Feb 29, 2012

Book Review: The Hope Vendetta by Scott Mariani

Title:The Hope Vendetta by Scott Mariani
Publication date: March 6, 2012; Touchtone Books
Genre: thriller
Objective rating: 4/5

When biblical archaeologist Zoe Bradbury doesn't return home from the Greek island of Corfu as planned, her parents call on the son of an old friend to find out why. Former SAS operative Ben Hope has given up his old life of rescuing kidnap victims in dangerous situations and is now a theology student at Oxford University, so he sends his old SAS buddy Charles instead.

Things deteriorate pretty quickly when Charles calls from Corfu, wanting backup, and Ben heads out to the island only to find himself enmeshed in unexpected violence. An explosion in an outdoor cafe not only kills and maims a lot of people but signals to Ben that Zoe's disappearance is much more than it seemed at first.

Biblical prophecies, the Book of Revelations, and evangelical beliefs in the Rapture and End of Days fuel the plot of this novel. I found it fast paced and a good thriller, well written and quite easy to read. Ben's divided and haunted character is sympathetic as he goes from theology student back to his old life, while still dealing with the psychological wounds of his wife's death.

The character of the biblical scholar Zoe was not as believable. Zoe behaves like a spoiled, heedless young woman, which is quite at odds with the well know archaeologist and scholar she is supposed to be. For the sake of the plot, however, I overlooked this for the most part.

I am now interested in the other books featuring Ben Hope. This is the 7th in the series.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 28, 2012

Teaser: The Possibility of You by Pamela Redmond

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

"Of course you're staying," said Bridget. "This is your home. We are your family. You are welcome to stay here for, well, for as long as you like. Forever." (ch. 5)

Title: The Possibility of You: A Novel
Author: Pamela Redmond
Published Feb. 28, 2012 by Gallery Books: paperback

Publisher's description: Can we ever atone for the sins of the past? Or does each generation of women invent itself anew? In a complex and beautifully told masterpiece set against key moments for women in the last century, New York Times bestselling author Pamela Redmond intertwines the heartrending stories of Bridget, Billie, and Cait, and explores the ways in which one woman’s choices can affect her loved ones forever.

As these three women search for identity and belonging, each faces a very personal decision that will reverberate across generations, tearing apart families, real and imaginary, perfect and flawed, but ultimately bringing them together again.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 27, 2012

Mailbox Monday: Feb. 27

Mailbox Monday is hosted by DCMetroreader at Metroreader; share the books you recently received in the mail.

(click on the titles for details)

The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone,
thanks to Crown Publishers

The Little Shadows: a Novel by Marina Endicott,
thanks to Hutchinson, London

The Playgroup by Janey Fraser,
thanks to Arrow Books, London

The Sexy Vegan Cookbook by Brian L. Patton,
thanks to New World Library

What arrived in your mailbox last week?

Feb 26, 2012

Sunday Salon: Agatha Award Nominees for Best Mysteries in 2011

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

Malice Domestic has announced the Agatha Award Nominees for the Agatha Award, which honors Agatha Christie and the traditional mystery. Nominees do not include hard boiled fiction or fiction with "explicit sex or gratuitous violence." Here are some of the nominees for books written in 2011.

Best Novel:
The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis (Berkley)
Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur)
Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Novel:
Dire Threads by Janet Bolin (Berkley)
Choke by Kaye George (Mainly Murder Press)
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown)
Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab (Berkley)
Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend (Berkley)

Best Non-fiction:
Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure by Leslie Budewitz (Linden)
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks by John Curran (Harper)
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)
Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel by A. B. Emrys (McFarland)
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris (Ace)

Best Historical Novel:
Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder Your Darlings by J.J. Murphy (Signet)
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper)

Winners will be announced April 28 during Malice Domestic 24 Convention in Bethesda, Maryland. For a complete list of nominees, visit Agatha Awards Nominees 2011. I've read only two on the list and have a couple more in my TBR pile, so I have a lot of good books to look forward to!

Want to visit other mystery blogs?
These were recently selected as the 50 Spine-Tingling Murder Mystery Blogs, chosen by Crime Scene Investigation School. I was in the list a few years ago, but have since branched out to include other genres!

Which 2011 mystery novels  would you have chosen for the Awards?

Feb 24, 2012

Book Review: Fashion Faux Paw by Judi McCoy

Title: Fashion Faux Paw: A Dog Walker Mystery by Judi McCoy
Publication date: March 6, 2012; Signet Books

I had just discovered the Dog Walker Mystery series with this book, the sixth by Judi McCoy, and wondered how I had overlooked her books before. I am a big fan of dog and pet mysteries by authors such as Susan Conant, Virginia Lanier, Stephen Quinn, Lauren Berenson, Linda O. Johnston, Nina Wright, Sue Henry, Cynthia Baxter, and Blaize Clement. (Phew!) So I was delighted to find this author.

As soon as I had finished her new book, Fashion Faux Paw, however, a blogger informed me that author Judi McCoy had died, just this month. I am sure the mystery world will miss her. Her new book introduces her next in the series, Treated to Death, scheduled for publication October 2012. I hope we will see it in print later in the year.

