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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crossover by Judith Eubank

Crossover was originally published in 1999.  Meredith Blake finds herself at a small university in England to work on her thesis.  Housed in a dormitory that was once part of a large estate, Meredith sees people that she first assumes are part of a film set.  The people she sees are wearing clothes from the 1800's, but Meredith eventually realizes that whatever they are, the people she sees are not actors.  Then, suddenly, she finds herself part of the scenes for brief spells, somehow transferred back in time.  And oddly enough, the woman with whom she changes places shows up just as confused in the present.

There is an odd romance--very quick and unbelievable, as is the majority of the plot which has a surface tension, but little depth.  I did like the idea of the characters changing places, but the book never really dealt with the woman from the past who arrives temporarily in the present.

NetGalley/Open Road Media

Mystery/Time Travel.  1999; 2014.  Print length: 199 pages.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Added to Wish List and Two R.I.P. Books

Just added two books to my wish list after reading Wendy's post about Stiff:  The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.  I wasn't familiar with Mary Roach, but found several other nonfiction lay science books that she has written that sound fascinating.  I love lay science!

The other book Wendy mentioned was The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream by Andrea Rock.  I've read a couple of novels lately about dreaming (The Vault of Dreamers-post scheduled for Aug. 20--loved, and The Anatomy of Dreams- post scheduled for Sept. 2- not so much).  I also read articles in The Guardian like Sleep May Help Memories Form by Creating New Synapses and Sleep's Role in Memory Formation and Lucid Dreaming Can Be Induced by Electric Scalp Stimulation (my own lucid dreams are rare, but appreciated).

Sleep and memory are also discussed in How We Learn by Benedict Carey (this one was so good, but I haven't scheduled my review yet).  In fiction and fact, dreams are intriguing to most of us.

I've got two great possibilities for Carl's R.I.P. Challenge lined up:

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd.  "The shadow of Bram Stoker’s Dracula looms large over the darkest mystery yet faced by Victorian detective Charles Maddox—as the acclaimed author of The Solitary House and A Fatal Likeness once again pays homage to a literary classic, in a chilling tale of superstition, dangerous science, and shocking secrets."  

I've read both The Solitary House and A Fatal Likeness by Shepherd and expect this one to be a perfect R.I.P. book.

The Lazarus Prophecy by F.G. Cottam.  A copy cat Jack the Ripper, a connection to the Templars, and a prophecy that is even older.  

I've never read this author before, but the content and the cover make
it look suitable for R.I.P. 

Now, I must leave these two alone until the Challenge begins.  I MUST not go ahead and read them UNTIL the Challenge begins.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Perfection by J.L. Spelbring and Beware, Beware by Steph Cha

Perfection by J.L. Spelbring fits into several categories:  dystopian, alternate history, YA, science fiction.

Elyssa is genetically engineered to be an Aryan soldier.  Her entire life has been subjected to training to enhance the genetic code with which she was born.  She is stronger, faster, and smarter, much smarter, than the rest of the population.  And she can read minds.

Emotions have been trained out of Elyssa and her siblings, who all have been part of an extensive breeding program (flawed versions have been eliminated). Well, emotions have been bred or trained out of Elyssa's siblings, but Elyssa has learned to hide her emotions, to keep a blank face, to preserve the little bit of self she can manage.

When briefly confronted with an "inferior,"  a man with dark hair who astounds her by speaking into her mind, Elyssa becomes curious.  She begins some surreptitious investigating and plans her escape from The Center, the sterile atmosphere in which she has been raised.  

A great premise with plenty of tension and action.  Main problems?  Insta-love and too little character development of minor characters (Elyssa feels genuine, but Rein?), which brings the quality down a notch or two.  

For the most part, however, Perfection provides an engrossing read and leaves the reader with the need to follow up with the sequel.  It is definitely YA, but an exciting (debut?) novel that will quickly pull you in to the world the author has created.  Yep, Flawed, the sequel, is on my wish list.

NetGalley/Spencer Hill Press

Dystopian/Alternate History/science fiction.  2013; 2014.  Print length:  331 pages.

