Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust

In a twist for a cozy mystery, the police chief is the primary suspect who has been suspended, so he needs help from the amateur sleuth. Gail Oust's fifth Spice Shop Mystery,Ginger Snapped, is an entertaining story with Southern charm, small town gossip, a touch of romance, and, of course, the mystery itself.

Piper Prescott, owner of Spice It Up!, feels a pang whenever she sees Police Chief Wyatt McBride with realtor Shirley Randolph. Yes, the two make an attractive couple, but Piper was just starting to get over her initial reaction to McBride. A year earlier, he suspected her of murder, but they've moved past that. Everyone in Brandywine Creek has McBride and Randolph pegged as a couple.

When McBride finds Shirley's body on his property, it doesn't take long for the gossip mill to start grinding again. With the mayor hightailing it to Florida, the acting mayor, Piper's ex-husband, suspends McBride. Because he had a couple dinners with his realtor, everyone sees him as the primary suspect. Everyone sees him that way, except Piper and her best friend, Reba Mae. They're afraid he's being railroaded, and he'll need some help to prove his innocence. With Piper's growing reputation as an amateur sleuth, and her attraction to McBride, she's just the one to tackle the case.

Piper capitalizes on all the small town gossip in Ginger Snapped. The enjoyable story features mature  characters with a sense of responsibility, to the town, to family, to the truth. Oust's inclusion of facts about spices is worked naturally into the book. This one is a treat for any cozy mystery reader.

Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust. St. Martin's Minotaur, 2017. ISBN 9781250081261 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! by Ree Drummond

Actually, Ree Drummond's latest cookbook has one more subtitle. It's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives. And, even if you seldom cook, this is a scrumptious cookbook to browse.

Ree Drummond, blogger turned cookbook author and television celebrity, begins this latest cookbook with a collection of her favorite things. It includes her "20 Favorite Pantry Items", favorite freezer staples, refrigerator staples, and favorite cuts of beef. Then, as in most cookbooks, it's broken down by breakfast, lunches, appetizers, suppers. But, she also categorizes recipes by the length of time it takes to cook them. There are beautifully photographed step-by-step directions, along with options for changing up the recipes.

I don't cook much. However, just as I watch her television show, "The Pioneer Woman",  for the glimpses of ranch life, I read the cookbook and appreciated the glimpses of her family, ranch life, and the animals on the farm. She has photographs sprinkled throughout the book. Fans of the show will appreciate photos of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, "The Merc", the new store and restaurant that she and her husband, Ladd, renovated and opened. There are photos of the dogs, cattle, and even a ranch cat. There are also family stories, including one about her father-in-law, Chuck. And, if you've been watching the show as long as I have, her poem may bring a sniffle or two. It's "Ode to Charlie", the Basset hound that was always around, until he died.

Most of the recipes are not too complicated. As she says, they're intended for people with busy lives. The cookbook is beautiful, filled with photos of all that comfort food. It might be a perfect gift for someone who enjoys home cooking.

Ree Drummond's website is

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives by Ree Drummond. William Morrow, 2017. ISBN 9780062225269 (hardcover), 382p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, December 08, 2017

I'd Rather Be Reading by Guinevere De La Mare

I'm a sucker for books about books or reading. Guinevere De La Mare's little book is really just a gift item, but it has a few charming pieces in it. I'd Rather Be Reading is subtitled "A library of art for book lovers."

Guinevere De La Mare opens the book with an essay that is touching at times. She led a rebellion in kindergarten because she didn't want to learn to read. She enjoyed having family members read to her. When she decided to learn, she said she owed her love of reading to her grandmother, who was the director of her preschool. But, school almost destroyed her love of reading. In high school when she had to analyze the texts of books, it killed her love of reading. I could understand her comments. "What happened to willingly suspending our disbelief?" She said it was her first breakup with books because the magic was destroyed.

However, her book shows some of the magic, in artist's paintings and in photographs. There are a number of pictures of books. There are also quotes, "Less Selfies. More Shelfies." Interspersed between the artwork and the essays were poems about books and reading.

I wasn't a big fan of Maura Kelly's essay in which she recommended reading more classics. But, Ann Patchett wrote about trying to come up with a list of her favorite books. And, Gretchen Rubin offered "13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done".

I'd Rather Be Reading didn't really offer anything new. As I said, it's really just a little gift book if you're looking for something for the reader in your life.

Guinevere De La Mare's website is

I'd Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers by Guinevere De La Mare. Chronicle Books, 2017. ISBN 9781452155111 (hardcover), 96p.

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

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Bill Crider and What Are You Reading?

This first note is one I hate to share. Bill Crider often posted on Thursday's What Are You Reading blog. Although he had read my blog for years, I didn't meet Bill until Jeffrey Meyerson introduced me to him at Bouchercon in Raleigh. He had already started his cancer treatment when he came to New Orleans Bouchercon, and I know so many of us were glad to see him. Before I ask what you're reading, I'm going to share Bill's message on his blog from Tuesday. I know I spent Tuesday evening and times on Wednesday crying. Here is his message.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog.  I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care.  A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left.  The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I've made a lot of friends here.  My only regret is  that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block' fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins' latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand,  which is a collection of two novellas, "A Bullet for Satisfaction," an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and "The Last Stand," the last thing that Spillane completed.  It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I'll never read.  But I've had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it.  Much love to you all.

It almost seems meaningless to ask what you're reading after Bill's post. But, considering that his post was about the books he wouldn't get to finish, I think those who want to share should. I've just started Connie Willis' A Lot Like Christmas, an update of her wonderful collection, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. If you don't know Willis, she's a science fiction author who loves Christmas and has written wonderful stories to celebrate the season. They're in a variety of genres.

But, I'm actually on a train right now heading to Chicago. So, I'll read your comments as I can, picking them up on my cell phone.

If you want to share, what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Man Found Dead in Park by Margaret Coel

Margaret Coel wrapped up her Father John/Vicky Holden series with Winter's Child. That doesn't mean she said goodbye to her characters. In her illustrated novella, Man Found Dead in Park, she brings together Vicky Holden and her reporter from Denver, Catherine McLeod. And, in a special treat for mystery fans, Craig Johnson wrote the cover copy; Anne Hillerman did the introduction, and Keith McCafferty penned the Afterword. And Phil Parks' illustrations bring the characters to life.

The story actually begins with autobiographies of Holden and McLeod. While Coel's fans probably know the story of Vicky Holden, the Arapaho attorney who works with clients in Wyoming, many may not realize that Catherine McLeod was adopted when she was five years old. She knows nothing about her mother, except she was an Arapaho. So, when her story takes her to the Wind River Reservation, she's reluctant and eager at the same time.

In Denver, Catherine was called to the scene of a shooting in the Indian neighborhood. No one will talk to the police. No one will talk to McLeod's fellow journalist. But, women will talk reluctantly to Catherine because she is one of them. She uses her anonymous sources to report that one man killed the other, to get the names. She also learns that the Mexican Sinaloa cartel is using tribe members from Denver to introduce them to people on the Wind River Reservation. They are taking meth to the reservation.

In Wyoming, an ex-con, Arch Walksfast, is shot and arrested for killing a Mexican drug dealer in a meth house. His brother asks Vicky Holden to defend him, saying his brother is a user, but not a killer. With the small amount of evidence pointing to Arch, Vicky doesn't have a great deal of hope. Then, Catherine McLeod shows up to meet with Vicky.

Margaret Coel has always used her mysteries to point out issues affecting the Arapahos and the current world. There's just enough character development in this novella to highlight the strong women at the forefront of the fight for answers. It's an unusual format, an unusual book. But, it's a fascinating look at a contemporary crisis.

Note: You're stuck with my photo of the book because I couldn't find a picture of the cover.

Margaret Coel's website is

Man Found Dead in Park by Margaret Coel. Illustrated by Phil Parks. ASAP. 2017.  ISBN 9781892011640 (hardcover), 135p.

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

I wish I could tell when authors are ending a series or ending a storyline. This is the second book I read in three days that might be doing either. Maggie McConnon does end a three book arc in Bel, Book, and Scandal. There was a shocking conclusion, but the series could go on. We'll see.

For three books and fifteen years, chef Belfast McGrath has been wondering what happened to her childhood best friend Amy Mitchell. Because Bel came home without Amy on a party night when they were eighteen, the town of Foster's Landing has always looked on Bel with suspicion. Did Bel know what really happened? That suspicion drove Bel away from home, but when her relationship and her professional reputation crashed all on one night, she returned to Shamrock Manor, the Irish wedding center owned by her parents where her four older brothers performed in the band. She's the chef there, but she lost her high school sweetheart to the prettiest girl in town, and she recently lost another boyfriend. With Amy missing, Bel has been afraid to trust and afraid to open her heart.

It's the stepmother of a bride-to-be who leaves a newspaper at Shamrock Manor, and Bel is stunned to see Amy's picture. All these years later, she recognizes her friend, and is determined to track her down. Where is Amy, and what has she been doing? It seems she was once at a commune in upstate New York, not far from Foster's Landing. With a surprise ally, Bel goes searching for answers to the questions that have been plaguing her for fifteen years.

Maggie McConnon's Bel, Book, and Scandal appears to be a cozy, with the humor, the weddings, the music. But, it has dark undertones that have haunted Bel and all three books in the series. McConnon ends the arc with a surprising conclusion that leaves the series open. And, Bel's ally in this mystery is a fun addition. Professor Alison Bergeron makes more than a cameo appearance. Alison is the amateur sleuth in McConnon's other series, the Murder 101 books written as Maggie Barbieri.

Will Bel McGrath learn to trust again? Will the series continue now that Amy's storyline is over? Who knows? Maggie McConnon has left us all hanging with an ending filled with possibilities.

Maggie McConnon's website is

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon. St. Martin's. 2017. ISBN 9781250077301 (paperback), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy from the publisher.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Silent Second by Adam Walker Phillips

Who would ever expect a Human Resources manager to be a successor to Raymond Chandler? Adam Walker Phillips' Chuck Restic walks Chandler's mean streets of Los Angeles in the debut mystery, The Silent Second. It's an unusual combination, HR professional and amateur sleuth, but it works.

Chuck Restic had one good idea, an idea that shot him to HR executive in his company. Now, he's been there for twenty years. He's as bored with his life as his wife was. She left him, and now he's just going through the motions. As he tells it, he isn't surprised when an always-complaining associate complained about a co-worker. He is surprised when Ed Vadaresian doesn't show up for work again, and is officially declared a missing person.

Chuck's curiosity sends him to Vadaresian's home in the Armenian neighborhood in Glendale. He's told stories about Ed's business dealings and that the man is back in Armenia. Before he knows it, he's digging into Ed's personnel files, where he discovers real estate holdings. Restic is already in deep. Before he knows it, he's investigating real estate, checking on his wife's relationships with entrepreneurs, and asking questions. He's hanging out with a reporter friend and cops. When a friend is murdered, and Chuck is beaten up by thugs, he knows he's in dangerous territory. But, Chuck Restic has never felt so alive.

With his melancholy attitude and knowledge of HR jingoism, Chuck Restic makes a perfect narrator. The author, and the character, show a knowledge of Los Angeles that adds to the atmospheric story. There's a hopelessness at times that is perfect for this novel. Adam Walker Phillips' debut mystery, The Silent Second, introduces an amateur sleuth worth following.

Adam Walker Phillips' website is

The Silent Second by Adam Walker Phillips. Prospect Park Books, 2017. ISBN 9781945551048 (paperback), 280p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.