Category Archives: General Posts

Lauren Carr

Lauren CarrI’ve just discovered Lauren Carr, a prolific author of cozy mysteries as well as other genres. In the near future, I’ll be reading and reviewing a few of Carr’s mysteries.

Gnarly is a character that appears in a few of the books in Carr’s Mac Faraday series.

Enjoy this preview of what’s ahead.

Ten Things You May Not Know about Gnarly
by Lauren Carr

Gnarly is a canine genius. In It’s Murder, My Son, Mac has Gnarly evaluated by a dog expert who determines that the German shepherd has reasoning and planning capability, which is why he doesn’t always listen to humans.

Gnarly is a kleptomaniac. When he gets bored, he plans and executes heists—just to see if he can get away with it.

Gnarly is a West Virginian. He was born at Beck’s Kennels in Inwood, West Virginia. His parents still live there.

Gnarly is lactose intolerant. Mac Faraday only recently made this discovery.

Gnarly was not in the first or even second draft of It’s Murder, My Son. While Mac Faraday had a dog, it was not become an actual character until a much later draft.

Gnarly has a squirrel friend named Otis. Occasionally, he and Gnarly will have spats. In Old Loves Die Hard, Otis threw acorns at Gnarly, hitting David’s police cruiser.

Gnarly was inspired by Lauren’s son’s Australian shepherd, which was given to him by a woman during halftime at a football game. Her big sales pitch: “You can keep him. He’s free!” The next day, the free puppy chewed through a $65 power cord.

There is a real Gnarly. After the success of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, Lauren got a real German shepherd and named him Gnarly, after his fictional counterpart. He was kind enough to model for the fictional Gnarly’s campaign posters.

The real Gnarly can open doors—even doors with round doorknobs like his fictional counterpart. For this reason, Lauren has to lock the door when she wants Gnarly to stay outside. He hasn’t conquered picking locks yet; but give him time. Most of Gnarly’s misbehaviors are based on real-life incidents involving Lauren’s dogs or dog stories supplied to her by fans.

While the fictional Gnarly is un-neutered, the real life Gnarly is. A friend of Lauren’s wanted to breed Gnarly with her purebred German shepherd, but before the “wedding” could take place, Gnarly developed an unhealthy obsession with a footstool. For the sake of her sanity, Lauren decided to get Gnarly altered. Luckily, Lauren’s friend understood.

Guest Interview – Arthur Herbert

Guest interview for Arthur Herbert, author of The Bones of Amoret

Bones of Amoret by Arthur HerbertSo I see in your bio that you’re a practicing burn and trauma surgeon. What’s that like?

Lots of stress. Not just the fact of dealing with patients who might die, but also of caring for their families as well. You need to be empathetic, but being that giving of a part of yourself takes an emotional and psychological toll on you, too. That’s one of the reasons that burnout is so prevalent in the field. You know, I’m constantly making that phone call that we all dread getting in which I wake someone up out of a dead sleep at two in the morning to say, “Hi, is this Mrs. X? I’m a surgeon working at University Medical Center. I’m afraid your son has been in an accident and he’s been badly injured.” Doing that over and over for a couple of decades takes a piece out of you.

How long did it take for you to become a surgeon versus a writer?

After college I did four years of medical school, followed by five years of general surgery residency, and two more years of burn and trauma surgery fellowship plus laboratory time. The writing thing on the other hand just sort of happened, though. I was an English major in college, and I’ve done a ton of scientific writing for my whole medical career. I didn’t start writing fiction until 2019 when I joke that I accidentally wrote my first novel. The Cuts that Cure started off as a Word document that served as a distraction from a really boring scientific protocol upon which I was laboring. It grew over several months until I realized I had almost 60,000 words. I literally googled “How long is the average novel?” and when I saw the answer was 80-90,000 words, I realized what I’d done. I invested in a developmental editor who made some key suggestions such as giving the main character a love interest and playing up the cat-and-mouse between Henry and the Detective as well as giving me several scenes to cut and several scenes to expand. After my revisions, I shopped the manuscript around and lo and behold got an offer on the contract. That’s when things got real in a hurry.

