Currently reading

I’ve been so focused on my writing that I haven’t been reading much this month. But I do have my current books I want to tell you about!

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This one is a true crime story called Goat Castle. It’s about the murder of an heiress in Mississippi. I got it from Net Galley and it sounds really good; however, I haven’t gotten far enough into it to tell for sure. Here’s the description though:

In 1932, the city of Natchez, Mississippi, reckoned with an unexpected influx of journalists and tourists as the lurid story of a local murder was splashed across headlines nationwide. Two eccentrics, Richard Dana and Octavia Dockery–known in the press as the -Wild Man- and the -Goat Woman—enlisted an African American man named George Pearls to rob their reclusive neighbor, Jennie Merrill, at her estate. During the attempted robbery, Merrill was shot and killed. The crime drew national coverage when it came to light that Dana and Dockery, the alleged murderers, shared their huge, decaying antebellum mansion with their goats and other livestock, which prompted journalists to call the estate – Goat Castle.

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The second book I’m reading is by an author I first found through book club. If you follow my blog you know I’m not always a fan of our book club picks, but we read The All Girl’s Filling Stations Reunion by Fannie Flagg and it was so much fun. This one is called Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven and it is set in the fictional town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri and I’m loving it. I’m about 1/3 of the way in. It was one of my thrift store finds this month and I’m glad I picked it up. These are great books for when you’re in the mood for a light, funny read. They’d be a lot of fun on audio too.

Combining southern warmth with unabashed emotion and side-splitting hilarity, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspire a town to ponder the age-old question: Why are we here?

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Which brings me to my last book, The Execution of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a collection of five Holmes-inspired short stories. The first one has Holmes kidnapped and awaiting his execution on “crimes” against a criminal gang. Basically it was a locked room escape story, and I really liked it. I didn’t like the second story about cracking some code – boring to listen to – but the rest have been good. I’m listening to this one in the car and it’s been very interesting.

 

 

That’s what I’m reading. I have a few I need to get to soon, including looking through MY book club pick, Daughter of a Pirate King. What are you reading? Are you liking it? Let me know!

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Madam Tulip: A Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions remain my own.
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Title: Madam Tulip

Author: David Ahern

Setting: modern Ireland

Summary: Madame Tulip is the first in a series of Tulip adventures in which Derry O’Donnell, celebrity fortune-teller and reluctant detective, plays the most exciting and perilous roles of her acting life, drinks borage tea, and fails to understand her parents.

My review:

Derry O’Donnell is an actor, but acting hasn’t been paying the bills lately. Now her super successful mom is putting her foot down – Derry needs to get a job and start paying the rent. On a whim, she invents a new character – Madam Tulip, medium.

It’s not entirely a lie. Her father is the seventh son of a seventh son, and Derry is somewhat psychic. But when she agrees to her first paying job, things don’t go exactly as planned.

Normally I don’t like cozy mysteries very much, but every once in a while one stands out. This one was much more fun because of the Irish setting and Derry’s entertaining parents. Derry herself is a good character, although the romantic angle was disappointing. I found the mystery angle a little confusing. But all the secondary characters are fun and I loved reading about Derry’s transformation into Madam Tulip. This book is the first in a series and I would love to read more. Thanks for the chance to read this one.

Author Interview Tomorrow!

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Those of you who are regular readers know I’ve been reading and reviewing Karen Charlton’s books, the Detective Lavender mystery series, for some time now. I’m pleased to announce that she has taken a break from writing to do an interview with me. Tomorrow I’ll have that post up, so be sure to come back and take a look.

Two DNFs

Don’t you hate it when you pick up a dud book? I had two misfires in a row. Both were books I was asked to review, but for different reasons, I just couldn’t finish either one.

The first was The Muse by Arjay Lewis. It was described to me as a horror/mystery book. I love mystery, and sometimes I like horror, so I wanted to give it a chance. Here’s the book description:

Famed novelist Jack Court has a secret: the wealthy writer is a serial killer. He has another hidden treasure, a small antediluvian creature that dwells within his body and gives him youth, strength and a superhuman ability to avoid capture. On his trail is Sheriff Neil Trajan, who is certain Court murdered his wife three years earlier. 
When the author is hit by a careless driver, the creature leaves him and through a series of events, ends up with lowly writer, Harold Godwine. Godwine begins to write faster and better, but is troubled by dreams of blood. 
However, Jack is healing and devolving into something not quite human. As Court seeks the young author, he leaves a trail of destruction, pursued by Trajan and his FBI associate, Bill Morris.
Will Jack Court do anything to retrieve the companion that inspires his dark desires? 

It sounds pretty good, but I was put off by the amount of gore in the very first chapter. This book may be perfect for another reader, but it just wasn’t right for me.

