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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Dante Connection by Estelle Ryan

The Dante Connection is the second in Estelle Ryan's series about Genevieve Lenard, autistic and OCD, but capable of reading non-verbal communication.  I read this one before reading The Gauguin Connection, which I also thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed here.   

Quick review of characters:  Genevieve, whose skills include reading non-verbal communication with astonishing accuracy and identifying patterns that aid her insurance company spot fraud; Philip, her boss; Manny, the fractious detective; Colin, the sympathetic art thief; Vinny, Colin's enormous sidekick with the tender heart, and Francine, the talented computer hacker.

In the first book, Genevieve's structured life is turned upside-down with all of the new individuals she must adjust to.  As The Dante Connection opens, Genevieve is feeling betrayed and abandoned by her friends, who have either seemingly abandoned her or have been withholding information from her.  

When Colin and Vinnie re-appear, Genevieve is reluctant to renew her trust in them.  As events develop, however, she must rely on them for her safety and to capture the ruthless villain seeking revenge.

Another exciting adventure with interesting characters!  

This is the one from NetGalley, but as soon as I finished it, I ordered The Gauguin Connection.  Now, I'm ready for The Braque Connection, the third in the series!


Mystery.  2013.  Print Length:  348 pages.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Quick Reviews

The Ghost Man    by Michael J. McCann is not part of the series featuring Donaghue and Stainer which I so enjoy.  It is a stand alone novel about a man...who sees ghosts.  Yeah.  Title says it all.

Book Description:      First there was the car accident that claimed his beloved wife. Then came the grueling months of recuperation from his injuries. Now his constant companions are ghosts seeking worldly release. His new home is haunted by the ghost of a young girl demanding his help. His friends and neighbours are under attack by strange, destructive forces. Who is the Angry Man who haunts his dreams … and what does the demon controlling him want of Simon Guthrie?

Although I saw some very positive reviews, this one didn't work so well for me, but I look forward to more of the Donaghue/Stainer series.

Supernatural.  Revised edition 2013.  Print length:  377 pages.

The Funeral Owl by Jim Kelly is one of the Philip Dryden series.  

Book Description:  When a reader contacts local newspaper The Crow to report a rare sighting of the Boreal or so-called 'Funeral' owl, the paper's editor Philip Dryden has a sense of foreboding. For the Funeral Owl is said to be an omen of death. 

It's already proving to be one of the most eventful weeks in The Crow's history. The body of a Chinese man has been discovered hanging from a cross in a churchyard in Brimstone Hill in the West Fens. The inquest into the deaths of two tramps found in a flooded ditch has unearthed some shocking findings. A series of metal thefts is plaguing the area. And PC Stokely Powell has requested Dryden's help in solving a ten-year-old cold case: a series of violent art thefts culminating in a horrifying murder.

As Dryden investigates, he uncovers some curious links between the seemingly unrelated cases: it would appear the sighting of the Funeral Owl is proving prophetic in more ways than one.

I read The Coldest Blood, another of the Philip Dryden series,  by Kelly several years ago, so I had a little of the background in mind when I started this one.  Nevertheless, the first chapter or two had me wondering what was going on.  A confusing beginning that cleared up eventually.  

Although I did move from confused to find my feet in the novel, I have to agree with Goodreads reviewer Karen that Kelly "tried to be just a bit too clever and tried to cram a bit too much in."

NetGalley/Severn House

Mystery.  Dec. 1, 2013.  Print version:  256 pages.

Reality Boy by A.S. King is a YA novel that is strangely compelling.

Book Description:  Seventeen-year-old Gerald became infamous at age five, when he took a dump on his family’s kitchen table for the whole reality-TV viewing public to see. A network TV nanny came in to help Gerald be less of a problem child, but the cameras didn’t catch what Tasha, his older sister and tormentor, was doing to him and his other sister, Lisi, or his mother’s constant defense of her eldest daughter at the expense of her youngest children. And so Gerald continued to rage on. Though years of anger-management training and a boxing-gym regimen have helped him gain better control, his future still feels limited to jail or death. The narrative, though striking and often heartbreaking, is disjointed in places, namely with Gerald’s grand plan to run away to the circus. However, this is still a King novel, and the hallmarks of her strong work are there: magical realism, heightened emotion, and the steady, torturous, beautiful transition into self-assured inner peace. Like Gerald, it’s wonderfully broken. Grades 9-12. --Courtney Jones

This is an unusual book in several ways, but I fell into it and couldn't put it down.  Gerald is a unique character and although parts of the novel (mother/Tasha relationship, father's vacancy) never felt satisfactorily explained, you can't help but hope Gerald will survive the complications the reality show continue to create years later.  The conclusion leave you feeling hopeful, but maybe a bit pat.

