A Pattern of Lies, by Charles Todd #review #TLCBookTours @tlcbooktours

About the book,  A Pattern of Lies A Pattern of Lies

• Hardcover: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (August 18, 2015)

Bess Crawford must keep a deadly pattern of lies from destroying an innocent family in this compelling and atmospheric mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of A Question of Honor and An Unwilling Accomplice

In 1916, at the height of the war, an explosion and fire at an armament factory in Kent killed more than a hundred men. With Ashton Powder Mill situated so close to the coast—within reach of German saboteurs—the Army investigated, eventually ruling the event an appalling tragedy. Now, two years later, suspicion, gossip, and rumor have raised the specter of murder—and fingers point to the owner, Philip Ashton, whose son is battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s friend and former patient.

While visiting the Ashtons, Bess finds herself caught up in a venomous show of hostility that doesn’t stop with Philip Ashton’s arrest. Indeed, someone is out for blood, and the household is all but under siege. The police are hostile—the Inspector’s brother died in the mill explosion—and refuse to consult either the Army or Scotland Yard. Why, after two years, has the village turned against Ashton?

In France, Bess searches for the only known witness to the explosion, now serving at the Front, and tries to convince him to give evidence about that terrible Sunday morning, only to find herself and the witness hunted by someone intent on preventing anyone from discovering what—or who—is behind this web of vicious lies. Uncertain whom to trust, she can rely only on her own wits and courage, but how can she stop a killer whose face she has never seen?

Philip Ashton is urged to throw himself on the mercy of the court—where he will surely find none. Time is running out. And Bess, at the point of a gun, has only one choice left: to risk her life to save the Ashtons.

Buy, read, and discuss A Pattern of Lies

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Charles Todd Charles Todd

Charles Todd is the author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother and son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina.

Connect with Charles

Website | Facebook

My Thoughts MissMeliss

Bess Armstrong is back and better than before in this novel which was a great adventure for the former battlefield nurse. I loved that this story, like the last, blended her compassionate side, the one that seeks to provide solace and care – with her ability to be completely ruthless when she needs to be.

Having read this novel immediately after the last one, and then set it aside without writing the review immediately, some elements are muddled but I liked that Bess’s former patient Philip Ashton is central to this story, and I like that it was about responsibility and choice as much as it was about Nazi spies and war crimes. The entity known as Charles Todd is really good at bringing dierse elements into a story, giving us something that appeals to our contemporary sound-bite focused brains while still retaining the feel and language of a period piece.

I mentioned that Bess is one of my new favorite fictional characters. She has only increased her merit in this novel. Go read it, because nothing that I say can top the experience of this brilliantly crafted, well plotted, gripping novel.

Goes well with a crisp lager and a really good chicken curry.

A Pattern of Lies Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 11th: Crime Fiction Lover

Tuesday, August 18th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, August 19th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, August 20th: Dwell in Possibility

Friday, August 21st: Reading Reality

Monday, August 24th: Mystery Playground

Tuesday, August 25th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, August 26th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, August 27th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, August 31st: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, September 1st: Lavish Bookshelf

Wednesday, September 2nd: Mom’s Small Victories

Thursday, September 3rd: Victoria Weisfeld

Friday, September 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, September 8th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, September 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, September 10th: cakes, tea and dreams

Friday, September 11th: Jorie Loves a Story

TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

TBD: Helen’s Book Blog

Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Marty Wingate #review @netgalley #comingsoon

About the book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  • Publisher: Alibi (August 4, 2015)
  • Pages: 288

Perfect for fans of Laura Childs, Ellery Adams, and Jenn McKinlay, Marty Wingate’s enchanting Potting Shed Mystery series heads to Scotland as Pru Parke plans her wedding . . . all while a vengeful murderer is poised to strike again.

After her romantic idyll with the debonair Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse culminates in a marriage proposal, Pru Parke sets about arranging their nuptials while diving into a short-term gig at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. At hand is the authentication of a journal purportedly penned by eighteenth-century botanist and explorer Archibald Menzies. Compared to the chaos of wedding planning, studying the journal is an agreeable task . . . that is, until a search for a missing cat leads to the discovery of a dead body: One of Pru’s colleagues has been conked on the head with a rock and dumped from a bridge into the Water of Leith.

Pru can’t help wondering if the murder has something to do with the Menzies diary. Is the killer covering up a forgery? Among the police’s many suspects are a fallen aristocrat turned furniture maker, Pru’s overly solicitous assistant, even Pru herself. Now, in the midst of sheer torture by the likes of flamboyant wedding dress designers and eccentric church organists, Pru must also uncover the work of a sly murderer—unless this bride wants to walk down the aisle in handcuffs.

Buy, read, and discuss Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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About the author, Marty Wingate Marty Wingate

Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Potting Shed mysteries are planned.

My Thoughts

This is the third in Marty Wingate’s Potting Shed Mystery series, and the first I didn’t get via TLC Book Stores, but direct from Alibi through NetGalley. I love the series – solid mysteries with just enough romance to keep things interesting, but this one didn’t wow me as much as the first two, and I think it was because Pru spent so much time doing research, and so little time doing actual gardening. In past novels, I was treated to descriptions of lush gardens, so vividly represented by the author’s text that at times I could feel the wet ground beneath my feet, and smell the fresh soil or sweet blossoms. In this novel, there isn’t as much of that, and I found that the gardening, indeed the gardens, had become additional characters.

Aside from that, this is a lovely novel, the perfect read for a cozy rainy weekend, or even a lazy evening in the tub. I enjoyed visiting with Pru and Christopher again, and seeing the evolution of their relationship, but I also enjoyed meeting some new friends – Madame Fiona, the dressmaker, and Marcus, Pru’s old friend from back home (and her ex) – stand out. We also got to see her friend Jo once more, and I’d forgotten how much I’d enjoyed the interaction of the two women.

The mystery itself was solid as ever. I’m sorry we didn’t get more scenes in the Botanic Gardens, but I was kept guessing whodunnit through most of the novel, and was happy with the resolution of the puzzle. Pru’s detection skills were absolutely on point, and I felt the jeopardy she was in growing throughout the story.

Three books in, spending time with a Potting Shed Mystery is as satisfying as spending the afternoon with a group of friends at a favorite pub. Comfortably familiar but with no shortage of new stories to share. I’m looking forward to book four.

Goes well with Split pea soup with ham, and cheddar bread fresh from the oven.

Death By Coffee, by Alex Erickson (@AEricksonbooks) #review @NetGalley

About the book Death by Coffee Death by Coffee

  • Series: Bookstore Cafe Mysteries
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington (May 26, 2015)

When Krissy Hancock and her best friend Vicki decide to open a bookstore café in their new town of Pine Hills, they decide to call it “Death by Coffee,” after Krissy’s father’s most famous mystery novel. Little do they know how well the name fits…

On their very first day of business, Brendon Lawyer huffily takes his coffee…to the grave. It seems he had a severe allergy to peanuts…but how could there have been nuts in his coffee? And who stole his emergency allergy medication?

Fortunately, Krissy’s love of puzzles and mysteries leads her not only to Officer Paul Dalton, but also to many of her new neighbors, who aren’t terribly upset that the book is closed on Brendon. But one of them is a killer, and Krissy needs to read between the lies if she wants to save her new store—and live to see how this story ends…

Buy, read, and discuss Death by Coffee

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

About the author, Alex Erickson

Alex Erickson has always wanted to write, even at a young, impressionable age. He’s always had an interest in the motive behind murder, which has led him down his current path. He’s always ready with a witty—at least in his opinion—quip, and tries to keep every conversation light and friendly. Alex lives in Ohio with his family and resident felines, who provide endless amounts of inspiration.

Connect with Alex

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

Every so often, I search NetGalley for books with ‘beach’ or ‘coffee’ in the titles or descriptions, because when I’m looking for escapist reading, that’s what I like to read about most.

Last month, such a search led me to Death by Coffee, the first entry in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series by Alex Erickson, and it was as if this book had been written for me. The only thing that would have made it better is if Krissy’s pet was a stubborn dog instead of an evil cat, but what’s a fictional pet among friends, right?

I didn’t have a chance to dive into the novel until last weekend, but it was the perfect thing to read on a weekend when it was too hot to do anything but move from one air conditioned room to the next and maybe out to the pool and back. (Actually, it would also be the perfect thing to read on a rainy weekend, or a humid Thursday afternoon, or even a slow Tuesday night, but…I digress.)

I loved the concept of two women opening a bookstore/cafe as a way to escape from their existing lives and also make a living. I was immediately engaged in Krissy’s story – daughter of a famous mystery novelist, reeling from a romance gone wrong – these are common tropes that could feel cliche in another writer’s hands, but author Alex Erickson makes his main character so real, so vulnerable, that I couldn’t help but root for her. I wanted her business to do well. I wanted her to fall for the hunky cop (and have him fall for her as well.) More importantly, I wanted her to solve the murder of Brendon Lawyer.

While there was an element of Death by Coffee that was obviously setting up an entire series of books, I knew that going in, so it didn’t feel like there was too much backstory, or too much exposition. Erickson did a masterful job in creating a small town and the citizens who live in it, some apparently normal, others decidedly not, and I was strongly reminded of many of the small towns I’ve either lived in or visited over the years.

If you love books, coffee, and cozy mysteries, you will, as I did, find yourself hooked on Death by Coffee.

Goes well with: a grande flat white and a chocolate chip cookie. Obviously.

The Case of the Invisible Dog, by Diane Stingley #review #Giveaway @TLCBookTours

About the book, The Case of the Invisible Dog: A Shirley Homes Mystery The Case of the Invisible Dog

  • Published by : Alibi (May 19, 2015)
  • Pages: 385

In the start of a charmingly imaginative cozy series sure to delight fans of Carolyn Hart and Diane Mott Davidson, Diane Stingley introduces a blundering detective who believes herself to be the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Sherlock Holmes.

After failing to launch her career as a Hollywood actress, Tammy Norman returns home to North Carolina, desperate for a regular paycheck and a new lease on life. So she accepts a position assisting Shirley Homes, an exceptionally odd personage who styles herself after her celebrated “ancestor”–right down to the ridiculous hat. Tammy isn’t sure how long she can go on indulging the delusional Shirley (who honestly believes Sherlock Holmes was a real person!), but with the prospect of unemployment looming, she decides to give it a shot.

Tammy’s impression of her eccentric boss does not improve when their first case involves midnight romps through strangers’ yards in pursuit of a phantom dog—that only their client can hear. But when the case takes a sudden and sinister turn, Tammy has to admit that Shirley Homes might actually be on to something. . . .

Buy, read, and discuss The Case of the Invisible Dog

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million  | Goodreads

About the author, Diane Stingley

Diane Stingley is the author of Dress You Up in My Love and I’m With Cupid. She was also a columnist for The Charlotte Observer and received e-mails from around the country in response to her columns. She currently resides in North Carolina and is hard at work on the next Shirley Homes mystery.

My Thoughts

I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes fan almost as long as I’ve been able to read, and unlike some purists, I’m happy to discover new takes on the character. I’ve read – for review as well as just for pleasure – the works of Laurie R. King and Stephanie Osborn, for example, and loved them to bits, even though each woman writes a radically different version of Holmes. I also love the BBC series Sherlock, but, I confess, I’ve never been able to get into Elementary.

The practical upshot of all this is that when I was invited to review The Case of the Invisible Dog, I was really excited to do so. Diane Stingley also has a fresh perspective on Holmes – her detective, Shirley Homes (no-l), likes waffles with extra butter syrup on the side, and is a little more of a psychopath than even Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes at his most…idiosyncratic. She also uses the name of her famous ‘ancestor’ (because in this universe he’s a real person – or at least Shirley believes he is), to help build her business.

Her Watson, who is our point of view character, is Tammy, failed actress, successful purveyor of bon mots. She’s maybe not as book-smart as previous Watsons we have known, but she’s street smart and snarky – two things I always enjoy in a character. It’s her voice that narrates this story, and everything we see is filtered through her eyes and perceptions.

Author Diane Stingley has done a great job of creating a slightly kooky, absolutely cozy version of the Great Detective, or rather, the Great Detective’s Descendant, and I found this novel to be engaging and interesting, especially once things got a little bit twistier and darker near the end.

If you’re looking for a female detective who is basically Sherlock Holmes in drag and a contemporary setting, this novel is NOT for you, but if you want something fun, fresh, a little bit fluffy (but in a good way), give The Case of the Invisible Dog a shot. Worst case: you’ll crave a trip to your local diner, at the end.

Goes well with Waffles with extra butter and syrup (warm, organic, maple), a side of crispy bacon, and coffee with cream.


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Diane Stingley’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, May 11th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, May 11th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 12th: Bibliotica – That’s ME

Wednesday, May 13th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 14th: Mama Vicky Says

Monday, May 18th: Priscilla and Her Books

Monday, May 18th: Bell, Book & Candle

Tuesday, May 19th: Book Babe

Wednesday, May 20th: Reading Reality

Monday, May 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, May 26th: Open Book Society

Wednesday, May 27th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Thursday, May 28th: For the Love of Fictional Worlds

Monday, June 1st: A Book Geek

Wednesday, June 3rd: Dwell in Possibility

Monday, June 8th: Staircase Wit

Thursday, June 11th: Joyfully Retired

LowCountry Boneyard, by Susan M. Boyer (@SusanMBoyer) #review @TLCBookTours @NetGalley

About the book, Lowcountry Boneyard Lowcountry Boneyard

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Henery Press; First edition (April 21, 2015)

Where is Kent Heyward? The twenty-three-year-old heiress from one of Charleston’s oldest families vanished a month ago. When her father hires private investigator Liz Talbot, Liz suspects the most difficult part of her job will be convincing the patriarch his daughter tired of his overbearing nature and left town. That’s what the Charleston Police Department believes.

But behind the garden walls South of Broad, family secrets pop up like weeds in the azaleas. The neighbors recollect violent arguments between Kent and her parents. Eccentric twin uncles and a gaggle of cousins covet the family fortune. And the lingering spirit of a Civil-War-era debutante may know something if Colleen, Liz’s dead best friend, can get her to talk.

Liz juggles her case, the partner she’s in love with, and the family she adores. But the closer she gets to what has become of Kent, the closer Liz dances to her own grave.

Buy, read, and discuss Lowcountry Boneyard

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Susan M. Boyer Susan M. Boyer

Susan M. Boyer is the author of the USA TODAY bestselling Liz Talbot mystery series. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, won the 2012 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and garnered several other award nominations. Susan loves beaches, Southern food, and small towns where everyone knows everyone, and everyone has crazy relatives.  You’ll find all of the above in her novels.

Susan lives in Greenville, SC, with her husband and an inordinate number of houseplants.

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter.

My Thoughts

Lowcountry Boneyard combines two of my favorite things: a setting on the Carolina coast, and a spunky female detective, so it was obvious that I was going to ask to be included on this tour. In fact, my only regret is that I’m coming into Susan M. Boyer’s delightful mystery series at book three, because, while this book can stand alone, I think the experience would have been slightly richer if I’d already read the first two novels.

Still, I easily fell into this mystery, largely because Liz Talbot is so engaging, the concept of a dead woman (Colleen) as a sidekick, and the hunky partner-cum-lover Nate is the kind of guy we all kind of want.

I found the story to be interesting, and while I was a little ahead of Liz in the mystery-solving department, I didn’t find that detrimental to my enjoyment at all. In fact, the plot had a couple of twists I didn’t expect, which made me happy.

Boyer’s novels are set in a very specific place, and she does a good job of making us ‘see’ both the very real Charleston and the imagined island Stella Maris, to the point where I felt as though I had as much detail in my head as anything the GPS system in my car could provide. (Am I the only one who wants to move to Stella Maris?)

As well, the author really captures the social and political nuances of small-town life in a way that both impressed me and pleasantly surprised me. Not all of those nuances were necessary for the story she was telling, but they served to make the entire novel feel a lot more real than most cozy mysteries tend to be.

If you want a mystery you can devour in a single afternoon at the beach (well, you can if you’re me, but I read quickly) or just something that pays as much attention to killer clothes as actual, you know, killers, Lowcountry Boneyard will appeal nicely.

But read the first two novels, first. (I plan to download them to my Kindle later this week.)

Goes well with Fresh seafood, a Caesar salad, and a crisp pinot noir.

Susan’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Friday, April 24th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, April 27th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, April 29th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, May 1st: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 4th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Tuesday, May 5th: FictionZeal

Tuesday, May 5th: Mystery Playground

Wednesday, May 6th: Book Loving Hippo

Thursday, May 7th: Ms.Bookish.com

Monday, May 11th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Tuesday, May 12th: Walking With Nora

Wednesday, May 13th: Bell, Book and Candle

Friday, May 15th: Worth Getting in Bed For

Monday, May 18th: Reading Reality

Thursday, May 21st: The many thoughts of a reader

Monday, May 25th: Priscilla and Her Books

Wednesday, June 3rd: Jane Reads

Threshold, by G.M. Ford #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Threshold Threshold

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 21, 2015)

Acclaimed for his best-selling books featuring P.I. Leo Waterman, Ford introduces readers to a new, yet equally unorthodox hero in THRESHOLD: embattled Detective Sergeant Mickey Dolan. Still smarting from the very public breakup of his marriage and facing conduct complaints for use of excessive force, Dolan is at the end of his rope – and possibly at the end of his career – when he catches a case that just might turn things around: the disappearance of the wife and daughters of a powerful city councilman. Assisted by a remarkable young woman who may know the terrible truth about the missing family, Dolan soon finds he must choose between helping his career and protecting innocent lives. A suspenseful police thriller about a not-so-good cop given the opportunity to do the right – and most difficult – thing, THRESHOLD is a new chapter for G.M. Ford that is sure to satisfy fans of his Waterman and Frank Corso stories and new readers alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Threshold

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

About the author, G. M. Ford

G.M. Ford broke onto the mystery scene with Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?, a gin-soaked tome featuring Seattle private investigator Leo Waterman. The six-book Leo Waterman series was nominated for several awards, including the Shamus, the Anthony, and the Lefty. In 2001, Ford launched a new series featuring disgraced reporter Frank Corso and his goth assistant, Meg Dougherty. In 2011, after a twelve-year hiatus, he decided to write a new Leo Waterman novel, Thicker Than Water, which Thomas & Mercer promptly bought. His eighth Leo Waterman book, Chump Change, followed in 2014. Ford lives and works in Seattle, and is married to the beautiful and talented mystery author Skye Kathleen Moody.

My Thoughts

I love a good mystery (I’ve said that before) and Threshold is a great mystery, so I was hooked all the way through. I especially liked the way author G.M. Ford combines a retro pot-boiler sensibility with an absolutely contemporary story. Mickey Dolan, to me, seemed like he’d have been equally comfortable in a Sam Spade novel and an episode of CSI.

I also liked that the plot was fast-paced, but so well written that even when it was running at breakneck speed, I, as a reader, never felt out of the loop. I didn’t quite manage to solve the crime before Dolan had, but that’s only because I was paying more attention to character and language than details. (Sometimes I’m like that.)

I could analyze the characters, and tell you that author Ford knows his tropes well, and uses them with great success, or gush over the way every character felt gritty and real and interesting – even the bit characters who barely have dialogue.

Instead, I’ll keep things succint: if you like crime novels and are looking for a gripping new series from a writer with a ton of expertise, Threshold is the book for you. In fact, I suspect it will be a gateway book (pun absolutely intended) to more of Ford’s work, which, hopefully, will include a second (and more) adventure with Detective Sergeant Dolan, et al.

Goes well with A fully-loaded hotdog, and a beer.

G. M. Ford’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 13th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Tuesday, April 14th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, April 15th: 5 Minutes for Books 

Monday, April 20th: Life is Story

Wednesday, April 22nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, April 23rd: MariReads

Friday, April 24th:Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Monday, April 27th: Mystery Playground

Tuesday, April 28th: Words by Webb

Wednesday, April 29th: Built By Story

Thursday, April 30th: Bell, Book & Candle

Monday, May 4th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 5th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Monday, May 11th: FictionZeal

Tuesday, May 12th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, May 14th: A Bookworm’s World

Ivory Ghosts, by Caitlin O’Connell #review #giveaway @TLCBookTours

About the book, Ivory Ghosts: A Catherine Sohon Elephant Mystery Ivory Ghosts

  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Alibi (April 7, 2015)

In a blockbuster debut thriller brimming with majestic wildlife, village politics, and international intrigue, a chilling quadruple homicide raises the stakes in the battle to save Africa’s elephants.

Still grieving over the tragic death of her fiancé, American wildlife biologist Catherine Sohon leaves South Africa and drives to a remote outpost in northeast Namibia, where she plans to face off against the shadowy forces of corruption and relentless human greed in the fight against elephant poaching. Undercover as a census pilot tracking the local elephant population, she’ll really be collecting evidence on the ruthless ivory traffickers.

But before she even reaches her destination, Catherine stumbles onto a scene of horrifying carnage: three people shot dead in their car, and a fourth nearby—with his brain removed. The slaughter appears to be the handiwork of a Zambian smuggler known as “the witchdoctor,” a figure reviled by activists and poachers alike. Forced to play nice with local officials, Catherine finds herself drawn to the prickly but charismatic Jon Baggs, head of the Ministry of Conservation, whose blustery exterior belies his deep investment in the poaching wars.

Torn between her developing feelings and her unofficial investigation, she takes to the air, only to be grounded by a vicious turf war between competing factions of a black-market operation that reaches far beyond the borders of Africa. With the mortality rate—both human and animal—skyrocketing, Catherine races to intercept a valuable shipment. Now she’s flying blind, and a cunning killer is on the move.

Buy, read, and discuss Ivory Ghosts

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

About the author, Caitlin O’Connell

A world-renowned expert on elephants, Caitlin O’Connell holds a Ph.D. in ecology and is a faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as director of life sciences for HNu Photonics. She is the author five nonfiction books about elephants, including the internationally acclaimed The Elephant’s Secret Sense, An Elephant’s Life, A Baby Elephant in the Wild, and Elephant Don, and co-author of the award-winning The Elephant Scientist. She is the co-founder and CEO of Utopia Scientific, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and science education, and the co-founder of Triple Helix Productions, a global media forum with a mandate to develop more accurate and entertaining science content for the media.

When not in the field with elephants, O’Connell divides her time between San Diego, California, and Maui, Hawaii, with her husband, Tim Rodwell, and their dog, Frodo.

My Thoughts

It’s apparently the Year of the Elephant on my reading list, because this novel was the second of three elephant themed books I’ve got on my slate between now and the end of June. (The first was The Tusk that Did the Damage which I reviewed here.)

This novel is also a mystery, and you all know I love mysteries. Author Caitlin O’Connell took the sage advice to “write what you know” to heart, and used her own field expertise on elephants to create the setting and background for Ivory Ghosts, and in doing so she follows in the footsteps of people like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Kathy Reichs, who all spun their science careers into entertaining, educational, and interesting novels and short stories.

O’Connell’s descriptions are so vivid, her sense of place so strong, that when Catherine spent her first night in the ranger station’s less-than-comfortable cabin, I was sweaty and itchy in sympathy. Likewise, the characters she draws feel incredibly real, and completely believable.

The author’s use of elephant poaching and the ivory industry as both background and plot point made Ivory Ghosts as topical as it was terrifying. Early in the novel, Catherine stumbles upon a murder scene, and things only get more thrilling from there – but Catherine is also shown to be a flawed, feeling, human being, one we care about, root for, and ultimately hope (at least I do) we will get to travel with again.

This may be the author’s debut novel, but it reads like something from a seasoned professional, and I really hope O’Connell’s first foray into fiction is as successful as her non-fiction literary career seems to be.

Goes well with Ethiopian food (yes, even though it’s a completely different region), especially that tart yogurt, injera bread, and stewed lentils and sweet potatoes, and Tusker’s beer.


This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of the winner’s choice + an eBook copy of IVORY GHOSTS. Here is the coding for the Rafflecopter:

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Caitlin O’Connell’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 6th: 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, April 8th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, April 9th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, April 13th: Book Nerd

Monday, April 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, April 15th: Bell, Book & Candle

Thursday, April 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, April 17th: Reading Reality

Monday, April 20th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Wednesday, April 22nd: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, April 24th: Back Porchervations

Monday, April 27th: A Book Geek

Tuesday, April 28th: Read Love Blog

Wednesday, April 29th: Life Between Reads

Thursday, April 30th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Monday, May 4th: The Novel Life

Orient, by Christopher Bollen #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Orient Orient

  • Print Length: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 5, 2015)

As summer draws to a close, a small Long Island town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths— and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out.

Orient is an isolated hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island—a quiet, historic village that swells each summer with vacationers, Manhattan escapees, and wealthy young artists from the city with designs on local real estate. On the last day of summer, a teenage drifter named Mills Chevern arrives in town. Soon after, the village is rocked by a series of unsettling events: the local caretaker is found floating lifeless in the ocean; an elderly neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances; and a monstrous animal corpse is discovered on the beach not far from a research lab often suspected of harboring biological experiments. Before long, other more horrific events plunge the community into a spiral of paranoia.

As the village struggles to make sense of the wave of violence, anxious eyes settle on the mysterious Mills, a troubled orphan with no family, a hazy history, and unknown intentions. But he finds one friend in Beth, an Orient native in retreat from Manhattan, who is determined to unravel the mystery before the small town devours itself.

Suffused with tension, rich with character and a haunting sense of lives suspended against an uncertain future, Orient is both a galvanic thriller and a provocative portrait of the dark side of the American dream: an idyllic community where no one is safe. It marks the emergence of a novelist of enormous talent.

Buy, read, and discuss Orient

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

About the author, Christopher Bollen Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is an editor at large for Interview magazine. He is the author of the novel Lightning People, and his work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, the Believer, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Christopher at his website.

My Thoughts

I had a hard time sinking into this book, at first, in part because I’d just read two cozy, beachy novels back to back, and was still in that mindset. Once I reminded myself that this was a thriller that just happened to be set in a shore town, I went back and re-read the opening pages, and found myself much more into the novel. Who says there aren’t different reading moods?

I was expecting Mills, the young man (referred to as a ‘teen drifter’ in the blurbs, but at nineteen he’s really more a young adult) to be the POV person for the whole novel, so when author Bollen kept introducing us to more and more new characters, and letting us see inside their heads, it was a little confusing. Eventually, though, I found myself really enjoying his writing style, which blends all the best of contemporary mystery/thrillers with a truly literary penchant for description and psychodrama.

I also found that his style made me much more likely to alter my perceptions of characters as I got to know them. The central character, Beth, was one I really disliked upon first ‘meeting’ but by the end of the book, I really wanted her to solve the mystery and succeed at something. I love it when writers can do that, and Bollen has a knack for making plots twist on a dime in a way that is really quite delicious.

If you read the cover blurb for this novel and assume that because it’s set in a summer beach town it will be light on mystery and heavy on soap-y drama, you will be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you are ready to sink into a deep, dark literary thriller, you will find yourself riveted through all 600 pages of this novel.

This is the author’s debut novel, and I really hope Bollen’s agents and editors appreciate his distinct voice, because we need to hear more from this writer, and I fear that commercial success will cause him to change the way he writes, which would be a pity.

Goes well with Atlantic blue fish, fresh caught, and grilled on the beach, Jersey tomatoes marinated in salt and lemon, and a crisp summer ale. Sam Adams will do in a pinch.

Christopher’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, April 10th: As I turn the pages

Monday, April 13th: BoundbyWords

Tuesday, April 14th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Wednesday, April 15th: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, April 20th: The Discerning Reader

Tuesday, April 21st: Books and Things

Wednesday, April 22nd: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, April 23rd: A Dream Within a Dream

Monday, April 27th: Open Book Society

Tuesday, April 28th: Kissin Blue Karen

Friday, May 1st: Wordsmithonia

Monday, May 4th: Ace and Hoser Blook

Wednesday, May 6th: My Bookish Ways

Thursday, May 7th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies


The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley #review @tlcbooktours #giveaway

About the book The Dead Key The Dead Key

Paperback: 477 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (March 1, 2015)

Grand Prize Winner, 2014 — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.

Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.

In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.

Buy, read, and discuss The Dead Key

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

About D. M. Pulley D.M. Pulley

D. M. Pulley’s first novel, The Dead Key, was inspired by her work as a structural engineer in Cleveland, Ohio. During a survey of an abandoned building, she discovered a basement vault full of unclaimed safe deposit boxes. The mystery behind the vault haunted her for years, until she put down her calculator and started writing. The Dead Key was the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award grand prize winner. Pulley continues to work as a private consultant and forensic engineer, investigating building failures and designing renovations. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband and two children, and she is currently at work on her second novel.

My Thoughts

I love a good mystery. I love a mystery even more when women are at the center of it, when it’s got an interesting construction, when the story seems innovative. This book, The Dead Key, has all that and more.

The prologue had me intrigued but it was with the first pair of scenes – one in 1978, the other twenty years later – that I really got hooked. Parallel plots in different decades – what a great way to spice up what is, essentially a fairly basic story.

Beatrice (1978) was more compelling to me than Iris (1998), perhaps because Iris was a bit too self-entitled and obvious for my tastes. Too often, I wanted to shake her because she kept guilelessly giving away what she was doing. Really, if she had just announced to people, “Hi, I found an old safety deposit box key and I’m poking into what happened when the bank closed,” she would not have been much more obvious.

Also I thought her flirtation with Nick the designer was a bit random. Yes, women in their early twenties like to date, but their relationship did nothing for the story.

Beatrice, on the other hand, was a mystery unto herself. We don’t know her real background until well into the story, and she, at least, knew how to be somewhat discrete.

Minor flaws aside, this is a truly enjoyable novel. I loved the 1998 characters finding that the cafeteria (untouched for 20 years) still had working coffee machines (no, they didn’t drink any), and the setting – an abandoned bank – was just creepy enough to offset the fact that some of the twists were fairly predictable.

Pulley’s writing voice is truly engaging, her use of description and dialogue well balanced. If you want a great novel for a cozy late-winter afternoon, The Dead Key would be a perfect choice.

Goes well with Hot pastrami on rye bread and a bottle of any flavor Snapple.

Giveaway The Dead Key

One person (US/Canada only) will win a copy of The Dead Key. How? Comment on this post or share this post on Twitter (and tag @Melysse) to be entered. Winner will be chosen on Monday, March 16th.

D. M. Pulley’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, March 2nd: Life is Story

Wednesday, March 4th: Bell, Book & Candle

Thursday, March 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, March 9th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, March 10th: Rhodes Review

Monday, March 16th: Fictionophile

Wednesday, March 18th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, March 19th: Open Book Society

Monday, March 23rd: It’s a Mad Mad World

Wednesday, March 25th: 2 Kids and Tired Books

Monday, March 30th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, April 1st: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Monday, April 6th: My Bookshelf

Monday, April 6th: Omnimystery News – author guest post

Monday, April 13th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Thursday, April 16th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, April 17th: Brooke Blogs