Tuesday, December 01, 2015

January Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

Are you ready for the second collection of January book releases? There are a number of books to select from if you're interested.

Already published in England, Christobel Kent's The Crooked House is now released in the U.S. The psychological thriller features the former Esme Grace, now living under a new legal identity after the slaughter of her family in a small village. Now, when she reluctantly returns to visit the village, she uncovers information that puts a new light on her family's massacre. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

Lawrence H. Levy follows up his first Mary Handley mystery, Second Street Station, with another historical mystery in the series, Brooklyn on Fire. Set in 1890, it finds Mary Handley determined to become an official detective. The appearance of Emily Worsham, convinced her uncle was murdered, becomes Mary's second case. It's a case that leads to high society, involves political corruption, and brings figures such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and the Vanderbilt family into the story. (Release date is Jan. 19.)

The Winter Girl is Matt Marinovich's latest psychological thriller. When a young married couple goes to the Hamptons during the winter to handle Elise's dying father's affair, her husband, Scott, becomes fascinated by the empty summer house next door. His fascination becomes obsession, leading to a horrific discovery that spirals out of control into escalating violence and shocking revelations. (Release date is Jan. 19.)

Once a Crooked Man is a quirky crime novel by David McCallum, the beloved actor known for his roles on NCIS and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Cops, criminals, corpses, and plot twists pile up after a New York actor, Harry Murphy, overhears three brothers plotting to tie-up loose ends. The aging Bruschetta brothers have spent their entire lives building their criminal empire. Now, on the verge of retirement, Harry Murphy may make a mess of their plans. It's a game of cat and mouse. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

Tawni O'Dell's latest thriller, Angels Burning, is about a small town police chief who's forced to dig into her own shadowy past as she investigates the murder of a teenage girl. On the surface, Chief Dove Carnahan is a true trailblazer who would do anything to protect the rural Pennsylvanian countryside where she's lived for all fifty years of her life. But she has a dark and self-destructive streak stemming from a secret she's kept since she was sixteen. While she's investigating a murder of the daughter of a notorious dynasty of rednecks and petty criminals, she faces an accusation and threat that forces her to see a parallel between her family and that of the teen. (Release date is Jan. 5.)

Cambodia is the setting in Lawrence Osborne's suspense novel, Hunters in the Dark. Robert Grieve crosses the border from Thailand after he decides to go missing. On that first night there, a small windfall precipitates a chain of events - a bag of "jinxed" money, a suave American, a trunk full of heroin, a hustler taxi driver, and a rich doctor's daughter. Robert's life is changed forever in this game of cat and mouse. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

In City of Thorns, Ben Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. In doing so, he sketches the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Over the course of four years, Rawlence became a firsthand witness to life in that desperate place. (Release date is Jan. 5.)

As an aging professor, an anthropologist at the end of his career, pieces together the life and mysterious death of a former student, he unearths a shocking revelation about her final days. And, a labyrinth of misunderstandings, lies, and secrets cast suspicion on everyone in her circle, including the professor. It's a novel of love, obsession, and revenge, T.R. Richmond's What She Left. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

Blackout is a standalone by David Rosenfelt. New York state police officer Doug Brock has been after Nicholas Bennett for years. When Bennett kills someone close to Doug, Brock's life spins out of control, reaching its lowest point when Doug is shot and in critical condition. But, Brock awakens in the hospital with no memory of the case, or even the last several years of his life. Now, he's racing against the clock to recover his memory before a terror plot can be put into action. (Release date is Jan. 5.)

In The Other Me, Saskia Sarginson shows how sometimes it's the people we know the best who surprise us the most. It's a novel that spans from Germany in the 1930s to London to Leeds in 1986, then 1995. In Germany in the 1930s, two brothers are trying to fend for themselves in Nazi Germany. One rallies for the Fuhrer, one holds back. Years later, two young women have to deal with their family history. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

I'm excited about the return of Samuel Craddock in Terry Shames' The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake. Nonie Blake is back home from a mental institution where she spent the last twenty years, and people in Jarrett Creek are worried. Within a week, Nonie is murdered. Chief Samuel Craddock thinks the only possible suspects are members of her family. Nonie tried to kill her sister when she was fourteen, and was then sent away. But, when Craddock checks with therapists at the mental hospital, he discovers Nonie was released ten years earlier. Now, Craddock has to deal with murder, deception, secrets, and a new deputy. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout brings us My Name is Lucy Barton. While Lucy Barton recovers from what should have been a simple operation, her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken in years, comes to see her. Gossip seems to reconnect them, but below the surface lie the tension that has been part of Lucy's life. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

