The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient
The KIss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Black Cherry

Black Cherry
Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell

Friday, September 29, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Out of the Blue by Jill Shalvis- Feature and Review

The right betand the wrong bed! Don't miss this fun and sexy classic romance from New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis!
For Hannah Novak, running a bed-and-breakfast with her two best friends was adventure enough. But they didn't feel that way. They wanted to devote the summer to serious man hunting—loser cleans toilets! Fine for them, but Hannah was, uh, inexperienced. How could she seduce anyone?
Then out of the blue came Zach Thomas, looking for a bedand breakfast. Hannah had always thought the rugged cop was the sexiest man alive, and, bet or no bet, she wanted him. So she checked him in—to her own room—with every intention of checking him out!
A sexy contemporary romance.
READ A SAMPLE:


MY REVIEW:


Out of the BlueOut of the Blue by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out of the Blue is a 2016 Harlequin Special Release publication.


I found this book while browsing through my Overdrive library account, but the title didn’t sound familiar to me. So, I checked it out thinking it was a new release, only to discover the book is actually a reissue of a Harlequin Temptation novel, published in 2000, and originally titled “The Wrong Bed”.

However, I have no problem reading older titles, and truth be told, I love seeing these older titles re-released in digital format. So, despite the book’s age, this story has no problem standing the test of time. In fact, if I hadn’t known the book was a reissue in advance, I never would have guessed the book was nearly sixteen years old.

Hannah has been so focused on her business, she wakes up one day and realizes she has had no love life at all, and horror of all horrors, is still a virgin. Hannah is quite ready to remedy that situation, and as fate would have it, Zach, her best friend’s brother, just happens to be coming to stay at their B&B for a week, while recovering from a bullet wound he received in the line of duty.

Hannah, decides right then that Zach is the perfect man for the job, and sets out to seduce him. Hilarity erupts as Zach has no idea what Hannah is trying to accomplish and her efforts to sway him fail miserably.

This story is short, humorous, and sexy, with only a slight bit of drama and angst. Mostly, this is a just a nice escapist read, a little bit predictable, but I liked all the characters and thought it was an entertaining novel.
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GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Out-Blue-Jill-Shalvis-ebook/dp/B019CLN2VQ/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/out-of-the-blue-jill-shalvis/1004085421

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras with her family and far too many assorted quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. 

Look for Jill's latest, LOST AND FOUND SISTERS on shelves and e-readers now, and get all her bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold. 

Visit Jill's website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Testimony by Scott Turow- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:


Bill ten Boom has walked out on everything he thought was important to him: his career, his wife, even his country. Invited to become a prosecutor at The Hague’s International Criminal Court, it was a chance to start afresh.

But when his first case is to examine the disappearance of four hundred Roma refugees – an apparent war crime left unsolved for ten years – it’s clear this new life won’t be an easy one . . .

Whispered rumours have the perpetrators ranging from Serb paramilitaries to the U.S. Army, but there’s no hard evidence to hold either accountable, and only a single witness to say it happened at all. 

To get to the truth, Boom must question the integrity of every person linked to the case – from Layton Merriwell, a disgraced US Major General, to flirtatious barrister, Esma Czarni – as it soon becomes apparent that every party has a vested interest and no qualms in steering the investigation their way . . .



LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:







MY REVIEW:


Testimony (Kindle County Legal Thriller #10)Testimony by Scott Turow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Testimony by Scott Turow is a 2017 Grand Central Publication.

Absorbing and atmospheric legal drama-

Bill ten Boom, aka, 'Boom", started his life over at a time when the thought of starting over is entirely too exhausting to contemplate. After leaving his wife and his job, Bill is approached about accepting a case with The Hague’s International Criminal Court.

The case in question, is a ten year old cold case, involving the disappearance and presumed deaths, of four hundred Roma refugees during the Bosnian war. It seems like just the kind of challenge Bill has been looking for.

But, he ended up getting a lot more than he ever bargained for. Every person with knowledge or a stake in the outcome has an agenda of their own. Who can he trust, if anyone? Can he, after all these years, discover the truth of what took place in the murky Bosnian conflict?

The Bosnian war, for me, was very difficult to understand, with all the sketchy details and the inability to know what was really going on over there, I often felt confused by it all. What few details I had managed to make heads or tails of have long since left my consciousness.

But, this book brings that conflict into a sharper focus and although it is a work of fiction, the details provided are proof of a great deal of research, reading, and familiarity with the area.

