Sunday, December 16, 2018

Two Cozy Mysteries by Donna Andrews

Reviewer: Joy Rosynek

 Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews

This is the 23rd and latest publication in the series by the author featuring Meg Langslow and her various engaging family members. The series, which began with Murder with Peacocks, always features a bird which is often integral to the plot. Andrews features different locales in the fictional town of Caerphilly and frequently revisits them, she has done so again as Meg finds the body of a very contentious vestry member in the crypt at Trinity Episcopal Church. As her husband, Michael, comments, “ Why do our local murderers always manage to commit their crimes when you’re around.”

Of course, for Andrews’ many readers, this is exactly why we look forward to each new book. I always know that there will be a plot twist or two, her family members will pop up to either help or hinder her investigations and foil the murderer. This book lives up to the previous novels in providing the reader with amusing dialogue, a visit to a mansion from another book and a reenactment of an unsolved burglary that helps to tie up many crimes from the past and present.

Hardcover:  294 pages
 St. Martin's Press (August 7, 2018)
ISBN: 9781250115478

Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews

This is the fifth entry into a Christmas novel that features murder and mayhem in Caerphilly by Andrews. This time the bird in the title is not a bird, but a child left in the manger of the Christmas pageant that Meg Langslow is directing at Trinity Episcopal Church. A note left with the baby seems to indicate that Meg’s brother, Rob, is the father. While Meg is trying to find out the truth about the paternity of the baby and help her brother, the events that are happening in Clay County spill over into Caerphilly.

The Christmas novels always bring the spirit of Christmas to the reader, even if some of it is idealized. As a reader, we would want to visit the town of Caerphilly with singers on the sidewalk serenading the shoppers. We would like to buy bake goods from the stalls set up in the square by the various churches and synagogue. We could attend Meg’s husband, Michael’s, one man show of “The Christmas Carol” and the Baptist choir concert led by the police chief’s wife. We can visit Meg’s grandfather’s zoo and watch as the holiday parade passed by followed by a community sing along. However, this year the reader gets to experience what happens when the good ladies of the Caerphilly peacefully invade the infamous Clay County, the site of many misdeeds and save the day and some lives, including several of Meg’s closest relatives. Andrews’ Christmas novels always put one in a festive mood as Meg and the good citizens’ triumph in bringing the holiday spirit to their corner of the world.

Hardcover:  279 pages
 St. Martin's Press (October 16, 2018)    ISBN: 978125019294-3

Donna Andrews has won the Agatha, Anthony, and Barry awards, an RT Book Review for her first novel, and four Lefty and two Toby Bromberg Awards for funniest mysteries. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Private Investigators and Security Association. Andrews lives in Reston, Virginia.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

LIES by T.M. Logan (2018)

A roller coaster of a ride riddled with lies. Once you start reading you are hooked. Twists and turns and surprises are around every corner. Guaranteed to keep you up late at night.

FIRST SENTENCE: "My son's first word wasn't Daddy or Mummy. His first word was Audi."

THE STORY: Joe Lynch is happy with his life. He has a beautiful, loving wife and an adorable four year old son. As a teacher he can spend quality time with his child. It only takes one impulsive seemingly innocent decision to bring down his whole life.

WHAT I THOUGHT:Good writing, careful plotting, full of unexpected twists makes this a fun read.

BOTTOM LINE: If you like psychological thrillers, you will totally enjoy LIES. Just be sure to suspend disbelief since some details may seem a bit unrealistic.

Hardcover:  432 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (September 11, 2018)
ISBN-10: 9781250182265
ISBN-13: 978-1250182265

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of  LIES by T.M. Logan from NetGalley/St. Martin's Press  for my honest review.

Bestselling author T.M. Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His debut thriller LIES (2017) was one of Amazon UK's biggest ebooks of 2017, selling 330,000 copies and gathering more than 1,300 5-star reviews so far. It is now being published in ten other countries worldwide. His next thriller, 29 SECONDS, will be published in the USA in summer 2019. Tim lives in Nottinghamshire, UK, with his wife and two children.

Short Takes 10/09/2018

Have you been seeing references to the page 69 test? I decided to check it out and this is what I found.From Epic Reads:

"You know that moment when you’re in a book store, casually browsing, and you’re not sure if the book you’re thinking of buying will be any good? Well, this test will help solve that problem!
In his 2006 novel, How to Read a Novel: A User’s Guide, John Sutherland surmised that in order to determine whether or not you’ll enjoy a book, you should flip to page sixty-nine and read that page only. If you like that page , there’s a pretty good chance you’ll like the rest of the novel too. Why? According to him, a lot of action seems to happen right around then for novels."

Saturday, August 25, 2018

RUST & STARDUST by T. Greenwood (2018)

Rust & Stardust
I was a little concerned about the subject matter and kept setting the book aside but I need not have worried. T. Greenwood tells the tragic story of Sally Horner an 11 year old girl in Camden, New Jersey in 1948. It's the true crime that inspired Vladamir Nabokov to write the classic Lolita. (In the meantime Sarah Weinman has written a non-fiction literary exploration of the kidnapping. It goes on sale September 11, 2018.)

FIRST SENTENCE: "The girls at school had a club, a secret club with secret rules."