About the book: Dog walker Ellie Engleman is hired to take care of dogs that will walk the runway with models in a major fashion show. Besides giving the dogs daily walks during the show, feeding and grooming them, and making sure they are hooked up with the right models during Fashion Week, Ellie finds herself playing amateur sleuth when the organizers of the show ask her to look into the death of one of the fashion designers.

Lilah Perry, a major designer, had died from anaphylactic shock during the show and everyone is convinced that she was deliberately exposed to peanut oil, which she is severely allergic to. Since Lilah was unpopular with models and designers alike in the fashion world, Ellie finds herself hard pressed to narrow down the suspects. With the help of her dog and sidekick, a mixed breed named Rudy, Ellie sets out to find Lilah's killer.

Comments: I thought the book had a clever plot and a zany animal sidekick, Rudy, who spies on the dogs in the show and gets information from them to help with Ellie's investigation. I don't normally like talking animals in mysteries, (especially talking cats), but Hugo I could put up with. He adds a certain intrigue to the book and I like that the only human he can communicate with is Ellie, who has to explain many times over why she seems to be always talking to her dog.

I'm looking forward to reading Judi McCoy's earlier books in the Dog Walker series. I know I'll enjoy them and, with her fans, wish she was still with us.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 23, 2012

Opening sentences: The Confession by Charles Todd

Opening sentences in a novel can set the tone and help readers decide about a book. Here are the opening sentences for The Confession, a detective mystery.

The Essex Marshes, Summer 1915

The body rolled in the current gently, as if still alive. It was facedown, only the back and hips visible. It had been floating that way for some time. men in the ancient skiff had watched it for a quarter of an hour, as if half expecting it to rise up and walk away before their eyes.

"He's dead, right enough," one said. "One of ours, do you think?"

"This far up the Hawking? It's a German spy,: the second man said, nodding, as if that explained everything. "Bound to be. I say, leave him to the fish."

"We won't know who he is until we pull him out, will we?" the third said and leaned out to touch the corpse with the boat hook.

"Here!" the first man cried out, as if this were sacrilege.
The body bobbed a little under the weight of the hook.

Title:  The Confession: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd
Published Jan. 3, 2012; William Morrow
Source: complimentary copy from the publisher

Goodreads description: In the latest of Charles Todd's "New York Times"-bestselling series, Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge wrestles with a startling and dangerous case that reaches far into the past when a false confession from a man leads to a brutal murder.

Feb 22, 2012

Book Review: Walter's Muse by Jean Davies Okimoto

Title: Walter's Muse by Jean Davies Okimoto
Paperback, Feb. 1, 2012; Endicott and Hugh Books
Objective rating: 5/5
Genre: contemporary fiction

Comments: The setting in this novel spoke to me - summer on an island in Puget Sound, with the main characters living in cottages along a beach on a scenic cove with views of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Ranier.

The people in the novel are carefully drawn characters and relaxed retirees, for the most part, who look out for each other - Maggie, who exercises by kayaking once or twice a day; Howie and Mark, who share produce from their vegetable garden, and their generator-powered refrigerator during electric outages; Martha Jane, a philosophical and whimsical woman in her 90s who inspires others on the island with her meditative views on life; and Walter, a once successful children's writer who has come to the island to revive his writing career.

A horrific summer storm brings the island neighbors Maggie and Walter together again after twenty years, a time when she was a school librarian and he a successful writer of children's books. How they get together with the help of the others is the main romance of this novel. The novel is also about growing old, acceptance of change, and living with grace.

Here, Martha asks 90 year old Martha Jane about aging:

"How do you do it?"
"Do what, dear?"
"Be old. How do you be old?"

"Every day I wake at dawn to watch the sun rise. I wait like a child to see what nature will offer. Then I have a lovely breakfast with eggs from Howie and Mark's chickens and toast with Margaret Buckman's Jam....

"And then what?"
"And what, dear?"
"About being old."

"Oh, well, I try to do each thing with absolute concentration....
My friends and family tell me they enjoy the pleasure of my company and I suppose that connection is enough of a purpose for me now. " (ch. 13)

Visit author Jean Davies Okimoto's website. She has received numberous awards for her children's books and short stories, which have been translated into several languages. Jeanie began writing for adults when she and her husband Joe retired to Vashon Island in 2004.

Click on the link for TLC tour schedule and other reviews of Walter's Muse.

GIVEAWAY: TLC Book Tours is offering a copy of Walter's Muse to a reader - U.S. or Canadian resident. To enter, leave a comment with an email address. The winner will be notified by email and will have 2 days to respond with a mailing address, no P.O. boxes, before another winner is chosen. The contest will run through March 3.

UPDATE: The contest winner is Zibilee. Congrats!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of this novel and the giveaway.

Feb 20, 2012

Book Teaser: MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read.

As for my master plan, the whole fifty-two-dates-over-a-year thing, Cacioppo is skeptical. "It's a lot to take on," he says. "Friendship brings responsibilities and obligations. If you're tending too many, you may not have time to get really close to any of them."

