addition to everything else on the blog are the reviews. Below is the complete
list of the “December 2013 Reads and Reviews.” My massive thanks to Barry
Ergang and Patrick Ohl for their continuing contributions to the blog as well
as their friendship and support.
Cleveland In My Dreams by Lawrence Block
Thuglit: Issue 7 Edited by Todd Robinson Marcia
DeCoster’s Beads In Motion: 24 Jewelry Projects That Spin. Sway, Swing, And
Slide by Marcia Decoster
Late To Die by Bill Crider (FFB Review)
Bead Bugs: Cute, Creepy, and Quirky
Projects to Make with Beads, Wire, and Fun Found Objects by Amy Kopperude Three Can Keep A Secret: A Joe
by Archer Mayor Amos Hangs On by Jim Newell
Fabulous Clipjoint by Fredric Brown (FFB
Review--Barry Ergang) Perfect Pies & More: All New
Pies, Cookies, Bars, And Cakes From America’s Pie-Baking Champion by Michele Stuart Death
on the High C’s by Robert Barnard (FFB Review--Patrick Ohl) Fat
Ollie’s Book by Ed McBain (FFB Review--Barry Ergang) Spirit Of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire
Story by Craig
Johnson The Adventures of the Quinn Higgins
Boy Detective: The Case of the Lost U-Boat by
If you value what we do here each month please
consider voting for Kevin’s Corner at the “Preditors and Editors Poll.” The
blog is listed athttp://critters.org/predpoll/reviewsite.shtmlThe site can be very slow at times. At some
point after you vote---and this can be hours up to a day or two later---you will
receive a confirmation e-mail that you must respond to for your vote to count.
Reggie, Vaughn, Demian, and the Boy Detective, Quinn
Higgins, like to pal around at school and at home. They call themselves “Quinn
and the Three Musketeers.” Thanks to Demian they learn that there is a new kid
in school. The 11 year old boy is from Chicago and just got to North Carolina
and that means that Demian can happily give up his title of the “new kid.”
The new kid is Frederick Cullen and he is living
with his grandfather out on Big Flatty Creek.Word is that his mom is dead and his father died fighting in
Afghanistan. Since Frederick wants to learn how to fish and Quinn is good at it
that becomes a natural way to start talking to Frederick. The plan is to make friends
with Frederick and bring him into the group.
When Quinn and the others aren’t making instruments
for the upcoming talent show the boys try to figure out ways to help Frederick
as his rather rude grandfather makes it clear that no one is welcome at their
home. The boys, who have been on more than one adventure, suspect that the elderly
man is hiding something. It could be something very important and may have
links back to World War II. A secret that boy detective Quinn Higgins is
determined to discover in The Adventures of the Quinn Higgins Boy
Detective: The Case of the Lost U-Boat.
From the first book The Case of the Missing Homework
through this, the fifth book in the series, readers have been treated to Quinn
Higgins, a fun loving kid growing up in North Carolina. An active kid who would
rather spend time with his friends outdoors than inside playing video games,
Quinn has an innate curiosity which can put him in sticky situations such as in
this book. For us readers of a certain age, these books are very reminiscent of
the classic Encyclopedia Brown series.
This read is fast moving, solidly good, and engages
the interest of kids and adults as do the other books of the series. While a mystery
is at the core of the book, the read is also about exploring one’s own talents
as well as helping others as relationships matter. Sometimes things don’t work
out exactly as expected and this life lesson comes through clearly at the end
of the story. This is a series that works for kids and parents.
This latest good book in the series is also complimented
by four pages at the end of the book detailing how the instruments are made that
the boys use in their talent show. The four instruments are things for the kid
in all of us to consider making.
Adventures of the Quinn Higgins Boy Detective: The Case of the Lost U-Boat
I'm not doing a Sample Sunday this week. Several folks who committed to sending something never did. And quite frankly, I am tired of putting my own stuff out there in hopes of a sale. So, I am taking today off.
Randy Rawls and his book BEST DEFENSE reviewed here.
