Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Memes: Path of Needles by Alison Littlewood

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.


This week I am spotlighting Path of Needles by Alison Littlewood. I got this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description:
When an expert on fairy tales is called in to consult on the investigation of bizarre murders, her premonition and insight causes suspicion; she must solve the case--and fast--to prove her innocence.

Alice Hyland is an expert on fairy tales--lecturing on the well-known stories and their lesser-known variants--and the natural choice for Police Constable Cate Corbin to consult when a dead girl is found in the woods dressed up as Snow White. Especially when the girl's grieving mother receives a parcel containing a glass bottle of blood stoppered with the dead girl's toe. Cate's boss, Detective Superintendent Heath, isn't convinced of the connection to folklore until a second girl is found, this time dressed as Red Riding Hood and with claw marks gouged into her flesh, like a wolf had been at her.

As she dives deeper into the case, Alice beings to sense a supernatural pull connecting her to the murders. A series of uncanny events seem to be pointing her in the right direction, but she's not the only one noticing; By the time a third girl is found in the local castle, Heath begins to wonder if their fairy tale expert knows too much, and Alice finds herself no longer an asset, but a suspect. But she can't stop following the clues, and her determination to solve the mystery herself and prove her innocence may lead her somewhere she can't return from.
Beginning:
When Alice Hyland woke, she knew that a new year had begun. No matter that it was April instead of January; to her mind a new year meant new life, and she knew that daffodils would be pushing green shoots up through the cold dark earth and the sun would be shining over the top of Newmillerdam Wood.
Friday 56:
She was discovered by passers-by shortly after her mother, Angela - Angie Farrell - had the box hand delivered to her home, containing a bottle of blood, most likely her daughter's, with the severed toe used as a stopper.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

ARC Review: Caught Dead by Andrew Lanh

Caught Dead: A Rick Van Lam Mystery
Author: Andrew Lanh
Series: Caught Dead (Book 1)
Publication: Poisoned Pen Press; 1 edition (November 4, 2014)

Description: One of the beautiful Le sisters is dead. Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned. Mary Le Vu, wife of a poor grocery-store owner, is gunned down in a drive-by. Her twin sister insists dutiful Mary “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that drug-infested zone. The police rule it an unlucky accident. Skeptics hire private eye Rick Van Lam to get to the truth. Amerasian Rick—his father an unknown US soldier—is one of the Bui Doi, children of the dust, so often rejected by Vietnamese culture. But his young sidekick, Hank Nguyen, a pureblood Vietnamese, can help Rick navigate the closed world of Little Saigon. Surrounded by close friends—a former-Rockette landlady, his crusty mentor, and his ex-wife Liz—Rick immerses himself in a world that rejects him, but now needs his help. Especially when a second murder strikes in Little Saigon. Rick and Hank delve into the families of the Le sisters, one poor, one very rich, and uncover a world of explosive ethnic tension and sinister criminal activity ranging from Hartford’s exclusive white suburbs to the impoverished inner city. To solve the murders—and bring closure to Mary’s grieving circle—Rick looks to long-buried memories of his Buddhist childhood for the wisdom that will lead him to a murderer. Caught Dead starts a smart, unusual series.

My Thoughts: CAUGHT DEAD was an intriguing story. Rick Van Lam - the Vietnamese son of an unknown American soldier - is a private investigator in Hartford, Connecticut. He specializes in insurance fraud. But when his friend Hank Nguyen comes to him and asks him to investigate the death of Mary Le Vu, one of the beautiful Le sisters, he agrees. Actually, he says that he will talk to some people.

Rick talks to Mary's husband and two children. He talks to Mary's sister Molly, her husband and her two children. He talks to the housekeeper and her successful son. He quickly gets immersed in the various stories of all of these characters. Benny Vu is a poor storekeeper. His son Tommy and daughter Cindy are American and both disappointments. Both with dead end jobs and no ambition for more. Mary's sister Molly married rich American Larry Torcelli and had two children Jon and Kristen. Jon is a perpetual student at Yale and Kristen is a member of the country club set. Another intriguing character is Danny, who is the housekeeper's son, and Larry's protege. Larry sent him to prep school and Harvard and now Danny is a banker. He's the only one of the kids' generation that is a success.

When Molly is killed in the same place as her sister Mary, the investigation intensifies. Rick is such an intriguing character because of his outsider status. He aches to be part of the Vietnamese culture but is looked down on by many because of his mixed heritage. He has become a part of Hank's family and loves his grandmother but Hank's father and grandfather have nothing to do with him. Rick also has an ex-wife that he still has a close relationship with. Other support for Rick is his crusty business partner and his former Rockette landlady.

This story was as much about the Vietnamese immigrants who are trying to keep their culture while living in the US and their Americanized children as it was a mystery. Rick's mixed heritage and his Buddhist upbringing make him an interesting and unusual entry into the ranks of modern detectives. I liked the story and look forward to more by the author.

Favorite Quote:
"Stop looking at the money. Start asking yourself what other kinds of love are there, love that has nothing to do with money. You identify that love, and you will know what happened to Mary and Molly."
I got this eARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ARC Review: The Red Book of Primrose House by Marty Wingate

The Red Book of Primrose House
Author: Marty Wingate
Series: Potting Shed Mysteries
Publication: Alibi (November 4, 2014)

Description: In Marty Wingate’s charming new Potting Shed Mystery, Texas transplant Pru Parke’s restoration of a historic landscape in England is uprooted by an ax murderer.

Pru Parke has her dream job: head gardener at an eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex. The landscape for Primrose House was laid out in 1806 by renowned designer Humphry Repton in one of his meticulously illustrated Red Books, and the new owners want Pru to restore the estate to its former glory—quickly, as they’re planning to showcase it in less than a year at a summer party.

But life gets in the way of the best laid plans: When not being happily distracted by the romantic attentions of the handsome Inspector Christopher Pearse, Pru is digging into the mystery of her own British roots. Still, she manages to make considerable progress on the vast grounds—until vandals wreak havoc on each of her projects. Then, to her horror, one of her workers is found murdered among the yews. The police have a suspect, but Pru is certain they’re wrong. Once again, Pru finds herself entangled in a thicket of evil intentions—and her, without a hatchet.

My Thoughts: This was an entertaining, cozy mystery. Pru Parke is an England and has landed a dream job. She is restoring the gardens at an eighteenth-century manor house. If only someone wasn't trying to sabotage her work by acts of vandalism and, if only, her employer would quit sending her emails filled with her latest "good ideas."

Pru is busy working on restoring the gardens on a very short timeline. She is also trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with Inspector Christopher Pearse who is also massively busy in London. When vandalism turns to murder, Pru begins investigating to clear her employees and winds up putting herself in danger.

I had figured out the murderer early on but it was still entertaining to watch Pru investigate. The story was filled with interesting characters. Even the most minor, like the nosy neighbor, were well-rounded people.

I enjoyed watching Pru try to juggle her work responsibilities with her growing romance with Christopher. I also enjoyed seeing her work out her relationship with her newly-discovered family. I think what I liked best was the the romance was between two fifty-somethings who had lives and histories that had to be balanced.

Fans of cozy mysteries and gardeners (I don't know a dandelion from a petunia myself) will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
All the breathable air seemed to have been sucked up by the cloud of irritation that surrounded the inspector.
I got this eARC for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Caught Dead by Andrew Lanh

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
He smiled, a little sheepishly. "Your name came up."

"Why?"

"Grandma always thinks of you. You know, you and her, the two Buddhists in the house. In fact, she said something about a hole in the universe that only you can fill."
My teaser this week comes from Caught Dead: A Rick Van Lam Mystery by Andrew Lanh. I got this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description:
One of the beautiful Le sisters is dead. Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned. Mary Le Vu, wife of a poor grocery-store owner, is gunned down in a drive-by. Her twin sister insists dutiful Mary “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that drug-infested zone. The police rule it an unlucky accident. Skeptics hire private eye Rick Van Lam to get to the truth. Amerasian Rick—his father an unknown US soldier—is one of the Bui Doi, children of the dust, so often rejected by Vietnamese culture. But his young sidekick, Hank Nguyen, a pureblood Vietnamese, can help Rick navigate the closed world of Little Saigon. Surrounded by close friends—a former-Rockette landlady, his crusty mentor, and his ex-wife Liz—Rick immerses himself in a world that rejects him, but now needs his help. Especially when a second murder strikes in Little Saigon. Rick and Hank delve into the families of the Le sisters, one poor, one very rich, and uncover a world of explosive ethnic tension and sinister criminal activity ranging from Hartford’s exclusive white suburbs to the impoverished inner city. To solve the murders—and bring closure to Mary’s grieving circle—Rick looks to long-buried memories of his Buddhist childhood for the wisdom that will lead him to a murderer. Caught Dead starts a smart, unusual series.

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Oct. 27, 2014)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I had a busy week filled with author events. On Tuesday evening I traveled with a friend to The Red Balloon Bookshop to meet Kendare Blake. She had a small but enthusiastic turnout to hear about her new book and her up-coming trilogy. I got bookplates signed for the library copies I didn't want to carry with me and got her new book signed too.

On Sunday, my friend and I traveled to The Red Balloon again to meet Brian Farrey and get his latest book in his Vengekeep Prophecies series. I haven't read these yet but they sound really good. Brian was an entertaining speaker as he told us about his story.

Beyond that I had a disappointing workshop day at school last Monday. The speakers all sounded like commercials for their other longer workshops or commercials for their latest books. I felt that I wasted a day and didn't take away anything I could use.

Read Last Week
A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn begins a new series within the Honorverse. This one takes place early in the days of the Star Kingdom and has a male main character. My review will be posted on Nov. 20 for this book from my TBR stack.

On Her Father's Grave by Kendra Elliot is the first of four connected romantic suspense novellas. This one was action-packed. My review will be posted on November 12 for this review book.
Gone to Her Grave by Melinda Leigh was the second of the four novellas and introduces another couple while continuing the mystery from the first story. My review will be posted on Nov. 19 for this review book. 

On the Edge by Allison van Diepen was the last YA review book on my stack for November. This is a gritty contemporary romance. My review will be posted on November 20.
I read Unbinding by Eileen Wilks which is the most recent book in her World of the Lupi urban fantasy series and which was a new arrival on my TBR mountain. It was interesting but not my favorite of the series. My review will be posted on November 22.

Currently

I am currently reading Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. This chunkster has 599 pages and is heavy. I am so used to reading on my Kindle that it is hard, sometimes, to go back to reading physical books. I have to lean this one against something to read it or my hands get sore. 

Next Week
I have my most recent Amazon Vine arrivals on my review stack for next week. Sleep with the Lights On and Wake to Darkness by Maggie Shayne are the first two books in the Brown and DeLuca series. These were published in 2013.
On my YA stack, I have Snake Bite by Andrew Lane which is the most recent in his Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins series. I had the others for review but bought a copy of this one because I need to know the rest of the story.

I also have Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay on my stack. I got this review book from NetGalley when I was looking for December releases to review. I don't think I've ever read anything by this author since everything I know about for YAs has been about zombies. Her adult urban fantasy series sounds good though.

Reviews Posted
Here's What I Added to My Stack Last Week
I have a nice quiet week coming up. No meetings. No signings. I look forward to getting lots of reading time. Of course, being the week of Halloween, my students may have different plans for my week. What is on your calendar?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (Oct. 26, 2014)

Tynga of Team Tynga's Reviews has a meme to spotlight the books we receive each week. Visit her site to check out the linky and see what everyone gets. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow.

Review Books:
Melinda Leigh emailed me and asked if I wanted to read the novellas in the new Rogue River series that she is writing with Kendra Elliot. I said yes because I enjoy both authors' work. I got and read On Her Father's Grave by Kendra Elliot and Gone to Her Grave by Melinda Leigh. Now I have to patiently wait for the other two novellas to be released.
Melinda also asked if I would like to read and review her latest novel. I now have Hour of Need on my review stack. The book will be released on December 9.

I was looking at Amazon Vine for the first time in a long time and found a couple more romantic suspense titles that sounded good. Wake to Darkness by Maggie Shayne arrived this week but I am still waiting for Sleeping with the Lights On which is the first book in the series. 

Bought:
Don of the Dead by Casey Daniels sounded like an interesting paranormal. I went to Amazon Marketplace and bought a used copy. 

What did you add to your stack this week?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

ARC Review: The Gift of Darkness by V. M. Giambanco

The Gift of Darkness
Author: V. M. Giambanco
Publication: Quercus (November 4, 2014)

Description: In Seattle's upscale Blueridge neighborhood, James Sinclair, his wife Anne, and their two small boys are found brutally murdered in their home. Their bodies are carefully laid out: blindfolded, hands tied, and crosses drawn in blood across their foreheads. Above the bedroom door, the words "thirteen days" are scratched into the frame. At the same time, a card with the words "thirteen days" written on it is delivered to the office of powerful lawyer Nathan Quinn, a partner at Sinclair's law firm.

From the evidence found at the scene, rookie homicide detective Alice Madison and her seasoned partner Detective Sergeant Brown determine that the prime suspect is John Cameron, a fugitive long wanted for the infamous Nostromo killings. But only Cameron's attorney knows his whereabouts, and though the clock is ticking, he seems more interested in protecting his client than preventing another murder. That attorney is none other than Nathan Quinn.

Madison and Brown discover the three men are linked in other ways, too. Years ago, when they were just boys, Sinclair, Cameron, and Quinn's younger brother David were abducted. Blindfolded and taken to the woods near the Hoh River, on the picturesque Olympic Peninsula, the three boys endured a night of terror. Only Sinclair and Cameron survived. With no other witnesses, the case went unsolved and David's body was never found.

After a savage attack that leaves Brown in the hospital and Madison working alone, she discovers a flaw in the investigation that puts her at odds with the department brass. To stop the killer, Madison must go back into the woods and confront the unsolved mystery of the Hoh River Boys. She must forget her training and follow her instincts to the terrifying end, even as enemies become allies in the fight against the terrible darkness descending over them all.

My Thoughts: THE GIFT OF DARKNESS wove a tangled web of events and characters into a very engaging mystery. New to Homicide, Alice Madison and her much more experience partner are given the case of the murder of a man, his wife, and his two young children. The case leads them to a kidnapping that happened when the man was young. Three boys were taken but only two survived.

Now grown, James Sinclair has become a tax attorney working for the older brother of the lost boy. The other survivor - Jack Cameron - is suspected of being a murderer but has been a fugitive for years. The older brother - Quinn - is still Jack's lawyer and is the only one who can contact him.

Clues at the scene of James' family's deaths leads the police to Jack and to Quinn. When Madison's partner is severely injured in an attack that could have killed Madison too, Madison comes to the conclusion that Jack is being set up. Further investigation makes Quinn, Jack and Madison very reluctant allies in the hunt for the real killer.

This was a long, detailed story that spent more time on accuracy in the police procedural part of the story and less time on character development. I feel like I have only scratched the surface of who Alice Madison is. I do know that he desire to find answers is more important to her that her career. She is very determined and very dogged in her approach. She has a strong friendship still with a childhood friend but seems to have no other family connections.

I will be eager to read more in this series to see if I can learn more about Alice Madison.

Favorite Quote:
"I thought we were working on the presumption of transparency," she said to his back.

"I've never lied to you, Detective, and I'm not about to start now."

"Why is that no comfort to me whatsoever?"

"Because you're wise beyond your years."
I got this eARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.