Too many friends?  That's what I call a high class problem.

(ch. 2. This quote is from the complimentary Advance Reader's Edition that I received; final copy may differ.)

Title: MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend
Author: Rachel Bertsche
Published December 20, 2011; Ballantine
Genre: Memoir

Publisher's description: When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, she realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends.

Sure, she has plenty of BFFs—in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C. Still, in her adopted hometown, there’s no one to call at the last minute for girl talk over brunch or a reality-TV marathon over a bottle of wine. Bertsche develops a plan: Meeting people everywhere from improv class to friend rental websites, she'll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.

Feb 19, 2012

Sunday Salon: A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

So, I did "get up offa that thing," as James Brown once sang, and I booted up my old computer, copied two pieces of writing that I had started about two years ago, and transferred them to my "new" computer, ready to start working on it from my new "Place of Yes".

I was inspired by a self-help book sent to me by Simon & Schuster as a review book - Bethenny Frankel's, A Place of Yes. I'm only in the middle of the book, or Rule 4 out of 10 rules, but the book is pretty well laid out, part memoir and part inspiration to get everything you want out of life. I've broken any chains that might be keeping me back, found the truth by examining what I really want, and now am ready to act on it as I've found out that everything's my business as I can make a business out of whatever interests me. That just about sums up the first four chapters, and I have six more to go!

Let's see what happens when I complete the book and it's back on my Finished Reading shelf. Will I still be motivated? I certainly hope so, as Bethenny is trying her best in her latest book to get readers motivated and moving.

Title: A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life
Author: Bethenny Frankel with Eve Adamson
Publication date: Dec. 27, 2011; Touchstone
Source: complimentary review copy

After surviving a very trying childhood and a first marriage and other relationships that did not work, she pulled herself together to become the New York Times bestselling author of Naturally Thin and The Skinnygirl Dish, with her own Bravo show, Bethenny Ever After. Bethenny lives in New York City with her husband and family. Her website is www.Bethenny.com

This week I'm also reading Fashion Faux Paw: A Dog Walker's Mystery by Judi McCoy and have some new ARCs on the shelf:

MWF seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche, nonfiction
Being Lara: A Novel by Lola Jaye
How to Eat a Cupcake: A Novel by Meg Donohue
Other Waters by Eleni N. Gage
Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

What are your bookish plans for the coming week?

Feb 18, 2012

Movie and Book: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguru

I saw the movie Never Let Me Go on TV yesterday and it's still haunting me today. Based on the book of the same name, this is dystopia, sci-fi at its best, in one sense, and its worst, in another.

Have you read the book and seen the movie, and what do you think? Should I read the book, which I have on Kindle, or will it just disturb me more? It's a great story and the movie was very well done, but.....I don't normally read dystopia!

Title: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ichiguro
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Mti edition (August 31, 2010)
Genre: dystopia

Publisher's description:
A devastating novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

Feb 17, 2012

Opening Sentences: The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

Title: The Invisible Ones: A Novel by Stef Penney
Published January 5, 2012
Penguin Group USA
Opening sentences in a novel can set the tone and help readers decide about a book. Here are the opening sentences for The Invisible Ones, a romantic mystery.

"When I woke up, I remembered nothing -  apart from one thing. And little enough of that: I remember that I was lying on my back while the woman was straddling me, grinding her hips against mine. I have a feeling it was embarrassingly quick; but then, it had been a while. The thing is, I remember how it felt, but not what anything looked like.When I try to picture her face, I can't. When I try to picture the surroundings, I can't. I can't picture anything at all. I try; I try really hard, because I'm worried. 
After some time, one thing comes back to me: the taste of ashes.

As it turns out, the memory loss may be the least of my problem."

Publisher's description: PI Ray Lovell veers between paralysis and delirium in a hospital bed. Before the accident, he'd been hired to find Rose Janko, the wife of a charismatic son of a traveling Gypsy family, who went missing seven years earlier. Half Romany himself, Ray is surprised by the intense hostility from the Jankos. Touched by tragedy, they're either cursed or hiding a terrible secret, which Ray can't help suspecting is connected to Rose's disappearance.

I received a complimentary ARC of this book.  

Feb 16, 2012

What an Animal Reading Challenge V - I Signed Up!

The new challenge, What An Animal Reading Challenge V, will begin on March 1, 2012 and end on February 28, 2013. The rules are really simple...

1. Read at least 6 books that have any of the following requirements:

a. there is an animal in the title of the book

b. there is an animal on the cover of the book

c. an animal plays a major role in the book

d. a main character is (or turns into) an animal (define that however you'd like).

Visit the challenge website hosted by Yvonne of Socrates Book Review Blog for the complete rules and to sign up with Mr. Linky!