After reading See Also Murder, I'm looking forward to Larry D. Sweazy's A Thousand Falling Crows. This one features Sonny Burton, forced to retire from the Texas Rangers after taking a bullet from Bonnie Parker in a shoot-out. His arm was so damaged it had to be amputated. While Sonny struggles, mentally and physically, with the adjustment, the hospital's janitor asks him to help find his daughter and bring her home. She got herself mixed up with a couple brothers involved in a string of robberies. While he investigates, he's also aware of a criminal killing young women, and leaving them in local fields. Can't wait to read this one! (Release date is Jan. 5.)

The Sound of Gravel is Ruth Wariner's memoir, her story of her coming-of-age in a polygamist Mormon doomsday cult. The thirty-ninth of her father's forty-one children, Ruth struggles to define a place for herself within a community of misguided believers. The book is recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child. (Release date is Jan. 5.)

And, the last of the January releases is a debut novel, The Longest Night by Andria Williams. It's a detailed portrait of guilt in a town, and an era, clouded with secrets. The family drama is set at the dawn of the 1960s. It's about the potential breakdown of a marriage, a story of love, trust, and guilt. In 1959, Nat and Paul Collier move to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. When Paul discovers one of the country's earliest nuclear reactors is compromised, he knows his family and the entire town is in danger. But, he can't bring himself to tell his wife. At the same time, Nat is having a hard time adjusting to life there. As the secrets and lies build between the couple, they threaten to reach a breaking point. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

Today's list is a little different from Part 1. Which books interest you in this list?

Monday, November 30, 2015

January Treasures in My Closet

We're already talking about 2016! Are you ready for a sneak peek at some of the books coming out in January? If just the authors whose names begin with B are any indication, 2016 is going to be a fantastic year for books. We're in for reading treats!

Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife, has The Swans of Fifth Avenue. It's a novel about New York's "Swans" of the 1950s, Slim Keith, C.Z. Keith, Gloria Guinness, Pamela Churchill. And, they circle around socialite Babe Paley whose friendship with Truman Capote makes for a scandalous, headline-making, and enthralling story. (Release date is Jan. 26.)

I've heard wonderful comments about Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Broken Wheel, Iowa doesn't know what to do when Sara arrives, coming from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. But, she arrives just when Amy's funeral guests are leaving. Now, the residents look after their bewildered visitor. But, they don't expect her to open a quirky bookstore in the little town. (Release date is Jan. 19.)

I'm sure people are waiting to read Chris Bohjalian's The Guest Room. It's a chilling story about a bachelor party gone horribly wrong, two men dead in a suburban living room, two women on the run from the police, all leading to a marriage ripping apart at the seams, and a man whose happy life turns into a nightmare. (Release date is Jan. 5.)

The Stargazer's Sister by Carrie Brown is a period novel, a nineteenth-century story of female empowerment before its time, based on the life of Caroline Herschel, sister of the great astronomer William Herschel and an astronomer in her own right. William brings his sister to England, where she enjoys a world of music making and stargazing. But, with his announcement that he's going to get married, her world collapses. (Release date is Jan. 19.)

Taylor Brown's debut novel is Fallen Land. It's set in the final years of the Civil War, telling the story of two star-crossed lovers fleeing a ruthless band of bounty hunters from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to Sherman's March through Georgia. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

If Bill Bryson's book is as good as the cover, it will be terrific. The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain traveled around Britain by bus, train and rental car to see what changed in the twenty years since the last time he wrote about the land in Notes from a Small Island. (Release date is Jan. 19.)

Alafair Burke's new standalone novel of suspense is The Ex. Twenty years earlier Olivia Randall ruined Jack Harris' life. Now, when he's been arrested for a triple homicide, she's convinced he's innocent. As one of New York City's best criminal defense lawyers, she agrees to represent him. But, she begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated. (Release date is Jan. 26.)

Joe Gannon was a freelance journalist in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution, so he brings that expertise to his latest thriller, The Last Dawn. When Gladys Dario, a police lieutenant for the revolutionary Sandinista government in 1986 Nicaragua is kidnapped by a Contra commander, she knows the only hope for escape is with her partner on the police force, former Sandinista guerrilla commandant Ajax Montoya. He rescues her, but he's imprisoned for years, and she's exiled. And, then a young American journalist goes missing in El Salvador, and a powerful senator wants Ajax Montoya and his partner to run that rescue operation. (Release date is Jan. 26.)