Beware, Beware by Steph Cha follows Juniper Song (the second Korean/American female detective/PI I've read about recently) through the mean streets of LA, paying homage to Philip Marlowe.  (Now, I want to read more Raymond Chandler or watch films like the Big Sleep to get back into that 1940's noir.)

I'm digressing, but really-- Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and Lauren Bacall in a Howard Hawks film with screenplay by William Faulkner, et al!  Why wouldn't I want to watch that again?

OK - back to Beware, Beware.  Nope, another digression:  I can not see or hear the pairing of the words "beware, beware" without thinking of Coleridge.  Lines from Kubla Khan kept echoing in my head for days.

I'm through with digressions, on to the novel.  Juniper Song, our Korean American protagonist, is an apprentice at a PI firm.  Given a case to tail the boyfriend of a well-known New York artist (because that seems simple enough for an apprentice), Juniper develops a long-distance friendship with the artist Daphne Freamon, who wants to know if her boyfriend who has moved to LA is back into drugs.  Should she dump him?

Of course, the simple case turns quite twisty-turny, and becomes more and more dangerous and less and less predictable.  

A secondary story line which is also interesting involves Lori, Juniper's roommate, which provides interesting back story into Juniper and her recent past.

In keeping with the Marlowe trope, the novel is a little gritty.  I think I need to check out Cha's first novel with Juniper Song, because I certainly enjoyed this one.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Mystery.  Aug. 12, 2014.  print length:  334 pages.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The World's Coolest Bookstores & Other Miscellany

Via CNN Style, this slide show of fascinating bookstores has articles describing each in more detail if you scroll down.

From the famous Shakespeare and Company in Paris to a bookstore in China where backpackers can stay overnight; from a former glove factory in Detroit converted into the largest new and used bookstore in the world to the John King Used & Rare Books, also in Detroit, which has a copy of the writings of Thomas Aquinas published in 1482 in Venice.  Beautiful pictures and interesting details.

Have you heard of Bookbub?  Free and discounted ebooks - nice.  This article in the NY Times explains more about these one day deals.  "At HarperCollins, executives said they have seen books designated as daily deals go from 11 copies sold in one day, to 11,000 copies the next."

OK - I have a weakness for genius kids, robots, and androids. Have therefore decided I must watch at least one episode of Annedroids to see what Anne comes up with in her junkyard laboratory.

I've finished Visions by Kelley Armstrong, an ARC that arrived in the mail.  I read Omens last year and was so excited to have another Cainesville interlude.  I've become a big fan of Armstrong and will review it soon.  Also recently in the mail, Bitter River by Julia Keller.  Another very good book and yet to be reviewed.  And on Wed., an uncorrected bound manuscript by Louise Penny arrived:  The Long Way Home.  I haven't even started it, but it is Louise Penny so I expect to love it.

A couple from NetGalley that I'm looking forward to are now on my Kindle.  What a book glutton am I!  

I've finished more Halloween figures and still have a few in progress.  Working on altering a book as a Book of Spells for a Halloween prop.  Love Halloween!  More details on my other blog.  

It is getting close to time for Carl's R.I.P. challenge.  Any good suggestions for this year's R.I.P. challenge?  I'll suggest Edgar Cantero's Supernatural Enhancements which I recently reviewed.  And if you haven't read any Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White is a perfect book for the challenge--well, any Wilkie Collins, but Woman in White is my favorite.  

A few favorites from previous R.I.P. challenges:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly (Hambly has quite a few good possibilities)
Almost anything by Sax Rohmer (especially if you want a vintage twist)
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom (plenty of Gothic elements)

I think I've reviewed all of the above during one challenge or another.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark

Guilt by Association  is the first in the Rachel Knight series.  I just recently discovered Marcia Clark's novels through NetGalley, and although I've read them out of order, I've enjoyed each and every one.  

Guilt by Association is the first in the series and introduces all of the major characters.  Since I didn't read these books in order, I already felt that Rachel, Bailey, Toni, and Drew are old friends. 