Here are the books I plan to read, so far:

1. Roam by Alan Lazar

2. Fashion Faux Paw: A Dog Walker's Mystery by Judi McCoy - reviewed.

3. To Catch a Leaf: A Flower Shop Mystery by Kate Collins

4. The Big Kitty by Claire Donally

5.The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus

6. Tahoe Trap by Todd Borg

7.  A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn

8. Following Atticus by Tom Ryan

9. Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson

Book Feature: The Distant Shore by Mariam Kobras

Title: The Distant Shore: The Stone Trilogy, Book I by Mariam Kobras
Paperback, 366 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Buddhapuss Ink LLC
Genre: contemporary fiction

Book description: The Distant Shore is a contemporary romance with a light twist of suspense.

There's nothing like finding a letter on your breakfast table informing you have a teenage son you knew nothing about, but that's what happens to international rock star, Jonathon Stone. He drops everything to find the boy, and his mother the girl he loved so many years ago who left him when his rock n roll life became too much for her to bear.

Seeing her is like falling in love all over again, and everything seems perfect, until someone sets out to destroy their idyllic life. (Goodreads)

About the author: Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Mariam lived in Brazil and Saudi Arabia with her parents as a child before they decided to settle in Germany. She attended school there and studied American Literature and Psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen. Today she lives and writes in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, two sons and two cats.

Feb 15, 2012

Book Review: Bond Girl, a Novel by Erin Duffy

"So, you'd recommend applying for a job in finance?"
"Have you ever struggled with your decision to go to Wall Street?"
Liar, liar, days-of-the-week panties on fire.
"And you're really happy with your career path and your life in the firm?"
"Couldn't be happier."
Shameless. Pathological. Liar.
I had never been more ashamed of myself in my life.... (ch. 17)

Alex, a new bond analyst on Wall Street, starts out her job without her own desk, learning by watching computer monitors over the shoulders of other analysts, carrying up pizza boxes for lunch for the entire floor, and being called by the mostly male staff, "Girlie"... After several months, she finally gets her own desk, however, more responsibilities, and a year end bonus of over $100,000.

Two years later in 2008 when the markets begins to spiral downward toward a crash, her boss assigns her to her Alma mater, the University of Virginia, to recruit new employees to their finance firm on Wall Street.

Apart from a looming financial crisis, what happened between 2006 and 2008 to make bond girl Alex Garrett change her mind so drastically about her career on Wall Street?  An interesting, often humorous, look at the people who spend their days living on the edge, trading and selling in the high powered world of finance.

I expected this book to be dry and overly complex, given the setting and the subject matter, but the author made the novel easily readable. Her main character Alex grew on me after I sceptically watched her try to fit into Wall Street and then do a slow double take. Toward the end, I found myself cheering the new Alex on.

Title: Bond Girl: A Novel by Erin Duffy
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow; Reprint edition (January 24, 2012)
Genre: contemporary fiction
Objective rating: 4/5

About the author: Erin Duffy is a Georgetown University English major, Class of 2000, who spent more than a decade working in fixed income sales on Wall Street. This is her first novel.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 14, 2012

Book Review/Teaser: Everyday Meditation by Tobin Blake

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read.

"Think of meditation as rest, not work. It is sacred time you set aside each day to step back from the world and all the busyness and stress of daily life, and to sink into quietness for a little while....

I rest in gentleness, I rest in gentleness, I rest in gentleness.' Let this message fill your consciousness as you meditate today." (Day 58)

Title: Everyday Meditation: 100 Daily Meditations for Health, Stress Relief, and Everyday Joy by Tobin Blake
New World Library, Feb. 10, 2012

Comments: Everyday Meditation offers 100 days of meditation exercises, beginning on day 1 with simple deep breathing, then advancing to counting your breaths for concentration, then chanting a simple mantra or saying, then moving on to imagining scenarios for concentration and relaxation. One such mental image, in the Day 11 exercise, asks you to imagine "meditating before a great ocean, waves gently lapping on the shore, the sun warm but not hot, and the day quiet ."

I liked that these exercises don't require you to sit in the lotus position, which I would find uncomfortable after a while. You can sit on a chair or anywhere that is comfortable and quiet, says the author, as long as you are sitting, your back straight, your head up, and you are in a relaxed position. The book suggests closing your eyes while you meditate, although I have read in a book by a Tibetan lama that opening your eyes is better, to keep in touch with the real world.

The author gives health reasons for meditation - decreasing blood pressure and heart rate and relieving stress. He also discusses meditation as "turning inward" to find your inner core or spiritual self.

The 100 daily exercises seem a good way to ease into the habit of meditating, with simple exercises that build on each other, leading to your becoming more adept if you followed the exercises faithfully. Easier said than done, I thought.

I would recommend the book as an insight into the practice of meditation, whether or not you use it as a reference book and/or as a book of practice. I think it is a book I'm glad to have on my shelves.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 13, 2012

Guest Post: Dorothy James, author of A Place to Die

Let's welcome Dorothy James,author of the mystery novel, A Place to Die: An Inspector George Buchner Mystery. She is posting today during her book tour scheduled Feb. 6-24 on Tribute Books.

Dorothy James

Book summary: "Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from New York to spend Christmas with Franzs mother in her sedate retirement home in the Vienna Woods. But when the wealthy, charming Herr Graf is found dead in his apartment with an ugly head wound, the Fabians are thrust into a homicide investigation."

