Category: New Books
She Wants It is a Hollywood film and television memoir by Jill Soloway. Jill is the writer/director of Amazon’s Transparent. Transparent is based on Jill’s real life.
Jill’s father was depressed and a mostly absent workaholic father during her childhood. After Jill and her sister, Faith, went to college, their parents divorced.
During an early morning phone call, Jill is the first family member to which her father comes out to as trans. Jill’s first thought is this is part of her story and she was going to tell it. If her father can become Carrie London, why can’t she become the film writer/director she always aspired to be?
Jill polished up an old script and it was green-lighted. After post-production is complete and Afternoon Delight is submitted to Sundance, Jill goes with Faith to meet their father for the first time as a woman. When her terminally ill aunt asks her to deliver a card to her father asking him not to dress as a woman at the aunt’s funeral, she begins writing Transparent.
She Wants It is a great memoir of how someone hurtles the obstacles of getting a screenplay developed in Hollywood. It also incorporates a bit about Jill’s life as a wife and mother of two. There are many psychological asides about life and her own journey to understanding the non-binary world. I was expecting more about the real-life childhood experiences of having a trans parent. However, for those looking for a Hollywood memoir, this is a good choice. It just wasn’t what I was looking for and I never felt connected to the author though her personal story is heartfelt. 3 stars.
Thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Hollywood, memoir, Oct 16 2018
A Gift of Bones is a good small town private investigator cozy mystery.
Eve is days away from giving birth when she disappears. A ransom demand is sent to her cousin. Private investigator, Sarah Booth Delaney, and her partner, Tinkie, are hired to find the missing woman.
The missing woman’s life becomes the focus of the investigation. With parents who disowned her for her unwed pregnancy and an unknown baby daddy, suspects are hard to find.
The setting in a small town Mississippi detective agency and the use of an unwed mother as the victim are frequent cozy tropes. However, the use of a transgendered character updates the story to 2018. Other than that, a Gift of Bones is a good cozy mystery but not very unique. I like the previous entry in the series much better. My 4-star review is here. However, a Gift of Bones gets a reluctant 3 stars.
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, Oct 16 2018
A multitude of suspects fills Nantucket Counterfeit, an enjoyable merging of a cozy setting with a police procedural.
Horst Refn is the Artistic Director of the Nantucket Theater Lab. He is a ladies man and a possible blackmailer. Worse, he is found face down in his basement’s chest freezer—frostbitten and dead by strangulation.
Nantucket’s police chief Henry Kennis has no shortage of suspects. Even his girlfriend, Jane Stiles, is identified as running away from the crime or could it be her lookalike, Marcia Stoddard. Both had motive and no alibi. Or it could be Donald Harcourt who found the body and verbally fought with the victim recently. Or even Joey Little who had texted Harcourt to meet him at the victim’s house. Refn was both screwing his wife and blackmailing him.
When the police chief discovers that the first play of the season, Who Dun It?, appears to be based on real people’s stories, he investigates and finds even more motives for murder.
Nantucket Counterfeit is a fun dive into the backbiting world of community theater. The characterizations are great. Despite many more suspects than the usual cozy, it was easy to keep them straight.
This is the fifth book in the Chief Kennis series but can easily be read as a stand-alone. Recommended to both cozy and police procedural fans, Nantucket Counterfeit gets 4 stars from me.
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, Oct 16 2018, Police procedural
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek is a continuation of the famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide. We are obviously playing Hide and Seek.
Attorney Utterson is set to inherit Dr. Jekyll’s substantial estate after the doctor is missing a full seven years. Two weeks prior to his inheriting, a person claiming to be Dr. Jekyll moves back into his house. Utterson believes it is an imposter. For the doctor left behind a confession for his attorney’s eyes only stating he was Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde had been found dead by his own hand in Dr. Jekyll’s house the same night.
The new Dr. Jekyll has a story of assault and amnesia to explain his long absence. He has convinced Scotland Yard, his long-time butler and all of his friends save Utterson that he is genuinely the doctor. Utterson already had ideas on how to spend his inheritance and so is unconvinced. Has Dr. Jekyll returned? Who is the mysterious man who bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Hyde? How will Utterson woo the love of his life, who was formerly the doctor’s beloved, away from Jekyll without any inheritance to bribe her with?
