Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I just started Eloisa James' romance, Seven Minutes in Heaven. It's delightful, but I'll probably be reading it every Thursday when we talk for the next few weeks. I'm in the middle of the mystery reading for the July issue of Library Journal, and next week I'll be in New York City for Book Expo. So, there isn't a lot of time to read a romance.

For the next couple weeks, what are you reading is going to depend on you. So, today, while I'm around during the day, tell us all what you're reading. I'm looking forward to our conversation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Have You Heard? - Miranda James' Murder Past Due

Sandie Herron has been listening to a series I enjoy, Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mysteries. Here's her review of the first audiobook in the series, Murder Past Due. Past Due
Series: Cat in the Stacks Mystery Book 1
Written by Miranda James
Narrated by Erin Bennett
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: February 25, 2014

I very much enjoyed Miranda James's (Dean James) first entry in the Cat in the Stacks series MURDER PAST DUE.  This was a relatively simple story that gained speed as it unfolded.  By the end, we had been treated to several twists and surprises that pointed to an unlikely conclusion.

Taking place in the college town of Athena, Mississippi, we are introduced to Charlie Harris, who is widowed and whose adult children are on their own.  Living in a large home, Charlie took in boarders who attended Athena College.  This semester just one boarder - Justin Wardlaw, son of school and college classmate Julia Wardlaw - lived with Charlie and his cat.  Diesel was a Maine Coon cat; therefore he was large among cat breeds.  In fact, Charlie almost always took Diesel wherever he went bound by a harness and leash.

Another classmate of Charlie and Julia, Godfrey Priest, had gone on to become a famous and popular author.  He returns to Athena for several reasons.  He is to do a signing of his new book just published.  He also wants to donate his "papers" to the college where Charlie was the head archivist.  A dinner was planned to thank Godfrey for his donation; however, he never made it. Several people stopped by to see Priest, with his final visitor being Charlie Harris, who found Godfrey dead in his hotel room.

First we discover that Charlie’s boarder Justin is Godfrey's son from an affair he and Julia had many years ago.  From there clues began popping up, or at least now that there was a murder to solve, they became more apparent.  If I shared them now, there would be no reason for you to enjoy this cozy mystery.

There were some things that strained believability.  Justin acted younger than 18, but then he's just been told that the only father he ever knew is not his father and then his biological father, Godfrey Priest, is killed, all in one day.  Charlie tries to help since he knew everyone, but his involvement was unnaturally formal and friendly at the same time.  On getting to know Charlie better, we discover that he is a southern gentleman which explains the importance of proper manners to him.  Julia was around a bit too often, hovering over Justin.  When the Will was read, Julia wanted to know how much was in the estate, in dollars, a rude question at the time.

While there might have been some flaws, I felt the clues to the murderer were well placed and plausible.  Their presentation was unpredictable yet believable.  When we learn more behind the motives, clues came together to support the final resolution, even though my jaw dropped once or twice on the way.  

A great first mystery in the Cat in the Stacks series.  I would enjoy seeing Charlie and Diesel in a certain sequel.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Although this latest book by James Runcie is part of "The Grantchester Mysteries", Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love really has very little mystery in it. At least, not mystery as crime fiction readers think of it. The stories in this collection are really about the mystery of life.

Readers who follow the series know this is the sixth book in the series that has been turned into the Grantchester series on PBS. That series features Sidney Chambers and his friend, Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, and it's centered on crimes that can be dark at times. However, these stories are heavy on details of Sidney and Geordie's personal lives as well.  Set from 1971 to 1976, this collection includes a murder, a missing teen, a missing book. There's a scandal at the church. And, there is a wealth of religious elements in it as Archdeacon Sidney Chambers contemplates faith, handles services, deals with a woman who wants more of a role in the church. There's music and family and friendship. Sidney spends a great deal of time contemplating his relationship with his wife. There's a surprising final chapter in this book that wraps up the series.

I was actually disappointed in this addition to the series. I haven't read the recent books, and maybe the books have been trending more towards religion and Sidney's personal life. But, that's not why I read the books. I'm looking for Sidney and Georgie to tackle crimes, and, if those crimes involve the mysteries of life, of personal relationships, that's fine. But, I wasn't expecting a book that focused on Sidney's religious and personal life with very few crimes.

