Apr 25, 2017

Book Feature: The Last Chance Olive Ranch by Susan Wittig Albert

Title: The Last Chance Olive Ranch: China Bayles Mystery
Author: Susan Wittig Albert 
Published: April 4, 2017, Berkley
Setting: Pecan Springs, Texas. China fears for McQuaid’s life as an escaped convict targets him...

First chapter: 
I hate it when the telephone rings at night. Granted, it wasn't night, technically speaking. It was 5 a.m., according to the clock on my side of the bed. But the only light in the room was a dim nightlight and my husband and I had both been sound asleep. To me, that qualifies as night.

From Ch. six:
...Hank grunted, "I'll do it," he said. But China better not blame me if you wind up dead." 
Book description:
Max Mantel, the killer McQuaid put away years ago, has busted out of the Huntsville prison and appears to be headed for Pecan Springs. McQuaid knows there’s only one way to stop the vengeful convict—set a trap with himself as bait.

China wants to stay by her husband’s side. But McQuaid  insists that she get out of town and go to the Last Chance Olive Ranch, where she’s agreed to teach a workshop on herbs.

While China throws herself into helping Maddie, the owner of the ranch, McQuaid’s plan backfires when Mantel executes a countermove he never saw coming. 

Have you read any of the other China Bayles mysteries?

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon.

Mangrove Lightning by Randy Wayne White: First Chapter

Mangrove Lightning by Randy Wayne Wright, Doc Ford Mystery #24, March 21, 2017, Putnam Sons
The ghosts of a 1925 multiple murder stalk Doc Ford in a new novel in the series. Setting: Key Largo to Tallahassee.

First chapter, first paragraph:

On the telephone, Tomlinson said to Ford, "When the deputy's wife and kids disappeared, moonshiners might have dumped their bodies in the lake - it was during Prohibition. It wouldn't be the first time karma has waited decades to book justice in the ass." 

"Tootsie Barlow told you that story? " Ford a marine biologist was referring to a famous fishing guide who ranked with Jimmie Albright, Jack Brothers, Ted Williams, and a few others that ranked as fly-casting pioneers in the Florida Keys. 


from the Author's Note:
This novel is based on events that occurred in Florida and the Bahamas during Prohibition, as reported (often vaguely) by newspapers at the time. 

Based on the book description and the excerpts, is this a book that would capture your interest?
MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon.

Apr 23, 2017

Sunday Post: Spring Has Sprung, But Where Are the Bees?


Spring is definitely here to stay and my Mount McKinley cherry tree was in full bloom. However, heavy rains and lack of bees mean there will be no red cherries this year on my tree. Very discouraging. I have only seen one or two bumblebees so far but am hoping for more in the summer.

Title: Murder in the Bowery: Gaslight Mystery #20
Author: Victoria Thompson
Published May 2, 2017 by Berkley
Genre: historical mystery
"Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy search for a connection between a murdered newsie and a high society woman with dangerous habits."


Title: The Widow of Wall Street
Author: Randy Susan Meyers
Published: April 11, 2017, Atria Books
Genre: contemporary fiction
"... a woman struggles to redefine her life and marriage as everything she thought she knew crumbles around her."


Title: The Murder of Mary Russell: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #14
Author: Laurie R. King
Publisher: April 5, 2017, Bantam
"Has Laurie King followed in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s footsteps and killed off her protagonist?"

These are the books most recent to my bookshelf. How about yours?

Last week, I finished several books:


Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel, June 2016.
Review: The author is an excellent storyteller and creator of interesting characters. The novel is about people seeking freedom - freedom from parents, families and social custom, from all that is expected of them. Edgar and Fern, born to wealthy parents, feel they have escaped all of the responsibility of their inherited wealth, and live in the freedom they want, until the day their fortunes change and Fern's parents lose all their money. The book is about how this couple look a harsher reality in the face and how they adjust to it, or not.
Recommendation: Five stars. 



The Girl from Yesterday by Kathryn Miller Haines, published April 17, 2017, Pocket Star
Comments: The thriller features complicated dysfunctional families and a convoluted plot. The situations some of the girls find themselves in are almost too hard to read about, but it's a good thriller nonetheless. Three and a half stars. 

The Day I Died: A Novel by Lori Rader-Day,

Comments: I enjoyed the detailed settings - two very different small towns in Indiana and Wisconsin; plus the interesting main character, a woman who escapes abuse at home and raises a son on her own, moving from town to town to escape being traced, while working for the FBI and police as a handwriting expert. She is believed dead by some, but when she settles in a town close to her original home, secrets and the past come to light as she works to help the police solve a local crime. A thriller with an excellent plot. Five stars. 

