Saturday, February 22, 2020

Lesa's Book Critiques: Firewatching by Russ Thomas

Lesa's Book Critiques: Firewatching by Russ Thomas

KRL Update: Kings River Life Magazine for 2/22/2020

Up in KRL this morning a review and giveaway of "Careless Whiskers" by Miranda James

And a review and giveaway of "Buried to the Brim" by Jenn McKinlay along with a fun pet related guest post by Jenn

We also have reviews of the newest seasons of "Midsomer Murders" and "Murdoch Mysteries" up on Acorn TV

And a review and giveaway of "Death Bee Comes Her" by Nancy Coco along with an interesting interview with Nancy

And an article about "Bakersfield Boys Club" by Anne Da Vigo based on a real murder case. You can also enter to win a copy of the book

Up on KRL News and Reviews this week we have a review and giveaway of "Theater Nights Are Murder" by Libby Klein

And a review and giveaway of "A Field Guide to Homicide" by Lynn Cahoon

Happy reading,

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: The Lost Are the Last to Die By Larry D. Sweazy

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: The Lost Are the Last to Die By Larry D. Sweazy:   Guest reviewer Kevin Tipple is back with his take on this Larry Sweazy novel.  Check out his blog Kevin's Corner for more book re...

Scott's Take: House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman

House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman collects two miniseries that set up the current status quo for the new X-Men titles under the umbrella title of Dawn of X. This book collects twelve issues- six for each miniseries.

Professor X no longer believes in coexistence with humanity. He no longer believes that the X-men should fight for a world where humans and mutants live in peace side by side. Someone has changed his mind and he no longer thinks the human race is worth saving or can be saved. Professor X is no longer the man X-men fans have known. His idealism is gone. He is now a cold cynic when it comes to the human race. Professor X will protect mutants and his X-men at all costs and is not at all concerned about the fate of humanity. Alongside Magneto and the X-Men, Professor X has set out to create his own nation for all mutants. This book features nearly everyone in the mutant realm along with cameos by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

This book is mostly about Professor X, Magneto, and one other character that can not be named here without spoiling some of the book. Wolverine, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey and many more have their moments in this book. This book features nearly everyone in the mutant realm along with cameos by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

As should be clear from the initial premise, there are lots of radical changes made in this tale to do something original that has not been done before. If you are a long term reader of the X-Men comics, you know that for the last ten or so years the writers have been playing with the same themes and utilizing mostly the same set of ideas. While some of that has generated great writing, there has been a ton of mediocre writing because it is hard to do something different when everyone is doing the same sort of themes.

 House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman is a radical change in the X-men status quo which may or may not work for you. Personally, I enjoyed because it was something different and I am a fan of Hickman’s writing. For the most part I like his stuff even though it often seems that he makes things so complicated that it can be hard to keep things straight.

If you are familiar with Hickman’s previous work you know he loves to utilize time travel or multiple timelines, alien civilizations, flawed heroes with huge plans, complicated world building, and more. Hickman loves to write heavy sci-fi. He loves to write how the decision made by one or more prominent leaders on a team can change everything in a world. All of his usual elements are very apparent here.

Hickman has written the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and is now doing the X-Men. That means that thing, the normal status quo, is over for the foreseeable future for the X-Men. These X-men are similar to the ones most fans know but the change to Professor X has rippled across the X-Men group and they all look at the world far differently than the past way most folks understood.

House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman is not for fans who can’t accept widely different interpretations of a character. If you are not okay with having stories where both the “good” and “evil” side are correct in their views from their perspectives and therefore are doing morally grey things that make sense from their perspectives, this is not the book for you. If you have an open mind and are an X-Men fan who likes a heavy dose of science fiction, you should enjoy this book. The art is amazing and the story is epic. Another cool aspect of the book assuming you like world building is all the charts, maps, documents that help support the tale and set up the new world for the X-Men. 

I highly recommend House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman.  

My hardback reading copy came from the Central Downtown Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.

Scott A. Alexander ©2020

Friday, February 21, 2020

Crime Review Update: New Issue of Crime Review

We feature new 20 reviews in each issue of Crime Review (, together with a top industry interview. This time it’s author Helen Sedgwick in the Countdown hot seat:

We’re on Twitter at:

Crime Review: @CrimeReviewUK

Linda Wilson: @CrimeReviewer

Sharon Wheeler: @lartonmedia

This week’s reviews are:

HITLER’S SECRET by Rory Clements, reviewed by John Cleal

Cambridge-based American history professor Tom Wilde is asked to smuggle a mysterious package out of wartime Nazi Germany – something so secret, even Hitler doesn’t know what it is!

