Share This

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review - And When She Was Good

Today we are part of the blog tour for Laura Lippman's newest book.  This is a stand-alone suspense tale of a suburban madam.

Author: Laura Lippman

Copyright: August 14, 2012 (William Morrow) 320 pgs

Series: Stand alone

Sensuality: adult themes, prostitution

Mystery Sub-genre:

Main Characters:
  Heloise Lewis, secretly suburban madam

Setting: Modern day, Baltimore, Maryland

Obtained Through: TLC Book Tour/Publisher

Heloise used to be a common prostitute for Val, but when she is faced with having Val's child she makes decisions that will impact her for the next decade. She does this all for her child, determined to give a better childhood than she experienced.  She thinks that she has left the brutality of the street behind for her own carefully constructed and discreet high-paid escort service.  She runs the show and lives well now.  When another suburban madam is murdered, she doesn't think much about it - until she realizes that woman was from her past.  Her new life, meant to provide the best for her child, is beginning to fall apart. 

The story is told in both the present and Heloise's past.  The reader is filled in about her history as the Heloise in the present deals with her life unraveling.  That caused confusion once or twice, but mostly this technique allows the reader to see what in her past is influencing her present fear and decisions.

Heloise is a complex character.  She is a loner, street smart as well as self taught from books and online classes.  Most of all, she is a survivor and determined.  She will do most anything for her child. I rarely read a book where I feel like I have stepped into the main character's life.  This is one of them. Val, her pimp for many years, and the father of her child, is more than just a thug.  He is intelligent and a ruthless, opportunistic businessman who has not let go of his hold on her.  Beth, her pathetic mother, is equally well crafted.

The small town Heloise grows up in, the large house where Val keeps the prostitutes corralled, and even Heloise's suburban home are richly detailed.  The plot is spot on and the pacing builds to the climax.  There were plot twists and surprises.  I found myself telling Heloise what to do, not out of frustration with a poorly written character, but because I had become vested in her predicament.  The wrap up was satisfying. 

This was my first Laura Lippman (incredible as that seems) and I have to say I was surprised.  Initially, I was not sure about the premise of prostitution for an enjoyable story.  But Ms. Lippman expertly builds a believable tale of a woman who was dealt a bad life and engages the reader to root for her as she meets challenges and danger.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.  If you can tolerate the swearing and prostitution in general, this is really that good.  If you are more sensitive towards these, consider reading a chapter or two and gauge your reaction.

Here's the tour schedule:

Tuesday, August 14th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Wednesday, August 15th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, August 16th: Book Dilettante
Monday, August 20th: Chaotic Compendiums
Tuesday, August 21st: Olduvai Reads
Wednesday, August 22nd: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, August 23rd: The Book Bag
Monday, August 27th: Book Addiction
Tuesday, August 28th: Mary’s Cup of Tea
Wednesday, August 29th: In the Next Room
Thursday, August 30th: Between the Covers
Friday, August 31st: Mysteries and My Musings
Monday, September 3rd: Don’t Mind the Mess
Tuesday, September 4th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, September 5th: libbysbookblog
Thursday, September 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, September 7th: so much shouting, so much laughter
Monday, September 10th: Twisting the Lens
Tuesday, September 11th: A Bookworm’s World

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cupcakes and Literature

Amazing miniature books top cupcakes. Notice the variety of covers.

According to their FaceBook, these cupcakes were created in honor of a woman’s 60th birthday, and feature books that have helped shape her life! Since the news has gotten out, they have had several orders of "book cupcakes"

Victoria’s Kitchen - Chiswick, West London has over 9,000 "likes" on their FaceBook page.  They do make other arsty and creative designs as well, but the book covers is a fantastic idea.  You should see the vintage LP cupcakes too (remember LPs).

Have a great week!

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review - the Resistance

This week I review an intricate suspense novel set in Nazi occupied France with villagers mounting a underground resistance.  Danger truly lurks in every corner. 