I'd recommend Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love to Jan Karon's fans. This is a book about religion and faith. I wouldn't recommend it to readers looking for the next crime fiction collection.

James Runcie's website is

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie. Bloomsbury. 2017. ISBN 9781632867940 (hardcover), 368p.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Have You Heard? - Tammy Kaehler's Kiss the Bricks

Sandie Herron has a timely book review for us, just before the Indianapolis 500. Herron reviews a recent book release, Tammy Kaehler's Kiss the Bricks. Thanks, Sandie!

Kiss the Bricks (Kate Reilly Mysteries Book 5) by [Kaehler, Tammy]KISS THE BRICKS
By Tammy Kaehler
Scottsdale, AZ:  Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date:  May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback Original

Tammy Kaehler takes us to see Kate Reilly race in the Indianapolis 500, one of the most popular auto races in the world.  Kate Reilly would consider winning the race a dream come true, while finishing the race is still a lofty goal.  The world would probably see her as the first female driver to win, one of Kate’s biggest gripes as well.  She wants to be considered a driver, just as any other male or female.  

Anyone who races in the Indy 500 participates in a series of events throughout the month of May.  Days of practice culminate in qualification in order to determine which 33 drivers are in the race as determined by their lap speeds.  Kate is shocked to find herself as the fastest driver of the field! Unfortunately, Kate’s next day of practice is a difficult one, and she finds herself near the bottom of the field.  Now Kate must contend with being compared to PJ Rodriguez, the first woman to be fastest on qualification day in 1987, followed by days of being in last place and ending with her death five days later.  The official cause of death is suicide, but many who knew PJ well believe it was murder.  

No investigation into PJ’s death thirty years ago was ever done.  The family comes to Kate with their feelings on PJs death and asks Kate to look into facts that might substantiate murder as the cause of death.  Kate’s reputation as an amateur sleuth has preceded her to the track.  Kate agrees to look into PJ’s death partly because she knows the tenacity needed to make it to the top and believes that PJ would not give up before meeting their mutual goal.  PJ bore the same pressures on being a “girl” driver as Kate does, so comparisons run rampant.

Kate is thrilled her grandfather is in Indianapolis for the weeks up to and including the race.  He stays with Kate and Holly, Kate’s roommate, her assistant, and best friend.  The three form Special Team Kate to investigate PJs murder.  They begin by trying to place who was at the race that had access to PJ and who would benefit by her death.  They are joined early in this task by Ryan, Kate’s FBI boyfriend, who is in town for the race.  He lends a professional quality to their research.

Many activities follow qualification day that involve Kate and bring her in touch with many people involved in Indy thirty years prior.  First Kate’s position in the field of drivers must be determined.  Next is a day of media and public relations where the Indy league sends teams of drivers to various major cities.  A team competition to see who has the fastest pit stop follows.  Numerous interviews with TV, radio, and print ventures keep Kate on her toes and busy between official events.  A festival parade is held on the Saturday prior to the race with the usual floats and participants as well as all the drivers.  

All these activities are interrupted by the murder of the man who had owned PJ’s team, also the father of one of Kate’s team owners.  Relationships between the people involved in present day mix and intertwine with those of thirty years ago.  Special Team Kate now considers viable possibilities for both murders.   

Everything culminates in the running of the Indy 500 race.  The twists and turns we have taken with Kate bring us to the conclusions of both mysteries.  Does Kate run the race to the end?  Is PJs death considered murder and if so, whodunit?  

I very much enjoyed this complex and detailed perspective on the Indy 500.  I found KISS THE BRICKS to be another step up in Tammy Kaehler’s writing skills, bringing us closer to the action and everything that makes up the Indy 500.  Definitely recommended.

Reviewed by Sandie Herron

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

Plum Sykes, author of Bergdorf Blondes, now sets her sights on Oxford, England in the 1980s, and a group of college students who are pretentious, too wealthy for their own good, and only interested in partying. Party Girls Die in Pearls is the first Oxford Girl mystery, introducing Ursula Flowerbutton.