The second book was also a mystery, but with a science fiction twist. Again, I like both of those genres, so my hopes were high. Here’s the synopsis on this one:

At a modern Institute for particle physics and cosmology, where deciphering secrets of the Universe adds tension to a cunningly subtle race for privileges, the scientific community is shocked to learn that a freak accident takes the life of their talented colleague, the author of a mysterious research project aimed at challenging laws of nature and making chance docile to bring good fortune on request. 

Curious to learn more about the enigmatic study, Professor William Brown, who is on sabbatical leave, and his chess mate Steve Andersson, a graduate in computer science, find themselves involved in a perilous search for clues to unravel the mystery of new shocking tragedies following the researcher’s death. 

Are they all a terrible misfortune, or something truly diabolical makes bad things happen? 

This time it wasn’t the death that threw me off. It was a little grisly, but not unduly so. It was the writing that I struggled with. The plot and the action were fine, but there were a lot of long wordy paragraphs and a bad font that I just couldn’t get through. I think a good editor would help a lot with this one.

So that’s my weekend. Kind of a downer Sunday, but Saturday was a good one for reading, and I’ll be back with more reviews later. Happy Monday!

What Hides Beneath – a Review

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Standalone Sunday was started by Bookslayer and you can find more here. It’s for titles that are not part of a series.
35833852I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Title: What Hides Beneath

Author: Julie L. Canfield

Setting: Virginia modern day

Synopsis:

Hidden beneath a lump of clay and dirt is a very rare art work crafted by a Japanese warrior. Two museum curators, who specialize in Asian art say it is valuable but renowned appraiser, Annette Williams claims it is worthless and her words carry weight in the art world. So which is it?
Pete White, an insurance investigator disappears from the museum where he is researching the treasure. Did he uncover its true value or find it’s a fake?
Lieutenant Detective Philip Samyn wonders why he is assigned to investigate a low priority robbery from a museum. Is his boss trying to push him to retire? he never thought his last case would be a missing laptop. That’s not how he envisioned leaving the force.
His investigation proves we never see the complete picture. There is always something hidden beneath.

Review: This book was a lot of fun! I don’t check in with Net Galley regularly, but when I saw this one I thought it sounded like one I would enjoy. I liked the description and the setting in an art museum.

I was right. I did enjoy it. I’ve never read anything by this author, but she does a good job setting the scene and drawing the reader into the action. I liked the characters too.

I do have a couple of complaints though. For one thing, she skips around with POV so that I was not sure who the real main character was. I think it was Alison, the curator who discovers a muddy vase. But you could also say it was Annette the appraiser or even the police officer investigating the case. I guess it doesn’t have to have a MC; it could be several people. But I kept expecting one of them to take over more.

Besides that, I felt there were a few plot holes. It takes a while to really build to where I just couldn’t wait to see what happened next. But it was an easy read and I liked the ending. I recommend this one and I’d like to read more by this author. Now I want to go visit an art museum and look for hidden treasures!

The old opened book is christian Psalter
19st century Psalter. Isolated over white with clipping path

Australian Police Mystery

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Title: The Dragon Man, DI Challis #1

Author: Garry Disher

Setting: Australia present day

Off the Shelf challenge

Meet Hal Challis, Detective for the Mornington Peninsula police force in Southeast Australia, in the first investigation in this prize-winning crime series

“A serial killer is on the loose in a small coastal town near Melbourne, Australia. Detective Inspector Hal Challis and his team must apprehend him before he strikes again. But first, Challis has to contend with the editor of a local newspaper who undermines his investigation at every turn, and with his wife, who attempts to resurrect their marriage through long-distance phone calls from a sanitarium, where she has been committed for the past eight years for attempted murder—his.”

The police procedural is a name for a type of mystery which is pretty much like the name implies – it centers around a group of police officers and one or more crimes they are trying to solve. Generally there’s one central case and a few others minor ones. Depending on the writer, there’s also some stuff about the officers, about their home lives, their relationships, their backgrounds. It’s like Law & Order or NCIS.

Normally I like police procedurals. I’ve read a lot of them, set throughout the 20th century up until modern ones. My favorite authors tend to be out of print, but there are some writers who are still producing first class books.

This one was not one of them.

I see that it won quite a few awards and has all kinds of blurbs on the back. What can I say? I was not impressed. It wasn’t that I hated all the characters. DI Hal Challis, the MC, is interesting with quite the back story.

It’s just that I got bored. I thought this was about a serial killer, but the writer wound up spending so much time on other crimes, on the personal lives of the police officers, on accusations of police misconduct, that the serial killer case got lost. I think if I had been in a different mood, I might have enjoyed it more.

I did like the setting. I don’t read much Australian fiction, so it was nice to get out of my comfort zone and see what else is out there. So that part did work for me.

Overall, I don’t know if I’d recommend this one or not. Maybe if you want to try a police novel and are looking for an unusual one, you could give it a try. Also, it’s the first in the series, although it doesn’t necessarily read that way, and it’s possible the series gets better as it goes. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could find any more by this author if I wanted to. And I guess that’s OK. I think I’ll just call it quits here and move on. 2.6/5 stars

Trigger Warning: sexual violence

 

 

Humorous Mysteries

23014654If you like a little humor with your mysteries, Donna Andrews has got a series for you. Meg Langslow is a blacksmith whose family has a tendency to get involved in stuff that leads to murder. She has discovered a wide array of murder victims over the years, but she keeps her head and always manages to figure out who done it.

I love funny books, so I took a break from my Off the Shelf challenge this month and read two of Andrews’ latest books, Lord of the Wings and Die Like an Eagle. All of them have birds and bird-related puns in the title.

Lord of the Wings revolves around the mythical town of Caerphilly, Virginia where they’ve begun a new Halloween Festival. Things were going pretty smoothly until someone started a strange scavenger hunt. It started at the zoo and ended in a murder. The next book in the series, Die Like an Eagle, centers around Meg’s twins and their first baseball team. The books are #18 & 19 in the series, but you can start anywhere really and give it a go. My favorite is probably We’ll Always Have Parrots which involves a fan convention. It is just hilarious.  Great reads for curling up with a good book.

10 Series I Just Can’t Wait to Finish

13555073Are you looking for another great series to follow? I’ve got 10 that I have to recommend, along with the first book in each and the author.

  1. Lockwood & Co. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. Set in a world where ghosts are common, but only children can see them, the kids at Lockwood & Co start their own business. They quarrel a lot, but they know their jobs. I’m up to #5, which I think is the last one in the series. They’re more MG books than YA, but so much fun that I don’t mind.
  2. Flavia de Luce, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Flavia is a very unusual child. She likes poisons. Like, a lot. Which is good, because she’s able to solve murders. Set in a little English village after WWII, this series is like a warm cup of dark cocoa.
  3. The Reckoners, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Ten years after the Calamity, the superpowered people called Epics have taken over the world. Regular people are nothing but a resource, but they’re ready to fight back. I’ve only read 1 & 1.5, but the next book is on my birthday wish list.
  4. 8097637 The Legend of Eli Monpress, The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron. Eli is a wizard and a thief. He’s also got a plan. He’s always got a plan. This series isn’t finished yet, but it’s been a lot of fun so far, and the first one was free!
  5. Spells, Swords, & Stealth, NPCs by Drew Hayes. This group of friends know they’re only NPCs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be heroes. 3 books in this fun series so far. Also free through Kindle Unlimited.
  6. The Grisha Trilogy, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. If you haven’t tried this one, what are you waiting for? Amazing fantasy series that I’m just loving. Not as good as Six of Crows, but then, what is?
  7. Amory Ames mysteries, Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver. Amory and her husband have a complicated relationship. She also has a tendency to find dead bodies. Set after WWI, lots of fun.
  8. The Queen’s Thief, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. Stinking amazing fantasy series. 5 stars! I’m currently listening to #2 and I’m dying! Amazing isn’t even good enough. The writing is just so good. I wish I had written it.
  9. Ms. Marvel, No Normal by G. Willow Wilson. I love this series of graphic novels. The art and the story are both great. Even if you’re not normally a superhero fan, give this one a try.
  10. 8629611The Price of Freedom, The Last Kings Amulet by Chris Northern. Loosely based on a Roman/fantasy mashup with a bunch of necromancers thrown in as well. The first one in this series is free as well.

Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen

Title: Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen 👑 🔪💈 (Sheriff Dan Rhodes #19)

Author: Bill Crider

Setting: small town Texas present day

Petty young Lynn was a favorite stylist at the beauty shop, especially with the men. But someone didn’t like her – enough that they got her over the head with her own hair dryer. Is her murder connected to the string of thefts in the county? Or was it her love life? The sheriff needs to catch the killer before someone else dies.

I really like these books. There’s a lot of humor in them, as well as a slice of small town life. As a former Texan, I just really get a kick out of this series. I would start with the first book in the series, Too Late to Die. They’re all pretty quick reads.

My Latest Book Haul

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I got books! As you can see, I’ve also got a cat. Tina saw me take out my phone and had to get in the shot, so here she is.

I have lots of great thrift stores nearby. Usually I try to restrain myself, but this time, I bought all the books.

 

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5 mysteries and one fiction! Strong as Death on top, that’s a historical mystery set during a pilgrimage. Then four mysteries from the same publisher. I’ve read The Lord Mayor of Death and wanted to read that one again. It’s good, very suspenseful. Not sure about the others, but they were worth a dollar!

Fannie Flagg writes HILARIOUS stuff. We read one of her books for book club last year and it was really good.

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Oh, Murder and Chips is set in New Zealand. I never get mysteries set there, so this should be good. Here’s another shot of my helpful cat.

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Thanks, Tina.