Sunday, March 1, 2015

Series-ously Good New Mysteries - March 2015

Here are just some of the new series offerings for this month:

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear is the next title in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series. It is the eleventh title in the series following Leaving Everything Most Loved. Spring 1937. In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability—and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure. Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India. But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England; her aging father Frankie Dobbs is not getting any younger. But on a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn’t ready to return. Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, “You will be alone in a most dangerous place,” she disembarks in Gibraltar. Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.Yet the danger is very real. Days after Maisie’s arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar’s Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service. Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on “the Rock”—arguably Britain’s most important strategic territory—and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process. At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way.

Following To Die Fur, Dixie Lyle is publishing the third title in the Whiskey, Tango and Foxtrot mystery series, Marked Fur Murder. When zillionairess Zelda Zoransky decides to throw one of her famous parties—with a guest list as colorful and diverse as her private zoo—it’s up to Deirdre "Foxtrot" Lancaster, assistant extraordinaire, to pull the whole thing off. But even with the help of her telepathic cat Tango and ectoplasmic pooch Whiskey, it’s one killer assignment. Especially when she finds a corpse in the pool. The victim is the sister of Deirdre’s boyfriend, Ben. The cause of death appears to be a plugged-in hair dryer that fell in the water. Ben, however, insists that a few volts couldn’t have killed Ann. Like him, she’s a descendent of the Cowichan tribe who, according to legend, has a way with lightning. But when the suspects include a Russian pet psychic, a schizophrenic writer, and a random rock star, it’s more than puzzling to Whiskey, Tango, and Foxtrot.

Ladle to the Grave by Connie Archer is the fourth title in the Soup Lover's mystery series, following A Roux of Revenge. Vermont's most popular soup shop, By the Spoonful, is owned by Lucky Jamieson. It's almost May, and some of the local ladies have organized a pagan celebration in the woods to welcome spring. But the evening goes terribly wrong when one of the attendees winds up dead, apparently poisoned by an herbal concoction prepared by Lucky's grandfather, Jack. Lucky's sure her grandfather could not have made such a tragic mistake. But before she can clear him of suspicion, her best friend, Sophie, is diverted from planning her wedding to By the Spoonful chef Sage DuBois when she finds a dead man floating in the creek on her property. Now it's up to Lucky to get both Sophie and Jack out of hot water.

Laura Morrigan is publishing the third title in her Call of the Wilde mystery series this month. It is Horse of a Different Killer and it follows A Tiger's Tale. Animal behaviorist Grace Wilde's psychic ability gives her insight into the minds of all kinds of animals. Dead men may tell no tales, but they can screw up your life with a few phone calls. Grace's abusive ex-brother-in-law, Anthony Ortega, needs her help - at least that's what he said on the messages he left before his sudden death. Grace is inclined to let the matter rest in peace, but when her sister is named a suspect, Grace decides to get to the bottom of the cryptic calls. Her only lead is Ortega's fiancée, who believes that he had arranged to surprise her with the purchase of a Frisian gelding named Heart. The horse was being stabled at the R-n-R Ranch - but was taken in the middle of the night. Now, with her sister in trouble and a missing horse on her hands, Grace hopes the information harnessed from her psychic skills will be enough.

The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen is the fourteenth title in the Molly Murphy mystery series, following City of Darkness and Light. Molly Murphy Sullivan’s husband Daniel, a captain in the New York City police force, is stumped. He’s chasing a murderer whose victims have nothing in common—nothing except for the taunting notes that are delivered to Daniel after each murder. And when Daniel receives a note immediately after Molly and her young son Liam are in a terrible train crash, Daniel and Molly both begin to fear that maybe Molly herself was the target. Molly’s detective instincts are humming, but finding the time to dig deeper into this case is a challenge. She’s healing from injuries sustained in the crash and also sidetracked by her friends Sid and Gus’s most recent hobby, dream analysis. And when Molly herself starts suffering from strange dreams, she wonders if they just might hold the key to solving Daniel’s murder case.