Author: Peter Steiner

Copyright: August 2012 (Minotaur Books) 320 pgs

Series: 4th in Louis Morgon Thriller

Sensuality:  Rape scene, some violence

Mystery Sub-genre:
Suspense, Thriller

Main Characters: Louis Morgon, ex-CIA espionage agent

Setting: Modern day, Saint-Leon-sur-Dême France

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Louis Morgon lost his job and his family.  He ends up walking the French countryside to sort through the pain.  He eventually settles in the small town of Saint-Leon-sur-Dême.  He buys a small cottage and during renovations, finds old French Resistance flyers hidden away which present a murder mystery.  For the majority of the book, the reader is in the 1940s town of Saint-Leon-sur-Dême with a young man named Onesime who maps the Nazi occupation and their activities.  

The story follows the town over four years as the resistance makes inroads amongst the villagers.  The burning question was who had setup several resistance members to be murdered.  After the bulk of the book spent in the 1940s, you are back with Louis Morgan as he pieces together what happened and starts on the trail of the person who had betrayed neighbors. 

Onesime, his brother Jean, and his mother, along with rest of the villagers, envelope the reader in a rural french town struggling under the Nazi occupation.  There are no black and white issues or people in this tale, everything is shades of gray. 

The town of Saint-Leon-sur-Dême is an integral part of the story.  The network of caves that are owned by villagers to store wine barrels and food is taken over by the Nazi's and used to store arms and ammunition.  The caves are a great atmospheric touch and realistic.  The sense of fear permeates the town and characters.   

The plot is an intricate cat and mouse dance of resistance members who can't even trust family, nor the local police.  It is a walk in a mine field where even a slight misstep results in death - or worse.

The reveal of the informant who had resistance members killed is somewhat anti-climatic, but it was realistic.  The writing was superb, with bold characterization, vivid setting, and detailed plot.  This is a fantastic suspenseful story that leaves the reader on the edge of the seat, anxious to find out what happens next.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 20, 2012

Author Interview - Lou Berney

I reviewed Mr. Berney's most recent novel, Whiplash River, recently (click here) and I am delighted to get an interview with him as well.  This series has been labeled Comedic Thriller, but I found it to be a straightforward crime novel with Thriller elements.  Either way, his prior book featuring the main character Shake, "Gutshot Straight," was nominated for a Barry Award and named by Booklist as one of the best debut crime novels of the year. Mr. Berney has written feature screenplays and created TV pilots for, among others, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Focus Features, ABC, and Fox. Currently he teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University.

Do you start your next novel with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
I always start with character AND plot, since the two are pretty much inseparable for me. That can be frustrating at times – I'll have a good idea for a plot, but I have to let it go if I can't come up with a compelling character to fit with it.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?
I do a lot of outlining before I start drafting, but I also give myself lots of permission to ignore the outline if something better emerges along the way – a new character, a surprise turn to the plot, etc. And I like to write an outline with five acts, with the traditional middle act broken into three parts. I find that makes tackling the long middle section of a novel or screenplay easier.

Shake, Evelyn, Quinn, Gina, Meg and the rest are all unique characters.  What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?
For me, it's important that I hear each character's individual voice, and that really only happens as I'm writing. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get a certain character's voice. It's kind of like a surfer catching a wave – you have to wait for just the right one, and then ride it all the way to shore.

I find myself a fan of FBI Special Agent Evelyn Holly.  Any chance that Evelyn may get a spinoff series?
Evelyn is a character that initially, at the outline stage, didn't have the big of a role to play in the novel. But once I started writing her, and hearing her voice, I fell in love with her as a character. She kept demanding more and more space, and I was more than happy to oblige. She came really easily to me, which doesn't happen with every character. I thought it was just because she's smart and funny and ferocious and relentless and great, but after my wife read the first draft she turned to me and said, "You know this FBI agent character is your mother, right?" And I realized that Evelyn does share an awful lot with my mother (smart, funny, ferocious, relentless), who passed away a few years ago. That made me really happy.