Vienna. A Place to Live and A Place to Die

Dorothy James: You asked me how and why I chose Viennese history as background for my mystery, what research I had to do. I would not quite put it like that. I chose Vienna, yes. This was a choice I made for my life when I was young.

I was a student in London. I had grown up in Wales and wanted to study foreign languages. In my school, there was a wonderful German teacher, and so I ended up studying German literature at the University of London. There I applied for an Austrian Government Scholarship to spend a year in Austria, and to my incredible delight, I got one. So I found myself at the age of 22 alone in Vienna. I still remember the moment of getting off the train in the big old Westbahnhof, leaving my luggage at the station, and setting off on a cold, dark November day to find a place to live.

This was the beginning of my own history in the ancient city on the Danube. I spent a lot of time that first cold winter in the libraries of the city (where there was at least a modicum of heat!), beginning to do research into early nineteenth century Vienna. I was working on a playwright of the Viennese popular theater and his connection with the city. I read old guide-books, pored over maps, leafed through memoirs and read the works of his great contemporaries. I would come out of the library at night and as I walked through the narrow streets of the inner city to my little room, right opposite the cathedral (amazing though that now seems), I was not sure whether I was living in the nineteenth or the twentieth century.

So when you ask why did I choose Viennese history as a background to my mystery, I can only answer, I chose to set my mystery in Vienna, and for me the history of the city is present in every street and in every stone. I had gone back in recent years to the city and now had a little apartment, not in the center of the city—completely out of reach in today’s economic climate!—but on the edge of the Vienna Woods. I wanted to write a murder mystery as a complete break from my academic writing, and there I was in the city where I’d found a place to live many moons ago.

I wanted to write a murder mystery set in a retirement home, a closed society of people. A wonderful setting to investigate a murder, and to explore the dynamics of a micro-society. Where else would I set it but in Vienna, where the lives of the elderly characters would themselves encompass anything up to ninety turbulent years of history? I had discovered the city years ago as a place to live. Now I would explore it in my mystery as a place to die.

About the author: Dorothy James, writer, editor, and translator, has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin. She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods.

For reviews of the book or other guest posts, visit http://aplacetodieblogtour.blogspot.com/

Visit Dorothy James' web site:
or her blog, www.myplaceformystery.com/

Special Book/Fragrance Offer: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Title: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (March 13, 2012)

Publisher's book description:
"A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years.

Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she is back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance.

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past."
Atria Books is offering a sample of Âmes Sœurs, an exclusive fragrance inspired by M.J. Rose’s new novel, The Book of Lost Fragrances, a book that received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Joya Studio’s Frederick Bouchardy was inspired to interpret the magical scent in the book. Joya’s Âmes Sœurs hints of Frankincense, Myrrh, Orange Blossom and Jasmine. For every reader that pre-orders The Book of Lost Fragrances using the instructions below, Atria Books will send a sample of Âmes Sœurs.

How does it work?

1. Pre-order THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES from one of the links below.
2. Email the receipt or a scan of it to LostFragrances@gmail.com along with your name and your Snail mail address for fragrance delivery.
Your sample of Âmes Sœurs will be shipped to you on or before March 13th. The book will arrive separately, from the store of your choice, at the same time so you can enjoy both together.
Barnes & Noble
Your favorite Independent Bookstore
Books A Million

*Offer ends March 1st, is limited numbers of supplies available and only to readers in the US and Canada.

Feb 12, 2012

Sunday Salon: The First Real Snow of the Year and Two New Book Reviews

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon. Well, we got a couple of inches of snow that did not melt and made us feel we really are in the middle of winter. It's cold but the sun made it pleasant. As I hate grey days, I hope the sunny days last!

I have a book giveaway of a memoir, An Invisible Thread, about a New York City advertising executive who stopped to talk with an 11 year old pan handler on the city streets about 30 years ago and thus changed both their lives. The contest for two copies of the book runs through March 14. Click on the book title to enter.

Not exactly chic lit, but humorous and a little more serious is Bond Girl: A Novel, about a young graduate's life as a new analyst on Wall Street.I'll post a review this week, and plan to start Walter's Muse for a book tour later this month.

I also finished reading the first Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon, and really liked it. Hamlet the black cat lives with its bookstore owner Darla above Pettistone's Fine Books, and helps Darla solve a mystery by pulling down books from the shelves at different times. The books' titles seem to suggest clues to the death of a famous writer, who fell or was possibly pushed in front of an oncoming van just outside Darla's book store. I think Hamlet will continue doing book title tricks like this in the mysteries to come and find that the ploy is cute and original.

Also finished reading Helpless, a thriller by Daniel Palmer, about a timely topic - child pornography online. The novel is set in New Hampshire and involves former Navy Seal Tom Hawkins who returns to the town of Shilo when his ex wife Kelly is murdered. Tom moves to Shilo to take care of his daughter Jill and gets a job coaching Jill's high school soccer team. Jill is reluctant to be coached by her father but finally gets used to the idea, until he is accused of his ex-wife's murder, suggestive pictures show up on his computer, and an anonymous blog claims he is sleeping with the teens he coaches.

