Sunday, February 01, 2015

March Treasures in My Closet - Part 1

Four weeks until March 1, and then spring will be right around the corner! I'm so ready, so looking at March books is a pleasure. It makes me think spring.

I have enormous piles of books to share with you, all March releases. So, we better get started.

Frankie Y. Bailey's mystery, What the Fly Saw, won't make you think spring, though. In Albany, New York, January 2020, the morning after a blizzard that shut down the city, a funeral director is found dead in the funeral home, with an arrow sticking out of his chest. Detective Hannah McCabe and her partner, Mike Baxter, sort through lies to find a killer. (Release date is March 3.)

Well, here's a topic that should interest a lot of people. "What if our federal income tax is illegal?" In The Patriot Threat, author Steve Berry uses a confrontational meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon to leave a web of clues. Cotton Malone, a retired member of an elite intelligence division of he Justice Department, sets out to prevent a rogue North Korean from exploiting top secret Treasury Department files to bring the U.S. to its knees. (Release date is March 31.)

The Hidden Man is Robin Blake's latest Cragg and Fidelis mystery. In 1742, the people of Preston are anticipating a festival of merriment and excess, celebrated every twenty years. But, it might not happen after the financial crisis caused by the death of pawnbroker and a would-be banker, shot behind a locked door. Coroner Titus Cragg suspects suicide, but Dr. Luke Fidelis disagrees. It's the latest mystery about the dramas below the surface in a provincial town. (Release date is March 3.)

Here's the book my sister is waiting for, Rhys Bowen's The Edge of Dreams, the new Molly Murphy mystery. Molly Murphy Sullivan's husband, Daniel, a captain in the New York City police force, has been receiving cryptic notes that taunt him after each death in a string of murders. And, when Daniel receives a note after Molly and their son, Liam, are in a terrible train crash, they both fear Molly might have been the target. Bowen blends turn-of-century interest in dream analysis with the latest investigation. (Release date is March 3.)

Paige Britt's debut novel is a juvenile book, The Lost Track of Time. It's "a magical fantasy, an allegorical cautionary tale, a celebration of creativity", and it sounds like I'll love it. Penelope dreams of being a writer, but her mother schedules every minute of her life. Then, on the one day that's completely unplanned, Penelope falls into the Realm of Possibility. It's a high-stakes adventure filled with clever language and wordplay, suggested for readers ages eight to twelve. Or me. (Release date is March 31.)

Cassandra Clark takes readers back to fourteenth century England in The Dragon of Handale. By now, Hildegard has left the Cistercian order of nuns, returned from a pilgrimage, and heads to Handale Priory to give her more time to decide if she'll rejoin the Order. When she discovers the body of a young man in the morgue, she's told he was killed by a dragon. How does his death connect with a secret tower, locked, barred and protected by armed guards? And, why was the King's courier murdered by assassins. Hildegard is determined to find answers. (Release date is March 17.)

The tenth Dixie Hemingway mystery by Blaize and John Clement is The Cat Sitter's Whiskers. When she goes to take care of Barney Feldman, a Maine Coon cat, someone sneaks up on her in the house, and knocks her out. But, the cops discover no one has broken in, and nothing is missing. Now, Dixie is caught up in the world of black market antiques, secrets and revenge. (Release date is March 31.)

Montreal is the setting for Jeannette de Beauvoir's mystery, Asylum. Martine LeDuc, director of PR for the mayor's office is tasked with acting as liaison between the mayor and the police department after four women are brutally murdered and shockingly posed on park benches throughout the city. She and a young detective uncover a dark secret dating back to the 1950s when orphanages were converted to asylums to gain more funding. The children were subjected to horrific experiments. The survivors were supposedly compensated for their trauma. So who is bearing a grudge, and why did these women have to die? (Release date is March 10.)

Hausfrau is Jill Alexander Essbaum's debut novel, the story of a woman, wife and mother, looking for more in life. Anna Benz is an American in her late thirties who lives with her Swiss husband and three children in a suburb of Zurich. But, something's missing. So, she turns to German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs. And, then she finds it difficult to end the affairs. How do you go back after you've "crossed a moral threshold"? (Release date is March 17.)

The winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize for The Territory, Tricia Fields returns with a sequel, Firebreak. West Texas is experiencing its worst season of wildfires in a decade, and police chief Josie gray is forced to evacuate the citizens of Artemis. But, she discovers the body of someone who never left town, dead in the home of a local musician. A syringe with traces of heroin could be the reason the deceased missed the order to evacuate. Or, it could be a sign of something more sinister. (Release date is March 3.)