However, we are also introduced to another friendship-- a young lawyer named Jake, who has the kind of charisma to which everyone responds.  A good and trusted colleague, a talented lawyer, a young man with a promising future.  But when Jake ends up dead in a seedy hotel a seventeen-year-old boy, doubts about who he really was are suddenly raised.

Rachel is determined to discover the whys and wherefores that led to Jake being discovered in such compromising circumstances.  Regardless of what seems the logical conclusion of murder/suicide, Rachel pursues an investigation with hopes of clearing Jake's tarnished reputation.  The problem is that the case has been given to the FBI, and Rachel has been warned to leave the case alone.

At the same time,  the rape of a fifteen-year-old girl proves problematic.  The father has already decided who is responsible, but Susan Densmore, (who was unable to see her attacker) doesn't believe the young man her father wants arrested is responsible.  The father is rich and influential and manages to exert pressure on the DA's office.

As I've mentioned in previous reviews of books in this series, the dialogue is snappy and often funny when the girlfriends are together.  The characters have substance and feel fully present in their roles.  The plot lines are skillfully woven and absorbing.  Clark in my new "go to" author for mystery, characterization, legal thriller, and a suspenseful reading experience.

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Mystery.  2011; 2014.  Print length:  373 pages.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Three Reviews: Slice, Deja Vu, The Art Whisperer

Slice in the first in a new series that features Micki Li,  a Korean-American.

Book description:  Boston’s worst crimes have her name on them.

In Chinatown, she’s known as Hyun Sook. 

At her home, she’s Mom. On the inner-city ball fields, she’s Coach.  

To her Irish-cop partner, she’s Mick. 

At headquarters, she’s Detective Li. 

To the killer who’s carving up convicted pedophiles, and the mysterious man who’s trying to snatch kids off the city’s panicked streets . . . 
She’s trouble.  

Mary Jo Kim is the pseudonym of Jo Ann Ferguson who also writes as Jo Ann Brown and Jocelyn Kelley.  

I liked  Micki Kim and her partner, but wasn't much impressed with the mystery which didn't work for me in several ways.  Given that Micki Li was raised by American parents, her compliance with her Chinese mother-in-law seems a bit too much.  Micki agrees to an arranged date with a Chinese man because her m-i-l insisted, even though she is in a serious relationship with someone else.  Micki isn't even Chinese and did not grow up in an Asian culture, so that seemed a bit of a stretch.  

There are a couple of possibilities for the murderer, but it is easy to narrow it down to those two early on, so no great suspense in that aspect.  In fact, in general, the novel failed to provide a genuine sense of suspense.  You know it would be suspenseful if it were really happening, but it felt more like a mental exercise than a gut experience.  If considered a police procedural, one would have to hope that Boston has a better system than the one depicted in the novel.


Mystery/Police Procedural.  July 2014.  Print length:  223 pages.


Deja Vu   was first published in 2005 and is the first in the Saskia Brandt series.

Book Description:   It is 2023. Scientist David Proctor is running for his life. On his trail is Saskia Brandt, a detective with the European FIB. She has questions. Questions about a bomb that exploded back in 2003. But someone is hunting her too. The clues are in the shattered memories of her previous life. 

Déjà Vu takes the reader on a startling journey through a possible future, though digital minds, and through the consequences of the choices we make. It is the debut novel by Ian Hocking.

A science fiction/futuristic novel that involves mind control and time travel, Deja Vu has intriguing characters in David Proctor and Saskia Brandt.  On the other hand, the novel can be confusing and disjointed at times.  

I found myself intrigued with the novel, but perhaps overwhelmed with story lines, and time-travel always brings complexities that are difficult to resolve.  Overall, I found parts of the novel compelling and parts...just confusing.

NetGalley/Red Squirrell Publishing

Science Fiction/Futuristic.  2005 and July 2014.  

------ The Art Whisperer  

Alix London is an art conservator who has an eye for spotting forgeries.  When a museum pays millions of dollars for a piece of art, the results of discovering one to be a fake can have serious consequences.

Alix is already dealing with a smear campaign when she finds that something about a Jackson Pollack painting bothers her.  After mentioning her reservations, Alix is attacked in the cottage she is staying in while working on conserving paintings for the Brethwaite Museum in Palm Springs.  Was the attack directed against her personally or was it another robbery attempt by the thief that has been committing crimes in the area?

This is the third novel featuring Alix London, but is the first I've read.  It was a light read with some interesting information about conservation and forged art.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Mystery.  Aug.  10, 2014.  Print length:  274 pages.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

The Supernatural Enhancements

Neat cover, eh?  I really like the cover, and I really liked the book--which would be a great read for Carl's RIP Challenge this year.  I almost wish I had saved it for the challenge, but once I started reading this one, even knowing how well it would work for RIP, there was no stopping.

A young man in his early twenties, referred to only as A., has inherited an estate from a second cousin twice removed that he has never even heard of.  His companion, Niamh (pronounced Neeve) is an Irish teenager.  She refers to herself as his guardian or protector, which is amusing as she is a tiny thing and mute. 

On discovery of the inheritance, the pair have flown from England to Virginia, and from there they travel to the secluded three story mansion with an unusual history, including the suicide of Ambrose Wells (and 30 years previously of his father) and a legendary ghost that is supposed to occupy the house.

Told through A.'s diary entries, Niamh's notes, letters to Aunt Liza, a dream journal, transcripts of audio recordings, and later video recordings, excerpts from books; the story develops piece by piece as the two young people attempt to settle in the house and solve some of the puzzles they uncover.

Although Niamh snickers at A.s writing style, I love it.  He invents words and has a unique way of describing things that creates fresh and often amusing images.

"Niamh was anacondaing a meatball as big as her head."

"...inside of the quilt in which Niamh wraps herself at nights like a Chinese spring roll."

"...spinning, arms radaring the environment...."

Anyway, there are mysteries inside of mysteries, a missing butler, Gothic elements like ghosts and hidden rooms, a secret society, codes and cryptographers.

The first part of the book is frequently funny and mostly light-hearted, but when A. begins dreaming  (in a way that feels less like nightmares and more like reality), events take a more serious turn.  

There were some elements that I liked less:  the section on codes, for example.  I love reading about codebreakers like those at Bletchley Park who broke the Enigma Code during WWII, but the details of actually breaking codes are too far over my head.  I also never felt completely clear about "the eye."

Nevertheless, this was one of those book that seems to speed along of its own volition, and I was deeply invested in the characters as the tension slowly ratcheted up.  Part of the reason might be that as a reader, I was discovering things through multiple sources, both along with the characters and outside of them as an observer.

This is the first of Cantero's novels in English, but I had such fun with it.  It would be a great read for Carl's RIP challenge!

Read in June; blog post scheduled for July 23, 2014.


Mystery/Paranormal. Aug. 12, 2014.  Print length:  368 pages.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier

The Frozen Dead 

Set in the French Pyrenees in December, the story is told from two points of view.  Commandant Martin Servaz from Toulouse has been called in to investigate the grotesque display of an expensive horse, beheaded and hung in a manner intended to shock and disturb.  Servaz is the main focus, but a young psychologist who arrives at an isolated and experimental asylum for the the criminally also has a role in imparting the story.

Initially, Servaz is surprised and annoyed to be investigating the death of a horse, but since the horse belonged to a French billionaire, the powers-that-be are applying pressure.   Servaz is shocked and distressed when he sees the dead horse suspended over the valley.  What kind of mind could have dreamed up this horror?  

Because the event occurs so close to the asylum, he wonders if an inmate could have escaped, but apparently all the inmates are accounted for.  Soon enough, the first of several human murders takes place, the bodies left hanging in a similar ghastly manner.  As the case becomes more ominous and complex,  Servaz and his team struggle to find the connections.

Suspenseful and twisty.  The author kept the atmosphere dark and oppressive, but several of the characters are very likable and lighten things up a bit.  Servaz is a more believable character than Diane Berg, the young psychologist; it is interesting that Minier does not have the two interact at all until the end of the novel.  Servaz' narrative dominates, but Berg's shorter narratives are interspersed throughout.  At first, I was expecting a romantic angle between the two, but I'm glad Minier didn't succumb to that possibility.

When the crime is solved, the novel is not quite over.  Maybe it should have been.  Instead, Minier allows for a Christmas celebration and a complication for the next novel in the series.  

The novel read so smoothly, I looked for the translator.  It wasn't listed on the U.S. Amazon site, but I found Allison Anderson listed as the translator on the U.K. site.  Translators are crucial, and Anderson did an excellent job.

This is the first of Minier's novels featuring Commandant Servaz, and the French publication was in 2011.  This translation is to be released in August, 2014. 

read in May; blog review scheduled for July 21.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Crime/Police Procedural/Psychological.  Aug. 12, 2014.  Print length:  496 pages.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

A while back, I was offered The Girl with All the Gifts, but after reading the blurb, I decided not to take them up on it.  I got the mistaken impression that the plot was something along the lines of The Bad Seed, and I wasn't in the mood for a child psychopath.

Later, I read a review that changed my mind (I wish I could remember whose blog) and realized that my interpretation of the the book blurb was incorrect.  Or that the blurb was deliberately deceptive in order to keep from revealing too much.  So I tried to find it on NetGalley with no luck.  Then a few days ago, NetGalley offered it again, and I instantly requested it.  And read it yesterday!

The Girl with All the Gifts is a dystopian novel with a ten-year-old protagonist.  Melanie is a genius and seems utterly charming, so why is she strapped into a chair at gun point each morning before being transported to class?

The other children in the class are treated the same way; each child kept in a separate cell with no communication except when in class.  Their favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, and Melanie worships her for her warmth in a place where warmth is non-existent, for her inspired and enthusiastic teaching, and for her ability to relate to the children strapped in their chairs. 

Precocious, vulnerable, inquisitive, and dangerous, Melanie remembers nothing before her arrival at this facility, a lab where the test subjects are children.  She has been there most of her young life and accepts the restraints and situation without question.  Miss Justineau and "Miss Justineau days" are the highlight of her bland existence.  

The relationship between teacher and student lies at the heart of the story, but the post-apocalyptic world that Carey has created is full of tension and plays a crucial role.  Miss Justineau is the only one who humanizes the children;  the other characters (and, given the circumstances, this is understandable--if not admirable) choose to regard them as less than human and imminently threatening.  

When an unexpected attack on the facility results in a few survivors being thrust from their safe environment into the devastated world that exists after The Breakdown, five characters with very different agendas must work together to survive.

The Girl with All the Gifts is both surprising and thought-provoking.  It is difficult to review without spoilers, but provides an intense, gripping, and provocative reading experience.

Highly recommended.

NetGalley/Hachette Book Group

Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic.  June 2014.  Print length:  408 pages.

Friday, July 18, 2014

White Rabbit by K.A. Laity

White Rabbit    

Book Description: 
Sometimes the shadows that haunt us are what lead us back to the light.

Disgraced former police detective James Draygo has sunk as low as his habit allows, working as a fake psychic despite his very real talents. When a media mogul’s trashy trophy wife gets gunned down at his tapping table he has to decide whether he can straighten up long enough to save his own skin. He may not have a choice with Essex’s loudest ghost bawling in his ear about cults, conspiracies and cut-rate drugs. Oblivion sounds better all the time…
What I liked:
  • a genuine psychic trying to deny his gift and pretending to be a fake psychic
  • Peaches - great character; great ghost
  • lots of allusions, and not only to Alice in Wonderland
  • My favorites:  "We don't want to get the details wrong.  So much depends on a red wheel barrow." and "This one came from the Fox Sisters--not those Fox Sisters, but the ones who ran the skulk in the midlands."  (The Fox Sisters were notorious American psychic fakes.)
  • Jinx - would have liked to know more about him
  • the cover
What bothered me (a lot actually):
  • a neat premise turned weird with the villain and his nefarious plans (just didn't work for me, not even with Draygo suffering the ghostly screams)
  • awkward pacing;  Draygo and the ghosts were good, but the repetition of many events in his personal life just seemed included for the purpose of taking up space;  repetition, i.e. -- caught, beaten up, released--repeat.  Didn't seem that a villain as evil as this one would release Draygo again and again.  I'm mean, given what he was doing at The Warren, would he even ponder letting Draygo live?
  • too much fairy dust
  • "between her and I"  - damn, I'm seeing this kind of thing too often.  Would you say, "Between I"?  If this is a problem too difficult for most to sort out, just say "between us," --it's shorter, more efficient, and even sounds better.
NetGalley/Fox Spirit Books

Mystery/Supernatural.  2014.  Print length:  171 pages.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Second Deadly Sin by Asa Larsson

The Second Deadly Sin   

I really like this series featuring Rebecka Martinsson, and this latest addition does not disappoint.

Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson and Inspector Anna-Maria Mella are once again on a case when Sol-Britt Uusitalo is found murdered and her grandson missing.  

Rebecka's friend Krister Ericksson, a police dog handler, finds Marcus, but the boy is unable to provide information about what took place.  Then Rebecka is side-lined by obnoxious fellow prosecutor, Car Von Post (the Pest).

Before Rebecka is removed from the case, information about the family tragedies is discovered:  Sol-Britt's son was killed by a hit-and-run driver, her father was eaten by a bear, and her grandmother was murdered.

When Von Post takes over, he plans to use the case to enhance his career and wants a quick resolution.   An angry Rebecka is fearful for Marcus, who may also be targeted by the killer.  Angry, she may be, but even if she isn't on Sol-Britt's case, she can still investigate the unusual coincidence of so many unnatural deaths in the family.

What transpires is a division of narratives:  one covers the current investigation, the other goes back to 1914.  The novel moves back and forth between the two narratives, and Rebecka becomes convinced that the "past is prologue."  I thought the two stories flowed well and served the purpose, even if the past narrative ended up seeming a bit contrived.

As usual in Larsson's novel, the plotting is skillful, the characters are well-developed, and the setting in the remote, frigid northern-most area of Sweden is beautifully depicted.  

Inspite of being set in a small community, Larsson's books could never be called cozies--they have the Nordic darkness found in so many Scandinavian novels.  The Second Deadly Sin was somewhat lighter than the previous novels in the series, and I think it is her best to date.  It is encouraging to see a great series getting even better.

P.S.  The section on Anna-Maria Meller and her family encapsulated the drama/comedy of life with kids and made me smile.  I love the emotional support Anna-Maria's husband provides.  I'm also half in love with poor Krister, the terribly disfigured and utterly kind dog handler, who is hopelessly in love with Rebecka.


Read in May; blog post scheduled for July 16.

NetGalley/Quercus Press

Mystery.  to be re-released in e-book format in Aug., 2014.  Print version: 352 pages.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark

Guilt by Degrees  

Recently, I read my first Marcia Clark novel (The Competition) as a NetGalley ebook, and to my surprise, I liked it a lot.  I'm not sure why I was surprised--having a previous career as a high profile lawyer doesn't preclude the ability to write.

The characters and the dialogue in The Competition drew me in.  I enjoyed the camaraderie of Rachel Knight, Bailey Keller, and Toni Lacollette and liked the mix of humor that the friendships interjected in the midst of an intense investigation.

When NetGalley offered more Marcia Clark novels, I immediately requested and downloaded them.  I intended to read them in order, but goofed, so I still have to go back and read the first one.

In Guilt by Degrees, Rachel Knight is appalled at the handling of a case involving the death of a homeless man and manages to take it over.   As she and Bailey Keller attempt to determine whether or not the homeless man's death was a murder, whether he was threatening or not, and who actually killed him, the two discover connections to an old case.  What appeared a random situation turns much more complicated and dangerous.

Once again, the highlight of the novel is the way Rachel Knight and Bailey Keller work together to solve the mysteries.  The mystery is intriguing and suspenseful, but the relationship between the two women provides an essential layer to the novel.  It is also interesting (when reading a series out of order) to piece together personal backgrounds and relationships.  

Quibbles:  The prologue has a violent murder that bothered me, but after that, no more gore.  There is an awful lot of time spent on naming restaurants in L.A.  This was true in the in The Competition as well.  The local detail is probably more appealing to L.A. residents, but almost every meal has a specific restaurant. Minor quibble.  

Positives:  Great female lead with strong female supporting characters.  Interesting and often amusing dialogue.  Suspenseful plot.  Compelling style.  Clark has a talent for engaging  readers in both narrative and character.

I'm quickly becoming a fan of Marcia Clark and the inimitable Rachel Knight!  

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Police Procedural/Mystery.  2013.  Print length:  449 pages.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Crafty Summer

I've been back in my studio for a while now.  Playing with fabric and clay after a long hiatus.  All of a sudden, I have several projects in the works, and dozens more that keep popping into my mind.  

It began with a challenge to myself:  just once a day, get upstairs and make something.  It didn't matter what, and it didn't have to be useful or even finished.  Just get up there and do something.  I started with putting a pocket on one of Fee's old shirts that I use as a smock.  

I used an eco-print of leaves that I made a couple of years ago and never did anything with.

  Then I added a piece of embroidery from several years ago.
A smaller pocket.

 Then a bunch of textile brooches.
Using other scraps of stuff.
Then, step-by-step
the Hedge Witch
And Milly,
a little ghost dolly.
Things have gotten out of hand.
I'm spending at least 8 hours a the day in the studio 
working on too many projects
and having a grand time.

The latest obsession is a version of the letter game.
Remember how much I enjoyed 
Sorcery & Cece or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot?

I'm trying a version of the letter game
with my Baton Rouge grandkids.
I have all kinds of creative endeavors in mind
that I hope they will find entertaining.

Who knows if they will want to write return letters.
  They are kids--and it might not sound like fun to them.

But if they don't want to play,
I will have had the fun of planning
and imagining, and researching.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hamlet's Ghost

Hamlet's Ghost 

I haven't read anything else by Jane Tara, but this was a great light summer read complete with witches and the ghost of an actor who was dying to play Hamlet.

I'm not a regular reader of romance, in fact, I generally avoid anything that appears to be a "romance novel." On the other hand, I love mysteries, Shakespeare, witches, and ghosts...and I didn't know Jane Tara was considered a romance writer.  Which is all to the good because this is a confection of sugar and spice.

Now that my likes are listed, I'll turn to my dislike.  Oh, boy, I nearly put the novel down in the first chapter when Rhi discovers her boyfriend and best friend engaged in a new and unique yoga position.

Once that was out of the way, the book proceeds into a cozy mystery set in the tiny hamlet of Hamlet.  I'm not really trying to play on words, but can't seem to avoid it.  Witchcraft is brewing in Hamlet, and Rhi finds friends and supporters that she didn't have in New York as she tackles turning an abandoned theater into a showplace and heart-felt dream.

If you are looking for a hard-edged murder mystery, you won't find it here.  In fact, although there is a death, it was not a murder.  This is more of a ghostly mystery with mysterious relationships thrown in.

NetGalley/Momentum Books

Cozy Mystery.  July 24, 2014.  

I'm saving the first in this series, Forecast for Carl's R.I.P. Challenge.  Thinking ahead for once.

I think I'd want it based on the cover alone!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fest by Mark McCrum


An entertaining mystery about a literary festival where authors and critics gather to give talks about their books or their genre, etc.

When a famous (and often brutally cruel) critic is murdered, Francis Meadows, a crime writer, can't help but begin his own investigation.

A nice light read that provides an interesting look at the literary scene and an engaging writer/sleuth playing amateur detective.  

Who killed the critic who killed so many careers?  And who killed the young woman who had been filming and interviewing some of the people who knew him?

A cozy with a little spice.  Forget the cover pic.  Poor choice.