The story, unlike many of the novels that made Turow famous, is nothing like a traditional legal thriller. The international courts are a whole other animal entirely, and rules are vastly different, as are the apparent dangers and intrigues.

The deaths of four hundred Romas- including women and children, who were rounded up and then buried alive, leaving only one lone survivor, is a murder mystery of epic proportions. The suspects are plentiful- including the United States, who may have been seeking retribution due to a double cross by the Gypsies that cost American lives.

“Justice is good. I accept the value of testimony, of letting the victims be heard. But, consequences are essential. People can’t believe in civilization without being certain that a society will organize itself to do what it can to make wrongs right. Allowing the slaughter of four hundred innocents to go unpunished demeans the lives each of us lives. It’s that simple.”

Politics, scandal, secrets, legal complexities, personal missteps, and cover-ups abound, along with plenty of action and more sweaty palm moments than you can shake a stick at.

The story moves along at a brisk enough pace, but it is not a book you can read on auto-pilot. It can be a little dense at times, and occasionally I felt lost and got a little confused, which is why I recommend taking your time with it.

Turow’s trademark twists, are well timed, and effective, but it’s his amazing talent for creating rich characterizations, most notably, Goos, who was ‘Boom’s’ investigation partner, and ‘Attila’ a colorful US Army sergeant who has been told to help assist ‘Boom’, that really stands out.

"There will always be ones like him, won’t there?", asked Goos. “Sure.” I nodded. “The brilliant, charismatic crackpot who gets his hands on the levers of power and exults in mayhem?” “There will always be people like him.”

There is much to contemplate in this novel, and I think it was a bold and ambitious undertaking, offering terrific insights and observations only a writer like Turow could add.

Overall, this one is quite a bit different from other novels by this author, but is every bit as smart, clever, but it is also quite a bit more challenging. Still at the end of the day, Turow delivers another outstanding, thought provoking thriller!


GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Testimony-Scott-Turow-ebook/dp/B01LL8BSNM/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/testimony-scott-turow/1124564294

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Scott Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. He graduated with high honors from Amherst College in 1970, receiving a fellowship to Stanford University Creative Writing Center which he attended from 1970 to 1972. From 1972 to 1975 Turow taught creative writing at Stanford. In 1975, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating with honors in 1978. From 1978 to 1986, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago, serving as lead prosecutor in several high-visibility federal trials investigating corruption in the Illinois judiciary. In 1995, in a major pro bono legal effort he won a reversal in the murder conviction of a man who had spent 11 years in prison, many of them on death row, for a crime another man confessed to.

Today, he is a partner in the Chicago office of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal an international law firm, where his practice centers on white-collar criminal litigation and involves representation of individuals and companies in all phases of criminal matters. Turow lives outside Chicago

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:




MY REVIEW:


See What I Have DoneSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt is a 2017 Atlantic Monthly Press publication.

After seeing some reviews for this book pop up on Goodreads and realizing the book was based on the infamous Lizzie Borden murders, I knew I had to read it.

For decades, I have been fascinated by the Borden murders, never quite sure if I fully believed in Lizzie’s guilt or innocence. I’ve read true crime and historical fiction based on Lizzie or the murders in general. Some of these novels are quite convincing, for one side or the other, and entirely plausible, while others are so far fetched I barely recognize the central characters. The same can be said for true crime books which also tend to lean to one side or the other and like to add, or leave out, any evidence that doesn’t fit their narrative.

Still, I never pass up the chance to read a book about the murders, fiction or nonfiction. This newest look at the day the Borden’s died and the subsequent fallout, is a work of fiction, and it appears to have received a few mixed reviews.

Initially, my personal experience with the novel, was one of boredom. The only interesting cog in the wheel was the arrival of Lizzie’s uncle on her mother’s side of the family, which explores a theory only some give credence to. I was glad the author decided to explore that angle, and the question of what John's motive may have been.

Other than that, there wasn’t much here I had not heard before, and many times it reminded me of the old made for television movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery. The speculation was different, but the characters and the family dynamics were very similar, as was the overall atmosphere.

However, towards the last quarter of the book, things really started to perk up. At one point, a chill went down my spine, literally.

The author doesn’t attempt to solve the riddle, instead leaving the reader, once again, to spend their spare time mulling over the evidence presented, which left plenty of room for reasonable doubt.

Although the book raised some interesting questions and presented some unexplored theories, and the author did a fair job of recreating the intense hostility and resentment in the Borden household, as well as giving the main players individual and pronounced personalities, there was something missing or lacking along the way that prevented the type of suspenseful build up I was hoping for. Perhaps my familiarity with the case squashed the anticipation aspects just a little, so maybe it was just me.

Still, I think the book was worth the time I invested in it, and it has renewed my interest in this case, causing me to rethink the facts I am one hundred percent sure of. But, at the end of the day, I find myself continuing to waffle, unable or unwilling, to stand on one side of the fence or the other.

The bulk of the book was mildly interesting, and kept me engaged just enough to propel me forward, but by the end, I was feeling much more impressed, and my attention was totally undivided.

For the discussion the book could prompt, I do recommend giving it a try. What are your theories?




GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/See-What-I-Have-Done-ebook/dp/B01N7JZ0SJ/


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/see-what-i-have-done-sarah-schmidt/1124913788

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sarah Schmidt is a Melbourne based writer who happens to work at a public library. 
See What I Have Done is her first novel.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

A long-haul mover’s rollicking account of life out on the Big Slab.

More than thirty years ago, Finn Murphy dropped out of college to become a long-haul trucker. Since then he’s covered more than a million miles packing, loading, and hauling people’s belongings all over America. Known by his trucker handle as U-Turn, he spends his days (and many of his nights) in a 53-foot eighteen-wheeler he calls Cassidy.

In The Long Haul, Murphy offers a trucker’s-eye view of America on the move. Going far beyond the myth of the American road trip, he whisks readers down the I-95 Powerlane, across the Florida Everglades, in and out of the truck stops of the Midwest, and through the steep grades of the Rocky Mountains. As he crisscrosses the country, Murphy recounts with wit, candor, and charm the America he has seen change over the decades, from the hollowing-out of small towns to changing tastes in culture and home furnishings.

Some 40 million Americans move each year, and very few have any idea what they’re getting into or the kind of person to whom they are relinquishing their worldly goods. The Long Haulis also a behind-the-scenes look at the moving industry, revealing what really happens when we call in “the movers.”

Through it all, Murphy tells poignant, funny, and often haunting stories of the people he encounters on the job: a feisty hoarder in New Hampshire; a Virginia homeowner raging when Murphy’s truck accidentally runs down a stand of trees; an ex-banker in Colorado who treats Finn and his crew with undisguised contempt; a widow who needs Murphy to bring her archeologist husband’s remains and relics to a Navajo burial ceremony in New Mexico. These experiences inspire Finn’s memorable reflections on work, class, and the bonds we form with the things we own and the places we live.

Brimming with personality and filled with great characters, The Long Haul is a resonant portrait of the enduring appeal of manual labor in the dark underbelly of the American Dream.

READ AN EXCERPT:




MY REVIEW:


The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the RoadThe Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy is a 2017 W.W. Norton Company publication.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book when I started reading it, but it sounded like it might be pretty interesting. I’m sure truckers see all manner of interesting things, meet a variety of different people, and have probably had their fair share of odd encounters out on the road.

So, I settled in, ready to hear some interesting tales, perhaps a few suspenseful moments of danger, and maybe a human -interest story or two, as well.

What I got, though, was so much more than that. Finn Murphy has such an honest and genuine voice and seems like he would be quite an interesting person, if I were to ever meet him in person.

I haven’t moved in over twenty years, but if I ever do relocate and employ a mover to haul my belongings from one place to another, I will remember this book, as it has given me a new -found respect for truck drivers in general and for movers in particular.

‘To put it in a nutshell, the long-haul driver is responsible for legal documents, inventory, packing cartons, loading, claim prevention, unpacking, unloading, diplomacy, human resources, and customer service. The job requires an enormous amount of physical stamina, specialized knowledge, and tact. I am, as John McPhee called it, the undisputed admiral of my fleet of one.’

Finn relates the story of his career with humor, anger, and pragmatism, but also with a keen eye and lots of heart. Finn’s tells it like it is with no holds barred, and provides a surprising insight into race relations and immigration.

Discovering the ins and outs of his business was fascinating, and because I spent my entire working life dealing with the public I could relate to some of his frustrations when it came to customer service and overblown expectations.

I admired his unapologetic approach, exposing his stubbornness, but also revealing the pride he takes in his job. If he didn’t care about his work, he wouldn’t have bothered to write this memoir or taken the time to explain to the general population how things are out there, the regulations, the dangers, the people you encounter, and the rules you must adhere to, or provide so much insight into the challenges drivers face, while debunking a few misconceptions many people may have.

This book is very informative and is certainly a learning experience, but it was also quite touching and emotional at times. I liked Finn’s style, intelligence, ethics, and straightforwardness, and I definitely admired his dedication, discipline, and loyalty.

He chose, with great care, I think, which experiences he wanted to share with the reader, and I believe he chose well.

Overall, this was an educational memoir, which was so interesting, I read it in one evening. I think it's always important to try and understand what it might be like to walk a mile in another man’s shoes. It’s so easy to take people or certain occupations for granted, or to complain about how they do things, but until you do their job, you have no idea what goes into it.

Once you hear Finn's story, and get an idea of what it might be like to make long distance hauls, or work in the moving business, you will have a much greater appreciation for the job they do!

I highly recommend this book and I think most of you will come to like Finn and respect him, and his job, a great deal!

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Long-Haul-Truckers-Tales-Life-ebook/dp/B01M2XRQ50/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-long-haul-finn-murphy/1124822151

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Finn Murphy grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Colorado. He started working as a long-haul trucker in 1980. The Long Haul is his first book.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds her mother missing, the house covered in blood. Everything points to murder, except for one thing: there’s no sign of the body.

London detective Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter and Chloe Emery definitely have something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighborhood’s favorite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat, or is there more behind the charismatic fa├žade?

As a body fails to materialize, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of testimonies and accusations. Who is lying, and who is not? And soon Maeve starts to realize that not only will the answer lead to Kate Emery, but more lives may hang in the balance.

With Let the Dead Speak, Jane Casey returns with another taut, richly drawn novel that will grip readers from the opening pages to the stunning conclusion.
 

LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


Let the Dead Speak (Maeve Kerrigan, #7)Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey is a 2017 Minotaur Books publication.

This series just may be nearing perfection-

I’ve been following this series from the beginning and it’s been an incredible journey. The series started off as a solid procedural, but over time has developed into a deeply complex and compelling crime drama.

In this seventh installment, we see Maeve enjoying a new promotion, which gives her more incentive to solve what turns out to be one of her most puzzling cases to date.

When Chloe leaves her scheduled visitation with her father and his new family, before her scheduled departure time, she arrives home to a house of horrors. Blood is everywhere, but her mother’s body is nowhere to be found.

Chloe is placed with a neighbor whose daughter, Bethany, is her closest friend. The girls are thick as thieves, harboring teenage secrets no one could guess at.

But, Chloe, is an unusual girl, her mother having kept her far too sheltered, which gives her a certain vulnerability due to her isolation, making her a little difficult to draw out, even for Maeve.

The suspects are plentiful, with religious zealots, shady neighbors, and Chloe’s step family all holding explosive secrets or playing their own angles.

Maeve is once again partnered with DI Josh Derwent and the pair has now relaxed into a working rhythm, although one doesn’t entirely trust the other. But, they have the added complication of dealing with a rookie who is ambitious, but annoying.

Maeve takes professional risks, walks an ethical tightrope at times, but has grown stronger, gained more self-confidence and has begun to win the battle over many of the demons that plague her.

There is a softer side to Josh, whose personal life as drastically changed, but on the job he is the same guy we all know and love- or hate- or both.

This case is one wild twisted ride, with darker psychological tones to go along with the standard police procedures. The atmosphere was tense right from the get-go and never let up, only intensifying as the case takes some shocking unexpected turns.

The ending nearly knocked my socks off. If this one doesn’t send a chill down your spine, I don’t know what will!!

I have really enjoyed watching this series develop. It has slowly turned into one of my favorite British procedurals. The stories become more tense, more complex, and riveting, as time goes by, and characters continue to grow and develop along with the storylines, keeping the dialogue and dynamics fresh and sharp.

This may be one of the best in the series to date! (I know, I think I said that about the last book, too, but they keep getting better and better!) Highly recommend!



GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Let-Dead-Speak-Mystery-Kerrigan-ebook/dp/B01N4MA5S6/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/let-the-dead-speak-jane-casey/1124362615

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jane Casey is an Irish-born author. She was born in Dublin in 1977 and grew up in Castleknock,  west of the center of Dublin. She studied English at Jesus College, Oxford.
Her first book, The Missing, was published by Ebury Press in February 2010. It was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award. She then began a series of novels featuring DC (Detective Constable) Maeve Kerrigan:The BurningThe ReckoningThe Last GirlThe Stranger You Know and The Kill (which was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award 2014). She has also begun a series of novels for young adults, featuring her character Jess Tennant: How to FallBet Your Life and Hide and Seek.

Friday, September 22, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Fans of Louise Fitzhugh's iconic Harriet the Spy will welcome 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce, the heroine of Canadian journalist Bradley's rollicking debut. In an early 1950s English village, Flavia is preoccupied with retaliating against her lofty older sisters when a rude, redheaded stranger arrives to confront her eccentric father, a philatelic devotee. Equally adept at quoting 18th-century works, listening at keyholes and picking locks, Flavia learns that her father, Colonel de Luce, may be involved in the suicide of his long-ago schoolmaster and the theft of a priceless stamp. The sudden expiration of the stranger in a cucumber bed, wacky village characters with ties to the schoolmaster, and a sharp inspector with doubts about the colonel and his enterprising young detective daughter mean complications for Flavia and enormous fun for the reader. Tantalizing hints about a gardener with a shady past and the mysterious death of Flavia's adventurous mother promise further intrigues ahead. 


READ AN EXCERPT:






MY REVIEW:



The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1)The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is a 2009 Delacorte Press publication.

Several years back, I received a copy of the fifth book in this series for review purposes. I had no idea I was agreeing to read a YA mystery, and was slightly irritated at myself for not researching the context before agreeing to review it.

But, once I started reading it, I realized the novel had a broad appeal, and YA can simply mean the characters are young, and doesn't necessarily imply it can't be enjoyed by adults, too.

I was so impressed by the book, I vowed to look up the first four installments and catch up with the series. Well, that was three years ago, so suffice it say, I got a little distracted somewhere along the way.

But, FINALLY, I have read this first installment, which catapulted the series into the public’s consciousness.

Flavia de Luce is eleven years old in 1950 and is an aspiring chemist. Not the normal goal for young ladies in this time period, and we learn pretty early on that her entire family is a more than a little eccentric.

The mystery heats up right away after Flavia finds a body in the cucumber garden, and her father becomes the prime suspect. In order to prove her father’s innocence, Flavia must investigate a sad episode in her father’s past, which is linked to a valuable stamp.

Flavia’s first person narrative is razor sharp, and laugh out loud funny. Her adventures are tense and suspenseful, and the secondary characters add just the right amount of support, while drawing a pointedly poignant portrait of Flavia, she would rather keep hidden.

As charming as she is, Flavia is also hurting, somewhat neglected, and left to her own devices more often than not, which brought out my maternal instincts, making me wish I could give her a fierce hug and reassure her, and assuage her fears, doubts, and insecurities.

The mystery is very well done, with several twists and surprises that place Flavia in direct danger, which adds a pretty intense level of suspense to the story.

I loved the strength Flavia displays, her courage, and willingness to do what it took to help her family, which makes her a positive figure for young readers and adults alike.

Other than being a huge Harry Potter fan, and having read The Hunger Games, I have pretty much skipped over the YA phenomenon for a variety of reasons. However, this series gets my stamp of approval, so far, and I am really looking forward to Flavia’s next adventure.


GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Sweetness-Bottom-Pie-Flavia-Novel-ebook/dp/B0027G6XDS/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sweetness-at-the-bottom-of-the-pie-alan-bradley/1100259021

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children's stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. His seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, "As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust" will be published in the US and Canada on January 6, 2015, and in the UK on April 23.

The first-ever Flavia short story, "The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse" has recently been published in eBook format, as has his 2006 memoir, "The Shoebox Bible".

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan -Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about  a  Palestinian family caught between present and past, between  displacement and home.

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. 

When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond. Soon Alia’s children begin families of their own, once again navigating the burdens (and blessings) of assimilation in foreign cities.

Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses is a remarkable debut novel that challenges and humanizes an age-old conflict we might think we understand—one that asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again. 

LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:







MY REVIEW:


Salt HousesSalt Houses by Hala Alyan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan is a 2017 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication.


Powerful, eye opening cultural family saga

This deeply absorbing novel follows a Palestinian family through several generations as they endure war, loss, and displacement.

As the story begins, Salma follows an old tradition of 'reading' the coffee dregs for her daughter, Alia, before her wedding.

What she sees, disturbs her, as it appears her daughter will lead an unsettled life, but she decides not to share her knowledge with anyone.

Yet, her predictions soon come to pass, as their family suffers a loss they never fully recover from and must leave the home they love.

Years later, Alia and her husband, who have settled in Kuwait, lose everything they built all over again.

The one thing I kept thinking as I read this story is how devastating war is. Politics, greed, and evil often work in tandem taking innocent lives and causing upheaval to those who only wish to carve out a comfortable life for themselves.

I know people adjust to living abroad if they deployed by the military or if they live in another country by choice, but how sad it must be to be forced to live somewhere you never fully feel ‘at home', or to have your family constantly uprooted.

It must, in some ways, feel as though their heritage has been robbed from them, their history and family ties watered down and dispersed over many places.

The historical details span several decades and gives the reader, especially people like myself, who knows very little about the Palestinian culture, a realistic glance at these events through their eyes, which is quite humbling and sobering.

Through this often forced migration, each member of the family is seemingly pulled in a different direction, with their root system yanked from them.

The women in this novel are highlighted more so than the men, not that the men play lesser roles, exactly. But, it is Salma, Alia and her daughter, Souad, who commands the pages. Their inner thoughts and the mother/daughter dynamic through generations is as normal as any, but with a different set of standards by which they often judged or criticized the other.

There is something indecent to Salma about how transparently Alia flourishes her emotions.

While this family avoids some of the truly horrible fates some have suffered because of war, but who, despite their advantages still loses the foundation they wish to build upon. Once displaced the family never seemed to find a real resting place within their hearts.

The story is told through the prospective of different characters, each bringing into focus a different feeling of conflict or of understanding or compromise.

Nostalgia is an affliction. Life a fever or a cancer, the longing for what had vanished wasting a person away. Not just the unbearable losses, but the small things as well.”

Ultimately, the story is compelling and touches on several important themes that are very much on our minds, but is also a rich family saga, with interesting and thoughtful characters.

Although, I am sure there are finer points to the story I failed to grasp, I still found this to be a very profound and thought -provoking novel.

GET YOUR COPY  HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Houses-Hala-Alyan-ebook/dp/B01I4FPM0A/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/salt-houses-hala-alyan/1124079672


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in Guernica and other literary journals. Her poetry collection ATRIUM was awarded the 2013 Arab American Book Award in Poetry, while her latest collection, HIJRA, was selected as a winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and published by Southern Illinois University Press. Her debut novel, SALT HOUSES, is forthcoming by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017. She is a Lannan fellow and currently resides in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Long Drop by Denise Mina- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

A standalone psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of the Alex Morrow novels that exposes the dark hearts of the guilty...and the innocent.

The "trial of the century" in 1950's Glasgow is over. Peter Manuel has been found guilty of a string of murders and is waiting to die by hanging. But every good crime story has a beginning. Manuel's starts with the murder of William Watt's family. Looking no further that Watt himself, the police are convinced he's guilty. Desperate to clear his name, Watt turns to Manuel, a career criminal who claims to have information that will finger the real killer. As Watt seeks justice with the cagey Manuel's help, everyone the pair meets has blood on their hands as they sell their version of the truth. The Long Drop is an explosive novel about guilt, innocence and the power of a good story to hide the difference.
 


READ AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


The Long DropThe Long Drop by Denise Mina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Long Drop by Denise Mina is a 2017 Little, Brown and Company publication.

This fictionalized account of Scotland’s notorious serial killer Peter Manuel is a gloomy and gritty portrayal of Glasgow in the 1950’s.

This unforgiving backdrop sets the stage for this story that centers around William Watt, a prime suspect in the killing of his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law. Watt, though, suspects Peter Manuel of the triple homicide. But was Watt as innocent as he claimed?

Watt and Manuel, ironically, end up going on an eleven hour bender together, a period of time that becomes a primary focus of the book, along with dialogue and testimony from the trial.

I had a very hard time getting into the book initially. I was totally unfamiliar with the case and the switch between Manuel and Watt’s night out together and the court testimony had me a little confused for a while.

But, then I remembered the book was based on a true story and decided to do a Google search. The background info really helped me to understand what was going on in the book and from then on I was much more invested.

What is so striking about this book is the stunning portrait of Glasgow’s underbelly and the brutal treatment and attitudes towards women in this time frame. It is a depressing setting, but incredibly realistic.

“To him they are no more that skin-covered stage flats in a play about him”

The psychological aspects are just as compelling, as are the court transcripts. The ‘pub crawl’ did take place, which is astonishing in itself, but the courtroom drama was utterly theatrical, with some poignancy as Manuel’s victims remembered their loved ones, their grief palpable.

The author did a very good job of capturing Manuel’s sociopathic and hardened psyche, which will give you an up close and personal look inside the mind a ruthless killer.

‘Peter Manuel does not know how other people feel. He has never known that. He can guess. He can read a face and see signs that tell him if someone is frightened or laughing. But, there is no reciprocation. He feels no small echo of what his listener is feeling.”


This is an interesting accounting of what is still considered by many as Scotland’s worst and most notorious serial killer.


                                                               PETER MANUEL

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but this wasn’t anywhere near what I was thinking the book would be like.

I think this blurb may have thrown me off course a little:


A standalone psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of the Alex Morrow novels that exposes the dark hearts of the guilty... and the innocent.

Despite the analysis of Peter Manuel and the study of his persona, and that of Watt, which provided plenty of psychological material, I don’t know if I would have described this book as a ‘psychological thriller’, at least not as we’ve come to define it currently, and this may have added to my initial frustrations.

However, once I warmed up to the subject, and understood where we headed, I found it to be a very interesting historical piece and crime novel.

I would like to come back to this book someday and approach it with the perspective I lacked going into it this first time around. I think the writing, which is spectacular once I finally got my bearings, would be better appreciated and knowing what to expect will allow me to focus on the story with more clarity.

Overall, this one got off to a rocky start, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I ended up feeling a great appreciation for the author’s angle on true events and the obvious amount of time and study she must have put in to create such a clear picture of the era, and the people involved in this grisly murder case.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Long-Drop-Novel-Denise-Mina-ebook/dp/B017RQP4G4/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-long-drop-denise-mina/1122910185

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Denise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Because of her father's job as an engineer, the family followed the north sea oil boom of the seventies around Europe, moving twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She left school at sixteen and did a number of poorly paid jobs: working in a meat factory, bar maid, kitchen porter and cook. Eventually she settle in auxiliary nursing for geriatric and terminal care patients.
At twenty one she passed exams, got into study Law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time. 
Misusing her grant she stayed at home and wrote a novel, 'Garnethill' when she was supposed to be studying instead. 
'Garnethill' won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasy Dagger for the best first crime novel and was the start of a trilogy completed by 'Exile' and 'Resolution'. 
A fourth novel followed, a stand alone, named 'Sanctum' in the UK and 'Deception' in the US. 

In 2005 'The Field of Blood' was published, the first of a series of five books following the career and life of journalist Paddy Meehan from the newsrooms of the early 1980s, through the momentous events of the nineteen nineties. The second in the series was published in 2006, 'The Dead Hour' and the third will follow in 2007.
She also writes comics and wrote 'Hellblazer', the John Constantine series for Vertigo, for a year, published soon as graphic novels called 'Empathy is the Enemy' and 'The Red Right Hand'. She has also written a one-off graphic novel about spree killing and property prices called 'A Sickness in the Family' (DC Comics forthcoming).
In 2006 she wrote her first play, "Ida Tamson" an adaptation of a short story which was serialised in the Evening Times over five nights. The play was part of the Oran Mor 'A Play, a Pie and a Pint' series, starred Elaine C. Smith and was, frankly, rather super.
As well as all of this she writes short stories published various collections, stories for BBC Radio 4, contributes to TV and radio as a big red face at the corner of the sofa who interjects occasionally, is writing a film adaptation of Ida Tamson and has a number of other projects on the go.









































































Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ghost of the Innocent Man- A True Story of Trial and Redemption- by Benjamin Rachlin- Feature and Review

ABOUT THE BOOK:
During the last two decades, more than two thousand American citizens have been wrongfully convicted. Ghost of the Innocent Man brings us one of the most dramatic of those cases and provides the clearest picture yet of the national scourge of wrongful conviction and of the opportunity for meaningful reform.

When the final gavel clapped in a rural southern courtroom in the summer of 1988, Willie J. Grimes, a gentle spirit with no record of violence, was shocked and devastated to be convicted of first-degree rape and sentenced to life imprisonment. Here is the story of this everyman and his extraordinary quarter-century-long journey to freedom, told in breathtaking and sympathetic detail, from the botched evidence and suspect testimony that led to his incarceration to the tireless efforts to prove his innocence and the identity of the true perpetrator. These were spearheaded by his relentless champion, Christine Mumma, a cofounder of North Carolina's Innocence Inquiry Commission. That commission-unprecedented at its inception in 2006-remains a model organization unlike any other in the country, and one now responsible for a growing number of exonerations.

With meticulous, prismatic research and pulse-quickening prose, Benjamin Rachlin presents one man's tragedy and triumph. The jarring and unsettling truth is that the story of Willie J. Grimes, for all its outrage, dignity, and grace, is not a unique travesty. But through the harrowing and suspenseful account of one life, told from the inside, we experience the full horror of wrongful conviction on a national scale. Ghost of the Innocent Man is both rare and essential, a masterwork of empathy. The book offers a profound reckoning not only with the shortcomings of our criminal justice system but also with its possibilities for redemption.


LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and RedemptionGhost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption by Benjamin Rachlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption by Benjamin Rachlin is a 2017 Little, Brown and Co. Publication.

"Our dangers do not lie in too little tenderness to the accused. Our procedure has been always haunted by the ghost of the Innocent man convicted. It is an unreal dream.”

This is an astounding nonfiction accounting of a Willie J. Grimes’ wrongful conviction in 1988, the beginning of ‘The Innocence Project’, and the long, hard fought battle to free an innocent man of a crime he did not commit.

As we know, our perceptions and trust in our judicial – law and order – system has changed drastically over the past several decades. With DNA evidence exonerating so many wrongfully convicted people, the system has come under even closer scrutiny, to the point where even hardcore believers in capital punishment no longer advocate for it, not because they stopped believing in the death sentence, but because they are worried to death that an innocent person might die for a crime they didn’t commit.

While, a good majority of those sitting in prisons are guilty of the crimes they are accused of, there are more and more cases like Willie Grimes coming to light. Part of the reason why is because of forensics, and high -profile cases picked up by the media. But, credit must be given to ‘The Innocence Project’, as well.


While all of these cases are absolutely heartbreaking, the case of Willie Grimes is especially hard to take. Willie worked two jobs and was in a stable relationship. But, when an elderly woman was raped, Willie was misidentified as the perpetrator, and the investigators knew it and helped the erroneous information along.

Willie did what he could to fight his conviction, even while he suffered though horrible depression and illness.

The one bright spot for Willie and others in his position was the interest and involvement of Chris Mumma, who picked up his file.


Willie with his attorneys- featuring Chris Mumma



The road was long, filled with disappointments and setbacks, but after twenty-four years in prison, Willie was finally exonerated.

This book highlights the ways wrongful convictions can occur, with law enforcement not following up, ignoring facts, creating evidence, coupled with eyewitness mistakes, in regards to identification, or with the defendant having limited legal recourse.

In the hurry to close cases, a multitude of mistake can happen, investigations are lazy/ dirty/messy- or alternative suspects are not pursued. It is a travesty. Not only do the innocent lose years of their lives they will never be able to get back or do over, but justice is not being served.

How many other women were raped because the wrong guy was convicted? How many people are walking around free as a bird, after having committed a crime, while someone else is languishing in prison or worse- on death row?

This is a very thought-provoking book, which is extremely well written and organized. It stays on topic without straying off course or going on long diatribes or preachy soap box sermons. The author keeps the book pretty much about Willie Grimes and his life in prison, how he coped, how he fought, and about Chris Mumma and the Innocence Project who noticed all the discrepancies in Willie’s case and worked to bring his plight back into the court system. Once someone is behind bars, it is very, very difficult to get a conviction overturned or get a new trial, even when there is overwhelming evidence of innocence.

Thankfully, in Willie’s case, everyone’s hard work paid off and he managed to get his moment of redemption.

Willie’s story angered me, frustrated me, and it was certainly a depressing and gloomy journey, but at the same time, I was buoyed by time and energy people put in to see that Willie’s case was finally heard.


Overall, this book is an important book, one of justice denied and justice found. There are thousands of people in prison for crimes they did not commit. It is as important as ever to prevent anyone from spending a day behind bars for a crime they are innocent of, and to incarcerate those who are guilty of those crimes, which makes organizations like The Innocence Project necessary.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Innocent-Man-Story-Redemption-ebook/dp/B01N7EQMWJ/


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghost-of-the-innocent-man-benjamin-rachlin/1125283991


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Benjamin Rachlin grew up in New Hampshire. He studied English at Bowdoin College, where he won the Sinkinson Prize, and writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he won Schwartz and Brauer fellowships. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, TIME, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives near Boston.