The story serves to bring up the problem of teens sending sexy pictures of themselves to each other, or "sexting, as it is called, and of these pictures ending up being sold and circulated on the web. As I mentioned, the book's topic is timely and revealing, though the story itself is slowed down just a bit by overly long dialogue. Overall, I recommend Helpless for those dealing with teens in schools or at home.

These two mysteries were sent to me as a complimentary review copy and an ARC.

My reviews since last Sunday:
We're With Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics

Once Upon a Time, There Was You

Pineapple Grenade

No Mark Upon Her

Casey and Kyle
(Click on the titles to see the reviews.)

What have you been up to this past week?

Feb 11, 2012

Book Review: Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg

"No," Irene says. "I don't care what your father says. Your father is not your primary caretaker. I am your primary caretaker, and I do not feel it is safe for you to go unchaperoned with a bunch of kids to spend a whole weekend rock climbing."

Sadie draws lines with her chopsticks through the black bean sauce left puddled on her plate. "What are you so afraid of?"
(ch. 5)

Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg
Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (October 4, 2011)

Comments: John and Irene had misgivings right before they walked down the aisle. Irene had just asked her bridesmaid to announce the cancellation of the wedding to the  waiting guests, when Irene's father walked in to walk her down the aisle. She went wordlessly along with him.

Years later, John and Irene are divorced, John living in Minnesota and Irene in California with their high school daughter Sadie.  Sadie's sudden disappearance brings the two parents together again and let them relive the reasons they once loved each other. Sadie is the catalyst that gets them to try to get along again, while they try to find her safe.

A moving story, very well told,  of marriage, relationships, family, and the things that really count. John and Irene find what is most important to them - their daughter Sadie and remaining true to themselves, who they really are, and who they have become.

My rating: 4/5
From my personal library.

Feb 10, 2012

Book Review: No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

"You compromised my search." Tavie realized that passersby were giving them a wide berth and made an effort to lower her voice. "And my chain of evidence," she hissed at him....
(ch. 7)

Title: No Mark Upon Her: A Novel by Deborah Crombie
Published February 7, 2012 by William Morrow; hardcover
Genre: police procedural, mystery

Everyone on the police force on Henley-on-Thames, about thirty miles north of London, seems to be on the case, that of a woman rower found drowned and caught in a weir on the river Thames, her racing skiff washed up on shore. Scotland Yard is called in; it seems to be murder as the woman was an experienced rower training to enter the Olympics and would not have capsized the evening she took her boat out on a calm river.

Search and rescue teams had been called out, including a man with his black Labrador retriever who is devastated when they find the abandoned skiff and the body of the woman rower.

The police procedural continues with Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, both investigating the case, either directly or indirectly. For Gemma, the name of a possible suspect hits too close to home as she has had a frightening run-in with the suspect before. A close call, she realized.

Comments: About a third of the way into the novel, I thought I knew who the murderer was and the reason behind the murder and was about to skip ahead to the end to see if I was right. I'm glad I didn't, as I was totally wrong, and I soon realized this as I read on. The possibilities were many, the situations complex, and I was then kept guessing till the end.

A very satisfying mystery and police procedural, I give this one 5 stars. I'm eager to look at others in this series, and though No Mark Upon Her is a stand-alone mystery, wished I had read them before this book, for continuity.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 8, 2012

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

“Excuse me lady, do you have any spare change?”

This was the first thing he said to me, on 56th street in New York City, right round the corner from Broadway, on a sunny September day.

And when I heard him, I didn’t really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noise—the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I walked right by him, as if he wasn’t there.

But then, just a few yards past him, I stopped.

And then—and I still don’t know why I did this—I came back.

Title: An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-year-old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny
Author: Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski
Publisher: Howard Books; November 2011; hardcover and e-book editions

Book description: An Invisible Thread is the true story of the bond between a harried sales executive and an eleven-year-old boy who seemed destined for a life of poverty. It is the heartwarming story of a friendship that has spanned three decades and brought meaning to an over-scheduled professional and hope to a hungry and desperate boy living on the streets.

When Laura Schroff brushed by a young panhandler on a New York City corner one rainy afternoon, something made her stop and turn back. She took the boy Maurice to lunch at the McDonald's across the street that day. And she continued to go back, again and again for the next four years until both of their lives had changed dramatically.

About the authors: Laura Schroff worked as an advertising executive with media companies including Time Inc. and Conde Nast. She lives in New York City.
Alex Tresniowski of New York City has been a senior writer for People Magazine since 1998. He is also the author of six books, including 2005’s The Vendetta, a true crime story purchased by Universal Pictures and used as a basis for the 2009 Johnny Depp movie, Public Enemies.

Click for the Book trailer

Opening sentences: Pineapple Grenade by Tim Dorsey

Title: Pineapple Grenade: A Novel
William Morrow (Jan. 24, 2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
Rating: 3/5

Opening sentences in a novel can set the tone and help readers decide about the book.