KNIFE by Jo Nesbo, reviewed by Viv Beeby

Detective Harry Hole's life is in chaos and when a deranged and vengeful enemy strikes at the very heart of it then Harry must face his darkest hour.

ACTION AT A DISTANCE by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, reviewed by
Linda Wilson

The death of an old friend takes both Nightingale and Peter Grant on a trip down memory lane.

THE GIRL WITHOUT SKIN by Mads Peder Nordbo, reviewed by Ewa Sherman

The discovery of a mummified body on the edge of an ice sheet in Greenland leads to the re-opening of an unsolved case from 1970s. Danish journalist Matthew Cave and a young woman released from prison after serving a sentence for killing her family delve into the shocking and brutal past.

GI CONFIDENTIAL by Martin Limon, reviewed by Chris Roberts

The US Army CID agents Sueno and Bascom investigate a South Korean bank robbery which has all the hallmarks of military involvement.

STONE MOTHERS by Erin Kelly, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor

Marianne’s husband has bought a convenient pied-à-terre. But it’s the key to a dark past that should have remained buried.

MAIGRET HESITATES by Georges Simenon, reviewed by John Cleal

Chief Inspector Maigret receives a series of anonymous letters threatening murder in the household of an eminent lawyer.

BETWEEN TWO EVILS by Eva Dolan, reviewed by Linda Wilson

When a doctor at an women’s detention centre is murdered, there are no immediate suspects but plenty of people who seem to be putting roadblocks in the way of the latest investigation for Peterborough cops DI Zigic and DS Ferreira.

THE LAST WOMAN IN THE FOREST by Diane Les Becquets, reviewed by Ewa Sherman

Marian is offered an opportunity to work with rescue dogs on environmental projects and falls under the spell of her mentor Tate. Several months later after Tate’s tragic death she realises that he might have been responsible for the unsolved murders of at least four women.

NO PLACES OF REFUGE by Ausma Zehanat Khan, reviewed by Chris Roberts

Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty travel to a Greek island where a friend working to aid refugees has disappeared.

THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis, reviewed by John Cleal

When the three Brontë sisters hear that a young women has gone missing from her home leaving no clue but a pool of blood, they decide to investigate.

THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North, reviewed by Linda Wilson

Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake are making a fresh start away from the grief associated with the house where Tom’s wife died. Tom doesn’t expect to be plunged into another nightmare when Featherbank proves not to be the safe haven he’s expected for a boy of Jake’s age.

AT YOUR DOOR by JP Carter, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor

When DCI Anna Tate looks down on the body of the brutally murdered girl, she cannot know people on high will soon be looking down on her every move.

MR NOBODY by Catherine Steadman, reviewed by Chris Roberts

A man is washed up on a Norfolk beach with only vestiges of memory. Neuropsychiatrist Emma Lewis is asked to help, but returning to Norfolk will bring her face-to-face with a past she is keen to forget.

TIGHT LIES by Ted Denton, reviewed by John Cleal

Daniel Ratchet, a rookie golf agent, discovers that the Russian gas company sponsoring the tournament and fixing results is also on the verge of tying up a mega deal with the British government. Lone wolf ex-SAS man Tom Hunter must save him.

WIDOW’S WELCOME by DK Fields, reviewed by John Barnbrook

In the United Realms there are no elections, instead each year the leading group is chosen by picking which of them tells the most compelling story. This year, one of the storytellers is murdered and fear /and suspicion grows.

TROUBLE IN NEW YORK by Sylvia Bishop, reviewed by Linda Wilson

Jamie Creedon doesn’t just want to deliver the news, he wants to write about it, and not just in his school newspaper. When he gets the chance to visit the offices of the Morning Yorker, he doesn’t realise quite how dangerous his life is about to become.

BLOOD ON THE LAW by William A Graham, reviewed by John Cleal

PI Allan Linton is hired by his former wife, a top lawyer, to help prove the innocence of his boyhood friend – now the city’s major drugs dealer – found with £2 million worth of cocaine in his car.

HOLLYWOOD GODFATHER by Gianni Russo with Patrick Picciarelli, reviewed by
Chris Roberts

The autobiography of Gianni Russo, who lived as a gangster both in real life and in the movies, and rubbed shoulders with the cream of Hollywood.

SOMEBODY’S MOTHER, SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Carol Ann Lee, reviewed by Kati

True stories from victims and survivors of the Yorkshire Ripper.

Best wishes

Sharon and Linda

Beneath the Stains of Time: Diplomatic Death (1961) by Charles Forsyte

Beneath the Stains of Time: Diplomatic Death (1961) by Charles Forsyte: Gordon Philo was a British diplomat and magic aficionado with a background in the secret intelligence services who, reportedly , was &quo...

Bitter Tea and Mystery: Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens -- Short Stories

Bitter Tea and Mystery: Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens -- Short Stories: This February I have been reading short stories for Short Story February , as suggested by Rick Robinson at Tip the Wink . I did this once b...

Bouchercon 2021: New Orleans

I already have folks pushing the idea that I show up at Bouchercon 2021. At least with it in New Orleans, there is the possibility of a road trip to go to it. Their website has the details.

Lesa's Book Critiques: Winners and a Lying Giveaway

Lesa's Book Critiques: Winners and a Lying Giveaway

FFB Review: Tilt A Whirl: The John Ceepak Mysteries Book 1 by Chris Grabenstein

I first told you about this book back long ago in 2009. I told you again about  Tilt A Whirl: The John Ceepak Mysteries Book 1 by Chris Grabenstein in 2016. Earlier this week, Aubrey Hamilton told everyone her perspective about one of my favorite series. It seemed like that was a sign that I should mention again this read where mystery,  humor, and more are at work. For the rest of the reading suggestions for this date, check out Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog.

Sea Haven, New Jersey is an eighteen mile long barrier island consisting of motels, beach houses, bait shops, etc. For twenty-four year old Danny Boyle it is home and he works part time as an unarmed summer cop who helps with the influx of tourists in the muggy summer months. He just never expected to work a murder scene.

But, that is exactly what quickly happens because Danny also serves as the driver for John Ceepak. Ceepak used to be a military policeman, spent time in Iraq, and has been forced to deal with some really bad guys on more than one occasion. War is hell and Ceepak has lived it and has the memories. Ceepak is the man you want to follow into battle and is the man you want on your side. He lives by “The Code” that few these days can understand let alone follow.

The blonde girl, about thirteen years old, wearing a blood soaked dress and screaming as she comes up an avenue towards The Pancake Palace early one morning is a reminder that few live by Ceepak’s code. She is Ashley Hart, the daughter of Reginald and Betty Hall Heart. Betty Hall used to be on the local TV as the bubbly weather person. Reginald Hart was a businessman and real estate developer who did some rather unorthodox things and was very wealthy. Now, he is very dead having been gunned down on the Tilt-A-Whirl ride while sitting next to his daughter. The fact that the ride at the Sunnyside Play Land wasn’t even open yet this Saturday morning isn’t going to matter to the media or scared tourists. The fact that a crazed killer is wandering around the area is a chamber of commerce disaster and Chief Cosgrove wants it solved fast. He puts Ceepak and by extension his driver, Boyle, on the case. Murder is just the start of a twisting tale that ultimately leads to a horrifying conclusion.

Told at a fast pace, this is a read that quickly pulls the reader into the quirks of location and character. Both elements quickly come to life for the reader as back story is skillfully woven into dialogue and the occasional flashback. In a departure from most mysteries, the story is told in the first person from the Danny Boyle’s perspective while the real protagonist is Ceepak. This allows readers to get deeper into the Ceepak character because he is being observed while also getting a good idea of Danny’s character. It also works with the other characters that are never cardboard cutouts and instead are usually realistic and sometimes a bit quirky.

As some have noted, the cover does not remotely do justice to the book. Hot pink in background the cover prominently features a rollercoaster and not the ride depicted in the book. Though, there is a rollercoaster ride at the mythical Sunnyside Play Land so there is a vague link. While the design created by Michael Fusco seems very wrong, it does bring glances and inquires from folks when the book is out in public. More than one neighbor came over to see what I was working on now because they had spotted the cover as I sat reading on my apartment porch. Sometimes they came over at the most inopportune times.

The bottom line here is this is a book that fires on all cylinders and takes the reader on a very good ride. Sometimes funny, sometimes dark, this is a novel that quickly becomes riveting and one of the best I have read in a very long time. Start of a series, this is a very good one and a book you simply have to read.

Book provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009, 2016, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Lesa's Book Critiques: Tina Kashian, Guest Author

Lesa's Book Critiques: Tina Kashian, Guest Author

Beneath the Stains of Time: The Nameless Detective: "The Hills of Homicide" (1...

Beneath the Stains of Time: The Nameless Detective: "The Hills of Homicide" (1...: Louis L'Amour was a consummate story-teller with close to a hundred novels and numerous short story collections to his name, primari...

A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: A BRIDE FOR LUKE IS RELEASED!

A Writer's Life....Caroline Clemmons: A BRIDE FOR LUKE IS RELEASED!:  Today is the day A BRIDE FOR LUKE , Proxy Bride Series Book 36, is released for your reading pleasure. Beta reports on this book were ver...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: Overstory, Longevity Paradox, Wild Swan...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: Overstory, Longevity Paradox, Wild Swan...: Reported by Laura  Nevermore read a wide variety of books this week; some were enjoyed, some were not. The first was The Overs...

MAKE MINE MYSTERY: Truth In Advertising - At Least, Sort Of by Janis Patterson

MAKE MINE MYSTERY: Truth In Advertising - At Least, Sort Of: by Janis Patterson Most of you know that I grew up in my parents’ advertising agency from the age of nine on, starting as a stripper (...

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Up Around The Corner: Outpost On Sale for 99 cents!

Up Around The Corner: Outpost On Sale for 99 cents!

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Martin Clunes Islands of America DVD

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Martin Clunes Islands of America DVD: Reviewed by Jeanne I enjoy a number of British TV series including Doc Martin , about an irascible physician with an aversion...

Review: Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Eve Ronin did not make working homicide by putting her years in and working her way up the ranks. She did it the old fashioned way by taking advantage of her sudden celebrity status. That happened at a very good time for her as the Sheriff needed to exploit her for some good press for the department.

Despised by many, Eve Ronin is now the youngest homicide detective in the department’s history. She is acutely aware of how other sees her as well as her own lack of knowledge. She is determined to learn as fast as possible and not fail. Easier said than done, because the odds are stacked against her.

The slights come in many ways and that may include the fact that she has been paired with the soon to be retired Duncan Pavone. Detective Pavone is literally counting the days--163 when the book begins--to his retirement though it is clear to her that he cared at one time about doing the job. He has a lot to teach her and the first lessons of her crash course soon arrive by way of a crime scene straight out of a horror movie nightmare.

While the outside ranch home deep in Topanga Canyon just looks old and neglected, the inside is splattered with blood on nearly every surface. Tanya Kenworth is not to be found in the house, nor are her two kids, Caitlin and Troy. The kids are ten and eleven. From the scene inside the home, Detective Pavone and Ronin are pretty sure they are dead and dismembered. Where they are and who is responsible is the focus of Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg.

This is a fast moving read that reminds one of the Ballard series by Michael Connelly. It is therefore not surprising that he provides a blurb that is splashed across the bottom of the front jacket of the book. For those well versed in police procedurals or crime fiction in general, there are times that the book comes across a bit simplistic, such as explaining the construction and use of “flash bangs.” There is a certain made for television style to the read and one can easily see how it could be done for Amazon streaming at some point in the coming months.

At the same time, despite the obvious clichés and what not, Lost Hills, is a fun and fast moving read that keeps the reader fully engaged. It spins a complex tale rapidly and throws enough misdirection at the reader that some of the clichés do not bother as much as they would in the hands of a less talented writer. The result is that Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg is worth your time.

The next book in the series, Bone Canyon, is currently scheduled to be released January 5, 2021.

My reading copy came from my childhood haunt, the Audelia Road Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2020

Monday, February 17, 2020

Lesa's Book Critiques: On the Lamb by Tina Kashian

Lesa's Book Critiques: On the Lamb by Tina Kashian

In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 2/17/2020

In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 2/17/2020

Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers for 2/17/2020

Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers for 2/17/2020

TEXAS BOOK LOVER: Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Feb. 17-23...

TEXAS BOOK LOVER: Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Feb. 17-23...: Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of February 17-23, 2020, compiled exclusively for  Lone Star Literary Life  by Texas Book Lover.  ...

Aubrey Hamilton Reviews: Tilt-a-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein

Chris Grabenstein is a wildly talented guy. After attending the University of Tennessee, he moved to New York City where he performed with improvisational comedy ensembles for several years. His next career move was to write advertising copy for James Patterson. After that he began publishing fiction in earnest. He’s published more than 40 children’s books. He has won many awards, including the 2006 Anthony Award for Best First Novel for his debut mystery featuring Iraqi war veteran John Ceepak. It’s been seven years since the latest and quite possibly last title in this eight-book series was published, and it may be time for those who overlooked it to give these books another look.

In Tilt-a-Whirl (Carroll & Graf, 2005) we meet former MP John Ceepak, just back from a horrific tour of duty in the Middle East. He joins the Sea Haven police force for the summer to give himself a break. Sea Haven, New Jersey, is on a barrier island swarming with tourists and vacationers during the summer. What ordinarily is a small quiet town is overrun by sun-seeking humanity then. Ceepak is an Eagle Scout and committed to upright behavior. He will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate anyone who does. He makes a profound impression upon Danny Boyle, the 24-year-old naïve narrator of the book, who joins the police force to augment the staff needed to handle the summer crowds.

Ceepak and Boyle are leaving a breakfast diner early one morning when a 12-year-old girl covered with blood comes running down the street. She tells them her father has been killed in the nearby amusement park. Ceepak rushes to the scene, while Boyle takes the girl to an unopened store to question her and get her out of the potential view of the shooter. Ceepak discovers the body of the local land development czar, whose business tactics left something to be desired. His enemies were legion, so the cast of suspects is substantial. Instead of taking a break from violence, Ceepak’s police experience make him a natural lead investigator of the homicide that is followed by a kidnapping.

Fresh characters, original setting, complex plot. Recommended to mystery readers who overlooked this series earlier or who are looking for something new to read. Booklist starred review.

·         Hardcover: 304 pages
·         Publisher: Carroll & Graf; 1st edition (August 31, 2005)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0786715847
·         ISBN-13: 978-0786715848

Aubrey Hamilton ©2020

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Mystery Fanfare: PRESIDENTIAL CRIME FICTION: President's Day!

Mystery Fanfare: PRESIDENTIAL CRIME FICTION: President's Day!: I usually post my Presidential Crime Fiction list for President's Day with "Hail to the Chief!" in the subject line, ...

Lesa's Book Critiques: Hill Women by Cassie Chambers

Lesa's Book Critiques: Hill Women by Cassie Chambers

KRL Update: KRL This Week for 2/15/2020

Up in KRL this morning a review and giveaway of "Come Homicide or High Water" by Denise Swanson

And a review and giveaway of "Thistles and Thieves" by Molly MacRae

Also a review and giveaway of "And Dangerous to Know" by Darcie Wilde along with an interesting interview with Darcie

And a guest post about the adventure mystery "Out of Time" by Cathi Stoler along with a chance to win an ebook copy of the book

For those who prefer to listen to Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast directly on KRL here is the player for "Sand Dollar Secrets" by Maggie Toussaint read by local actor Leigh Ratliff

We also have a tribute to MC Beaton and one of her characters

Up on KRL News and Reviews this week we have a review and ebook giveaway of  "Southern Double Cross" by Caroline Fardig

And a review and giveaway of "Dead in Dublin" by Catie Murphy

Happy reading,



Scott's Take: Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell

Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell is the first in a series by the author of the Greatcoats series. Kellen, a young man, is trying to make his way in the world where magic is more important than character. Kellen is good person, but not a very powerful mage. In fact, his magic is slowly fading away.  if he does not pass his mage trials he will be forced to become a servant of others whose magic has only grown. He is searching for a way to pass his trials while also trying to and save his magic. His only hope seems to be a mysterious woman named Ferius Parfax who wields strange magic that no one else in his town can do.

While the above is the basic premise of the book, the read is far more complicated. The amount of character development Kellen goes through is tremendous. If you are familiar with the author you already know that he loves to write complicated tales with lots of twists and turns while making the characters suffer emotionally and physically. He prefers to write complicated worlds, smart heroes, and intelligent, yet utterly morally bankrupt, villains. He writes villains that have their reasons for doing evil and those reasons may or may not be justified. His tales always start out pretty straightforward, but by the end, the characters have tremendously changed.

Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell reflects the author’s usual mode of operation as Kellen at the beginning is far different by the end of the book, though his core of who he fundamentally is remains the same. He relies on being smart as others have strength and others have magic skills that far exceed his abilities. In this word, he may be the weakest mage so he has to out think others. Luckily for him he is smart and makes friends with Ferius who is funny and a great character in his own way. It will be interesting to see how their friendship grows in the next book, Shadow Black

My reading copy came from the Downtown Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.

Scott A. Alexander © 2020