Book Review: Death at Crookham Hall, by Michelle Salter

Death at Crookham Hall

 

 

About the book, Death at Crookham Hall Michelle Salter BOOK ONE EBOOK FINAL

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (January 18, 2023)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 18, 2023
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print Length: 319 Pages

A fatal jump. A missing suffragette. An inexplicable murder.

London, 1920. When she catches news of a big story, reporter Iris Woodmore rushes to the House of Commons. But it’s a place that holds painful memories. In 1914, her mother died there when she fell into the River Thames during a daring suffragette protest. But in the shadow of Big Ben, a waterman tells Iris her mother didn’t fall – she jumped.

Iris discovers that the suffragette with her mother that fateful day has been missing for years, disappearing just after the protest. Desperate to know the truth behind the fatal jump, Iris’s investigation leads her to Crookham Hall, an ancestral home where secrets and lies lead to murder…

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Michelle Salter Michelle Salter Photo

Michelle Salter is a historical crime fiction writer based in northeast Hampshire. Many local locations appear in her mystery novels. She’s also a copywriter and has written features for national magazines. When she’s not writing, Michelle can be found knee-deep in mud at her local nature reserve. She enjoys working with a team of volunteers undertaking conservation activities.

Connect with Michelle:

Website | Bookbub | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A Bartell

I love a good mystery, and I love a good period mystery even more, and if there’s a feminist theme running through it so much the better. Death at Crookham Hall is all three of these, and I enjoyed the author’s crisp prose and 1920s London setting very much. As an American, my only real reference to the women’s suffrage movement in England is limited to fictional media like Mary Poppins and Downton Abbey, so I can’t speak to whether the history depicted was accurate, but the emotional truths of the story rang true.

This book is marketed as the first Iris Woodmore mystery. Like many protagonists in cozy mysteries, Iris plays amateur detective throughout the novel, but it’s a conceit of the genre, and far more plausible for a journalist covering politics than, say, a cafe owner or bookseller (referencing two of my favorite contemporary cozy series). I liked that we saw her on the job first, and diving into the mystery – one with very personal connections, as it revolved around the apparent suicide of her own mother several years before.

I really appreciated that the titual Crookham Hall was almost a character in its own right, as old buildings tend to be, especially when they serve as a focal point for a story. Author Michelle Salter’s eye for details really sang in the descriptions of this and other locations. At one point I had to remind myself that smoking was common behavior in the 1920s, and that even today Europeans smoke far more than Americans seems to. (At least in my experience.)

I also liked that we got a glimpse into what it was like to be one of those trailblazing women who were among the first in Parliament. Specifically, the commentary about how what they wore often got more attention than that they said really struck me. (Sadly, the way media portrays women in politics has not changed appreciably in either of our countries since then. )

Part mystery, part courtroom drama, part period study, part cultural commentary, this novel was a rich and rewarding read. I hope to follow Iris Woodmore as her life and career develop. I’ll definitely read more of Michelle Salter’s work.

Goes well with: a glass of perfectly chilled champagne.


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Review: BlackTold: 33 Dynamic Essays from Andscape edited by Steve Reiss

About the book, BlackTold: 33 Dynamic Essays fron Andscape Blacktold Essays

Publisher: Hyperion Avenue (October 4, 2022)
• Hardcover: 304 pages

ESPN’s website, The Undefeated, publishes content that explores how race and identity impact American culture. This will be a collection of the best articles published on the site. Timely and relevant, BlackTold will cover current events such as the BLM movement, the Covid-19 pandemic, race and the NFL, and more.

Here’s a sample of some of the articles that will be included:

George Floyd’s mother was not there, but he used her as a sacred invocation. With his dying breaths, Floyd called for her as an assurance of memory.

The importance of Chadwick Boseman to African Culture
In many ways, Black Panther helped normalize African heritage and style in popular culture by truly celebrating it.

Naomi Osaka made sure Black lives mattered at the U.S. Open
She’s grown more sophisticated in how she discusses race, and more comfortable with doing so publicly

Can a black heroine fix the racist stereotypes infecting ‘King Kong’?
In new Broadway production, actress Christiani Pitts steps into the role first made famous by Fay Wray

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the editor, Steve Reiss

Steve Reiss is the Executive Editor for Culture and Enterprise at Andscape. He has held leadership positions at many of the leading journalism outlets in the U.S., including the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, Crain Communications, and ESPN. He has worked with several winners of the Pulitzer Prize and of numerous other awards. He is the editor of the New York Times bestseller The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up The World.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

This collection of essays from Black writers should be required reading for all non-Black Americans. It is poignant. It is powerful. It is honest. And it is beautiful.

