Friday, December 23, 2011



Total Books Read: 214

DNFs: 6

Books in/books out (note that this is since Feb. 1, 2011 so is actually only 11 months worth:

Books Acquired (all from Paperbackswap and Amazon Vine): 92

Books Lost (traded, sold, donated) from physical TBR shelves: 543

Net loss: 451 books

Total left on TBR: To be announced--still compiling...

This was VERY difficult...but this is what I eventually settled on. Even with the honorable mentions listed, there were a LOT of excellent books that didn't make the list!

TOP TEN MYSTERIES (in no particular order...but I did cheat a little, counting series books that I read this year in the same series as one entry)

1. A TRACE OF SMOKE/A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES by Rebecca Cantrell (#1 & 2 Hannah Vogel series)

2. BREATHING WATER/THE QUEEN OF PATPONG by Timothy Hallinan (#3 & 4 Poke Rafferty series)

3. AMONG THE MAD/THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH/A LESSON IN SECRETS by Jacqueline Winspear (#6, 7 & 8 Maisie Dobbs series)

4. THE VICTORIA VANISHES by Christopher Fowler (#6 Bryant & May mysteries)

5. A RED HERRING WITHOUT MUSTARD/I AM HALF SICK OF SHADOWS by Alan Bradley (audio) (#3/4 Flavia de Luce series)

6. SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN/BLOOD HINA by Naomi Hirahara (#3/4 Mas Arai series)

7. LOVE SONGS FROM A SHALLOW GRAVE/SLASH AND BURN by Colin Cotterill (#7/8 Dr. Siri Paiboun series)

8. GUNSHOT ROAD by Adrian Hyland (#2 Emily Tempest mystery)

9. BURY YOUR DEAD by Louise Penny (#6 Three Pines mystery)

10. THE WEAVER AND THE FACTORY MAID/FAMOUS FLOWER OF SERVING MEN/MATTY GROVES by Deborah Grabien (#1/2/3 "Haunted Ballad" mysteries)

Honorable mention:

A FIELD OF DARKNESS by Cornelia Read (#1 Madeline Dare mystery)

CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith (#1 Leo Demidov mystery--note: I didn't like the second one nearly as well)

IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM by Stefanie Pintoff (#1 Simon Ziele historical mystery)

THE LIONS OF THE NORTH by Edward Marston (#4 Domesday medieval mysteries)

THE PURE IN HEART by Susan Hill (#2 Simon Serrailler mystery)

THE CASE OF THE MISSING SERVANT/THE CASE OF THE MAN WHO DIED LAUGHING by Tarquin Hall (audio) (#1/2 Vish Puri mysteries)

FROM THE GROUNDS UP/A CUP OF JO by Sandra Balzo (#5/6 Maggy Thorsen mystery)

TO FETCH A THIEF/THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Spencer Quinn (audio) (#3/4 Chet & Bernie)


1. THE WEE FREE MEN/A HAT FULL OF SKY/WINTERSMITH by Terry Pratchett (Discworld fantasy series, Tiffany Aching sub-series)

2. THE LAST KINGDOM by Bernard Cornwell (#1 Saxon historical fiction series)

3. THE LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS by Joe Abercrombie (#3 First Law fantasy trilogy)

4. THE WARDED MAN by Peter V. Brett (#1 Demon Cycle trilogy, fantasy)

5. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (audio)

6. THE EAGLE'S BROOD by Jack Whyte (#3 Camulod Chronicles historical fantasy)

7. DOWNPOUR by Kat Richardson (#6 Greywalker paranormal mystery)

8. BLOODSHOT: CHESHIRE RED REPORTS by Cherie Priest (#1 Cheshire Red paranormal)

BOTTOMS--WORST MYSTERIES (that I actually finished...DNF's not counted)


CAT OF THE CENTURY by Rita Mae Brown

CUT SHORT by Leigh Russell

DEAD CONNECTION by Alafair Burke (audio)

PRETTY GIRL GONE by David Housewright

THE INDIAN BRIDE by Karin Fossum

I will amend this post later to do a summary of my year's reading--# of books, the status of my TBR pile, etc. Roll on's going to be a GREAT year! :)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 2011

Well, here it is, the last month of my self-imposed book-buying ban. I can't say I've really suffered much--the Hennepin County Library System is wonderful, and I've still allowed myself books from Paperbackswap, so it's not like I've been totally bereft. There are lots of great books to read for Kindle that are free from the library and the Kindle Lending Library (free with my Prime account) so haven't needed to buy any even for that. I am going to do one last big TBR culling this month and then consolidate what's left on the bookshelves to see how I'm doing space-wise. I'll issue a final report after the first of the year on how I did with paring those TBR shelves down. AND to let you know the first books I actually buy in 2012. :)

Now, on to the reading list for December!

1. CHILDREN OF THE STREET by Kwei Quartey. (Kindle) B+ Second in the Darko Dawson series, with Darko being a police detective with CID in Accra, Ghana. A series of brutal murders of street children in Accra has Dawson chasing down an invisible killer, while he also has to deal with the deteriorating health of his seven-year-old son who has an atrial-septal defect. Very good second in series--I liked it better than the first, am finding Dawson's character more fleshed out in this book and getting to know the secondary characters better as well. I also did not figure out whodunit til nearly the end. Excellent immersion into a culture which is totally foreign to me, something I always enjoy.

2. THE GRAVEYARD GAME by Kage Baker. B+ #4 Company fantasy series. It's really hard to describe this series, about an all-powerful Company from the future who makes orphaned children immortals and sends them into the past to save various relics, artifacts, works of art and the like. Sounds noble, but it's more for the financial benefit of the Company, run by Dr. Zeus. In this book, one of the characters we've met in the first three books, the Botanist Mendoza, has disappeared, and her recruiter, the Facilitator Joseph, as well as her dear friend Lewis (who is secretly in love with her) are determined to find her. Fearing that the Company has sent Mendoza to some unknown facility and deactivated her somehow, they must covertly search, as their actions and speech are monitored by The Company. Sometimes confusing with the forward and backward time frames, the series is otherwise brilliant--you just have to be sure to focus totally while you're reading as small bits of information end up being important later on.

3. THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Spencer Quinn. (AUDIO) A #4 Chet & Bernie mystery. Another great entry in this series set in Arizona, told from the point of view of Chet, a failed police academy dog and his partner Bernie Little. Together they are the sum total of the Little Detective Agency, which is always on precarious ground--not because of any failing in the private detection part, but because Bernie's a bit less than a stellar business manager and often too kind-hearted and generous with his time. So when big-time PI company owner Georgie Malouf offers Bernie a permanent job with a substantial increase in pay and benefits, it stands to reason that he'll accept. Right? Wrong. Bernie likes his independence and shows it by accepting a case to essentially bodyguard a woman who is picking up her son from a mountain camp and expects trouble from her ex-husband. And trouble there is, although not the kind they expected. Devon, her son, has disappeared, wandered off the trail, and Chet & Bernie are off to search, only to find the murdered body of the camp counselor who was on the hike with Devon's group. Crooked cops with something to hide end up shanghi-ing Bernie into jail where he finds himself accused of the murder.Meanwhile, Chet finds his way back home, hooks up with Bernie's girlfriend Suzie and...well, you'll have to read it. Or listen. I have listened to all this series in audio format and as long as they continue to be available, will continue to do so. The reader is absolutely brilliant in depicting Chet's "voice" and the tone of the books. I always enjoy these immensely--and then am sorry that I now have to wait so long for the next one.

4. BY A SPIDER'S THREAD by Laura Lippman (Kindle) A #8 Tess Monaghan series set in Baltimore. An Orthodox Jewish man seeks Tess on the recommendation of her uncle (Tess is, despite the name, half-Jewish herself) when his wife disappears without trace with their three children. Mark Rubin can think of no good reason for this, insisting that their marriage was happy, but the police refuse to investigate, finding no evidence of any foul play. Tess finds the going slow at first--Natalie Rubin used no credit cards to make her escape and she seems to have faded into the woodwork. Until the elder Rubin son, Isaac, aged nine, manages to phone Mark briefly leaving a caller ID of a pay phone at a McDonalds in a small town in Indiana. Then Tess's newfound online circle of female PI's known as SnoopSisters swings into action and Tess's digging begins to pay off. Another great entry in the series, which I like because there's just the right balance of personal and professional details and of action and introspection.

5. WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND by Fred Vargas. A #4 Chief Inspector Adamsberg mystery set in France, although this one takes place partially in Quebec as Adamsberg and his close associates go there for a two-week training seminar on forensic advancements. Adamsberg is on the trail of a serial killer who has killed over decades, often spacing his kills by years and then vanishing from the area such that suspicion is not aroused. It's personal for Jean-Baptiste though, as one of the people whom this killer--also a powerful Judge--framed was his brother Raphael, when the boy was barely out of his teens. Now, after a long hiatus, he seems to have struck again--despite having died sixteen years ago! But the Judge knows Adamsberg is on his trail and sets him up for a fall much like his brother's and it will take every bit of the wily detective's cunning--and a little help from his friends--to nab the crafty killer. While this whole scenario seemed to me wholly implausible in many ways, it still sucked me in and kept me interested right through til the end, and I very much look forward to the next book in the series.

6. BLOODSHOT: CHESHIRE RED REPORTS by Cherie Priest. (AUDIO) A #1 in the Cheshire Red series, featuring vampire Raylene Pendle whose alias is Cheshire Red, a notorious thief who's been stealing valuables for decades and is presumed to be a man. Raylene is a lone vampire, not affiliated with any House, and seldom interacts with other vamps. Paranoid almost to a fault, she has several safe houses, multiple identities and almost no one except a couple of very discreet clients have her cell phone number, much less know where she lives. So when she is contacted at her home by Ian Stott, who wants to hire her to steal papers and medical records from a study he was involved in, she is intrigued--and horrified--because the experiments, which were done against his will, left Ian blind, and physical deformities are just not something that happen to vampires. To top it off, the studies were conducted by the U.S. Government which shocks Raylene, as she had no idea Uncle Sam was even aware of the existence of vampires. Raylene goes against all her usual tendencies--which include running and hiding at the first sign of trouble--and heads right into danger to find out what horrible things the government might be intending for vampires--including herself. If she's caught, that is--something Raylene is not going to allow to happen. Excellent first book in this paranormal series, not a cozy "but I'm a GOOD Vampire!" type series at all with plenty of off-color language, adult situations and...well, Raylene isn't exactly a good vampire. Audio version read perfectly by Natalie Ross. Looking forward to the next in series.

7. DEAD CONNECTIONS by Alafair Burke (AUDIO) C- #1 Ellie Hatcher mystery. Singularly uninspired first in series about a NYC detective, pulled from general duty to the murder squad to help with a serial killer who's using an online dating site to choose victims. Ellie Hatcher has a haunted past herself, trying to convince the world that her father did not commit suicide but was the victim of the serial killer he was after and never could catch. While this book was competently written, and wasn't horrible, it felt sort of like an "instant mystery" where you add boiling water to a cup o'noodles and wait for 3 minutes. It is a story, but there's not much meat, the flavor's less than savory and the overall impression is one of "I'll only eat this stuff (read this series) again if there's nothing better." The characters were more like caricatures without any real substance, and I was never very interested in the case, finding it and the characters just blah--including Ellie herself. I believe I will pass on the rest of the series.