Ursula is a "Fresher", a new student at Christminster College at Oxford. She hopes to be a reporter for  Cherwell, the college newspaper, but she wouldn't mind meeting some posh students and attending some parties. Although Lady India Brattenbury doesn't invite Ursula to a party, another "Fresher", Nancy Feingold begs her to attend. Nancy, part of a wealthy gardening tool family from the United States, is dying to meet some of the upper-class British students. But, it's Ursula who finds India's body the morning after the drunken party. Now, she has the idea for a story for Cherwell. And, she has a reason to play "Nancy Drew".

While her nights are filled with parties, and her mornings with rowing, Ursula fits in time to pry into the stories of the students, and even her tutor. She and Nancy team up to discover who might have wanted India dead. A few too many people had reasons to dislike Lady Brattenbury, and some of them were too drunk to remember what they did the night of the murder.

Sykes' book is so caught up in the big hair, fashions, music and culture of the 1980s that there are numerous footnotes explaining '80s culture and Oxford slang and history. At times, it feels as if it's a Nancy Drew goes to Oxford mystery. I wasn't the right audience for Party Girls Die in Pearls. I'd recommend it only for new adults fascinated by the '80s.

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes. Harper. 2017. ISBN 9780062429025 (hardcover), 352p.

FTC full disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson

Romance, history, matchmaking, humor. It's all there in Penrose Halson's enjoyable account, The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London. Before eHarmony and and Tinder, there was the Marriage Bureau, founded in London by Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver in 1939.

In 1986 author Penrose Hanson took over Katharine Allen Marriage and Advice Bureau in London. It had been founded in 1960, modeled on the Marriage Bureau. In 1992, Heather Jenner's daughter asked the author to take over her clients.

It all started with Audrey Parson's Uncle George. Audrey, a farmer's daughter, had sailed from England to marry a young man who worked for her uncle in India. But, Audrey wasn't ready to marry. She returned home to England and took a number of tedious jobs, until her uncle invited her back to visit. On that visit, he suggested there were so many British men in Ceylon and India who were desperate to marry British women. Maybe she should start a marriage agency.

Audrey talked to a friend Heather Lyon, an ex-debutante who was divorced if she wanted to join her. Both women changed their names to family names. Audrey became Mary Oliver and Heather became Heather Jenner. They couldn't advertise in the newspapers, but fortunately their new business became news stories, and remained newsworthy over the years. The Marriage Bureau survived several locations, the inexperienced owners, and the war years. It survived marriages and a changed partnership. And, the two women and future employees survived with humor and tears.

The Marriage Bureau is a riveting story. There are funny stories - judging at a baby show, accounts of some of their more difficult clients. And, there are stories of tragedy and death. The Second World War and the Blitz destroyed lives. But, throughout the first ten years of the business, covered in this book, love and marriages flourished.

This is not a World War II story. It's a story of two enterprising young women, and their matchmaking business. But, some of those first ten years were during the war, so it reflects the changing times, the changing occupations for women, the men who were destroyed. The Marriage Bureau is a compelling book.

The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London by Penrose Halson. William Morrow. 2017. ISBN 9780062562661 (paperback), 320p.

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Winners and Give Me an H Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The signed copies of Lori Rader-Day's The Day I Died will go to Helen T. from Evansville, IN and Chuck B. from Garnet Valley, PA. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, it's a Give Me an H Giveaway. A Puzzle to Be Named Later is by Parnell Hall. If you aren't familiar with the Puzzle Lady mysteries, there are crosswords and a sudoku by Will Shontz to help you solve the mystery. Yankee fan Cora Felton is ecstatic. A recuperating Yankee rookie sensation invites her to a pool party. And, she gets to meet Derek Jeter. Oh, and she had to solve a puzzle, and a few guests were killed.

Tracee de Hahn's debut mystery, Swiss Vendetta, is a little more serious. Swiss police detective Agnes Luthi finds herself trapped in a chateau during the blizzard of the century when she's called out on her first homicide.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win A Puzzle" or "Win Swiss Vendetta." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 25 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.