Each essay exposes a different aspect of life as a Black person in America. Some of the themes, such as the fact that everyone calls for their mother at their last hour – are universal, though the essay about George Floyd was not.  It’s about more than just the facts of his murder at the hands of police, and it’s hardly the most difficult read in the collection, but it’s the first essay in the book, and that gives it extra impact.

Grouped into sections such as “Black Lives Matter,” “American History,” “Arts and Culture,” and “Sports” these essays run through every aspect of life, whether or not they’re about the Utah Jazz basketball players, identifying with Breonna Taylor, or talking about “Black Twitter” these essays are informative, thought provoking, and brilliant. As a recent emigre to Florida, the piece that struck me most was “The Gut-Wrenching History of Black Babies and Alligators, by Domonique Foxworth which not only discusses the way we weigh human life against animal life, but also talks about a particularly heinous piece of American history.

“Can you imagine an America when that was not true? Can you imagine an America when a child’s life was so insignificant that he was intentionally put into the pen of a dangerous zoo animal? An America when a child was intentionally placed at the edge of alligator-infested waters to lure the ferocious beast for hunters?” Foxworth writes, and then explains that using Black children  – Black babies – as gator bait used to be standard practice.

Overall, this collection, carefully curated from ESPN’s website The Undefeated gives us a much-needed look into the truth of Black life in America. Hopefully, we will learn from it.


Check out the Other Participants on This Tour: TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, October 19th: Instagram: @amysbooketlist

Tuesday, November 1st: Instagram: @naturegracereader

Thursday, November 3rd: Instagram: @kelly_hunsaker_reads

Monday, November 14th: TikTok: @thelife0fbooks

Thursday, November 17th: Instagram: @turnxthexpage

Friday, November 18th: Instagram: @shook_sbooks

Monday, November 21st: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, November 28th: TikTok: @storytimewithshelbs

Monday, November 28th: Instagram: @bathtubbookworm

TBD: Friday, November 25th: Bibliotica

 

 

Review: Dangerous Blues, by Stephen Policoff

About the book, Dangerous Blues: Kind of a Ghost Story DangerousBlues

• Publisher: Flexible Press (October 3, 2022)
• Paperback: 257 pages

Dangerous Blues explores a dark yet comic storm of family relationships laced with a buzz of the supernatural, where the fleeting light of the present must constantly contend with the shadows of the past.

Paul Brickner and his 12-year-old daughter Spring are subletting an apartment in New York City. They came to escape the sorrow of their empty house in upstate New York after Nadia, Paul’s wife and Spring’s mother, dies.

Spring quickly takes to her new Manhattan middle school life, including making a new friend, Irina. Through that connection, Paul meets Irina’s mother, Tara White, a blues singer, and perhaps just the spark Paul has been missing.
But Paul begins to fear that he is being haunted by Nadia, who appears to him in fleeting images. Is he imagining it, or is she real? Tara, who grew up in the inscrutable New England cult known as the Dream People, is haunted, too, hounded by her very real brothers to return to the family, and to give back the magical object—a shamanic Tibetan vessel—which they claim she stole from them.

Paul’s cousin Hank, a disreputable art dealer, becomes obsessed with this object. Meanwhile, Paul’s father-in-law, an expert on occult lore, tries to steer Paul toward resolution with Nadia’s ghost.

Driven by Paul’s new circle of odd and free spirited iconoclasts, Dangerous Blues asks the question: when do you let go, and what are you willing to let go of?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephen Policoff Stephen Policoff

Stephen Policoff’s 1st novel, BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE ELSE, won the James Jones Award, and was published by Carroll & Graf in 2004. His essay about his disabled daughter’s experience in music therapy, “Music Today?” won the Fish Short Memoir Award and was published in FISH ANTHOLOGY 2012 (West Cork University Press, Ireland). It subsequently appeared in KINDLING QUARTERLY and has been widely republished on music therapy sites all over the world. His memoir, SIXTEEN SCENES FROM A FILM I NEVER WANTED TO SEE, was published by Monkey Puzzle Press in January 2014. His 2nd novel, COME AWAY, won the Mid-Career Author Award, and was published by Dzanc Books in November 2014. He teaches writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU.

Connect with Stephen:

Website | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissI love a good ghost story, and I love music, so Dangerous Blues was a great match for me. Going in, I didn’t realize this was a sequel to author Stephen Policoff’s earlier works, but it reads very well as a stand-alone novel. I didn’t feel like I had to play catch-up to understand what was going on because it was quite simple: Paul and his daughter Spring need to get away from the house where Nadia (his wife, her mother) died, so they sublet an apartment in New York. I loved the opening scenes showing their arrival in the apartment, and the mix of the owner’s be;longings and the emptiness, as well as the fact that said owner (Rose, Spring’s aunt) left them plates of food for their first night.