THE STORY: Sally Horner's story was immortalized by Vladamir Nabokov in his classic Lolita. T. Greenwood researched the true incident and chose to tell the story from Sally's point of view, a sweet, naive child of another generation.

Chapters are titled after the person who picks up the thread of the story. The reader gets insights into Sally's family, her mother Ella, sister Susan, and her sister's husband Al.

Along the way as Sally is taken from her home first to Atlantic City, then Baltimore, then Texas, and finally San Jose, California. Although people try to befriend and help, her captor moves on taking Sally with him.

WHAT I THOUGHT: As a teenager living in Philadelphia, I was invited to vacation at the shore (Atlantic City) with a friend one summer in the 50s. We ran into some boys we knew and managed to get in to see "Lolita". I think you had to be 17. We weren't. I didn't know about Sally Horner then. It's an amazing book and I am contemplating all the connections.

The writing is beautiful and haunting. A light touch makes it possible to read this heart-wrenching story. 

When I finally finished reading, I stopped and looked at the perfect cover. It makes me sad every time I see it.

BOTTOM LINE: T. Greenwood's book is a classic of its own. Read it. Talk about it. Highly recommended.

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (August 7, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1250164192 
ISBN-13: 978-1250164193

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of Rust and Stardust by T. Greenwood from NetGalley/Minotaur Books for my honest review.

T. Greenwood is the author of twelve novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and, most recently, the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. BODIES OF WATER was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award. Her twelfth novel, RUST & STARDUST, was published in August 2018.

Thoughts on a Rainy Day

Both Good Reads and NetGalley ask readers to score the books they are reviewing on a one to five star scale. I've decided to do away with using that information on my blog. Here's why.

When I was younger I was reluctant to sing because I thought I wasn't as good as the other people in the room, in the world. Then I met a teacher who suggested that everyone had something to offer. It reminded me of the library rule that says "Every reader their book. Every book its reader."

I started wondering why I had to number rank the books I read. I had one author friend be taken aback because I only gave his new book 3 stars rather than the usual 4. It was more violent than I can handle these day and yet it is the book that will garner him many new readers.

Of course, there will be books I like more than others; and if I feel a book is poorly written and plotted, I don't need to read or review it at all.

I'd prefer to write about the delights and what the author has achieved.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

THE PRISONER IN THE CASTLE by Susan Elia MacNeal (2018)

The Prisoner in the Castle (Maggie Hope Mystery #8)I requested this title because it intrigued me and the cover illustration is wonderful. (Yes, I sometimes choose a book by its cover.) For those who love historical mysteries, I recommend starting with the first book in the series although THE PRISONER IN THE CASTLE can be read as a stand-alone. The Prisoner in the Castle is the eighth and latest installment in the Maggie Hope series.

FIRST SENTENCE: "Always remember when you're on the run, instinct will take over - and if you're not careful, you'll become nothing more than an animal."

THE STORY: Set in WWII, Maggie Hope is a British secret agent who has been banished to a remote Scottish island with a handful of other SOE (Special Operations Executive) prisoners. Killoch Castle, a large and ugly 1900 shooting lodge has become their home. Prohibited from letting friends and family know where they are, boredom reigns until a huge winter storm approaches and people begin to die.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I always mean to read during dialysis but often find myself watching television or wasting time on social media so it took me a few days to commit to involving myself in The Prisoner in the Castle. After recently swearing off more violent stories, reading a tribute to Agatha Christie was such a change. Murders happen but the puzzle is the emphasis.

The opening chapter gets your heart racing before introducing Maggie into the story.

I loved the remote Scottish island, the quirky characters, and the historical tidbits that flesh out the story. Although written in the third person Maggie's thoughts are scattered throughout endearing her to the reader.

Mick Wiggins is responsible for the amazing cover for this book. He has captured the character of Maggie and her situation in a beautiful rendition of despair and cold.

BOTTOM LINE: If asked, I never say I read historical fiction although I have made many exceptions. Susan Elia MacNeal is a great storyteller. Definitely recommended but start with the first book in the series!

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Bantam (August 7, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0399593829
ISBN-13: 978-0399593826

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal from NetGalley/Bantam for my honest review.

Susan Elia MacNeal is an American author, best known for her Maggie Hope mystery series of novels, which are set during World War II, mainly in London, England. (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Mystery Authors Not to be Forgotten

I subscribe to a quarterly publication called Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine. Editor George Easter began a list of his favorite mystery writers who have left us but should still be read. He asked readers to submit any additional suggestions to him at (I've starred the authors I have read.) Who would you add?

Here's the list if you are looking for some highly recommended mystery authors:

Reginald Hill
Donald E. Westlake
Ruth Rendell **
Ross Thomas
Dick Francis **
Barbara Seranella
John D. MacDonald
Robert Barnard
Stuart Pawson **
Colin Dexter **
Peter Dickinson
M.R.D. Meek
Stuart M. Kaminsky
Ellis Peters **
Kate Ross
Bill Crider
George C. Chesbro
Bruce Alexander
L.R. Wright **
R.D Wingfield
Eric Wright
Ed McBain
Elmore Leonard **
Virginia Lanier
Philip Kerr