I imagine I'll think about this one for some time.

NetGalley/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

YA.  Oct. 22, 2013.  Print version:  358 pages.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

White Fire by Preston & Child

In White Fire, the latest Agent Pendergast novel, Preston and Child set the scene in an exclusive Colorado town and ski resort (Aspen?) in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Corrie Swanson takes center stage and has come to the area to study the bones of early miners for her John Jay College of Criminal Justice thesis.  Initially, things appear to be moving in the right direction, but then roadblocks are thrown in her way.  Corrie, her funds running out and desperate to study the bones, decides to bypass the law and gets into big trouble.

Agent Pendergast to the rescue.  On arriving, Pendergast (that ghostly polymath and weirdly attractive Gothic figure) discovers that there is more to Corrie's problems in Roaring Fork than are at first apparent and that a deadly arsonist is at work.  

As usual, the events are bizarre and unbelievable, but as addictive as ever.  I liked the touch of the dinner in which Oscar Wilde relates a true horror story to Arthur Conan Doyle, which of course, will feature in the problems besetting contemporary Roaring Fork.

Fans and followers of Pendergast will enjoy the latest in the series, but each book does stand alone and having read the previous novels is not necessary.  

Release date is in November, but the first 9 chapters are available for free on Amazon.  Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC ebook.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing.

Mystery/Thriller.  Nov. 12, 2013.  Print length:  384 pages.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Gauguinn Connection by Estelle Ryan

I received The Dante Connection through NetGalley, and I enjoyed it enough to immediately look for the first in the series.  To my surprise and good fortune, Amazon Kindle offered The Gauguin Connection for free!

 I will review The Gauguin Connection first because it is the first in the series featuring Genevieve Lenard, a highly functioning autistic with an off-the-charts IQ.  Genevieve has learned to function in society, but severely limits her interaction with others. Her specialty is non-verbal communication; she is able to read people by their facial expressions and their body language.  When Genevieve meets Philip, he is so impressed with her skills that he hires her at his prestigious insurance firm to "read" people and to identify patterns in cases of insurance fraud.  

Because Genevieve doesn't have good interpersonal skills and is easily overloaded in social situations, her office is a viewing room where she studies taped interviews to determine whether or not the individuals are telling the truth; in the safety of her viewing room, she observes, but doesn't have to interact.  Unable to deal well with people, the taped interviews suit her perfectly.  She loves her work, feels useful and successful, and manages her life within her circumspect limits.  Philip accepts her as she is and values her exceptional abilities and contributions to the firm.

When her Philip asks her to look into the murder of a young artist, Genevieve's life undergoes a sea change.  She finds herself dealing with a disheveled and irascible detective, a sympathetic art thief and his giant friend, a skilled computer hacker, and several unsavory villains.

Perhaps Genevieve adapts a little too easily to these intrusions to her OC life style, but the novel manages to be both fun and suspenseful.  

Although, I did not read this in order and The Dante Connection was great on its own, I'm glad I ordered The Gauguin Connection and got some background.  


Mystery.  2012.  Print Length:  439 pages.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

From My Studio

Ghosties inspired byMarie Claire Idees
Just finished the black sheep.
Bitter doll is from last year.

 New pillow slips finished.
 New little 4" mouse finished.
 Unfinished papier mache head from years past
painted and topping dress form.

More homemade Halloween, 
new and old,
on my Flickr.

I must make time for book reviews!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Darkness & Shadows by Andrew Kaufman

Darkness & Shadows book description: 

The only woman Patrick Bannister ever loved has died…again.
Struggling professionally and reeling from the psychological wounds left by a horribly abusive mother, Patrick is driven over the edge by a news report. A wealthy socialite couple has been murdered, and while the wife’s name isn’t familiar, her face certainly is. It’s his first and only love, Marybeth, the woman he lost to a horrific fire years ago.

Bannister reveals part of his story through conversations with his therapist.  Among other things, Bannister suffers from guilt that he was unable to save Marybeth.  Years after her death, Bannister is still dealing with this problem as well as his having lost his job after losing his cool and attacking a child abuser.  He comes across as pitiful.  

On a couple of occasions, he encounters a young woman during his visits to his therapist.  Tristan, the young woman, is a thief with her own background of trauma.  Of course, these two damaged individuals are bound to form a team after Tristan saves Bannister from an attack by a man with a box cutter.  

Bannister's willingness to risk Tristan's life and her future (after they team up--she has already risked her life once) made his character less than sympathetic.  At any rate, after a bit of breaking and entering, the two follow the trail to Mexico where Charlene/Marybeth's body was discovered.  

Who was Marybeth?  Why the first faked death?  Could the villain be more evil?

I didn't find Darkness & Shadows a compelling read, but it was a quick one.  

NetGalley/Amazon Publishing

Mystery.  Oct. 22, 2013.  Print version:  374 pages.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Killer's Island by Anna Jannson

I've been neglecting my reviews again.  Too much time in the studio making Halloween stuff of cloth and clay.  

I'd looked forward to this recent translation of Anna Jannson's Maria Wern series because I liked Strange Bird so much.  Killer's Island, however, did not appeal to me as much as Strange Bird. 

Maria Wern is on her way home when she happens on three men brutally attacking a young boy.  Her attempts to intervene result in her own severe beating.  When the boy dies, Maria has a difficult time dealing with the boy's death and her inability to save him.  She also must face her own injuries and the fact that she can't identify the murderers.  

 Erika Lund, Maria's colleague, is tasked with the investigation.  It is Erika, rather than Maria, who becomes the chief protagonist in this novel.  In a related story line, Erika has fallen in love with Anders Ahlstrom, a physician.  This seemed a little too rapid a love affair, and coincidentally, the young boy was one of his patients.

In the meantime, two others are viciously murdered, and both of these individuals are also patients of Anders.  

Anders' character did not ring true, and Erika's rapid attachment to him didn't feel right either.  Whatever caused her intense affection for Anders shouldn't have overwhelmed the weaknesses in his character.  Most women would have dumped him on realizing that his young daughter appears to rule his life and his decisions.

Other nitpicks--the violence of Lin Bogren's murder.  Unnecessary and part of the tendency to depend on horror to engage interest in a plot.  Most of the red herrings are blatantly announced and lessen the intensity.  Most will suspect the real villain, even if the reasoning behind it is not initially revealed.  And...Anders' daughter Julia's abrupt change of behavior is another poorly explained detail.

Because I liked Strange Bird so much, I will be giving this series another chance.  Based on this one alone, I'd abandon the series.

This was an ARC from Meryl Zegarek PR, Inc.  Published by Stockholm Text.

Mystery/Crime.  2012.  364 pages.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule

Practice to Deceive relates the circumstances of a murder on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound in 2003.  Ann Rule is known for her true crime books, but this is the only one I've read.  

Russel Douglas was found the day after Christmas, and what initially looked like a suicide, a single gun shot to the head, was determined to be murder when no gun was found.  It took years of dedicated police work to solve this case, but strangely, the book is not really interesting.

There are too many people and too many digressions from the actual case.  Rule includes everyone the police interviewed, and there were dozens.  

The chronological order kept shifting; sometimes it was difficult to understand exactly when an event occurred.

  The lengthy descriptions of everyone involved and all of their family members and who they married and their children and grandchildren were unnecessary (especially since almost everyone had been married two or three or more times).  And there were plenty of repetitions of easy to remember facts while including all of the pointless information. 

 If the book had cut to the chase and maintained focus, it would have been half , maybe even one third of the length.

True crime books like In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter are horrifying, but fascinating.  In Practice to Deceive, not the murder, not  the individuals involved, and not the narrative manage to be truly interesting.

