Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Under the Covers with Minette Walters

Today, I thought I would take a look at several covers of one of Minette Walters' mysteries, The Scold's Bridle, but first I have to tell you an anecdote that I find a bit funny now.

I remember seeing this book in a bookshop when it was first released. With the word "bridle" in the title, I thought it might be a mystery that had something to do with horses. When I read the synopsis, I could see that it didn't have a thing to do with my second favorite four-legged critter and put it back on the shelf. But that title stuck in my mind, and I looked up the definition of "scold's bridle" when I got home. (This was pre-computer, so I looked it up the old-fashioned way.)

A scold's bridle was an instrument of punishment, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head. A bridle-bit (or curb-plate), about 2 inches long and 1 inch broad, projected into the mouth and pressed down on top of the tongue.

Naturally, this form of punishment was for women, because-- heaven knows-- men never gossip, grumble, or complain. When I discovered what the item was, it made me so mad that I never wanted to read Walters' book, even though it was an award winner. As you can see, I never overreact! *cough* Will I read it now? It's possible, but with the current state of my to-be-read shelves, it's unlikely. You want to know something else? The idea of a scold's bridle still makes steam pour out of my ears... but I digress. Let's take a look at some of the covers that were devised for this book with the interesting title.

UK. Looks like a Halloween cover to me!

US. The bridle must be in the tub...

UK. Creepy! Looks like it's hanging on the wall of the dungeon.

UK. Audio Cassette cover.







Now... as your eyes rambled down the row of book covers, did you notice anything in particular? (Besides the fact that none of them are particularly pretty.) I have a feeling that some of you saw the same thing I did: the covers for The Scold's Bridle editions published in the US and Australia have nary a bridle on 'em, while every single one of the UK covers does.

What does this mean? I would imagine it all boils down to ignorance. Although I think the Puritans made use of the things, most Americans aren't going to have a clue what a scold's bridle is, and from the looks of things, publishers didn't think the Australians would either. I'm not sure what this says about the British!

Which covers do you prefer-- with bridle, or without? Or neither one? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Taste for Vengeance by Martin Walker

First Line: On this cool, damp Sunday afternoon in spring, with clouds and rain showers sweeping in from the Atlantic a hundred miles to the west, Bruno Courrèges had his day off.

When one of the tourists doesn't show for a luxurious cooking vacation outside the small French village of St. Denis, the hostess is quick to call Bruno for help. The tourist is nowhere to be found, her husband is unreachable, and just when Bruno learns that she may have been traveling with her lover, both she and her lover are found dead. Her lover was an Irishman with a background in intelligence as well as ties to the woman's husband. It's a case that raises more and more questions the more Bruno investigates.

He also has a more personal "case"-- the young star of the local girls' rugby team that Bruno coaches is pregnant, which puts her chances of being named to the French national squad at risk. This, too, has Bruno asking questions, questions of himself and his beliefs.

At the beginning of this eleventh Bruno Chief of Police mystery, readers learn that Bruno has been given added responsibilities, and some of the more interesting parts of the book have him dealing with these as well as members of the police force that we've never met before. I liked seeing him out of his comfort zone. Not everything ran smoothly, and he often had to think quickly to avoid disaster.

The past few books in the series have had Bruno involved in cases in which the French government works with other countries-- especially when the investigation has to do with terrorism. A Taste for Vengeance does involve terrorism (from a source which surprised me... and should not have), and Bruno gets to work closely with counterparts in the American and British governments. I do like seeing that governments can actually work together for the common good. We need more of that.

It was refreshing not to have a mystery that linked to World War II, and in many other respects, this book shows us the Bruno that I've known and loved since the very first book. I only have one small quibble, which will make some people shake their heads: if anything, there is too much food throughout the book. Yes, I love the cooking-- the tastes, the smells, the history of the food and drink, watching it being prepared, the camaraderie. But there were too many such scenes that kept taking me away from the investigations. Removing one or two would've sharpened the pace and the suspense yet still had me hopping in the car to go to the local French grocery store.

But as I've already said, A Taste for Vengeance shows me the Bruno and the St. Denis that I love-- and that I'll always come back to. If you love mysteries that are recipes filled with well-seasoned intrigue, characters, and a setting so pitch-perfect you'll start speaking with a French accent, you simply have to read Martin Walker's Bruno Chief of Police mysteries. Ils sont magnifiques!

A Taste for Vengeance by Martin Walker
eISBN: 9780525519973
Alfred A. Knopf © 2018
eBook, 337 pages

Police Procedural, #11 Bruno Chief of Police mystery
Rating: A-
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Hank Phillippi Ryan & Steve Hamilton at The Poisoned Pen!

When I learned that Hank Phillippi Ryan and Steve Hamilton were going to appear at The Poisoned Pen to promote their new books, it wasn't difficult to persuade Denis that we had to go even though we were going to be spending the Labor Day weekend with two dozen authors just a few days later. I think Denis just wanted to do something with me that took us outside the house yet still involved air conditioning. Whatever the reason, we were at our favorite bookstore nice and early to get the seats we wanted, and the time flew by.

L to R: Hank Phillippi Ryan & Steve Hamilton

Barbara Peters introduced the pair and then left center stage to them because, as she said, Ryan is a vastly superior interviewer. And since I now record these events, go home, listen to the recordings and type up the recaps, I'm just going to proceed as though I'm writing a screenplay. (Hope you don't mind!)

Ryan: How long have you been on book tour?

Hamilton: For almost two weeks.

Ryan: Do you have any idea what day it is?

Hamilton: Um... it's the middle of the week, right?

Ryan: I don't know! Book tour is so crazy. What a wild trip it is. It's so much fun, but you have no idea what day it is. There are mornings when I wake up in hotel rooms and think, 'Where am I?'  Do you have that?

Hamilton: Yes. It is a great privilege because we get to... Writing is such a solitary thing. You're in a room alone late at night, or if you're a morning person, early in the morning, and you can forget that there are people out there who read these books and they spend so much time with your characters. That's such an amazing thing, especially now when so many people don't read books. So it's great to come here and be reminded that there are still readers out there. It's something that I'll never take for granted.

Hank Phillippi Ryan
Ryan: I am not a morning writer. Lee Child always said nothing good ever happens before noon, so every time I put it off and put it off and put it off. But I think because I've been a television reporter for forty years I get more prolific as the night goes on. I think it's because I'm always half-ready for the eleven o'clock news, so at ten o'clock I can really write because I know my news deadline is coming. But in the morning I have plenty of time to put the story together. Do you write at night as well?

Hamilton: Yes, I do. I can't imagine getting up before dawn. We know writers who do it that way. William Kent Krueger in a coffee shop in Minnesota while the sun comes up, writing his books. That's like science fiction to me.

Ryan: Exactly! You would find my head clonked on a computer. [Holding up a copy of Hamilton's book] People are just effusive about Dead Man Running. This is marvelous. And it's not just because it's a fast-paced, interesting, compelling book; this has really touched some people.

Hamilton: Well! Thank you by the way... It's been five years since the last book with this guy, and actually as I go around this month, it's kind of mind-blowing that it was twenty years ago this month that A Cold Day in Paradise was released. Twenty years! And all the things that have happened since then. It's just incredible to look back on it. And now, five years since the last book... I knew I'd go back to him. I was here for the last few books, and I hope I said it whenever anyone asked about Alex-- that I'd go back to him. [character Alex McKnight]

Ryan: Why don't you tell us a bit about where Alex came from; he's such a favorite with readers! Do you remember the moment you first met him?

Steve Hamilton
Hamilton: Yeah, I remember the exact moment because I was trying to write what I thought was a private eye book. Which is the guy in the office with the hat and the thing and the bottle and the gun... you've got the whole thing in your head already. It's kind of formula, but there's nothing wrong with that formula, by the way. It still works really well. I loved that kind of book when I was growing up. I wanted to write that kind of book.

I had all this time set aside to write that kind of book, and I failed so utterly and completely. It just didn't happen.

Ryan: How did you know you had failed? Every author feels that at some point. It's not good... whose idea was this... this isn't going to work... but you had a pure, compelling thought that you were just on the wrong track. How did you know that?

Hamilton: When, after sixteen days, I had written two words. That was my clue. The words were 'Chapter One,' by the way. I mean, after all this time, I felt like such a failure. I just wanted to do this so bad, and I just thought, 'You're never going to be a writer. You don't have what it takes-- whatever that is. It's just not going to happen for you.'

And then at that point of giving up, I just decided that I was going to write something else. I had this idea about a guy who felt like I did. It felt real. I just thought of Alex McKnight sitting in a cabin in the most remote place I could think of. I thought, 'Why is he there? Why is he feeling this way?' It's a strange way to begin a story with that feeling of despair, so I just started answering questions about it. Maybe he's a cop. What's the big failure for a cop? His partner was killed and he didn't stop it. He left the force. He came to this place to get away from his life. And that first book was about how your life will always find you.

Available Now!
Ryan: What do you mean by that?

Hamilton: Well, it's like you can't get away from the past. You can't run away from your demons. And that was the point of that whole first book. It wasn't a private eye novel, it was a personal coming-to-terms-with-his-past novel. It just came about in a way that I never would have expected.

Ryan: When you start with your character in deep despair, you have two choices. You can have them come out of it, or not. Did you know you were writing a series, and how do you keep the idea that the core started with that despair but you can't keep despair going throughout the series?

Hamilton: No, you can't. He kinda gets dragged out of it. He kinda gets tricked out of it. I wasn't thinking of a second book, or a third book... or an eleventh book now. When the first book was published, they asked me where the second one was. I said, 'It's coming right up!' And when I went back, I realized that there was more stuff that he could do. This book is a lot different, though.

Ryan: Why?

Hamilton: Coming back from a break, it's like... have you seen the movie Skyfall? That was a brilliant movie I thought because all the stuff that had built up around the franchise was done away with. They made the decision to go back to what it was about this character that made us want to read the books and go see the first couple of movies when it was this new amazing thing before all the fancy cars and stuff. I was inspired by that. What was it about Alex McKnight twenty years ago that made me want to keep writing about him?

Steve Hamilton
Ryan: So you fell in love with your character all over again.

Hamilton: Yeah, I guess you could say that. I got back to back to that idea, and that's why he's alone in this book. It's about him on his own. It takes him out of his comfort zone, and it's a very different sort of circumstance. The book starts in the Mediterranean Sea with this guy who's on a cruise with his wife. He checks the video feed on his house back in Scottsdale, Arizona. He sees that something's not right. He checks the bedroom and sees there's a dead body in his bed.

In the next scene, you're in Arizona and they've captured this guy-- kinda too easily actually-- and the FBI is interviewing him. The guy tells them that there's one victim still alive, but you're going to have to take me to Michigan to find this ex-cop from Detroit, and you're going to have to bring him with us. That's the only way I'll cooperate.

Ryan: That's weird!

Hamilton: It is weird, especially when Alex gets there and this guy knows everything about his life-- and Alex has never seen him before.

Ryan: And that's one of the things about your books that is so terrific, that the two stories come together so beautifully. The personal story and the crime story. How do you weave that together? Do you plan it all, or does it just come together as you write?

Hamilton: This just comes out of Alex. It's who he is and how he deals with things. He uses his gut instincts to make his way through this nightmare that he's plunged into. It does tie into his own life, and there's a big twist at the end that we won't talk about. It's just part of making a story that's a complete story because you need all of that.

Ryan: To newcomers to the series, you don't have to start with the first book. They're a series of standalone books, right? That you can read in any order...

Hamilton: Right.

Hank Phillippi Ryan
Ryan: Did you know you were doing that with the first book, giving it that standalone feel?

Hamilton: I didn't know anything about the series when I wrote that first book, but as you go, you learn that it's a balancing act.

Ryan: I've learned so much about the difference between writing a series and writing a standalone because this is my first standalone, my first psychological standalone after writing nine series books. Two different series.

Hamilton: So let's talk about this book now.

Ryan: Okay!

Hamilton: I was reading your book on the plane to Phoenix, and here's the thing that struck me about it: we do these tours and events and conferences, and all that stuff is secondary to the words on the page and whether when you pick up the book that it really works for you as a reader. That's what really matters and what will last long after we're gone. As I was reading your book, I forgot that I was going to see you today and that I wanted to ask you questions about it, I just wanted to read because it's a really good book. It really pulled me in.

Ryan: It's interesting, because at the beginning of the book-- just like your Alex book, Mercer Hennessey-- who is a journalist-- quits her up and coming job as a writer to stay at home with her husband and daughter. Just to be a mom. This is what she wants to do. A year before the start of the book, she loses her husband and daughter in a terrible accident, and as the book begins, Mercer is writing in the steam on the bathroom mirror four, four, two-- the number of days since her family was taken from her. This is her daily ritual.

She can't find a reason for her to get out of bed in the morning, and she gets what may be a lifeline phone call from her old editor, asking her to cover the trial of a notorious party girl/murderer-- alleged murderer-- who's accused of killing her own daughter. Should Mercer cover the trial? Her grief over losing her own daughter is still so raw, but she's a journalist and she can be objective. So she's assigned to write the true crime coverage-- like In Cold Blood-- of this murder trial.

Hank Phillippi Ryan
Hamilton: And you actually read some of the things she's writing about the trial, so you kinda see it from the other side. She's trying to imagine herself in the mind of the person who's on trial.

Ryan: It's interesting because the first part of the book is a book in a book. So you read about Mercer's life and how she's covering this trial. She's under tremendous pressure because the book must be finished by the time the defendant is sentenced. She's under intense deadline pressure. She's writing like crazy. She's researching. She's watching the trial on a video feed in her house. She's in this sort of locked room situation with this grisly story about a horrible murder coming through the video feed.

You see Mercer covering the trial, and you see what she thinks about it. Then you're also reading the book she's writing about it. So we know what happens to the accused murderer through Mercer's eyes and through what Mercer is writing, and we can see Mercer trying to stay objective. And then everything changes, which I can't tell you about at all!

Hamilton: I know! The plane landed, and all I want to do is get back to the book and start reading, which is the highest compliment you can pay a writer, I think. I think tonight will be a long night because I want to see what happens next.

Ryan: What happens next is so fascinating because it's why we all read crime fiction. We want to see what happens in this case, we want to find out whodunit. 

This is a little-known story, and I'll tell it quickly. I was assigned many years ago by a big fancy publishing house to write the true crime novel of the Casey Anthony trial. I had to cover the trial and write the book and be done when the trial was over. I was supposed to hit send and the book was to be published the day she was sentenced to life in prison because, of course, she was guilty. Everyone knew that.

Hank Phillippi Ryan with Trust Me
I had three computers. I had one to do research, I had one where I was watching the trial feed, and I had one where I was writing the book. I wrote eighteen to twenty hours a day like crazy. I have to tell you that, at one point, I thought, 'This is really good, this is a good book. I have found my calling. It's going to be the new In Cold Blood!'

And then... and then... she was acquitted. The publisher called me and said, 'Thanks so much. We don't need this book.' It was over. But here's the point of it. When that happened to me, I realized that I had written this book which was supposed to be objective through the brain and eyes of a person-- me-- who really thought she was guilty. Now I'm a criminal defense attorney's wife. I can tell you why anybody is not guilty, but in this case, I really thought she was guilty.

It was very profound to me to have it revealed how I had actually been writing that book. Not objective in any way, and also, the jury had come up with a completely different version of the truth than I had. How could that be? That's when I realized that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. And that's what you see on the cover of the book.

[Looking at Hamilton] Do you know how your books will end before you start writing them?

Steve Hamilton
Hamilton: I used to sort of not know. Really, when I was first starting out, in the first ten McKnight books. I'd just start out with something really interesting and then ask myself what's the worst thing he could get himself into next. Okay-- so what has to happen next? That's a pretty good North Star for a writer. It seems inevitable, but you can work your way into some pretty big surprises. And you can really surprise yourself.

Ryan: Isn't that kind of fun, though, when you're typing and something gets put on the page and you think, 'Really? That happened? I didn't see that coming!' That's such a joy when that happens.

Hamilton: Unless it's something really horrible, and then it's not. It's 'Wait a minute! This can't happen!'

Ryan: One of the things I say about Trust Me is 'I dare you to show me the liar.' It's an obsessed journalist and a troubled mom in a cat-and-mouse game about this terrible crime, but only one can prevail. Which one is the cat, and which one is the mouse? And I dare you to find the liar. If you look at the book this way, see what the cover says?

Available Now!

Isn't that amazing? And once you see that it says 'LIAR', you can't unsee it.

Hamilton: That's really cool!

Ryan: They did a great job!

Hamilton: Was this your first standalone?

Ryan: Yes, it was. What was your first standalone?

Hamilton: I did a book called Night Work. Then any sensible person would've gone back, but I had this big idea for this eighteen-year-old safecracker who never talks.

Ryan: I remember interviewing you for The Lock Artist and asking 'Why would you choose to write about a character who never talks? That's hard for a book...'

Hamilton: I didn't know that was going to happen until about fifty pages in and he still hadn't said anything!

Hank Phillippi Ryan
Ryan: That has just stuck with me forever because that's absolutely what you were talking about... that you didn't even plan that, and if you had-- forgive me-- but if you had, you wouldn't've done it because it's such a stupid idea!

Hamilton: Exactly! Exactly! Maybe it was a stupid idea because it certainly felt that way.

Ryan: Did that not win the Edgar?

Hamilton: It kinda won the Edgar, yeah.

Ryan: Then that's not stupid.

Hamilton: But it still felt stupid in the middle. I was stuck and it would've been so helpful if my guy would just say something! But in that first scene, I just knew there was something different about him besides his talent with locks and safes. What is it about this kid that makes him different from everyone else? And as I wrote, he just kept his mouth shut. He would not say anything!

Ryan: That's just classic. And you could've gone on to write more books about him, but it would've been tedious and wouldn't work. And here's where the difference between writing series and writing standalones is so profound. In a series, Alex McKnight is not going to die because he's going to come back in the next book. So the tension in your book is from whatever the situation is.

But in a standalone, this is the biggest, most tectonic-plate-shifting thing, the most life-changing thing that has ever happened-- or will ever happen-- to Mercer Hennessy and Ashlynne Bryant. This will not happen again. This is a moment in time. This is a cat-and-mouse game that can only happen once. Only one can win. This makes a standalone be so no-holds-barred! You can do anything, you can kill anybody, anybody can be guilty.

Steve Hamilton
Hamilton: How did that feel not having any of your characters... because normally you know these guys, you know the place-- it's like coming back home-- and you gave up all that to write something totally from scratch. Was that scary?

Ryan: It was fabulous. I have to say that I'm in love with writing standalones.

As I said before, my husband is a criminal defense attorney, and I listened to him give his closing argument for a big murder trial. I told him that he had a slam-dunk acquittal.

Then I pictured the wife of the prosecuting attorney across town doing the same thing. That's what caused me to write this book-- whether I could take the same set of evidence and make two completely different stories that were equally believable.

Hamilton: So it sounds like we're going to see more standalones?

Ryan: Yeah, it's due Friday! It's almost done-- really!

And then after Hamilton admitted that, after recently losing his father,  he realized how much of his father was in the character of Alex McKnight, there was a short Q&A session.

It was another fun and informative night at The Poisoned Pen which Denis and I talked about all the way home. I hope you enjoyed it, too!

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Summer Lingers Weekly Link Round-Up

Nothing much to report here at Casa Kittling. The summer lingers well into September here in the desert, and I'm soaking it up-- sitting out in the pool and reading as many books as I can. I've got all those recap posts to write about The Poisoned Pen Conference, but right now I'm finding the task rather daunting so I'm reading instead. Works for me even though some of you may be getting a bit impatient!

I thought you might like to see that the paddling of ducks out in the pool grew while I was banned from entering the water.

Meet Captain Quack and Ducknerys.

There are now eight ducks sharing the pool with me, and it's interesting to see how they "interact" with each other. I have two small solar fountains in the pool. Batduck and Piper Duck like to hang out by one of them. I figure the bat-suit is roasting so Batduck is merely trying to stay cool in our triple digit temperatures. On the other hand, I think the water constantly falling on Piper's head reminds him of his Scottish home. (Did I even show you Batduck and Piper Duck when they arrived???)

All righty then. I'm sitting here making up stories about rubber duckies. Time to mosey on out to the corral and take care of those links. Head 'em up! Mooooooooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • The UK heatwave this summer triggered rare flamingos to lay eggs for the first time in fifteen years. (They don't like the normal climate either...)
  • Cancer is one worry elephants can feel free to forget.
  • A French theme park taught crows to pick up trash. (Now... can the crows teach us to pick it up?)
  • An alligator that survived World War II bombings is still alive and snapping.
  • Watch this tiny ant attempt to steal a precious diamond from inside a shop.
  • The sideways grave of Sideways the dog.

►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, September 13, 2018

A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier

First Line: Grief and guilt are the ghosts that haunt you when you survive what others do not.

In an attempt to walk off grief, ex-military policewoman Mercy Carr and ex-military bomb-sniffing dog Elvis go deep into the Vermont woods every single day. Each day reminds Mercy that Elvis, a Belgian Malinois with canine PTSD, was her fiancé's partner, and-- now that Martinez is dead-- to Elvis, Mercy is never going to be more than second best.

It's the busy Fourth of July weekend and the entire town of Northshire has been gearing up to celebrate for days. To Mercy and Elvis, it's just another walk in the woods until Elvis alerts to explosives and they find a squalling baby abandoned near a shallow grave that appears to contain human bones.

U.S. Game Warden Troy Warner and his search and rescue dog Susie Bear respond to Mercy's 911 call, and the four of them find themselves working together to find a missing mother, solve a cold case, and keep the citizens of Northshire safe on what could be an incendiary holiday weekend.

I've quickly become hooked on mysteries featuring working dogs-- especially military or police dogs. I think it's because the bond between human and dog is so strong and because the dog's capabilities are extraordinary. When I learned of this first Mercy and Elvis mystery, I knew I had to read it, and the only thing I can say now is that I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

A Borrowing of Bones is fast-paced and well-plotted, with a mystery that keeps readers guessing. Munier also makes her Vermont setting come to life, so much so that I wanted to book the next flight there. Not only do you get a feel for the lifestyle of the people living there, you can also do a bit of fantasizing since the main characters have what would be to me dream homes. (Mercy and Elvis in a perfect cabin deep in the woods complete with a fireplace and a wall of books, and Troy and Susie Bear in a converted fire lookout tower.)

However, the characters of Mercy, Elvis, Troy, and Susie Bear are what really matter. Mercy has a lot of sharp edges and bad memories. With the special bond between Martinez and Elvis, she's always felt like an outsider, as though the man and his dog were a closed circuit. She's got a lot to work through, and Troy quickly discovers that it's going to be a challenge to get to know her. I also liked the fact that Elvis has canine PTSD since most people probably aren't aware that dogs can suffer from it. Yes, compared to Mercy and Elvis, Troy and Susie Bear are big softies, so this is a relationship that's going to be fun to watch develop.

If you like fast-paced, intriguing mysteries in vivid settings that are filled with multi-faceted characters and wonderful working dogs, I strongly recommend that you get in on the ground floor of the Mercy and Elvis series. A Borrowing of Bones is a winner.

A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier
eISBN: 9781250153043
Minotaur Books © 2018
eBook, 352 pages

Law Enforcement, #1 Mercy & Elvis mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima

First Line: If Deputy Mattie Cobb had eaten supper at home with her K-9 partner, Robo, she wouldn't have noticed the rig parked illegally across the street from the Main Street Diner.

When a charred body is found in a shallow grave up on Redstone Ridge, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner, Robo, are called in to lead the investigation. As the pair continue to gather evidence in the mountainous terrain, more gruesome discoveries are made, but none will shock Mattie as much as when the first body is identified.

Then the killer begins playing a deadly cat and mouse game with Mattie. She could very well be the next victim on the killer's list, but there are two who will fight to the last to make sure that doesn't happen: Robo and veterinarian Cole Walker.

Margaret Mizushima's Burning Ridge is the fourth book in her Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, a series which relies on good strong mysteries (most of which take place in the glorious Colorado outdoors), the relationships between the characters, and exciting scenes that put readers right in the middle of the action. A theme throughout the series has been Mattie coming to terms with her difficult past, and Burning Ridge brings this theme to fruition. Not only does Mattie have to deal with her past, she also has to come to the realization that she now has people around her who truly care about her, people whom she can trust. It's how Mattie deals with these emotional questions that adds so much to this book (and the entire series).

After the last book, Hunting Hour, I was hopeful that Mizushima would steer clear of any further child jeopardy, and I'm happy to report that she did. She still delivers a tightly woven, exciting mystery that takes place in the mountains of Colorado. Every time Mattie had to saddle up a horse to head up to remote Redstone Ridge, I was reminded of some of my own trail rides. Mizushima can pull you right out into the great outdoors, which is something I enjoy. In many respects, I'm reminded of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series, so if you're missing Anna as much as I am, I'd like to recommend the Timber Creek K-9 series. Good characters, good setting, good mysteries. Good stuff!

Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima
eISBN: 9781683317791
Crooked Lane Books © 2018
eBook, 279 pages

Police Procedural, #4 Timber Creek K-9 mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay

First Line: He was whistling.

A stack of library materials found at the scene of a hit and run draws Briar Creek library director Lindsey Norris into the heart of an investigation as police race to link the driver to the person who borrowed the items. And the police must move even faster when the victim of the hit and run suffers another "accident." This investigation has shifted from driver negligence to attempted murder, and those library materials may just give Lindsey the information she needs to crack the case right open.

When you want and need to read something light and fun, you can't go wrong with anything Jenn McKinlay has written, but I say she has a little thriller writer buried deep down inside who's begging to be turned loose. Hitting the Books opens with a hit and run scene that made my heart jump into my throat. (And that's not the only scene which had that effect on me.)

In this latest Library Lovers mystery, McKinlay has upped her game to a whole new level. From the pedal-to-the-metal pacing to an ingenious plot with a solution that blindsided me, I enjoyed every moment. What's even better-- McKinlay never once forgets her characters. Longtime fans are going to love the romantic doings between Lindsey and Sully, and since the author knows how to use a light touch, this I-don't-care-for-romance-in-my-mystery reader (me) loved it, too. Readers who haven't found that special person are going to read this and think, "That's what I want," and those of us who have been supremely lucky are just going to have big smiles on our faces.

It wouldn't be a McKinlay novel without the author's trademark humor, and there's plenty to be found here, as well as characters who change as they experience different things throughout this series of books. And may I just say that I'm thrilled to see that librarian fixture Ms. Cole (AKA "The Lemon") is changing as well. Watching her evolve from mean and nasty to almost-human is a joy. Speaking of librarians, the scenes in which Lindsey faces down the law over the subject of patrons' privacy highlight one of the many reasons why librarians are rock stars.

Hitting the Books hits all the right notes. Thrilling action scenes, the right touch of romance, laugh-out-loud moments, a compelling mystery, and characters you'd invite in your house for coffee. After watching McKinlay flex her writing chops in this book, I can't wait for the next Library Lovers mystery!

Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay
eISBN: 9780451492692
Berkley Prime Crime © 2018
eBook, 304 pages

Cozy Mystery, #9 Library Lovers mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Net Galley 

Sunday, September 09, 2018

This Is My Brain on Audiobooks

When told that you should spend as much time as possible resting, most of us would be thrilled. I was not. I couldn't help feeling as though I were being punished. For at least three and a half days, there was to be no knitting, and-- most heinous of all-- no BOOKS. I couldn't get in the pool for an even longer period of time. I obeyed instructions, but only because I wanted my eye to heal properly. I wasn't about to go through all this and not have the best possible results!

Now I can hear many of you immediately begin to chant, "Audiobooks! Audiobooks!" Okay, folks, I hear you. I hear you! Problem is, not everyone is cut out for audiobooks. I've tried them in the past and found them to be the best cure for insomnia outside of watching the Golf Channel; however, I thought I'd download the app to my iPhone, buy an audiobook, and give it another try. The last time I'd gone over three days without reading was a very long time ago. As in I didn't know how to read. But the doc said no reading, so no reading it would have to be. I settled down to have a listen.

I don't know which author it was who appeared at The Poisoned Pen and told us that he always read his work-in-progress aloud to see if everything sounded right, especially the dialogue. I wasn't very far into the audiobook I'd chosen when I began to wish that this author had done the same thing. There was a ton of dialogue, and every little snippet had to end with Mary said or Joe said. It made me long for writers who know how to give each character a different "voice" without all the she saids and he saids. In addition, in the midst of all the Marys and Joes saying this and that, the narrator had to play actor and attempt to give each character a different sounding voice. My ears kept rejecting this, and it reminded me of all those evenings when my mother would read me stories. You know, way back in the dim mists of time when I didn't know how to read. Mom never went out of her way to act out each character, but I always knew someone different was speaking. I don't know how she did it, but my ears approved.

And then I found myself nodding off time and again while listening. This was still an insomnia cure!

This may also be the time to say that I don't like wearing earbuds or headphones. Not only do I feel slightly claustrophobic, I also feel like prey that a leopard is sneaking up on. I want to hear the sounds around me, and I know this stems from walking to and from work and needing to be aware of my surroundings. You see, I encountered young men exposing themselves, and a stalker who kept trying to separate me from the rest of the herd in the parking lots I walked through. (Those were fun times.)

Then there's the fact that I can read a lot faster than the narrators can speak. I wanted to put the book on Alvin the Chipmunk speed, but then I think I'd laugh my way through the story.

The final thing I noticed while I slogged through the audiobook was the fact that I wasn't retaining any of the storyline. It was as if my ear canals were lined with Teflon. Nothing stuck. Everything just slipped right on through. (In one ear and out the other?)

So there you have it. My brain just is not an audiobook brain, no matter how I try to force the issue. I like my own pace of reading. I like the voices my brain supplies for each character, and my eyes aren't coated with Teflon. (At least... not yet.) My eyes carry all that information straight to my brain where it's carefully placed on shelves for me to access whenever I want.

Physical books don't have droning voices to put me to sleep either. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to go bookless all over again for the next round of eye improvements. I don't think I'm going to try the audiobook route again, but I won't rule it out completely. But I did find something to smile about.

When I attended The Poisoned Pen Conference, some folks wanted to know how the eye procedure went, and as I told them, I learned that almost every single one of them don't like audiobooks either. I am not alone! Now this is the time for you to picture me pumping my fist in the air a couple of times and then toddling off to read a book. A real book. With a cover. And pages. And that new/old book smell...