Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meet Frieda Klein... by Nicci Fench

"Internationally bestselling authors Nicci Gerard and Sean French, writing as Nicci French, have sold more than eight million copies of their books worldwide. But nothing they've written written before has grabbed the attention of reviewers and readers like Blue Monday and its iconic heroine, Frieda Klein. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it a superb psychological thriller . . . with brooding atmosphere, sustained suspense, a last-minute plot twist, and memorable cast of characters.".

Blue Monday
by Nicci French Klein is a solitary, incisive psychotherapist who spends her sleepless nights walking along the ancient rivers that have been forced underground in modern London. She believes that the world is a messy, uncontrollable place, but what we can control is what is inside our heads. This attitude is reflected in her own life, which is an austere one of refuge, personal integrity, and order. The abduction of five-year-old Matthew Farraday provokes a national outcry and a desperate police hunt. And when his face is splashed over the newspapers, Frieda cannot ignore the coincidence: one of her patients has been having dreams in which he has a hunger for a child. A red-haired child he can describe in perfect detail, a child the spitting image of Matthew. She finds herself in the center of the investigation, serving as the reluctant sidekick of the chief inspector.

"This is psychological suspense done right. The authors pace themselves and build the tension slowly while carefully developing each of the players. For fans of Tana French's and Lisa Gardner's moody, dark, twisty thrillers." - Library Journal

Tuesday's Gone
by Nicci French rotting, naked corpse of a man is found amidst swarms of flies in the living room of a confused woman. Who is he? Why is Michelle Doyce trying to serve him afternoon tea? And how did the dead body find its way into her flat? DCI Karlsson needs an expert to delve inside Michelle's mind for answers and turns to former colleague, psychiatrist Frieda Klein. Eventually Michelle's ramblings lead to a vital clue that in turn leads to a possible identity. Robert Poole. Jack of all trades and master conman. The deeper Frieda and Karlsson dig, the more of Poole's victims they encounter . . . and the more motives they uncover for his murder. But is anyone telling them the truth except for poor, confused Michelle? And when the past returns to haunt Frieda's present, she finds herself in danger. Whoever set out to destroy Poole also seems determined to destroy Frieda Klein. Sometimes the mind is a dangerous place to hide.

"*Starred Review* Psychological suspense at its best, with full-bodied characters and a closing cliffhanger, will leave fans waiting to see what Wednesday will bring." - Booklist

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Startup" by Glenn Ogura

"Startup" by Glenn OguraIf you read novels to relax, this debut thriller by author Glenn Ogura, “Startup” is not for you.  I was at the edge of my seat – frantically turning pages throughout.  A modern yet timeless tale of good vs. evil.  People with integrity versus the morally bereft.  Set in and around California’s Bay Area and Silicon Valley, the novel features an idealistic young entrepreneur, Zack Penny and his mentor, the ruthless CEO of a major technology business.  To further complicate things, this man, Allen Henley is also his boss and the father of the woman he loves.   When events dictate he make his move from under Allen’s wing to his own startup company, Zack believes that finally he will be able to pursue his dream of heading a tech company that values its employees – and trusts that he, and it, will become tremendously successful due to a cutting-edge, flat-screen technology founded by his friend and business colleague, Dimitre.

Zack’s dreams are short lived when he encounters roadblock after roadblock with his new venture.  Industrial espionage, corruption, personal betrayal, unethical law practices and a completely unscrupulous nemesis provide Zack with disillusion, despair and heartbreak.

Startup” is a true page-turner.  A fast-paced legal/techno-thriller with a memorable – if slightly ‘over the top’ – climax which will appeal to all thriller readers and fans of television shows such as “The Good Wife”.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Midwives in Fiction

The Harlot's Tale: a midwife mystery by Samuel Thomas
"It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, this is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution." publisher

The Kept by James Scott

"In the winter of 1897, a trio of killers descends
upon an isolated farm in upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns home to the carnage: her husband and four of her children, murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son, Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered plains.
Twelve-year-old Caleb nurses his mother back to health, cleaning her wounds and keeping her fed, before they leave their home to seek retribution on the men who committed this heinous crime. As they travel from country to town to hunt the murderers, Elspeth is forced to confront her deepest secrets and question her role in her family’s destruction, while Caleb must navigate the dark places in which killers might reside. The search for vengeance becomes entangled in old lies and past mistakes as mother and son plunge headlong into the unknown future that lies ahead." publisher

The Harem Midwife
by Roberta Rich

"Hannah and Isaac Levi, Venetians in exile,
have set up a new life for themselves in Constantinople. Isaac runs a newly established business in the growing silk trade, while Hannah, the best midwife in all of Constantinople, plies her trade within the opulent palace of Sultan Murat III, tending to the thousand women of his lively and infamous harem. But one night, when Hannah is unexpectedly summoned to the palace, she's confronted with Leah, a poor Jewish peasant girl who has been abducted and sold into the sultan's harem. The sultan favours her as his next conquest and wants her to produce his heir, but the girl just wants to return to her home and the only life she has ever known. What will Hannah do? Will she risk her life and livelihood to protect this young girl, or will she retain her high esteem in the eye of the sultan?" publisher

The Midwife's Daughter by Patricia Ferguson
"Violet Dimond, the Holy Terror, has delivered many of the town's children - and often their children - in her capacity as handywoman. But Violet's calling is dying out as, with medicine's advances, the good old ways are no longer good enough. Grace, Violet's adopted daughter, is a symbol of change herself." Discover

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Series-ously Good New Mysteries: April Edition

This month, I'm starting a new feature to highlight some of the new series mysteries that are coming out that month that catch my fancy. Here are some of cozy mystery titles being released in the month of April.

First up is one of my favorite authors, Nancy Atherton. Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well is the nineteenth title in the Aunt Dimity series following Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince. It finds Lori helping young Australian Jack MacBride. He has come to the local village of Finch to wrap up the affairs of his late uncle. When Lori helps Jack clean out his uncle's overgrown garden, they discover an old well. On a whim, Lori throws a coin into the well and makes a wish. It seems to come true! Word spreads and soon the villagers of Finch are turning up to make wishes of their own, which leads to chaos. Lori and her own otherworldly help, Aunt Dimity, are left to discover "is the well really magical" or is someone pulling the wool over their eyes.

A Killing Notion by Melissa Bourbon is the fifth installment of the Magical Dressmaking series following A Custom-fit Crime. Harlow Jane Cassidy runs a dressmaking business, Buttons & Bows, in her home town, Bliss, Texas. She also has a secret charm. Harlow has the ability to sew a bit of magic into the garments she makes, giving the wearer a little supernatural help. This time out Harlow Jane is creating homecoming dresses with a local charity, including her shop assistant, Gracie. When Grace's date for the dance is accused of murder, Harlow knows she has to help Gracie clear the football player's name.

The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan caught my interest. It is the beginning of a new series called the Second Chance Cat mysteries. Sarah Grayson is the owner of a shop called Second Chance in the oceanfront town of North Harbour, Maine. Her shop sells used items that Sarah has restored and refurbished. Sarah has adopted a stray cat she has named Elvis. He's a big black cat with a scar across his nose who showed up at a local bar and jumped into her truck. He becomes her constant companion. When an elderly friend, Maddie is found with a dead man in her garden, Sarah and Elvis jump in to clear her name.

Inherit the Word by Daryl Wood Gerber is the second book in the Cookbook Nook mystery series following Final Sentence. Jenna Hart moved back to Crystal Cove, California to help her aunt Vera run the local culinary bookstore and cafe. In this book, the Cookbook Nook is set to host the town's upcoming Grill Fest. A local contest that pits amateur chefs against one another to come up with the most tasty dish. This year's challenge is: grilled cheese. But it seems the contestants are more focused on mouthing off than savoring, as competing chefs from previous years are holding grudges. When the eight-time champ is found murdered in the alley behind the Cookbook Nook, Jenna jumps in to investigate. The local cafe owner accused of the murder is so close to Jenna that she considers her a second mother; Jenna know she couldn't be guilty.

Soup Lover's mystery Roux of Revenge by Connie Archer is the third title in the series following Broth of Betrayal. Lucky Jamieson runs a soup shop called By the Spoonful in Snowflake, Vermont. In this title it is October and groups of itinerant travelers are in town to work the Harvest Festival. One newcomer seems to be stalking Lucky's young waitress, Janie. After an unidentified man is found murdered in a van by the side of the road, suspicions fall on the travelers. But when Janie is put in harm’s way, Lucky must join forces with the travelers to figure out the real killer's identity.

Stay tuned next month to see what is coming out for May.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pulitzer Prize Winners for 2014

The winners of the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced. From the Pulitzer website:

"In the latter years of the 19th century, Joseph Pulitzer stood out as the very embodiment of American journalism. Hungarian-born, an intense indomitable figure, Pulitzer was the most skillful of newspaper publishers, a passionate crusader against dishonest government, a fierce, hawk-like competitor who did not shrink from sensationalism in circulation struggles, and a visionary who richly endowed his profession."

In his will, Pulitzer funded these prizes as a"an incentive to excellence" for journalists and writers to strive toward.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tarrtt

 "A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld. Composed with the skills of a master, 'The Goldfinch' is a haunted odyssey through present-day America, and a drama of almost unbearable acuity and power. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art" publisher


The Internal Enemy: slavery and war in Virginia, 1772-1831 by  
Alan Taylor
"Frederick Douglass recalled that slaves living along Chesapeake Bay longingly viewed sailing ships as "freedom s swift-winged angels." In 1813 those angels appeared in the bay as British warships coming to punish the Americans for declaring war on the empire. Over many nights, hundreds of slaves paddled out to the warships seeking protection for their families from the ravages of slavery. The runaways pressured the British admirals into becoming liberators. .... Drawn from new sources, Alan Taylor's riveting narrative re-creates the events that inspired black Virginians, haunted slaveholders, and set the nation on a new and dangerous course." publisher


"3 Sections" by Vijay Seshadri

"Vijay Seshadri’s new poetry is assured and expert, his line as canny as ever. In an array of poetic forms from the rhyming lyric to the philosophical meditation to the prose essay, 3 Sections confronts perplexing divisions of contemporary life—a wayward history, an indeterminate future, and a present condition of wanting to outthink time. This is an extraordinary book, witty and vivacious, by one of America’s best poets." publisher


Toms River: a story of science and salvation by Dan Fagin

"One of New Jersey’s seemingly innumerable quiet seaside towns, Toms River became the unlikely setting for a decades-long drama that culminated in 2001 with one of the largest legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping. A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. ... A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed." publisher


Margaret Fuller: a new American life by Megan Marshall

"From an early age, Margaret Fuller provoked and dazzled New England’s intellectual elite. Her famous Conversations changed women’s sense of how they could think and live; her editorship of the Transcendentalist literary journal the Dial shaped American Romanticism. Now, Megan Marshall, whose acclaimed The Peabody Sisters “discovered” three fascinating women, has done it again: no biography of Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving." publisher

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hidden Gems - 3 top-notch Speculative Fiction novels

Three "hidden gems" of speculative fiction that have recieved critical acclaim and starred reviews.

The Dog Stars
by Peter Heller

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life--something like his old life--exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return - not enough fuel to get him home - following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face - in the people he meets, and in himself - is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped fo.

(C) Tory Read
"Hig takes long, risky, meditative walks; tends the garden; and stubbornly takes to the air in a 1956 Cessna, searching for some remnant of civilization. Heller's surprising and irresistible blend of suspense, romance, social insight, and humor creates a cunning form of cognitive dissonance neatly pegged by Hig as an apocalyptic parody of Norman Rockwell a novel, that is, of spiky pleasure and signal resonance." - Booklist

Dreams and Shadows
by C. Robert Cargill

There is another world than our own--one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares--where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish."In this beautifully written debut, Ain't It Cool News Web site contributor Cargill chronicles the friendship and adventures of Ewan, stolen as a baby by the fairy-goblin crossbreeds called Bendith Y Mamau, and Colby, an eight-year-old who encounters a djinn, with an unhurried storyteller style that provides total immersion. ... Readers with delicate sensibilities should leave this one for those who enjoy a roller-coaster ride into the depths of strangeness and despair." - Publisher Weekly

Great North Road
by Peter F. Hamilton

Futuristic speculation combines with murder when a scientific expedition on a faraway planet searches for an alien species only to be stalked by a determined killer who may be a hostile alien or a member of their own team.

"The author's rapidly growing legion of fans will flock to this new title, and readers unfamiliar with Hamilton's brand of SF should be steered in its direction. It's a perfect introduction to his gifts for character design, dialogue, and sheer, big-idea-driven storytelling" - Booklist

"Hamilton excels at telling "big" stories, and his latest novel proves no exception." - Library Journal

Monday, April 14, 2014

Grapes of Wrath 75th Anniversary

75 years ago today American literature changed with the publication of the book which was to become known as the Great American Novel - The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Perhaps one of the most studied and discussed novels of the twentieth century, The Grapes of Wrath was to win the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and propel Steinbeck toward his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

During the Great Depression thousands of tenant farmers lost their livelihood in Oklahoma due to a swath of terrible events - drought, economic collapse, bank foreclosures - and one family, the Joads, made their way to California, investing all they have in the journey believing a better life to be ahead. Along the way they meet personal tragedy and find themselves in the company of so many whose lives have collapsed under them. In California they find the promises to which they clung to be false and to be disadvantaged in an overcrowded labour market. The Grapes of Wrath ends on a heartbreakingly hopeful note as the Joads prove that they can survive and rise above all that fate could throw at them.

Other authors have taken inspiration from Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley
Come Again No More by Jack Todd