Saturday Savings 30.07.2016

Pre-order price drop and a review preview

Cast Iron CookingCast-Iron Cooking by Rachel Nairns is scheduled for release 9 August 2016, but both the ebook and the paperback editions are discounted today. I received an advanced reading copy several weeks ago, and my review will be posted next week. I love cast-iron cookware, and so does Rachel Nairns.

The book includes a bit of history, several tips on preparing, rescuing and using cast iron, and a lovely collection of recipes. I never even thought of baking apples in cast iron, but I’ve been eagerly anticipating apple season since I saw the recipe here for doing so.

Description:  Get the most from your cast-iron cookware with 40 fabulous recipes especially designed for cast iron, from a full English breakfast to chilaquiles, pan pizza, cheesy beer fondue, Korean fried chicken, vegetarian chili, mango curry, party nuts, two kinds of cornbread, baked apples, gingerbread — and the perfect grilled cheese sandwich! You’ll also learn how to buy the cast-iron pots and pans that are right for you and how to care for them successfully. Digital list price:  $9.99 (USD), pre-order for $6.99 (USD). Paperback list price $12.95 (USD), pre-order for $10.99 (USD).

Previously reviewed, now reduced

Reining in Murder (A Carson Stables Mystery) by Leigh Hearon is now

Kindle edition now discounted to $1.99
Kindle edition now discounted to $1.99

discounted to $1.99. I reviewed this one prior to its release, and, although I recommended it, I did so with reservations because I think readers who aren’t horse crazy like me might have some trouble with some of the vocabulary.  So, I defined all those equine terms for my readers. If you like cozy mysteries but passed when it was first released, you might want to reconsider now that it’s on sale.

See my earlier review, especially if you need help with the lingo: Sis’s original review.

Description:  When horse trainer Annie Carson rescues a beautiful thoroughbred from a roadside rollover, she knows the horse is lucky to be alive…unlike the driver. After rehabilitating the injured animal at her Carson Stables ranch, Annie delivers the horse to Hilda Colbert–the thoroughbred’s neurotic and controlling owner–only to find she’s been permanently put out to pasture. Two deaths in three days is unheard of in the small Olympic Peninsula county, and Annie decides to start sniffing around. She’s confident she can track down a killer…but she may not know how ruthless this killer really is…

Texas blooms at Chelsea in this cozy

Bluebonnet betrayalRecommended: The Bluebonnet Betrayal (Book 5 of the Potting Shed Mystery series) by Marty Wingate; scheduled for release 2 August 2016 by Alibi, a Random House imprint; list price $2.99 (USD), Kindle edition.

Marty Wingate takes her Potting Shed Mystery series to Britain’s most famous flower show with The Bluebonnet Betrayal, scheduled for release Tuesday, 2 August 2016.

The cozy mystery series features professional gardener Pru Parke, a Texan who transplants herself to England in the debut, The Garden Plot (available in ebook for $2.99/USD), and who presents the reader with a bouquet of garden lore when she’s not unearthing clues . . . and occasionally when she is. Pru is both a proud native of the Lone Star State and an avid Anglophile, and the series offers a good sense of both backgrounds.

These are true cozies, written without vulgar language or vulgar depictions of violence. Readers may also like the fact that Pru is neither a young woman nor an old one. In this fifth book, she has married DCI Charlie Pearse, whom she meets in the first book, and Wingate writes of their romance with a deftness as well as discretion. I love their flirting, but I’m never embarrassed by too much intimacy.

The association of the amateur with the professional is a standard of the cozy genre, but here Wingate succumbs to the all-too-common temptation to allow the amateur (Pru) to make rather ridiculous demands for inside information from a police officer who only knows her by reputation. We don’t, or shouldn’t, expect too much realism from cozies, but it’s disappointing to see an otherwise sensible sleuth act so silly – and irritating to be asked to believe that a Scotland Yard detective would yield to such appeals. Especially with so much evidence to indicate that Wingate is fully capable of writing around this dilemma.