8. THE LONE TRAVELLER by Susan Kelly. A #1 Supt. Gregory Summers mystery set in the Thames Valley. It's the summer solstice and the gypsies and New Age enthusiasts have come into town for the faire and celebration at a nearby stone circle. Tensions heat up between the two groups, and between the townsfolk and the travellers, and when a six-year-old girl goes missing, those tensions mount high, and explode once the inevitable happens and the girl's body is found. Summers has all he can do to try to keep the town under control and precious little time to actually work on investigating young Jordan's death. This book captured me right from the beginning, although at first, one aspect of the main character's personal life was a little off-putting--those of you who have read it will know what I mean. But by the end of the book, I felt I knew Greg Summers much better and although I figured out his mystery for him before he did, I am definitely going to be reading on in this series.

9. THE QUEEN OF PATPONG by Timothy Hallinan. A+ #4 Poke Rafferty mystery set in Bangkok, Thailand. In this fourth Poke Rafferty mystery, the story is all about Rose, Poke's wife. A man from her past recognizes her in a restaurant as Poke, Rose and their daughter Miaow are dining and threatens her. The usually unflappable Rose turns into an instant basket case, claiming she thought he was dead--and that she had killed him! Eventually she tells her story from the beginning to her family--from when she was Kwan, a seventeen-year-old village girl until she became Rose, a dancer, bar girl and prostitute. This is a very typical story for Thai girls from outlying villages who come to Bangkok and become workers in the booming sex trade industry. Poke knew of Rose's former occupation of course, but nothing about Howard Horner, whom Rose took up with years previously, thinking they were going to marry. There is not much to be said about this book that "WOW!" won't cover. This has quickly become one of my very favorite series for a whole lot of reasons and I had been hoarding this book for months before I couldn't take it any more and had to read it. Now I just hope the author has the next one in the wings for publication I can hoard that one for awhile. LOL

10. INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS by Imogen Robertson. (Kindle) B+ First of a series set in 1780's Sussex, UK and featuring Gabriel Crowther, a gentleman who relinquished his title and is now mostly a recluse and a 'man of science' and Harriet Westerman, who runs the manor next door while her sea captain husband is away. Mrs. Westerman finds a murdered body on her land and having read a paper Mr. Crowther wrote about evidence at murder scenes, seeks him out immediately. This leads to an extensive investigation which is tied to the missing heir of Thornleigh Hall (another neighbor of theirs). Eventually a couple of other murders yield more clues as the pair investigate, since the local squire seems to be in Thornleigh Hall's pocket and isn't much interested in the truth. I freely admit that this is not my favorite historical time period, so I started the book with a bit of a jaundiced eye. The characters and the story were interesting enough to get me into it right away though, and the writing style is easy to read and well-constructed. The only reason I don't give it five stars is that it did bog down a bit in the middle and was a bit overlong--I'm not sure all the detail about Captain Thornleigh's past and flashbacks to years previous were really necessary. The mystery itself was fairly easy to figure out but I still really enjoyed the story and will definitely read on.

11.EDWIN OF THE IRON SHOES by Marcia Muller. (AUDIO) B+ First of the Sharon McCone series in San Francisco, this was published in 1977, which is the year I graduated from high school, so it's OLD. LOL The book has Sharon, a P.I. working for a law cooperative, looking into first a series of vandalism and property attacks in a small neighborhood to the murder of one of the proprietors, an older woman who ran an antique shop. Because Sharon had inside information about the locals from her investigation, she 'independently assists' the police with their inquiries. A little bit dated, which is only to be expected from a 35 year old book, but I enjoyed it a time when detection meant going to the library for research, not turning on a computer, and when you didn't have a cell phone to ring the police when you were in trouble. This is the first time I've read this author and I will definitely be continuing on with the series--I like Sharon already and the tone of the writing is middle of the road--neither dark and gory nor sweetness-and-light cozy. It will be a LONG time until I can catch up, too...there are many many books in this series, so obviously a few other people liked it too. :)

12.DEATH OF THE MANTIS by Michael Stanley (Kindle) B. In this third mystery set in Botswana, Assistant Supt. David "Kubu" Bengu is settling into life as a new father when an old friend of his, a Bushman that he knew in childhood, calls him about a murder case in the Kalahari which has resulted in the arrest of three Bushmen for the crime. Bushmen are by nature non-violent and although Kubu is loathe to get involved, he feels that he owes his friend at least a look-see, so he leaves his struggling wife Joy and baby daughter for a trip to the desert country. He begins to see immediately that his friend is right--the detective in charge of the case has made up his mind that the Bushmen are responsible, and thus remains closed against other possible suspects. Kubu points out several inconsistencies and a lack of hard evidence results in the Bushmen being released--followed, of course, by more deaths. I love the characters in this series--it's more realistic and true-to-life than the super-cozy Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series, set in the same general locale. The immersion into the culture is very interesting, and the perspective changes generally enhance the storyline too. But this book was not quite up to par with the others, I didn't think. The bad guy was very obvious to me early on (those clues seemed almost circled in red!) and there was a lot of extraneous and repetitious prose; I really felt that a hundred pages could have been lopped off without losing the story at all.

13.THE ROUGH COLLIER by Pat McIntosh. B+ #5 Gil Cunningham mystery set in 15th century Glasgow and environs. Gil and his bride Alys are off to visit his mother in the country and while there his expertise is sought when a corpse is found in a peat bog by peat cutters. At first they think it's a local who's been missing for a few weeks, but later it's determined that the body has been there much longer. However, Gil is curious as to why the hue and cry hasn't been officially raised about the man who's been missing some five weeks, and further investigation uncovers a lot of different reasons why he may have disappeared. I really enjoy this series and the immersion into the culture of the place and time, the only drawback continuing to be the repeated use of the vernacular in the dialogue, which at times makes it difficult to understand since there isn't even much resemblance to modern-day Scots slang. I've had to stop and look up words that I'm not able to sort out even with context--which is distracting from the story itself. I don't mind learning new things, but most of the words I'll never have need of again so it seems a bit pointless. I complain about this every time and still I read on though--I do like the the characters and series otherwise and would give it 5 stars if it weren't for this one issue.

14. THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES by Agatha Christie. (AUDIO) A The very first Hercule Poirot mystery, narrated by the actor who does the TV character of Poirot, David Suchet. Reading Agatha Christie is always a treat for me--I love her characters, and she was a master at plotting, as I never can figure out whodunit. Well, rarely--and usually if I do, it's a guess at best. This one was no exception, even though I did read this book years ago. There are so many of them, the plots get mixed up in my head. Anyway, if you've never indulged in an audio version of one of these books, I would highly recommend them!

15. MOM, WILL THIS CHICKEN GIVE ME MAN BOOBS? by Robyn Harding. C- Autobiographical account of the struggles of a whiny Canadian woman with trying to be "green" and live an eco-friendly life. I guess I was just expecting more hints and tips--or even some real INFORMATION about living a green life rather than just a long-winded justification as to why she didn't/couldn't/wouldn't do certain 'green' things. She tried to be funny, but the humor was forced and most of the time didn't even elicit a smile from me. She mostly sounded like a spoiled brat whose sole purpose was to appear to be a certain way to people around her. It was guilt trip after guilt trip as she showed how she didn't keep up with the Greens in her efforts, followed by a big shrug and "Oh well, I did try, and at least I'm not a crazy nutball like the real tree huggers." Whatever. If this hadn't been my bathroom book, read in small chunks over many weeks, I doubt I would have finished it.

16.SLASH AND BURN by Colin Cotterill. A+ #7 Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery set in 1970's Laos. Dr. Siri really wants to retire from his post as the national coroner of Laos. He's only just recovered from near-death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and since he's over seventy, he figures he deserves to spend a few years relaxing with his wife. But he gets roped into one last job on a junket to northern Laos looking for the remains of a missing American pilot. Accompanying Siri--at his insistence, via a little blackmail of Judge Haeng, his nemesis--will be his wife Madame Daeng, his nurse Dtui and her policeman husband Phosy, his morgue assistant Mr. Geung, his good friend Civiali, a few Lao officials and a bunch of American officials, including a delightful American girl who was raised in Laos by missionary parents who serves as their interpreter--since the Judge's nephew who is the 'official' interpreter doesn't actually speak English. When one of the American contingent ends up dead--a supposed accidental suicide--the niggling thought Siri's been having that the whole trip is a set-up comes to the fore as the pieces fall into place and he begins to sort things out. Another wonderful adventure filled with wry humor, outstanding characters and a unique perspective on life. Can't wait til the next one!

And here I am...3 hours and 10 minutes from the end of my self-imposed book buying moratorium. Happy New Year and roll on 2012!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 2011

The year is fast drawing to a close--I'm still hanging in there and have not purchased any books this year. Still doing the occasional cull from my TBR stacks, and planning to do a bunch more this month in a last-ditch effort to close down a few of my bookshelves before we move in February.

BUT...I've just ordered a Kindle Fire! Never thought I'd do it, as I really love "real" books, but I think it's almost a necessity with the limited space I'll have at the new place. Still not going to order any books for it til 2012, but I'll have to borrow a couple to try it out. :) Addendum: so far, so good! I think the Kindle Fire will be great! I am still fiddling with it and playing around...have read a few chapters in my borrowed book and it reads easy, I have to say.

On to the reading list!

1. DEATH WILL HELP YOU LEAVE HIM by Elizabeth Zelvin (#2 Bruce Kohler mystery) C+ Second (and so far last) book in the Bruce Kohler mystery series. Bruce is a recovering alcohol/drug addict living in New York and the story centers around him and his two best friends, Jimmy (also in recovery) and Barbara (Jimmy's girlfriend, and a counselor.) A friend of Barbara's is suspected of killing her drug-dealer boyfriend and the trio get involved with trying to figure out who else might have killed him so as to clear Luz's name. While I like these characters well enough, for me the book was just a little too heavy on recovery/addict jargon, and the whole recovery process was focused on much more than the mystery itself IMO. The first book was more interesting because it was different--Bruce woke up hungover in a detox unit in the Bowery, so was newly sober. Now he is 10 months out and his whole life centers around AA and staying sober. Perhaps for someone with addiction issues it would be more interesting, but it was just too much for me.

2. A TASTE FOR DEATH by P.D. James (#7 Cmdr. Adam Dalgliesh mystery) (AUDIO) C+ I normally enjoy the Adam Dalgliesh series very much, but this one seemed to drag on and on as the mystery into the murder of Sir Paul Barrone, a Minister of Parliament, and a tramp in the vestry of a church went onwards. There just seemed to be too much extraneous detail, too much wandering off into the lives of minor characters which left me often thinking, "Get ON with the story already!" It's also one of the few where I knew the bad guy almost straight away. I guess every author is allowed an 'off' book--it's certainly not enough to put me off reading more. Another consideration is that this book is the first audio production of a P.D. James book I've listened to rather than read in print, so perhaps that impacted my feeling about the book too. Although the reader was perfectly skillful, the excess of posh, snooty voices grew rather tiresome after awhile.

3. TERRA INCOGNITA by Ruth Downie (#2 Ruso the Medicus historical mystery) C+ This second book in the series sees Ruso, a medicus with the Twentieth legion, on the way north from Deva (modern-day Chester) to the border with the 'wild barbarians' of which his housekeeper Tilla is one. A near-fatal cart accident along the way necessitates an amputation and Ruso is conscripted to fill in for the local medic who's gone mad, and also to investigate the death of the trumpeter, who had an interesting sideline. I enjoyed the story, I really like Ruso and the other main characters, the humor, the period detail. BUT. It was just too long and convoluted, with too many characters to keep straight and too many little side plots distracting from the main mystery. I found myself skimming through the midsection of the book.