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin, published 2006.I was able to flip quickly through the novel and still get, I think, the gist of this novel of the marriage of a couple who agree from the beginning that they don't want children. But then, one of them changes their mind. An interesting though somewhat predictable read. Four stars.
 

What books are on your desk this week?
Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date Also visit Mailbox Monday.

Apr 21, 2017

My Last Lament by James William Brown: Book Beginning

My Last Lament by James William Brown, March 2017, Berkley Books

Book beginning:
Cassette 1, Side 1

Now let me see. How do I turn this thing on? Oh. Maybe it is on. There's a red light anyway, a little fiery eye in this dark kitchen. I guess I speak into this bit - hello, hello in there. One-two-three-four. I'm just going to rewind and play that back to make sure I'm doing it right, seeing as how all machines are out to humiliate me. Technology means putting a cassette into a recorder, and that's it for me, no comments, please. Okay, everything's okay, though I would never guess that's how I must sound to others, old and croaky, like a geriatric frog.

The speaker, an old woman now, is a former lamenter who is recording her personal history, the old tradition of lamenting, and her memories of WWII in Greece. 

Page 56:

...My throat constricted as she said I'd become a little headstrong lately and she'd been meaning to speak to me about that and about my spending so much time with Stelios. 

Book description: "a poignant and evocative novel of one Greek woman's story of her own and her nation's epic struggle in the aftermath of World War II. It's written in the first person, and highlights the Greek folk art of lamenting, its history, and the people who served as "lamenters" and is a `eulogy to a way of life.'"

Memes: The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader. 

Apr 18, 2017

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White: Review, First Chapter

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White, April 11, 2017, Berkley
."..a young single mother discovers that the nature of friendship is never what it seems.."

A thoroughly enjoyable Southern novel about life in an Atlanta suburb and the culture surrounding families there, especially the women and their school children. Merilee Dunlap moves to the suburb of Sweet Apple, Ga. after her divorce, renting a cottage from a local woman legend, Sugar Prescott,  and hoping to go on with life and raise her two children.

Although the past comes back to interfere in her life, and an anonymous blog threatens to reveal everything about her life, Merilee eventually finds new love and stability though feeling like the odd woman out among the wealthy suburban moms.

I gave this a five for reader enjoyment and its revealing insights into a slice of Southern life, and plan to reread it again in the future!

First chapter:
The Playing Fields Blog
Observations of Suburban Life from Sweet Apple, Georgia, written by Your Neighbor

A woman at my hair salon today asked me where I'd learned to put on make up. I considered this a compliment, having always taken good care of my skin for the sole purpose of making it a smooth palette on which to put makeup. I could tell she was a transplant to our north Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple by her accent. And by her question. Every true Southern mama teaches her daughter bout makeup. I think, in some parts of the Deep South (like the Mississippi Delta, girls are born with makeup brushes clutched in their tiny hands.This might be hearsay, but have you ever noticed how many Miss Americas are from Mississippi?

Based on my comments and the beginning of the book, would you read on?
MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or  have read, or will be reading soon.

Karen White also wrote another excellent book, FLIGHT PATTERNS (see my review). "It tells the story of Georgia Chambers, a fine china expert who left her family years before and is forced to return home and repair the relationships she’s carefully avoided. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep."

Apr 15, 2017

Sunday Salon: Reading More Ebooks

I finished four books last week and also got some more gardening in -  raking of leaves and planting more flower seeds, I am eager to see if they will sprout!

Books and ebooks read last week:
The Day I Died: A Novel by Lori Rader-Day, five stars
Baby Proof by Emily Giffin, three stars
The Breakdown by B.A. Paris, five stars
The Girl From Yesterday by Kathryn Miller Haines, three stars

New books to be read:
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman, May 2, 2017, Berkley
Gardening helps a troubled woman get back on track.

and a bunch of cozies!

What are you reading this week?
Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date Also visit Mailbox Monday.

Apr 11, 2017

First Chapter: Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel, June 14, 2016.
This book got mixed reviews, so I'm eager to see how I will like it! Another library book!

First chapter:
1976
Summer fattened everybody up. The family buttered without reserve; pie seemed to be everywhere. They awoke and slept and awoke in the summerhouse on the island, ate all their meals on the porch while the sun moved across the sky. They looked out at the saltwater cove and watched the sailboats skim and tack across the blue towards the windward beach, littered with the outgrown shells of horseshoe crabs. 

