Book Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger—and a Giveaway! @WmKentKrueger @AtriaBooks

This Tender Land
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-4767-4929-7
Hardcover

Literature fills almost as many needs as there are readers. This novel, solemn, deliberate, moving, is not for the harried or the cynical. Or maybe it is, if the reader is at least willing to consider the mysterious and sometimes mystical forces that surround us. Faith, like awareness of the natural world, is largely a private matter. This novel ultimately raises and thoughtfully considers more questions than it answers. Or not. The book is eminently satisfactory as a fine piece of literature for whatever enjoyment and satisfaction any reader gains from the story, a journey of life and death and misdeeds and love and, perhaps, redemption. Certainly forgiveness.

The journey begins with the difficult abusive lives of three inmates of a hard-scrabble boarding school in rural Minnesota in the midst of the deep depression that engulfed the nation in the nineteen-thirties. Three young men, in their early teens, Albert, Odie and Moses, grow closer in their mutual efforts to resist being smashed under by the persistent and sadistic efforts of the school officials who do not shy away from meting out corporal punishment at the drop of a fork.

When the opportunity a huge storm presents, the three boys collect a girl they all know from a nearby farm and lately orphaned like them, then run away from the school and determine to somehow make their way to Saint Louis. So they have a definite goal, however ethereal.

The adventure and the travelers’ desperate need to stay out of the clutches of the law infuses the story with tension and excitement, and the carefully crafted descriptive passages only add to the forward drive. Here readers will find evangelists, storekeepers, the law, liars, good and bad people and a story that ultimate raises fundamental questions of relationships.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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To enter the drawing for a print
advance reading copy of
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger,
leave a comment below. Two winning
names will be drawn on Sunday
evening, September 8th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US & Canada.

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Book Review: Jealousy Filled Donuts by Ginger Bolton—and a Giveaway!

Jealousy Filled Donuts
Ginger Bolton
Kensington Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-4967-1191-5
Trade Paperback

It’s the Fourth of July and Emily Westhill is loving it. Not only does she get to drive her 1950 Ford “donut car” in the parade, with the King and Queen as passengers, her Deputy Donut Café is providing the donuts for the picnic later in the day. How fantastic can life get for a small-town girl making good?  Of course, it can only go downhill, at least in the immediate future. The Queen, a lovely diva named Taylor, decides that the “donut car” doesn’t meet her high standards and pitches a major fit (after the minor fit about how her hair was done) in front of God and everyone until she gets to ride in an acceptable car. Her best friend has some words to say about Taylor, although not where Taylor can hear her. Then Taylor is killed during the fireworks after the picnic. Emily’s donuts were stacked on a rocket-like firework in order to disguise it, and the rocket was deadly at close range. The pictures provided by a convenient photographer place Emily squarely in the frame, at least for a little while. This kind of in-your-face manipulation ups the ante and Emily becomes determined to find out who killed Taylor as well as why she was picked as the scapegoat.

Emily lives in a small town, with all the ramifications of small town life front and center. She’s a small business owner, sharing Deputy Donut Café with her deceased husband’s father, a former police chief. It’s great to have built-in clientele, and also connections that perhaps another amateur sleuth might not possess. It also means she has demands on her time, demands that can’t be ignored too often or for too long. Not to mention she does have a personal life, albeit one that could use a little help. Anyone who runs a business knows how much of a life it can overtake. Emily does her best within these constraints.

Bolton’s third entry in the Deputy Donut series is pretty good, for being as open to the whole “cops and donuts” humor. She doesn’t succumb to the obvious, although there is humor in the book. This is definitely a character-driven story, and Bolton knows how to drive this wagon. There are plenty of by-ways and side roads, although a perspicacious reader should have no trouble finding her way to the correct solution. The small-town insider solution is shared early enough for astute folks to catch on. And there is knitting involved – not enough to warrant a pattern at the end, to go with the recipes, and still a little bit of needlework is usually a good thing.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, June 2019.
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To enter the drawing for a print
advance reading copy of

Jealousy Filled Donuts by Ginger Bolton,
leave a comment below. The winning
name
will be drawn on Tuesday
evening,
August 27th. This drawing is
open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Review: Heart of Barkness by Spencer Quinn—and a Giveaway! @ChetTheDog @ForgeReads @recordedbooks

Heart of Barkness
A Chet and Bernie Mystery #9
Spencer Quinn
Narrated by Jim Frangione
Recorded Books, July 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook
Forge Books, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-29772-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Chet the dog, “the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction” (Boston Globe) and P.I. Bernie encounter heartache and much worse in the world of country music. They’re both music lovers, so when Lotty Pilgrim, a country singer from long ago, turns up at a local bar, they drive out to catch her act. Bernie’s surprised to see someone who was once so big performing in such a dive, and drops a C-note the Little Detective Agency can’t afford to part with into the tip jar. The C-note is stolen right from under their noses – even from under Chet’s, the nose that misses nothing – and before the night is over, it’s stolen again.

Soon they’re working the most puzzling case of their career, a case that takes them back in time in search of old border-town secrets, and into present-day danger where powerful people want those secrets to stay hidden. Chet and Bernie find themselves sucked into a real-life murder ballad where there is no one to trust but each other.

Spending time with two of my favorite detective partners is always such a pleasure and Chet and Bernie have not let me down this time (as if they ever do). This is more than just a man and his dog; this is a crime-fighting duo that is good at what they do because they’re so very much in tune with each other.

***
Speaking of being in tune, the country music world is at the heart of their latest case, specifically investigating a murder with the aim of proving someone’s innocence. Lotty’s career goes back decades and, as Bernie digs deeper with Chet’s unique brand of assistance, they unearth secrets and family issues she never wanted revealed but these long ago truths may be her only way out of jail.
                 ***
As always, Chet tells the story with his usual doggy charm and his own understanding of the strange ways of humans. Naturally, Chet is sure that Bernie can do no wrong but even he is surprised at learning new things about his partner and best friend. For instance, who knew Bernie could ride horses, especially a feisty one named Mingo?

***

As I said, reading a new Chet and Bernie adventure is a pleasure and listening to the story makes it even better. Spencer Quinn creates wonderful personalities and narrator Jim Frangione brings them to life, especially the most loveable dog in bookdom.
***
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.
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To enter the drawing for an Advance
Reading Copy of Heart of Barkness
just leave a comment below. The
winning name will be drawn on the
evening of Thursday, August 8th.
Open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: The Time for Murder is Meow by T. C. LoTempio—and a Giveaway! @RoccoBlogger

The Time for Murder is Meow
A Purr N Bark Pet Shop Mystery #1
T. C. LoTempio
Midnight Ink, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-6036-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Crishell “Shell” McMillan sees the cancellation of her TV series as a blessing in disguise. The former actress can now take over her late aunt’s pet shop, the Purr N’ Bark, and do something she loves.

While getting the shop ready for re-opening, Shell is asked to loan her aunt’s Cary Grant posters to the local museum for an exhibit. She finds the prospect exciting―until a museum board member, who had a long-standing feud with Shell’s aunt, votes against it. When she discovers the board member dead in the museum, Shell becomes suspect number one. Can she, her Siamese cat Kahlua, and her new sidekick―her aunt’s Persian Purrday―find the real culprit, or will her latest career go up in kitty litter?

A pair of cute felines are part and parcel of this fun cozy but fear not, those of you who cringe at the idea—they don’t really help solve the crime(s) unless you count some judicious nudges and they don’t talk to Shell 😉 That doesn’t mean she doesn’t talk to them; any self-respecting cat person knows that’s a given, right?

When Shell inherited her aunt’s pet shop, she fully expected a quiet life, much less stressful than her former acting world, but she didn’t allow for the animosity she encountered from Amelia Witherspoon. Shell never knew her Aunt Tillie had a feud going with Amelia but, then again, maybe Aunt Tillie wasn’t as invested in the feud as Amelia still is. This crabby woman won’t even allow the local museum to have a showing of the marvelous Cary Grant memorabilia just because the collection belonged to Tillie and Shell is determined to change the woman’s mind. Unfortunately, she won’t get the chance because somebody has done away with the woman and Shell is the popular choice as the murderer thanks to rumors and gossip. Meanwhile, why is the publisher/reporter, Quentin Watson, of the village rag so interested in her shop and why is he pointing the finger at Shell as the killer?

There are a number of likely suspects and, as you might expect, a potential love interest in Detective Josh Bloodgood who wisely doesn’t really believe she’s guilty but my favorite character is Gary, Shell’s former co-star, entirely because…well, you’ll see ;-). The mystery here is a bit lightweight, especially in Shell’s supposed motivation for the murder and I figured out who done it too early, but an appealing cast of characters and a healthy dose of humor make this a nice way to while away a few hours. I’m already looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

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To enter the drawing for an Advance
Reading Copy of The Time for Murder is Meow
just leave a comment below. Two winning
names will be drawn on Wednesday evening,
August 7th. Open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: Five Days, Five Dead by Carol Wright Crigger—and a Giveaway!

Five Days, Five Dead
A China Bohannon Novel #5
Carol Wright Crigger
Five Star Publishing, December 2018
ISBN 978-1-4328-4729-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Sepp Amsel, a fabulously successful gambling hall and saloonkeeper entrepreneur, is about to become the bridegroom in the most public wedding ever to take place in wild and woolly Spokane, Washington. He wants to engage China’s detective services when his fiancee’s sister is kidnapped and a substantial ransom demanded. There’s just one problem. The client thinks it’s possible he’s being bamboozled because things don’t quite add up. Only days remain for China to figure out why the sister was snatched and not the bride. But the clock is ticking. Worse, it isn’t long until murder becomes part of the equation. First a bellhop, then a tailor. Who will be next? China had better find out soon, before she, too, becomes a target for murder.

China Bohannon is a young woman blessed with determination, intelligence and the ability and desire to look out for herself quite well but, unfortunately for China, she lives in a time when those characteristics are not generally seen as positive virtues. She’d very much like to be a “real” detective in her uncle’s agency but Uncle Monk and his partner, Gratton Doyle (who is much too attractive), just can’t be convinced that this is work suitable for a woman so she snatches her chances when she can.

When Sepp Amsel walks into the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency, China is fortuitously the only one there and she’s intrigued by what he tells her, starting with the fact that he came to engage her in particular. Amsel is in the gambling and saloon business and there are only a few days to save the young woman who has been abducted for ransom. Time might be especially short as the kidnappers have taken the wrong woman.

An already suspicious situation becomes more so when the Austrian mail order bride, sister of the kidnap victim, is less than helpful and, of course, there’s a whole lot more to this case. When Uncle Monk and Gratton find out about it, they naturally try to take over but they get led astray and China soon finds herself in a world of trouble, largely because of her inexperience. With the help of a few friends and with her beloved Bedlington terrier, Nimble, by her side China manages to keep one step ahead of mortal danger while following leads through the seamy side of Spokane during a harsh winter spell. Bodies are accumulating, though, and she has a lot of clues to sift through. Eventually, the guys return and their assistance is not entirely unwelcome.

Will the plaque in the office window ever read “Doyle, Howe & Bohannon”? Only time will tell if the two men will eventually acknowledge her talents enough to take the big step but, in the meantime, China is honing her skills one case at a time. I hope she’ll attain her dream one day but I’m enjoying watching her learn how to be a proper detective and can’t wait for her next adventure. This one is going on my list of best books read in 2019.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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To enter the drawing for an Advance
Reading Copy of Five Days, Five Dead
just leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on the evening of
Friday, July 26th. Open to the US and Canada.

 

Book Review: A Promise Given by Michelle Cox—and a Giveaway!

A Promise Given
A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel #3
Michelle Cox
She Writes Press, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-63152-373-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Anxious to be married, Henrietta and Clive push forward with their wedding plans despite their family differences, made worse now by Oldrich Exley’s attempts to control the Von Harmons. When the long-awaited wedding day arrives, there is more unfolding than just Clive and Henrietta’s vows of love. Stanley and Elsie’s relationship is sorely tested by the presence of the dashing Lieutenant Harrison Barnes-Smith and by Henrietta’s friend Rose―a situation that grows increasingly dark and confused as time goes on.

As Clive and Henrietta begin their honeymoon at Castle Linley, the Howards’ ancestral estate in England, they encounter a whole new host of characters, including the eccentric Lord and Lady Linley and Clive’s mysterious cousin, Wallace. When a man is murdered in the village on the night of a house party at the Castle, Wallace comes under suspicion―and Clive and Henrietta are reluctantly drawn into the case, despite Clive’s anxiety at involving his new bride and Henrietta’s distracting news from home.

Delicately attempting to work together for the first time, Clive and Henrietta set out to prove Wallace’s innocence, uncovering as they do so some rather shocking truths that will shake the Linley name and estate forever.

Following their Chicago wedding, Henrietta Von Harmon and Clive Howard leave tumultuous family issues behind, heading for a honeymoon in England at the ancestral Howard estate, Castle Linley, but their romantic interlude is affected by current events. It’s 1935 and the lingering effects of World War I can be seen and felt along with financial troubles stemming from the Great Depression but it’s a murder in the nearby village that shocks everyone.

Detective Chief Inspector John Hartle quickly suspects Wallace Howard, Clive’s cousin. Formerly a police detective, Clive is drawn in by his fondness for Wallace to investigate with Henrietta’s help; meanwhile, she’s trying to accustom herself to the trappings of British society and then receives unwelcome and distracting news from home regarding her family. The two are very surprised when they discover why Wallace has been so secretive but this knowledge may not lead to Wallace’s being cleared.

To me, this installment focused too much on the romance elements and even provided more, er, details than I cared to know while the mystery kind of took a back seat. Still, the setting is delightful, the nods of appreciation to Pride and Prejudice are fun and I particularly enjoyed seeing the beginnings of a brand new private investigation agency.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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To enter the drawing for a trade
paperback copy of A Promise Given,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on the evening of
Thursday, July 11th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US and Canada.

Spotlight on Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard—and a Giveaway!

For that youngster in your life, here’s
a delightful little book that will be a
great addition to the summer reading list.

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Title: Three Twigs for the Campfire
Author: Joseph Cognard
Genre: Kids, Fantasy


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See jv poore’s earlier review here.

Synopsis

Billy is more than a little nervous. Even with all the excitement of
his first “kids only” camp out, there is something truly bothering him.
Listen to the fire crackle as the Miller children, in their campfire
tradition, each tell a story. Will the fire last till Billy can fall asleep?
Worse yet, what will happen when it is his turn to tell a story? Lastly,
why won’t the fly and mosquito buzzing around the campfire
leave him alone? As in traditional Twilight Zone episodes, that the
author grew up with, Mr. Cognard creates three unique and
unpredictable stories, that both children and adults will all enjoy.
The book is packed with illustrations by Gabriella Cognard,
a tween with artistic flair well beyond her years.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a paperback copy of
Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard,
just leave a comment below. Two winning names will
drawn on the evening of Tuesday, July 9th. This drawing
is open to residents of the US and Canada.