As busy as it sounds like you are as a surgeon, when do you find the time to write?

I get this question a lot, and my answer is always that I don’t find the time to write, I make the time to write. On the days I write fiction, I get up at 3:45 am and I write until I have to start getting cleaned up to go to work. I set weekly word count goals for new or edited prose, and I’m pretty compulsive about hitting those mile posts. The morning time is my most creative, so I really kind of have to do my writing then. When I come home in the evening, first of all I’m gassed and doing well to keep up my end of a conversation. Secondly, that’s my time with my wife, Amy.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen in your time as a doctor?

This is pretty gross, but it’s funny too. When I was a surgery intern, I got called to the ER at four in the morning for a guy who’d stuck a cucumber up his rectum and couldn’t get it out. While I got the guy curled up in the fetal position on the ER stretcher, gloved up, and went about trying to retrieve it, a colleague of mine who shall remain nameless stood nearby watching. It was like pulling Excalibur from the stone, but I finally managed to get it out and drop it on the steel tray next to the bed with a moist thump. My buddy looked at the feces-stained cucumber and said, “Sir, you have got to start chewing your food better.” It’s been almost twenty-five years and that still makes me laugh.

It seems like a job like that would be rich fodder for stories.

Absolutely. Some of them are sad, some are funny, some are weird, some are dark. But none of them are boring.

At first I’d assumed you’d write medical thrillers, but I don’t know that that’s necessarily true, is it?

I get that expectation from other readers a lot, too, for reasons that are understandable. But while almost all of my stories have some element of medicine in them, none of them, zero, are medical thrillers in the style of Patricia Cornwell, with brave doctors fighting evil drug companies or playing medical detectives. My stories are first and foremost suspense stories that happen to deal with medical scenarios. Take for instance, my new one, The Bones of Amoret. Yes, the protagonist Noah is a doctor, but I use his profession as a vehicle rather than a defining characteristic. Had my publisher come back to me and said, “You have to make Noah a plumber,” I think I could have made that work. I’m a lot more Quentin Tarantino than I am Robin Cook.

Bones of Amoret

Bones of AmoretNoah Travis Grady, the narrator of The Bones of Amoret by Arthur Herbert, is the typical, old-fashioned town doctor. Or maybe not so typical.

Noah is multifaceted, full of kindness and standing firm for what he thinks is right. He helps immigrants who cross the southern border illegally. Two of those immigrants were Angelica, whom he marries, and her son, both of whom he loves with a passion. He helps Francis Barnett with his AIDS, And he’s good at keeping secrets. Like his 20-year affair with Blaine Beckett’s wife. Now he is focused on finding out how Beckett has disappeared and why. And who killed his adopted son. Or so he says. Is all of Noah’s kindness and bonhomie real or just a mask?

But is Noah a reliable narrator? He is retelling a large chunk of his, and others’, personal history in an interview with an unnamed female journalist. The events he’s relating happened about 40 years in the past. So, he’s now a bit older. How accurate is his memory? In fact, Noah apologizes to the reporter: “Sorry, ma’am, there I go wandering off again. You’ll have to excuse an old man his indulgences.”

For example, Noah recounts that during one mission to assist those wanting to cross the border he got shot through the leg and part of his hand was destroyed. Yet, after his wife patched up his hand and leg, he is sitting nonchalantly with his legs crossed beside Francis Beckett as he’s dying from AIDS. And Noah flips through an Oscar Wilde novel that the young man had been reading. All this as if nothing had happened to him. As if he hadn’t lost a lot of blood just the day before.

Likeable Narrator

In spite of this, I really like Noah Grady. Whether his reminiscences about his past experiences are exactly how the events really occurred doesn’t matter. Noah is a likeable narrator and storyteller. His gripping storytelling engendered joy or sadness in me dependent upon what he was retelling. Arthur Herbert also makes fully concrete the other, secondary characters. All were fully fleshed out and fit well into the story arc.