Picture the five of them, looking like a family. 

Book description:
"... an imaginative novel about a wealthy New England family in the 1960s and '70s that suddenly loses its fortune—and its bearings."

Would you read on?
MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon

Apr 9, 2017

Sunday Salon: Reading Too Many Books at One Time

Spring is finally here. After some very cold rain for a few days, the weekend became sunny and inspiring for gardeners to start sowing flower seeds for May.

I finished The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley, a mystery novel set in 1978 and 1998 in Cleveland, Ohio. It has a complex plot involving abandoned or forgotten lockboxes in an unused bank building, the people with or without the keys to them, and two women twenty years apart trying to solve the mystery surrounding these keys. Suspenseful, a good read.

A few new books on my reading desk:
All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg, May 2, 2017, Berkley
"An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations"
The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi, April 18, 2017, William Morrow 
"India, 1986. Two childhood friends—one struggling to survive the human slave trade and the other on a mission to save her—two girls whose lives converge only to change one fateful night in 1993."
A Purely Private Matter by Darcie Wilde, May 2, 2017, Berkley.
"The Rosalind Thorne mystery series—inspired by the novels of Jane Austen—continues as the audacious Rosalind strives to aid those in need while navigating the halls of high society."
Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong by Emily Brightwell, May 2, 2017, Berkley
"Mrs. Jeffries keeps house for Inspector Witherspoon . . . and keeps him on his toes," helping him solve mysteries, including this one of a hotel guest found killed with his own walking stick.
Walking on My Grave by Carolyn Hart, May 2, 2017, Berkley. The 26th in the Death on Demand series. 
"Book seller Annie Darling learns murder and money go hand in hand..."
The Big Buddha Bicycle Race by Terence A. Harkin, October 12, 2016. "Set in  upcountry Thailand and war-ravaged Laos late in the Vietnam War. A cross-cultural wartime love story, and a surreal remembrance of two groups —the brash active-duty soldiers who risked prison by taking part in the GI anti-war movement and the gutsy air commandos who risked death night after night flying over the Ho Chi Minh Trail." 

I have started listening to the audio version of The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman, but saw the excellent movie last night, so may or may not finish the book! The book though has much more historical detail re the Nazi policy about animals, explaining how they extended their ideas of "purity of genes and race" even to wild animals. 

I also finished The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White, for a book tour next week, and am reading an ebook, The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell, published June 7, 2016.

What are you reading this week? 
Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date Also visit Mailbox Monday.

Apr 7, 2017

Book Beginning: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

The German Girl by ,  October 18, 2016, Atria Books. 
The novel is based on a true story.

"... a twelve-year-old girl flees Nazi-occupied Germany with her family and best friend on the SS St. Louis, a transatlantic liner offering Jews safe passage out of Germany and to Cuba. But the governments of Cuba, the United States, and Canada are denying the passengers of the St. Louis admittance to their countries." The family has to split in Havana, some returning to Germany. 


Book beginning:
Hannah, Berlin 1939

I was almost twelve years old when I decided to kill my parents. 
I had made up my mind. I'd go to bed and wait till they fell asleep. That was always easy to tell because Papa would lock the big, heavy double windows and close the thick greenish-bronze curtains.  He'd repeat the same things he said every night after supper, which in those days had become little more than a steaming bowl of tasteless soup. 

Page 56:
Mom hugs me, and I start to cry. I'm her little girl again and I fall into her arms so that she can soothe me, stroke me. 

The beginning of the book sounds pretty dramatic, but of course Hannah does not kill her parents. This only shows she is extremely upset about the changes to come.

Memes: The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Apr 4, 2017

First Chapter: Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen

Windy City Blues, a novel by Renee Rosen, February 28, 2017, Berkley.

First chapter:
Prologue: 1933

She did her worshipping from the hood of a rusted-out Chevrolet in a junkyard on Twenty-ninth and State Street across from the church. Leeba Groski felt closer to God there than she ever did in a synagogue. It was a Sunday morning and she had tagged along with the neighbor boys, Leonard and Phil Chess. They sat three in a row on the hood, their feet resting on the bumper while they listened to the gospel music pouring out of the church's open door and windows. Even in Chicago's August heat, the piano music and voices gave Leeba goose bumps as she clapped and sang along to "Jesus Gave Me Water". Leeba didn't have a great voice, but when she sang you couldn't hear her accent. If she could, she would have said everything in a song.


