Sunday, December 10, 2017


The Vineyard Victims (Wine Country Mysteries, #8)The Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to create a 30 day challenge for myself to get reading again. I pledged to read at least fifteen minutes a day so that in ten days I was able to finish VINEYARD VICTIMS by Ellen Crosby.

FIRST SENTENCE: "My mother warned me to stay away from bad boys even before I started dating, but she'd married one herself - my father - and, as they say, apples don't fall too far from the tree."

THE STORY: The story starts with a one two punch. Two accidents propel the narrative. The first is the accident that disabled narrator Lucie Montgomery ten years earlier which still haunts her and the second is the accident that Lucie witnesses that results in the death of billionaire Jamison Vaughn, who recently lost the election for President of the United States. And although the authorities determine the car crash was an accident, Lucie suspects it was suicide considering the dying man asked her to do something for him.

This is the eighth book in the Wine Country Mystery. The Vineyard in the small town of Atoka, Virginia, about fifty miles from Washington, D.C. seems to attract death.

My guess is that reading the books in order would fill in a lot of details. It takes a little more concentration for the reader to begin to build a world this far into a series.

Interesting historical facts add to the fun including the story of the Norton grape and the growth of the wine industry in America add to the enjoyment of the story.

"As any winemaker knows, drink too much of your own stuff and you get what's called a cellar palate. Eventually you start overlooking deficits in your own wine, your palate is no longer honed to notice the nuances in other varietals, and you become numb to the differences you would have noticed if you drank more widely."

And did you know that "Madeira has the distinction of being the only alcohol in the world that never goes bad."
WHAT I THOUGHT: I'm not much of a wine drinker but my thoughts on that are changing after reading this book. Not particularly a cozy reader either but was still touched by the ending.  (Yes, there were tears.)

My guess is that it would be better to read the series in order although this entry stood alone pretty well. The author plots and writes carefully making it easy for the reader to follow. I actually found Lucie a bit annoying although she is an interesting narrator.

If you like a good cozy, you'll want to start with Ellen Crosby's MERLOT MURDERS and read all the titles in this series.


Series: Wine Country Mystery
Title: Vineyard Victims
Author: Ellen Cosby
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press / Minotaur Books
No. of Pages: 336
Copyright: November 7, 2017
ISBN-10: 1250076625
ISBN-13: 978-1250076625

Disclaimer: An final copy of this book was provided to me by St. Martin's Press / Minotaur Books for a fair review. 

ELLEN CROSBY is the author of the Virginia wine country mysteries and two mysteries featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina. In 2017, Minotaur Books will publish THE VINEYARD VICTIMS, the 8th wine country mystery, along with the paperback edition of THE CHAMPAGNE CONSPIRACY, (wine country book 7). Before writing fiction, Crosby worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and as an economist at the US Senate. Visit her website at and follow her on Facebook at EllenCrosbyBooks and on Twitter at @ellencrosby.(From Amazon)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Quote from Philip Pullman

Although I have never read Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy considered a great work of young adult literature, I recently read this quote and wanted to share it.

"The meaning of the book is never just what the author thinks it is. The meaning is only what emerges when the book and the reader meet."

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Stack 2017

After being diagnosed with end stage renal disease and starting dialysis in June of 2016, my interest in reading was pretty non-existent. Instead I found myself mindlessly watching television, which was easier since I had to do manual exchanges four times a day.

It took me three months to read our book club choice Nearer Than the Sky by T. Greenwood and not because I didn't like it.

Then I decided to revisit Three Pines. I had a used copy of Louise Penny's The Nature of the Beast. I had feared that with Chief Inspector Gamache's retirement that the stories would veer away from what I loved about the stories. I was wrong. It was a great book and I have the next and current title on my new Kindle.

As the holidays approached in 2016 I found my interest in reading returning re-reading a couple of my favorite Christmas stories: The Christmas Star by Christopher Fahy and A Faraway Smell of Lemon by Rachel Joyce.

So I grabbed the first book off the top of my stack, which I promised to review.

The winner was Charlaine Harris' All the Little Liars. It took me forever to read and I never finished writing the review for A Twist of the Knife by Becky Masterson..

Here are the other 'real' books waiting for me:
1. Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane
2. Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby
3. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Koto
4. The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson
5. The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts
6. The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts
7. The Gail Force by Robert Lane

There are actually a ton of unread books on my Kindle as well. And I have to admit I still spend too much time on social media and watching television, but I'm working on getting back to reading on a regular basis.

Monday, November 6, 2017

LOVE LIES BLEEDING by Edmund Crispin

Love Lies Bleeding (Gervase Fen, #5)Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A wordy and clever story first published in 1948 with a vocabulary that will send you to the dictionary every other page.

It's been years since I read an Edmund Crispin mystery so when NetGalley offered this title, I volunteered. His slueth is Gervase Fen, an eccentric English professor at Oxford.

FIRST SENTENCE: "The headmaster sighed. It was, he recognized, a plaintive and unmanly noise, but for the moment he was quite unable to suppress it."

THE STORY: Gervase Fen has been invited to Castrevenford Boy's School to present the prizes on Speech Day. Instead he finds himself embroiled in the murder of two schoolmasters and the disappearance of a young woman. Throw in a long-lost possible script of Love's Labor's Won and letters written by Shakespeare and there you have it.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Readers either love or hate these mysteries. How often have you come across the following words in a mystery: nugatory, hebetude, chiaroscuro, vitiate, stertorously, irrefragable, etc.) or come across them in any written thing? Keeping a dictionary nearby is recommended or, like me, you can intuit the meaning from the way the words are used.

Interestingly enough the mystery is solved about 80% of the way through the story. After that Gervase spends the rest of the book explaining everything to the headmaster.

BOTTOM LINE: This classic mystery of the Golden Age might not appeal to modern readers. The pace is slower and the language is difficult. On the other hand, a number of reviewers seem to love the old mysteries. This is an outstanding example.

Title: Love Lies Bleeding
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Ipso Books
No. of Pages: 276
Copyright: March 21, 2017 (Originally published in 1948)
ISBN-10: 1911295314
ISBN-13: 978-1911295310

Disclaimer: An advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book was provided to me by Ipso Press and Net Galley for an honest review.

EDMUND CRISPIN was the pen name of Robert Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978), an English crime writer and composer.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


The package in the mail today contained a hard back copy of THE VINEYARD VICTIMS: A WINE COUNTRY MYSTERY by Ellen Crosby. There are seven previous entries in this series. This title goes on sale November 7, 2017 so I need to get reading! Thank you Minotaur for making my day!

Sunday, October 22, 2017


The Stolen MarriageThe Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book I have been able to finish in quite a while. Definitely a beach read but it was hard to put down. Something happens in every chapter that makes you want to turn just one more page.

THE FIRST LINE: "It's a terrible feeling, being despised."

THE STORY: Tess and Vincent have loved each other all their lives and plan to marry, but one fateful weekend changes everything. Tess ends up marrying another man and moving to Hickory, North Carolina where she endures a loveless marriage. How she finds herself during the polio epidemic of 1944 is historically fascinating.

WHAT I THOUGHT: This is my second Diane Chamberlain and it appears that her formula is similar. Her chic-lit stories feature young women allowing secrets to complicate their lives. This plot has everything but the kitchen sink, but you'll keep reading until all the secrets are revealed. My lack of enthusiasm is a minority. Other readers adore everything Dian Chamberlain has written.

Historical fiction is not my first choice but this book incorporates an event that actually happened.

"In June 1944, the citizens of Hickory built a hospital in 54 hours to save their children from the worst polio outbreak that had ever hit the United States. Looking back now, even knowing the results – 13 wards erected, doctors and nurses flocking in by the dozens, hundreds of patients treated and released, with only 12 deaths, one of the country’s lowest-ever rates for polio – the enormity of the undertaking still bewilders." (Charles D. Dixon, Hickory NC)

As a matter of fact, I found myself talking about this to my book group mostly because of the historical aspects. I have called Diane Chamberlain's work 'Nancy Drew stories for adults' but that isn't fair. I was drawn into the story because so many of the outrageous things mirrored parts of my own life and many other women. Besides when I was growing up, I read every Nancy Drew I could find. It's good to know that there are tons of other titles waiting for me to pick up!

Title: The Stolen Marriage
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
No. of Pages: 384
Copyright: October 3, 2017
ISBN-10: 1250087279
ISBN-13: 978-1250087270

Disclaimer: An advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book was provided to me by St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for an honest review.

DIANE CHAMBERLAIN is the international bestselling author of more than 25 novels published in more than twenty languages, including The Broken String and The Silent Sister. She lives in North Carolina with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her shelties, Keeper and Cole.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


In 2016 Harbor Springs hosted the first Festival of the Book. The three day event was supported by the entire community with a goal of every student and resident having an opportunity to interact with an author. What began as a local celebration immediately became 'one of the largest literary festivals in the Midwest.'

My friend Joy and I went last year and pledged to go again this year. Last year we heard presentations from Craig Johnson, author of the western mystery Longmire series, and Elizabeth Letts, author of "The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis".

So far we have reservations to hear Denise Kiernan, author of "The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home". Beyond that we plan to explore some of the vast number of authors who will attend.

I checked a couple of books out of the library that I hope to read before then. One is "The Dark Net" by Benjamin Percy and "All the Missing Girls" by Megan Miranda.