I loved Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, so I'm looking forward to Mary Chamberlain's The Dressmaker's War, another historical novel about choices made during World War II. In London, 1939, Ada Vaughan has an unusual dressmaking skill, and dreams of a better life. She's swept off her feet by an Austrian aristocrat who brings her to Paris. But, when war breaks out, he disappears, and she's taken prisoner by the Germans. In order to survive, she becomes dressmaker to the Nazi wives. The choices she makes will come back to haunt her years later. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

Jessica Chiarella asks a difficult question in her debut novel, And Again. "Would you live your life differently if you were given a second chance?" Four terminally ill patients are given genetically perfect bodies, exact replicas of their old selves. But, without their old bodies, their new physical identities have no memories. As they try to reenter their previous lives and relationships, they are faced with a question. "How much of your identity rests not just in your mind, but in your heart and in your body?" (Release date is Jan. 12.)

River of Ink by Paul M.M. Cooper is also a debut novel, a sweeping historical epic of poetry and revolution, about the power of language. In thirteenth century Sri Lanka, Asanka is poet to the king, living a life of luxury. But when a usurper take the throne, Asanka's role dramatically changes. The cruel, calculating king still loves poetry, and commissions Asanka to translate a holy Sanskrit epic into the language spoken by recently acquired subjects. But, meaning can be altered in different languages, and Asanka's version of the epic, about the killing of an unjust ruler, inspires and arouses the oppressed people. (Release date is Jan. 26.)

An editor with a New York publishing company is totally out of her element in Shelley Costa's Practical Sins for Cold Climates. Val Cameron is sent to the Canadian Northwoods to sign a reclusive bestselling author to a contract. First she has to find him. And, then she has to clear him of murder charges. (Release date is Jan. 26.)

With A Prisoner in Malta, Edgar Award winner Phillip DePoy launches a new series featuring Christopher Marlowe, playwright, student, spy. In 1583, the nineteen-year-old Marlowe, with a reputation as a brawler, a womanizer, a genius and a social upstart at Cambridge, is charged by the Queen's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, to track down the truth about a growing plot against Queen Elizabeth. The path to that truth seems to run through a prisoner held in complete seclusion in a heavily guarded dungeon in Malta. Marlowe must unravel one of the greatest mysteries in history and help uncover a scheme of assassination and invasion. (Release date is Jan. 26.)

John Donvan and Caren Zucker join forces for a book that combines history, activism, and heartbreaking stories. In a Different Key: The Story of Autism tells the story of this often misunderstood conditions, diagnosed first seventy-five years ago. It's a story of civil rights battles and ordinary people, families and history. (Release date is Jan. 19.)

American Housewife is a collection of stories by Helen Ellis. The back cover blurb says, "A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity". It's an "uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood". (Release date is Jan. 12.)

Scott Frank's debut novel is Shaker. Meet Roy Cooper, an "errand runner" for various New York criminals, sent to L.A. to shoot a man a week after an earthquake hit, leaving the city in chaos. He does his job, but, in wandering the streets afterward, looking for his car, he comes across a jogger being beaten by four young gangbangers. Although he tries to avoid it, he's caught up in the middle of the situation, and he's mistaken for a hero when a video goes viral. Now what? (Release date is Jan. 26.)

It's not easy to summarize Jason Gurley's novel, Eleanor. Identical twins Eleanor and Esmerelda are inseparable until a terrible accident claims Esme's life. Eleanor's family is left in tatters. Years later, Eleanor's reality begins to unravel, as time and again, she falls out of her reality into other ones. One day, she's torn from her reality altogether, and meets a mysterious stranger who reveals the weight of her family's loss. Esmerelda's death was not the only tragedy in her family's history, and, unless Eleanor can master her extraordinary new abilities, it may not be the last. (Release date is Jan. 12.)

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth looks like it will be a moving novel. At thirty-nine, Anna Forster has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. She decides to move into residential care facility. There's only one other person her own age there, Luke, and, unexpectedly their relationship turns to love. And, the time comes when Anna's family separates them. What happens when one woman, moved by their relationship, thinks they should be together? (Release date is Jan. 19.)

There's already a lot of buzz about Gregg Hurwitz' Orphan X. Evan Smoak, once known as Orphan X, was trained as part of the U.S. government's secret program of covert operation of assassins, the Orphan Program. Smoak broke with the program, and used everything he knew to disappear. Now, as the secretive Nowhere Man, he helps the desperate and deserving. But, someone has discovered his secret, someone who will exploit his secrets to eliminate him. (Release date is Jan. 19.)

