Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

If every public librarian, working and retired, buys a copy of Annie Spence's Dear Fahrenheit 451, she'll have a hit on her hands. It has a long subtitle, "Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life." How do you get rid of books, in the library, or in your personal collection, when they meant something to you at one time? Spence explains why she keeps certain books, and which books haven't stood the test of time, and are heading elsewhere.

Spence's book is a fun collection of letters to the books themselves. And, she classifies each book. For example, Fiction - Tolstoy, Leo. Classic Russian Literature. The Bachelor. Choices. In other words, she just couldn't get into Anna Karenina, and addresses, "Dear Anna Karenina". I watched "The Bachelor" instead of reading the book. It's going back; it's not for her. Do you remember Color Me Beautiful in the '80s? If so, you probably know your season, and what you should wear. As a librarian, Spence admits she purposefully gave the wrong book to a reader once when asked for historical romances set in South America. She knew the reader didn't really want Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Of Love and Other Demons, but she couldn't help herself.

But, my favorite letter, and I'm sure that of many librarians out there, was the letter "Dear Magnificent Library featured in Beauty and the Beast Movie". Like Spence, that's my favorite Disney movie. I'd love to quote the entire letter to you, but I'll just mention this. "Belle is my favorite Disney heroine....She's just trying to finish her book. In my opinion, the premise of the film is: people constantly interrupt Belle while she's tryna read."

Everything about this book is for an avid reader to love. There are "Books That Lead to More Books", "Good Books with Bad Covers", lists of "Books I'll Never Break Up With". If you enjoy this book, you'll probably find yourself making your own lists. Or, you'll nod your head, and remember you loved or want to read that book. Or, you'll disagree with a selection. No matter what you do, readers will have an opinion about the selections in Spence's Dear Fahrenheit 451.

Dear Fahrenheit 451, Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence. Flatiron Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250106490 (hardcover), 244p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trace by Archer Mayor

The latest Joe Gunther novel isn't really about Joe Gunther. But, Archer Mayor's Trace is an outstanding police procedural that keeps the series fresh and interesting. This time, the story focuses on Gunther's team while he himself takes a backseat role.

When Joe receives a call from his Leo, informing him their mother is hospitalized, he drops everything to go. And, when they're told she needs additional treatment, he's the one who has the vacation time, "years of time banked", so he accompanies her to St. Louis, leaving the Vermont Bureau of Investigation in the capable hands of Sammie Martens. Of course, that's when all hell breaks loose, and his teamed is swamped, while Sammie still has to juggle the daily bureaucratic paperwork.

One case that could have repercussions is the investigation of an old case in which a cop shot a driver after a traffic stop, and the driver shot and killed the officer. Now, Lester Spinney receives information that the incident might not have happened exactly as it appeared. The cop-killing brought police from all over for the funeral. Lester has to be careful when he takes a second look at the evidence.

Willy Kunkel has a strange case that starts with nothing more than three teeth on a railroad track. But, if anyone can deal with a convoluted investigation that starts from nothing, it's Willy.

Sammie has a murder investigation that involves multiple agencies. But, the VBI is called in at the request of the Medical Examiner. Her daughter's roommate was attacked and killed in their apartment, and her daughter managed to fight off the man. Someone targeted the young woman, and Sammie and the other investigators must dig into the past of a woman who wasn't what she appeared to be.

Mayor's book is an outstanding police procedural, balancing investigations with the personal lives and issues of the team members. It's been a while since I read one of Mayor's books. As a fan of police procedurals, I've been missing out.

Archer Mayor's website is www.archermayor.com

Trace by Archer Mayor. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250113269 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Missing persons by Michael Brandman

Michael Brandman is not only the author of three Jesse Stone novels, based on Robert B. Parker's character, he also produced and co-wrote nine Jesse Stone movies. Now, he's launching his own laconic lawman, Buddy Steel, in Missing Persons.

Buddy narrates the story of his return to Freedom, California and San Remo County. He's been quite content with the life he built as a homicide detective for the LAPD. But, his father, Burton Steel, Sr., has been diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal diagnosis. Despite family tension, he returns when his father asks him to step in as county sheriff so he can show him the ropes before he dies.

But, Buddy's first case only escalates that family tension, disagreements with his stepmother, the mayor of Freedom. Catherine Long is missing. She's the wife of a charismatic television evangelist who is about to hold the annual three day celebration of the ministry. When Buddy heads to the compound to ask questions, he has a run-in with the Reverend Barry Long, Jr.'s staff and brother. The run-in and resulting calls to lawyers stirs up trouble. But, Buddy keeps his father in the loop as he investigates the Longs' finances and history. And, Buddy's investigation reveals he isn't a member of the only disfunctional family in town.

Buddy Steel, despite his flaws and irreverence towards everything political, is a likable narrator. The reader can't help but root for him to find answers, and some sort of happiness. This is a cinematic book, which is appropriate, considering the author's background. Missing Persons is for all of us who appreciated Robert B. Parker's spare writing. Parker can't be replaced, and neither can his characters. Buddy Steel fits that small town sheriff comes into town and cleans up corruption style. We can always use another hero.

Missing Persons by Michael Brandman. Poisoned Pen Press. 2017. ISBN 9781464208041 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Protocol by Kathleen Valenti

Admissions right up front, so you can take my review with a grain of salt. Read Kathleen Valenti's debut novel Protocol if the subject matter interests you. I'm not a fan of scientific/medical thrillers. My eyes glaze over when there are paragraphs about the science or medicine, and I just skim over them. However, I reviewed the book for a journal, and what they're looking for is a short summary, and the appeal of the book. I can do that, even if the book doesn't appeal to me.

Maggie O'Malley is thrilled to have landed a job in her field right out of college. Rxellence is a company that does pharmaceutical research, and, for personal reasons, she wants to work on cancer research. Instead, she finds herself researching acne during the day, and going to a bar with co-workers in the evening. But, Maggie's a little socially inept, and her first evening at the bar is a disaster. She receives an appointment reminder with the photo of a woman she doesn't know, only to see that same woman's picture on TV as she is leaving the bar. The woman is dead. In her panic, Maggie tries to push through the door, only to run right into a man from her company's management team.

That collision symbolizes Maggie's life spiraling out of control. She receives another appointment reminder, and another person ends up dead. At the same time, someone at work seems to be sabotaging Maggie. Strange documents appear on her desk. There are rumors about what she's doing. When she and her best friend search for connections between the victims, they find a connection to Rxellence. But, who is going to believe a woman's conspiracy theories when she's been suspended on suspicion of using drugs and taking money?

Valenti's debut mixes technology, medical research and social media in a complex novel that leaves some loose ends. Perhaps they will be cleared up in future books. But, there were too many sharks, too many plot twists that I had seen on television. Protocol wasn't for me, but it may be for those who like medical mysteries involving conspiracies.

Kathleen Valenti's website is https://www.kathleenvalenti.com/

Protocol by Kathleen Valenti. Henery Press. 2017. ISBN 9781635112399 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner

Asian-American private investigator Maya Mallick makes her first appearance in Bharti Kirchner's Season of Sacrifice. And, the opening scene of the book is unforgettable.

Maya has just opened the Seattle branch of a successful all-women boutique detective agency based in India when she comes across a terrible scene. Two young women set themselves on fire in front of the residence of a Chinese official. Maya recognizes Sylvie, the sister of her best friend, and tries to stop the deaths, but a man hits and impedes her. She witnesses their brutal deaths, and she's unwilling to accept the news stories that say the women were protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. As far as Maya knows, Sylvie was a scientist researching malaria, with little interest in politics. And, she's determined to find the truth.

Maya's first case turns out to be a dangerous one that threatens her safety and the safety of her mother, who is visiting from India. It's also a complex case that involves Russians, a meditation center, a powerful Indian family, and more murders. Maya is forced to utilize the research skills of her assistant and her mother's knowledge and friends in India to find background material on the suspects. When she's followed, and she and her mother are threatened, Maya knows she's in a new dangerous world.

While there may be a few too many threads in this first mystery in a series, Maya shows promise as a private investigator. And, the elements of Indian cooking and life add atmospheric touches to the book. Maya's assistant and her mother are strong supporting cast members. But, it's that opening scene that will suck in readers.

Bharti Kirchner's website is http://www.bhartikirchner.com/

Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner. Severn House, 2017. 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.                        

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I'll never catch up with my friend, Kaye Wilkinson Barley. She's been reading about Paris for months. But, I'm a third of a way through John Baxter's forthcoming book, Montparnasse: Paris's District of Memory and Desire. That's the neighborhood we're staying in when we go to Paris this weekend. I also read a beautiful book called Doorways of Paris.

So, I'll be gone next Thursday. It's going to be up to all of you to lead the discussion. This is still a place where you can all come to talk about your books. I hope you do. I'll miss all of you.

So, what are you reading this week? I'm eager to know.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Winners and Contest News

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The copies of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express will go to Steve G. from Ashland, OH and Karen R. from Katy, TX. I'm sending them out today. And, if you haven't read the book, you should read it before you see the movie.

Due to my upcoming travel schedule, there will be no contest again until Friday, September 29. Come back that day for the kickoff of the new giveaway.

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Somewhere in a pile, I have A Study in Scarlet Women, the first Lady Sherlock book by Sherry Thomas. But, I started it, and didn't care for the predicament Charlotte Holmes was in. However, when I finished A Conspiracy in Belgravia, I could see why others liked the character and the set-up.

Charlotte Holmes is a disgraced gentlewoman who uses her intelligence and the assistance of a widow, Mrs. John Watson, to take on cases under the guise of "Sherlock Holmes". This time, the case could be a little awkward. Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte's close friend and benefactor, asks Holmes to find the man she loved when she was young and single. The two had agreed to pass each other at a specific location once a year just to show they still remembered, and this year, Myron Finch didn't show up. Myron Finch is also the name of Charlotte's illegitimate half brother.

Actually, I found that particular case to be the least interesting of the cases in the book. Lord Bancroft, Ingram's brother, proposes to Charlotte, and to show he respects her mind, he presents her with a set of challenges. One of them leads Charlotte and Ingram to a house where the police are about to investigate a murder. Bancroft's clues and the suspicion that Charlotte and Ingram are followed is a tantalizing aspect of the story.

Then, there's Charlotte's sister, Livia, who is trying so hard to write Sherlock Holmes adventures. Although Charlotte may have Sherlock Holmes' intelligence, Livia has a few of his traits. She has her own adventures in this book, ones suitable for the bookworm she is.

It's the characters and the setting that will bring me back to the next Lady Sherlock book. I enjoy Charlotte's personality, and her relationship with Mrs. Watson and Lord Ingram. She's courageous, independent as she can be during the Victorian age, and truly cares about her sisters. It will be interesting to see where Sherry Thomas takes her, and a few other characters, in future books.

Sherry Thomas' website is www.sherrythomas.com

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas. Berkley. 2017. ISBN 9780425281413 (paperback), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.