Christy Fifield is publishing the four title in her Haunted Souvenir Shop mystery series this month. It is Murder Ties the Knot and it follows Murder Sends a Postcard. It's winter in Keyhole Bay, Florida, and while the tourist trade is slow, souvenir shop owner Glory Martine is busy with her best friend's wedding. As her friends Karen and Riley approach their wedding day, Glory could use a break from the nuptial madness. She takes a peaceful drive to Alabama's piney woods to pick up the wedding quilt she ordered from a supplier. But the supplier, Beth, has disappeared along with the quilt and her husband, Everett. Glory learns that two men were found murdered near Beth and Everett's home and that the couple is wanted for questioning. Believing they are innocent, Glory convinces them to cooperate with authorities. But when they're thrown in jail, Glory vows to catch the real killer.

The second title in the Witch City mystery series, Tails, You Lose is coming this month. This title is by Carol J. Perry and  follows Caught Dead Handed. After losing her job as a TV psychic, Lee Barrett has decided to volunteer her talents as an instructor at the Tabitha Trumbull Academy of the Arts--known as "The Tabby"--in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. But when the school's handyman turns up dead under seemingly inexplicable circumstances on Christmas night, Lee's clairvoyant capabilities begin bubbling to the surface once again. The Tabby is housed in the long-vacant Trumbull's Department Store. As Lee and her intrepid students begin work on a documentary charting the store's history, they unravel a century of family secrets, deathbed whispers--and a mysterious labyrinth of tunnels hidden right below the streets of Salem. Even the witches in town are spooked, and when Lee begins seeing visions in the large black patent leather pump in her classroom, she's certain something evil is afoot.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What we were reading on this day ...

10 years ago in 2005 we were all about The Da Vinci Code even though it had been published two years previously. This detective story / suspense thriller / conspiracy theory went on to sell somewhere in the 80 million copy range, made into a highly successful film and was the subject of several lawsuits. What else were we reading?

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Survivor in Death by J.D. Robb
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Collapse by Jared Diamond
America (the Book) by Jon Stewart
Men in Black by Mark R. Levin

20 years ago in 1995, around about the time I started working at the library give or take a year or so, a strange booked topped the bestseller list - The Celestine Prophecy. It was not so much focused on plot, but was more a exploration of an idea told in the form of a parable. In it the main character journeys to find meaning in an ancient Peruvian manuscript. (Oh yes, there were a few books about O.J. Simpson as well)

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner
Original Sin by P.D. James
I Want to Tell You by O.J. Simpson

30 years ago in 1985 Sidney Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes Topped the bestseller lists. Sidney Sheldon was not only the author of some 18 popular novels, but also created, produced and wrote the 1960s television series, I Dream of Jeannie. If Tomorrow Comes is an international suspense thriller which features Tracy Whitey, whose life is forever changed, when she is framed by the mafia.

The Sicilian by Mario Puzo
The Talisman by Stephen King

40 years ago in 1975 we were reading Centennial by James Michener. Michener, who died at the age of 90 in 1997 won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for his Tales of the South Pacific. Centennial is an epic novel that follows the history of Colorado from prehistory to the 1970s. It was made into a television mini-series in the 1970s.

Something Happened by Joseph Heller
All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

50 years ago in 1965 Herzog by Saul Bellow was on the best seller list. It was his 6th novel and the second time he won the National Book Award (he was to go on and win it a third time as well). Herzog, told through letters, illuminates the life of Moses E. Herzog, a 47 year old Jewish man who is going through a personal and transformative crisis.

Funeral in Berlin by Len Deighton
The Italians by Luigi Barzini

60 years ago in 1955 many were reading Katherine by Anya Seton and it remains a favourite with historical fiction fans today. In Katherine we read about Katherine Swynford and her romance with John of Gaunt in the 14th century. Seton influenced current bestselling historical fiction authors like Philippa Gregory who has written introductions for new editions of several of Seton's novels.

Friday, February 27, 2015

In Memoriam - Bertrice Small

Bertrice Small, author of historical and erotic romance fiction, has died at the age of 77. She began writing at 40 years of age, with her first novel The Kadin, and went on to publish in excess of 50 more books. She won numerous awards for her writing, including in 2004 a Lifetime Achievement award from Romantic Times magazine.

Bertrice Small will be remembered for her entertaining and steamy stories. Her heroes were handsome and appealing, but it was her heroines who really shone. They were not only beautiful, but strong-willed and capable. Her stories were set from the 14th to the 17th centuries, largely in England, Scotland and Italy. Her novels were always rooted in historical fact and alive with rich details and for many, their first introduction to bold and erotic fiction.

Romantic Times remembers Small:

Bertrice published her first novel,The Kadin in 1978, and went on to write more than 50 romances. Fans flocked to her passionate, exciting stories, and many count her beloved raven-haired, hot-tempered Skye O'Malley as an all-time favorite heroine. Bertrice not only hit the bestselling lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today and more, but she helped found this genre that we love so much, by writing exciting, edgy stories, at a time when no one else was doing so.

Her final novel Lucianna was published in 2003.

"In this sweeping new series of Renaissance Italy, Bertrice Small does it again with all the passion and historical splendor that has captured the imagination of her legion of fans…. After her two elder sisters become the scandals of Florence, Lucianna Pietro d’Angelo is in the difficult position of finding a wealthy man who will have her for his wife. She has little choice but to accept the proposal of an aging bookseller—a not entirely disagreeable union in which Lucianna comforts the dear man in his final years. When he passes away, she inherits his shop and, with it, a sizable fortune. Lucianna is content with comfortable widowhood—until Robert Minton, Earl of Lisle, visits her bookshop. The Englishman is not only dashing and handsome—he’s a trusted courtier of Henry VII. The Pietro d’Angelos cannot deny the spark of attraction between their daughter and the earl, so they scheme to send her to London. There, Lucianna steps out of the shadow of her quiet Florentine life, pursuing a love of which she never dreamed and rising in London society all the way to court of the new Tudor king." publisher

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fictional Author!

Fiction by its very definition is a story invented by the imagination of the author. But how about when the fiction is ‘written’ by a fictional character? That is pure fiction!

I recently finished the novel “Heat Wave” by Richard Castle. This novel was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 16 weeks! Viewers of the ABC weekly drama Castle will recognize the author’s name as being the male lead of the show (played by Alberta-born actor Nathan Fillion). Rick Castle’s character is a best-selling novelist who writes a book entitled “Heat wave” based on the research he has done while shadowing the attractive female police detective Beckett played on the show by Stana Katic. How ingenious. The novel is actually one of the show’s props.

Confused yet?

In Castle’s novel “Heat Wave” the names have been changed. Castle’s character is Jameson Rook and Beckett’s character is Nikki Heat.

The show features cameo appearances by legitimate mystery authors such as James Patterson, Michael Connelly and Stephen J. Cannell who play poker buddies of the fictional Rick Castle.
Reminiscent of the show “Moonlighting” each week a crime is solved, witty repartee is bandied about by the lead actors and sexual tension often sizzles. For all that it was a light read and pure escapism, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.

Reading the book “Heat wave” was eerily similar to watching an episode of the show which of course leads one to believe that perhaps the author of the book is the show’s scriptwriting team… For now the publisher wishes the ‘author’ to remain an enigma. The author blurb on the book’s dustjacket reads: “Richard Castle is the author of numerous bestsellers, including the critically acclaimed Derrick Storm series. His first novel, In a Hail of Bullets, published while he was still in college, received the Nom DePlume Society’s prestigious Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature. Castle currently lives in Manhattan with his daughter and mother, both of whom infuse his life with humor and inspiration.”

The actor Nathan Fillion has done numerous book signing gigs at prominent bookstores to promote this novel. An ingenious and VERY lucrative promotion for the television show! I can’t help but wonder… was he in character the whole time?