It's a fantastic first day of January book releases, isn't it? And, there will be more coming tomorrow. Is there something here that excites you? What are you anticipating?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

High Stakes by Carolyn Hart

When Carolyn Hart discovered a forgotten manuscript, she also discovered an atmosphere of the past. High Stakes will remind readers of the romantic suspense novels that were so popular in the 1970s.

Aspiring actress Kirsten Soderstrom fears she may have to return home to Minnesota as a failure. But, just in time she sees a want ad that offers excellent pay for a blonde actress. She's a little doubtful, and she never expects to get the job when she sees the long line of blondes waiting for a try-out. And, she's even more dubious when she's hired for a job that will last a couple weeks, but she's required to work twenty-four hours a day. When she demands answers, she's told it's a sting operation. The FBI knows a U.S. Senator is a crook, and they want her to help to bring him down.

Kirsten learned to be honest from a man she always admired, her father. And, she was willing to help her country, to trap a dishonest politician. It doesn't take long, though, for Kirsten to lose her heart to a man she's supposed to distrust. But, the more Kirsten learns, the more uncertain she is about the plan. And, when the plot goes wrong, it's Kirsten who is trouble, risking not only her heart, but also her life as she becomes the target for everyone from the CIA to Russians.

In Hart's High Stakes, she allows readers to see viewpoints from both protagonists, which works well for a romantic suspense novel driven by a conspiracy. Who's behind the plot? It's a storyline that keeps the characters, and the reader, guessing until the last minute.

Miss those romantic novels of the '70s? You might want to bring back memories of the past with High Stakes.

Carolyn Hart's website is www.carolynhart.com

High Stakes by Carolyn Hart. Oconee Spirit Press. 2015. ISBN 9780985910785 (paperback), 181p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author, and the publisher, sent me copies of the book.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

I always look forward to Melody Carlson's annual Christmas novel. They're a little bit inspirational, a little light. There's usually a little romance. And, there's always the Christmas spirit expected this time of year. In fact, The Christmas Joy Ride has more of that Christmas spirit than usual.

Miranda Farmer is amazed that her eighty-six-year-old neighbor, Joy Jorgenson, is planning a major road trip in her RV. But, Joy sold her house in Chicago, and she's moving to Phoenix to be with her sons. And, she has one last chance to share some "Christmas Joy" before her move. Joy loves Christmas, and she ran a contest on her blog, "Christmas Joy". Now, she's taking her RV along Route 66, delivering Christmas to deserving people who wrote to her blog, saying they needed some Christmas joy.

And, maybe it's Miranda who needs that Christmas joy the most. At thirty-seven, she's divorced, unemployed, childless, and about to be homeless because the bank is foreclosing on her house. It's with a little trepidation that Miranda accepts Joy's invitation to ride along. But, she's just like Joy's Christmas recipients, "regular folks who've fallen onto hard times".

There's never quite enough character development in Carlson's short novels, but, in the case of Joy and Miranda, the reader does get to understand them. However, there certainly is a lack of development with one of the characters at the final destination on the trip. Even so, Carlson, through the character of Joy, succeeds with this year's message. "The spirit of Santa is real. It's the spirit of love and giving, and I like to think that it's symbolic of God's love and generosity."

Ready for a holiday road trip with some sentimentality? Buckle up with Joy and Miranda for Melody Carlson's The Christmas Joy Ride.

Melody Carlson's website is www.melodycarlson.com

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson. Revell. 2015. ISBN 9780800719678 (hardcover), 168p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas Mystery Giveaway

Now, are you ready for Christmas mysteries since Thanksgiving is over? You can enter to win two that were released this month. If you win, you can keep the book, or give it as a gift. Better yet, read it carefully, and THEN give it as a gift. (Well, not really. If I want it that badly, I usually buy two copies, one for myself, and one to give away.)

Away in a Manger is Rhys Bowen's latest Molly Murphy mystery. It's Christmastime in 1905 New York City, and Molly Murphy Sullivan is looking forward to the holidays. As Molly and her son and ward listen to carolers in the street, they see a beggar girl huddled in a doorway singing "Away in a Manger". When they give her a quarter, they see a bigger boy take it from her. But, appearances are deceiving. He's her older brother. They've come from England, and their mother has disappeared. Molly's questions leads her into an investigation that goes up to the highest levels of New York society.