Book description:
In 1960s Chicago, a young woman stands in the middle of a musical and social revolution - the rise of the Chicago blues. A new historical novel from the bestselling author of White Collar Girl and What the Lady Wants. 

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon

Apr 1, 2017

Sunday Salon: Ebooks Galore

Because it's been raining so much, I got a lot of reading done last week, and finished 
The Nest by 
Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon, 5 stars
The Boy in the Earth by Fuminori Nakamura, 4 stars
I am usually generous with ratings!
Current reads include The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White for an upcoming book tour.

New books: 
The Breakdown, a thriller by B.A. Paris, July 18, 2017, by St. Martin's Press and
One Good Thing by Wendy Wax, April 25, 2017, Berkley. 
"... a story of four women trying to rebuild more than their lives..."

I also have the audio version of The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman, thanks to my library. The historical novel is set in Warsaw during WWII, and I'd like to read/listen to it before I see the movie!


The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan I liked but was disappointed when the plot started to include the magical and the ghostly, not genres that I normally read. The novel will appeal, however, to those who like an intriguing plot that incorporates the supernatural. 

What are you reading this week?
Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date Also visit Mailbox Monday.

Mar 31, 2017

Book Beginning: The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

The Forbidden Garden: A Novel  by Ellen Herrick, April 4, 2017, William Morrow Paperbacks

...the heart of a mysterious English country garden, waiting to spring to life." The second book featuring the Sparrow Sisters.

Book beginning:
Graham, Lord Kirkwood put the phone down and turned to his wife, Stella. 
"Fiona says she's found a gardener," he said.
"In America? What good does that do us here? Stella asked, looking up from her book.
"Fiona thinks this person may be willing to travel - something about a bad summer in her village, a child's death, townspeople on edge, not a good thing. It's been nearly a year, but apparently everyone's still a bit shell-shocked." Graham tapped away at this laptop for a moment in silence. 

Page 56:

... With just six weeks to research, select and plant the early stages of the Kirkwood garden, to cheat the soaking rain that swept through weekly (not to mention look at a bunch of dusty tapestries that might tell her nothing more than she already knew from her own research,) Sorrel barely had time to register the face of London or what it would be like to know the stories. 

Memes: The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Mar 27, 2017

First Chapter: Losing Me by Sue Margolis

Losing Me, a novel by the English author Sue Margolis,  published July 7, 2015 by NAL

First chapter:
As she sipped her coffee in the early-morning calm, there were no augurs or omens to suggest that before lunchtime, her life would be in the toilet. Her breakfast egg was boiling on the stove. Through the kitchen window the sky was streaked optimistic orange. The elderly heating boiler was roaring away. In a moment the pipes would start their reassuring ticking and knocking. She relished this time to herself - before the day kicked off, before everybody began demanding bits of her. She would have relished it even more if it hadn't been for Mark Zuckerberg. 

Book description:
Knocking on sixty, Barbara Stirling is too busy caring for her mother, husband, children, and grandchildren. But when she loses her job, everything changes. Barbara is forced to face her feelings and doubts. Then a troubled, vulnerable little boy walks into her life and changes it forever.

MEME: Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros sharing the first paragraph or two, from a book you are reading or will be reading soon.

Mar 25, 2017

Sunday Salon: Current Reads

Finished this week:

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, a memoir, May 14, 2017. Kindle edition.
My thoughts: 
The plight of the modern woman is outlined in this memoir: what happens or could happen when you want it all - all of life, together, at the same time, without necessarily making the sacrifices and trade-offs required for more predictable, stable outcomes. Revealing, honest.

Still reading: 

I Shot the Buddha by Colin Cotterill,
The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon.


New book on the shelf:

Mangrove Lightning by Randy Wayne Wright, Doc Ford Mystery #24, March 21, 2017, Putnam Sons
The ghosts of a 1925 multiple murder stalk Doc Ford in a new novel in the New York Times-bestselling series.Setting: Key Largo to Tallahassee
The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White, April 11, 2017, Berkley
...a young single mother discovers that the nature of friendship is never what it seems..


The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green, June 6, 2017, Berkley.
... a mother asks her three estranged daughters to come home to help her end her life.

Ebooks on loan from the library have dropped into my Kindle:

The Nest by 

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger
What are you reading this week?
Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date Also visit Mailbox Monday.