"A prosthetic leg with a Willie Nelson bumper sticker washed ashore on the beach, which meant it was Florida.

Then it got weird.

Homicide detectives would soon be stumped by the discovery of the so-called Hollow Man. Empty torso with no external wounds, like all his organs had been magically scooped out. Little progress was made in the case until a TV station began calling him the Jack-O'-Lantern Man, which immediaely doubled the number of nicknames.

But right now, the victim had yet to be found. In fact, he was still breathing." (prologue)

From the 15th in the Serge Storms Mystery Series.

Comments: A very strange homicide situation and even stranger main characters. My first reaction was - Florida is another country! Car hijackings and robberies of unwitting tourists off the highway leading from the Miami airport , for instance. An old news item, I thought. Is this really still going on, or is this part of the fiction of this mystery novel?  In any case, the writing and characters did not grab me. I had a hard time getting into the book. But his other books have made the author a New York Times bestselling author.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 7, 2012

Left for Dead, a Novel by J.A.Jance

Title: Left for Dead: a Novel by J. A. Jance
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 7, 2012; Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Genre:mystery- thriller

Today is the release date for J.A. Jance's new thriller, Left for Dead. I received a review copy and am looking forward to it. I've liked many of her previous mysteries.

Book description: When Santa Cruz County deputy sheriff Jose Reyes, Ali Reynolds' classmate from the Arizona Police Academy, is gunned down and left to die, he is at first assumed to be an innocent victim of the drug wars escalating across the border. But the crime scene investigation shows there’s much more to it than that, and soon he and his pregnant wife, Teresa, both fall under suspicion of wrongdoing. Another victim left for dead is also in the hospital. Ali investigates these two shocking cases of victims brutally left for dead despite pressure to drop the case.

Book Review: We're With Nobody by Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read.

"Political research is about searching for evidence of both hypocrisy and nobility on front porches, in smoky conference rooms, and in courthouses, bars, deer camps and roadside cafes. It can be grueling, corrosive, satisfying and entertaining by turns." (ch. 1)
Title: We're with Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics by Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian
Published January 24, 2012; William Morrow

Comments: I found this non fiction book by two political researchers to be very revealing. They write about "opposition research" and declare neutrality as they accept jobs to hunt down information nationwide on political candidates - interviewing far and wide, going through newspaper stories, court records, delving into the detailed backgrounds and lives of candidates, large and small, to find the truth. So this is how they do it! A timely book! I give this a 4.5/5 rating!

Book description:
For nearly two decades, former journalists Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian have been uncovering the buried truths about political candidates, from presidential appointees all the way down to local school-board hopefuls. We’re with Nobody is the eye-opening account of their life as opposition researchers—a remarkable adventure across the American political landscape and through the often seamy underbelly of U.S. politics.

From doing battle with reluctant, sometimes purposefully misleading bureaucrats to arriving in an unmarked police car for a clandestine meeting on the New Jersey waterfront, We’re with Nobody offers readers a revealing slice of national and political life: a close-up look at today’s political process, the fallible men and women we often choose to represent us and the little-understood industry of trying to bring candidates’ weaknesses to light.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Feb 6, 2012

Book Tour: Casey and Kyle by Will Robertson

Title: Casey and Kyle: I'm Saving Up for a New Brother
Author: Will Robertson
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (May 8, 2011)

Description: A new collection of nearly 300 cartoons from the web-comic "Casey and Kyle".  Casey and Kyle is a self-syndicated cartoon appearing both online and in print.

Comments: Casey and Kyle sometimes wreck havoc in the house with their dart guns. Lamps may hit the floor, for example.  They may sometimes start playing with the water hose outside in 30 degree weather, much to the dismay of their mother. We follow their antics through the year and through the seasons and various holidays. This is a family comic with humor, as Casey and Kyle and their parents and friends interact in an amusing and sometimes wry way. Cute and clever.

Author and creator Will Robertson enjoys playing music and tennis. He is an avid mini golfer and an aggressive bumper car driver. He lives with his wife and two children in Oregon's Willamette Valley. He has published two other Casey and Kyle comic books, in 2010 and 2011. Visit www.caseyandkylecomics.com

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book for a review copy of this book.

Feb 5, 2012

Sunday Salon: The Dead of Winter?

The Sunday Salon.com Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

It's the beginning of February and unlike last year when there was a lot of snow, there is only a thin layer of frost on the green grass glistening in the morning sun. Is this the dead of winter? I sort of like it although I sometimes like lots of white snow too, on occasion, that is. I'm looking at the news of too much snow in Europe this year and know how they feel. I should be feeling lucky here in the Midwest.

In any case, what's new is that I have been chosen a book giver for World Book Night on April 23, when I'll be hitting the mall and a hospital waiting room to give away about 20 free books, courtesy of WBN. Tomorrow, Feb. 6, is the last day to sign up. World Book Night will be held across the U.S., UK and Ireland.

