Book Review: The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK

The Puppet Show
Washington Poe #1

M.W. Craven
Constable/Little, Brown Book Group, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-4721-2745-7
Trade Paperback

Winner of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award

As mentioned above this book is already a winner and after reading it I’m not at all surprised.

Set in the Lake District, someone is burning people alive and leaving the bodies amid one of the many prehistoric stone circles found in the area.  On the third charred body a name has been carved.  That name is Washington Poe.  Poe is  a member of a special group of investigators known as The National Crime Agency.  Poe is meantime on suspension due to conduct in a previous investigation, but the powers that be are anxious to stop this killer and Poe is called back in, and quickly brought up to speed.  The murders are obviously the work of a serial killer.

When a fourth body is discovered,  Poe, together with who the book jacket describes as  “the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw head out to where the newest victim has been found.  Poe’s method of investigating is somewhat unorthodox and often reactionary, and with Tilly’s help they uncover a number of leads that take them slowly but surely closer to identifying this killer.

Poe and Tilly work together well and this working relationship is an interesting aspect of this story.  But Poe is beginning to question whether  the clues he and Tilly find are specifically meant for him.   Is the Killer deliberately enticing Poe into a trap?  Is he somehow connected to the killings?

This is a terrific read.  Unputdownable!  The graphic descriptions of the murders might not be for everyone, but the writing is compelling, as is the twisted plot.  I devoured this book over the course of a couple of days and can hardly wait to catch up with the next in the series, Black Summer.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

Book Review: Alabama Noir edited by Don Noble @AkashicBooks

Alabama Noir
Edited by Don Noble
Akashic Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-1617758089
Trade Paperback

Yet another in the successful and popular series from this publisher, Alabama Noir contains pieces by sixteen fine authors who have, based on the works herein, fully grasped the meaning of “noir.”

The stories, all set in areas of a state sometimes considered perplexing and “different,” range from deeply dark and fraught to some definitely tongue-in-cheek and mildly humorous. Some, like Ace Atkins “Sweet Baby,” come with a surprising twist, others like “Exhaustion,” by Anita Miller Garner, are more straight-forward in their dark plotting.

The book is organized by the editor into four sections: COLD COLD HEART, YOUR CHEATING HEART, I’M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY, and THE ANGEL OF DEATH. A following section provides pictures and short biographies.

As with all the noir series from Akashic, every fan of dark, fraught, short stories will find several pleasurable stories well worth their time.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2021.
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Overthinking It: What Makes a Strong Female Character

Interesting thoughts and I think I agree with Brenda’s
conclusions. One thing I find a bit aggravating is that
female characters are frequently described as “strong” but
that’s rarely the case with with male characters.It’s as if
male characters are assumed to be strong so nothing needs to
be said about that aspect of the character whereas
it’s kind of an aberration if a female is strong.

Penny For Our Thoughts

Hello Friends! I am back with another overthinking it post, and today I am talking about what makes a strong female character.

Often in reviews, I see mention of strong women, and it makes me wonder if this is just an overused phrase or if there is some substance to those words. That led me to the question of “what makes a strong female character,” and I did a little digging around the internet to gather some thoughts about that question.

I think a lot about gender roles, how women are portrayed and represented in fiction. Do we see women strong because of their disadvantages, the actions of other characters towards them or the cruelty of men? Do we see women as strong for overcoming or surviving the violence of men? If we do, what about women who are struggling? Are they weak and considered not strong? What about brave?…

View original post 356 more words

Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #1 @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

Sterling and I Declare War on COVID-20

I still remember the day I turned 50. As I slipped on my size 8 jeans to go out with my family and stuff my face with lobster and crab-legs, I declared myself the victor over what is known as the middle-aged spread.

Not me! I hit 50 and I was still hot!

Then one morning, I don’t quite remember when, but I woke up and I was a size 12. I swear! Hand on the Bible swear, it happened OVERNIGHT!

For the last ten years, I have been struggling with getting back into those same jeans that I REFUSE to throw away. Periodically, I will shove my fist into the air not unlike Scarlett O’Hara, “Some day, I will be a size eight again!” just before unwrapping a milk chocolate truffle to soothe my battered ego.

Truthfully, my weight has never been an issue. I’ve been a size 8 most of my life. After having my son, I had no problem losing the baby weight that many women must deal with.

That post-menopausal weight gain knocked me for a loop!

Over the last ten years, I have tried many battle strategies against these unwanted pounds.

Vegan diet: How many days can you cook two meals, salad for yourself and steak for a carnivorous spouse before caving? I lasted six weeks. But the scale didn’t move. Deciding it was not worth torturing myself for nothing, I threw in the towel.

Weightwatchers: After weeks of cheating on my point counting and seeing the scale moving only a fraction of a pound a week, I bolted. This failure may have had something to do the ladies in my Weightwatchers group and I stopping at Panera bread for a carb-filled lunch and sugar-packed mocha latte after the weigh-in.

Dietitian: She admitted that after a lifetime of not having weight issues, I just needed to use the skills I already had to tackle this small problem. Stay away from the foods that were packing on the pounds: potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, beans, grains, fruit, and so on and so on.

For the next two months, I ate lettuce and grilled chicken breast. I lost several pounds—along with my mind.

Remember, I’m married to a carb-eating carnivore.

I think I did pretty good cooking carb-laden foods twice a day, seven days a week without eating one bite of it.

Then one day I stopped in at the drug store for some migraine medicine. The entire experience was just a blur. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember being in the store. I only remember going in and coming out. Next thing I know, I had two big bags of Hershey’s milk chocolate nuggets hidden inside my purse. I finished one bag before my poached fish and lettuce dinner that night.

Then, I started thinking. Hey, I am almost sixty. I have a successful career doing what I love—writing murder mysteries. I work hard. I love my husband. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t cheat on my husband. Why should I not be allowed to eat a bowl of ice cream covered with Magic Shell in the evening.

I surrendered.

Then the pandemic hit along with the lockdowns.

Both my husband and I work at home. As a writer, my working hours are spent sitting with my laptop composing murderous scenes of literary delight. (Don’t tell me that my sedentary lifestyle is the reason for my problem. I know that already.) Jack and I would try to take the dogs for a walk a few times a week.

As March stretched into summer and then fall, I discovered more and more clothes that I could not fit into. No longer was it just my size 8 jeans. Many on social media had mentioned noticing what many referred to as the COVID-15—the fifteen pounds gained due to less active lifestyle that comes with a lockdown.

Okay, so I fell victim to the COVID-15. Never did I dream that dogs could suffer it as well.

I had occasionally noticed that my sidekick Sterling, my five-year-old German shepherd, sleeping in the loveseat across from me that he was starting to look sausage-shaped. Maybe it was just my imagination.

Then, last week, I took Sterling into the vet for his rabies shot and the vet announced that in the one year since Sterling’s last visit he had put on 20 pounds!

That’s right! My previously 90-pound German shepherd had gained 20 pounds in 12 months. He practically increased his body weight twenty percent.

Her prescription: diet dog food and replace twenty percent of his food with green beans and vegetables. Increase walks to two a day.

If Sterling has gained 20 pounds in one year during this pandemic, I can only imagine how much weight I have gained. He’s not downing bags of milk chocolate truffles.

Sterling and I sat down for a heart-to-heart talk. Our health is important to us. We used to have slender figures and active lives. We can do it again. It’s not going to be easy, but we are going to do it for each other. His ears perked up at the announcement of two walks a day.

“Twenty-percent of your meals will now be veggies,” I told him.

“Veggies?” he asked. “Are they edible?”

“Yes,” I said.

“No problem.”

Lesson Learned: Eating healthy is no problem for those who don’t taste their food.

If we gained this weight in one year, we can certainly take it off in one year.

Together, Sterling and I have joined forces in this war against the COVID-20, which is five pounds worse than COVID-15.

As with any war, we need to do our research, to determine the best plans for our battle to beat the enemy.

We hope you join us!


During Sterling and my journey, we will feature various resources that we have examined. Our reviews are based purely on our analysis of them as they pertain to our lifestyles. Are they a good fit for Sterling and me? As with any weight loss or lifestyle book, you need to determine what works for you. What doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it does not work for you.


REVIEW: EATLIVETHRIVE DIET: A Lifestyle Plan to Rev Up Your Midlife Metabolism by Danna DeMetre and Robyn Thomson
Purchase Links: Amazon // Barnes & Noble

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that my weight-gain was due to a drastic midlife shift in my metabolism. I mean, I’ve been a writer all of my life. Most of my life, I have had a generally sedentary lifestyle. So, when I saw the sub-title of this book, A Lifestyle Plan to Reve Up Your Midlife Metabolism, I was sold.

The authors work in the health field. A registered nurse, Danna Demetre is in her mid-sixties. Robyn Thomson is an advanced clinical weight-loss practitioner and in her fifties. The book includes their personal stories of dealing with their own weight-loss battles, which they have both won.

The book is written in plain language. I devoured most of it in a couple of days. Their weight-loss plan takes an individualized approach and makes complete sense.

In a nutshell, different foods impact each of us in a different way. For example, my son has discovered that he is lactose intolerant. Diary foods make him feel bloated. I have found that pasta causes me digestive issues.

EATLIVETHRIVE DIET has a three-phase plan. It’s goal is to identify those foods that cause you problems which keep the weight on. Then, you simply eliminate them from your diet.

In theory, their plan is excellent. It begins with a fourteen-day detox (called the Elimination Phase) in which you cut out many different food groups: carbs, sugars, caffeine, beans, plus much more.

Putting this into action means a great deal of commitment. I’m proud that I made it nine days.

After the Elimination Phase, you go on to the Discovery Phase where you introduce each food back into your diet and keep a log of how your body reacts to it. If it proves to be a problem food, then you eliminate it completely from your diet.

During the Lifestyle Phase, you put together your individualized diet based on the results that you have uncovered during the Discovery Phase.

The entire plan can potentially take months to complete, during which you personally transform yourself based on your own body.

I think the EATLIVETHRIVE DIET is a great diet plan that addresses not just weight, but your entire body as a whole—body, emotion, and spiritual health. I really like that it is not generalized, where the authors tell everyone to give up pasta. After all, we are all different. I applaud anyone willing to dive into this. It takes a lot of commitment and hard work, but I think if you can make it through the Elimination Phase, then you are home free.

Sterling’s thoughts: No way am I giving up dog biscuits for fourteen days!

Book Review: The Blind Side by Michael Lewis @wwnorton

The Blind Side
Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton and Co., September 2007
ISBN 978-0393330472
Trade Paperback

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis was not one of the Biographies on my massive To-Read list. I did not see the movie and I am probably not a true sports fan. Nonetheless, when Boy brought the book home for his Sports Literature class, I had to read it first. He told me it was about football.

It is not about football. Not exactly, and not entirely.

I will admit to being pleasantly surprised by how incredibly interesting the football parts were. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Tom Lemming and it was nifty to understand roles and responsibilities for different player positions.

The story of Michael Oher and the Touhy family is uplifting and inspiring. An example of good people, simply doing what they feel is the right thing. A demonstration of the fierce power invoked when huge hearts and open minds collide.

Michael has a million reasons to be angry, bitter and seriously cynical. He is none of those things. Instead, he’s the go-with-the-flow guy. Crashing on the right floor, at the right time led to Michael attending the elite Briarcrest. A world away from the public schools he had barely bothered with.

To say that Michael stood out would be a gross understatement. He quickly caught the eye of Sean Touhy. Touhy came from very little. He worked hard and became a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court at Ole Miss. He felt a connection to the quiet newcomer.

Sean was not alone. Leigh Ann, and their two children, quickly developed the same kinship. The Touhys welcomed Michael Oher into their family. The four rallied around him to ensure a successful senior year of high-school and to help him transition into college.

I am so happy that I read this. I will absolutely be adding it to a few of my favorite high-school classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2020.

Book Review: Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima @margmizu @crookedlanebks

Hanging Falls
A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #6
Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-64385-445-8

While hiking in the mountains, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo discover a man’s body floating in a lake. They soon find the body, once buried, has washed downhill due to the heavy rains plaguing the Colorado high country. While searching for clues to the man’s identity, they spot someone watching them and take him in as a suspect. Forced to let him go, as there doesn’t seem to be a connection between him and the dead man, in a matter of hours the suspect also ends up dead, hanging from a tall woodland tree. Investigation leads Mattie, Robo, and the police department to a group of religious adherents of what appears to be plural marriage.

This is the first of Mizushima’s Timber Creek mysteries that I’ve read, and it’s certainly not the last. This is the sixth book in the series, and I intend to go back for the earlier stories and catch up with Mattie’s previous adventures. Besides, I want to learn how she and Robo became partners. Then there’s her love life with veterinarian Cole Walker, and her interaction with the other LEO’s at their station. All are interesting and play important parts in the story arc.

As a plus, a great deal of the action happens in the mountains of Colorado, and we interact with wildlife, and the great outdoors.

Plus, Mattie was kidnapped, then abandoned by her mother when she was only two years old. She’s recently had a DNA test done and found some possible close relatives. What’s going to happen with that? It all adds to a well-rounded story with a good mystery, one sure to stir your blood. Besides, I’m a sucker for stories where dogs play a part. Definitely recommended reading.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2020.
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Aftershock by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell @drjudymelinek @TJMitchellWS @HarlequinBooks


Title: Aftershock
Series: A Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery #2
Authors: Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural


Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble  // Kobo // iBooks // Amazon
Google // Indiebound // Harlequin
Books-A-Million // Walmart // Target


A Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery #2
Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Hanover Square Press, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-335-14729-5

From the publisher—

When an earthquake strikes San Francisco, forensics expert Jessie Teska faces her biggest threat yet in this explosive new mystery from the New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff and First Cut.

At first glance, the death appears to be an accident. The body is located on a construction site under what looks like a collapse beam. But when Dr. Jessie Teska arrives on the scene, she notices the tell-tale signs of a staged death. The victim has been murdered. A rising star in the San Francisco forensics world, Jessie is ready to unravel the case, help bring the murderer to justice, and prevent him from potentially striking again.

But when a major earthquake strikes San Francisco right at Halloween, Jessie and the rest of the city are left reeling. And even if she emerges from the rubble, there’s no guaranteeing she’ll make it out alive.

With their trademark blend of propulsive prose, deft plotting and mordant humor, this electrifying new installment in the Jessie Teska Mystery series offers the highest stakes yet.

By the time the dead body under the construction pipes has been identified, it was clear to me that “hostility” was going to be the word of the day among all parties. Dr. Jessie Teska is short-tempered with nearly everybody, she and Detective Keith Jones obviously have low opinions of each other, the construction workers are about as belligerent as they can be, the crime scene unit is snarky with Jessie and the death scene investigators…the list goes on. It all left me a bit unsettled and wondering if I would end up liking this prickly medical examiner.

The earthquake that strikes adds a level of tension not usually present in a police procedural and it certainly impedes Jessie’s investigation. It also brings her somewhat reckless behavior to the forefront. She probably would have been that way in normal circumstances but the earthquake makes things more lively.

Jessie is, at heart, a snoop, unable to let others do the investigating and that makes for a more interesting story but it also seems a little unorthodox. Still, a plethora of red herrings and misdirections entertained me till the end and I also appreciated the authors’ attention to Jessie’s personal life including her particular baggage and her relationship with her boyfriend, Anup. She’s definitely not the most likeable character I’ve come across but she’s not boring and I’ll be reading the first book as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2021.

About the Authors

Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell are the New York Times bestselling co-authors of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, and the novel First Cut. Dr. Melinek studied at Harvard and UCLA, was a medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. T.J. Mitchell, her husband, is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad to their children.

Judy: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Goodreads

T.J.: Twitter // Goodreads


**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**