C.W. Gortner gave up a career as a fashion executive to write historical novels. Now, he turns to a fashion icon for his latest novel, Mademoiselle Chanel. It's the story of the laundry woman's daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and yet faced heartbreak. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco Chanel is forced to make choices that will haunt her always. (Release date is March 17.)

Behind Closed Doors is the second in Elizabeth Haynes' Briarstone crime series. Ten years earlier, Lou Smith worked the case when fifteen-year-old Scarlett Rainsford vanished while on a family trip to Greece. Now, Detective Inspector Louisa Smith is shocked when Scarlett turns up, found during a Special Branch raid of a brothel in Briarstone. While Lou and her Major Crime team juggle multiple cases, she still wonders why most of Scarlett's family is not enthusiastic about her return. (Release date is March 31.)

Another asylum has a role in Aislinn Hunter's The World Before Us. In the woods of northern England, somewhere between a rundown estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, teenage Jane Standen lost Lily, a little girl she was babysitting. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated. Now, twenty years later, Jane is an archivist who is researching the story of a woman who disappeared over one hundred years ago in the same woods. The story of a group of people linked to the estate and the asylum may help Jane move on with her life. (Release date is March 31.)

Kazuo Ishiguro, author of the Booker Prize-winning novel The Remains of the Day, now brings us The Buried Giant. It begins as a couple sets off across a troubled land of mist and rain in hopes of finding a son they haven't seen in years. Ishiguro's first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge, and war. (Release date is March 3.)

There's an unusual premise in Tania James' The Tusk That Did the Damage. The novel is narrated by a poacher, a filmmaker and an elephant. But, the Gravedigger isn't an ordinary elephant. He was orphaned as a calf, sold into a life of labor and exhibition. When he breaks free, he terrorizes the countryside, earning his name by killing humans and then tenderly burying them. (Release date is March 10.)

Enough for today? Book overload? There's crime fiction, historical fiction, dramas and literary novels. Come back tomorrow for the second group of March book releases.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Agatha Award Nominees

Maybe the reason I like the Agatha Awards is that I always see the names of friends on these lists. And, of course, I've read many more Agatha nominees than I have books nominated for other awards. Just my cup of tea (smile).

Congratulations to the nominees for the 2014 Agatha Awards. The Awards will be presented at Malice Domestic on May 2. The awards recognize traditional mysteries published in 2014 in the United States.

Best Contemporary Novel Nominees:

The Good, The Bad and The Emus by Donna Andrews (Minotaur Books)
A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)

Best Historical Novel

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd (William Morrow)
An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd (William Morrow)
Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland (Minotaur Books)
Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel

Circle of Influence by Annette Riggle Dashofy (Henery Press)
Tagged for Death by Sherry Novinger Harris (Kensington Publishing)
Finding Sky by Susan O'Brien (Henery Press)
Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley Prime Crime)
Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber (Midnight Ink)

Best Nonfiction

400 Things Cops Know: Street Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman by Adam Plantinga (Quill Driver Books)
Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer's Journey by Hank Phillippi Ryan (ed) (Henery Press)
Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice by Kate Flora (New Horizon Press)
The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley (Pegasus Books)
The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England's Most Notorious Doctor by Stephen Bates (Overlook Hardcover)

Best Short Story

"The Odds are Against Us" by Art Taylor (EQMM)
"Premonition" (Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays) by Art Taylor (Wildside Press)
"The Shadow Knows" (Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays) by Barb Goffman (Wildside Press)
"Just Desserts for Johnny" by Edith Maxwell (Kings River Life Magazine)
"The Blessing Witch" (Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave) by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Level Best Books)

Best Children's/Young Adult

And Under Pressure by Amanda Flower (ZonderKidz)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books)
Uncertain Glory by Lea Wait (Islandport Press)
The Code Buster's Club, Case #4, The Mummy's Curse by Penny Warner (Egmont USA)
Found by Harlan Coben (Putnam Juvenile)

Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Lavene

I have nothing but admiration for two writers I've never met, Joyce and Jim Lavene. Ten series under three names, plus a standalone. And, that's only what I find on Stop,You're Killing Me. I admire the creativity it takes to come up with three witches who are hoping to retire to Boca Raton in Spell Booked, the first in a new series.

Molly, Elise, and Olivia find that their powers are waning, so they are hoping to find three younger witches to teach, and then turn over their spell book. They have their eye on a young librarian who doesn't know she's a witch, but before they can discuss it with her, Olivia is killed, and their spell book is stolen. Now, two witches on the verge of retirement have to turn to a novice and a powerful witch they don't trust for help in finding a killer. Molly's a little handicapped in the search, though. Her family's been threatened. Her son has dropped out of college and returned home to live. And, maybe worst of all, her husband is a police officer investigating Olivia's murder, but Molly never told him she's a witch because the Grand Council of witches forbids it. It's only going to get worse.