How much research do you typically conduct for a novel?  In this case, did you have to research Belize and Egypt (travel there for research -  a slave to your writing?) How do you research the illegal activities such as conflict antiquities?
I'm a big believer in meticulous research when it involves doing something that's fun (like going to Belize or Egypt). If something doesn't sound like much fun, then I just make it up. As for the idea of conflict antiquities, that was my criminal (writer) mind at work. I was in Greece during the protests and riots about the economic crisis, and I heard about some museum employees who had walked off the job because they weren't getting paid. So I thought, "Hmmm."

Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
I have to get out of the house to write. Every morning I get dressed, have breakfast, and head out to my local coffee shop. For some reason I can think better when there's some noise and activity around me. Or – wait. Maybe it's just that I write better when I'm dressed. I should try that.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me about nine months – start to finish, more or less – to write a novel. I try to write every day of the week, even on Sundays, because it's always harder for me to start back up than to just keep going. Left to my own devices, I'm a very lazy person, so I've made myself become a very disciplined writer. Otherwise I'd never get anything done.

You have written feature screenplays and created TV pilots.  What is the attraction to novel writing versus script writing for your canvas?
One of the things I love about novels, as compared to scripts, is that there's no page limit – the canvas can be as big or as small as you want it to be, and you can take the time to explore secondary characters and sub-plots as much as you like.

Who is your favorite Suspense/Crime Fiction character?  Perhaps a Godfather fan?
I love the Godfather (my favorite character in that movie is Tom Hagan, played by Robert Duvall). I'm also a huge fan of the late, great actor Roy Scheider. A lot of the characters he played (in movies like Marathon Man and Sorcerer) are some of my all-time favorites.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
I hadn't read a lot of great writers in high school (or, if I had, I hadn't paid much attention to them). When I got to college, one of the first writers I read was Flannery O'Connor, and she really spun my head around. I thought she was hilarious and terrifying and wonderful, and I think she's been a huge influence on me. As for crime fiction (though, really, isn't Flannery O'Connor pretty much a crime writer?), I'd have to say that I've been very inspired by the great Elmore Leonard.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter or through entertainment contacts?

I went to graduate school for my MFA in creative writing, and one of my professors there, Jay Neugeboren, liked one of my short stories and gave me the name of an editor at a magazine. I sent the story to that editor, he liked it, and the magazine bought it. This was after about a hundred rejections of other stories, of course. And many more rejections, of course, awaited me in the future. But it was so great to get that first publication.

What are you currently reading?

I'm reading guide books to Cambodia and, specifically, Angkor Wat, because that's where I'm headed in a couple of days. Which means that's where my characters might be headed soon. You never know.

If your Charles "Shake" Bouchon novels were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?
I change my mind on this a lot, but if I were casting Whiplash River right at this moment, I think I'd go with Jon Hamm as Shake and Anne Hathaway as Gina. For Harrigan Quinn -- the dapper, charming, fast-talking, seventy-something ex-CIA gentleman -- I'd want to go with Jeff Bridges. Who, I know, isn't seventy-something, but I'd re-write the part for him because he's just such an amazing actor.


Tell us about the next book in the series?   What was your biggest challenge with it?  What was your greatest joy with this book?
The challenge with the next book, as it was with Whiplash River, is to satisfy the expectations of the readers (and myself) without just doing the same thing all over again. I hate sequels that just repeat themselves. So the third book in the series is going to be much more of a mystery -- a key character from an earlier book disappears, and Shake has to get to the bottom of it.

Thank You Mr. Berney for that great interview!


Monday, August 13th: No More Grumpy Booksellers
Tuesday, August 14th: Conceptual Reception
Thursday, August 16th: Life In Review
Monday, August 20th: Mysteries and My Musings – Q&A
Tuesday, August 21st: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, August 22nd: she treads softly
Thursday, August 23rd: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Monday, September 3rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, September 5th: Seaside Book Nook
Thursday, September 6th: M. Denise C.
Monday, September 10th: Lance Mannion
Wednesday, September 12th: Kristina’s Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Poor Foot

I don't have a book review this week because I had foot surgery today and preparations for the surgery cut into my reading time.  I don't have a photo of my foot, sorry.  But I have one of those "knee caddy" aids rather than crutches.  Let me tell you, that thing is invaluable.  Look out! I wonder if you can pop wheelies on one of these?