What really hooked me on this novel, though, were the details. Paul walks into Spring’s room to find that instead of choosing between two not-very-appealing bunks, she’s bundled up on the floor, early in the novel, and its the sort of scene only a parent would think to write. I also liked that Nadia’s ghost may or may not merely be a dream, a manifestation of Paul’s sadness, though her reality does not change the fact that both father and daughter must grieve and move on.

The entire novel had a very bluesy feeling to it, which tied nicely to the presence of Tara, blues singer, and mother to Spring’s best friend in New York. I felt like each character had a motif – Spring’s was bright and somewhat staccato, Paul’s was slow, told in long saxophone riffs, Irina was almost bop, Tara was the bass line, tying it all together. All four themes were distinct, but blended into something harmonious both with and without Nadia’s quiet melody weaving through it all, and eventually fading. It was this musicality that made me enjoy the book so much – the language, too, was very specific and evocative.

I was expecting a novel about grief to be relentlessly dark, but Policoff is more nuanced that that, and while there is sadness, there are also moments of joy and hope.

Overall, I felt the author’s storytelling was very organic and his characters were interesting and dimensional. I liked this book enough that I want to read the stories that came before it.

Goes well with a proper New York style hotdog, purchased from a sidewalk cart.


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Tuesday, November 1st: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

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Thursday, November 10th: Instagram: @turnxthexpage

Friday, November 11th: Instagram: @pazthebookaholic

Monday, November 14th: Instagram: @abduliacoffeebookaddict23

Wednesday, November 16th: Bibliotica

Thursday, November 17th: Instagram: @enthuse_reader

TBD: Monday, November 7th: Instagram: @books_and_biewers

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Review & Giveaway: Liberty Bell and the Last American by James Stoddard

BNR Liberty Bell

 

About the book, Liberty Bell and the Last American Cover Liberty Bell

  • Alternative History / Science Fiction
  • Pages: 347 pages
  • Publication Date: April 4, 2021
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR A GIVEAWAY!

Americans love their Constitution. In seventeen-year-old Liberty Bell’s era it has become a myth.

Centuries after the Great Blackout obliterates the world’s digitized information, America’s history is forgotten. Only confused legends remain, written in The Americana, a book depicting a golden age where famous Americans from different eras lived and interacted with one another during the same time.

Raised on the stories and ideals from The Americana, Liberty Bell joins secret agent Antonio Ice on a quest for her country. But in the Old Forest, forgotten technologies are reawakening. Historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Jefferson are coming to life.

The source of their return, a mystery hidden since before the apocalypse, lies waiting for Liberty. Her knowledge of The Americana holds the key to unraveling the riddles of the past.

Will the American continent return to the freedom of Liberty’s forefathers? Or will it descend into a dark age of tyranny? The choices she makes will determine its fate. For, as The Americana says, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it—and forfeit all coupons, discounts, and travel miles.”

Filled with quotations from exceptional Americans, here is a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution.

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Paperback | Kindle | Goodreads


About the author, James Stoddard Author Photo James Stoddard

James Stoddard’s short fiction has appeared in science fiction publications such as “Amazing Stories” and “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” “The Battle of York” was included in Eos Books’ Years Best SF 10, and “The First Editions” appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy 9 from Tor Books. His novel, “The High House” won the Compton Crook Award for best fantasy by a new novelist and was nominated for several other awards. He lives with his wife in a winding canyon in West Texas.

Connect with James:

Website | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads

XTRA Liberty Bell


My Thoughts MissMeliss

The blurb for Liberty Bell and the Last American calls it “a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution,” and there is no more accurate description. Part speculative fiction, part romance, part action-adventure, part coming-of-age novel, and all heart, this book is a pun-filled romp through a version of American History that might be seen through a fun-house mirror from a thousand years in the future, and I loved it.  Sure, the puns (Liberty Bell, the young protagonist, is from the Southern Bells, and her siblings include her sister Tink, short for Tinker) and pop-culture references (going to hell in a walmart cart) fly freely, but consider: if someone from that far in the future peered at us, then added a global Black Out and took away all context, they’d probably come up with similar references and turns of phrase. It’s important to note: this novel is much closer to Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than it is to Piers Anthony’s Xanth books, but could be considered a descendant of both.

In Liberty Bell, author James Stoddard has given us a vibrant young woman, traveling away from home for the first time and getting thrown into a series of adventures that include plummeting from a moving train, showing off the kind of survival skills that would impress any Girl or Boy Scout, and holding her own in both political and philosophical dialogue with characters who are all her elders, though some are older than others. (There’s really no way to give any level of detail without risking spoilers.)

Stoddard, like Adams, has also made this novel, in part, a book about another book. In this case that’s The Americana, which seems to be a combination of commonplace (though many of the quotations are mis-attributed, out of context, or just altered) and historical commentary about the (fictional) world these people inhabit. (Note to the author: Publishing that as a companion to this story would be awesome.) Some of the quotes and comments are hilarious, others are provocative: where did the author of The Americana get that story or piece of data?

What I really loved about this book is that beneath all the puns and preposterous situations, there’s a close look at the true meaning of patriotism and what it means to be an American, and what the constitution really says. The author notes that this was written before the 2016 election and is not meant to endorse or criticize any party,  which is true, but it’s also true that the real love story isn’t Liberty Bell and her accidental partner in crimes and misdemeanors with a cause, but the author, the reader, and their love of country.

This book is written in an easily accessible style, the story is well-paced and the plot makes sense, but I feel the best audience for this novel will be those who have a better-than-average knowledge of American history, because the references are much more enjoyable if you are familiar with the source material.

Goes well with: grilled freshly-caught fish and clear spring water.


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THREE WINNERS:

2 winners each receive a Signed Paperback copy of

LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN

1 winner receives a $25 B&N eGift card

(U.S. only; ends at midnight, 11/4/22.)

 

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Click to visit the Lone Star Literary Life tour page for direct links to each post for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily,  Or visit the participating blogs directly.

 

10/25/22 Hall Ways Blog Author Audio
10/25/22 The Page Unbound Notable Quotables
10/26/22 Bibliotica Review
10/26/22 LSBBT Blog BONUS Promo
10/27/22 It’s Not All Gravy Guest Post
10/27/22 Boys’ Mom Reads! Review
10/28/22 The Book’s Delight Excerpt
10/28/22 Reading by Moonlight Review
10/29/22 StoreyBook Reviews Review
10/30/22 The Plain-Spoken Pen Review
10/31/22 Shelf Life Blog Review
11/01/22 Forgotten Winds Author Interview
11/01/22 Jennie Reads Review
11/02/22 Rox Burkey Blog Review
11/03/22 Chapter Break Book Blog Review
11/03/22 Book Fidelity Review

 

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Review: An Open Door, by Anne Leigh Parrish

An Open DoorAbout the book, An Open Door

  • Paperback: 270 Pages
  • Publisher: Unsolicited Press (October 4, 2022)

It’s 1948 and the freedom granted women by the Second World War is gone. Edith Sloan, earning her doctorate, is told by her law student husband to cancel her academic plans. His bright future requires a certain kind of wife: one in the kitchen making dinner for important guests. Frustrated and defiant, Edith leaves him but returns when his begging letters become too much. Trapped by marriage and her husband’s ambition, Edith struggles to find her footing and the means to her own survival.

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


Anne Leigh ParrishAbout the author, Anne Leigh Parrish

Anne Leigh Parrish lives in a forest in the South Sound Region of Washington State. She is the author of the moon won’t be dared; a winter night; what nell dreams; maggie’s ruse; the amendment; women within; by the wayside; what is found, what is lost; our love could light the world; and all the roads that lead from home.

Connect with Anne:

Find her online at anneleighparrish.com.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I haven’t read an Anne Leigh Parrish book since I read By the Wayside in 2017, I’ve been reading a lot of novels set during World War II, lately so the first thing that I really appreciated about Anne Leigh Parrish’s most recent novel, An Open Door, is that it’s set in 1948 – after the war but before the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. This is a period that isn’t tackled a lot in fiction, and it should be, because it’s such a complex period.

Also complex is the main character of this novel. Edith is another of author Parrish’s strong female characters, and this novel is very much about her awakening. It’s not a coming-of-age story – Edith is an adult when we meet her – but she’s working in a government office, and has a boyfriend studying law at Harvard on the G.I. bill, and, like many young women, she’s caught between what society (and Walter) expect from her, and what she wants for herself.

Parrish’s characters are her strong point. Every one of them is dynamic and dimensional, but what I really loved about this book is that her prose – whether dialogue or description – is very graceful. Fluid, even. At 270 pages, this isn’t particularly short, nor is it overlong, but the language sings on the page, and that made the story really enjoyable. Also brilliant are the little nuances she puts in every scene, making the simple act of turning off a hot plate and forgoing a cup of tea an expression of Edith’s dissatisfaction. “Well-crafted” does not begin to describe this story.

Overall, I feel An Open Door is just that. This novel opens the door, for Edith, and for us as readers,  to feminism, to self-worth, and to what one really desires out of life. I recommend this to anyone who was raised on novels like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which the author has Edith considering in the opening chapter. It’s the perfect blend of social commentary, gentle sarcasm, and a compelling and interesting story.

Goes well with: a standing rib roast, creamed spinach, and potatoes au gratin, which Walter didn’t get to eat.


00-tlc-tour-hostVisit the Other Great Stops on This Tour:

Monday, October 3rd: @spaceonthebookcase

Wednesday, October 5th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 6th: @thebphiles

Monday, October 10th: Girl Who Reads

Tuesday, October 11th: @mom_loves_reading

Wednesday, October 12th: @suzylew_bookreview

Thursday, October 13th: @fashionablyfifty

Monday, October 17th: @lindahamiltonwriter on TikTok

Tuesday, October 18th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, October 19th: @nurse_bookie

Wednesday, October 19th: Books, Cooks, Looks

Thursday, October 20th: @pickagoodbook

Friday, October 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 24th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, October 25th: @cmtloveswineandbooks

Wednesday, October 26th: @wovenfromwords

Thursday, October 27th: Run Wright

TBD: Monday, October 3rd: @whatlizziereads

TBD: Thursday, October 20th: @tammyreads62

Review and Giveaway: The Covey Jencks Mysteries Omnibus Audiobook by Shelton L. Williams

BNR Covey Jencks Audio Omnibus

 

About the book: The Covey Jencks Mysteries: Love and Murder Deep in the Heart of Texas Cover Audio Love and Murder

  • Narrated by Stephen E. Lookadoo, Jr.
  • Mystery / Amateur Sleuths / West Texas
  • Listening Length: 17hrs, 44 minutes
  • Publication Date: July 27, 2022
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Shelton Williams’s book The Covey Jencks Mysteries: Love and Murder Deep in the Heart of Texas is more than a collection of mysterious tales of murder and investigation. By bringing to life these characters, the author has highlighted the global issues of racism, drug abuse, political extremism, and women trafficking.

In the midst of it all is our protagonist, hell-bent on finding out what secrets he may find out if he stepped into the dark shadow of Odessa.

This omnibus edition of the Covey Jencks Mysteries includes newly edited versions of Covey Jencks, Covey and JayJay Get Educated, and The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts. It also includes a new preface from the author and foreword by Charles E. Morrison.

Buy, listen to and/or read, and discuss this book:

Audible | Amazon Audiobook | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Author’s Website | Goodreads


About the author, Shelton L. Williams Author Pic Shelley Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the three books in the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

Connect with Shelly:

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

 

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My Thoughts MissMeliss

Having read the original Covey Jencks novel, which I did not review, and the second, Covey and Jay Jay Get Educated, which I did, I was curious to hear the audiobook, with all three books narrated by the same person, and presented in one, neat, bundle. I was not disappointed. While I’m a rare audiobook-listener and generally only listen to books I’ve read in print, I’m falling more in love with the medium. As I had not read the third book in this collection, The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts, I was a bit concerned about following the plot, but these books are so perfectly paced and well plotted, and balance humor and more serious scenes so well, that I had no issues.

As a refresher, the first book introduces us to Covey Jencks and his partner in solving crime (among other things), JayJay Qualls and sees them solving a case in Jencks’s hometown of Odessa, Texas where he recently returned. It involved Mexican gangs and a Boston mobster, and set the tone for the sarcasm-laced, deeply respectful and affectionate relationship between the two leads. The second book sees Covey and JayJay  finding the truth behind the death of one of Covey’s friends as well as other mayhem on a college campus, and the third involves a trip to China to solve a murder that involves characters there and in the USA, including a group of Chinese gangsters.

What all three novels have in common, aside from Covey and JayJay, are the deft uses of language, and the way author Williams imbues his stories with social consciousness and uses them to discuss everything from immigration and racism to sexism and sex trafficking. He does this while never making the reader – or listener – feel hammered to death by a cause, or overdoing the darker aspect of these subjects, but wrapping them in mysteries laced with humor and wry turns of phrase that are completely engaging.

As audio books, each of these has been released on its own, albeit with diffrerent narrators. What makes this omnibus audiobook edition so special is that the same narrator is with us all the way through. A good narrator can make or break and audiobook. In this case, Stephen E. Lookadoo’s folksy warmth only enhances the source material. He sounds like someone Covey Jencks would know; he sounds like someone the author would know. He has that kind of familiar voice that makes you think you’ve heard him before – and maybe you have – but even when he’s playing a down-home hick he never seems uneducated. He also used just enough accent and pitch change to evoke the different characters without sounding forced or fake. A lot of male narrators turn female characters into caricatures; Lookadoo does not.

The combination of Williams’s vivd storytelling and Lookadoo’s narration gives the listener the perfect blend of substance and style. The vocal performance is perfectly matched to the relatively quick pace of these novels, and you never feel breathless from trying to keep up, or bored because things are too slow.

At nearly eighteen hours, this omnibus is a meaty undertaking. Personally, I prefer longer audiobooks because I can live with them for several evenings and really absorb the story. In this case, that time gives us three distinct, yet still connected, mysteries that were fantastic in print, an even better in this format.

Goes well with: cold beer – Shiner is good – and a plate of ribs, cole slaw and mac-n-cheese.


Giveaway

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THREE WINNERS:

Each receives an audiobook edition of

THE COVEY JENCKS MYSTERIES:

LOVE AND MURDER DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 10/31/22.)

 

Giveaway Covey Jencks Audiobook

 

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Review: The Unlikely Spy by Sophie Schiller

About the book, The Unlikely Spy The-Unlikely-Spy_web

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (August 8, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 327 pages

Casablanca meets Notorious in a Hitchcock-style thriller of espionage, romance, adventure, and intrigue.

1917. Emma Christensen is a young widow who returns to the Danish West Indies to reclaim the life and the villa she left behind. When she discovers her husband has disinherited her in favor of his young heir—an illegitimate son—she turns to the one thing she knows, gambling, and soon finds herself deeply in debt.

Emma is approached by Cornelius Smith, a representative of an American shipping line, who offers an alternative: infiltrate the suspicious Hamburg-American Line and spy on its nefarious leader, Julius Luckner, to gain valuable business intelligence for his firm.

It doesn’t take long for Emma to realize that both Smith and Luckner are not as they seem. Close to the Allies but even closer to the enemy, Emma bravely engages in missions that could blow her cover at any moment. But with the Panama Canal at stake, how far will she go to help the Allies?

A gripping and suspenseful World War I spy thriller from an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Sophie Schiller 03_Sophie-Schiller_Author

Sophie Schiller is an author of historical fiction and spy thrillers. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews has called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.” Publishers Weekly called her novel, ISLAND ON FIRE, “a memorable romantic thriller”, her novel RACE TO TIBET, “a thrilling yarn,” and her TRANSFER DAY, “a page-turner with emotional resonance.” Kirkus Reviews called her latest novel, THE LOST DIARY OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON, “an engaging coming-of-age story of heartbreak, bravery, honor, and triumph.” Her latest novel is THE UNLIKELY SPY, a historical spy thriller set during WWI. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Connect with Sophie:

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My Thoughts MissMeliss

I love it when we get to see history from the point of view of underrepresented segments of the population, so this novel, The Unlikely Spy, with it’s vividly written lead character, Emma Christensen, Danish, disinherited, and deeply in debt, was right up my alley. I also enjoyed the World War I setting, which tends to be overlooked in favor of World War II stories.  (Incidentally, my grandfather was stationed in Panama during that later war, so a story involving earlier days of the canal was of special interest to me.)

I liked Emma. I liked that she didn’t whine overmuch about her change in circumstances, but took an opportunity when one was offered. I also liked that she was smart enough to realize that neither her boss (Smith) nor his competitor (Luckner) were true to the way they presented themselves in public, and it was her choices that kept me riveted throughout this well plotted story.

The blurb for this book references both Casablanca and Notorious, and those are apt comparisons both in tone and in the cinematic descriptions in this novel. I could easily see it as a PBS mega-production, or even a Merchant-Ivory film (are they even still around???). The story leaps off the page and embeds itself into your imagination, and is never disappointing.

Attention must also be paid to the amazing amount of research author Sophie Schiller obviously did on early twentieth-century shipping company and practices. The level of detail she incorporated gave this story another layer of versimilitude, and I appreciated it immensely.

Bottom line: This is an engaging, well-paced story with a strong female lead.

Goes well with: steamed mussels and a crisp white wine.


Visit the other Great Blogs on this tour

Monday, September 26
Review at Bibliotica

Tuesday, September 27
Review at Dive Into a Good Book

Thursday, September 29
Review at The Page Ladies

Friday, September 30
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 4
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Thursday, October 6
Review at Bookworlder

Sunday, October 9
Review & Guest Post at Older & Smarter

Monday, October 10
Review at Coffee & Ink
Excerpt at A Darn Good Read
Review & Excerpt at A Baker’s Perspective

Wednesday, October 12
Review at Novels Alive

Review: The Deep Translucent Pond, by James Shelley

Deep Translucent PondAbout the book, The Deep Translucent Pond

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Adelaide Books (February 5, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 192 pages

In The Deep Translucent Pond, a 40 year old attorney, Jerome Konigsberg, and 30 year old nurse, Natalija Gasper, are winners of poetry fellowships which allow them rare access to a once famous, now reclusive poet with the nom de plume, The Black Magus. At their first meeting the Black Magus “hijacks” the fellowship, proclaiming it the final piece of a secretive ten-year project known as the Triangulum, its goal: The re-enchantment of the world.

The key to re-enchantment is The Deep Translucent Pond which the Black Magus has identified as “a hideout of the fugitive gods.” If he can reach into it—as placid as a reactor cooling pool—and retrieve a mysterious object from the bottom, re-enchantment will be ignited. He elaborately recruits his two fellowship “students” to help. For their part, they accommodate his severe eccentricities in exchange for flashes of insight into their lives and a feeling that he is guiding them to a higher place.

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James ShelleyAbout the author, James Shelley

James Shelley has spent his professional life shifting between the underworld and higher places. He’s been a psychiatric attendant, land surveyor, arts critic, mental health case worker, archivist for the Rockefellers, and a bagpiper playing at the funerals of men and women he’s never met. As an educator, his innovative work at an Ohio college supporting at-risk male students has attracted national media attention, including The Atlantic and NPR.
As a writer, Shelley started out writing plays for experimental theatre before shifting to fiction, early efforts earning him an Ohio Arts Prize. In his poetry and fiction, he has always been fascinated with how prosaic moments can unexpectedly transcend, expanding into spaces that were not there before.

Connect with James:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

 

 

 


My Thoughts

MissMelissI’m woefully late in posting this review, but it’s because my life has been chaotic lately. The Deep Translucent Pond is an engaging and interesting novel that explores the process of writing, but also shows us how writing helps us process change and growth as well. Three characters: The Black Magus (not his real name, obviously) is an aging recluse who was once a famous poem. Every year he takes on two students and in this year the lucky two are Jerome, an attorney, and Natalija, a nurse. The three meet initially at a local cafe, but subsequent meetings are at the Magus’s home, where they sit in the shape of a triangle.

When the Magus called attention to an image of The Last Supper, I was very concerned this novel would be an imitation of The DaVinci Code, but it was not. Instead, that image was used to show off the power of triangles and pyramids, which continues to be a theme throughout the story. “A pyramid cannot be pushed over,” the Magus states, and what is implied is that the three of them will, over the course of their work together, form a cohesive whole.

In addition to the physics and metaphysics of triangles and pyramids, this novel explores the concept of finding our purpose – our true calling – in life, and how engaging that purpose can change – or in this case enchant the world. Similarly, author James Shelley enchants his readers. His use of dialogue is specific and appropriate to each character, and he has also created the poems (dubbed writings) of each character as well. Shelley has also chosen different focal characters for each chapter, which gives us different perspectives on the other two. In a way, the setup is reminiscent of Sartre’s No Exit, except that this novel is set on contemporary earth, and these characters genuinely like each other. Perhaps, then, every such triangle – or Triangulum – will have such a superficial similarity.

Where this book shines most is with the exploration of the writer and their writings, and how each informs the other. It’s a worthy read for artists, writers, and anyone who appreciates both.

Goes well with: piping-hot mugs of hot tea, and anisette toast.

 

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: A Shot in the 80% Dark, by Amber Royer

Banner: A Shot in the 80% Dark

 

About the book, A Shot in the 80% Dark

Cover A Shot in the 80 Percent Dark(Book 4 in the Bean to Bar series)

  • Cozy Mystery / Culinary Mystery /Woman Sleuth
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: July 15, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 285 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop is thriving. Despite everything she’s been through with the murders she’s helped solve, Felicity is ready to take on new challenges. So when a local museum offers her a contract to create a chocolate replica of a gigantic sailing ship sculpture for a gala celebrating Galveston’s history, she jumps at the chance to combine chocolate-crafting with art.

The project is fun – right up until there’s not just one but two dead artists on the scene, and Felicity has to change gears back to detective. Logan, Felicity’s business partner and previous bodyguard, and Arlo, Felicity’s ex who is now the cop investigating the case, are split on which victim they think was actually the intended one. Felicity may have to take some chances, both emotionally and in luring out a killer, to determine the truth.

Can she find out how Galveston’s history relates to the murders, unmask a killer, and prepare 2,000 chocolate desserts for the gala all at the same time?

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About the Author, Amber Royer

Author Pic Amber Royer

Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.

Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

Connect with Amber:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter   |  Amazon | Goodreads | Instagram | Youtube

 

Bean to Bar Series


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhether it’s the yellow and green parrot repeating “Allez vous-en, allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!” in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, or Renoir the cockatoo’s rather dire warning, “If you do that, I’ll kill you,” in this fourth installment of Amber Royer’s Bean to Bar mysteries, A Shot in the 80% Dark, talking birds never bode well.

Indeed, within a relatively few pages of her receipt of a copy of Treasure Island, Felicity Koerber, professional chocolatier and amateur detective, has stumbled into another murder.

This book takes place in Galveston, Texas, a touristy island community that Felicity calls home, and that has a rich maritime tradition. (It’s also, I recently learned, one of the major ports immigrants came through in the early twentieth century. But that’s just a random fact.)

As with the other books, this can easily be read as a standalone novel, though reading the earlier books does lend context. The key elements are chocolate (of course), maritime history, pirate lore, the local art scene, and how they merge when Felicity agrees to design and create a chocolate copy of a found-materials pirate ship sculpture for an event at the art museum. Only Amber Royer could take these disparate threads and weave them into a cohesive whole, and she does so with her usual deftness.

Mainly character driven, this story has a love triangle with Felicity, her first love Arlo, and her partner Logan, the latter two of whom have become friends. As well, there is an entire cast of art gallery staffers and artists each with their individual personalities and interpersonal conflicts that mix and match to create conflict, suspicion, and delightful drama.

In A Shot in the 80% Dark, Amber Royer has created a snappy, interesting read that remains unpredictable to the end.

In fact, the only flaw in this novel is that it doesn’t come with a supply of organic chocolate to nibble while reading.

Goes well with: an iced mocha made with unsweetened espresso chocolate.


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Review: The House on the Hill, by Chris Penhall

 

About the book, The House on the Hill The House on the Hill by Chris Penhall

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ruby Fiction (a Choc Lit imprint) (June 28, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 247 pages

The House on the Hill: A Summer in the Algarve

Layla is calm, in control and is definitely not about to lose her serenity for the man next door!
Surely it can’t be hard to stay peaceful at one of the oldest yoga and mindfulness retreats in the Algarve, surrounded by sea, sun and serenity? Mostly, owner Layla Garcia manages it – with the help of meditation and plenty of camomile tea, of course.
But keeping her grandparents’ legacy alive is stressful, and Layla has become so shackled to the work that, for her, The House on the Hill is fast becoming ‘The Fortress on the Hill’.
Then writer Luke Mackie moves to the villa next door, bringing with him a healthy dose of chaos to disrupt Layla’s plans, plus a painful reminder of a time when she was less-than-serene. But could his influence be just what Layla needs to ‘dance like no-one’s watching’ and have the fun she’s been missing?

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About the author, Chris PenhallThe House on the Hill Author

Chris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Both are available in paperback, e-book and audio and are part of the Portuguese Paradise series. Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales is available in e-book, audio and paperback, and The House on the Hill – A Summer in the Algarve, the third novel in the Portuguese Paradise series, is published in e-book on 28th June 2022.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.

She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it!

A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.

Connect with Chris:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhenever I acquire a new Chris Penhall title, I know I’m in for a great read. The third installment in her Portuguese Paradise series, The House on the Hill did not disappoint.

This multi-generational novel focuses on Layla and her Aunt Minnie who run a yoga retreat in Lagos. Each is competent, vivacious, dimensional, but neither has a love interest who will stick – at least when we meet them. But this isn’t a book just about romantic love. It’s about the love we have for our true passion, whether it’s health food (Layla), dance (Minnie) or yoga and general wellness (both). It’s also about the familial love that exists between aunt and niece, and the strong friendships each forms in their community.

Okay, yes, there’s also romance.

What I love about all of Penhall’s books is that they’re never too fluffy. Yes, they exist in a somewhat heightened version of reality where the bougainvillea flowers are a bit bigger, the limoncello is a bit stronger, and the sun shines a bit brighter, but overall the events in The House on the Hill, as with the author’s previous works, are plausible. And that makes the reading so much better, because you can be an armchair tourist in Layla’s (or Minnie’s) life, and never have to expend energy on willful suspension of disbelief.

What really sells this book is the way the author differentiates these characters of such disparate ages. Layla is more focused, and uses more contemporary language, while Minnie is slightly scattered and uses slightly “vintage” syntax. It’s subtle, but it really makes each woman truly breathe.

I should mention that the actual house is also a character in a way, as it plays host to the bulk of the story, and is really the heart of the family  – both blood and chosen – that Layla and Minnie have created in Portugal.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants a summer read that feels like a summer vacation. It’s well written, perfectly paced, and leaves the reader truly satisfied (but not so much so that a fourth book in this series wouldn’t be welcome).

Goes well with: a fruit plate that includes pinapples, passion fruit, and plums. Or a green smoothie.


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