Welcome to the Lavenes' idea of preparing for a witch's retirement. Spell Booked is a terrific mystery filled with delightful characters and a great deal of humor despite the tragedy and murder investigation. There's one wonderful scene when witches show up from all over to "poke" fun at a messenger from the Grand Council. There are other funny scenes involving the cat familiars, a ghost, a werewolf. I could go on, but I only hinted at some of the characters so I don't spoil surprises.

I'm sorry for the trouble Molly and Elise have to go through. But, I'm so glad Joyce and Jim Lavene decided to relate the story of witches who hope to retire. Spell Booked is magical, a fun mystery with dangerous undertones.

The Lavenes website is

Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Lavene. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425268254 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Give Books, Not Roses Giveaway

First, congratulations to the winners of the last contest. An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey goes to Carol M. from Monroeville, PA. Mildred B. from Great Neck, NY won Lisa Scottoline's Betrayed.

This week, I have a special giveaway from Hatchette Book Group and their  "Give Books, Not Roses" campaign. I'm going to let editor Christina Boys explain it.

Dear  Reader,

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! The crisp, cool air feels a little sweeter and stores are filling their shelves with greeting cards and candies. But instead of sharing the usual gifts, the way to someone’s heart can be through a story (and maybe a little bit of chocolate). Hachette Book Group is offering a “Give Books, Not Roses” Valentine’s Day giveaway for those of you who want to express your admiration for friends, family, and loved ones.

Love Gently Falling written by Melody Carlson is a romantic novella about the power of Valentine’s Day and how one woman discovers love while at the same time saving her family’s business. Successful hairstylist to the stars Rita Jensen returns to her hometown in Chicago after receiving news that her mother has suffered a stroke. Though Rita must come up with a plan to save her mother’s salon, the oncoming holiday and her undeniable feelings for an old classmate become quite a distraction.

Keys of Heaven is the second book in Adina Senft’s Healing Grace trilogy. Amish widow Sarah Yoder helps her community by creating teas and tinctures from the herbs she grows. She struggles to find love with an Amish man, and she doesn’t know what to do about her attraction to her friend Henry Byler, who has turned away from her beliefs. Sarah’s story will show anyone that romantic love is not the only love that matters.

Valentine’s Day is an internationally celebrated day of romance, dating back to the 5th Century. But today, love touches our lives in so many different ways. Whether you are dedicating the day to your good friends or your life partner, treat them to these wonderful stories of courage, kindness, and love.

Christina Boys


So, this week, in honor of the "Give Books, Not Roses" campaign, one lucky winner will win copies of both books, and also a chocolate bar from Olive and Sinclair in Nashville. (We may be saying not roses, but we'll never say not chocolate.)

Email me at to enter the giveaway. Your subject line should read, "Give Books, Not Roses." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end next Thursday, Feb. 5 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

And, in case you don't win, the books are available here:

Barnes & Noble:

Barnes & Noble:

And, the chocolate bar? It's from Olive and Sinclair in Nashville,

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Are You Reading?

I have to be honest and say I just couldn't read the last mystery I tried. Some of the characters were too creepy. And, that's coming from someone who liked the movie Silence of the Lambs. But, I guess I like to feel as if characters have a soul.

So, I turned to something a little lighter to take the taste away. Spell Booked is the first Retired Witches mystery by Joyce and Jim Lavene. It's the story of three witches planning to retire to Boca Raton until one dies and their spell book is stolen.

What are you reading today?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg

Perhaps my reaction to Mike Greenberg's latest novel, My Father's Wives, says more about me than it does about the book. Maybe I shouldn't have read it immediately after Michael A. Kahn's The Sirena Quest. Together, they made me think men spend too much time dwelling on their past.

Jonathan Sweetwater thought he had the perfect life, a job he liked, travel, a wonderful wife, and two children he adored. And, then one day he came home early from work, and, suddenly he thought his life was built on a lie. And, that's the most important thing he and his wife, Claire, had agreed on. She said, "If you promise always to lie with me and never to lie to me, I'll do the same." But, Jonathan couldn't face asking the tough question. Instead, he decided to search for the answer to a question he never really knew. Who was the father who left him when he was nine years old?