Or, you could win Sally Goldenbaum's Seaside Knitters mystery, Trimmed with Murder. Izzy Chambers Perry and the other Seaside Knitters are knitting tiny ornaments to decorate a tree for the first annual tree-trimming contest in Sea Harbor. And, they're even happier when Izzy's younger brother, Charlie, arrives to volunteer at a local clinic, bringing a hitchhiker with him, a young woman returning to claim her inheritance. When she's found dead, Charlie is the suspect. The Seaside Knitters will have to find a killer to restore joy to the season.

Which Christmas mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Away in a Manger" or "Win Trimmed with Murder." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Dec. 3 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so much to be thankful for in 2015. But, it all starts with family, and the time I was lucky enough to spend with them this year. The trip to New York City with Mom and my sisters is one I'll never forget. I made a trip home in August, had lunch with Linda on the way to Mom's, and then had a nice week with Mom and Christie's family at the fair where her daughter shows her Pygmy goats. And, now I'm spending Thanksgiving weekend with Mom and Linda's family. I'm so thankful that we all enjoy each other's company, and can enjoy laughing together.

I'm lucky I was able to travel this year. I went to New York City three times, and saw so many Broadway shows. You all know I'm passionate about theatre. And, if it's a favorite show, I may see it a couple times. (Well, OK, I saw Les Miserables four times in the last year, all with Ramin Karminloo in the lead.) I'm grateful that I was able to make those trips, and attend shows while I was there.

I went to St. Louis a couple times with my friend, Donna. And, I FINALLY met Kaye Wilkinson Barley! She and I have been online friends for what seems like forever. We were roommates at Bouchercon in Raleigh, with plans to do it again in New Orleans. I'm grateful for wonderful friends, including Chantelle and Jamie and Anna. And, all of you who are online friends are blessings as well.

And, how can I not include the cats in my blessings? They're warm and cuddly, and they give so much for so little. Food, and a warm place to sleep.

And, I'm grateful for co-workers I enjoy, a supervisor who is wonderful, and high hopes for the new director in January. After forty-two years in libraries, it's still great to work here.

And, of course, what would this blog be without saying I'm grateful for books and authors and publishers and publicists and friends who love books and mysteries and attend conferences?

I'm just grateful I have the life I do, working in a public library, surrounded by books, with a loving family, great friends, warm cats, and the chance to travel. It doesn't get much better than this.

Whether you're hitting the road to spend time with family and friends, hosting them, or spending it alone in the comfort of your own home, I hope you find a moment or two to count your blessings. And, I hope you have at least one person in your life to share those blessings, because that person may be the most important gift.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells

It's probably the best recommendation I can give women's fiction; recommended to my mother. I think she'll appreciate Robin Wells' epic novel, The Wedding Tree.

At 91, Adelaide McCauley is ready to die when she finds herself looking down from the ceiling in her hospital room. However, her mother tells her she can't cross over until she reveals family secrets to her granddaughter, Hope. Hope is in the room with her Uncle Eddie and his partner, Ralph, when they're all told Adelaide can't live at home by herself. It's then that Hope jumps in to offer assistance.

Hope really has no place to go after her short-lived marriage broke up, leaving her penniless and without a job. A short stay at her grandmother's in Wedding Tree, Louisiana might be just what she needs as she helps Gran clean out her possessions before she moves to California with Eddie. It will turn out to be a time of discovery for both women. But, Hope had no idea a little girl would crawl through the doggy door and discover her trying on Gran's dressing gown. What is even more embarrassing is when Sophie's father, Matt, comes looking for his daughter, and sees her as well.

Adelaide, Hope and Matt all serve as narrators for this compelling, sometimes heart wrenching story. It's Adelaide's story, though, that truly is moving and bittersweet. As she drifts into the past, she takes the reader to World War II New Orleans, where she's living her dream, working as a photographer for a newspaper. And, it's there she falls in love. But, the war, parental pressure, and contemporary standards force her to leave everything behind and return to Wedding Tree. And, it's in Wedding Tree that she hides a secret that will forever haunt her.

The Wedding Tree is a multigenerational romance featuring two spirited women. But, it's Adelaide who will break your heart, the woman who lived at a time when women were expected to stay home, raise children, and not work outside the house. Fortunately, all three narrators do find unexpected ways to achieve their dreams in this enjoyable novel.

Robin Wells' website is www.robinwells.com

The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells. Berkley. 2015. ISBN 9780425282359 (paperback), 432p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book from a review journal.