Man....I hope someday things get better enough around here that I can get back to focusing on reading, reviews, and my own writing. Even when I was working Special Education full time for the school district and taking care of things at home while Sandi went to night school at TWU for her education degree, I got way more done than what I can do now. I spent much of today looking for things to fight for insurance benefits for Sandi after yet another problem came to light. So many trees have died to support my efforts to get her what should just happen automatically.
As sick as I am at least I can still do this for her. I shudder to think what happens to folks who have no one screaming bloody murder on their behalf. The system seems designed to fight the terminal patient over every damn little thing and I am so freaking sick of it.
So concludes tonight's sermon of frustration. Go read the review.
I'm always behind in my reading. I will be a little better when first college then the the NFL season ends and I suffer my annual football withdrawal. Of course, this year with the Winter Olympics in February my TV viewing may not drop at all. But, it won't be football.
What they ought to do is divide the speed skaters into teams, give them a football, and go at it. Footballs on skates. It would work.
The books stack up as does the e-mail. When I see something in the e-mail I don't have time to read t gets slotted in the "archives" and I go back later. So, just today I got to this piece on Lesa Holstine over at Kaye Barley's Meanderings and Musings blog. You can read it here and should. Not only is it about the family you are born into, it is about that family of mystery readers and writers that we all belong to in one way or another. Just go read it and then poke around the blog. Good stuff.
The Tuesday before Christmas brings snow, relative
quiet, and no real plans for Sheriff Walt Longmire other than his annual
rereading of A Christmas Carol. That is
until the quiet dark haired woman toting a garment bag walked into his office. Eventually
it becomes clear that she wants to see the former Sheriff, Lucian Connally. The
woman claims to have something that she would like to return to him.
Lucian is living at the “Durant Home for Assisted
Living” and could probably use a visit from somebody besides Sheriff Walt Longmire
and Dog. Not only is the home’s television another victim of Lucian’s legendary
temper having died by gunshot, the man is not in the best of moods because it
is Christmas and he has been drinking quite a bit. He has no idea who the
mystery woman is either until she says “Steamboat.”
What follows is an incredibly suspenseful flashback tale
of a flight to save a child’s life against the odds---medical and environmental.
On Christmas Eve in 1988 an aging WWII plane and a cast of locals including the
recently retired Lucian and first year Sheriff Walt Longmire pulled off a
Christmas miracle. Though readers can surmise from nearly the start that the dark
haired woman was that child, there is plenty of suspense in how the flight
happened and why she is back now.
While “Spirit Of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story” is
a short book as it is a novella, it is a powerful and deeply moving book. Craig
Johnson brings alive the storm, the people, and the history of a legendary
aircraft in a way that few novelists could do. The resulting 160 page book
might simply be the best thing the man has ever written.
Friday means Friday’s
Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott. She took the week off, but we
still roll here because we are guys and that is just the way we are. Please
welcome back Barry Ergang who shares his thoughts regarding this classic from
FAT OLLIE'S BOOK
(2002) by Ed McBain
Reviewed by Barry
City councilman Lester Henderson and his staff are setting up
in Martin Luther King Memorial Hall for a rally during which Henderson will announce that he's running for
mayor. While Henderson
is practicing a walk across the stage to a podium, multiple shots explode from
somewhere in the building and he falls dead. Because the Hall is in the
Eighty-Eighth Precinct, the foul-mouthed, obese, gluttonous bigot Oliver
Wendell Weeks is the detective assigned to the case. Because the victim lived
in the Eighty-Seventh Precinct, Ollie requests help from that quarter, and
Detectives Steve Carella and Bert Kling are stuck with the task of working
under his direction.
As excited as he is to be working his first high-profile
case in a long time, Ollie is equally excited about his novel entitled Report to the Commissioner, which was
written (on a typewriter) in the form of an official report. He has written it using
the pseudonym Olivia Wesley Watts, who in her "report" is explaining
to the Commissioner how she has come to be locked in a basement with over two
million dollars' worth of diamonds. All but the last chapter has been revised,
and Ollie has put the thirty-six pages of the preceding chapters into a dispatch
case, intending to have it copied at a Kinko's. ("Less is more. That's an
adage amongst us writers," he tells his sister when she questions whether
he's really written a novel-length manuscript.)