4. THE WARDED MAN by Peter V. Brett (#1 Demon trilogy) A WOW! An excellent first book of a planned trilogy set in a world 300 years after a great war left mankind struggling to stay alive against demons, which come out at sunset and fade with the dawn. The corelings as the demons are called, take various shapes and have different qualities but very few humans survive interaction with them, staying inside their heavily warded homes after dusk. Magic symbols make up the wardings that keep the demons from attacking, and only brave men like the Messengers who carry powerful portable warding circles, would be outdoors after dark. This story tells of three children--Arlen, Leesha and Rojer--who grow up in different isolated villages and have dreams of seeing the world one day. They all have different talents and the story takes place over several years as they grow into adulthood and their talents become more readily apparent. Excellent storytelling, great characters, looks like another wonderful series in the 'dark fantasy' subgenre. Yay!

5. A CUP OF JO by Sandra Balzo (#6 Maggy Thorsen mystery) See review on the Paperbackswap Mystery Monday blog here:

6. RIVER MARKED by Patricia Briggs (#6 Mercy Thompson paranormal) (AUDIO) C+ Sixth in this series about 'walker' Mercy Thompson (she shapeshifts to Coyote) and her mate, werewolf pack leader Adam Hauptmann. They are off on their honeymoon and get tangled in a web of Native American myths and legends as they are asked to help kill a vicious river monster. First one of these I've listened to rather than read, and I liked the reader's voice and reading style. However, the story itself was somewhat lacking for me. Okay, but not as good as the others.

7. WICKED GAMES by Ellen Hart (#8 Jane Lawless mystery) B- I like this series, and have liked recent ones more than early ones, but this book took a step backwards with Jane turning into a jellyfish, insecure and wibbling about her new love and seeming almost desperate when she suspects Julia is lying to her and is evasive about her life. This is not the Jane I have come to know and enjoy spending time with. On the mystery end of things, Jane gets involved in the family dynamics of the wealthy Kastner family when their son rents Jane's third-floor apartment and the daughter moves down the street and shows an inordinate amount of interest in Jane. Then a private detective contacts Jane to inform her of some of the family's colored past.

8. THE CROSSING PLACES by Elly Griffiths (#1 Ruth Galloway/Harry Nelson mystery) (AUDIO) B+ This first book in series featuring forensic archaeologist and professor Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson started off with a real bang and sucked me into the story right away. Bones have been found in the salt marsh near King's Lynn and Nelson has been led to Ruth to check them out. He believes they might be the bones of a young girl who went missing 10 years previously. They end up being about 2000 years old, but when another girl goes missing in similar circumstances, and Ruth's cat is brutally killed and left on her doorstep, Harry and Ruth's paths keep crossing. I have some serious plausibility issues with the thread dealing with Lucy, the missing girl from 10 years previously which is the only reason I marked the grade down a notch--can't say much without giving things away, but suffice it to say it just didn't seem very likely as written by the author. Other than that though--it was a great book! I have the second one on my library list already.

9. MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs B+ An interesting book about a strange boy who finds out the hard way why he's strange. All his life, he believed his grandfather's fanciful stories were just that--made-up stories about monsters and peculiar children living in a home where they were loved and accepted. Even the old photographs Jake suspected were altered--surely there is no girl who can levitate off the ground or another who can lift boulders with one hand?! When his grandfather dies, Jake finds things in his grandfather's belongings that lead him to ask for a trip to a small island off the Welsh coast, and his father, an avid ornithologist, agrees to accompany him to study birds. What Jake finds there astonishes him. A very interesting story, although I am not sure what I thought about the ending. It does seem to leave an opening for a possible sequel.

10. ANGELS PASSING by Graham Hurley (#3 Joe Faraday mystery) B+ Another interesting entry in this British police procedural series set in and around Portsmouth. DI Joe Faraday, once again being sought for promotion, is too busy investigating the death of a teenage girl who may or may not have thrown herself off the roof to even consider it. Meanwhile some of his team are seconded to Major Crimes to work on a hanging death. Faraday's personal life is also in an uproar and he tries to deal with that as well. As usual, quite a page turner, with a good balance of the police cases and personal details of the various characters.

11. THE POACHER'S SON by Paul Doiron (#1 Mike Bowditch mystery) B- Mike Bowditch, 24-year-old Maine Wildlife Ranger finds himself distracted from his job duties when a state-wide manhunt for the killer of two men takes over the whole north woods of Maine. The distraction comes because the man they are hunting is none other than his father, Jack Bowditch, an alcoholic tracker, woodsman and poacher, who is believed to have shot a deputy and the head of a land-development company in cold blood. Mike has never been close to his father, since he and his mother left when Mike was 9 years old--and in fact hadn't spoken to him at all for two years. But while Mike agrees that his dad is a first-class prick, he can't see a motive for his father behind this killing--'he's a bar-brawler, not a cold-blooded killer.' Intent on clearing his father's name, he risks his job, friendships and his life, often wondering why he's doing so. This was a decent first book in series, but I was rather surprised at the award nomination...although I often am, so that's nothing new. LOL For me it had one major flaw that permeated the whole book and undermined the believability of it and it was primarily this than sunk my opinion of it: unless Mike Bowditch was an alien with a vastly different lifespan, there is no way in hell he was 24 years old. It may have been partly the 'voice' the reader on the audio version gave him, but it was more than that--his attitudes, actions and his world-weary demeanor made him seem to be a man in (at the very least) his late 30's, more like someone in their 40's. To me, if you can't believe the character is who he is supposed to be, how can you believe the rest of the story?

12.INK FLAMINGOS by Karen E. Olson (#4 Tattoo Shop mystery) B- This is apparently the last book in the tattoo shop series featuring tattooist Brett Kavanaugh, and I for one am relieved. It sort of ended with a fizzle in my opinion. I like the author's writing style and really enjoyed her other series (which I wish she would have continued) but this one just never worked for me as well...but then, I am no fan of typical cozy mysteries, of which this is one. The tattoo shop setting is what made it unique and interesting for me. I did like the ending, though.

13. SERPENT IN THE THORNS by Jeri Westerson (#2 Crispin Guest medieval mystery) C+ Second in this medieval mystery series featuring Crispin Guest, a former knight who was stripped of lands, title and wealth but spared his life when caught in a treasonous plot seven years previously against young King Richard. Now he lives in the London slums and works as a Tracker, basically a private detective. In this book, he is hired by a scullion in an inn, whose mentally challenged sister keeps confessing to the killing of a French courier--who was carrying a relic that may be the genuine Crown of Thorns. When Crispin comes across the man who betrayed him--and who now happens to be Richard's Captain of the Archers--and he is tied to the case, he tries to find a way to solve the mystery as well as have his revenge. This book was somewhat disappointing, though I can't quite put my finger on exactly why. I know I was somewhat distracted by several typos I found--well, not typos that would have been found on spell check, but things like "that" instead of "than" or the wrong spelling of a word, for example, "make due with..." instead of "make do." So the proofreading/editing was somewhat less than professional. It's dubbed as "medieval noir" but I didn't find it particularly noir-ish. Certainly not a cozy, but noir? Not really. It also gets somewhat repetitious with frequent descriptions of the stink and dirtiness of medieval London. A good story, and I do like Crispin and Jack, but...a bit off the mark this time.

14. WHISKEY SOUR by J.A. Konrath (#1 Jack Daniels mystery) (KINDLE) A This book has the distinction of being the first book I read on my new Kindle Fire. It was easy to read, pages easy to turn, and on top of all that, it was actually a great story! It features Chicago police Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, who is in hot pursuit of a brutal, sadistic serial killer--who tortures women and dismembers them, then dumps them in garbage cans, leaving a shellacked Gingerbread cookie as his calling card. The Gingerbread Man sees Jack as a worthy foe and targets her personally to be one of his victims. Great introduction to this tough Chicago cop and looking forward to reading more in the series!

15. CROWNER ROYAL by Bernard Knight (#13 Crowner John medieval mystery) (AUDIO) B- Crowner John has moved from the Devon west country where he was the Coroner for the county of Devon, but now at the behest of his king has become Coroner of the Verge, dealing with cases within a 12-mile radius of the King's Court, wherever it might be. He's homesick (as is his assistant Gwyn) and bored, as there seems to be very little activity--and when a dead body or two do show up, his jurisdiction is questioned at every turn by the local sheriff.
I wasn't as fond of this book as previous ones in the series...I liked the Devon setting as it's where my husband sister lives, so it was interesting reading about local history there. London and Winchester have been done to death, so to speak. LOL This book was also more fraught with political intrigue on the Royal level (as opposed to local political infighting as in previous books) which has never been a huge interest of mine. So far there's only one more book in this series, so perhaps the author also realizes that the series is growing a little lackluster and is stopping it. I'll certainly finish it off, but if Plague of Heretics is indeed the last, I think it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

16. A LETTER OF MARY by Laurie R. King. #3 Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell historical mystery. A It seems to me that each book in this series gets better--after the first one, which I thought was too long and convoluted, I wasn't sure if I would continue reading the series, but the second and this, the third, were absolutely brilliant! Sherlock Holmes and his new wife, Mary Russell, work again to solve the suspicious death of an old acquaintance, an archaeologist who comes back to England from Palestine with a peculiar gift for Mary. A day later, Dorothy Ruskin is struck down in a London street by an unmarked black motorcar, and only a fool would not make a connection between the two--especially when the Holmes' home is ransacked a day later.Wonderful, multi-faceted mystery with red herrings all over the place and the deeply-layered characters becoming better known to the reader too. Very much looking forward to the next one!

17. I AM HALF SICK OF SHADOWS by Alan Bradley #4 Flavia de Luce historical mystery. (AUDIO) A. (Review pending)

Current reads:

Kindle: CHILDREN OF THE STREET by Kwei Quartey (#2 Darko Dawson mystery set in Ghana)

Audio: THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Spencer Quinn (#4 Chet and Bernie mystery)

Print: THE GRAVEYARD GAME by Kage Baker (#4 in The Company Sci-fi/fantasy series)



Wednesday, October 5, 2011


1. INDEX TO MURDER by Jo Dereske. (#11 Miss Zukas mystery) A

2. GUNSHOT ROAD by Adrian Hyland (#2 Emily Tempest mystery) A+

3. ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS by Peter Robinson (#17 DCI Alan Banks mystery) (AUDIO) B

4. AN ARTIFICIAL NIGHT by Seanan McGuire (#3 October Daye paranormal mystery) B+

5. THE FLEET STREET MURDERS by Charles Finch (#3 Charles Lenox historical mystery) A

6. WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS by Kate Atkinson (#3 Jackson Brodie mystery) (AUDIO) A

7. KILLING KATE by Julie Kramer (#4 Riley Spartz mystery) C+

8. SOUL MUSIC by Terry Pratchett (#16 Discworld fantasy) A

9. THE GREEN MAN by Kate Sedley (#17 Roger the Chapman historical mystery) B

10. THE PURE IN HEART by Susan Hill (#2 Simon Serrailler mystery) A

11. A LESSON IN SECRETS by Jacqueline Winspear (# 8 Maisie Dobbs historical mystery) (AUDIO) A

12. WHITE TOMBS by Christopher Valen (#1 John Santana mystery) C-

13. IN A GILDED CAGE by Rhys Bowen (#8 Molly Murphy mystery) B

14. BURY YOUR DEAD by Louise Penny (#6 Three Pines) A+

15. KITTY'S BIG TROUBLE by Carrie Vaughn (#9 Kitty Norville paranormal) B+

16. IN THE WIND by Barbara Fister (#1 Anni Koskinen mystery) B

17. BEARERS OF THE BLACK STAFF by Terry Brooks ($1 Legends of Shannara) (AUDIO) A

Current reads:



THE WARDED MAN by Peter V. Brett

A TASTE FOR DEATH by P.D. James (audio)


Saturday, September 10, 2011


Well, I'm maintaining my abstinence from book-buying, and am still getting rid of TBR books at a greater rate than I'm acquiring them, although I haven't made a culling run through my shelves for a month or so.

Current numbers (from Feb. 1) are as follows:

Books acquired: 78 (all from Paperbackswap except for 2 freebies from Amazon Vine)

TBR books released: 347

Net loss: 269 books gone

Now, onto my September reading list:

1. THE ENCHANTER'S FOREST by Alys Clare (Hawkenlye Abbey historical mystery #10) B

2. TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE by Michael Koryta (Lincoln Perry mystery #1) (AUDIO) B

3. HEXES AND HEMLINES by Juliet Blackwell (#3 Lily Ivory 'witchcraft' mystery) B-

4. RESOLUTION by Denise Mina (#3 Garnethill trilogy) A

5. THE DAY WILL COME by Judy Clemens (#4 Stella Crown mystery) A

6. A TRAIL OF INK by Mel Starr (#3 Hugh de Singleton historical mystery) B

7. THE HERMIT OF EYTON FOREST by Ellis Peters (#14 Brother Cadfael mystery) (AUDIO) A

8. ARTIFACTS by Mary Anna Evans (#1 Faye Longchamp mystery) B

9. THE DEVIL'S COMPANY by David Liss (#3 Benjamin Weaver historical mystery) (AUDIO) A-

10. READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline B

11. WILD INFERNO by Sandi Ault (#2 Jamaica Wild mystery) C+

12. THE PROTECTOR'S WAR by S.M. Stirling (#2 Change series) A

13. THE SECRET SPEECH by Tom Rob Smith (#2 Leo Demidov mystery) (AUDIO) B

14. HIDDEN MOON by James Church (#2 Inspector O mystery) B+


Sunday, August 7, 2011


Sorry, I'm just too busy and somewhat disinclined to take the time to write reviews, even brief ones. But here's a list of what I've read with grades. That'll have to do for now.

1. A BITTER FEAST by S.J. Rozan. (#5 Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery) B+

2. MATTY GROVES by Deborah Grabien (#3 Haunted Ballad mystery) A

3. ENGLISH LESSONS by J.M. Hayes. (#6 Mad Dog & Englishman mystery) A

4. CROSS by Ken Bruen (#6 Jack Taylor series) A

5. THE BLACK CAT by Martha Grimes (audio) (#22 Richard Jury mystery) B+

6. THE EAGLES' BROOD by Jack Whyte (#3 Camulod Chronicles historical fantasy series) A

7. KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT by Colin Cotterill (#1 Jimm Juree mystery) A

8. THE MANOR OF DEATH by Bernard Knight (#12 Crowner John historical mystery) B

9. NEW TRICKS by David Rosenfelt (audio) (#7 Andy Carpenter mystery) A

10. AFTERTIME by Sophie Littlefield (#1 Aftertime fantasy) B

11. THE VICTIM IN VICTORIA STATION by Jeanne M. Dams (#5 Dorothy Martin mystery) C

12. A PIECE OF JUSTICE by Jill Paton Walsh (#2 Imogen Quy mystery) A

13. THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH by Jacqueline Winspear (audio)(#7 Maisie Dobbs) A+

14. MARCH VIOLETS by Philip Kerr (#1 Bernie Guenther historical mystery) B+

15. THE GREAT TYPO HUNT by Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson (non-fiction) B

16. THE KILLING WAY by Tony Hays (#1 Arthurian mystery) A

17. THE CASE OF THE MAN WHO DIED LAUGHING by Tarquin Hall (audio) (#2 Vish Puri mystery) A

18. THE TAKE by Graham Hurley (#2 Joe Faraday mystery) B+

19. DOWNPOUR by Kat Richardson (#6 Greywalker paranormal mystery) A

20. TIL DEATH by Ed McBain (#9 87th Precinct mystery) B

21. THE BIG DIG by Linda Barnes (AUDIO)(#9 Carlotta Carlyle mystery) B+

22. ARABESK by Barbara Nadel (#3 Cetin Ikmen mystery) B

23. AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR by Patrick Taylor (#1 Irish Country Doctor serial) A

24. MOURNING GLORIA by Susan Wittig Albert (#19 China Bayles mystery)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

JULY 2011 Reading List

1. THE INDIAN BRIDE (APA: CALLING OUT FOR YOU) by Karin Fossum. (AUDIO) #4 Inspector Conrad Sejer mystery in Norway. An Indian woman is found beaten savagely to death near a remote Norwegian village, her face all but unrecognizable. Turns out to be the new bride of one of the villagers who had just returned from Mumbai. He had been unable to collect his wife from the airport because just as he was to leave, he got a call that his sister was very badly injured in a car crash and he had to go to hospital--the cab he'd sent to pick Poona up couldn't locate her, either. Who would do such a thing to a stranger, and why? I didn't like the reader for this book very much, but to be honest, the story itself was rather "meh" as well. Supposed to be a 'thriller' but I found nothing really thrilling about it. I ended up being very annoyed with the detail spent on unimportant things and the lack of actual police work. I wanted to smack Inspector Sejer upside the head, and was totally peeved at the ending, so I have decided this will be the last of this series for me. C-

2. FLESH HOUSE by Stuart MacBride. #4 DS Logan McRae series set in Aberdeen, Scotland. Logan and his co-workers are on the trail of The Flesher, a serial killer who butchers his victims like cattle and dines on his work. He first surfaced nearly twenty years previously, when Logan's boss DI Insch was on the case and failed to successfully prosecute Ken Wiseman, the man everyone knew was guilty. So when human remains turn up at Wiseman's cousin's butcher shop, and several bloody murders ensue, the hounds are once again after Wiseman to exclusion of all others. But is he--was he, even then--the real killer? Gory and full of violence, blood and plenty of macabre humor, I very much enjoyed the book as I have the previous in series. The one problem I have with the series continues to be typos ('out' instead of 'our') misspellings ('wierd' rather than 'weird') and use of wrong word forms ('chord' instead of 'cord') and the like. The body count by the end of the book also (as always) seems excessive and almost ludicrous. But I still really liked the darn thing. Go figure! A

3. THE SEPTEMBER SOCIETY by Charles Finch. #2 Charles Lenox historical mystery set in London in the 1860's. Charles, a peer of the realm as well as (to his family's dismay) a private investigator, is hired by a woman whose son has disappeared from Lincoln College at Oxford. Assured by everyone who knew George Payson that disappearing without notice is definitely out of character, Charles discovers clues that may lead back to the death of George's father in India some twenty years previously. Not my favorite time period, but I do enjoy this cozy historical series which has a good balance of personal character development, historical setting and a rollicking good mystery--which I didn't figure out til the end. Very enjoyable! A

4. MADHOUSE by Rob Thurman. #3 Cal and Niko Leandros paranormal mystery series. Another fast-moving, action-packed read as Cal, Niko and their friends dash around New York battling another otherworldly beast who likes to dine on human flesh. Cal, half-human and half-Auphe (demon) and his all-human warrior brother Niko are on the trail of Sawney Beane with Niko's vampire girlfriend Promise, the puck Robin Goodfellow and a host of others. Dark and at times depressing, quite gory and explicitly violent, the action is also accompanied by plenty of snappy, witty and risque dialogue. This series is what I would call an R-rated Harry Dresden clone, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Oh, there are differences of course but the tone is much the same--and like the Dresden series (and UNlike so many other paranormals) it's not just a sleazy, poorly-disguised romance. A

5. BLOOD HINA by Naomi Hirahara. #4 Mas Arai mystery, featuring the seventy-something Japanese-American gardener in LA. Mas investigates the theft of some Hina dolls that belonged to his best friend's fiance Spoon--and their disappearance caused the bride-to-be to cancel the wedding on the big day itself. Then Haruo himself disappears and Mas is fraught with worry as he uses his harmless old man persona to overhear some interesting information that may lead back to the death of Spoon's first husband some twenty years previously and would mean his friend's life is in jeopardy. Another excellent entry in this series and I'm really, really hoping there will be more forthcoming. I've grown very fond of Mas and want to hear about the next chapter in his story. A+

6. ROBBER'S WINE by Ellen Hart. #7 Jane Lawless mystery in which Jane and her friend Cordelia are heading north on vacation and agree to a slight detour to give a friend whose car is in the shop a ride to her mother's lake home near Grand Rapids to attend an 'important family meeting.' They arrive to find Belle (the mother) missing and the entire household in an uproar, as simply disappearing without notice is very unlike her. Of course she does turn up dead, and Jane and Cordelia forego the pleasure of a trip to the north shore of Lake Superior to stick around for the family and be nosy, which isn't a real comfortable thing since most of the suspects are family. I enjoyed this book quite a lot, although I'm not really that crazy about the popping between points of view often of some rather extraneous characters...sometimes it feels like Jane fades into the background too much. But still a good entry in the series and I look forward to the next. B+

7. DEXTER IS DELICIOUS by Jeff Lindsay. (AUDIO) #5 Dexter mystery, in which the blood-spatter expert and secret serial killer also becomes Dex-Daddy, as his wife Rita gives birth to their daughter Lily Anne. Dex-Daddy is caught off guard by the strong actual human feelings he has for his new offspring and decides that he needs to reform his ways, pushing his 'Dark Passenger' down deep, not listening to its insistent stirrings. Meanwhile, Dexter and his sister, Sergeant Deborah, are on the trail of a coven of cannibals, which would normally be right up Dexter's alley--but leaves him feeling distinctly uncomfortable now that he's trying to lay off the killing, righteous or not. Enjoyable listen--narrated by the author himself, which often doesn't work at all, but in this case is very well done, and the author even sounds somewhat like the guy who plays Dexter on the TV series. The ending was a bit predictable, but I surely did enjoy the getting there, with plenty of dark humor as well as the usual blood and gore and the interesting commentary on normal human behavior from a psychopath. A

8. A MONSTROUS REGIMENT OF WOMEN by Laurie R. King. #2 Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery set in the early 1920's in London and Oxford. Mary becomes involved with an odd spiritualist who also is a suffragette championing the cause of women. When she learns of several deaths associated with the inner circle of Margery Childe's Temple, she investigates and her friend Sherlock Holmes assists peripherally, until Mary herself ends up in grave danger, and then Holmes' role intensifies. I wasn't sure I was going to continue reading this series after the first one, which I liked but found a bit cumbersome. This second entry, by contrast, was nearly impossible to put down. A

9. A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES by Rebecca Cantrell. #2 Hannah Vogel historical mystery set in 1930's Germany. Hannah and her son by default, Anton, are on a zeppelin from South America (where they have been hiding for 3 years) to Switzerland, covering a news story, when it is diverted to Germany. Ernst Rohm has found her and captures Hannah and Anton--who is supposedly his natural son--intending to force her to marry him to quash rumors of his (forbidden) homosexuality. Before that can happen, Rohm is snatched and executed by Hitler, and someone has kidnapped Anton. Hannah will not leave Germany until she gets him back and this leads her on a dangerous journey that puts her life in mortal danger many times as she struggles to figure out who she can trust. Excellent second entry in this series with immersion into the culture of Germany as the Nazi party is just coming into control of the country. Hannah is an interesting, well-fleshed character and I look forward to the next entry to see what she gets up to. Highly recommended! A+

10. WHERE DEATH DELIGHTS by Bernard Knight. First of a series set in 1950's England that features Dr. Richard Pryor, a forensic pathologist just setting up his independent business after being given his notice at his former job in Singapore. He moves into a large house on the Welsh-English border that he inherited from his aunt and with business partner Dr. Angela Bray, who handles the lab side of things, sets out to make his mark. Working by word of mouth and referrals from colleagues, Dr. Pryor soon finds himself busier than a one-armed paperhanger with several cases. While this book is somewhat bland, I did enjoy it and was amazed how quickly I finished. It's an interesting historical perspective, both with forensic detail when that field was just beginning to bloom, and from the setting of England in 1955 just beginning the post-war boom. The characters were rather two-dimensional and somewhat stereotypical, but I enjoyed the book overall and will continue reading the series. B

11. TURNSTONE by Graham Hurley. #1 DI Joe Faraday series set in Portsmouth, UK. This book introduces Faraday, a long-time widower about to become an empty-nester as his 22-year-old son JJ, who is deaf, finds love in France. Joe tends to be one of those cops who follows his gut instincts rather than 'just the facts, ma'am' and this often gets him in trouble with his superiors. A kind, sensitive soul who is an avid birdwatcher, Faraday chases vague clues about a man who is missing, reported so by his eight-year-old daughter, and believes him dead, but he's having a hard time convincing his boss to put serious effort into the investigation, which centers around the Fastnet yacht races. Meanwhile, there's also an ongoing drugs investigation, the owner of a high-end mall complex screaming bloody murder about vandalism done to luxury autos in their parking garage. Faraday himself is a well-fleshed, likable character, but the rest of his team were, to me, kind of cliched and not terribly interesting. I liked the author's writing style and the real sense of place with the beaches and shores around Portsmouth and environs, although the mystery wasn't terribly hard to figure out. A very enjoyable first entry in series. A-

12. THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS by Donna Leon. (AUDIO) #17 Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery set in Venice. Brunetti investigates the drowning death of a young Rom (gypsy) girl, who apparently died during a home robbery. The question: did she fall or was she pushed into the canal? He also looks into the affairs of the leader of an odd cult, asked by a childhood friend of his brother's, now a priest. Is the man a charlatan, luring money away from gullible followers, or is he genuinely concerned with the welfare of his group? Guido also adjusts to life without his aged, demented mother who has passed away. Enjoyable, atmospheric visit to Venice, as always, but I have to say that I grow a bit weary of this same plot--the 'bad guys' being powerful people--or at least people with powerful friends--whom Guido and his fellow officers are not even allowed to question or investigate too closely and who will likely never see 'justice' in the sense of legal prosecution. This was the first time I have listened to an audio book of this series, and the narration was well done--I think it's just that these stories are getting a bit tired. B+

13. THE THREE KINGS OF COLOGNE by Kate Sedley. #16 Roger the Chapman historical mystery set in the late 1400's England. A body discovered on a patch of land that had belonged to a nunnery, now being developed by the mayor-elect of Bristol as an almshouse and sanctuary proves to be a missing young woman who disappeared twenty years previously. The mayor pays Roger to investigate and hopes to find the girl's killer so he feels right about having the ground reconsecrated. This is the first time Roger has set his chapman's bag aside and accepted money for his investigations, and he's uneasy about doing so. As usual, he noses around, is attacked and warned off a few times before coming to the truth. Enjoyable as always. A

14. WHITE NIGHTS by Ann Cleeves. #2 of the Shetland Island quartet featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez. At an art showing that features well-known Island matriarch Bella Sinclair as well as her nephew, famous fiddler Roddy Sinclair, and also the artwork of Perez's new girlfriend Fran Hunter, a stranger in black stops in front of a painting and begins sobbing hysterically, claiming he can't remember who he is and why he is there, or why he is so moved by the painting. He disappears into the night, but the next morning he's found hanging in a fishing shack not far from the gallery, but it's easily ascertained that he was murdered. The first step is to figure out who the guy is and also to isolate who had possible opportunity to do the deed. After the initial oddness of the story sucked me in, there were parts of the book that seemed rather washed out, as though they were filler in the book, and wandered a bit off track sometimes and lost focus. I was also not real keen on Perez's constant relationship angst and self-doubt, which gets old after a bit. I had the killer pegged from the get-go and had a good guess as to the reason once a few clues fell in place. Despite these flaws, the wonderful atmosphere of the Shetland Islands painted with the author's words made it a definite worthwhile read and I do intend to finish this series. B

15. FLIPPING OUT by Marshall Karp. #3 Lomax and Biggs mystery in which the two detectives investigate the murder of several of their co-workers' wives. Eventually the potential pool of victims is narrowed to a few people involved with a 'house flipping' business where a home is purchased, made famous by one of the members--a mystery writer--and then renovated and sold at huge profit. Problem is, there doesn't seem to be a motive as the business is hugely successful and anyone associated with it is making money. Our savvy detectives eventually get there, though, flying under their boss's radar. A quick, fun read although I had figured out the bad guy way in advance, I didn't know exactly what the motive was until close to the end. I like the two detectives a lot and enjoy the sassy writing style. Looking forward to the next. A

16. CATALOGUE OF DEATH by Jo Dereske. #10 Miss Zukas mystery in which a snowstorm hits the usually temperate Bellehaven and during the storm, an explosion kills an elderly man who was the library's benefactor, he having donated the land for the new library. Or did he? Miss Zukas finds out through her investigation that there was no written agreement and now his family are squabbling over the land which his brothers had wanted developed for condominiums. Enjoyable visit to Bellehaven with Helma, Ruth and the rest of the gang. A

17. THE BOWL OF NIGHT by Rosemary Edghill. #3 and final Bast mystery set in mid 1990's New York. Karen Hightower, a Wiccan who thinks of herself as Bast, is headed out of the city for HallowFest, a Pagan festival set on a campground a couple hours' drive north of New York. Shortly after arriving, she discovers the murdered body of a preacher whom no one liked, with his vociferous rantings about the evils of paganism. When Bast looks closely at the body, he appears to have been ritually murdered, although she cannot imagine anyone she knows doing such a thing. Before long, she's working with one of the deputies as a sort of liaison between the police and the Pagans, many of whom are less than cooperative with law enforcement, given previous bad experiences they've had. Enjoyable ending to the series; I do like this character and wish the author had been able to continue on. B

18. IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM by Stefanie Pintoff. #1 Simon Ziele historical mystery set in 1905 New York and also Dobson, a smaller town north of the city. The brutal murder of a young woman in Dobson leads Ziele back to the city, dealing with academics from Columbia University, criminologists who are studying the minds of criminals--and who suspect they know who committed this horrible crime. Of course, it's very rarely the first person suspected who is the actual killer, and this was a cat and mouse tale until the very end with plenty of action as well as character development so that by the end of the book I felt I had a pretty good idea of who Simon Ziele was--and he's someone I definitely want to read more about. Excellent first entry--hard to believe it was a first novel!--and glad to have the next here waiting for me. A

19. HANGING CURVE by Troy Soos. (AUDIO) Final entry in the Mickey Rawlings historical baseball series. The books' settings are each spaced out by a few years, and this one takes place in 1922 St. Louis as Mickey, still a utility infielder, plays for the St. Louis Browns. Each of his books also deals with social issues of the day, and this one deals with the Negro baseball leagues, Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan and lynchings, and it was a very painful book to listen to. It was excellent--just made me mad as hell. I am sad, too, that there are no more books in this series. I've thoroughly enjoyed knowing Mickey and Margie, his friends and (the author's real strength) the historical settings and social issues happening in the different cities Mickey's played in. I've listened to all these in the audio format, read by Johnny Heller, who does an excellent job with the 'tone' of the books and has become Mickey's voice to me. Farewell, Mickey, and thanks for the entertainment! A.

Currently reading:

MATTY GROVES by Deborah Grabien


Saturday, June 4, 2011

JUNE 2011 Reading

Another month, and still holding fast with my pledge not to buy any books for money this year. I've been working at paring down my physical TBR stacks too, so far having a net loss of about 120 books that I've either read and gotten rid of or else removed and posted at Paperbackswap. I'm also continuing to remove books from my Wishlist and adding them to my library lists.

I am also going to be paring down on my book reviews somewhat, and just making note of what I've read and give a grade and a few brief thoughts, with occasional exceptions. Writing reviews is getting to seem too much like a job, especially when I'm busy and get behind with a dozen or so to spit out...I'd rather spend my time actually reading than trying to coherently tell you what I thought of a book.'s my list for June:

1. THE GHOSTWAY by Tony Hillerman. (AUDIO) #6 in the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee "Navajo" mysteries, although this one featured just Jim Chee. Read by George Guidall, my favorite reader, so it was a delight to listen to. Chee begins to investigate a shooting death, mostly on his own since the FBI is involved and has warned the Navajo Tribal cops off. Lucky for him, he finds that the shooting is related to the disappearance of a Navajo girl that he's already been investigating. Excellent as always. A.

2. THE OTTOMAN CAGE by Barbara Nadel. #2 Cetin Ikmen mystery set in modern Istanbul, Turkey. Ikman, Sgt. Suleyman and their team investigate the death of a young drug addict found in a bizarre locked room in an apartment next to the Topkapi Palace, and the autopsy brings up a number of irregularities that has everyone scratching their heads. Very atmospheric, with an interesting protagonist--how many police stories are written with the main character married with eight children?--and some strong secondary characters, but honestly the mystery itself was almost not a mystery the clues laid out so openly even a caveman could figure this one out. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it though! B+

3. SPILLING THE BEANS by Clarissa Dickson Wright. Autobiography of the television personality who makes up half of the "Two Fat Ladies" which was one of my favorite cooking shows. While the stories and anecdotes themselves were very interesting and worth reading, I found that the book itself was not very well written/constructed with lots of jumping around, rambling, and a general lack of cohesiveness. I liked finding out more about this very amazing woman, but I wished the book had been a little easier to read. B.

4. SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN by Donna Leon. #16 Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery set in Venice, Italy. Guido is called out in the middle of the night because the Carabinieri have done a raid on a prominent pediatrician's home and busted him for adopting a child illegally. The wife called the police since she had no idea what was happening, so Guido's team showed up only to find the invaders WERE the police...but they had not been pre-informed by the Carabinieri of the impending raid, as is standard procedure. The doctor was beaten, the story being that he attacked one of the officers (who had a minor injury) but the severity of the beating belies this. Guido then gets involved with the investigation into an illegal adoption ring, involving foreign women handing their babies over to brokers, who then place the child in homes of people with mega-moola to pay. Once again his superior has warned him off looking too deep, so most of Guido's investigating is on his own and of course ties into another legitimate investigation. Enjoyable visit to Venice as always, with another hot social topic addressed. A.

5. THE FAMOUS FLOWER OF SERVING MEN by Deborah Grabien. #2 in the "Haunted Ballads" series featuring the couple Ringan Laine (folk singer and property restorer) and Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes (actress and theatre troupe leader.) Penny is left a bequest in a will--an abandoned theatre in London--from an eccentric great-aunt she met only once. The theatre is, of course, haunted and as they begin restoration on it and rehearsals for the first play, the troupe members and both Penny and Ringan begin hearing voices in French as well as a nasty stench. This means they need to research to find who the ghost is and how they can get rid of her. Sounds sort of simplistic, but it's really not--it's a very atmospheric, eerie, graphic ghost story tied to the folk song with the same title as the book. As the author owns in her forward to the book, some of the information is historically sound and other parts are made up--it IS fiction, after all. I thoroughly enjoyed and devoured this book, with the author's setting you down right in the midst of wherever she put you at the time and you becoming oblivious to the outside world. Wunnerful! A.

6. BOOKMARKED TO DIE by Jo Dereske. #9 Helma Zukas mystery. Helma's forty-second birthday comes around and leaves her feeling a little out of sorts, especially when Chief of Police, Wayne Gallant, doesn't send a card or gift or even acknowledge the day. Distracted as she is, Helma still has time to investigate the deaths of a couple of Local Authors who have attended a meeting at the library to spotlight their works. She's also busy looking for her cat, whom Helma's friend Ruth managed to lose. Enjoyable visit to Bellehaven and the library as always. A.

7. PROPHECY by S.J. Parris. (AUDIO) #2 in the Giordano Bruno historical series set in and around events at Queen Elizabeth's court in the 1580's. Bruno, an excommunicated Catholic monk, works for Elizabeth's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and has infiltrated the home of the French Ambassador to see if he can learn more about a Catholic plot against QE. Along the way, he hopes to do some consulting and studying with Dr. John Dee, Elizabeth's head astrologer, but ends up being too busy to do much work on his book, as the deaths of two of QE's court ladies keeps him hopping. Enjoyable enough read with John Lee doing the narrating, but I didn't like this as well as the first in series. This one was right at QE's court (whereas the first one was somewhat distanced) and I pretty much OD'd on the Good Queen Bess a few years ago, so it was less than enthralling. I do like Bruno as a central character though and will likely continue listening on when Sacrilege comes out next year. B.

8. THE GODFATHER OF KATHMANDU by John Burdett. #4 Sonchai Jitpleecheep mystery set in Bangkok, Thailand (and also in part in Kathmandu, Nepal.) Sonchai is called to the scene of a brutal murder, an American film producer/director who was essentially gutted, with the top of his head sawed off and a few bites of his brains scooped onto a plate, partially consumed. (No...this is not a cozy. LOL) This murder mystery takes the back seat to the rest of the goings-on, with Sonchai becoming his boss Colonel Vikorn's consigliere (after Vikorn watches The Godfather) in his drug-running business, thus heading to Kathmandu and meeting an advanced Buddhist scholar who blows Sonchai's mind (or something like that.) I nearly gave up on the book, because at first it is very confusing and scattered. It then turned into a great story during the middle third, and then wandered again, with portions that are hard to understand (lots to do with Buddhist philosophy/belief) and some tangents that are just a little too far out there, even for me, who loves the weird and esoteric. Not sure yet if I will continue this series, but this certainly was a disappointment to me. C.

9. A SECRET AND UNLAWFUL KILLING by Cora Harrison. #2 Burren historical mystery featuring the Brehon Mara. When the unpopular steward of clan MacNamara is found murdered in a churchyard the day after the Michealmas faire, it's up to Mara to determine who killed him and enforce the Brehon laws that have governed Ireland for centuries. A second death complicates matters, but the miller Aengus may actually have been killed before the steward. Mara can't help but believe they are somehow connected, but has difficulty figuring out who had motive, means and opportunity to commit both crimes. Enjoyable historical, very atmospheric and with a strong sense of place and time, although I must admit I felt a bit weary at the end of it all, with Mara having to traipse up and down the roads several times a day on her horse to gather information. I have to admit I wasn't sure who the killer was until close to the end. B+

10. FRIEND OF THE DEVIL by Peter Robinson. (AUDIO) #17 DCI Alan Banks mystery set in Yorkshire, UK. An old case resurfaces when DI Annie Cabbot, on loan to a nearby constabulary, determines that the young, wheelchair-bound woman with her throat slashed was not Karen Drew, but none other than Lucy Payne, part of a notorious husband-and-wife team who kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered several teenage girls six years previously. (The events taking place in Robinson's book Aftermath.) Meanwhile, Banks is working on the rape and strangulation murder of a college student in a dark and secluded maze in Eastvale, and a second murder in that case eventually ties together with Annie's case. I enjoyed listening to this audiobook version, although the reader (Simon Prebble) is a different one than previous books in the series, I've listened to him read before and had no problem with the transition. Skillfully plotted, although the solution to Annie's case was very obvious to me. I like Banks and Annie, and it was hard to watch Annie go through some difficult personal problems in this book. Only two more to catch up to current, so now the rationing comes in. LOL A.

11. THE MERCHANT'S HOUSE by Kate Ellis. #1 DS Wesley Peterson mystery. Wesley is newly installed as a DS in Tradmouth, South Devon after working for several years in London. He's greeted on his first day with a murder when a dog-walker finds a body of an unidentified woman, her face bashed in. While he's soon busy jumping right in with the investigation, Wesley has a few personal things to deal with too--his wife's depression over her continued infertility and being a minority in a predominantly white population. There's also a missing toddler case, and Wesley's archaeologist friend Neil's dig, in which they find a centuries-old murdered corpse as well. I found this book to be rather choppy, scattered and somewhat amateurishly written, but that may be because I've read some of the author's later work (her second series) and it's quite obvious that she's matured as a writer over the years. It's a decent introduction, but there seemed to be too much going on in such a short book, and it was definitely not up to par with her later work. If I weren't aware of the later improvement, I'm not sure I'd continue reading this series. C+

12. DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS by P.D. James. #6 Cmdr. Adam Dalgliesh mystery in which he heads north to a rather remote village to investigate the death of the Director of a crime lab. Dr. Lorrimer was much-disliked, with many suspects with motive, but means and opportunity are problematic as he was in the lab building after hours and access was much restricted. As usual, James spends about the first third of the book setting the scene before Dalgliesh even enters the picture, and as usual, the story was brilliantly, intricately plotted with all the clues there, but well-hidden. Enjoyable classic mystery read! A

13. THE FOURTH ASSASSIN by Matt Beynon Rees. #4 Omar Yussef mystery. These are usually set in Bethlehem, where Omar works as a teacher, but he is in New York this time to give a talk to the UN about education in the refugee camps. Upon arrival, he goes to visit his son, but finds a decapitated body at Ala's apartment, a body that turns out to be Ala's roommate and Omar's former student. Ala is subsequently arrested and Omar is frantic to get him released. Bethlehem's police chief is also in NY providing security for their President at the UN conference, and the two of them set out to investigate, encountering the usual political corruption and violence along the way. I'm not usually fond of series books that send the main character on a road trip away from their home base, but this one works pretty well, putting Omar Yussef in the Little Palestine area of New York. The story is well-told, but it's hard to read these without feeling a great sense of sadness and anger at the mess we've made of our world. I do hope the author plans to continue the series--Omar is a strong character with flaws that make him very believable and I've come to be very fond of him. A

14. STILL MIDNIGHT by Denise Mina. (AUDIO) #1 Alex Morrow mystery set in Glasgow, Scotland. Alex is a Detective Sergeant who ends up working a botched kidnapping case in which the sixty-year-old Amir Anwar is taken rom his comfortable suburban home by an amateurish group of thugs. Problem is, the kidnappers seem to have gotten the wrong guy--they were after some guy named Bob. Mr. Anwar is a Ugandan political refugee who owns a small corner shop, not someone you'd expect to have a two million quid ransom lying around. The case looks to be a big one and Morrow is disappointed when her rival of the same rank, golden boy Grant Bannerman, is given SIO for the case and she has to take orders from him. Morrow also deals with personal demons that make just doing the day-to-day of her job none too easy. Wonderfully read by Jane MacFarlane, this book kept me listening for hours at a time and not wanting to stop. Gritty and fast-paced with interesting twists and turns, and I look forward to seeing what Alex gets up to in her next adventure. A

15. FLASHPOINT by Linda Barnes. #8 Carlotta Carlyle mystery set in Boston. Carlotta, a licensed PI, is hired by an elderly woman in a rent-controlled property--one of the few remaining in the Fens neighborhood--as a security consultant. When the seemingly paranoid and batty woman is found dead by Carlotta upon returning with her new locks and equipment, Carlotta is then hired by a wealthy music-business owner to see if the woman was his great-grandmother. Interesting, fast-paced read with snappy dialogue and the always-interesting characters, although with a fairly obvious murderer. Enjoyable. B

16. HAVE MERCY ON US ALL by Fred Vargas. #3 Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg mystery set in Paris. In this atmospheric thriller, a history scholar reports to the police that someone may be about to unleash the plague on Paris. Someone has been anonymously posting messages via a town crier in one of the neighborhoods, and the scholar finally pieces together where the messages are taken from. This news coupled with someone painting bizarre-looking 4's on doors in a few neighborhoods has Adamsberg worried, and sure enough, it's not long before their first victim turns up--not dead of plague, although they are meant to look like it. More bodies begins to incite widespread panic as Adamsberg and his team hunt down leads. A very interesting mystery with a very interesting main character. A

17. WINTERSMITH by Terry Pratchett. (AUDIO) #3 in the Tiffany Aching sub-series of the Discworld fantasy novels, in which Tiffany, a witch-in-training, attends the Black Morris dance (signaling the beginning of winter) and accidentally dances with the Wintersmith who subsequently thinks she is the Summer Lady and sets out to make himself human so he can woo her. Tiffany, meanwhile, also has to deal with her current tutor, Miss Treason, dying and having her sort-of friend and fellow trainee Annagramma take over Miss Treason's cottage as a full-fledged witch, displacing Tiffany to the tutelage of Nanny Ogg up Lancre way. And of course all the while the Nac Mac Feegle are in the thick of things protecting their 'wee big hag,' with Tiffany's blue cheese wheel Horace donning a kilt and joining them. Brilliant is about all I can say, though it's not nearly enough. A+

18. HELL IS EMPTY by Craig Johnson. #7 Walt Longmire mystery in which Walt ends up mostly alone in the high reaches of the Bighorn Mountains as he plods after a prisoner, a ruthless psychopath who escaped in a prisoner transfer gone horribly wrong. Alone with his thoughts, fears, and possibly some strange Native American spirits, Walt isn't sure what's real and what's not. I will say that so far this is my least favorite of the series--not because of the large amount of so-called 'woo woo' ('paranormal/spirit activity') but because one of the big strengths of this series--the wonderful secondary characters--were largely missing, as was the banter and interaction between Walt and his friends, family and co-workers. I fully respect the author's right to fiddle around and make each book unique in its own right, I'm just saying I didn't like this one as much. I rather felt the same way about the one that took Walt out of Wyoming to Philadelphia, as that one was missing another important character in the series--the Wyoming setting. What can I say--I likes what I likes! B

Current reads:

19. AMONG THE MAD by Jacqueline Winspear


Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 2011

1. THE SATURDY BIG-TENT WEDDING PARTY by Alexander McCall Smith (AUDIO) #12 No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series in which Mma Kutsi and her fiance Phuti Radiphuti finally are planning their wedding, and in which Mma Ramotswe has heard rumors that someone has fixed her (former) tiny white van and thinks she may have spotted it around Gabarone. While her new blue van is fine, she still has feelings for that tiny white van and would like nothing more than to be able to drive it again. She also deals with a case in which someone has killed a couple of cattle belonging to a farmer out near Lobatse--and not just killed, but sliced the tendons in their legs so that their death was slow and painful, which is totally unacceptable to Mma Ramotswe, whose father the late Obed Ramotswe was a cattle man. The lady detectives also have problems with Charlie, one of the apprentices at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors--he is apparently the father of twins and is not owning up to his responsibility as their father. As with all of these books, there isn't much of a mystery, it's more a visit with friends to hear the continuing saga of their lives and spend a few hours in a totally different culture. As always, I enjoyed this visit even if it is a somewhat syrupy-sweet view through rose-colored glasses. The reader for the audio versions is great and does a wonderful job with the voices, accents and nuances of the stories. A

2. THE PRODIGAL SON by Kate Sedley. #15 Roger the Chapman medieval mystery set in the UK. Roger is in the Green Lattis pub savoring an ale when a stranger approaches several people including the chapman, asking after news of his brother's ship that sailed from Bristol several weeks previously. There has been no news, but Roger thinks he's met the young man somewhere before, but can't quite place John Wedmore. Until a day later when the sheriff comes calling, stating he's got young Mr. Wedmore in his jail, accused of being a thief and murderer, implicated by a countrywoman who named him her page six years ago. And he's asked to speak to Roger--who subsequently learns that John Wedmore is his previously unknown half-brother and he realizes he 'recognized' his father's facial features in the young man. Roger ends up journeying out to Wells, where he was born and grew up, to the country manor of his brother's accuser to see what he can learn about this six-year-old murder in hopes of exonerating him. Meanwhile, a long lost son returns to that manor at the same time as Roger and begins stirring up a hornet's nest. Enjoyable visit as always to 14th century England. The mysteries are not terribly difficult to figure out, but the writing style, the characters and historical ambience make all the difference. A

3. GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen. Not sure how to categorize this book...I guess a combination of magical realism (comparable to Alice Hoffman, perhaps)...and a hefty dose of chick lit would be about right. It's the story of the Waverley sisters, Claire and Sydney, and how they each come to find themselves and some basic truths about their family. Everyone in the small town they live in knows the Waverley women have always been a little strange, and the present generation has also inherited some of the Waverley magic. Claire now lives in the old Waverley house, working as a caterer who does 'special' work--meals concocted from edible flowers and herbs from the Waverley garden that affect people certain ways depending on the ingredients. There's also an apple tree in the garden that throws apples at people. Sydney, who's been absent for ten years without a word, flitting around the country much as their mother did, Claire imagines, shows up one day with her daughter Bay in tow, seeking refuge. As they learn to become sisters again and deal with their strange elderly Aunt Evanelle and the unwanted attentions of a couple of local men, both women begin to find where they fit into the grand scheme of things. An interesting, though easily read book without any real surprises, predictable in many ways, and yet this author has such a wonderful way of weaving words together that it has moments of absolute brilliance and was very difficult to put down, although the neatly wrapped up ending was rather anti-climactic. When looking back on the whole package was okay, though not spectacular. B+

4. A FIELD OF DARKNESS by Cornelia Read. #1 Madeline Dare mystery set in 1980's Syracuse, NY. Madeline is a reporter--well, she writes mostly filler pieces for the local newspaper in Syracuse, NY where she moved with her husband Dean who is an engineer, a designer, mostly roughing it working on railroads while on the side working on a device that will save a lot of time and money. Madeline comes from old money, as in Mayflower old money--but her parents fell out of the money loop--her mother having divorced and remarried several times and her father a paranoid aging hippy living in a trailer in California. Madeline longs to be part of that inner circle again, but she's not a whiner--she just does what she has to do to get by, including living in butt-ugly Syracuse in a dismal apartment. Then one day Dean's uncle--his family are farmers in the area near Syracuse--brings up an old unsolved mystery in which two girls who were never identified were brutally murdered, their bodies posed--and hands Madeline a set of dog tags that just happen to belong to her cousin Lapthorne--one of the moneyed set. They were found by a local farmer not far from where the girls were found but never reported to the police--and Madeline is instantly intrigued and sets out to clear her cousin's name--even though she hasn't seen him in more than ten years, he's always been one of the good guys in her eyes and she doesn't want to go to the police yet. Her searches lead her down some dark and scary paths, with suspects suddenly falling out of the trees, and when it's obvious the killer realizes she's investigating, she begins to fear for her own safety--but is her fear misplaced? Someone close to her is leaking information, but who? Great read! I am not a big fan of frou-frou books about people with money, but I really like Madeline, and this story was a doozie! The author also is a very dynamic writer, with certain phrases and descriptions that leap out at you and give such a sense of place and...I don't know...feeling, I guess. Definitely not a cozy, and probably not the best choice for my "bedtime" read, but a great one nonetheless. A+

5.HUNTING A DETROIT TIGER by Troy Soos. (AUDIO) #4 Mickey Rawlings historical baseball mystery series, this one set mostly in Detroit in 1920, where Mickey is currently playing ball as a utility infielder. Mickey, at a union organizing rally, ends up accused of shooting one of the principals, Emmet Siever, although he's not charged as it's termed self-defense. Trouble is, Mickey didn't shoot him at all, and he wants to know who's set him up so conveniently--and who the real killer is. The publicity has turned his Tiger teammates against him, and a union-busting 'personnel manager' with the backing of the Tigers owner wants him to badmouth the union--when what Mickey wants is not to be involved at all. Add in a mysterious fake policeman (whom Mickey later learns is actually a federal agent in the organization that was the predecessor of the FBI) and Marguerite Turner, an actress that Mickey had a relationship with a couple of books ago and the story gets really interesting. Karl Landfors, Mickey's socialist newspaper reporter friend also makes an appearance to help Mickey navigate his way through all the different radical groups trying to organize workers. Very enjoyable listen as always. The reader does a great job at setting the tone and with the various voices throughout the book. The author picks a social issue of the times in each book, one that intersects somehow with baseball. In this book, it's the birth of the unions, the attempts to organize baseball players and the beginnings of the FBI and the power they wield over those whom they target as radicals, regardless of the truth. Great sense of time and place, infused with the spirit of baseball when it was young. A

6. WALKING A PERFECT SQUARE by Reed Farrel Coleman. #1 Moe Prager mystery set in New York City in the late 1970s--and in the late 1990's as well. Moe is an ex-cop, farmed out on disability from an on the job injury. In 1978, one of his cop buddies asks him to look privately into the disappearance of a college student, Patrick Maloney, even though Moe isn't officially a PI. He's been missing about 2 months when Moe first encounters the case, which the boy's father is 'paying' him in favors to look into...expediting the liquor license Moe and his brother Aaron will need for their planned wine shop--and some help in getting the wine shop itself going. After just a short time, Moe senses something is decidedly askew with the Maloney's disappearance--and with his father's efforts to find him. For example, the photo used for the 'have you seen this person?' flyers is from his high school prom--a couple of years old, and Maloney had drastically changed his appearance since then. Why would Mr. Maloney not use the up-to-date likeness of his son instead? In talking with friends and family of Patrick, Moe gets very different vibes as to what he was like--and he definitely had some sort of mental condition, possibly obsessive-compulsive disorder. As Moe continues investigating, he is first warned anonymously and then paid off by the father to drop it. However, Patrick's sister Katy hires Moe to continue, and he finds himself falling for her. He knows there must be something fishy going on because he's attacked and his car is blown up--which just makes him more curious. The story intermittently pops ahead into 1998, with Moe going to the bedside of a dying man in a hospice who has asked his nurse to summon Moe--he has no idea who he is, but he's uttered the magic words, "Patrick Maloney." I really enjoyed this story, and I like Moe a lot. There were a few typos or misspelled words/wrong homophones used ('sight' instead of 'site' is one I recall off the top of my head) that I found a bit distracting, but the writing style is very readable and the story itself sucked me in right from the get-go and I found it difficult to put down. I'll definitely be continuing on in this series! A-

7. PIECE OF MY HEART by Peter Robinson (AUDIO) #16 DCI Alan Banks mystery set in Yorkshire, UK. Nick Barber, a music journalist, ends up murdered in a holiday cottage in a Yorkshire village with no apparent motive for the killing. The story line bounces back and forth between present day and 1969 and the murder of a young woman at a local rock festival, whose death is (of course!) related to Barber's. Barber was doing an investigative piece on rock band The Mad Hatters, as there is an upcoming reunion planned. The Hatters were just getting started in 1969 and played at the Brimley Festival where young Linda Lofthouse died. Had Barber found something out about the murder, despite the fact that someone went to prison for Linda's murder--or perhaps it was the death of Robin Merchant, the Hatters bass player, which had been deemed an accidental drowning in the pool at a local Lord's country estate. Despite Banks' ambitious new boss trying to steer him in other directions, he's convinced that the past ties to Nick Barber's murder and sets out to find the connection. Well-narrated, interesting story, and although I didn't figure out the killer til close to the end, the pieces fell into place for me before they did for Banks. Strong characterizations, with plenty of fully-fleshed characters besides Banks himself, interesting story and plot, and the historical part provided an interesting cornerstone in time to weave together with the present-day story. Enjoyable as always...and scary to realize I'm fast approaching being caught up with this series. A

8. FROM THE GROUNDS UP by Sandra Balzo. #5 Maggy Thorsen coffee shop mystery set in fictional Brookhills, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. Maggy is looking for somewhere to house Uncommon Grounds, since the coffee shop burned down along with the rest of the small strip mall it was located in during events in the last book. On an almost non-existent budget and now sans Caron, her business partner, who must bow out due to financial strains, Maggy is wondering what to do. Then her moody friend Sarah, a real estate agent, offers to take Caron's place as her partner AND provide a building--an old railroad depot that (unknown to many) is about to become active again when Brookhills once again becomes a train stop. Sarah owns the building, as it was willed to her by her recently-deceased aunt, and her cousin Ronny is a contractor/developer, so it would seem that things are looking up. However, as soon as the papers are signed and they begin making plans, accidents start happening at the depot site, including the death of Sarah's crabby step-uncle, whose car was t-boned by a passing train when it stalled on the tracks. Maggy senses that someone doesn't want her to re-open Uncommon Grounds--at least not at the depot--but who? Of course she begins poking her nose in and with a few dropped clues from her boyfriend the Sheriff, discovers that Uncle Kornell's 'accident' was actually a murder. Love this series with its edgy, slightly irreverent humor, relaxed atmosphere and easy reading style. Maggy is a breath of fresh air compared to most of the cookie-cutter cozy heroines, and her friends are fully-fleshed, great characters too--including her gassy sheepdog, Frank. (She really ought to be nominated for a Watson award for the best sidekick! LOL) Very much looking forward to the next book in the series. A

9. MURDER ON WAVERLY PLACE by Victoria Thompson. #11 Gaslight mystery featuring midwife Sarah Brandt in early 1900's New York. Sarah is persuaded to attend a seance hosted by spiritualist Madame Serafina by her mother, the society matron Mrs. Peter Decker. Mrs. Decker hopes to contact Sarah's dead sister to seek her forgiveness for the terrible way they treated her. Sarah of course is certain the people conducting the seance are charlatans and hopes to show her mother that she's being ripped off. But after the very convincing performance, a few niggling doubts find their way into Sarah's mind, too. A few days later, she is summoned to the home where Madame Serafina holds her seances by Det. Sgt. Frank Molloy--it seems someone at a seance was murdered, and Mrs. Decker was in attendance. Sarah takes Madame Serafina into her home to keep her safe, and as she and Molloy investigate, the secrets of the seances start revealing themselves slowly, as do the suspects since those who would benefit from Mrs. Gittings' murder (she hosted the seances and was Mme. Serafina's patroness). Enjoyable enough, but rather predictable as I figured out the bad guy well in advance and there's very few surprises in these books--I think the author needs to shake herself out of the formula a bit and do something 'different' although not sure just what that means. The continued 'romantic tension' between Sarah and Molloy has gotten a bit old, although it's never as pervasive in this series as in some others. B

10. BOOK OF MOONS by Rosemary Edghill #2 Bast mystery. Second in the "Bast" mystery series featuring Karen Hightower, a Wiccan and member of Changings coven in New York, and whose witch name is Bast. It's set in contemporary New York--although this was written at least 15 years ago--and deals with the life of contemporary Pagans. In this book, Bast's friend Glitter calls her, distraught, because her BoS (Book of Shadows--a witch's own personal self-written "Bible" and spellbook as it were) has disappeared. Since Glitter tends to be a bit absent-minded, Bast helps her search but doesn't find the book. Life goes on, Bast assists Belle, her High Priestess, in informally interviewing a prospective new member. And then she starts hearing snippets of conversation at a communal picnic about other people missing their BoS as well, although most are simply writing it off to misplacing it. And when the prospective new member, Ned, makes a fool of himself by claiming to have an 'original' BoS from ancient times, he is laughed out of the picnic by skeptical Pagans who've heard it all before. When Ilona, the owner of a local Pagan bookstore, is found murdered, her assistant--none other than the aforementioned Ned--contacts Bast and gives her a package to hold for him. And when he turns up dead and she opens the package, to no one's surprise (or at least not mine!) it contains several stolen BoS and a very old book that claims to be the BoS of Mary, Queen of Scots. This book wasn't as good as the first one--for one thing, the bad guy stood out like a sore thumb almost from the time of introduction into the book, and for another, it just seemed full of melancholy and angst. I do find this series refreshing because it's about the life of normal everyday Pagans and isn't treated as a "paranormal" mystery just because of the beliefs and practices the main character has. I enjoyed it though and look forward to seeing how the author ties up the trilogy with the next one. B

11. THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny. In this fifth "Three Pines" mystery featuring the head of the Surete du Quebec, Armand Gamache, he and his team of homicide detectives are once again off to the quiet village nestled in the countryside. And yet again, the idyllic setting is marred by a dead body, this one lying on the floor of the bistro owned by Olivier and Gabri. Olivier is in absolute shock as he recognizes the man as a hermit who lives in a well-hidden cottage some distance from the village--and in fact he's just visited him that very night, but he can't tell the police that. Gamache picks up on the fact that something is bothering Olivier right from the beginning and knows something is being kept from him, but as to what it is or why, he has no idea. Once the team begins their ferreting, and the autopsy is complete, much information comes to light, including the location of his cabin--which is full of antique treasures, long lost to the world. Olivier begins revealing his involvement in bits and pieces, frustrating Gamache and his team to no end with each tidbit. I have a confession to make, that I have read comments from some of my reading buddies about this book and their dislike of it, and also their further comments about the NEXT book, where some unresolved issues from this one are sorted out. Without that knowledge, I would have very likely marked down this book as it just seemed to leave things hanging without a real final 'close the book/end of story' ending. As it is, I enjoyed the book itself with the cozy village atmosphere, the odd collection of characters, the wonderful foods and the literary references and the like. But the ending did NOT make me happy! It won't be long until I get to that next one, let me tell you! A-

12. THE CASE OF THE MISSING SERVANT by Tarquin Hall. (AUDIO) In this thoroughly enjoyable first in series featuring PI Vish Puri in Delhi, India, you are not only introduced to a whole cache of fun and interesting characters but given a cultural tour of a middle-class Indian household as well. Puri is contacted by an old friend, a prominent lawyer who is being set up to take the fall for doing away with one of his former maidservants who disappeared a couple of months previously.
Puri and his crack team--whom he's given hilarious nicknames like Facecream, Handbrake, and Tubelight--begin digging, surveilling and infiltrating the home of the lawyer to find out all the things that they aren't being told. As the investigation is underway, a body is actually discovered and suddenly witnesses are coming out of the woodwork who saw the lawyer disposing of it. Given the corruption in the Indian police force and political system, it's entirely possible that someone has it in for the lawyer and is framing him--and it's Puri's job to find out who and why. The reader was excellent, handling a variety of voices and accents well, with a pace and tone that captures the essence of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, both the reader and the story itself, and the cultural immersion as well. There was a good mix of humor--the tone was light, but some serious issues were also addressed. The main mystery was fairly easy to figure out, as were the side mysteries but it didn't keep me from enjoying the story. A

13. MALICE IN MINIATURE by Jeanne M. Dams. #4 Dorothy Martin mystery. Dorothy, an American widow now re-married to Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt and living in Sherebury, UK has been asked by her friend/house cleaner Ada Finch to help clear her son Bob's name. Bob's a drunk, admittedly, but he appreciates his job as maintenance and odd-job man at Brocklesby Hall, and there's no way he stole some miniature doll house pieces from the museum housed there. Dorothy heads out to the museum to have a look around and meets the owner, Sir Mordred Brocklesby, a man much obsessed with doll house miniatures. There she learns that the issue over the missing pieces Bob is accused of stealing has been resolved, but she meets some strange characters and a nice woman named Meg Cunningham who is the curator and it sounds like something is definitely 'off.' A couple of days later, Ada summons her again--this time Bob's been set up for murder, as the old battleaxe of a housekeeper has been found dead of poisoning. Dorothy, cognizant of her new position as the CC's wife, tries to investigate inconspicuously so word won't get back to Alan, but of course that backfires. I didn't like this entry in the series as much as the previous ones, partly because so many words in the book were devoted to Dorothy's angst over not making Alan look bad if she did something wrong., and also to her thoughts about possibly moving to a different area, since Alan was offered a promotion elsewhere. She's just a bit too prissy for my taste. Also, there were some fairly preposterous coincidences involved in this story that made me snort and roll my eyes. I think I'll give the series a rest for awhile, but it's likely that I will come back to it later at some point. C

14. PRETTY GIRL GONE by David Housewright. #3 Rushmore "Mac" MacKenzie mystery set in and around St. Paul, MN. Mac is an unlicensed PI who works essentially doing favors for friends, given that he inherited a bundle of money a few years ago, left the police force and now lives a life of leisure most of the time. In this book, he's contacted by an old girlfriend from high school, who now just happens to be the first lady of Minnesota. The Governor has apparently been threatened although he doesn't know it--an e-mail to his wife says that he murdered his high-school sweetheart back in Victoria, MN, a crime that had never been solved. Lindsey wants Mac to look into it and so he sends out his tendrils of query and almost immediately he's captured at gunpoint and brought to an office building to meet a circle of powerful men who, between them, own much of the Twin Cities and control most of the running of the state behind the scenes. They want Governor Barrett's little problem to go away so he can become a US Senator and perhaps even go beyond that and they want Mac to know they can assist him in his quest to help Mrs. Barrett. Meanwhile, another faction threatens Mac and states that Barrett must NOT run for Senate. Caught in the middle, Mac figures the present problems are buried in the past so he heads to Victoria to try to figure out what happened those many years ago when Barrett's girlfriend was killed. Okay--I like Mac well enough; he's a tough, smart-alecky, independent kind of guy. But I find these stories to be nigh on unbelievable, with the perfect circumstances he's in where he has no work timetable, no one to answer to, no money issues, dozens of people who owe him big favors that he calls in at every turn, etc. to be a detriment to the story. ANYONE could solve crimes under those circumstances unless he was an idiot. Give me a story with the hero stuck in a dead-end job with a mortgage, back taxes to pay and a car that barely stays on the road who's stuck in a dead-end job. This story was worse than previous ones with the political shenanigans and conspiracy theories thrown in. The mystery of who killed the girl was obvious with a trail of clues marked with big red circles around them--or at least that's how I saw them--and I admit I skimmed to the end just to be sure I was right. I have to say that at this point, the ONLY reason I continue reading this series is the author's capturing the sense of place of the Twin Cities so well and it's fun to read about Mac driving down roads I drive down, past scenes I see with my own eyes. But at this point, I'm not sure it's enough to keep me reading. I'm taking a break for awhile, at least. C-

15. MEN AT ARMS by Terry Pratchett. #15 Discworld novel (in order of publication), this one following the 'Night Watch' sub-series, as might be guessed by the title. Captain Sam Vimes is about to retire--since he is getting married to a wealthy noblewoman. As he contemplates life without his job on the Night Watch, he's wondering if it's really worth it, but doesn't have time to think about it very long because a big case has fallen in their laps with a string of corpses from the various Guilds. Corporal Carrot is attempting to get his latest batch of recruits trained in, and a motley mix they are, with a dwarf, a troll and a female werewolf. Green as they are, Carrot uses them to investigate the series of deaths despite being 'warned off the case' by the higher-ups and informed by the various Guild masters that they are handling their own investigations as usual. Hilarious romp through Ankh-Morpork as Pratchett pokes fun at affirmative action, political correctness and police forces everywhere. The Night Watch string of books isn't my favorite Discworld sub-series, but still an enjoyable, light read with laugh out loud funny dialogue and wordplay. A

16. A LOCAL HABITATION by Seanan McGuire. #2 October "Toby" Daye paranormal mystery. Toby is sent on an errand by her liege lord Sylvester to check on his niece whom he's been fairly close to, but hasn't been returning his calls for several weeks. So Toby and Quentin, one of Sylvester's knights-in-training, head off to Fremont, CA--the real world place where the small duchy of Tamed Lightning is, which is where January O'Leary resides. And since it's right between two larger faerie counties, both with political aspirations to greatness, there is cause for worry. Once they arrive and see that January is okay, Toby is somewhat relieved, but puzzled when she insists that it is her uncle who has not been available--that she's left many voicemails for him with no response. Something seems 'off' to Toby, and once she begins poking around, it's not long before a dead body turns up, and Toby discovers that there have been two other mysterious deaths over the past month, both employees of the computer company that January runs. The mystery to "who dunnit" was very easily figured out very far in advance but the particulars as to how and why were still interesting to read about. I like this series and Toby's an interesting character. Much of it is based on Celtic myth and lore and seems pretty accurately researched, although there is something just slightly "off" about it and about Toby that keeps me from really loving the series--not sure yet what that is. I do intend to read on, but it's not one of those 'must read as soon as I get the next book' type things. B

17. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. (AUDIO). I've never been much of a Jane Austen fan, so I have to say I LOVE what they've done with the book with 'the manky unmentionables' added to the mix. Oh, it's the same story, basically...but much more fun with zombies and ninjas. And that's all I'm gonna say. Hehehe. I loved the narration of the book by this reader, who managed every voice from the quintessential Regency hoity-toity posh "Lady" voices, to one of the characters who was infected with the zombie plague and had almost totally turned and could barely speak. There were some LOL moments and of course when she was prattling on in the voice of Mrs. Bennet or her airhead youngest daughter Lydia, she did such a great job that it set my teeth on edge--as it was meant to. Looking forward to reading the continuation of the series--a sequel and then a prequel, both written by Steve Hockensmith, one of my favorite writers. A

18. THE PALE BLUE EYE by Louis Bayard. Historical mystery set at West Point Academy in 1830, when none other than Edgar Allan Poe was briefly a cadet there. This story weaves Poe nicely into the mix as he becomes an informant for retired detective Gus Landor, who was asked to investigate the heinous death of cadet Leroy Fry. He had apparently hung himself, but afterward, while the officers were being summoned, his body was stolen and his heart cut out. Believing it to be the work of Satanists--or at least the possibility--Landor convinces the lead officer that he's working with to let Poe assist him by infiltrating the most likely group of cadets. Eventually this leads to trouble when Poe finds himself falling for the lead suspect's sister, but his letters/reports to Landor are a delight to read. Rich with historical detail and weighty, twisty prose redolent of the times, with bits of Poe's poetry tossed in for good measure, an interesting mystery and a freaky plot twist at the end, this is an great example of a Gothic horror/suspense novel with one of my favorite writers brought to life. I will say it did get a bit boggy in places and you need some patience to get through those sections--if you're used to reading light, easily resolved mysteries you may have a hard time with this. But I quite enjoyed it. B+

DNF: RUNNING ON EMPTY by Sandra Balzo--first entry in a new series that was a big disappointment for me since I love her coffee shop series so much. I just couldn't get interested.