I will post Monday, but I may post a book review in a day or two.  

Thanks for understanding.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 13, 2012

Author Interview - Susan Elia MacNeal

Today we welcome Susan Elia MacNeal, author of Mr. Churchill's Secretary to our blog.  I reviewed the book a few weeks ago (click here) and sought an interview immediately.  I hope you enjoy this little view into the author and her writing.

Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy starts out with Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor, discussing an assassination plan with the Nazi commander Walther Shellenberg. What they discuss directly affects the Royal family — and Maggie Hope, of course.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?

I usually do a lot of research first, take notes, and out of that, ideas for stories emerge. Then I make a loose three-act outline. But I always leave plenty of room for improvisation.

Maggie Hope is a great character, as well as the rest of the crew (I loved Sarah.) What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?

Thank you! Usually I develop characters by having an idea for a particular person, then choosing a name, then creating a whole biography and backstory. The reader may or may not be shown all of that, but it’s there. I even know what they keep in their bottom drawers!

I’m so glad you loved Sarah — Sarah was different, actually. She just appeared at the Blue Moon Club one day when I was writing and I went with it. We haven’t seen much of Sarah in Princess Elizabeth’s Spy and His Majesty’s Hope, as she’s been on tour with the ballet, but I have big plans for her (or she has big plans for me?) in book #4. I’ve missed her.

Why WWII Britain? What drew you to base a series in that time and place in history?

You know, I’d been writing short stories, and since I live in New York City, I always pictured writing a novel set in present-day New York. However, my husband was doing a lot of traveling to London (for Bear in the Big Blue House, a Disney Channel show), and I was lucky enough to be able to go along. A friend suggested I go to the Churchill War Rooms and I did.

    The experience was incredibly powerful. There you are, in the actual bunker where Churchill commanded World War II. All the details are intact, left just the way they were when the bunker was closed after the war. I really felt as if time collapsed for a moment and I was actually there — I could hear the bells of the typewriters, smell the cigarette smoke…. Even though I felt woefully unprepared to write historical fiction, let alone historical fiction set in another country, I felt like I had to do it. The ghosts of Mr. Churchill’s secretaries wanted me to do it.

I was fascinated by the actual Churchill secretaries that you researched, tell us a little about them.

When you go to the Churchill War Rooms, you get an audio guide. For one part, when you’re looking at the typists’ office, an actress reads a portion of Elizabeth Layton Nel’s memoir, about her experiences as a young girl coming to work for Mr. Churchill during the Blitz. The book was out-of-print at the time, but I was able to track it down and read it. It was invaluable for learning about the day-to-day duties of Churchill’s secretaries. Later, I was able to find Mrs. Nel’s address and had the great honor of being able to correspond with her before her death. She was very supportive of the novel, but insisted that they (the typists) had no time whatsoever for mysteries or romances!

Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?

There’s a quote from the choreographer George Balanchine that I love: “My muse comes to me on union time.” Meaning that when he had the studio and the union-paid dancers in front of him, he’d better create something then and there. That’s my attitude, too. If I have a bit of time, I make the most of it.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

The first book, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, took me a long, long time to write, in fits and starts. Overall, it took about ten years from the initial trip to the Churchill War Rooms until publication. I was very lucky that Random House offered me a multiple-book contract at that time — with a due date of just one year for Princess Elizabeth’s Spy. I wrote that in a year, and then took another year to write His Majesty’s Hope. I’ll be starting the untitled Maggie Hope mystery #4 in August — I have a year for that, too.

    Generally, I write in the mornings and edit and do other freelance work projects in the afternoon. Then I pick up my seven-year-old son from school at three and “Mommy time” begins.

What in your background prepared you to write not just intrigue novels but historicals?

I’ve always loved history in school, and have always read history books, as well as historical fiction. Reading is an amazing form of time-travel, isn’t it? But to research Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and the other books, I really had to roll up my sleeves and just read, read, read (and take notes and talk to experts). At the end of each book, I like to provide a list of source material I used, so people can always investigate further, if they want.

Who is your favorite Mystery/Suspense character?

I absolutely love Nick and Nora Charles (and their dog, Asta, of course) from The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett. 

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?

The book I’ve read the most over the course of my life is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I even wrote my senior thesis in college on the stories and novellas of Louisa May Alcott. My editor once asked where Maggie Hope came from, and I said she’s part Jo March, part Nora Charles, and part La Femme Nikita.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?

Getting published was an odyssey for me. The short answer is I mailed a query letter to a literary agent, was taken on as a client, and then my amazing agent sold the book (as a series) to Random House. However, the short version omits all of the rejection letters, the weeping in bed in the fetal position, the endless rewrites, and the nail biting.

What are you currently reading?

I’m proud to say I’m just finishing the first draft of His Majesty’s Hope and I’m taking a two-week vacation — reading is number one on the agenda! The stack of books I’m bringing includes: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin, and an ARC of Invisible, the new novel by Carla Buckley.

If your Maggie Hope Adventures were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?

Ooooh! What a fun question! In this wonderful dream world, I would love to cast Claire Danes as Maggie Hope, Kit Harington as John Sterling, James McAvoy as David Greene, and Emily Blunt as Sarah. I’d love to see Brendan Gleeson as Winston Churchill, Dean Winters as Michael Murphy, Jason Isaacs as Peter Frain, Heather Matarazzo as Chuck, and Mia Wasikowska as Paige Kelly. And Hugh Laurie as Edmund Hope and Emma Thompson as Aunt Edith.

Claire Danes as Maggie Hope


Tell us about the next book in the series, Princess Elizabeth's Spy.  What was your biggest challenge with it?  What was your greatest joy with this book?

Well, in writing Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, I had the opportunity to create new characters and also a new setting — Windsor Castle — which I found a bit intimidating. But once I got into the story, it was so much fun to write. I think one of the most amazing things for me was putting together a fictional Windsor Castle and town of Windsor from books and documentaries. Then, when I was done with my first draft, I was able to travel to the real Windsor. It was an incredible experience to walk along the same corridors in the Castle  as my characters — it really took my breath away. I hope people find Princess Elizabeth’s Spy as much fun to read as I did to write.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review - Whiplash River

Today is a blog tour for the Book Whiplash River by author Lou Berney.  

Lou's first novel, GUTSHOT STRAIGHT, was nominated for a Barry Award and named by Booklist as one of the best debut crime novels of the year. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology, and he has written feature screenplays and created TV pilots for, among others, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Focus Features, ABC, and Fox. Currently he teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University.

His new book, Whiplash River, has been getting a lot of good buzz, so let's see how I liked it.

Author: Lou Berney

Copyright: July 10, 2012 (William Morrow) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Shake Bouchon Adventures

Sensuality: Warning-language and some violence, adult references

Mystery Sub-genre: Hard boiled Crime Fiction

Main Characters: Charles "Shake" Bouchon, former Professional wheel man now restaurant owner/chef

Setting: Modern day, Belize and Egypt

Obtained Through: TLC Tours

Quick summary from Amazon:
Having left his life of crime behind, former getaway driver Charles "Shake" Bouchon has finally realized the dream of owning his own restaurant in Belize. Unfortunately, to do so he's had to go deep in debt to a murderous local drug lord named Baby Jesus. And when Shake thwarts an attempted hit on an elderly customer named Quinn, in his restaurant - things go from bad to worse.

Next thing Shake knows, his restaurant's gone up in flames and he's on the run from Baby Jesus, two freelance assassins, and a beautiful but ferocious FBI agent. Out of options, Shake has to turn to the mysterious Quinn for help. Suddenly Shake's up to his neck in a dangerous score that he'll never pull off unless he can convince an even more dangerous ex-girlfriend to join him.

My thoughts:
I have to admit that I had a hard time warming up to a criminal as the main character.  He is described as too nice a guy for the life he's led and not nice enough for any other. He is charming and even sincere. He has done some prison time and he just seems to keep getting tangled in the seedy side of life, such as when he takes a lone from the Belize drug lord to get his restaurant going.  These bad occurances just seem to happen TO him without his purposefully seeking them out. He was a well drawn, rather sad character.  

I particularly liked the FBI agent, Evelyn, as she doggedly follows "Shake" with the intent of convincing, or manipulating, him to testify against the Armenian mob that he worked for in the prior book.  I would love to see a series based on Evelyn's character because she is such a well developed, complex, and driven character.  The ex-girlfriend Gina is a character you don't trust from the moment she is introduced.  She lies like it is second nature, and goes on the Egypt job mainly to torture Shake for dumping her.  Then there is Quinn, man of mystery, maybe prior CIA - but shady and despite being in his seventies, he is no good through and through.  The hired assassin, Meg, is one of those screwed up people whose life is crime and violence and she doesn't like, nor want, a different life.  She is very effectively portrayed as one scary gal.

Both Belize and Egypt are aptly portrayed.  So much so that my desire to vacation in Belize has been squashed after this peek into its criminal underbelly.  The paradise with a criminal network is beautifully portrayed with just enough sunsets and yet the tension of organized crime in the shadows.  Egypt was perfect to carry on a delicate and dangerous criminal operation that had been mis-advertised from the start.

The plot is involved with several components going simultaneously, yet seamlessly. This could have caused confusion, but was deftly handled.  All the compenents met for the finale in grand fashion. The pacing was consistant throughout and kept my interest to see how it turned out at each turn.

This is not an "Ocean's Eleven" kind of slick criminal, Shake is a messy case without the suave side.  Shake is a criminal who dreams of being a simple restaurant owner, until it is blown up and he has to resort to what he knows, illegal tactics, to get away from the people trying to kill him. If you are put off by the "F" bomb, this is full of it along with some crude references - but I have definitely read worse language in not as well done novels.  It says a lot about the author who can take an anti-hero like Shake, a criminal, and have the reader routing that he gets his simple dream back.

Rating:   Good - A fun read with minor flaws (example is language and violence if those are an issue for you). Maybe read an excerpt before buying.  Otherwise an excellent read that surprised me, put this author on your watch list.

Blog Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, August 2nd: Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
Thursday, August 9th: Mysteries and My Musings – review
Monday, August 13th: No More Grumpy Booksellers
Tuesday, August 14th: Conceptual Reception
Thursday, August 16th: Life In Review
Monday, August 20th: Mysteries and My Musings – Q&A
Tuesday, August 21st: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, August 22nd: she treads softly
Thursday, August 23rd: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Monday, September 3rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, September 5th: Seaside Book Nook
Thursday, September 6th: M. Denise C.
Monday, September 10th: Lance Mannion
Wednesday, September 12th: Kristina’s Favorites
Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - August 2012

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers occasionally then I would like to feature them.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.  

Now on to this month's blog carnival, we have an abundance of thriller reviews this time around.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson

Booking Mama reviewed Criminal by Karin Slaughter

How Mysterious! reviewed The Sholes Key by Clarissa Draper

Crime Fiction Collective reviewed Broken Harbor by Tana French

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal, and shares it is more historical intrigue.

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James

Booking Mama reviewed Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabbot

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Sinister Sense by Allison Kingsley

Joanne Guidoccio reviewed Kaleidoscope by Gail Bowen, and shares it is the thirteenth of Gail Bowen’s books, and one of the best in the series.

A Date with a Book reviewed In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Booking Mama reviewed Gone Girl by Rillian Flynn

Colloquium reviewed The Sixes by Kate White

Joanne Guidoccio reviewed Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry, who received the 2012 Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark awards for this - her debut novel.

Booking Mama reviewed Killer Move by Michael Marshall

How Mysterious! reviewed Some Kind of Peace by Bamilla Greabe and Asa Traff

Booking Mama reviewed Ransom River by Meg Garniner

Tea Time with Marce reviewed The Line Between Here and Gone by Andrea Kane

Colloquium reviewed Long Gone by Alafair Burke

Crime Fiction Collective reviewed A City of Broken Glass by Rebecca Cantrell

Booking Mama reviewed Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin

Joanne Guidoccio reviewed A Chilling Tale by Anita Rau Badami

Colloquium reviewed The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman


Writing tips

Joanne Guidoccio gives us "How Much Dialogue is Too Much?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.
Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Review - Sketch a Falling Star

I have been following this series since the first book was released. Check out my previous reviews:
To Sketch a Thief - book 2 (click here), and Sketch Me If You Can - book 1 (click here).  I was also honored to interview Sharon Pape (click here). 

Author: Sharon Pape

Copyright: March 2012 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in A Portrait of Crime Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Private Investigator, Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Aurora (Rory) McCain, former police sketch-artist turned PI

Setting: Modern day, Suffolk County New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

The story opens with Rory on a trip to Arizona to investigate Federal Marshal Ezekiel Drummond's murder in 1878.  Rory plans on a few days of investigation, then joining her aunt Helene and the "Way off Broadway Players" for their group vacation.  Rory has barely started her research into the Marshall's death, part of a deal with Zeke's ghost, when death strikes the "Players" during their visit to Gray Wolf Canyon via a flash flood.  Preston Wright is the youngest in the acting troupe, yet he is the only fatality.  Zeke provides his suspicions that it could have been a murder of opportunity despite the local police ruling it an accident.  Preston's estranged mother also suspects foul play although she admits Preston was a slick criminal.  

So Preston's mother hires Rory to investigate his death.  Rory soon realizes nearly every member of the "Way off Broadway Players" had motive to kill him, but was it murder or just an accident?  When Rory has a break in and some scare tactics thrown her way, she is convinced it was murder alright and that she is getting closer to breaking the case.

Rory continues to be an interesting character.  She is brave, stuborn, determined like a lion on the hunt, and working on controlling her anger flares at her resident ghost, Zeke.  Zeke is also a great side-kick because he has grown fond of Rory, but his 1800s gender-role ideas haven't fully been modernized.  He was a good Marshal and feels Rory needs him, or maybe he just needs to be needed.  Zeke is learning to work with Rory rather than demand and rage.  Often their verbal sparing is comical.  I have to say that Zeke does have a break-though in acknowledging Rory's capabilities - not to be missed.  

Then there is Aunt Helene, the most colorful member of Rory's family. Helene is a delight without being too over-the-top. A new character is introduced in this story, Eloise, the elderly mother of a neighbor.  Eloise is a Ghost-whisperer ever since her stroke, and goes between grave-yard serious, to child-like in seconds.  I loved her and look forward to her continued appearances in future books.  I have to give kudos to Hobo, the mutt adopted in the prior story.  Hobo is just a bundle of comedy and love - nothing extraordinary, just a typical lovable dog that brings a warmth to the pages.

The setting has a few scenes in Arizona, but the bulk still takes place in New York.  This book continues the two prior book's trend of integrating chapters following the Marshall's story from 1878 as he tracks the serial killer that led to his murder. Those chapters are scattered and only occasionally so it doesn't really disrupt, but accentuates the dynamics of what makes Zeke tick as a ghost. This book provides the answer of who killed Zeke, providing him some closure, while giving an emotional twist to that drama.

The plot is on par for a cozy mystery, providing a victim just asking to be "eliminated" with plenty of capable suspects.  The killer was not necessarily obvious, but I did suspect who it was, although the red herrings did a good job of confusing the trail. The confrontation was handled quite well and the wrap up solidifies the partnership of Rory and Zeke Investigations.  The subplot of who killed Marshall Drummond is wrapped up with a plausible and surprising resolution. 

The cover artwork illustrates the Victorian home that Rory inherited from her PI uncle that introduced her to the Marshal's ghost.  It also shows Zeke beginning to break free of the boundaries of the house and travel along with Rory.  I mention the cover because the style seems to have changed from the prior books, but it still is meaningful to the story.

This series continues to provide solid cozy mystery plots, with interesting characters that delight and splashes of humor.  The paranormal elements consist of ghosts thus far (Zeke's ghost and Eloise communicating with ghosts) but is not presented in a scary or creepy way, rather to flavor the stories.  Well done cozy with an entertaining paranormal element.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list. 

Bookmark and Share

Related Posts with Thumbnails