NetGalley/Gallery Books

True Crime.  2013.  Print version:  352 pages.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick

The Last Clinic          

A pro-life minister is murdered early in the morning while setting up a cross protesting the services of a clinic that performed abortions.  Usually, it is the other way around, right?  Well, we'll get to that, too.

Detective Darla Cavannah is called back to work for this case; she has been off for six months after the death of her husband.    Her husband was a football hero, and everyone in the state of Mississippi knew him or of him.  Her partner on the case is an Elvis impersonator.   

The "beloved" Reverend Jimmy Aldridge, however, has some serious secrets that will be revealed.  

Detective Darla falls in love and lust and bed (despite her tremendous grieving of six months) within a couple of days of meeting Dr. Nicoletti ; Detective Reylander (the Elvis impersonator) is ridiculous, not amusing; and the two secrets of the minister are unbelievable and offensive.   There is one pro-life murder, and I don't remember how many pro-choice murders.  You can peg the murderer on the first meeting.

The Hemmings Mansion thing was just too yuck.  Maybe the author was trying to achieve an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek parody of life in Jackson, Mississippi, but it didn't come across that way.  

NetGalley/Random House

Mystery/Crime.  2012.  Print version:  354 pages.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Fregoli Delusion

Another book in the Donaghue and Stainer series by Michael J. McCann, The Fregoli Delusion  provides another good mystery along with information about a rare condition: 

 The Fregoli delusion, or the delusion of doubles, is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise. The syndrome may be related to a brain lesion[citation needed] and is often of a paranoid nature, with the delusional person believing themselves persecuted by the person they believe is in disguise.     (Wikipedia)  

Never having heard of this disorder, I found a mystery centered on a character's strange disability compelling.   Having a witness to a crime, but one that is subject to compulsive misidentification, presents a unique problem for Donaghue and Stainer.

The reason I liked Blood Passage so much was because of the way the crime revolved around the idea of children and past lives, and McCann's research into the studies concerning this phenomenon.  The twist that The Fregoli Delusion presents makes this murder investigation much more interesting.  It isn't that difficult to figure out (at least for the reader), but proving it is a conundrum.

Once again, although part of a series, each book works perfectly as a stand-alone.  

Mystery/Police Procedural.  2012.  268 pages.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Rituals by Mary Anna Evans

Rituals:  A Faye Longchamp Mystery.

From the book description: 

 Faye Longchamp doesn’t believe in ghosts. But she’s an archaeologist—dead people are her life. 

While working in Rosebower, a rural New York town founded by Spiritualists, Faye is surrounded by people who talk to the dead on a regular basis. When the most influential Spiritualist in town, Tilda Armistead, invites Faye and her project assistant to commune with the dead, she can’t say no. Curiosity is also a cherished part of an archaeologist’s life. 

I admit to being partial to mysteries featuring archaeologists (or old manuscripts, diaries, etc.), items from the past brought to light or stolen.  In addition to that predisposition, I enjoy books that deal with spiritualists like the famous Fox Sisters, Eusapia Palladino, and Cora V. Scott.  

After reading The Terror by Dan Simmons, I became interested in the Fox Sisters and read two biographies about them:  Talking to the Dead and Exploring Other Worlds, which I reviewed a few years ago.  

As soon as I saw the words Rosebower, NY, I thought of Lily Dale NY, the very real small town of spiritualists and mediums, which attracts tourists who believe, as well as the curious.  I was hooked. 

One of Rosebower's most respected spiritualists dies after smoke inhalation when her home burns; the fire was deliberately set and escape blocked.  The book features spiritualists, a root doctor/herbalist, a magician, Fayes' employer who believes in aliens, a determined fire inspector,  a land developer who wants to build a theme park, secrets from the past and from the present, seances, and more.

Mary Anna Evans has written several books in the Faye Longchamp series, but this is the first one I've read.  An entertaining mix of characters rounds out this fast-paced mystery.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery.  Nov. 5, 2013.  Print version:  250 pages.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Reading Less, Playing More

I've been reading a little less lately and playing more in my studio. 
 Unfinished figures are suddenly yammering for attention, 
and new Halloween figures keep popping in my head. 

 The studio floor is a disaster area, 
covered with balls of yarn 
I've been playing with 
and all of the crap stuff 
that I let Bryce Eleanor play with when she is here--
pipe cleaners, beads, butterfly punch, 
old skates that I plan to use in an assemblage 
and she uses to transport her stuffed animals,
 old costume jewelry that she uses to decorate her stuffed animals, 
(their successories!)
colored pencils, fabric we used for appliqueing her drawings on to a tee shirt....

I document our adventures over at my crafty blog.
When she is here, we make her stuff.

When she is not, I make my stuff.

I have started reading several books lately that just couldn't keep my interest or that I actively disliked.  Cycles.  For weeks, luck will provide one good book after another (or at the very least, moderately entertaining) then...crash, a series of books that don't appeal at all.

After a series of DNA (Did Not Appeal), I have a couple of books that are looking up.   Yay!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Murder in Thrall by Anne Cleeland

In Murder in Thrall, Cleeland has young detective Kathleen Doyle chosen by the eminent Chief Inspector Acton as a partner.  This behavior is unusual for the aloof Acton, but Doyle's ability to determine when a person is lying or telling the truth makes their partnership successful.

Acton did not choose to partner with Doyle strictly on her abilities, however.  The Chief Inspector, actually Lord Acton, developed an intense interest in the young detective, in spite of her much lower social rank, background, and financial situation.  Doyle is not aware of this and is worried about the impression she makes on her handsome senior.  Each mistake she makes sends Doyle into a tizzy of concern that she will be sent back to traffic, unaware that Acton has no intention of ending their partnership.

Doyle's interest in increasing her vocabulary to impress Acton is amusing, especially since he isn't really interested in her linguistic skills.  When the two become involved in the murder of a trainer at a racetrack, their relationship begins to reach another level.

Like the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones mysteries by Deborah Crombie  and the Barbara Havers and Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George, we have a male/female pairing that is as important as the mysteries themselves.   Kathleen Doyle has her own personality and is definitely not a Gemma Jones or Barbara Havers clone.  The same can be said of Chief Inspectior Acton, even if he is a Lord.

An interesting twist to the Acton/Doyle relationship sets the novel apart as well.  While Doyle is a likable protagonist, there were times when she annoyed me with her easy acceptance of an unusual situation.


Mystery/Police Procedural.  2013.  288 pages.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Marcie's Murder by Michael J. McCann

Marcie's Murder

After receiving The Rainy Day Killer from NetGalley, I broke down and bought Blood Passage.  When I recently found that my interest was waning in some of the books I'd started, I gave in and ordered two more by McCann:  Marcie's Murder and The Fregoli Delusion.

In Marcie's Murder, Hank Donaghue finds his otherwise uneventful vacation interrupted by an accusation of murder in the small town of Harmony.  His phone call, when he eventually gets it, is not to his lawyer, but to Detective Karen Stainer.  

When Hank is finally released, he and Stainer are asked to help in the investigation.  Although not at all happy about his treatment, Hank does agree to help--partly because he had seen the woman shortly before she was murdered.  

He and Stainer have had a lot more experience with murder than the small town of Harmony.  The two work well together, capitalizing on their differences in personality and technique.

I'm enjoying this series and each book works efficiently as a stand-alone.  Even though I started with newest in the series, I liked it well enough to go back and pick up the earlier books. The characters are likable, and the contrast between Donaghue and Stainer keeps things interesting.  

Mystery/Crime.  2012.  Print version:  258 pages.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Guardians by T.M. Franklin

I read More, the first in this trilogy, this summer, enjoyed it, and reviewed it here.  I enjoyed The Guardians as well, but maybe not as much as the first one.

Ava's life continues to become more complicated when Caleb begins to exhibit some behaviors inconsistent with his original view point.  Ava becomes concerned, but when events put her in a situation that leaves her accused of a crime she didn't commit and Caleb disappears, her life becomes even more chaotic.

To her surprise, Tiernan becomes an unexpected ally, and the two work on discovering what has gone wrong and who the guilty parties are.  Ava is also distressed to discover that someone she has learned to trust has deceived her.

Oh, yes, I do look forward to the concluding book of this trilogy.

NetGalley/The Writers Coffee Shop Publishing House

Paranormal/YA.  Nov. 7, 2013.