Oh, Jonathan knew his father was "Percival Sweetwater III. Five-time United States senator, liberal lion, legendary lothario and bon vivant, author of nineteen books, sponsor of eleven legislative bills, trusted advisor to three presidents, husband to six women, and father to one boy." And, Jonathan's mother, Alice, was Percy's first wife. But, why did Percy leave on Jonathan's ninth birthday? To find the answer, Jonathan went looking for the five other women his father married.

Even now, it seems that Jonathan's decision to search for his father's story seemed ill-timed. It doesn't really fit with the problem that he himself was facing. In fact, I saw the search as a way to escape from making any decisions right then. Maybe he was trying to learn how his father made the decision to move on with life since his father said people are "the sum total of all the decisions we make". And, Jonathan had a major one to make.

My Father's Wives had a satisfying ending, although, as I said, the two storylines didn't always seem to fit together. And, Greenberg worked hard to make every one of Percy's wives different, while also making them seem perfect. It doesn't seem as if Jonathan would like every one of the former wives.

Mike Greenberg's My Father's Wives provided a few hours of entertainment. For many men, it will offer one of their fantasies, a scene with Michael Jordan. My favorite part of the book was a comment that was a throwaway line. "Don't be so afraid to die that you forget how to live."

The official author Twitter site for Mike Greenberg is @Espngreeny

My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062325860 (hardcover), 240p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Sirena Quest by Michael A. Kahn

Michael A. Kahn may be best known for his mysteries featuring attorney Rachel Gold. And, Rachel does may a brief appearance in his latest novel, The Sirena Quest, but she isn't an essential part of this story. This is really the story of a quest, as the title states. But, what a quest! It's a caper, the story of the search for a missing statue, and the story of the brotherhood of four men. In the end, it's the story of determination to see an adventure through to the end.

Lou Solomon is a widower, father of two children, and a successful lawyer in St. Louis, known as the "Iceman" to the attorneys in his firm. He's also a graduate of Barrett College, Class of 1974. And, twenty years after graduation, when his former roommate, Ray Gorman, calls out of the blue and asks him to hit the road with him, the Iceman does something no one in his law firm would ever have expected. Lou accepts Ray's challenge, and the national challenge made my a wealthy graduate of the class of '59. Find Sirena, the statue that disappeared from the campus 35 years earlier. There's twenty-five million dollars at stake if the statue is restored to the campus on the day of the college's sesquicentennial. Lou, Ray, and their other two roommates from their freshman year hit the road in search of a legend.

The Sirena Quest is a little bit nostalgic, and quite funny. The four men, who had drifted apart after that year, have to discover who they are twenty years later. Their trip together is not only a trip into their past, but a revelation as to the men they became, the women they loved, and the lives they made for themselves. Along the way, they face setbacks and challenges, and the knowledge they are not the only team of hunters looking for Sirena. And, they face the knowledge that, for them, this may be the ultimate adventure. "Hey, maybe someone will write our story some day. Sirena may not be the Holy Grail, but she's the closest the four of us will ever get."

Michael A. Kahn has written an adventure for grown-ups. No one is in danger, but the men are determined to make one final trip together, a trip that will call on their bond of friendship. The Sirena Quest is funny and sad at the same time, a reminder of a past that can't be called back. As with any quest, sometimes it's the journey that's important, not the end result. And, sometimes, a dream comes true in ways not quite expected.

Michael A. Kahn's website is

The Sirena Quest by Michael A. Kahn. Poisoned Pen Press. 2015. ISBN 9781464203503 (hardcover), 287p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Chat, Feb Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Lots of mysteries to list for February. I hope you find some to read. And, I hope you enjoy Jinx' role this month.

As Gouda as Dead - Avery Aames - 6th Cheese Shop Mystery
Played by the Book - Lucy Arlington - 4th Novel Idea Mystery
This Old Homicide - Kate Carlisle - 2nd Fixer-Upper Mystery
Murder in the Queen's Garden - Amanda Carmack - 3rd Elizabethan Mystery
A Root Awakening - Kate Collins - 16th Flower Shop Mystery
An Early Wake - Sheila Connolly - 3rd County Cork Mystery
Fry Another Day - J.J. Cook - 2nd Biscuit Bowl Truck Mystery
The Drowning School - Monica Ferris - 17th Needlecraft Mystery (1st time in paperback)
Darned If You Do - Monica Ferris - 18th Needlecraft Mystery (hardcover)
Book or by Crook - Eva Gates - 1st Lighthouse Library Mystery
Town in a Sweet Pickle - B.B. Haywood - 6th Candy Holliday Murder Mystery
License to Dill - Mary Ellen Hughes - 2nd Pickled & Preserved Mystery
At the Drop of a Hat - Jenn McKinlay - 3rd Hat Shop Mystery