NetGalley/Prospero Press

Mystery.  July 2014.  279 pages.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Toto Koopman

While reading The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez, I became interested in the Spanish muralist Jose Maria Sert, and by digressing a little, in the life of his wife, Misia.  A true muse to the literary and art world of Paris.  I've mentioned some of this in my review of the novel.

Then by accident, as I was looking at the friends and associates of both Jose and Misia, I came across another book that I want to read. 

 Misia and Coco Chanel were friends, and one of Chanel's models was Toto Koopman.  Her life is as fascinating as that of Misia's, but certainly different as Toto ended up at Ravensbruck.  The book, by Jean-Noel Liaut is The Many Lives of Miss K:  Toto Koopman--Model, Muse, Spy

Here is a link to the article that grabbed my attention: 
Tinker, Tailor, Model, Spy.  

Some lives are almost too exotic and bizarre to believe.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez and The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris

The Art Restorer  is interesting as a mystery and as an insight into the artist Jose Maria Sert, his two wives, and all of the friends who were the elite of Parisian creative life during his life time.

The plot focuses on Enrique Alonso who has returned to San Sebastian for the re-opening of the San Telmo Museum where his ex-wife is in charge of public relations.    Bety has become good friends with Craig Bruckner, the retired art restorer who has been aiding in the restorations of Sert's works.  Enrique meets him and is also impressed with the older man.

But when Bruckner, a former Olympic swimmer, is found drowned, Bety questions whether it was truly an accident.  Enrique and Bety begin doing a little investigating into the circumstances and possible motives...if indeed, Bruckner's death was not an accident.

The information they garner about Sert and his life and work may have had something to do with Bruckner's death.  There are two sides of the novel--and both are fascinating:  1) the relationship of Enrique and Bety as they follow their respective leads, and 2) the world of Paris, Sert, and the Nazi Occupation.

The writing style is a little abrupt and may be a result of translation, but you become accustomed to its rhythm.

I liked the book, the plot, and the characters, but I also found that the information about Sert and the Paris literati of the time was just as fascinating.

Serts' first wife, Misia, was pretty amazing.  Although she is not a large part of the story, I couldn't quit thinking about her influence.  I
mmortalized by Proust as Princess Yourbeleftiev; Ravel dedicated "Le Cyne" to her; friends with Coco Chanel; patron of Sergei Diahliev's Ballet Russe; her salon visited by Picasso, Paul Morand, Debussy, and every talented artist and intellectual in Paris; painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Vuillard, Valloton, and Pierre Bonnard; many photographs by Pierre Bonnard

By Toulouse-Lautrec

Links to completely different versions:

by Renoir

another by Toulouse-Lautrec 

by Bonnard

This link is about Sert's second wife's family: the Mdivani's

Read in June; blog review scheduled for July

NetGalley/Open Road Media

Mystery/Contemporary Fiction/Historical Fiction.  July 8, 2014.  Print length:  345 pages.

The Lazarus Curse   

This is part of the Dr. Thomas Silkstone series set in England in the 1780's, and the only one I've read. 

The plot has multiple threads:  1) the categorization of specimen's of flora from the West Indies at the request of Joseph Banks, 2) the treatment of slaves in England, and the attempts to challenge the law, 3) the trafficking of corpses for dissection, 4) the subjugation of women, and 5) murder.

This is the second book I've read in the last year dealing with Joseph Bank's and his financing of expeditions for the Royal Society.  

There were sections concerning abuse of slaves that were hard to read and the conclusion is a cliff hanger.  All of the murder mystery portions are solved, and the cliff hanger only involves Silkstone's personal life.  Since I've not read any of the previous novels in this series, I'm only guessing that they, too, ended in some form of cliff hanger concerning the personal life of Dr. Silkstone.  The cliff hanger angered me, not just because it was a cliff hanger, but the incident itself shocked and frustrated me.  

Overall, I'm not quite sure what I think of the series based on this one novel.  I was certainly involved while reading, and yet don't think I would go out of my way to read more.

Read in June; review scheduled for July 7.

NetGalley/Kensington Books.

Historic Mystery.   July 29, 2014.  Print length: