it's clear from the beginning who's behind the threats and attempts on his life. This is another solid outing for J.A. Jance, who knows how to craft a fast-paced, ironclad mystery.

As good as she is with pacing and plotting; however, Jance's true (and marvelous) strength lies in the creation of her characters. Even characters who don't have that much time in the spotlight come to life under her pen. In many ways, my favorite was Sister Anselm, who has a Taser and isn't afraid to use it, but no one who reads Credible Threat can't help but be touched by the damaged Rachel Higgins. It's not easy to create a sympathetic assassin, but Jance has. It's not always easy to create a sympathetic priest in an organization seemingly riddled with pedophiles, but Jance has. As I've already said, the strength of Jance is in her characters.

I haven't been a faithful follower of the author's Ali Reynolds series. I dip my toe in from time to time just to see what Ali is up to. Even though Ali crashed and burned in her original occupation, I've had the tendency to regard this series featuring her as a sort of fairy tale. Yes, Ali crashes and burns, but she bounces back stronger than ever. She's smart. She's strong. She's pretty. She's rich. She's married to a man who has all the high tech gadgets you could ever dream of. She has all the right clothes and all the right transportation... she even gets notified of traffic jams ahead of time so she can avoid them. I imagine that there's more than one reader who envies Ali Reynolds just a tiny bit.

But-- guided by someone as talented as J.A. Jance-- the Ali Reynolds series is fun, and that can count for a lot right now.

Credible Threat by J.A. Jance
ISBN: 9781982131074
Gallery Books © 2020
Hardcover, 336 pages

Private Investigator, #15 Ali Reynolds mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

The Figure in the Photograph by Kevin Sullivan

First Line: One week before Christmas in 1897, we entered a hamlet on the way to Cárdenas.

Juan Camarón and his father are only a few steps ahead of battling armies as they travel across Cuba in the summer of 1898. They've been paid to photograph the island's architecture before it is lost. Tragedy strikes when Juan's father is killed and his last photo provides proof that he was not a random victim of war-- he was murdered.

Learning he has inherited property in Scotland, Juan travels to Glasgow where he focuses on his study of photography. His invention of a new device that inadvertently solves a crime brings him to the attention of the local police, and he is asked to help them hunt down a brutal serial killer plaguing the city streets.

The Figure in the Photograph is a book that I wanted to like a lot more than I did. As it is, the only thing I did enjoy was the element of early photography.

There's an abrupt location change from Cuba to Scotland, and I was left wondering if the entire opening in Cuba was really necessary. The story is long and slow and-- except for the photography-- almost completely uninteresting. Even though the book is set in Glasgow and not London, you'd think there would be at least one comparison of the killer to Jack the Ripper, but there's not. Oversight or intentional? I'll never know, but it might have perked me up.

None of the characters, with the exception of a homeless boy Juan befriends, engaged my interest, and even that young boy was underutilized. With so little that captured my attention, why did I keep reading The Figure in the Photograph? I honestly don't know. If you decide to give this book a try, I really hope your mileage varies.

The Figure in the Photograph by Kevin Sullivan
Allison & Busby © 2020
eBook, 352 pages

Historical Mystery
Rating: D
Source: Net Galley

It's Time to Browse My Keeper Cases! (Part Four)

Let's face it. Last week's look at the left side of my non-fiction keeper case was a bit boring even if you do like non-fiction. 98% of the books were about Arizona, and if you're not as enamored of this state as I am, those shelves were a big yawn.

You can see the entire bookcase in the "Keeper Case 2" photo, complete with my shelving stool in front of it. There's nothing quite like rolling up and down my row of To-Be-Read shelves to choose something to read or to shelve new acquisitions. (Must be the former librarian in me, although I never had a cool wheeled stool like that in the Moweaqua Public Library.)

This week, we're taking a look at the right side of the bookcase, but if you missed the left side, you can always backtrack to Part Three.

I've intentionally left the file sizes of the shelf photos large so you can manipulate them to see the book titles. (There's nothing worse than finding intriguing "shelfie" photos on a blog and discovering that you can't see the covers or titles because the photos are too small, right?)

Enough of this intro! Let's get to those shelves!

Shelf 1-- Mostly biographies.

Shelf 2-- Women's history and biographies.

Shelf 3-- Still mostly women's history with an oddball or two thrown in.

Shelf 4-- History and some Travel.

Shelf 5-- Architecture, Interior Design, Travel.

Shelf 6-- Histories of ancestral places and some "strays".