I chose three books and wonder if I'll get 20 copies of the same book or a mixture of all three. The books I requested were The Poisonwood Bible, Bel Canto, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The question is, how will I make sure I give the books to the targeted group - non readers or those who don't normally read much. Should I ask, "Excuse me. Do you have a library card?" Any suggestions?

Today is the Super Bowl and I've just read and reviewed a really interesting legal thriller, Paydirt by Paul Levine, who also writes the Jake Lassiter thriller series. Paydirt is about betting on the Super Bowl, big bets that can make or break the people involved. It's also about a lawyer tired of getting his father-in-law's football team members out of trouble by bribing witnesses, paying off complainants, doing whatever it takes, legal or illegal, to keep the team members out of the tabloid news. Interesting stuff, and also better appreciated by those who really understand the game and how it's played.

I also discovered a well known, well known except to me, crime writer after receiving a copy of Raylan by Elmore Leonard, his newest novel. Evidently his books have made it on screen or on TV, as I gathered from a few comments from readers.

I'm now reading a really good cozy, Double Booked for Death (A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery) by Ali Brandon, a seasoned crime writer who has started a brand new series with this book. She writes under various names and is the author of the Leonardo da Vinci Mysteries.

What have you been reading/doing this past week?

Feb 4, 2012

Book Review: Paydirt by Paul Levine

A Super Bowl thriller...
Bobby Gallagher has it all...a great job, a loving wife, and an adoring son. Then he’s fired; his wife divorces him; and he goes bankrupt. Now, to reclaim his life, all he has to do is rig the Super Bowl, win a huge bet, and avoid getting killed. (book description)

Paydirt: a Novel by Paul Levine
CreateSpace (2011), Paperback, 338 pages
Free on Kindle for two days, including today Feb. 4
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Comments: Easier said than done, to leave his job, as Bobby is employed by his wealthy and influential father-in-law who also owns the football team going to the Super Bowl. The father-in-law is not happy with Bobby's leaving and sees it as a betrayal. Bobby also becomes estranged from his wife because of this and works hard to keep part custody of his young son. Falling to the lowest level of his career possible, Bobby somehow fights to get his family back and to thwart his father-in-law who is set on destroying him at the Super Bowl.

I learned a lot about how betting is done on football games, what the rules are, and how sometimes they are broken. This is fiction, but the legal aspects keep you on edge as you watch Bobby fight to keep his principles intact and get back up on his feet. I found the romantic aspect - Bobby's continued love for his wife who doesn't seem to know what's going on between Bobby and her father-  a bit unrealistic and slightly sentimental, but overall this was an enjoyable thriller and just in time for the real Super Bowl.

I received a review ecopy of this book.

Feb 2, 2012

Book review: Raylan, a Novel by Elmore Leonard

"It's so green...the trees in the hills come so close. Like they want to envelop us."

"Pretty soon," Raylan said, you'll see the ridge going bald, but it still causes people living below to fuss. Now they have bare rocks and bare earth envelopin them." (ch. 17)

Title: Raylan: a Novel by Elmore Leonard
Hardcover: 272 pages; William Morrow (January 17, 2012)

Elmore Leonard from Michigan has won the Grand Master Award of the Mystery Writers of America and the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA, but this is the first book of his I've read and I must say, I really enjoyed it.

The novel touches on Kentucky horse racing, modern coal mining operations and its effect on the environment, and poker playing. Leonard has it all in this book, set in Harlan County, where U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens keeps the peace. The book is really three separate stories of Raylan's detecting. The first crime involves Raylan catching the persons behind the harvesting of kidneys from doped up but live donors, who are then offered their kidneys back.... for a price. The second crime story deals with coal mining and the people involved, and the third about a young woman who would rather play poker for a living than anything else.

The local dialect and slang is used throughout the novel to add atmosphere and give authenticity and a sense of place. It is entertaining fiction that I recommend to mystery lovers.

Publisher's description: "The revered New York Times bestselling author, recognized as “America’s greatest crime writer” (Newsweek), brings back U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, the mesmerizing hero of Pronto, Riding the Rap, and the hit FX series Justified.

With the closing of the Harlan County, Kentucky, coal mines, marijuana has become the biggest cash crop in the state. A hundred pounds of it can gross $300,000, but that’s chump change compared to the quarter million a human body can get you—especially when it’s sold off piece by piece.

So when Dickie and Coover Crowe, dope-dealing brothers known for sampling their own supply, decide to branch out into the body business, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens to stop them. But Raylan isn’t your average marshal; he’s the laconic, Stetson-wearing, fast-drawing lawman who juggles dozens of cases at a time and always shoots to kill.

The bad guys are mostly gals this time around: the nurse who collects kidneys and sells them for ten grand a piece;  a coal-mine executive not above ordering a cohort to shoot point-blank a man who’s standing in the way; and a beautiful sometime college student who can outplay anyone at the poker table and who suddenly finds herself being tracked by a handsome U.S. marshal.

Dark and droll, Raylan is pure Elmore Leonard—a page-turner filled with the sparkling dialogue and sly suspense that are the hallmarks of this modern master."

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII   Empresses of Seventh Avenue World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion...