cadaver_20blues_20cover_20finalCadaver Blues is an interesting idea for a series. Phuoc Goldberg (what an awesome name!) is not your typical private detective – in fact, he’s not a private detective at all. He’s a financial advisor to the down-and-out, the guy you call when the collection agencies are knocking down your doors. He helps people who are over-extended and under-financed keep a roof over their heads – doesn’t seem like a lot of opportunities for solving mysteries. Until he meets Mindy.

Mindy Eider is smoking hot, kind-hearted, and a little gullible. Her Uncle Gunnar, more of an honorary uncle, is off on one of his annual retreats – Mindy doesn’t know where he goes or how to reach him – and Mindy is looking after things in his absence. She has come to Phuoc because someone is trying to foreclose on Uncle Gunnar’s house and she doesn’t know why. There has never been a problem with the bills during these little walk-abouts before, and since it isn’t her account, she can’t speak with anyone at the mortgage company. She hopes that Phuoc can help.

The book is a reminder that the world tends to bow before a beautiful woman. If Mindy had been an ordinary-looking schoolteacher, there is no way that Phuoc would have ended up risking his life for her. Maybe I’m a little cynical. Anyway, what follows is a pretty entertaining mystery. Part of what makes it entertaining is that Phuoc is clearly not a detective – he’s doing all this for a beautiful woman in distress. The situations he gets himself into are pretty funny, even if I found the mystery itself a little implausible. (Okay, more than a little.) They start out in Wilmington, Delaware, spend a weekend snowed in at a resort in the Poconos and end up skulking around mysterious mushroom farms in the dark of night. Throw in some cool friends, a few decadent chocolates and perhaps some magic mushrooms and you’ve got a fun story that kept me turning the virtual pages.

Now, I don’t know where the series will go from here. How many mysteries can a debt consolidation specialist in Wilmington, Delaware run into? Still, you can get me to suspend a lot of disbelief if you have good characters and a snappy storyline, and this had both. I enjoyed this one (a bargain on Amazon) and I would definitely give the next in the series a try.

My copy of Cadaver Blues by J. E. Fishman came from my personal Kindle library.

New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

Sometimes, I forget to put the review copies up here when they are digital, so I am going to put a few up that are waiting for me to get a little reading time. This one sounds really intriguing - One Hundred Names: A Novel by Cecelia Ahern:

one hundred namesScandal has derailed Journalist Kitty Logan’s career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor’s bedside, Kitty asks her—what is the one story she always wanted to write?

The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance’s office—a list of 100 names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late.

Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, using her skills and savvy to track down each of the names on the list and uncover their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together a unexpected portrait of Constance’s life. . . and starts to understand her own.

Quotables

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By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

“He has only half learned the art of reading who has not added to it the more refined art of skipping and skimming.”

Arthur Balfour, British statesman

Learning to skim will help you survive those long, descriptive passages that bore you to tears.

New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

Okay, a little something from my personal library. I heard a lot of good buzz about this one and can’t wait to read it – all I need is a little time. This one is The House Girl by Tara Conklin:

TheHouseGirl_buy

The House Girl, the historical fiction debut by Tara Conklin, is an unforgettable story of love, history, and a search for justice, set in modern-day New York and 1852 Virginia.

Weaving together the story of an escaped slave in the pre–Civil War South and a determined junior lawyer, The House Girl follows Lina Sparrow as she looks for an appropriate lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking compensation for families of slaves. In her research, she learns about Lu Anne Bell, a renowned prewar artist whose famous works might have actually been painted by her slave, Josephine.

Featuring two remarkable, unforgettable heroines, Tara Conklin’s The House Girl is riveting and powerful, literary fiction at its very best.

New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

And another terrific new title this week: Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes

until youre mineClaudia Morgan-Brown finally has it all. Pregnant with a much-wanted first baby of her own, she has a happily established family of two small step-sons and a loving husband with a great career. But she is also committed to her full-time job as a social worker, and her husband travels often. So when Claudia hires Zoe to help her around the house in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, it seems like the answer to her prayers. But despite Zoe’s glowing recommendations and instant rapport with the children, there’s something about her that Claudia cannot trust.

Moreover, there has been a series of violent attacks on pregnant women in the area, and Claudia becomes acutely aware of her vulnerability. With her husband out of town for work and her family far away, who will be there to protect her? And why does she feel unsettled about Zoe? Realizing appearances can be deceiving even in her seemingly perfect world, Claudia digs deeper into Zoe’s blurry past and begins to wonder – how far would someone go to have a child of her own?

 

the-abomination-coverEverything is a trilogy these days! I’m serious – I cannot begin to tell you how many review copies come to me that are Book One is some trilogy or other. Most of the time, as I may have said before, I’m unimpressed. Often it means that the writer can’t seem to figure out how to wrap up the story in a single book. I think it’s great if a book is so good and so well-received that it inspires a sequel, but just like movies, every book these days has to come with a sequel.

In The Abomination by Jonathan Holt, I can actually see the need for a sequel. The plot is so complex, with so many threads to follow, that you could never wrap it up in one book. A few of the plotlines you’ll need to keep straight:

- Captain Kat Tapo of the Carabinieri is investigating her first murder case: a woman found in the canal, shot in the head, wearing the robes of a Catholic priest.

-  Colonel Aldo Piola, a seasoned investigator, is supervising Tapo on this case. There’s chemistry between the two of them and Piola has a reputation…

- Second Lieutenant Holly Boland is thrilled to be back in Italy, even if the assignment – a sort of community liaison officer – doesn’t sound terribly exciting. However, Boland’s first official task – look for some documents related to a Freedom of Information Act request – may be very exciting. And Dangerous.

- Daniel Barbo, a computer genius with a tragic past, has designed the ultimate virtual reality space for Italians – Carnivia.com, a detailed and eerily accurate rendition of Venice. Like the city itself, Carnivia contains many secrets – some that might be worth killing for.

There are actually a couple of other interesting plotlines, but if that doesn’t pique your interest, you may be unpiquable. Holt does an excellent job of moving the story forward, keeping the plotlines interwoven but not tangled, and keeping you turning the pages. It’s a great mix of characters, an amazing and exotic setting, with plenty of action and intrigue. The plot takes off in completely unexpected directions, and by the end of the book, you feel as though you have wandered into a totally different story. It was an excellent read and I am actually looking forward to the sequel, The Abduction, coming out in May.

My copy of The Abomination was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge by the good folks at HarperCollins Publishers.

Help an author choose a title!

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By Lisa | Filed in Commentary | No comments yet.

no-titleVirginia King has written the first book of a new mystery series.

Now it needs a title to grab attention!

Vote for your favourite title using the link below. The five best responses will win all the books in the series.

Entries close April 30.

The book will be published with the most popular title on Amazon in May.

Vote Here

New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | No comments yet.

Okay, I’ve been lazy about getting my new books up here, and I have a couple of new titles to share! First is Bittersweet: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore:

bittersweetOn scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, ordinary Mabel Dagmar is surprised to befriend her roommate, the beautiful, wild, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at Bittersweet, her cottage on the Vermont estate where her family has been holding court for more than a century; it’s the kind of place where children twirl sparklers across the lawn during cocktail hour. Mabel falls in love with midnight skinny-dipping, the wet dog smell that lingers near the yachts, and the moneyed laughter that carries across the still lake while fireworks burst overhead. Before she knows it, she has everything she’s ever wanted:  friendship, a boyfriend, access to wealth, and, most of all, for the first time in her life, the sense that she belongs.

But as Mabel becomes an insider, a terrible discovery leads to shocking violence and reveals what the Winslows may have done to keep their power intact – and what they might do to anyone who threatens them. Mabel must choose: either expose the ugliness surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or keep the family’s dark secrets and make Ev’s world her own.

Slow-Cooking-Front-Cover-266x300I know a lot of people think of a crockpot as a winter thing – full of chili or pot roast or beef stew. Fact is, a crockpot is great for cooking in the summer. You don’t heat up the house, there’s not standing over a hot stove, but you still get a hot meal at the end of the day. And you are certainly not limited to stews and chili; you can make seafood, vegetables, lasagna, even bake a cake in your crockpot. I have been having some fun, testing out new recipes for the coming months.

Slow Cooking for Two: Basics, Techniques, Recipes is a very handy resource for single folks and small families, especially if they are new to slow cooking. There are excellent sections on tips for using a crockpot, cooking times, and equipment. The recipes really run the gamut – everything from Spiced Mixed Nuts (page 136) and Banana Bread (page 126) to Cornish Hen Dijon (page 54) and Mushroom Risotto (page 106). There is a great section of desserts – Vanilla Custard, Lemon Cake and Apple Crisp – as well as a good section on some recipe basics. I never thought of roasting garlic in the crockpot, but you would really get that low-and-slow taste with this method.

In my house, my crockpot is a stock machine – I make chicken stock, beef stock, vegetable stock, all in the crockpot. My favorite method is to throw all the ingredients in, pour boiling water over them, turn the crockpot on low and then go to bed; I wake up in the morning to a house that smells like heavenly and I’m ready to make a terrific soup or stew.

Probably the most interesting section for me was the chapter on “Double Dinners” – basically, take a big chuck roast or pork tenderloin, cut it in half, then make two dinners at once in the same crockpot. Of course, the secret is using those crockpot liners (terrific for sticky, messy dishes). you simply put half the meat in each bag, add the other ingredients, and place the closed bags next to each other in your big crockpot. It’s perfect if you don’t like eating the same leftovers day after day until they’re gone. This way, you’ve got two entirely different meals.

All in all, a good reference with some great recipes. I like the Potato Gratin, the Pork Tenderloin with Cabbage, and I am looking forward to trying to Spinach Lasagna. My copy of Slow Cooking for Two: Basics, Techniques, Recipes came from my personal library.

 

Quotables

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By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

“I much prefer working with kids whose life could be completely upended by a reading of a book over a weekend. You give them a book to read – they go home and come back a changed person. And that is so much more interesting and exciting.”

Russell Banks, American writer and poet