I think it's probably easy to tell which books are Denis's keepers, isn't it? To be completely honest, I still have three shelves here in the office that I haven't shared with you yet, but I'm planning a major reorganization, and any sharing will be off in the future.

What do you think? Did any of the books here surprise you? Did you see any that you'd like to read? Which ones? You know that inquiring minds are dying to find out!

Monday, July 06, 2020

Murder in Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri

First Lines: Monday, 5:13 a.m. The sun wouldn't show up for at least another hour, but Nico got out of bed, shrugged on a T-shirt, pulled on a pair of shorts and socks, and laced up his sneakers.

Former NYPD homicide detective Nico Doyle has moved to the village of Gravigna in the heart of Tuscany. Still mourning the death of his wife, Nico is getting by with the help of Rita's relatives, but he still feels out of place. That all begins to change one morning when he's getting ready for his daily run. Hearing a gunshot and the barks of a dog, Nico discovers a body in the nearby woods.

When the investigating policeman, Maresciallo Salvatore Perillo, finds out about Nico's background, he insists on Nico's help. Discovering the dead man's identity takes a bit of time, but once it's known, Nico and Perillo learn that more than one person in this corner of Italy knew the victim. Nico has a small pool of suspects-- including his own in-laws--and finding the killer means that he's going to have to dig up every last one of their secrets in order to get to the truth.

Even though the mystery seemed to take a backseat from time to time in Murder in Chianti, I didn't really mind because this first Tuscan mystery reminds me very strongly of Martin Walker's Bruno Chief of Police series set in southwestern France.

Just what does that mean? Lots of mouth-watering food (I'm going to try my hand at making "stingy spaghetti"), getting to know the townspeople of the village of Gravigna, a very interesting main character, and a puzzling mystery to solve.

Nico Doyle has a backstory that, once uncovered, explains so much about his character. He is a man who believes in justice, but he also has a great deal of empathy for victims. He's a man who can't turn away a stray dog he names "OneWag," and he experiments with various recipes in his kitchen with some of his food being served in the family restaurant where he works a few hours per week.

The local maresciallo, Salvatore Perillo, is also a strong character. He grew up in the south of Italy, so in his own way, he is out of place in Tuscany, too. His partner is a young man, Daniele, who learns a lot during the investigation while contributing good ideas of his own. Being so young, he feels that his two biggest problems are being without a girlfriend and having the misfortune of blushing at the drop of a hat (even when he's not embarrassed about anything). Ah, the young!

If you're a fan of Martin Walker's series, expand your reading range to include Tuscany. I really think you'll enjoy Murder in Chianti. If you're not acquainted with Bruno Chief of Police, try Trinchieri's book anyway. You're going to love Tuscany, love the food, love the characters, and love solving this mystery.

Murder in Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri
eISBN: 9781641291804
Soho Press © 2020
eBook, 312 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Tuscan mystery
Rating: A-
Source: Net Galley

Sunday, July 05, 2020

June 2020 Additions to My eBook Stockpile

I don't know if I've been too busy knitting and going through old photographs, but I was a bit more circumspect in adding books to my eBook stockpile (AKA digital security blanket) last month. The fact that Denis and I are clearing out an area of the house in order to add a rather large piece of exercise equipment probably helped take my focus off book acquisition, too. Even though I buy most of my eBooks when they're bargains, my wallet still probably thanks me.

I've grouped my new additions according to genre/subgenre, and if you click on the book title, you'll be taken to Amazon US for more information about the book. I'm not an Amazon affiliate, I'm merely a Kindle owner.

Let's see if I bought any books that tickle your fancy, too!


Three Singles to Adventure by Gerald Durrell. Set in Guyana.

~~~Historical Mystery~~~

Death in Delft by Graham Brack. Set in the Netherlands.


Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham. Set in England.

~~~Amateur Sleuth~~~

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne. Set in Montana.

~~~Police Procedural~~~

Gone to Darkness by Barbara Nickless. Set in Colorado.
The Burial Circle by Kate Ellis. Set in England.
The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne. Set in Florida.
Devil's Garden by Aline Templeton. Set in Scotland.
The Mist by Ragnar Jónasson. Set in Iceland.

I'm feeling another onset of cabin fever, so I would imagine that it won't be long until I'm traveling with Gerald Durrell again, and it's going to be impossible to keep me out of Iceland, too. I chose some books that definitely tickled my fancy, but what about you? Did you see anything that you couldn't resist? Inquiring minds would love to know!