This story is a really intelligent updating and continuation of the original Jekyll and Hyde tale. While reading the original first isn’t required, it is fun to see the subtle twists made to the story in this book.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek is intelligent horror like the original. Set in Victorian London, it is historical fiction. It reads more as a mystery than horror. The book is recommended to mystery fans or those who enjoy a slow thriller. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Skyhorse Publishing and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy.
Posted in Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: classics, Oct 16 2018
An interesting character study of a lonely police detective forced to retire. The Darkness is another character as is the beautiful isolation of Iceland.
Hulda is 64. She is dreading retiring to her lonely apartment when her superior tells she has been replaced effectively in two weeks. He allows her to investigate one cold case. She selects a drowned Russian girl who was awaiting asylum in a remote hostel. Was her death an accident, suicide or murder?
Telling three alternating stories of an unwed mother forced to give up her daughter in the 1940s, Hulda’s investigation and a mysterious woman’s adventure in the Icelandic winter. The Darkness is a slow-simmering tale rather than a thriller. The mystery was extremely easy to solve. However, Hulda’s story is an interesting one. Plus the exceptional conclusion has to be read to be believed.
The Darkness is recommended for literary fiction fans rather than those readers looking for an exciting thriller or challenging mystery. This is a tale within a tale within a tale. 4 stars!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: aging, Oct 16 2018, Police procedural
A true crime memoir that reads like a thriller! The takedown of the notorious street gang, MS-13, is described in Operation Devil Horns.
“A special agent is never—ever—off duty.”
MS-13 expanded from El Salvador throughout Central America to Los Angeles and finally San Francisco’s Mission District. Local cops were unable to stop the gang’s crime and violence. The city’s sanctuary status ties their hands. Sanctuary cities vow not to deport illegal aliens or help the federal government to do so, which takes away a significant law enforcement tool. The San Francisco Police Department was unable to deport illegals to break up the gang. Enter the feds.
Santini, a federal special agent, finds two gang members, Diego and Casper, to report on the gang’s activities. By threatening them with deportation and offering the carrot of legality and witness protection, he was able to turn two hardcore gang bangers into rats. His goal was to use the federal RICO statute, already used to break up mafia families, against the 20th Street MS-13 gang.
Operation Devil Horns is a superb book. It is perfect for true crime and mafia fans. However, it is also highly recommended for thriller readers. I loved getting a behind the scenes story about how gangs work and how law enforcement brings them down. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: memoir, Oct 9 2018, true crime
Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising is a short book filled with luscious cat photos and poems written by extremely upset cats.
Cats have a four stage plan for their uprising: recognize, resist, revolt and rebuild. Each stage has a chapter filled with at least ten poems and an equal amount of cat photos. Most of the photos relate directly to their neighboring poem. The photos are, of course, cute. The poems have the snarky feeling that I get off my cats right after I have fed them.
Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising is the perfect gift for the cat person in your life. If you want to scare a first-time cat owner, this would also be a good pick. I think this book is only funny to those who are allowed to live in their house by their furry and purry master. 4 stars!
Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Humor, New Books Tagged with: cats, Oct 16 2018, photography, poetry
In Be Our Ghost, Kate and her grandmother, Liza, run a bed and breakfast in coastal Oregon. When a local businessman is found dead, they investigate to exonerate a local business owner. Soon they are uncovering oodles of secrets in this fine cozy mystery.
Norman wants to open a large arcade in small town, Sully’s Landing. When he is found dead shortly before the planning commission’s vote, suspicion falls on commission member, Doug. Doug, the outspoken owner of the town’s hardware store/pub/restaurant, has venomously opposed the arcade and was seen near the scene of the crime. Liza is convinced that Doug cannot be the murder. As Liza and Melanie investigate, they are assisted by Cindi, their millennial assistant at the inn, and Orville, the inn’s mysterious laughing ghost.
I loved the small town setting in coastal Oregon. All the characters were believable. The mystery was clever and the writing well done. My only complaint was that I want more of Orville’s history and motivation. Why is he haunting the inn? How do they know his name is Orville? Also, other than cooking breakfast, we rarely see the mechanics of running the inn, which would be an interesting subplot.
Be Our Ghost is the third book in the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series but it works fine as a stand-alone. The characters are engaging, and the mystery is intriguing. It is an excellent choice for a blustery fall afternoon read for cozy mystery fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, Oct 9 2018
The Witch Elm was an acceptable family drama but not much of a thriller.
Toby is a lucky privileged jerk. His girlfriend, Melissa, is a sweet bubblehead. After celebrating his ability to talk his way out of a possibly career-ending mistake at work, Toby goes home. There he surprises two burglars, who promptly beat the tar out of him. While his broken ribs and tailbone will heal, his facial scars and head injury possibly will not fade with time. Toby’s lucky days are over.
While recuperating, Toby stays with his Uncle Hugo, who is dying of brain cancer at Ivy House. When a skull is discovered in the Witch Elm, Toby decides to investigate. Toby is literally the worst detective ever. However, he does stumble over some secrets.
Overall, I didn’t like the pacing of the Witch Elm. It seemed overlong with an extremely slow build to the mystery. While the conclusion was shocking, I’m not convinced that it was worth the six hours of my time to get there. If this had been marketed more as literary fiction rather than a thriller, the pacing would have made more sense. However, it is hard not to rate this based on the author’s previous excellent Dublin Murder Squad series. The Witch Elm is recommended only for fans of family drama and literary fiction rather than mystery or thriller fans. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Viking Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: family drama, Oct 9 2018
Light and easy cozy mystery set in the world of talent agent, Kay, who provides animal actors to television and film productions. Bird, Bath and Beyond is a nice afternoon’s entertainment with no graphic violence or language.
Celebrity parrot, Barney, is the sole witness to the death of television star, Dray. When Detective Bostwick asks Kay to question the parrot, she explains that it takes hours to teach parrots to speak specific phrases. Immediately, Barney says “Put down the gun.” When Bostwick arrests a suspect, the suspect asks Kay, who is also an attorney, to represent them. Since Kay is an entertainment lawyer, she calls on a defense attorney for help. However, she decides to also try to find the real murderer.
Bird, Bath and Beyond is the second in the Agent to the Paws Mystery series but can be read as a stand-alone. The humor and animals are the best part of this cozy mystery. There are many funny sub-plots such as her new gigantic dog, her theatrical parents, her love interest and her aspirational assistant. Despite some red herrings, the mystery was relatively easy to solve.
This book is recommended to readers of Stephanie Plum who want a more family-oriented read. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, dogs, Oct 9 2018
A killer is stalking Wheatfield, a miracle is seen at the local church and Virgil Flowers is on the case in Holy Ghost.
The mayor of tiny Wheatfield Minnesota was selected as a joke. However, he and his teenage partner come up with a con that might just save the town.
The Virgin Mary is appearing at the local church. The faithful are flocking into town. The general store recently opened by the con men is doing an excellent business. There is just one problem. Someone is shooting the faithful. Virgil Flowers, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent, is called in to track down the shooter.
While Holy Ghost is a good police procedural, I missed the craziness that usually follows Flowers around. I enjoyed the plot and the characters. The comedy of country scammers figuring out who the killer was ahead of Virgil and the police was priceless. I was utterly wrong about the killer’s identity but I don’t see a way anyone could have figured it out before the reveal.
While this isn’t the best of the series, Holy Ghost is still very good. While it will be frustrating to armchair detectives, it is recommended to thriller readers and fans of the series. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Oct 9 2018, Virgil Flowers
Melding hard-boiled noir with a post-Facebook breach world is a brilliant idea. When nothing is private, the world’s only choice is to turn to Analog Volume 1.
In 2023, Jack is a Ledger Man, a paper jockey hired to move confidential papers from place to place. He also literally broke the Internet. Now people have no privacy at all. Many welcome the all access. For those that don’t, Jack is hired.
The government wants to break up Jack’s monopoly on confidentiality. “Aunt Sam” uses Jack’s loved ones to coerce him to breach his clients’ documents. An old enemy returns forcing Jack to retreat. Jack is in hiding but not for long…
Analog Volume 1 has excellent worldbuilding. The art is suitably dark. I just wish that the characters were more fleshed out. I’m unclear about the back stories and underlying motivations of all three main characters: Jack, his father and Oona, Jack’s girlfriend. I also expected more sarcastic humor from the author of Deadpool. Hopefully, future volumes will fulfill my wishes. I will definitely pick up the next one because the setting is incredible.
Putting noir characters in a future setting has been done before. Fans of those tales like Blade Runner and Looper will enjoy this dark look into the future. 3.5 stars.
Thanks to Image Comics and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books, Science Fiction Tagged with: Oct 9 2018
Warning: The Book of Onions contains no onions at all. Instead it contains darkly humorous single page cartoons about life.
Have you ever wondered how Ronald McDonald got his job? Or whether kitchen matches are happy to be chosen for important jobs? Even if you have never had any curiosity whatsoever, I guarantee you will enjoy this madcap dive into the bleakness of life. I doubt you will soon forget the panda face of war. If war turns men into animals, you really do not want to know what it turns the animals into.
Laugh-out-loud moments make this the perfect waiting room read. Some of the themes are rather dark so the Book of Onions is not for children. However, for everyone else it is great. 4 stars!
Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, New Books Tagged with: ironic, Oct 9 2018
“Making a no-budget indie film is like going to war. But you’re not General MacArthur storming the beaches with a force of a hundred thousand soldiers. Instead, you’re more like a small squad of Vietcong guerillas behind enemy lines, trying to complete an impossible mission using guile and your wits, the odds stacked against you. It’s risky, difficult, and dangerous. I can swear to it. I’ve been there.”
–from the prologue of True Indie.
Beginning with a middle school film called The Fish Movie, the author’s life was filled with dreams of filming Hollywood blockbusters. Borrowing money from his father at 18 to make his first feature film, Coscarelli sells it to Universal Studios for a cool quarter million dollars. Turning down a seven-year contract at Universal and previewing his first feature, Story of a Teenager, the same week as the blockbuster Jaws debuted brought his studio career to a swift end. He was 20 years old.
If you have any interest in film, this memoir is a fabulous backstage look at the process. It is also a great look at someone realizing his childhood dream. The writing style is excellent. It feels like your middle-aged neighbor is talking about his long-ago exploits. There are plenty of secrets from Coscarelli’s films. You can’t ask more from a Hollywood memoir than the story of a True Indie. 5 stars!
Now I just need to watch Phantasm again to truly appreciate the difficulties of filming on the down low with no budget. Okay, I’m back. The author was listed in the credits as the writer, director, cinematographer, and editor. His dad was the producer. Talk about True Indie! It was a much better experience watching the movie knowing some of the filming challenges. On to my favorite film by the author, John Dies at the End.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: memoir, movies, Oct 2 2018
The Way of All Flesh emphasizes the historical while leaving the mystery almost as an afterthought.
In 1847 Edinburgh, medicine is rudimentary and painkillers were thought to be against God’s will. When Will becomes the apprentice of Dr. Simpson, an obstetrician, he sees some horrific things.
In the mystery, Will finds the dead body of his friend, Evie, who is a prostitute. He enlists the help of intelligent housemaid, Sarah, to find Evie’s killer. As other bodies pile up, Will and Sarah continue to investigate.
Atmosphere and medical research are favored over the mystery in the Way of All Flesh. The book seemed to drag a bit in the middle for me. However, it is recommended for historical fiction fans especially those who liked the television show the Knick or historical medical practices. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Canongate US, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Oct 2 2018
A beguiling mystery, unique romance and dynamic characters make the Hollow of Fear a perfect readcation for female Sherlock Holmes fans.
Set in Victorian England, the Hollow of Fear follows Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson. Looking for her half-brother, Charlotte runs into Moriarty’s handiwork. Also, when Lady Ingram turns up dead, Lord Ingram is suspected. Charlotte must find the real murderer to clear his name while her relationship with the Lord takes an unexpected turn.
The use of Victorian language and plot devices (hidden tunnels and a multitude of disguises) matches the original Holmes atmosphere well. I especially liked the unusual romantic dynamic between Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Despite swapping genders of some characters and a very 21st century feeling to Charlotte, the mystery felt like it belonged in the Sherlock Holmes canon. It definitely wasn’t easy for this armchair detective to solve.
This is my first book in the series. While understandable as a stand alone, I felt the tale would have been more enjoyable if I had read the two previous books first. Regardless, it is a solid 4 star read!
Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: British, Oct 2 2018, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian