Thursday, July 24, 2014

Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention by Claire Cook

What do you want to be when you grow up? Or, another way Claire Cook phrases it, "What would you like your life to be in five years and what's getting in your way?" Cook, the author of eleven novels, has turned to nonfiction for Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way). It's a thought-provoking, inspiring book. If you've thought about changing your career and following your passion, Cook's book just might provide the needed push.

Cook tells her own story, mixing in writing advice, career changing advice, and life stories of people who reinvented themselves. She says she always wanted to be a writer, but choked. She finally found her voice at 45, sitting in her minivan writing her first book. At fifty, she walked the red carpet when her book, Must Love Dogs, premiered as a movie. Cook is excited about the changes she made to her life, celebrates with the statement "Midlife Rocks!", and offers pointers to help others who want to change their lives.

The author points out that her books are aimed at women, and, in each of her novels the heroine is stuck in some way, trying to find her own next chapter. Her novels, and her life, are about reinvention. She's learned a few lessons along the way to reinvention, and she is generous in sharing those lessons and tips for moving to a different career and life. Cook relates her points with humor and anecdotes. And, for those of us who love animals, there are plenty of stories about cats and dogs, including one chapter called "Catitude".

If you're looking for a push, some tips, some inspiration, it might be time to check out Claire Cook's Never Too Late. Is it ever too late to ask "What is the thing you feel so passionately about that you'd do it for free?" Claire Cook reminds us it's Never Too Late.

Claire Cook's website is She's on Facebook at Claire Cook (author), and on Twitter as ClaireCookwrite.

Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way) by Claire Cook. Marshbury Beach Books. 2014. ISBN 9780989921084 (paperback), 290p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Murmurs of Insanity by Gerrie Ferris Finger

Gerrie Ferris Finger's first mystery, The End Game, introduced Moriah Dru, the ex-cop who started Child Trace, a specialty private investigative agency, and her lover, Richard Lake, an Atlanta Detective Lieutenant in Homicide. Many of Moriah's cases are for the juvenile justice system. In Murmurs of Insanity, though, she juggles one case of a juvenile drug runner who has disappeared, and one case as a favor for Lake. That case is enough to drive anyone insane.

Lake's ex-wife's half-brother, Baxter Carlisle, has been accused of stalking a college student. The wealthy restaurant owner denies it, but when the student's boyfriend, Damian Hansel, disappears, Baxter is the primary suspect. He doesn't take it seriously, but Moriah does. It seems both college students were artists. When traces of Damian start to show up; his cell phone, then some clothes, Moriah, Damian's father, and the police think something is seriously wrong. Baxter hires Moriah to prove he has nothing to do with Damian's disappearance. But, did he have anything to do with the death of another student artist? And, then Moriah's employee, a computer expert, finds that Damian's girlfriend doesn't really exist.

If all of this sounds confusing, it is. The investigation covers two Georgia cities, and Moriah is called back to Atlanta to deal with the missing juvenile drug runner. Drugs, the strange world of performance art, and murder make for an uneasy mix in this book. Moriah Dru specializes in cases involving juveniles, and Finger had to stretch to bring her into Baxter Carlisle's case. I'm not saying murder investigations aren't messy. But, the combination of these two cases didn't work for me.

Perhaps Murmurs of Insanity will work for someone who reads more for plot than character. Although I liked Finger's first book, The End Game, and have followed Moriah Dru and Richard Lake in the others in this series, I couldn't feel a great deal of sympathy for the characters in this one. When I see that the book is suggested for fans of Dennis Lehane, I think fans of Shutter Island, not fans of the Kenzie/Gennaro series. I would recommend it to suspense readers who enjoy novels with a warped, psychological bent.

Gerrie Ferris Finger's website is

Murmurs of Insanity by Gerrie Ferris Finger. Five Star. 2014. ISBN 9781432828585 (hardcover), 308p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

August Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obisidan

Eleven August mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian are definitely a treat. Jinx fans, though, will be a little disappointed. He was off napping somewhere. I did manage to interrupt Josh for a minute during his name, so the video book chat ends with a cameo. Oh, well. Are you here to learn about books or see cats? (smile)

Here is the list of the books from this month's chat.

Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (1st Book Retreat mystery)
Taken In by Elizabeth Lynn Casey (9th Southern Sewing Circle mystery)
Book Fair and Foul by Erika Chase (4th Ashton Corners Book Club mystery)
Billionaire Blend by Cleo Coyle (1st time in paperback, 13th Coffeehouse mystery)
Shear Trouble by Elizabeth Craig (4th Southern Quilting mystery)
Extra Sensory Deception by Allison Kingsley (4th Raven's Nest Bookstore mystery)
Death by Devil's Breath by Kylie Logan (2nd Chili Cook-Off mystery)
Well Read, Then Dead by Terre Farley Moran (1st Read 'Em and Eat mystery)
Death of a Crabby Cook by Penny Pike (1st Food Festival mystery)
If Catfish Had Nine Lives by Paige Shelton (4th Country Cooking School mystery)
The Cat, The Vagabond, and the Victim by Leann Sweeney (6th Cats in Trouble mystery)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hell With The Lid Blown Off by Donis Casey

As much as I enjoyed Donis Casey's The Wrong Hill to Die On, Alafair Tucker seems out of place when she leaves her family behind in Boynton, Oklahoma. The latest mystery brings together Alafair's family and friends in an unusual format for Casey, but it works brilliantly. Different characters, even the victim, share their viewpoints of the events leading up to the tragedy that strikes Boynton and the surrounding countryside.

In June, 1916, a twister hits the community, leaving some dead and injured. The accounts are broken into "Before", "During", and "After" that tragedy. Trenton Calder, a deputy working for Scott Tucker, the local sheriff, kicks off the narration, saying Jubal Beldon was killed the same summer the tornado hit, so at first everyone thought he was a victim of the twister. It wasn't long before the mortician and sheriff realized he had been murdered. But, as Trenton, and a number of other people point out, no one liked Jubal Beldon, and no one was mourning his loss. Even as families struggled to pull their lives back together, the sheriff's small staff questions townspeople. Alafair Tucker might be dealing with births, injuries, and damaged homes, but she always has time to listen. And, it's those listening skills, honed as a mother of ten, that helps her zero in on the answers.

In this latest mystery, the author successfully juggles everyday life, the devastation of a tornado, and a murder investigation. As always, she manages to incorporate social history with the life of the town and the Tucker family. And, she vividly describes the fear as the storm approaches and hits, the devastation afterward. Trenton Calder says, "The ruination north of town was unbelievable. It was like hell with the lid blown off." But, even with all the devastation, the search for Jubal's killer goes on. The author realizes that the tornado has left destruction, but Jubal Beldon was a storm himself, one that tormented people, delighting in their secrets.

The format, the characters, and the storyline combine to make this one of Donis Casey's best mysteries. Her characters are ordinary people dealing with life in 1916 in Oklahoma, with rumors of war. At the same time, life goes on. There are picnics, hints of romance, family life and births, and murder.This time, she gives us a victim that even the reader grows to hate, one who delights in playing on intimidation and fear. He knows that "In a tight little town like Boynton, where everybody knows everybody else, rumor was as damaging as fact." And, he capitalizes on that. Then, when someone blows up, and a tornado hits in the same week, Alafair Tucker, her family and friends, are left to pick up the pieces when it all strikes like Hell With The Lid Blown Off.

Donis Casey's website is

Hell With The Lid Blown Off by Donis Casey. Poisoned Pen Press. 2014. ISBN 9781464202988 (hardcover), 228p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wrong Hill to Die On by Donis Casey

I always look forward to catching up with Alafair Tucker and her family in Donis Casey's
mysteries. I'm just catching up. And, The Wrong Hill to Die On might be a historical mystery set in 1916, but some of the problems in Arizona could have been ripped from today's headlines. Casey excels at storytelling, and she combines several storylines in this book.

Alafair Tucker is a farm wife in Oklahoma, where she and her husband, Shaw, have a large family, ten and growing as the older daughters marry. But, 1915/1916 brought rain, floods and illness. Most of the family recovered, but ten-year-old Blanche couldn't seem to shake her sickness, and the doctor recommended a warmer climate. Shaw and Alafair left the farm in the capable hands of their oldest children, and made the difficult train trip to Tempe, Arizona to stay with Alafair's younger sister, Elizabeth. Their arrival is news for just a short time. There are more exciting things for the townspeople to talk about.

And, after the Tuckers have a couple days to recuperate, Elizabeth throws a party so they can meet everyone. The party is overshadowed by the news that Pancho Villa has invaded New Mexico and set fire to a town before being chased back across the border. Feelings are running high against Mexicans. So some people are not surprised when Alafair finds Bernie Arruda's body in a ditch the morning after the party. Did racism play a part in his murder? Or, did Bernie's flirtatious ways finally anger a husband? Although Alafair plans to stay out of this investigation, Shaw knows she'll be as curious as always.

Donis Casey's mysteries are always fascinating, incorporating family life, cultural history, and history. This one, set in 1916, deals with racial issues, unrest involving Pancho Villa, Mexicans, and General Pershing, the shadow of war in Europe, and the roles of women. Casey spins a story of murder and secrets involving an Arizona community dealing with issues that still face the state today. But, she always grounds the story solidly with Alafair Tucker, a strong woman supported by the love of her husband and family. 

And, as good as The Wrong Hill to Die On was, I was as pleased to see Alafair and Shaw return home as their family was. Now, I'm ready to catch up with all the family in the new book, Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

Donis Casey's website is

The Wrong Hill to Die On by Donis Casey. Poisoned Pen Press. 2012. ISBN 9781464200441 (hardcover), 328p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I've had an ARC since 2012, and only now picked it up. The publisher sent it to me.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What Are You Reading This Weekend?

One of favorite authors, Donis Casey, has a new Alafair Tucker mystery out, Hell with the Lid Blown Off. I have a copy, but can't read it just yet, because I'm a book behind.

I know what happened. The Wrong Hill to Die On, her last one, came out in November 2012. That was a busy time for me. I was job hunting, and, then, once I accepted my job here in Evansville, I was getting ready to move. Moving just throws everything off.

I have to catch up with Alafair Tucker's family before I can start the next book. So, I'm currently reading The Wrong Hill to Die On, set in Tempe, Arizona, where Alafair, her husband, and daughter, have moved temporarily because of their daughter's health.

So, you can choose to answer any or both questions today. What are you reading this weekend? Or, what series are you behind in reading?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Winners and A Thriller Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Sharon B. of Albuquerque, NM and Dianne O. of Oak Park, IL won the copies of Glenn Cooper's The Tenth Chamber.

This week, I'm giving away two thrillers since Thrillerfest is just over. In fact, some lucky person will win a copy of  FaceOff edited by David Baldacci, this year's collection from International Thriller Writers. This is the book in which "The world's greatest thriller characers meet head-to-head in 11 electrifying stories." For instance, Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly wrote about Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch working a case together. It's a marvelous collection.

Or, you could win Sharon Bolton's A Dark and Twisted Tide.  Flint recently joined the marine policing unit. She's living in London's riverboat community when she finds a shrouded body in the River Thames. Her team suspects the body was deliberately left for Lacey to find.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win FaceOff" or "Win A Dark and Twisted Tide." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end next Thursday, July 24 at 6 PM CT. Good luck!