The plot involves a romantic quadrangle that is a bit of a stretch, too, and I suspect many readers will identify the murderer much sooner than Pru does. I also got a bit irritated with the repeated identification of bluebonnets as a Hill Country wildflower since I know them firsthand from my hometown of Houston, and have seen them bloom in profusion throughout the southeastern part of the state. I’d have expected Wingate, who herself is a well-known garden speaker and writer, to know better.

Yet, despite these detractions, this is an enjoyable and entertaining read. Wingate transports readers to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the grounds of the Royal Hospital on which it is held each May, quite fun for all of us who would like to go but may never have a chance. I had read the debut but not the middle books of the series, and I thought this one worked as a stand-alone. The series is attractively priced, too, from $2.99 (USD) for the first and last and $3.99 (USD) for Books 2, 3 and 4.

The Bluebonnet Betrayal isn’t likely to rate a best-in-show, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Alibi via NetGalley. She happily asserts that neither has attempted to influence her.

Description: Pru’s life in England is coming full circle. A Texas transplant, she’s married to the love of her life, thriving in the plum gardening position she shares with her long-lost brother, and prepping a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit featuring the beloved bluebonnets of the Texas hill country. Technically, Twyla Woodford, the president of a gardening club in the Lone Star State, is in charge of the London event, but Pru seems to be the one getting her hands dirty. When they finally do meet, Pru senses a kindred spirit—until Twyla turns up dead.

Although Twyla’s body was half buried under a wall in their display, Pru remains determined to mount a spectacular show. Twyla would have insisted. So Pru recruits her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, to go undercover and do a bit of unofficial digging into Twyla’s final hours. If Pru has anything to say about it, this killer is going to learn the hard way not to mess with Texas.

About the author: Marty Wingate is the author of the Potting Shed mysteries from Random House/Alibi. She also writes the Birds of a Feather mystery series, which debuted in 2015 with The Rhyme of the Magpie.

Marty speaks at national events, and writes about gardens and travel. She can be heard on A Dry Rain (adryrain.net), a free podcast available on iTunes. Marty is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as the Royal Horticultural Society and the Garden Writers Association. She leads small-group garden tours to European destinations including England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and on North American journeys. Marty doesn’t believe that the thin veneer of tourism – successive one-night stops in a series of hotels – can ever replace getting to know the people, history and culture of a region, and so, when arranging her tours, she always includes time for a cup of tea, a pint of beer, or a glass of wine.

Bloodhounds tracks the history of the mystery

bloodhoundsRecommended: Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey; 304 pp; first published in Great Britain in 1996 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price currently $4.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $15.95 (USD) but selling today at $12.98 at Amazon.com. Book 4 of a 16-book series.

Bloodhounds lays a trail that leads from the earliest crime stories to contemporary ones, while treating fans of this fiction to a modern locked-room mystery.

In the fourth book of the deservedly popular Peter Diamond series, bestselling writer Peter Lovesey tips his hat to his colleagues, from John Dickson Carr to Andrew Vachss. The result is not only a pleasing puzzler, but a guide to the best of the past and the present. This one should be read with a notepad at hand, for jotting down all the titles you’ll want to search for later – and plan on jotting them down because I doubt if you’ll want to interrupt your reading to fetch them.

I’m reading my way through the 16-book series as Soho Crime celebrates 25 years of publishing international crime fiction with a reading challenge. I have two months to complete it, and I don’t foresee any obstacles.

In this one, Diamond is back in Bath and back on the force at the only job he really does well . . . even if he is a bit of both a curmudgeon and a Luddite.  Lovesey created him at a time when political correctness was at its silliest, and Diamond is nothing if not politically incorrect. He is, however, sincere and that sincerity earns the admiration of readers as well as the (sometimes grudging) respect of the detectives who work with him at Avon and Somerset.

Bloodhounds pits Diamond against John Wigfull, the oh-so politically correct and career-conscious cop introduced in The Last Detective as Diamond’s would-be successor. Lovesey skillfully plays the two characters off, with John the rhinestone and Peter the Diamond.  We get Wigfull at his worst, smug with apparent success . . . but appearances are deceiving and he is, after all, the imitation detective while Diamond is genuine.

