Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith @RGalbraith @mulhollandbooks

Troubled Blood
A Cormoran Strike Novel #5
Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books, September 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-49898-2
Hardcover

For those familiar with this series by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K.Rowling, this is Book #5. While I would suggest reading them in order I believe that this 944 page hardcover book can be read on its own.

Cormoran Strike is a Private Detective and his Partner in the Detective Agency is Robin Ellacott. Due to their success in solving previous cases, Strike and Robin have gained something of a reputation. They now have a receptionist Pat, and two investigators, Morris and Hutchins. At the outset of the series Robin had been the sole employee, but having helped Strike in all the previous cases he offered her a partnership in the business.

They are asked to take on a Cold Case, the disappearance forty years ago of a young mother and doctor. Margot Bamborough disappeared without a trace one evening on her way to meet a friend for a drink. At the time Margot’s daughter Anna was a toddler, but she has always wondered if the speculation that her mother was just another victim of a serial killer named Dennis Creed was true. Creed is in jail for the kidnapping and murder of a number of young women, and has neither acknowledged nor denied any connection with Margot’s disappearance.

Intrigued, they decide to accept the challenge, but tracking down the people in Margot’s life from 40 years ago, two doctors, a nurse and a receptionist, a gardener and an office cleaner, not to mention friends and a few patients she had seen on that fateful day, is a daunting task.

Troubling, however, is the fact that Strike is dealing with some personal issues. His Aunt Joan, who lives in Cornwall and was like a mother to him when he was a child, is fighting a battle with cancer. She means a great deal to him and he is torn between his work in London and spending as much time as he can with her. And Strike’s father, a famous Rock Musician who has barely acknowledged Strike’s existence wants to meet and talk to him.

Robin does her best to pick up the slack, but she is caught emotionally drained trying to finalize her divorce, as well as some tension in the office.

As you may have gathered there is a lot going on in this 944 page novel, nonetheless the reader is in good hands, and quickly gets caught up in the various cases as they unfold.

With slow and painstaking work Strike and Robin make a little headway with the Cold Case, locating and meeting with some of the staff who worked at the Medical Practice all those years ago. But with each interview they hear conflicting stories about Dr, Margot Bamborough, and the events leading up to her disappearance, which frustratingly results in more questions. But nothing deters these investigators in their pursuit of the truth.

A remarkable story, hard to put down. Check it out… You won’t regret it.

RespectfulIy submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, October 2020.

Book Review: Arizona Dreams by Jon Talton @jontalton @PPPress

Arizona Dreams
A Davide Mapstone Mystery #4
Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen Press, September 2006
ISBN 978-1-59058-318-0
Hardcover

A former student visits David Mapstone’s office at the Phoenix Police Department, where he is a special sheriff’s appointee deputy who looks into cold cases. And enjoys some success, I might add. He doesn’t remember the woman from his teaching days, but the case she presents sounds interesting. She has received a letter containing details of a forty-year-old murder. When he investigates the remote section of dry Arizona desert mentioned in the letter, Mapstone is set upon and beaten by thugs.

Meanwhile, Mapstone’s wife has just gotten in touch with her half-sister, Robin. As they try to overcome previous conflicts, a neighbor is found murdered, with an ice-pick in his brain. Beset by curious details, Mapstone, aided in part by his wife, follows the old adage “follow the money,” which leads them on a trail of deception and murder that will finally bring all the various characters together. But first, just to add to the mayhem, throw in a few more murders and Robin’s attempted seduction of Mapstone.

The story is set in Phoenix, in the days when the city contained maybe fifty thousand souls. Water was rare and precious even then as the suburbs began their awkward sprawl. This is a fascinating look at what we now know became uncontrolled growth.

The writing is good, the premise is good. One or two things still puzzle me as to why they were included.  And although the book was published in 2006, with the ongoing problems of a big sprawling city like Phoenix, it all seems fresh.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Deadly Curious by Cindy Anstey @CindyAnstey @SwoonReads @XpressoTours

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Title: Deadly Curious
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 3, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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Amazon // Google Play // Indiebound

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Deadly Curious
Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-25227-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

A twisty tale reminiscent of Jane Austen—with a dash of murder—Cindy Anstey’s Deadly Curious is perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Agatha Christie.

Some secrets are better left buried…

1834. Sophia Thompson wants nothing more than to be one of the famed Bow Street Runners, London’s most elite corps of detectives. Never mind that a woman has never before joined their ranks—and certainly never mind that her reclusive family has forbidden her from pursuing such an unladylike goal.

She gets the chance to prove her capabilities when an urgent letter arrives from her frantic cousin Daphne, begging Sophia to come look into the suspicious death of Daphne’s brother.

As Sophia begins to unravel the tangled threads of the case—with the help of a charming young policeman—she soon realizes that the murderer may be even closer to her family than she ever suspected.

I’ve been fascinated by the Bow Street Runners since the first time I heard about them so, when I saw that this book involves them, I wanted to read it as soon as  I could. As it turns out, the Runner in this story, Jeremy, is not quite as energetic and compelling as I would like although he is appealing. I also thought Sophia was a little silly, especially in deciding, against society’s restraints and her upbringing, that she was cut out to be a detective just because she read a book. Once I recognized the flies in the ointment with these two characters, I decided to read this as a fun, fluffy bit of entertainment and I enjoyed it as such.

When Sophia’s cousin, Daphne, writes for Sophia’s help, the murder in question is a year in the past but Sophia’s Uncle Edward is in danger of being arrested at any moment. Our sleuth is more than willing to rush to West Ravenwood but this is 1834 and an 18-year-old girl can’t just rush off anywhere. Watching her machinations to get past all the family and societal roadblocks was as enjoyable as anything in this tale.

Eventually, of course, Sophia does get to West Ravenwood and falls in with Jeremy; together with Daphne, they set out to find a killer and absolve Uncle Edward and, along the way, Sophia and Jeremy find a romantic connection. All in all, this was a few hours of easy reading even though the actual mystery was lightweight.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

About the Author

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.

Author links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Giveaway

One print copy of Deadly Curious

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Book Reviews: Overturned by Lamar Giles and The Histronauts: An Egyptian Adventure by Frances Durkin and Grace Cooke @LRGiles @Scholastic @HistoriaFrankie @JollyFishPress

Overturned
Lamar Giles
Scholastic Press, April 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-81250-4
Hardcover

I am always seeking books that will immediately intrigue ‘my’ students. Many times, I’ve been sucked into a suspense-filled, action-packed, heart-pumping mystery…surrounding a subject they could not care less about. Aptly, of course, young adults are not the intended audience—I am.

But.

Young adult readers deserve thrilling books.

Mr. Giles seems pleased to provide. And now, I may be the only person looking forward to school starting. I cannot wait to share Overturned.

The setting: the very casino where 16-year-old Nikki Tate works…as well as resides, stimulates the reader’s senses. At a blush, that life-style—for a high-school student—sounds kinda fabulous. And it was. Once.

Without her dad around to run things, the responsibility falls straight through her mother’s trembling fingers into Nikki’s own hands. She can handle it. Has to. Knowing, with her whole heart, that her father is not capable of murder doesn’t keep him off death row. Someone has to support the family—not just the three of them; the trusted and treasured employees of Cosmos matter, too.

Otherwise, she would never consider running her own after-hours, under-the-table card games. Which were not really a big deal. There’s only one human better at poker than Nikki and he’s not here right now. Gavin may still be in his teens, but his bulk makes him the perfect bouncer. Maybe he has a few butterflies when her invitations are extended to some shady characters, but Nikki knows she’s got this.

Until something even odder than the initial arrest and murder charge. New evidence, and an attorney more than pleased to represent Mr. Tate, appears. Conviction overturned and Mr. Tate is head of his casino once again.

Nikki’s delight with his return was fleeting. She once believed he was always there when she needed him. Now, his presence is so far past smothering, she seethes when they share the same space. Determined to make up for the lost time, and hoping to find the sweet, happy Babygirl he remembers; her dad dives deeper into her life.

Although Nikki doesn’t see it at first, Mr. Tate is not as angry as he is horrified and frightened by what he finds. As dad works diligently to get his daughter out of the quick-sand she doesn’t know she’s standing in, Nikki consistently (albeit unintentionally) blocks his way with a combination of teen-age infatuation and obligatory rebellion.

Overturned by Mr. Giles is absolutely every single thing I wish for when I want to wow ‘my’ students with a Book Talk.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2019.

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The Histronauts: An Egyptian Adventure
Frances Durkin and Grace Cooke
Jolly Fish Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-63163-239-6
Hardcover

I don’t know if Ms. Durkin and Ms. Cooke colluded to create a tiny tome that would call to all; from the self-dubbed non-reader to the basic bookworm, but that’s exactly what this groovy graphic-novel does.

Filled with fascinating facts, in the same way a teeny car contains a multitude of clowns, this was a particularly pleasing read for me. An at-a-glance timeline from 5,000 BC through 30 BC took up only a tiny portion of a page, but was packed with information. I had no idea that Egypt was divided and reunited so many times! Nor could I have fathomed the complicated process of turning papyrus into paper.

The “novel” is in the narration. The Histronauts, a quirky crew, complete with a cat, needed an indoor activity on a rainy day. Their museum visit morphs into an adventurous Egyptian exploration. As the kids take in the sights and ask amazing questions, I am completely captivated, learning about ancient Egyptians and their way of life. And if all of that isn’t enough, there are even activities through-out. From making jewelry to flatbread or simply solving puzzles, these were engaging additions.

I believe that reluctant readers will enjoy this because of the tantalizing trivia and the graphic-novel-format seems to be more appealing for shorter attention spans. I think avid readers will be reeling from the intriguing information. I was totally into it. And truly, who knew there more than 2,000 ancient Egyptian gods? Or that music was such an imperative part of their lives?

The Histronauts also embark on a Roman adventure and I am already looking forward to joining them.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2018.

Book Review: Rules We’re Meant to Break by Natalie Williamson

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Title: Rules We’re Meant to Break
Author: Natalie Williamson
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genres: General Fiction, Romance, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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Rules We’re Meant to Break
Natalie Williamson
Swoon Reads, June 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-31326-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Rule #1: Don’t get attached.

Amber lives by strict rules to survive her mother’s love life: Always keep your eyes on the horizon and never get close to anyone connected to Mom’s boyfriends.

But after they move in with Kevin, the latest of her mom’s “soul mates,” the rules become increasingly difficult to follow. Kevin’s daughter, Cammie, keeps acting like Amber’s friend, even though she’s definitely not. And Jordan—star basketball player, hottest boy in school, and Cammie’s best friend—keeps showing up at the most inconvenient moments.

Amber has reasons for every one of her rules, and following them is the only way to protect her heart when her mom inevitably moves on. But as she spends more time with Kevin, his daughter, and especially Jordan, she starts to wonder if the rules might be worth breaking this time.

The very first thing that struck me in this story is how much I REALLY didn’t like Amber’s mom. If you’re looking for a first class narcissist who cares only about her own needs and has no regard for her daughter’s feelings, this woman is it. She also can’t maintain a relationship with any guy and should have a warning label plastered on her forehead. I just can’t imagine having a mother uproot her child time after time because she wants to shack up with one more guy. Apparently, letting Amber have a real home doesn’t mean anything to her mother and I find it hard to sympathize with or forgive such a person.

On the other hand, all of the above pre-disposed me to have a soft spot for Amber. This is a girl with a lot of emotional damage so it’s no surprise when she reaches her limit and puts up a wall to keep attachments at bay. Mind you, Amber isn’t always the nicest or most likeable person so I was kind of surprised that Cammie and her friend, Jordan, kept trying. After all, many teens would just shrug and move on. Amber just might have to re-think that wall.

On the whole, I thought the characters here lacked fullness, so to speak, but the story is sweet and leaves the reader with the feeling that good things happen when you open yourself to them.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

About the Author

Natalie Williamson is an HR person by day and a YA writer by night and nap time. She referenced Harry Potter in her first ever full time job interview, which tells you almost all the things you need to know about her. Other important things to know include: she loves her husband, daughter, dogs, and cat; she has a serious dessert problem; and she frequently Wikipedias movies and TV shows to find out if they have happy endings. RULES WE’RE MEANT TO BREAK is her debut novel.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram // Pinterest

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Book Reviews: Tinfoil Crowns by Erin Jones and Taking Chances by Kelsey Abrams

Tinfoil Crowns
Erin Jones
Flux, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-63583-032-3
Trade Paperback

Fit is tearing me in two. Wounds from warring emotions: fury, disbelief and a deeply-buried desire to forgive, are palpable and painful. Part of me needs to give her a hug.

Vehement denial that horrific symptoms may manifest from a mental illness is easy to understand. Unless you’ve been through it or witnessed it, first-hand. With knowledge gleaned, I also easily imagine shaking this young lady by her shoulders.

All moms make mistakes. And, at first, it seems as if Fit and Frankie’s mother messed up big-time. Even if she was suffering from postpartum problems, solo.

Frankie’s willingness to forgive should surprise no one. Fit’s younger brother is clearly a sweet kid, and the talented artist has never been one to hold a grudge.

Dubs, the dad that witnessed his daughter’s downfall, then took in her two tiny children, well, he’s somewhere in the middle. He may not want to wholly wrap his mind around the intricacies of psychosis, but he may have to, if he wants to hold onto his belief that his beloved off-spring was honestly unable to control her actions, or even ask for assistance.

When the day arrives for mom to move into the already crowded apartment, Frankie and Dubs are annoyingly overjoyed. Grim determination keeps Fit from feeling anything, aside from a simmering anger and overall sense of betrayal. Besides, she’s got no time for this, she is about to be big.

An agent in New York City saw his niece sporting jewelry she’d crafted from tinfoil, entranced by one of Fit’s You-Tube videos. He decided then and there that Fitted Sheet would be his next client. And it is here that our Fit manages to take self-absorption to a whole new level.

Even for a seventeen-year-old with sparkly stars in her eyes, who has happily left logic at the door. And, ok, it is not her role to be skeptical of the money man from the City, particularly since she’s seen him catapult a few of her favorite You-Tubers to fame; but, right now, this chick isn’t hearing anyone. And we don’t always know what is best at such a tender, impressionable, stubborn stage in life.

On the one hand, it may seem as if there’s nothing funny about psychiatric disorders. But, if we need to laugh at ourselves, then it would stand to reason that mental illness and humor are not mutually exclusive. Not an easy thought to convey. Ms. Jones broaches this brilliantly, in a Broad-City style that I found awesomely authentic. So happy that I’ll be able to share this with ‘my’ students before graduation!

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2019.

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Taking Chances: A Grace Story
Second Chance Ranch
Kelsey Abrams
Jolly Fish Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-149-8
Trade Paperback

This review demands to be written a bit differently. Perhaps by listing the things I love, from the very beginning. No. Before that, even. Let’s talk about the cover and title of the third book I’ve read from the Second Chance Ranch series. An atypical Juvenile Fiction front shows a disheveled and obviously distressed young girl clinging to a cat. The police car parked behind, perfectly pulls it together to pique my interest.

The title means two things, absolutely delightful! Chances, in this case, is an award-winning, purebred Persian. Grace Ramirez is the risk-taker. Sibling support from her twin and their two older sisters, sees that she stays somewhat unscathed. But, when Grace agrees to take over Miz Ida’s chores for two weeks…well, even the Ramirez girls may not be a match for all of that gardening, plus guarding the fancy feline.

Taking Chances: A Grace Story moves as quickly as the main character without feeling rushed or jumbled. It’s impossible not to love the impulsive little girl with the world’s biggest heart and it is quite a treat to watch her work so hard to be a better person.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2018.

Book Review: Let These Bones Live Again by David Carlson

Let These Bones Live Again
A Christopher Worthy & Father Fortis Mystery #3
David Carlson
Coffeetown Press, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-60381-393-8
Trade paperback

With a setting of Venice, Italy, the premise of the story seems almost possible. College student Allyson Worthy is interning with the Venice police department, the dream of living in the city fulfilled. She is no more than settled in when her father, a respected and famous homicide detective, turns up. He’s been hired to look into the death of a wealthy cancer victim suspected of committing suicide. Of course father and daughter meet up. Not such a good thing considering an uneasy history between them.

But then there’s Father Fortis, whom the Vatican has asked to look into the theft of the bones of saints. His job is complicated when he’s forced to bridge a gap of faith between Catholics and the Russian Orthodox church. Father Fortis and the Worthys are friends, and it isn’t long before they get together to help each other.

The Venetian police soon have Allyson working with her father, as more than one wealthy cancer victim has apparently committed suicide in unusual circumstances. And their bodies all have a puzzling wound, carefully stitched, that seems to have no bearing on their disease. Then there are the stolen relics. Father Fortis can’t think of any good reason for old bones, often of uncertain provenance, to be stolen.

While the answers to these questions were quite easy to see, the meat of the story comes with the relationship between these various characters, especially Allyson as she not only struggles with a romance that may not be as real as she hopes, but hostility toward her father. I didn’t find a lot of action or tension in the story, but was entranced by the setting and the people.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, February 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.