Click here for an interview with the fictional Richard Castle.

It is not the first of its kind however, Gary Troup, a fictional character from the TV show “Lost” penned the novel “Bad twin” in 2006.

There have been many novels written based on television shows, but very few who have been 'written' by the characters in them!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Survival Tales

Bunny and Shark by Alisha Piercy

"Plunging into the first thirteen days after the 'bastard' pushes his ex-Playboy wife 'Bunny' over a cliff in the Caribbean, Bunny and Shark is a fable about island survival, and the perils and potentials of being exiled from one's identity. Literally lost at sea, Bunny is fueled by the miracle of having been saved from sharks by a band of dolphins. And her continued survival depends on her ability to become a spiritual extension of the landscape: she is the mood of the ocean at night as she swims blindly in it, and the protective coolness of the jungle by day as she recovers from a loss of limb; the close-walled refuge of the sailboats anchored in the harbour, and the sparkling deck of an opulent superyacht when, transformed, she makes a triumphant return to her former world." publisher

Don't Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz

"In Don't Look Back, Eve Hardaway, newly single mother of one, is on a trip she's long dreamed of—a rafting and hiking tour through the jungles and mountains of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Eve wanders off the trail, to a house in the distance with a menacing man in the yard beyond it, throwing machetes at a human-shaped target. Now the man in the woods is after whoever was snooping around his house. With a violent past and deadly mission, he will do anything to avoid being discovered.  With her only resource her determination to live, Eve must fight a dangerous foe and survive against incredible odds—if she's to make it back home alive." publisher

Cyberstorm by Matthew Mather

"Mike Mitchell is an average New Yorker living in an apartment in Chelsea, struggling to keep his family together. When the Internet goes down, he suddenly finds himself fighting just to keep them alive. The electricity and power supplies fade in and out, and the explanations offered by the authorities are vague and untrustworthy. A string of increasingly bizarre disasters starts appearing on the world’s news networks, and a monster snowstorm hits New York City before Christmas. Mike and his close friends and family hunker down in their apartment building for safety, organizing and rationing food and water. Outside, the boundaries between lawful and criminal behaviour break down as resources become scarce. " publisher

Those Who Wished Me Dead by Michael Koryta

"When 13-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he's plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare. The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains. The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind." publisher

Phoenix Island by John Dixon

"A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can’t seem to stay out of trouble—using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island. Classified as a “terminal facility,” it’s the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States—and immune to its laws—the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. " publisher

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lit with Wit

If you enjoy your fiction a little bit biting, a little bit satirical and maybe with a hint of sarcasm, you probably totally won't enjoy:

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

"Novel about a world where social order and destiny are dictated by the colors you can see. Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color -- but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means. ... Stunningly imaginative, very funny, tightly plotted, and with sly satirical digs at our own society, this novel is for those who loved Thursday Next but want to be transported somewhere equally wild, only darker; a world where the black and white of moral standpoints have been reduced to shades of grey." publisher.

The Global War on Morris by Steve Israel

"A witty political satire ripped from the headlines and written by Congressman Steve Israel, who's met the characters, heard the conversations, and seen the plot twists firsthand. Meet Morris Feldstein, a pharmaceutical salesman living and working in western Long Island who loves the Mets, loves his wife Rona, and loves things just the way they are. He doesn't enjoy the news; he doesn't like to argue. Rona may want to change the world; Morris wants the world to leave him alone. Morris does not make waves. But one day Morris is seduced by a lonely, lovesick receptionist at one of the doctors' offices along his sales route, and in a moment of weakness charges a non-business expense to his company credit card. No big deal, you might think. Easy mistake. But the government's top-secret surveillance program, anchored by a giant, complex supercomputer known as NICK, thinks differently. Eventually NICK begins to thread together the largely disparate and tenuously connected strands of Morris's life."  Discover

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

"On the grounds of a Caribbean island resort, newlyweds Deb and Chip - our opinionated, skeptical narrator and her cheerful jock husband who's friendly to a fault - meet a marine biologist who says she's sighted mermaids in a coral reef. As the resort's "parent company" swoops in to corner the market on mythological creatures, the couple joins forces with other adventurous souls, including an ex-Navy SEAL with a love of explosives and a hipster Tokyo VJ, to save said mermaids from the "Venture of Marvels," which wants to turn their reef into a theme park. Mermaids in Paradise is Lydia Millet's funniest book yet, tempering the sharp satire of her early career with the empathy and subtlety of her more recent novels and short stories. This is an unforgettable, mesmerizing tale, darkly comic on the surface and illuminating in its depths." publisher.

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi

"In the heart of New York City, a group of artistic friends struggles with society's standards of beauty. At the center are Barb and Lily, two women at opposite ends of the beauty spectrum, but with the same problem: each fears she will never find a love that can overcome her looks. Barb, a stunningly beautiful costume designer, makes herself ugly in hopes of finding true love. Meanwhile, her friend Lily, a brilliantly talented but plain-looking musician, goes to fantastic lengths to attract the man who has rejected her with results that are as touching as they are transformative. To complicate matters, Barb and Lily discover that they may have a murderer in their midst, that Barb s calm disposition is more dangerously provocative than her beauty ever was, and that Lily's musical talents are more powerful than anyone could have imagined."  publisher

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

It's 1973, and David Leveraux has landed his dream job as a Flavorist-in-Training, working in the secretive industry where chemists create the flavors for everything from the cherry in your can of soda to the butter on your popcorn. While testing a new artificial sweetener--"Sweetness #9"--he notices unusual side-effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a generalized dissatisfaction with life. David tries to blow the whistle, but he swallows it instead. Years later, Sweetness #9 is America's most popular sweetener--and David's family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter suffers from a generalized dissatisfaction with life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David's failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition? " publisher

Monday, February 23, 2015

New Adult Graphic Novels

I'm the type of person who makes a list for everything, ticks off each item as it's completed, and takes great satisfaction in reviewing what I've managed to accomplish by the end of the day. Even so, I think I've overdone it this time. I knew I shouldn't have enrolled in that second MOOC ....

When life gets stupid busy, my concentration is often the first to go. The impressive stack of impressive books that I have heaped up on my kitchen table gets shunted to a chair in the corner, unread. I don't need this added pressure! In these times, I restrict my literary diet to my comfort brain food: graphic novels.

I found a pile of great new titles via the link to "Latest Graphic Novels" listed under "What's New" on the Discover catalog homepage and I am speedily devouring each one. Here are some that I've checked out:

Graphic memoirs and comics with historical themes are my favourite, which is why I was attracted to Strange Fruit: uncelebrated narratives from black history, vol.1 by Joel Christian Gill. It's a collection of stories illustrating lesser known chapters from African-American history. Strange Fruit is handsomely executed by Gill, who is does double-duty as writer and illustrator for this graphic novel.

I am thrilled to announce that Halifax Public Libraries has recently acquired volume 4 of the wry and beautifully drawn sci-fi adventure series Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I can't say enough about these books. The cast of fascinating characters (Lying Cat!), the high quality of the illustration, and the fast-paced storytelling always lead me to finish a book from this series much faster than I'd really like.

Conventional superhero-type comics don't generally interest me but when I heard about G. Willow Wilson's treatment of Ms. Marvel, I had to place my hold. With artist Adrian Alphona, Wilson has created the kind of superhero the world needs now. Kamala Khan is a believable female character who also happens to be Muslim. In fleshing out the personal and political challenges faced by the protagonist as she first assumes her powers, the creators have crafted a superhero comic with substance.

There has been a lot of buzz in book circles for Fatherland. My own request for this book (more copies on order!) hasn't been filled yet so I'm looking forward to seeing how Bunjevac's striking pictures illustrate this period in the history of the former Yugoslavia.