When the dispatch case is stolen in a smash-and-grab from
Ollie's car while he's inside King Memorial Hall, its recovery takes precedence
over the Henderson
murder, as far as he's personally concerned. Unbeknownst to him, the thief is
one Emilio Herrera, a cross-dressing prostitute and drug addict who, upon
reading the fiction, believes it to be a true but "coded" account,
and who endeavors to break the code so as to get his hands on the diamonds.
Meanwhile, Detective Eileen Burke, who has just joined the
Eighty-Seventh squad, is partnered with Andy Parker, a man whose attitude is as
odious as Ollie's. One of Parker's informants tells them of a major drug deal
that's going down in six days in the basement of a building somewhere in the
city. What basement he doesn't know because the address keeps changing. He's
only certain that the people involved aren't amateurs. He's somewhat wrong
about that, however, as the reader learns soon afterward.
While Carella and Kling–and sometimes Ollie, when he's not
trying to track down his manuscript–try to solve the Henderson murder, Burke
and Parker's case becomes unwittingly entwined with Emilio's quest to locate
the basement where Olivia Wesley Watts and the diamonds are held, resulting in
some moments worthy of a good sitcom.
The reader also gets to join Emilio in reading Ollie's book,
sections of which are scattered throughout the broader narrative. These make
for great comedy in themselves, loaded as they are with English usage
"Because that's where Lock lost him because, you should
pardon this, Commish–and this is just between you and I, or maybe even you and
me–he had to relieve himself....So it was with considerably great expectations
that I took the call from The Needle that morning. Hopefully, The Needle...
"Or perhaps I hoped The Needle...
"Or maybe I was even hopeful that The Needle...
Hopefully, The Needle would have some information on
Grant or his missing wife Marie or his cousin Ambrose Fields."
I was fourteen when I first read an Eighty-Seventh Precinct
novel, 'Til Death, and I've been a
fan ever since.The fifty-second entry in
the series, Fat Ollie's Book has at
least as much verve as the earliest entries, and quite possibly more. Ed
McBain's characters, including many of the minor ones, are three-dimensional
figures. His narrative style is laced with wry humor. His ear for dialogue is
and always has been impeccable and unerring. His pacing is flawless.
As is, or even like, nearly every Eighty-Seventh
Precinct mystery, Fat Ollie's Book is
For some time now I have been
writing a monthly book review column for the Senior News
newspaper. The Senior News is aimed to the 50 and over crowd with
news relevant to seniors regarding various issues, humor pieces, and my review
column among other things. The newspaper is a giveaway at doctor offices,
stores, etc. and can be received by mail via a paid subscription. There are
multiple editions across the state of Texas and therefore there is some
fluctuation in content in each edition.
My column every month focuses on
books of interest to the Texas audience. Therefore the books selected for the column,
fiction or non-fiction, are written by Texas residents, feature Texans in some
way, or would have some other connection to the Texas based readership. At
least two books are covered each month in the short space I am given.
Below is/was my December 2013 column
with the addition here of the relevant book covers…
In The Rules Ava Rome is a protection
specialist. She keeps her clients alive while doing whatever is necessary to
stop the threat. To protect her clients she has to know everything about them
up front. The fact that she knows her latest client, “Paul” is lying about his
name and possibly other things is not a good sign. The issue with the name
could be for good reason. According to the father, a wealthy and powerful
businessman most likely from somewhere in South America, the threat against his
son is very real and he is willing to pay top dollar for someone of Ava’s
skills. To be paid very well, all she has to do is keep him alive and not break
any of her rules.
Much easier said than done.
Texas author Mark Troy has a real winner here with
the book and his new character Ava Rome. Featuring plenty of action,
interesting characters, and a heroine readers will love, The Rules is a powerful
mystery as well as a preview of the next summer release The Splintered Paddle
from Five Star Publishing.
from the author posted elsewhere earlier today--“To
send 2013 on it's way, my novella, The
Rules, will be free on Kindle starting tomorrow until New Year's Eve.”
Dog Tags: An American GI in North Korea
(also available as an e-book)
In Missing Dog Tags: An American GI in North
Korea author Kenneth Eaton recounts what it was like to be a prisoner
of war in North Korea. His story of his capture while serving as a corporal in
the 9th Tank Company of the 2nd division, U.S. Army, begins early in
1951 with a Chinese attack on his unit. After his tank was destroyed, he was
forced to abandon it. In the confusion of battle he was soon captured while on
foot as were other soldiers.
Despite three failed escape attempts, starvation,
and various horrors he endured, Kenneth Eaton survived and came home to be
reunited with friends and loved ones. In a blow by blow detailed fashion this
book recounts the experiences of Kenneth Eason during the Korean War. As such,
the book pulls no punches as the story comes out. Those who expect a
politically correct read with sanitized language regarding the enemy would be
best to look elsewhere.Corporal Kenneth
Eaton bluntly tells it like it was for him in Missing Dog Tags: An American GI
in North Korea.
On behalf of all of us I just want to say thank you for all your thoughts, prayers, and support this past year. It has been a hard one in so many ways. Some things have been seen here, but many more serious things have not been talked about at all. Hopefully this Christmas marks a turning point in these parts.
From our little spot in North Texas we wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season.
In addition to the donation widget on the left side, I am an Amazon
Associate. What this means is if you click on one of the book links on
this blog to buy a particular book or to shop on Amazon and you buy
something, I get a few pennies on the sale. It does not affect the price
you pay at Amazon or have any impact on you financially at all.
What it does do is generate a small referral fee that is paid into my
Amazon Associate account a few pennies at a time. Those pennies add up
each quarter. When enough pennies add up to ten dollars, usually once or
year, I can cash out with an Amazon giftcard. I use these funds to buy
the occasional e-book which ultimately gets reviewed here as well as
some household and medical supplies for Sandi not covered by food stamps or donations.
So, if you are going to shop at Amazon anyway, please consider going
through me to do your shopping. Every little bit helps and I do
appreciate it very much.
This has been a tough couple of days for the feet around here. Late yesterday evening, I stepped on a piece of glass that mysteriously appeared in the carpet. Cut an inch long gash in the bottom of my right foot and proceeded to bleed like crazy. Apparently the aspirin therapy in conjunction with my bp meds must be
really working because you would have thought I slit my jugular the way
the blood was coming out of me.No need for stitches and no need for a crime scene tech despite my bloody footprints everywhere around here while trying to find a bandaid..or two..or three.
Then today, Sandi got hung up in the umbilical cord from her air machine, stumbled, and then managed to kick the ottoman breaking her left little toe. She has unhappily broken it before--several times--and knew exactly what she had done when she did it. After she iced it down for a couple of hours, we got it immobilized and taped up. The ottoman would not have been there in front of her chair if she didn't need her feet up to try and reduce the daily swelling in her lower legs and ankles.
So, the feet have not been making out too well. Told the boys they better be real careful as this kind of crap runs in threes.
means Friday’s Forgotten Books with Patti Abbott. Patti has declared today to
be in honor of Robert Barnard. The list will
be here later today. In the meantime, check out Patrick Ohl’s review of Death on the High C’sbelow…
some books that you pick up at a bookstore on a hunch, because you just know there has to be something good in
between those covers! Maybe you’ve never heard of the author or read their
work, but you can’t resist either way. Sometimes, the hunches do not pay off— I
learned this the hard way with The Affair
at Royalties by George Baxt, purchased solely on the strength of a
brilliant cover that had absolutely no relevance to the story itself. However,
when these hunches do pay off, the
experience is extraordinary.
Such was the
case for me with Death on the High C’s
by Robert Barnard. I had heard of Barnard of course, and read his insightful
appreciation of Agatha Christie, A Talent
to Deceive, which I liked very much. So when his name appeared on a book
with such a gloriously punning title, I simply could not resist the urge to
purchase it on the spot. I do not regret this purchase in the least.
Ffrench fancies herself to be a great big opera star and refuses to hear
anything to the contrary. But really, her opinion is bloated— she overacts all
her parts, is nasty to her fellow cast members, and she sleeps around
indiscriminately with every available male. For once, however, she really does give a sizzling performance—in
fact, it’s downright electrifying. The problem is she doesn’t give it onstage,
but backstage… after touching the doorknob of her dressing room and stepping on
a metal doormat. The result? A jolt of electricity rushes through the
despicable young lady, and she prematurely shuffles off this mortal coil. What
makes this case particularly interesting is that several attempts have already
been made on Gaylene’s life, and it looks like the assassin has succeeded at
lack of suspects whatsoever. Everyone in the company agrees that Gaylene was a
most despicable person— not only was she arrogant and self-centered, she was
also a racist bigot. She particularly was scandalized when Calvin, a black (but
very English) member of the company gets engaged to Bridget, one of the girls
(who happens to be white and Gaylene’s unofficial rival). However, Gaylene’s
reaction may have stemmed just as much from the fact that her none-too-subtle
sexual advances on Calvin were firmly rejected. But to be honest, just about
anyone would have gladly done her in and the rest would just as gladly buy the
killer a drink as a thank-you gesture.
Superintendent Nichols, who as far as I can tell has not been reused by
Barnard. It’s a shame. He’s an intelligent man and a competent investigator,
and he has a genuinely happy, normal
marriage. It is so normal, in fact, that he barely feels the need to comment on
it! I don’t know if I’m the weird
one, but I always find it so nice when somebody has a normal, content marriage.
It’s so much more interesting than unending bouts of screaming, sarcasm, and
cruelty. There’s a lot more to Nichols than meets the eye, but to reveal more
would be to spoil a genuinely delightful plot twist.
delights in presenting his characters and then introducing a minor twist to
them. When we first meet Calvin, he is presented as a completely ordinary
fellow, and it is only after the second chapter that Barnard remembers to
mention that he just so happens to be black. It’s the character’s greatest
strength— he isn’t black for the sake of being black, he’s just an ordinary person
who happens to be black. (Far too often, characters written expressly as black
characters end up as embarrassments, which makes Barnard’s approach so
refreshing.) While the colour of Calvin’s skin has affected him in ways he
might not want to own up to, he doesn’t let himself get bogged down by
though, Barnard constructs a complex and fairly-clued plot in the Golden Age
tradition. He manages to plant some major clues that walked right under my nose
without being noticed. For a few clues, you’d have to know your opera to spot
the hint when it’s given, but you can still piece everything together while
being blissfully ignorant of all things opera.
want to know what happens to the characters. Unfortunately, only the central
group of characters is really strong. A fistful of characters remain
half-developed sketches because others, far more interesting, get more “screen
time”. When so-and-so suddenly reminds you of the existence of this-and-that’s
brother, it sometimes felt like a genuine shock as I struggled to remember just
when the devil that character was introduced (before eventually finding him
mentioned in the recesses of Chapter Six).
make up for this weakness is Barnard’s storytelling style, which is full of
genuine, delightful wit. This is the kind of author Gilber Adair thinks he is.
Barnard has genuine respect for the traditional form of mysteries, but he takes
delight in poking fun at some of their conventions. Here, that convention is
the person so unpleasant that nobody minds their being murdered— in fact, the
murder is treated as something of a lark… until a second murder takes place.
Even then, nobody seems to mind Gaylene’s being gone, but people do take
offense to having the second victim removed from their midst. Basically,
Barnard completely trumps Adair’s approach, but a more detailed analysis would
only result in a lot of well-deserved bile thrown in Adair’s direction.
Instead, to calm myself down, I will content myself with mentally reciting a
limerick about an old man from Khartoum.
Overall, Death on the High C’s is a witty triumph
of plotting and ingenuity, with solid characters and clueing that make the
proceedings very interesting indeed. I highly recommend the book.
Note: This review was originally written long
before Robert Barnard’s tragic death earlier this year. Looking back at the
review, I remember my delight when I first read the book and I can only wonder
at why I haven’t gotten to more of Barnard’s books yet.
We are back home. Everything is pretty much the same so they are letting her skip coming down next week. Our next visit and blood work deal is on the morning of January 2, 2014.
I fell twice yesterday evening and once this morning spectacularly in the parking lot at the hospital so the rest of today I am staying flat on the floor and moving as little as possible. FFB for Friday has been setup for a couple of weeks now so you may not see anything new here until then.
Pies & More: All New Pies, Cookies, Bars, And Cakes From America’s Pie-Baking
Champion is exactly as promised by the title. Plenty
of recipes with few pictures are found in this over 240 page book. Broken into
nine chapter sections the recipes run the gamut and feature varying amounts of
prep time and difficulty.
After a short introduction the book opens with
“Crusts & Toppings.” First up is the author’s “Traditional Pastry Piecrust”
on pages 4-7. Along with the list of ingredients and instructions there are
suggestions on other recipes to use this pie crust for as well as tips on how
to do it well.This same format
continues throughout the book as well as with the other four crust recipes and
three topping recipes of this chapter.
“Fruit Pies” begins on page 16 and opens with “Apple
Carmel Crunch Pie”I’m partial to blueberry
as well as cherry pie and they are present here in the combined form of
“Blueberry-Cherry Sugar-Free Pie (pages 28-29) as well a couple of other
variations. A “Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie” (pages 52-53) is one of 13 other
suggestions in this chapter.
If you prefer a cream filling in your pie that
chapter appropriately titled “Cream Pies” comes next.“Blueberry Cream Pie” (pages 59-60),
“Chocolate Silk Pie” (pages 63-64) and an “Oreo Cream Pie” on pages 73-75 among
nine other pies are in this chapter.
Maybe you prefer nuts in your pies. Six recipes make
up the “Nut Pies” chapter section and include the “Candy Bar Pie (pages 89-90)
and the “Turtle Pecan Pie (pages 98-100).
“Whimsical Pies” comes next and is all about celebrating
anything and everything. Items such as the “Birthday Cake Surprise Pie” on page
106-109) blends a vanilla cake with a pastry shell. Or you could make the
“Cannoli: Party Dip Pie” on pages 110-111 or the “Thin Mint Chocolate Cookie
Pie” on pages 116-117.There are seven
more choices for your consideration in this chapter.
Moving on from pies of various types, “Cookies &
Bars” comes next starting on page 132. Recipes for biscotti, cookies, and lots
of treats are present in this chapter. “Snicker Doodle Cookies” (pages 162-163)
and other favorites such as “Fudgy Brownies” (pages 170-171) are here.
If you are looking for a little booster in the
middle or the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea there are 11 suggestions in
the section titled “Perfect for a Cup of Tea.” It could be “Banana Tea Bread” (pages 182-183)
or “Double Chocolate Bundt Cake” (pages 188-190) among others.
“Lovin’ Spoonful” comes next with “Apple Crisp” on
pages 206-207 and “Old Fashioned Bake Rice Pudding” on page 215-216. There are
four other recipes in short section.
The final chapter considers toppings with “Top This.”
Along with “Hot Fudge Sauce” (page 223) and “Whipped Cream” with several
variations (pages 228-229) there is one for “Royal Icing” (page 231) and
The book closes with a short acknowledgement section
and six page index.
Using her experience winning 27 first place awards
in the “National Pie Championship Awards” author Michele Stuart’s cookbook is another
treat for the pallet. Lots of good ideas in Perfect Pies & More: All New
Pies, Cookies, Bars, And Cakes From America’s Pie-Baking Champion featuring
plenty of variety not only in terms of ingredients but also in terms of skill
Pies & More: All New Pies, Cookies, Bars, And Cakes From America’s Pie-Baking
Also this week we have reviews & giveaways of a few more
Penguin mysteries to end out your year. "Fixing to Die: A Josie Marcus
Mystery Shopper Mystery" By Elaine Viets, "The Quotient of Murder: A
Professor Sophie Knowles Mystery" By Ada Madison, "The Thrill of the
Haunt: A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery" By E.j. Copperman, "Wedding
Cake Killer" By Livia J. Washburn, and "Words with Fiends" By
Ali Brandon http://kingsriverlife.com/12/14/end-of-the-year-penguin-mystery-fun/
In the wreckage of the S&L crisis of the late 80s and early 90s, Ed Earl Burch works as a private detective. His office located near Mo...
Supporting The Blog
In my wife's memory and honoring a promise I made to Sandi, the blog continues...at least for now. If you would like to make a donation of support, you can do so at the links below. Most of the donated funds go to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.