Monday, April 2, 2018

Short Takes 4/2/2018

Mystery writer Louise Penny has been publishing a new title in her Inspector Gamache series every August. This year will be a little different. With the death of her husband, she initially decided to take a break, but she quietly began writing again with the result that KINGDOM OF THE BLIND will lay down November 27, 2018. Her many fans are relieved!

I just beginning to explore the idea of bullet journaling when I found this information at Beth Fish Reads blog. There's an introductory video by Ryder Carroll, the brains behind the system and owner of Bullet Journal and BuJo trademarks. Check it out if you are curious.

Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore in Ann Arbor is closing after 26 years.

April 2, 2018
Dear Beloved Customers and Readers,

We are regretful but ready to announce that we will be closing Aunt Agatha’s in August of this year. We have enjoyed getting to know many of you, discussing books with you, sharing author events with you and sharing the love of mysteries with you for 26 years. Many of you we are happy to think of as friends. It’s been a wonderful journey.
As in the great Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express there are many culprits for our demise – we are getting older; constant street construction; Amazon; and fierce local competition. We hope you will keep local bookstores vital and alive by patronizing the many exciting stores that remain open.

And please come by to say hello, fill out your collection, or plan to attend one of the wonderful events we have remaining on our schedule this spring and summer. However, we can no longer take your books for store credit. We suggest the library, the PTO thrift store, and the recycle center.
After we close we plan to continue selling our remaining inventory on ABE books online, and under construction is a review blog focusing on first mystery novels by women. We also have some future events planned at the library. But for now, everything is for sale!
April - 15%
May – 20%
June – 30%
July – 40%
August – 50%

We will also be selling shelving, tables, our front counter, and posters. If there’s something you are interested in please make us an offer. We also have quite a few 6’ banquet tables & folding chairs.
We have a closing event scheduled on August 26 with William Kent Krueger, and we hope you’ll join us for a final gather round the communal mysterious hearth.

With much gratitude for your patronage,

Robin & Jamie

Sunday, February 25, 2018

BABY TEETH (2018) by Zoje Stage

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zoje Stage hits a home run with her debut novel, "Baby Teeth", on sale July 17, 2018. A psychological thriller told from alternating perspectives of seven year old Hanna and her mother Suzette.

 FIRST SENTENCE: "Maybe the machine could see the words she never spoke."

THE STORY: Hanna does not talk but she is not stupid. She loves her Daddy, but not her Mommy. Daddy thinks she is perfect. Mommy knows there is something wrong.

WHAT I THOUGHT: When I was a teenager in the 50s, I remember reading and being shocked by The Bad Seed. It was the story of a perfect little girl named Rhoda, who got whatever she wanted one way or another. Her Daddy thought she was perfect but her mother started to suspect things. It became a popular play and then a movie. The other scary book I remember from that time is Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby. It came out in in the 60s and I read it in the middle of the night while I was breast feeding my first child. Some memories haunt you. I've added Baby Teeth to my unforgettable list.

I enjoyed the fact that the book was set in Pittsburgh and recognized locations and allusions. Suzette has Crohn's disease, which complicates her ability to deal with Hanna. She doesn't have the energy and feels guilty for not being perfect.

BOTTOM LINE: Not everyone will appreciate this story. It is disturbing but so well done that the reader keeps turning pages to see what will happen. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Hardcover: 320 pages
St. Martin's Press (July 17, 2018)
ISBN-13: 978-1250170750

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage from NetGalley/St. Martin's for my honest review.

ZOJE STAGE is a writer and former filmmaker. She was a 2008 Fellow in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation of the Arts and a 2012 Emerging Storytellers Fellow from the Independent Filmmaker Project. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Baby Teeth is her first novel.(from AMAZON)


Thursday, February 22, 2018

GLASS HOUSES (2017) by Louise Penny

Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #13)Glass Houses by Louise Penny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes when one reads books in a series, quality varies. In the case of Louise Penny's Gamache series each title improves, gains depth. Taking the books in order prepares the reader to feel part of the community.Glass Houses is #13.

FIRST SENTENCE: "State your name, please."

THE STORY: Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, Armand Gamache and the people of Three Pines are puzzled by a mysterious figure standing immobile on the green. When the figure disappears, a murder takes place. Did someone pay a debt? The story begins in the courtroom some months later, when the suspect goes on trial. Gamache set the actions in motion. Was what he did right?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Sometimes I get annoyed when a story moves back and forth from the present to the past. But after the first jump in GLASS HOUSES, I had no trouble following the way the trial and the events leading up to it worked together.

Every one of Louise Penny's books has introduced the reader to something new. In this case it is the cobrador del frac. She explains that she created some of the legend to suit the story but the concept does exist.

Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of ugly violence in some of the thrillers I've read. I realized I prefer stories that demand a little more from the reader intellectually. Escape the real world and move to Three Pines.

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If you are a mystery reader, you HAVE to read this series.

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Minotaur for a fair review.

LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels (Still Life, A Fatal Grace, and The Cruelest Month). She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (six times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

MY NAME IS VENUS BLACK (2018) by Heather Lloyd

My Name Is Venus BlackMy Name Is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A surprisingly engrossing first novel told from several points of view with characters you come to care about and root for throughout the book. Highly recommended.

FIRST SENTENCE: "My name is Venus Black because my dad was Joseph Black, and because on March 4, 1966, my very pregnant mother, Inez, just so happened to be watching a TV special about the Space Race when her water broke."

THE STORY  The problem with reviews is that too many details spoil the magical discovery of a wonderful story so I am going to keep this brief.

Before, Venus was a A+ student who loved the stars. After, her life would never be the same.

Separated from her autistic beloved brother Leo and furious with her mother, Venus embarks on a new life. She is resourceful but scared and angry. 

WHAT I THOUGHT: After reading some other reviews I was surprised to learn that My Name is Venus Black is considered for young adults. One person even suggested it was more appropriate for middle school students. I disagree. I'm 72 and adored this book. Judging the level of a book based on the age of the characters seems wrong to me. Certainly this is a coming of age story. The characters, although sometimes difficult, are (mostly) lovable and redeemable.The various threads cross and weave together to make a satisfying ending. I often say that I am looking for something different and special in a book. My Name is Venus drew me right in. And in the end, healing happens, family happens, love happens.

The writing is crisp and clean and the reader can easily follow the various points of view.

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Reminded me a bit of The Language of Flowers and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/The Dial Press/Random House for a fair review.

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: The Dial Press (February 27, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399592180
ISBN-13: 978-0399592188

    HEATHER LLOYD, who has spent many years working as an editor and writing coach, lives with her husband in New York City. My Name Is Venus Black is her first novel. (From her website.)

    Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Short Takes 1/15/2018

    The Library of Michigan has now announced the Michigan Notable Books for 2018. This article appeared in yesterday's Detroit Free Press. This year’s 20 books were chosen from a list of nearly 300 published in 2017.

    I was in a bookstore the other day and although I don't need another book to read, I picked up Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.

    There's a new title coming from Kate Atkinson in September 2018. "Transcriptiona bravura novel of extraordinary power and substancewill be published in Doubleday hardcover in September 2018. It tells the story of Juliet Armstrong, who is recruited as a young woman by an obscure wartime department of the secret service. In the aftermath of war she joins the BBC, where her life begins to unravel, and she finally has to come to terms with the consequences of idealism."

    23 of the Biggest Mystery Books of 2017 posted at the Book Bub Blog if you need suggestions for mysteries that will keep you up late.

    Monday, January 15, 2018

    WATCH ME DISAPPEAR (2017) by Janelle Brown

    Watch Me DisappearWatch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    For the New Year I am trying to catch up on Net Galley titles from 2017 that I was given access to but never read. Watch Me Disappear started slowly and I wasn't sure where it was going, but once I committed, I had a hard time putting it down.

    FIRST SENTENCE: "It's a good day, or maybe even a great one, although it will be impossible to know for sure later."

    THE STORY: A year ago Billie Flanagan went hiking alone and never came home. Her family has not been able to move on since all that was ever found was a boot. Husband Jonathan is writing a memoir about his years with Billie, an charismatic woman, admired by many. But 'missing presumed dead' is taking its toll on the family. Jonathan needs Billie to be pronounced dead so he can access their money. Teenage daughter Olive suddenly starts having visions of her mother urging her to come find her. What does that mean? Will it lead to closure?

    Jonathan has always been jealous of Olive's relationship with her mother. But both their stories about perfect Billie reveal troubling aspects. "Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are."

    WHAT I THOUGHT: Alternating with what's going on with Olive and Jonathan, is the text of a memoir being written by Jonathan, Where the Mountain Meets the Sky: My Life with Billie Flanagan. Using this technique offers the reader layer after layer from different points of view. Things that didn't draw attention suddenly seem to have different meanings. Solving the mystery becomes fascinating as well as watching the problems caused between father and daughter and the missing Billie.

    None of the characters were particularly likeable but that makes it more difficult to decide who and what to believe.

    Eventually I started thinking I was near the end (it's harder to tell on an E-Reader), turned the page, and the story went on. I started skipping paragraphs to keep things moving wanting to know the final answer. With lots of twists and turns, the story comes to an unexpected ending.

    BOTTOM LINE: If you liked Gone Girl, you will find this a compelling read. RECOMMENDED,

    Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Spiegel & Grau for a fair review.

    Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Watch Me Disappear, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, and This Is Where We Live. A native of San Francisco and graduate of UC Berkeley, she has since defected to Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband Greg, their two children, and a geriatric lab mix named Guster.  (from her website)

    Sunday, January 7, 2018

    HEAD WOUNDS (2018) by Dennis Palumbo

    Head WoundsHead Wounds by Dennis Palumbo
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Talk about a roller coaster ride! This is a stressful thriller full of terrible acts. If you're a fan of shows like Criminal Minds, you'll devour this 5th entry in the Dr. Daniel Rinaldi series. As a psychologist, he often consults with the Pittsburgh police working with victims of violent crimes. This time around the stakes have been ratcheted up to unbearable.

    FIRST SENTENCE: "Miles Davis saved my life."

    THE STORY: A dying man directs Dr. Daniel Rinaldi to a dossier with information on his wife's death. Twelve years earlier Rinaldi and his wife Barbara were mugged down at the Point. Both were shot but Barbara died. "All my forty-plus years condensed into a stack of documents, copied records, data printed off the Internet. The gains and losses, both professionally and personally, that made up my life."

    With an explosive start, the reader is caught in the same web that ensnares Rinaldi and his friends. The scary part is that they are "Engaged in a duel to the death of which everyone around us was unaware. With an enemy about whom no one knew."

    The reader is warned that things are going to turn to horror and they do. The dread builds and results in horrific situations. There doesn't seem to be a way out alive.

    WHAT I THOUGHT: Suspension of disbelieve is required. There is language, some sex, and painful violence. The stakes are the highest yet in the series. The story can be read without knowledge of earlier books, but if you are familiar with the series, the situations are even more disturbing. Interesting off-beat characters add to the story which is well-plotted and well-written. I'll have to admit that this was a disturbing read for me, but then I have been known to turn off crime shows or at least walk out of the room.

    You don't have to know Pittsburgh, but the descriptions of wonderful places like the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and the view from Mount Washington will make you want to visit.

    BOTTOM LINE: Dennis Palumbo's mysteries are page turners and highly readable. It's not necessary, but I would still recommend reading the series in order. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you're not squeamish.
    Genre: Psychological thriller, Suspense
    Hardcover: 336 pages
    Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (February 6, 2018)
    ISBN-10: 1464208166
    ISBN-13: 978-1464208164

    Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press for a fair review.

    Dennis Palumbo, formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, is now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. He's the author of a mystery collection, From Crime to Crime, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand, and elsewhere. Head Wounds is the fifth in the Daniel Rinaldi series. His first Daniel Rinaldi mystery, Mirror Image was published in 2010, followed by Fever Dream in 2011, Night Terrors in 2013, and Phantom Limb (2014) He was formerly a Hollywood screenwriter and his credits include the feature film My Favorite Year. He also wrote for Welcome Back, Kotter.