The Bones of Amoret held my attention to the end. I will be reading other works by Arthur Herbert.

I received a free copy of this book from ireadbooktours.com in exchange for an honest review.

The Bones of Amoret
by Arthur Herbert
© 2022

Oh Reader Magazine

Oh Reader magazine

No matter your most-loved subject matter in the books that you read, you will love Oh Reader magazine.

As stated on their websiteOh Reader is “a magazine about reading, for and by readers.” The articles deal with how, when and why we read. For example, why would someone read the Nancy Drew mystery series during the recent pandemic lockdowns? And then compile a guide to the food and meals mentioned in the stories? And then try to recreate some of the dishes? Other articles deal with what and how much book lovers read while dealing with chronic illnesses or depression. Or how they met their future spouses through reading forums.

Oh Reader is “not so much about books themselves…it’s more about the lives of those who read them.” So, if you’ve ever wondered what others are drinking while reading the same book that you are, pick up a copy of Oh Reader. Do you read the acknowledgements page in the books you read? So does Meg Walters, who writes about this in the current issue (#007).

I’ve been a subscriber to this magazine since the beginning and have never been sorry.

For a look at other magazines appearing in my mailbox, see my earlier post, here.

 

Grace in the Wings

Grace in the WingsFlorenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr., Fanny Brice, Mary Pickford, Hedda Hopper. These are a few of the famous Broadway and Hollywood names from the early 20th century mentioned in Kari Bovée’s Grace in the Wings. But this name dropping gets the story off to a very sluggish start.

Grace Michelle, the smart, beautiful, younger sister of Sophia, one of Ziegfeld’s stars in the eponymous Follies, works as an assistant costumier there. After Sophia’s death, Grace is thrown into a number of unusual circumstances, including trying to determine if, and how, Sophia was murdered.

Flo Ziegfield masterminds making Grace the star of his Follies to replace Sophia. He also masterminds sending her on a whistle-stop, cross-country train trip to drum up business for his show. The publicist, Donovan Green, sent along to assist, nearly gets Grace killed during this trip. “How did I get into this mess? All I want to do is design and sew costumes.”  Thus muses Grace to Chet Riker, her bodyguard and new love interest. Did Sophia commit suicide or was it murder? And why would Chet mislead Grace when she asked questions about her sister’s death and the police report?

Change in the Wings

Also, Grace is innocent and naïve at the beginning of Grace in the Wings. For someone orphaned and homeless at a young age, and who then led a life in the theater, she’s too innocent and naïve. Did Grace never wonder what Sophia did to keep them alive while they lived on the street and after Flo Ziegfeld took them under his wing. However, Grace does change and mature as the novel progresses.

I was gradually drawn into Grace in the Wings, even though the plot was sluggish in spots. But tension and suspense did ramp up. Bovée provides great characterization of Grace, Flo Ziegfeld, Fanny Brice and some of the minor characters. Grace, especially, comes into her own.

I look forward to reading other installments of the Grace Michelle Mystery Series.
I received a free e-book copy of Grace in the Wings from ireadbooktours.com in exchange for an honest review.

Giveaway:

Enter to win a $35 PayPal gift card, autographed copy of GRACE AMONG THIEVES, and gift basket containing mouse pad, mug, and tote bag courtesy of the author of the Grace Michelle Mysteries! (one winner/USA only) (ends April 4)

https://gleam.io/0V9S1/grace-among-thieves-grace-michelle-mysteries-tour-giveaway

 

Last Call by Cathi Stoler

Last Call by Cathi StolerWho can you trust, if not your friends, drinking buddies, and regular customers? That’s the question stumping Jude Dillane and Thomas “Sully” Sullivan, her landlord and friend. The dumpster behind The Corner Lounge, Jude’s bar/restaurant hides a body. Turns out, it’s the recently arrived brother of one of Jude’s regular customers, Art Bevins. Who would want him dead, and why? Who among the “10th Street Irregulars,” Sully among them, would have the guts to do such a thing? Last Call by Cathi Stoler keeps the reader guessing.

When Elaine Garlinger, an FBI agent, takes charge of the case, she starts talking about a serial killer. Because of the murder weapon and the physical appearance of the victim, Garlinger connects the current crime to the New Year’s Eve Killer.  And things really heat up for Jude. The killer begins leaving her threatening notes, both at The Corner Lounge and slid under her apartment door. How does he know where she lives? And how does he get into the building, anyway? Why is he so interested in Jude? Does the killer think she’s seen him or knows his identity in some way?

Believable Characters Attract

Believable, likeable characters entice the reader in Last Call by Cathi Stoler. The reader meets characters first seen in Bar None, such as Dean Mason, Jude’s hunky bartender; Sully Sullivan; Tony Napoli (who is this guy anyway?!); and Pete, Jude’s chef and co-owner of The Corner Lounge. Eric, Jude’s new boyfriend, earns a larger part in this second book of Stoler’s Murder on the Rocks series.

I’ve read three of the four books in the Murder on the Rocks series. All of them held my interest based on characterization and, to a lesser extent, plot. I want to read further in this series and look forward to the next installments. See my reviews of Bar None and Straight Up.

I received a free copy of this book from booksirens.com in exchange for an honest review.

Last Call
By Cathi Stoler
© 2020
Level Best Books

Napa Noir

Napa NoirMany people might think that wine making is all about growing the right grapes in the right environment. Then sitting back to watch the grapes grow and the money roll in. Not so. Tax evasion, stealing grapes, mislabeling wine, selling cheap wine at higher prices, murder. All of these illegal tidbits make Peter Eichstaedt’s Napa Noir an excellent, thrilling read.

Dante Rath works for the Santa Rosa Sun. He writes “The Grapes of Rath,” the newspaper’s wine column about Northern California’s extensive upscale wine industry. A real come-down for a hot-shot, award-winning investigative journalist. Or so he thinks. Until, that is, two men are shot and killed at a Napa Valley winery. Was it for money? Or is there more involved? Rath jumps in to investigate for the paper rather than the regular newbie crime beat reporter. Told from Rath’s point of view, we get to hear his thoughts on his fact finding and exploration of the murder story. We are also privy to his thoughts about his deceased wife and his withdrawal from dating and a love life after her death.

Wine, Women and Money

From his anxiety-caused indigestion and digestive upset to his renewed interest in women, Rath is a likeable and believable narrator and protagonist. We learn of Rath’s panning of the wines of the largest winery in the area, run by wealthy entrepreneur Riccardo Santos. Also, we watch his courting of Carmen Carelli, an ambitious lawyer representing some of the elite in the California wine industry. Rath is definitely relatable.

Peter Eichstaedt’s Napa Noir is an enjoyable, fast-paced read. In addition to Rath and Carelli, supporting characters are well-rounded. Mei Ling, Marvee McGregor, and an African-American cab driver help bring this murder mystery to life.

I look forward to reading any future books that Eichstaedt adds to this first of his Wine Country Mysteries

I received a copy of this book from www.readersfavorite.com in exchange for an honest review.

 

Napa Noir
by Peter Eichstaedt
© 2018
Wild Blue Press

The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany

The Game's Afoot: A Holmesian MiscellanyBooks about fictional detectives—especially Sherlock Holmes—keep reproducing in my pile of books to be read. Much the same way as tribbles did in the original Star Trek TV series. (Anyone remember that besides me? Or am I really dating myself?) Novels, anthologies, what have you, about Sherlock Holmes multiply while I’m not watching. One such book is a slim short story collection by Bradley H. Sinor entitled The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany.

Three stories in this collection do not feature Holmes or Watson at all but feature other characters in the Holmes milieu. One such story includes Colonel Sebastian Moran, erstwhile associate of Professor Moriarty. Two other tales highlight Mycroft Holmes as detective/spy master. All of the adventures are of sufficient length and detail to give the reader an enjoyable view into the world of Holmes, Watson, et al. Unusual subject matter, such as vampires and alternate universes, enlivens a few of the tales. In “The Other Detective,” Holmes and Moriarty switch roles as the World’s First Consulting Detective and the Napoleon of Crime.

Precise prose enables these adventures to move along at a steady clip. Holmes inhabits his position as a man of few words but is somewhat less curmudgeonly than in Conan Doyle’s canon. Watson, a widower in these stories, meets the woman of his dreams for a second time in one of these narratives.

The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany is a nice change of pace considering the subject matter and change of worlds and lead characters in some of the stories.

The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany
by Bradley H. Sinor
© 2016
Pro Se Productions, LLC

Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes

Additional Investigations of Sherlock HolmesThe Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes is a repackaging of seven tales written by Arthur Hall, a British author. David Marcum, a noted writer and editor of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, novels and anthologies, edited this volume. The specific stories contained in this volume were previously published in various editions of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories.

Although “The Adventure of the Disappearing Prisoner” is rather straightforward and offers a minimum of mystery, some of the other stories are more curious and puzzling. “The Adventure of the Drewhampton Poisoner” includes an Asian poison with which Holmes is unfamiliar, which is quickly rectified. Holmes’ familiarity with tattoos and the inks used in such also plays a role in that story. “The Adventure of the Returning Spirit” reveals Watson as a widower. This story incorporates an attempt to deceive him into believing his wife’s ghost had returned. Holmes, of course, debunks that theory. This adventure encompasses pure Watson and Holmes with Watson acting as a decoy while accompanying Lestrade in his duties. Holmes, meanwhile, follows in disguise.

Admirable Depiction of Holmes and Watson

Hall portrays Holmes and Watson in a fashion similar to Conan Doyle. Watson narrates the tales and shines a complimentary light on Holmes. Both characters are well-rounded, intelligent, and well-defined. The adventures are fairly quick reads and entertaining. The precise prose of Arthur Hall recalls the clear-cut, decisive prose of Conan Doyle. Most of Hall’s adventures elicit the same enjoyment at the denouement as the stories in the original canon. Such is the case in “The Adventure of Miss Anna Truegrace,” for example. With an unexpected twist, this case illustrates Holmes capturing a murderer involved in a very cold case. Thus, the seven cases rereleased as The Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes deserve a second reading if you’ve enjoyed them in their previous incarnations. They most definitely deserve a first reading if you are new to Arthur Hall’s incarnation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

I received a free copy of this book from www.reedsy.com/discovery in exchange for an honest review.

The Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes
By Arthur Hall
Edited by David Marcum
© 2022
MX Publishing

Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka

Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of HekaDavid Marcum’s prose in Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka recollects the spare but effective prose of Arthur Conan Doyle. Lovers of the original canon are in for a real treat.

Dr. Watson inhabits a larger share of this adventure than in Doyle’s canon and in some modern pastiches. Watson’s marriage to a woman named Constance in this adventure precedes his marriage to Mary Marston. Watson’s marriage to Marston is indicated as Watson’s first marriage in Doyle’s writings about Holmes. Plus, new information is revealed about Watson’s interest in, and relationship with, women. Watson exhibits a range of emotions throughout this adventure, including irritation towards a woman who flirts with him shortly after the death of Constance.

In this exploit, Holmes and Watson team up with men they once thought were adversaries. The goal: to find a foot-tall statue depicting Heka, a minor African deity. This adventure involves some old friends from the ACD canon. Namely, Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade, who team up to help. The Baker Street Irregulars, Holmes’ loosely knit group of street urchins, help out in the background.

Holmes visits the various homes of the main suspects in pursuit of clues. He also requests help from several confederates and sits back like a skilled spymaster in the middle of the web he’s spun. Eventually, Holmes’ trap ensnares the guilty. But not before death comes to some of Holmes’ compatriots.

I very much enjoyed Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka penned by David Marcum. Most notable is the treatment of Watson as a well-rounded character. Marcum’s other numerous writings about Holmes and Watson now inhabit a permanent place on my to-be-read list.

I received a free copy of this book from www.reedsy.com/discovery in exchange for an honest review.