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.

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of such magnitude and celebrity, I found...