Category: New Books
House of Ghosts sounds like an Agatha Christie plot. As World War I battles a world away, a house party is gathering at a mysterious old house on an English island. The goal is to use mediums to raise the spirits of the owners’ two sons—both dead in the war. Throw in mysteries, lies, secret plans, spies, a storm cutting the island off from the mainland and of course murder and you have a plot reminiscent of the finest golden-age British mystery.
Just as with the older stories, House of Ghosts meanders quite a bit before getting to the meat of the story. Also, if you are looking for a ghost story or a spy story, this is not a good choice. But if you don’t mind a leisurely mystery where literally everyone has a motive, this is an excellent choice for a few hours of entertainment by being transported to a difficult time in humankind’s history. 4 stars!
Thanks to Arcade, Skyhorse Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Oct 1 2019
Rod Serling, famous host of the fifties sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone, is The Twilight Man.
Beginning his biography with his service in the Pacific theater of World War II, this graphic novel uses pictures to show us Rod’s life. He was diagnosed with shellshock after the war (now called PTSD), which left him with horrific nightmares for the rest of his life. Rod moved from college to Midwest radio to NYC television before landing The Twilight Zone.
The Twilight Man is an interesting step back into a more innocent time. World War II, its aftermath, the end of radio dramas, the beginning of television, McCarthy’s red scare, and conspicuous consumption are all addressed here. Rod definitely lived in interesting times. If you would like to read a bit of entertainment history or like biographies, this is a great choice. 4 stars!
Thanks to Life Drawn, Humanoids, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Oct 8 2019, Twilight Zone
Virgil Flowers is back! His girlfriend Frankie is very pregnant with twins. He doesn’t appreciate having to bring in the hay on her farm. And, oh, he’s investigating a murder of a venerated Professor who likes to argue. The Professor is a genius who has been hit in the head—a Bloody Genius, get it?
The change of setting allows Virgil to be a fish out of water at the University of Minnesota. The reader shares his surprise about how seriously academics take small issues. Could one of the scuff-ups have led to the Professor’s murder? Or could it be his three former wives, his girlfriends, his estranged daughter, his drug dealing, his blackmailing, or something else? Truly, this guy is a winner!
I love that F*cking Flowers. His story is the best part of Bloody Genius. I also liked the pairing of Virgil with a police officer who actually appreciates his help. The mystery was good too. I totally missed the “hidden-in-plain-sight” clue that unravels the case. I like that in a book so I get to be as surprised as the author intended but can clearly see the hints in hindsight. If you like humorous police procedurals that use as little actual procedure as possible, you too will love that effing Flowers. 5 stars!
Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Oct 1 2019, Police procedural, series
Batman is my favorite superhero so I had to read Batman: 100 Greatest Moments! What a great review or catch up on the entire Batman story.
From Batman’s origin to tales from the dark multiverse, all the important stories are here. Each has a short summary of the event and at least one comic page or cover. The time period covered is 1940 through 2011.
Some of the stories are familiar to this long-time Batman fan, but many were not. Now, I just have to find a copy of Gotham by Gaslight, where Batman takes on Gotham’s own Jack the Ripper in Victorian times!
My favorite part was the artwork. The styles vary widely—partly because of timing and partly due to different artists’ interpretations. Some style changes may be caused by modern painting and printing techniques making the images sharper and clearer. Regardless, I loved seeing them all in one book to make comparisons easy.
If you are a Batman fan, you must pick up Batman: 100 Greatest Moments! It is an excellent reminder of why you already, or soon will, love the Dark Knight. 5 stars!
Thanks to Chartwell Books, Quarto Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Graphic Novel, New Books Tagged with: batman, Oct 1 2019
Caleb is created in an unusual way and born into an ultra-religious home in the new novel, Into Captivity They Will Go.
After her father’s death, Caleb’s mother, Evelyn, begins to believe she and Caleb are God’s chosen ones. In fact, they both believe Caleb is the second coming of Jesus. To prepare Caleb, who is in elementary school, Evelyn teaches him the Biblical Book of Revelations backward and forwards. Then they begin to proselytize on street corners…
If you have studied Revelation, there are wide swaths of pages that will be as boring to you as they were to me. The story does eventually pick up the pace and plotting. However, the question is if it is worth waiting for it. For me personally, the answer is no because I didn’t need or like the elaborate setup to the main action. But you may not be as familiar with Biblical prophecies and may need the extended explanation. However, I can only rate Into Captivity They Will Go by my own experience with it. 3 stars.
Thanks to Central Avenue Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Christian, New Books Tagged with: Oct 1 2019
You are trying to find the elusive Orwellians through a series of puzzles in Escape Book 2.
All of your journalism hasn’t stopped the dreaded Castian, the villain that poisoned you in Escape Book 1. Maybe the anti-governmental terrorist group, the Orwellians, can. After receiving an invitation to join them, you are still unwell from the poison so you send your young assistant, Janina, in your stead. With only Janina’s cellphone connecting your knowledge of puzzles with her, can she escape and convince the Orwellians to bring down Castian?
Most of the puzzles in Escape Book 2 use a map to solve. I have to say that I am “map-challenged” or really “geography-challenged”. However, I still believe that the majority of the puzzles are of an intermediate or advanced difficulty. If you read the first book in the series, these puzzles are definitely harder to solve.
Is this the same as a real escape room experience? No, of course not. First of all, you are going it alone. Second, you don’t really have a time limit. Third, there is no searching since the author provides you the clues. Also, a great benefit is that the author mandates the solving order of the puzzles. However, I think working the puzzles will improve your ability to solve live escape room puzzles faster. And it is definitely cheaper to buy the book than to attend even one escape room game. Overall, Escape Book 2 is a fun way to spend an evening. 4 stars!
Thanks to White Lion Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: escape room, Oct 1 2019, puzzles
How can a person, place, or thing stand out in the huge deluge of information now? In The Iconist, the author uses the KISS method. KISS stands for keep it simple stupid. He also recommends using large, bright, simple and symmetrical blocks of visual information to engage distracted humans. Finally, he recommends repeating the same message over and over. Familiarity is a good thing in our complicated world. Once people see your block and, more importantly, remember it, it becomes an icon.
The Iconist presents several examples of how blocks have been used in the past by artists and architects. This section seemed a bit unconvincing to me. If you look at anything closely enough, you can see the underlying geometric shapes. I did enjoy the examples of blocks in music. The best part of Bad Guy is the Duh! hook. It does get your attention and makes the song unforgettable. The author continues to provide many more examples of how blocks can work in any industry.
Overall, the idea of repeating a short engaging phrase to represent you or your company sounds good. I am going to try it on my blog in the near future to see if it works. If you are trying to get attention in a crowded world, it can’t hurt. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to BenBella Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Oct 1 2019
The Shape of Night is an abrupt departure from this author’s usual police procedural. It’s an atmospheric gothic romantic suspense story with some modern twists thrown in.
Ava has a terrible guilt-driven secret. In addition, she is over a year past the publisher’s deadline on her latest cookbook. Hoping to escape her guilt, Ava rents a remote old house on the windswept Maine coast. The house is incredibly cheap because it is still undergoing renovation and the previous tenant left without giving notice.
Ava soon sees the ghost of the former owner of the house, 1800s Sea Captain Brodie. When he appears in her bedroom, they start a unique relationship involving Ava’s guilt and the Captain’s unusual method of helping her get over it. Will he really never hurt her in his house as he promised? Or is there something darker afoot?
The entire plot of the Shape of Night is unexpected. It is a slow-burning gothic suspense novel mixed with a modern amateur sleuth story. There are actually three mysteries involved. What is Ava’s secret? Who or what is Captain Brodie—a benevolent ghost or a vindictive demon? What caused the previous tenant of the house to run away one night never to return?
I thought that the atmospheric gothic feel of the novel was pitch-perfect. I had some issues with the mysteries. One was too easy to figure out. Another was wrapped up too quickly at the end of the book—though in an exciting way. The other was never clearly answered.
Surprisingly, since I am a mystery reader, I enjoyed the paranormal aspects of this novel the most. That part of the plot was engrossing making this book a compelling page-turner. However, the mysteries left me underwhelmed for the reasons I stated above. Because of that schism, it is hard to rate this book. However, since I love genre mash-ups, I’ll round up to 4 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine, Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal Tagged with: ghosts, Oct 1 2019
With over 50 recipes, every food event in Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women is replicated using modern ingredients and cooking methods in the Little Women Cookbook.
From simple lemonade and hot chocolate to fruit trifles and Jo’s corned beef, the book has recipes for all skill levels. Many of the recipes are vegetarian like the garden pot pie. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes but the emphasis is on desserts. Or that just may be me. Many are little remembered now like apple slump and jellyroll cake.
I enjoyed the Little Women Cookbook. It was fun to see recipes that I had read about but had no idea how they were made. This a fun gift for the reader in your life. The only downside is there no nutritional information provided. 4 stars!
Thanks to Harvard Common Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Cookbook, Oct 1 2019
Running from Carrie through upcoming film Doctor Sleep, Stephen King at the Movies shows both the good and the bad of movie and tv miniseries adaptations of King’s work. But there are secrets scattered throughout the text.
The Shining as a fugue or an autobiography? The original Pennywise in It was terrifying but was it as iconic as the one used? Was Misery really based on King’s idolization of Bruce Springsteen?
I’ve always wanted to move to Maine. To visit Murder She Wrote’s Cabot Cove in Autumn or King’s Castle Rock in Winter. However, after reading that The Shining’s winter madness was inspired by King’s view of Maine’s excessive snow outside the fledgling author’s trailer, I’m rethinking my plan.
Stephen King at the Movies is a good overview of movies, mini-series, and even single episodes of series featuring King’s writing. It is full of pictures of the actors, scenes, and original movie posters. Perfect for any Stephen King or horror fan. 3 stars.
Thanks to Palazzo Edition and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: movies, Oct 3 2019, Stephen King
Andy, the perpetually retiring defense lawyer, gets sucked into two cases involving dogs in the fun cozy mystery, Dachshund Through the Snow.
Andy is asked by an old cop frenemy to find a way to get the city to allow the cop’s K-9 partner, Simon, to retire with him in a few weeks. Simon has arthritis and could be hurt if he continues to work. So Andy sues the city alleging that Simon is a city employee who should be able to disability retire. It really is a case of species discrimination!
Laurie, Andy’s wife and an ex-police lieutenant, starts celebrating Christmas in November. So it is no surprise when she selects a wish off a tree in her local pet store. The child requestor, Danny, wants three gifts: a winter coat for his mother, another coat for his dachshund, and his dad to come home.
The coats are no problem. Unfortunately, Danny’s dad is accused killer, Noah. Fourteen years earlier, he met Kristen at a bar. After a few dates on the down-low, they meet in a remote spot. Kristen asks Noah to take her with him when he leaves for college in a few days. When Noah refuses, Kristen becomes distraught and accidentally scratches his face. He leaves. He finds out that she is killed later that night. Fourteen years later, Noah’s brother spits into a genealogy website’s test tube and Noah is caught by his DNA—found under Kristen’s fingernails so long ago.
A Christmas setting has everything I love about cozy mysteries. Family interactions and murder. Okay, I’m not trying to wish up a murder at my next family Christmas party, but it would stop everyone from gossiping—at least for a minute or two. The Andy Carpenter series is always entertaining and this installment is no different. I love the interaction between the characters, who all seem realistic and relatable. However, the trials are also a smart addition to all the books in this series and that is rare in cozy mysteries. You might even say that Dachshund Through the Snow is a legal thriller set in a cozy mystery world. Plus Andy’s sarcastic asides are hilarious! Overall, I continue to love this series and wait each year for the next to appear. 5 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Humor, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: cozy mystery, dogs, legal thriller, Oct 1 2019
The Empire of Lies is an incredibly detailed alternative history. What if a time traveler helped the Ottoman Empire win the 1682 Battle of Vienna? How would it impact present-day life?
The answer is it would be a completely different scenario. A Sultan rules over the entire world except in Christian America. Islam is the official faith. Woman are segregated in public. Honor killing of them, for eloping or unmarried pregnancy, are on the rise under the new and more rigid Sultan.
The time traveler returns to our modern-day Paris to receive medical treatment. He kills a man for his clothes and goes to a charity hospital. His doctor is suspicious of the tattoos on his chest that explain how to time travel in an ancient language. The time traveler is pursued by Nisreen, an outspoken female activist; Ramazan, her anesthesiologist husband; and Kamal, the doctor’s brother who has an unrequited love for Nisreen as well as a job finding terrorists for the state. The three decide to use time travel to get civilization back on its original path.
For history buffs, this is clearly a five-star book. For others, like me, it a fun and different take on a science fiction thriller. I especially liked the ending. An intriguing story of what if, Empire of Lies is a compelling read. 4 stars!
Thanks to Forge Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Science Fiction Tagged with: Alternate history, Oct 1 2019
It’s December in Massachusetts in the latest adventure of Sid the animated skeleton where The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking in anticipation of Christmas morning.
When Bryon, teenager Madison’s Akita, finds a human femur, it is no surprise. After all, their family has an animated skeleton named Sid living in their attic. Her mother, Georgia, quickly agrees to go with Madison to give the bone back to Sid and apologize. However, when they talk to Sid, he quickly informs them that he isn’t missing a bone. Realizing the bone is from a stranger, they call the police. The skeleton’s identity leads the police to suspect one of Georgia’s fellow adjunct professors. Georgia decides to solve the crime with the help of Sid’s head.
It is a credit to the author that you don’t have a minute of doubt with any of the paranormal aspects of Sid’s very existence. An animated skeleton who help solves mysteries by hiding his head and a cell phone in Georgia’s Day of the Dead bucket bag? It sounds absurd but somehow works. I’ve read at least three of the six cozy mysteries in this series including the first two books but The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking is fine as a standalone mystery. However, beware the genuine characters and laugh-out-loud humor of the series will draw you in quickly. You will soon be quietly stalking your library, bookstore, or Amazon account looking for the entire series. If you like cozy mysteries, you can’t miss this excellent book. 5 stars!
Thanks to Diversion Books and NetGalley for granting my wish for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal Tagged with: cozy mystery, Sep 24 2019, series
President Trump has been involved in over 3,500 lawsuits throughout the years. That makes him the Plaintiff in Chief. But what else does that tell us about him?
By all accounts, young Donald wanted to be like his father—rich and aggressive. Fred Trump lied obsessively about everything. He believed that the law didn’t apply to him or his mobster friends. However, he was partial to suing people defensively to prevent someone from doing something he didn’t like even if it was perfectly legal and even just. Donald expanded on that by also using lawsuits to advertise his “Art of the Deal” brand. Once Donald befriended Roy Cohn, a mob lawyer in the 1970s, whatever moral, ethical or even practical inhibition he might have had was lost.
I found the facts in Plaintiff in Chief fascinating. It is amazing what a person can get away with using just prevarication and chutzpah. However, I felt the author was writing from an emotional point of view. He would repeat himself frequently. I am also not totally on board with some of his conclusions. Therefore, even though it was an interesting read, I would only recommend it to people who already dislike President Trump. I don’t think it will change anyone’s viewpoint. 3 stars.
Thanks to All Points Books, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: law, Politics, Sep 24 2019
Their Last Breath is an engrossing British police procedural where nothing is as you expect.
Gillian Lane is running for her life down a quiet English lane from a masked assailant when she is hit by a taxi and taken to hospital. When the police investigate, they find her husband and another woman tortured and strangled in her kitchen.
Meanwhile, retired detective Warren is called back to duty to investigate a mass death scene that appears to implicate one of the police’s own. An abandoned hospital is the site of a horrific fire where six women are found chained to their room’s wall. Five are dead when the firefighters arrive but one is clinging precariously to life. Could the name scratched on the floor, Hayat, be the same woman telling her tale of being a Syrian refugee in alternate chapters?
It doesn’t take a Mensa ID to figure out the dead woman is the refugee. But how the cases are connected and especially the thrilling twist at the end makes Their Last Breath a great read for police procedural fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Kindle Unlimited, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Police procedural, Sep 24 2019
Jackson Bird had a problem growing up in a 1990s suburban Texas neighborhood. Born female, Jackson identified more with boy clothes and haircuts. However, in high school, Jackson tried to ignore the feeling by dressing feminine. During college, Jackson became a gay trans male and a videographer. This is his story.
Jackson’s story is heartfelt and emotional but also empowering. He now is happily pursuing his most important documentary—his own story. He tells of confusion about trans culture because of growing up in a heavily role-based town. Both girls and boys had parts to play in life and there was little to no variation allowed.
To avoid that issue with other people, Jackson does YouTube videos, TED talks, and this excellent book that explains how to speak and interact with people who just happen to be trans. It also is a memoir of Jackson’s experience of awakening and ultimate transition. By Sorted, the author means like by the sorting hat in Harry Potter—not in the British slang meaning of fixing a problem. It’s not a problem, it’s just Jackson.
While Sorted is a great book if you or a loved one is having some gender issues, it is also an excellent memoir that most people will enjoy. Jackson’s story is brutally honest and compelling to read. 5 stars!
Thanks to Tiller Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Lgbtqia, memoir, Sep 24 2019