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Beach Town
Beach Town
by Mary Kay Andrews
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.19
93 used & new from $10.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but predictable--a good beach read..., June 27, 2015
This review is from: Beach Town (Hardcover)
There’s nothing like a new Mary Kay Andrews novel to read during the summer and Beach Town is an appropriately named beach book. Although I enjoyed Beach Town, I thought it was just a little too long and a little too predictable.

Greer Hennessy is a location manager, and she is scouting a locale for a big-budget movie to be filmed in Florida. Bryce Levy, the director, wants “the Florida of his imagination [that] no longer existed—if it ever had. He just wanted palm trees and Spanish moss and rusty shrimp boats. And an Alamo that he could blow up.” On a recommendation, she discovers the perfect location in Cypress Key, a town that is stuck in the past and has seen better days. Soon, Hennessy realizes that the man she thinks is the custodian of her seedy hotel, Eben Thibadeaux, is actually the mayor, the town engineer, a realtor, the owner of a local market, and the owner of a marina—and she will require his approval for almost everything she needs for the movie. And of course, they don’t get off on the right foot. Once the movie production comes to town, there is the usual high drama associated with filming including a demanding director, an alcoholic script-writer, a young out-of-control singer (think Justin Bieber) making his first film, money and equipment problems, arguments with city hall and Cypress Key residents, jealous co-workers, affairs between staff, and ample amounts of alcohol and drugs. It’s an explosive mix.

In addition to the movie, Hennessy has her personal issues. Her mother recently died of lung cancer, and the father that she hasn’t seen since she was very young now wants to become a part of her life again. Plus her last romantic relationship ended badly and she’s reluctant to become vulnerable again. Even so, you can see how this novel is going to end from the very first pages. Still, Andrews has some good dialogue and observations. As Hennessy is dealing with her father, she tells Eben “’I think every girl wishes she had Atticus Finch—or Gregory Peck—for a father. Unfortunately, most of us end up with somebody who’s somewhere between Jed Clampett and Homer Simpson.’” She also discovers that she never knew the true story about her parents’ divorce.

As Mary Kay Andrews continues to write, her characters are becoming better developed, her plots are more intricate, and there is a more serious side to her stories. Beach Town is a good example of her growth as a writer.


Recalculating (Kindle Single): An eShort Story
Recalculating (Kindle Single): An eShort Story
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Three and a half stars..., June 23, 2015
One of the benefits of writing an eShort Story is that an author can experiment with a totally different genre. Jennifer Weiner does just that in Recaculating. Instead of her usual chick-lit, Recalculating is a Halloween tale that is a cross between science fiction and horror with a splash of chick-lit sprinkled here and there (think Jennifer Weiner meets Stephen King). I enjoyed this darker side of Weiner, although I don’t think I’d want a steady diet of this style.

Recalculating opens before Halloween. In her fifties, Maureen is a new widow, her husband Tommy dying of cancer not too long ago. In getting out her Halloween decorations, Maureen discovers a wrapped present with her name on the card. She opens the box to discover a GPS with a card signed “Love always, Tommy.” Maureen can’t believe that her husband would have left her this gift, but her daughter hooks up the new GPS in Maureen’s car. At first, Maureen enjoys the new GPS and the freedom that it gives her to explore and expand her world. But Maureen has a horrible secret—Tommy was an abusive husband, mean, controlling, foul-mouthed and manipulative. And soon, it seems as if Tommy is speaking to Maureen from the grave through her GPS. Will the abuse ever stop?

Recalculating is a good tale to read, especially at Halloween. As always, Weiner manages to weave some of her self-deprecating humor into the story. “Maureen was tall, five feet ten inches, broad in the hips and the shoulders, and pretty much everywhere else these days, too, since she’d turned fifty and some malevolent god had summoned an extra twenty pounds out of the air and sent them to live around her midriff.” But there is also a very disturbing dark-side to Recalculating. Why did Maureen put up with Tommy’s abuse for so long? The first evidence of his violent temper appeared three nights before their wedding and then continued to get worse through the years. At that first episode, “Perhaps she sensed dimly that this moment was a pivot, the axis on which the rest of her life would turn…but if she had even guessed at its importance, she couldn’t remember. She’d been thinking about the wedding, not the marriage itself; the wedding, and not the rest of her life.”

Not only was it fun to read Jennifer Weiner write in a new style, but Recalculating is a little tease until her next novel is published.


Speaking in Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan)
Speaking in Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan)
by Kathy Reichs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Always something to learn but the plot-formula is growing old...., June 16, 2015
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I don’t watch the television series, Bones, but I do enjoy the books from which they are based—the Temperance Brennan series written by Kathy Reichs. Speaking in Bones is the 18th book in her series and I was happy to order it when offered through Amazon Vine. While I enjoy all of Reichs’ books and always find something new to learn in them, I will admit that her plot-formula is getting a bit tired.

Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who splits her time between Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Canada. Her job begins when remains are discovered and there is not enough soft tissue left to indicate victim identity, cause of death, etc. Speaking in Bones opens with Hazel “Lucky” Strike visiting Dr. Brennan in her Charlotte office with evidence that might be tied to unidentified remains that Brennan catalogued several years ago. Strike found a recording device near where the bones were discovered and believes that the bones belong to 18-year old Cora Teague. But Teague’s family has never reported her missing. Strike is just one of the many amateurs who are now trying to solve cold and missing persons cases through the internet, using websites like websleuthing.com. But the bones were not found in Brennan’s jurisdiction, so she needs the help of local deputy Zeb Ramsey. What they find is very disturbing and leads them to an Uber break-away Catholic church, Jesus Lord Holiness, and their renegade priest, Granger Hoke. Along the way, they also discover at least one more body along with several unexplained deaths. Very early in the case, it’s apparent that someone is willing to do everything it takes to protect their secrets.

I was fascinated about the information and history of missing persons that was given in Speaking in Bones. At any given time in the United States, there are 90,000 missing persons and more than 40,000 unidentified remains. This is where the amateurs come in to “assist.” “Many websleuths seemed straightforward, eager in their desire to bring long-ago killers to justice, to match nameless remains with missing persons…It was also obvious that some were in the game not for justice but for glory. These players were cagey and guarded. Having accumulated vast files, they were loath to share their hard-won information, particularly with legitimate sites such as NamUS or the Doe Network.” But what I found a distraction in Speaking in Bones is the typical formula that Reichs uses in almost all her novels. The steps are almost always the same: Brennan starts working on a case, Brennan finds information pertinent to the case and refusing to wait to help, she sets off on her own, and then she finds herself in a life-threatening situation and has to be rescued by others. Reichs then fills in the gaps with the on-going drama with not-quite ex-husband Pete, boyfriend Detective Ryan, her daughter Katy, and her bi-polar mother Daisy.

But despite the formula, Kathy Reichs and her Brennan series are definitely worth the effort. It is especially helpful that Kathy Reichs is herself a forensic anthropologist, so you’re getting the real deal in a fictional setting. Most mystery writers can’t make that claim.


Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
by Louise Penny
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.09
86 used & new from $5.13

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterwork..., June 14, 2015
I have been on a Louise Penny streak, reading her Inspector Armand Gamache series in order. I was a bit disenchanted with book number 5, The Brutal Telling and almost considered taking a break. After reading Bury Your Dead, I’m glad that I didn’t. Not only is it the best book in the series so far, but it’s alsot one of the best mysteries that I’ve read in quite a while.

Bury Your Dead weaves together three different story-lines. The novel opens with Chief Homicide Inspector, Armand Gamache and his staff recovering from a terrible tragedy. Gamache and his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvior, are both on medical leave recovering from near-fatal wounds. Gamache has gone off to Quebec, where he is staying with his now-retired mentor, Emile Comeau. While doing some historical research at Quebec’s Literary and Historical Society, the body of an amateur archeologist is discovered in the basement. Despite his protests, Gamache is finally convinced to help with the investigation, even though it is not within his jurisdiction. Meanwhile, Gamache asks his deputy inspector, Beauvoir, to spend some time in Three Pines to unofficially reopen the case from book five. While alternating between Quebec and Three Pines, Louise Penny has Gamache reliving the prior tragedy. He is plagued by flashbacks about what went wrong, what mistakes were made, the lives that were lost, and who is to blame. It seems that his physical injuries are healing quicker than his psychological ones. But what really endeared me to Bury Your Dead was the history of Quebec including the Father of New France and the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain. The search for his grave plays a major part in Bury Your Dead. I was also interested in the ever-continuing battles between the Anglophones and Francophones in Quebec.

As always, Louise Penny has a knack for knowing what is important in an investigation. Inspector Gamache knows a lot about murders and murderers including the fact that he “knew that most killers didn’t consider their act a crime. They’d somehow convinced themselves the victim had to die, had brought it on themselves, deserved to die. It was a private execution.” Penny’s writing continues to evolve and the plot in Bury Your Dead is expertly woven together. Her characters are also taking on more depth and the bad guys aren’t all bad, and the good guys aren’t all good.

Bury Your Dead has won five prestigious awards including the Agatha Award, the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Nero Award. They are well deserved, all.


Divorce Horse (Walt Longmire Mysteries)
Divorce Horse (Walt Longmire Mysteries)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Tasty but unsatisfying..., June 14, 2015
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You have probably had a box lunch that comes with a sandwich, a small bag of chips, a piece of fruit, and a drink. When you opened up that bag of chips, there were only 3 or 4 potato chips in the entire bag. That’s what I felt like after reading Craig Johnson’s Divorce Horse. It was tasty, but there just wasn’t enough to satisfy me. Divorce Horse is called a Walt Longmire Story. Believe me—it’s not a story, but a very short-short story. Plus for the little the reader receives, I thought it was way overpriced.

Craig Johnson wrote Divorce Horse to be a bridge between novels number seven and eight, Hell is Empty and As the Crow Flies. I don’t think that it took me more than 20 minutes to read Divorce Horse. On my Kindle, by the time I scrolled through the cover, a list of other Craig Johnson books, the inside title page, the copyright page, the contents page, the dedication page, and the acknowledgements, I had already read 8% of the book when I reached the first page of the story. Then it ends at 54%. The rest of the book is a preview of As the Crow Flies. The story itself is cute and entertaining. Sheriff Walt Longmire, daughter Cady Longmire and Henry Standing Bear are having dinner at the Busy Bee when they get a call that Tommy Jefferson’s horse has gone missing from the rodeo grounds. This horse played a prominent role in Jefferson’s nasty divorce and for that reason, Walt and his staff have nicknamed him the Divorce Horse. Walt and Henry are soon on the trail of the stolen horse, and Longmire, as always, is awed by his best friend’s skills. “At the other side of the horses, Henry kneeled and placed his fingertips in the impacted dirt. I felt like I always did whenever I followed his intuitive skills. The Bear was a part of everything that went on around him in a way that I could only witness. He had described scenarios to me so clearly from the remnants of events that I would have sworn that I’d been there.”

I have been reading all of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series in order, but from now on, I will skip his e-stories unless I can get them from the library.


Another Man's Moccasins: A Walt Longmire Mystery
Another Man's Moccasins: A Walt Longmire Mystery
Offered by Audible, Inc. (US)
2 used & new from $26.95

5.0 out of 5 stars The past and the present converging..., June 10, 2015
On a recent extended car trip, we had the pleasure to listen to four of Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series on audiobook. Another Man’s Moccasins was the first book of the trip and read by George Guidall, was thoroughly suspenseful and entertaining. Another Man’s Moccasins is the fourth book in this series, and I strongly advise listening to them in order.

Walt Longmire is the sheriff in fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. A young Vietnamese girl is found dead along the highway. Longmire has a clue to her ethnicity because of his military service in Vietnam. He finds it strange because very few Vietnamese are found in Absaroka County. Near the dead girl is a culvert containing her purse. It also is home to a very large Crow Indian, Virgil White Buffalo. While Virgil has had a very troubled and somewhat violent past, Longmire doesn’t figure him for the killer. But what has Longmire really troubled is that the victim’s purse contains a photograph of the sheriff when he was in the Vietnam War. It can’t be a coincidence.

I have enjoyed all of Craig Johnson’s Longmire novels. They’re extremely well-written, they’re fascinating, they’re funny, and they have a colorful cast of characters. I also learn a little with each one that I read. Plus, each one is a little different—no formulas for Johnson. You won’t think that they all sound the same after awhile. But what I really liked about Another Man’s Moccasins are the flashbacks to when Longmire and best-friend, Henry Standing Bear, were young. Their war years were especially poignant and they will give you a glimpse at the experiences that helped mold both men. Everything new to be learned about Walt Longmire is a treat, and I hope that Johnson continues to write this series for a very long time—even if the fictional sheriff keeps talking about retirement.


New Old World: An Indian Journalist Discovers the Changing Face of Europe
New Old World: An Indian Journalist Discovers the Changing Face of Europe
by Pallavi Aiyar
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.52

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing..., June 2, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been fascinated by the unfolding situation in Europe for some time. New Old World: An Indian Journalist Discovers the Changing Face of Europe by Pallavi Aiyar offers a look at the problems facing modern Europe from a personal perspective.

After living in Beijing, China for seven years with her husband and then young son, Aiyar, an award-winning journalist, moves to Brussels, Belgium. While many of her friends believe that Aiyar will be moving to “civilization,” the Indian-born Aiyar discovers otherwise. Having witnessed China through the years of its growth and ascendancy, “I now found myself with front-row seats to the ‘Decline of Europe.’ In some ways, of course, the two were the flip side of the same coin.” The author covers many problems she sees plaguing Europe and the European Union. They include the rise in Muslim immigrants, global warming, work ethics and entitlements, the euro crisis, employment and unions, interactions with China and India, Germany holding the economic purse strings, etc. Many of the statistics provided in New Old World are alarming. “In 1990, Europeans accounted for 24 percent of the world’s population; by 2000, that figure had more than halved and is expected to halve again by 2050.” Even with an influx of new immigrants, many countries don’t have enough workers—especially for skilled jobs. Immigration is also changing the religious complexion of Europe. “One-third of newborns in Brussels, for example, are of Muslim origin, although currently Muslims make up only 25 percent of the city population.” Although many perceive them to be “politically potent, prospective conquerors of the Continent,” they are more likely to be the poorest. “On the whole, Europe’s Muslims are a dejected lot who must constantly fight unemployment and discrimination.”

Although I found New Old World extremely interesting, I have a few criticisms. First, although I am not entirely certain, it seems that this book was previously published in 2013 as Punjabi Parmesan: Dispatches from a Europe in Crisis. If so, it appears that much of the information provided by Aiyar is already dated by two years. Aiyar herself admits that she doesn’t include Eastern Europe and Britain in her analysis of a Europe in crisis. And while the author is long on describing what ails modern Europe, she’s a bit short on solutions. Still, I would recommend New Old World to anyone who would like a better understanding of the problems throughout the European Union.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2015 3:20 AM PDT


Hell Is Empty: A Walt Longmire Mystery (A Longmire Mystery)
Hell Is Empty: A Walt Longmire Mystery (A Longmire Mystery)
by Craig Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.82
84 used & new from $5.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Dante would be proud..., June 1, 2015
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” William Shakespeare

On a recent long vacation by car, my husband and I listened to four Walt Longmire audiobooks, written by Craig Johnson. Hell is Empty, the 7th novel in Johnson’s Longmire series, is the last book that we listened to and the darkest of the bunch. Read by George Guidall, Hell is Empty literally had us glued to our seats for the drive home from Tennessee to New Jersey.

Walt Longmire is the sheriff for the fictional county of Absaroka, Wyoming. Longmire and one his deputies are involved in the transport of a group of criminals. After the handoff to the FBI with Longmire on his way home, he senses that something has gone terribly wrong. He discovers that the convicts have overpowered the transport team, killed a number of agents, and taken several hostages. Leaving Deputy Santiago Saizarbitoria to tend to an injured agent, Longmire takes off without waiting for back-up to go after the group. Throughout the novel, the Wyoming sheriff must battle three different life-threatening elements: a psychopathic killer, Raynauld Shade, Wyoming’s Big Horn, and a series of spring blizzards. Any of them could be fatal, and the three together are monumental. But Longmire gets some assistance along the way from Virgil White Buffalo (also from Another Man’s Moccasins). Or maybe it’s some Indian spirits. It’s hard to tell. Throughout the tale, Dante’s Inferno weaves in and out and what Longmire experiences would certainly be worthy of one (or more) of Dante Alighieri’s circles of hell.

We thoroughly enjoyed Hell is Empty, but it’s a brutal, dark story. Gone is the usual humor to be found in Craig Johnson’s other Longmire novels. There is no sharp repartee between the characters, who only play supporting or cameo roles. But it’s a story of survival through insurmountable odds and the battle between good and evil. We also get the briefest of glimpses about the future for Walt Longmire and his daughter, Cady. My husband and I can’t wait to move on to book eight, As the Crow Flies.


Irish Eyes: A Callahan Garrity Mystery (Callahan Garrity Mysteries Book 8)
Irish Eyes: A Callahan Garrity Mystery (Callahan Garrity Mysteries Book 8)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A new favorite series..., June 1, 2015
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Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite writers for when I’m looking for something light, fun, and with a Southern-twist. Little did I know that she also has a mystery series written under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck. I read Irish Eyes which is the 8th novel in her Callahan Garrity series and is now being marketed under her pen name. Again, this book delivers what I have come to expect from Andrews, but it also has a serious side, as well.

Callahan Garrity is an Atlanta native and former cop who lives with her mother. While not running a cleaning agency with her mom called The House Mouse, she moonlights as a private investigator. The novel opens on St. Patrick’s Day and her former partner, Bucky Deavers, asks Garrity to accompany him to a St. Patty’s Day party. He wants to introduce her to his fiancée. The host of the event, The Shamrock Society is made up of Irish-American cops. When the fiancée doesn’t show and Deavers becomes too drunk, Garrity insists that Deavers drive her home. But on a pit-stop at a local liquor store, Deavers stumbles upon a robbery and ends up being shot twice. While things are not looking good for her former partner, Garrity starts her own investigation when she hears rumors that Deavers was dirty. In fact, the local rumor-mill is spreading allegations that many cops are dirty and they’re robbing ATMs when businessmen are making their nightly deposits. Of course, Garrity needs the help of her local “cleaning girls,” two who have had their AARP cards for decades, as well as former cops and friends in the know. What she learns puts her life in danger, as well.

Mary Kay Andrews has a way of finding humor in almost any situation. As for Garrity, “I quit the force and bought the business in a snit ten years ago, after the bosses had refused to transfer me to the all-male homicide squad. Still, police work, like venereal disease, gets in your system and is hard to shake.” And thus she ends up with a private investigator’s license. The dynamics with her mother are also funny and I can certainly relate. Her mother is famous for “that look. It’s a real time-saver, that look of hers. Without it, we might spend forty-five minutes to an hour bickering over a particularly sticky issue.” But Irish Eyes also touches on important topics including policemen not getting decent pay and police corruption.

The one bad part about this novel is that I stumbled upon this series with book number eight. I will definitely go back and start reading Callahan Garrity from the beginning.


The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
by Louise Penny
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.04
115 used & new from $2.52

3.0 out of 5 stars Three and a half stars..., May 30, 2015
I recently discovered Louise Penny and have been reading her Inspector Gamache series in order. After four thoroughly enjoyable books, I was a bit put off by book number 5, The Brutal Telling. Penny’s writing was first-rate, but I found the plot to be unsatisfying and much ado about nothing. Overall I’d rate it three and a half stars.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns once again with his homicide team to the small village of Three Pines. “Three Pines had no police force, no traffic lights, no sidewalks, no mayor…The place didn’t even have crime. Except murder. The only criminal thing that ever happened in this village was the worst possible crime. And here they were with yet another body.” The body in question is an unknown hermit and he was discovered in the bistro run by a gay couple, Olivier and Gabriel. Before they even know his name, the team finds his cabin in the woods. And while there is no electric or indoor plumbing, the simple log cabin is filled with treasures—a piece of amber from Russia’s Amber Room, expensive china, glassware and silver, signed first-editions of classic books and a priceless violin. But what are most unusual are the wood carvings that apparently tell a story and contain a message. Solving these will help Gamache and crew identify not just the man but also his killer.

The other key to solving a murder investigation is identifying the lies. “People lied all the time in murder investigations. If the first victim of war was the truth, some of the first victims of a murder investigation were people’s lies…Gamache and his team hunted the lies down and exposed them. Until all the small tales told to ease everyday lives disappeared. And people were left naked.” In The Brutal Telling, there are many lies being told by an assortment of possible suspects. Unfortunately, I thought the plot was totally hokey and not at all what I have come to expect from Louise Penny. It’s like I just consumed a rather large, rich piece of cake and instead of being satisfied, I just feel bloated.

Even though The Brutal Telling is not my favorite Armand Gamache novel, I will continue with the series. I recommend the same for any reader of Penny because what happens in The Brutal Telling will undoubtedly impact future novels.


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