 Once again, Lovesey takes the reader on a tour of Bath, showing us the graceful Georgian buildings as well as the grimy back streets where no open-topped buses venture. The rich setting is a trademark of the Soho International Crime series, and Lovesey shows why he’s a champion from the first to the fourth (so far – I expect nothing less in the books to come).

The Bloodhounds of Bath are an uncongenial collection of fans of detective fiction who meet weekly in a crypt below a local church. Perhaps the only thing the members have in common is their love for mysteries, though the debate over the merits of any mystery are fierce and more than a few hackles are raised.

The first several chapters alternate between the Bloodhounds and Diamond, and this style may bother some readers. Lovesey had already earned my trust, so I was quite willing to follow where he led – and, before long, he led me (and Diamond and other detectives) along several false trails on the way to a satisfying solution.

The victim is battered with a blunt instrument, but the details are never gory or graphic. The corpse may be bloody, but the language (with perhaps one exception) is not.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Bloodhounds from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have dogged her to write anything other than her own opinions.  She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  A rare stamp and a corpse are discovered in Bath within hours of each other. As he investigates, Inspector Peter Diamond discovers that both the person who found the stamp and the victim belong to the Bloodhounds, an elite group of mystery lovers, who now urge Diamond to bring the murderer to justice. But there’s a hitch: the body lies inside a padlocked houseboat and the only key is in the pocket of a man with an airtight alibi.

PETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


 

Saturday Savings 23.07.2016

The Scottie Barked at Midnight

Scottie BarkedThe ninth book in this popular cozy mystery series is on sale at $2.99 (USD), half the $5.99 price. This is a series I’ve only recently started, so I have yet to read this mystery, but the whole series gets an enthusiastic endorsement from one of my reading friends, Stacey, and I think she’s a good judge of a good cozy mystery.

Description:  Spring is just a few weeks away, but winter is still digging its claws into Moosetookalook, Maine. With business at the Scottish Emporium frozen up, Liss MacCrimmon is cautiously optimistic when a twist of fate lands her on a reality competition show—until the contest gets a little too cutthroat . . . While driving on an icy road one night, Liss swerves her car when something darts out in front of it. The Scottish terrier she finds shivering in the snow turns out to be a reality TV star. But when the pooch’s owner is murdered, her daughter asks Liss to take her place on the reality show. Before Liss can tell her she’s barking up the wrong tree, she finds herself ensnarled in the strange world of reality competitions and hot on the trail of a deadly competitor. And just as she starts pawing at the truth, Liss realizes she could be next on the murderer’s list.

DunnettAbout the Author:  Kaitlyn Dunnett first caught the Scottish heritage bug when her husband learned to play the bagpipes. Many Scottish festivals and parades later, and after a brief stint as bass drummer with a bagpipe band, she decided to combine her love of things Scottish with her love of writing. The Liss MacCrimmon mysteries are the result. Kaitlyn lives on a Christmas tree farm in the mountains of western Maine and can be reached through her website at www.kaitlyndunnett.com.

Click the image below to see the entire Liss MacCrimmon series:

Kilt Dead

is scheduled to be released 26 July 2016.

I’d heard of Nicholas Sparks, but I never read any of his best-selling novels until I started borrowing them from my beautiful mom-by-marriage, and, I confess, I enjoy them almost as much as she does.  I found The Rescuea novel published in 2000 on sale today for $1.99 (USD). Most of his ebooks are priced at $7.99 (USD), so this is a significant savings.

RescueDescription: When confronted by raging fires or deadly accidents, volunteer firefighter Taylor McAden feels compelled to take terrifying risks to save lives. But there is one leap of faith Taylor can’t bring himself to make: he can’t fall in love. For all his adult years, Taylor has sought out women who need to be rescued, women he leaves as soon as their crisis is over and the relationship starts to become truly intimate. When a raging storm hits his small Southern town, single mother Denise Holton’s car skids off the road. The young mom is with her four-year-old son Kyle, a boy with severe learning disabilities and for whom she has sacrificed everything. Taylor McAden finds her unconscious and bleeding, but does not find Kyle. When Denise wakes, the chilling truth becomes clear to both of them: Kyle is gone. During the search for Kyle, the connection between Taylor and Denise takes root. Taylor doesn’t know that this rescue will be different from all the others.

roger ackroydI’ve collected Agatha Christies since I was in my teens, and I had at least one copy of every title when I was in my twenties, but one in particular — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd — mysteriously disappeared every time I moved. Now, I have a Kindle edition which cannot go astray. Today, this classic mystery is discounted to $1.99 (USD), and it is one that belongs in the library of every mystery fan if not of every well-rounded reader. This is the book that made Christie, the bestselling mystery writer of all time, a household name. Debates raged over whether Christie played fair. I think she did. Other writers have since copied her clever plot device, but, to my mind, no one has ever equaled this effort. This is one I can read over and over and over again and enjoy each reading as much as I did the first time.

Description:  In the village of King’s Abbot, a widow’s sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study — but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow’s blackmailer. King’s Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd’s wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim’s home. It’s now up to the famous Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King’s Abbot to grow vegetable marrows, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd.

And, last but by no means least, the bestselling, epic account of one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War, We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young by retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway, is on sale at $2.99 (USD) today. Soldiers Once

Description:  In November 1965, some 450 men of the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore, were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was brutally slaughtered. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War. They were the first major engagements between the US Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam. How these Americans persevered—sacrificing themselves for their comrades and never giving up—creates a vivid portrait of war at its most devastating and inspiring. Lt. Gen. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting—interviewed hundreds of men who fought in the battle, including the North Vietnamese commanders. Their poignant account rises above the ordeal it chronicles to depict men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have once found unimaginable. It reveals to us, as rarely before, man’s most heroic and horrendous endeavor.

Daphne is a Dear!

Lock StockLock, Stock and Over a Barrel: Dear Daphne Series, Book 1 by Melody Carlson; approx. 320 pp; first published in 2013 by Thorndike Books; current Kindle list price $0.99 (USD), paperback edition, $13.68 (USD), hardbound edition, $30.99 at Amazon.com. Book 1 of a 4-book series.

Recommended:  for Christian women – but with the warning that this is the first in a series with a storyline that is not fully resolved until the end of the series.

Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel: Dear Daphne Series, Book 1 is a light-hearted, easy-to-read happily-ever-after, except that readers don’t quite get the happily-ever-after in this volume. Or not all of the happily-ever-after.

The central storyline – whether Daphne can comply with the eccentric terms of her late aunt’s will and inherit the sizeable estate – isn’t resolved and, from all appearances, won’t be until the end of the series. That irks some readers, yet Melody Carlson gives us so much reason to care about Daphne (as well as her family and friends) that I think most will want to continue. I do.

I don’t read a lot of chick lit, and even less romance, but I confess I did enjoy this one. I found myself disappointed to see how close I was coming to the end, and I initially felt a little disappointed with the ending, wishing it had been stronger. Upon reflection, though, I decided the story ended exactly where it needed to end.

Daphne Ballinger, a 34-year-old The New York Times wedding writer who has all but given up on dreams of her own wedding, returns to Appleton for her Aunt Dee’s funeral. Afterwards, her aunt’s attorney stuns the family by announcing that Daphne is the sole heir to her aunt’s estate. He’s got more surprises in store for Daphne, who learns the bequest comes with a few strings.

The premise is, frankly, implausible. No attorney would prepare such a will because any court would overturn it. But this premise is unfolded quite early in the story, and those who read books like this should be prepared to suspend disbelief and get ready to be entertained.  And they will be.

Daphne is a darling. The premise may be incredible, but she isn’t nor are the other characters. And certainly Carlson can tell a story. She doesn’t preach. She doesn’t proselytize. But she does share a message, and one that you won’t find in most romances. Daphne hears it when she accepts an invitation to join a singles group at a local church.

“I realized with complete and utter clarity that I was looking for a human being to fulfill me and make me whole. When what I needed to do was to allow God to fulfill me and make me whole. Suddenly it was crystal clear that until I reached that place where God was making me whole, I wouldn’t have all that much to offer a soul mate anyway,” the pastor tells the young men and women in the group.

The book ends shortly after this scene, and some reviewers object. I don’t agree with those who claim it ends with a cliff hanger, because Carlson does resolve the conflict within Daphne even if she doesn’t resolve the question of whether Daphne can fully inherit her aunt’s estate. To find out that, you’ll have to keep reading . . . but I think you’ll want to anyway.

Description:  With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it’s not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton? 

When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will. 

Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt’s very specific posthumous terms — personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats. 

And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee’s life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God’s perfect timing.

Also in this series:


About the author:  Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film or television. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.

Note:  Sis received a complimentary reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. She is grateful for the opportunity to read and review it.

A flawless Diamond?

summonsThe Summons sums up why readers love Peter Diamond, the erstwhile detective chief inspector of Avon and Somerset who solves crimes the old-fashioned way.

“. . . but at least he pursued the truth, whatever the cost. That was what had kept him from being kicked off the force all the times he’d traded aggro with people like Farr-Jones. His values were right,” Peter Lovesey writes, as the third in this 16-book series nears its climax.

Diamond’s values are right, and here he pursues the truth at considerable cost. This story opens with Diamond, now working as a bag boy at a London supermarket, and his wife, Stephanie, in bed late at night when two cops arrive with orders to drag him back to Bath. Diamond has begun to realize how badly he misses police work, and how unsuited he is to any other job, but he’s not quite ready to come to the aid of the assistant chief constable who yanked him off his last case. But, the ACC’s daughter has been kidnapped by a man convicted four years earlier of a brutal murder, on the strength of Diamond’s investigation, and who demands that Diamond and only Diamond reopen the investigation and find the real killer.

Soho Crime, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction, is promoting the series in a reading challenge, and this is a challenge I’ve accepted and enjoyed. I have two months to read the whole series, and I’m more than game.

The detective is definitely a rough diamond, if you’ll forgive the pun, but Peter Lovesey continues to provide the polished prose that would make any story a pleasure to read. The characters are deftly drawn, from the convict who escaped from a prison on the Isle of Wright to the variety of police officers and officials who are working to capture him. And he shows us Bath as Jane Austen never did, highlighting one of the outstanding features of this Soho list:  Settings from cities and towns around the world.

This story is much more tense than the first two, which should please readers who don’t care for a leisurely approach. The violence is, perhaps, more intense, yet its depiction so restrained that it is unlikely to offend. The cast includes convicts and “crusties,” but, while some of the language is quite vulgar, indeed, it is free of the vulgarities that offend some sensibilities. The deceptions are devious, so I was never quite sure if I had solved the case or netted another red herring, so I remained fully engaged even as the denouement unfolded and the end grew near. This is definitely one I’d like to read again.

Details:  The Summons by Peter Lovesey; 304 pp; first published in Great Britain in 1995 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price currently $4.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $15.95 (USD) but selling today at $15.27 at Amazon.com. Book 3 of a 16-book series. Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel (1996), The Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction (1995). Those who missed last week’s sale may be interested to know that The Last Detective is again discounted to $1.99 and several of the stories are discounted to $4.99.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of The Summons from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have challenged her integrity in regard to her reviews.  They remain uniquely hers.  She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  John Mountjoy has escaped from prison and taken a hostage, and the only person he’ll talk to is Detective Peter Diamond, who arrested him four years earlier for the murder of a young journalist. Diamond must follow a cold trail to find another killer and clear Mountjoy’s name before another life is lost.

LoveseyPETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


 

Feed the need to read

Lenora is placing stickers inside each book donated, to remind the students of the generosity of readers like you.

I have a big mouth.

Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Sometimes, it is. It was last year when I invited several “virtual” friends to help my friend Lenora, who teaches kindergarten to some of the poorest students in our society — students who dread holidays and summers because school is better than home.

Lenora is one of those all-too-rare teachers for whom teaching is more than a profession. It’s a calling, one that Lenora answers both willingly and generously. She has dug deep in her own pockets to provide for her students, buying everything from crayons to Kindles for her classroom.

Last year, her school received a grant to provide a book for each kindergartener, and this was the first (and only) book many of those children ever owned.

“My students were SO excited! They had huge grins on their faces and they hugged the books,” Lenora recalled. “I noticed after vacation that a lot of the kids were keeping their books in their backpacks. They told me they were reading the book at their dismissal waiting area and on the bus. The book they had been given featured Pete the Cat. They noticed I had Pete the Cat books in the classroom library and they became favorite read-alouds. My students loved Pete the Cat!”

Lenora wanted to encourage that interest in reading, so she asked me if I thought friends from a group known for performing Random Acts of Kindness would be offended if she asked for help. I didn’t, and I didn’t wait. I immediately posted a request on the RAOK discussion thread — and others — asking those who could to contribute a dollar in the form of Amazon gift cards to help her buy a second Pete the Cat book for each of her students. By the end of the school year, we had purchased six Pete the Cat books for each student, plus additional classroom books and supplies that Lenora had been buying because the parents of her students simply can’t afford them.

“It became a celebration each time they would get a new book. Such a look of joy upon their faces. We would do a read through of the new book together at the end of the day. My students would line up to go home with smiles on their faces, hugging their book to their chest,” Lenora said. “My struggling students that had previously shown no interest in books or reading at all became the ones that were most excited about carrying all their Pete the Cat books back and forth each day. They became more proficient at identifying letter sounds and decoding simple words. A Pete the Cat addition and subtraction practice became a class favorite.”

PeteLenora used those books to teach something else, too.

“We talked a great deal about random acts of kindness last year. A label was placed inside the front of each book saying, ‘This book provided by a Random Act of Kindness.’ My students became excited about doing acts of kindness for others. It was a joy to see children becoming much more caring and hopeful. They knew there were people who cared about them.”

Twenty years earlier, I’d had the opportunity to see for myself the difference that caring, and reading, makes in students like these when I volunteered to help struggling third-grade readers at Birmingham’s East Lake Elementary School. I visited the school twice a week, spending an hour with three students who should never have been promoted to third grade and wouldn’t be promoted to fourth if they couldn’t catch up. They thrived with the three-on-one attention. Together, on chairs drawn up in a circle in the hallway, we overcame their deficiencies and they learned not only to read but to enjoy reading. As the year drew to a close, I was wanted to do something to prevent them from losing ground over the summer and I decided to buy each of the three a book. I’ll never forget the joy I saw on their faces when they opened the gifts, nor the pride when their classmates saw their books and heard them read aloud.

Such a simple thing. My parents had saved pennies to buy me pony rides and Popsicles when I was a little girl, but we always had plenty of books. My library of more than 10,000 titles includes three or four books given to me some 50 or so years ago. We didn’t have much money back then, but you can’t say we were poor because we had so many books.

I learned to cook because I had learned to read. I learned to knit because I had learned to read. I learned so much because I had learned to read, and I’m still learning because I had learned to read.

Lenora found these waiting for her at school Monday, 1 August 2016.

I’m helping Lenora once again, because each year brings new students who may never own their own book unless someone like me — and you — provides it. You may not be able to help. You may prefer to help in your own community. I understand. If you can, though, please consider helping Lenora help this year’s class. You can contribute as little as 50 cents through an Amazon gift card, or you can choose something from her Classroom Wish List. The books, or any supplies, will be shipped to Lenora at the school. They must be purchased in her name, otherwise they become the property of the school and cannot legally be given to the students. I’ll add to your gift, using any ad revenues from purchases made through MiddleSisterReviews.com during the rest of the month as well as my own book budget for the next two months.

Here are some of the books Lenora hopes to give her students:


UPDATED 1 August 2016

Lenora stuffThank you! Your direct contributions through gift cards and gifts have provided one copy of a Pete the Cat book for every kindergartner in Lenora’s school! Lenora and her colleagues plan to give the books to the children at the school’s Meet the Teacher event. Sis doesn’t quite know yet exactly how much your indirect contributions — in the form of referral fees to be paid by Amazon for purchases from this site — will total because Lenora expects to return several copies of the book as enrollment is lower than expected. Still, she estimates that proceeds from www.MiddleSisterReviews.com will provide more than $41 to buy open oneadditional books and supplies for Lenora’s students. Please check back for Lenora’s review of the Pete the Cat series, which will be posted soon, as all referrals from that review will go to Project Pete to buy books and supplies for these children. Plus, Lenora will report throughout the year on her students’ response to your generosity.


Saturday Savings

P.D. James’s The Private Patient is on sale

private patientDescription: Cheverell Manor is a beautiful old house in Dorset, which its owner, the famous plastic surgeon George Chandler-Powell, uses as a private clinic.  When the investigative journalist, Rhoda Gradwyn, arrives to have a disfiguring facial scar removed, she has every expectation of a successful operation and a peaceful week recuperating.  But the clinic houses an implacable enemy and within hours of the operation Rhoda is murdered.   Commander Dalgliesh and his team are called in to investigate a case complicated by old crimes and the dark secrets of the past.  Before Rhoda’s murder is solved, a second horrific death adds to the complexities of one of Dalgliesh’s most perplexing and fascinating cases.

The late P.D. James wrote intricate detective stories with such polished prose that they deserve to be called literature rather than genre fiction, and the Kindle edition of The Private Patient, a bestseller originally published in 2008, is discounted today to $1.99 — a bargain to my mind as I cheerfully ordered the hardbound edition at a list price of $25.95.

I re-read this one recently, and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time, but it is definitely dark. James explores, and exposes, evil, in a way that disturbs me if I read too many of her novels without taking a break into something lighter, though often less satisfying.  Yet, I have to read them and read them again because the writing itself is so good, the characters so complex, the insights so enlightening. Many critics complained that this isn’t James’s best . . . yet they agreed that it outranked most crime fiction. That should tell you how very good James was, and how much you owe it to yourself to read this one, if you have not already.

P. D. James was the author of more than 20 books, most of which were filmed and PD Jamesbroadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent 30 years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Departments of Great Britain’s Home Office. She served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she celebrated her eightieth birthday and published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991 and was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame in 2008.

 

Add this cozy debut to your TBR list:

Address to Die For

Recommended by MiddleSisterReviews.com

Address to Die For by Mary Feliz, published by Lyrical Underground, a digital imprint of Kensington Books, release date Tuesday, 19 July 2016; list price $3.99 (USD) for Kindle ebook, $15.00 (USD) paperback.
Address to Die For by Mary Feliz, published by Lyrical Underground, a digital imprint of Kensington Books, release date Tuesday, 19 July 2016; list price $3.99 (USD) for Kindle ebook, $15.00 (USD) paperback.

Description:  For professional organizer Maggie McDonald, moving her family into a new home should be the perfect organizational challenge. But murder was definitely not on the to-do list. Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that isn’t confined to her clients’ closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. As she lays out her plan to transfer her family to the century-old house her husband, Max, has inherited in the hills above Silicon Valley, she expects their new life to fall neatly into place. But as the family bounces up the driveway of their new home, she’s shocked to discover the house’s dilapidated condition. When her husband finds the caretaker face-down in their new basement, it’s the detectives who end up moving in. While the investigation unravels and the family camps out in a barn, a killer remains at large—exactly the sort of loose end Maggie can’t help but clean up.

Mary Feliz picked the perfect location for her debut cozy mystery, a $15 million Craftsman home with barn in a village above the hills of California’s characteristically quirky Silicon Valley.

The setting is delightful. The story opens on Maggie McDonald, a professional organizer, and her family as they arrive at the house on moving day. Family and friends live, or have lived, in this part of California, and of course one reads about Google and its headquarters, yet I never saw this locale as clearly as I did in reading Address to Die For.

Each chapter of the mystery is decorated with a “quotation” from Maggie’s notebooks, and these insights and tips add considerable curb appeal to the story.  Maggie herself, in my opinion, is a major selling point for this new series, aside from the added value of her organizational advice.  She’s smart and strong, not one of the silly (and sometimes stupid) sleuths that have become all too common in today’s cozies, quite likeable and definitely good company.

The supporting cast, for the most part, provides a good foundation, too, with lots of loveable dogs and the family’s pair of cats, Holmes and Watson. Feliz keeps faith with cozy fans, avoiding both bad language and bedroom scenes.  At times, the mystery seems to get away from both Maggie and Feliz, but it is an enjoyable read and a good first effort – and well worth the list price of $3.99 (USD). The few flaws are forgivable, and I’ve added Feliz to my list of authors to follow. Scheduled to Death is scheduled for release in January 2017, and the third in the series, not yet titled, is expected in July 2017.

NOTE:  Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington Books, allowed Sis to preview this debut cozy with  a complimentary advanced reading copy provided via NetGalley.  Sis is grateful for the opportunity and happy to report that her review reflects her own, independent opinions . . . as always.

About the author:  Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, she strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild where she feels at home among those plot to kill. She’s also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, who seem less blood-thirsty and more interested in the skeletons in the closet.

Visit the author’s website at http://www.maryfeliz.com/


The Peter Diamond series continues to sparkle

Recommended:

diamond solitaireDiamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey; first published in Great Britain in 1992 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price $9.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $16.95 (but discounted at Amazon to $14.69 (USD); Book 2 of a 16-book series. As always, prices are subject to change without warning.

Diamond Solitaire is a gem of a detective story.

The second in the series of 16 detective stories featuring the irascible and overweight ex-detective superintendent Peter Diamond begins in the furniture department of Harrods’s, the landmark London department store, and takes the reader on a worldwide journey from Europe to North America and on to the Far East. And the journeys are chief among the joys of Peter Lovesey’s series, as well as other series from Soho Crime.

I read it as a continuation of Soho Crime’s reading challenge, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction. The publisher has given me two months to read my way through the series. This is a challenge I’ve accepted with alacrity.

First, the stories shine with the highly polished prose so often found in British fiction, even among the so-called “genre” fiction of crime fiction, or mysteries. Second, Diamond is an outwardly unlovable but in fact oh-so-lovable character! Here, he is stripped of the authority he once held with Scotland Yard, yet he maintains an inner authority that no shield can provide. Third, like all the Soho Crime series, these stories are rich in their international settings.

This time out, Lovesey takes readers from London to Milan, New York, Tokyo and Yokohama, picking up a sumo wrestler along the way. He explores the cut-throat pharmaceutical industry, and the more conventionally cut-throat Mafioso. He gives glimpses into post-graduate research at prestigious universities as well as the uniquely Japanese culture of sumo wrestling.

The pace is leisurely, and the mystery multi-faceted. The young girl found under a pile of pillows is speechless. Is this a symptom of autism, or a symptom of terror? And who, and where, are her parents? Diamond can’t let it go. Meanwhile, the founder of a pharmaceutical company is given a deadly diagnosis, while his firm struggles to keep a competitive edge and come up with a new and profitable drug – and deal with the question of his succession. The mafia is lurking around on the fringes with contract killers and hired henchmen.

Once again, Lovesey provides a pleasing puzzle in this semi-police procedural. The language is not as clean as The Last Detective, and some readers may not care for the four-lettered words scattered in the speeches of some of the characters. The violence, though, is handled with discretion. You can’t have murder without violence, but the details are never nauseating.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Diamond Solitaire from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge. Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have challenged her integrity in regard to her reviews.  They remain uniquely hers. She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  After resigning from the Avon and Somerset Police Force in a fit of pique, Peter Diamond is reduced to working as a security guard at Harrods’s, but he loses that job after an abandoned Japanese girl if found under a pile of pillows after the store closes. Diamond’s search for another job is sidetracked by the mystery of the speechless girl’s identity – and the plot that threatens her safety.

PETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.

Want more to read? Try Kindle Unlimited, free for 30 days: