Tuesday Top Ten

gateway

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten books and/or authors that were gateways in my reading journey, ones that introduced me to a new genre, reinvigorated my interest in reading, somehow changed or affected my reading journey.

  1. Dystopian Books – The Giver by Lois Lowry – My first foray into dystopian novels, The Giver will always be my first and my favorite!
  2. Young Adult – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – It wasn’t my first YA book, but the first one that dealt so directly with difficult issues that matter to young adults, the first time I realized what great literature exists for teens.
  3. Stories told in a series of books – Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling –  They’re everywhere!  Prior to this series, I don’t ever remember reading books where you needed to wait until the series was complete to be able to finish the story! I do love many of these series, I just have taken a vow not to start one until all of the books are released so I don’t have to wait so long between pieces of the story!
  4. Historical Non-Fiction – Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – Historical non-fiction has never really been my thing – I don’t want to read the equivalent of a high school social studies textbook – but this book proved that there was historical fiction out there that would tell me a story while teaching me about the past.
  5. Current Non-Fiction – Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – Too much of current non-fiction is just someone trying to turn their opinions into fact or someone trying to catch the wave of popularity associated with the issue or personality of the day.  But this story grabbed my interest and held it, teaching me about the past and the present.
  6. Mysteries – Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene – Giving credit where credit is due, Nancy and the gang were my first introduction to the mystery genre, one that I still love today.
  7. Cozy Mysteries – Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton – My first cozy mystery series, there are still a number that I regularly read and enjoy – they are always a fun, quick escape!
  8. Detective Stories – Moe Prager series by Reed Farrel Coleman – Another part of the progression, the jump to grittier detective stories, this series continues to be a favorite.  It will be bittersweet when the last book comes out next month.
  9. Historical Fiction – A Good American by Alex George – I had not read historical fiction in a long time, didn’t really consider it a genre that I liked that well, until I read this and now I find myself reading all kinds of historical fiction!
  10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The book the reinvigorated and affirmed my love for the written word.  The funny thing?  I walked by it in the bookstore for months, picked it up and put it back down, before I finally decided to give it a try – and it is my favorite book.
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Mystery Mayhem

Here’s a quick look what’s new in some of my favorite mystery series!

killerThe Alex Delaware novels follow psychologist Alex Delaware as he dives into criminal minds to assist L.A. police lieutenant Milo Sturgis.  In this latest installment, Killer, Alex is called on by the courts to provide a recommendation in a custody battle.  Connie Sykes is trying to take custody of her sister’s 16-month old baby but the wealthy physician turns cold and violent when she loses her case.  With bodies piling up, the baby and her mother missing, Alex and Milo are in a race to find the culprits and the missing child.

I always enjoy these novels, and this one was no exception.  Oddly, although I like Alex Delaware, he is one of the least interesting characters for me – must be my love of quirkiness!   Milo, a large, gay, gruff detective is endearing in spite of his brusqueness.  And the introduction of a former child patient of Alex’s, now leading a gang in Oakland, is touching and sweet and funny and sad.

Title: Killer
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 352
Publication: Ballantine Books, February 2014

accusedThe Rosato & Associates novels follow Bennie Rosato and her law offices, composed of all female attorneys, as they try to right wrongs.  In this latest installment, Accused, Mary Dinuzio has been made a partner in the firm and her first client is Allegra, a beekeeping 13-year old obsessed with reopening the six-year old case of her sister’s murder.  The killer confessed and is behind bars, but Allegra is convinced that he’s innocent.  Unfortunately, her family is wealthy and powerful, convinced that Allegra has emotional and mental issues, and does not want to see the case reopened.  With little support from the firm, Mary will have to go out on her own to ensure that justice has been served.

All of the characters in the firm are unique and interesting, with their own distinct personalities and strengths.  This novel in the series focuses mainly on Mary as she struggles with being a partner, changes in her romantic life, and her overbearing but endearing super stereotypical Italian family.  I like Mary, who has an inner strength she does not recognize, and her fantastically funny family, but I missed seeing more of the other members of the firm.  Still, it was a fun, fast read with enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.

Title: Accused
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Publication: St. Martin’s Press, October 2013

death overdueThe Librarian Mysteries follow mid-Western librarian Karen Nash and her romantic interest, British B&B owner Caldwell.  Another fun cozy mystery series that has the added benefit of being about books!  In this latest installment, Death Overdue, the victim is Caldwell’s ex-girlfriend, Sally, killed by a toppling bookshelf after announcing her intent to take half of the proceeds from the sale of the B&B.  Since Karen and Caldwell are hoping to use that money to pursue their dream of opening their own bookshop, Caldwell quickly becomes the main suspect.  But with Sally’s Italian lover, her fed-up sister, and an out-of-town book scout hanging around, Karen knows it has to be someone other than the new love of her life.  This is a fun, quiet, cozy mystery series.  Not a ton of action, but a lot of talking and drinking tea and trying to figure out whodunit.  A great way to spend a wintry afternoon.

Title: Death Overdue
Author: Mary Lou Kirwin
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 256
Publication: Gallery Books, November 2013

due or dieThe Library Lover’s Mystery series follows Lindsey, the new director of the public library on the coast of Connecticut in Briar Creek, and of course, the murders that seem to pop-up on a regular basis there!

In the second book in the series, Due or Die, cranky Bill Sint is voted out as president of the Friends of the Library, being replaced by Carrie Rushton, a forward-thinking volunteer.  When she comes home from the election to find her husband shot dead in his recliner, she quickly becomes the main suspect.  And as a nor’easter paralyzes the town, Lindsey and her friends will have to figure out whodunit while the local police force focuses on digging out.

Like the previous book in this series, there are plenty of great characters including a mentally unstable woman who wants to see Bill Sint reinstated as president, Bill’s charming nephew who is pursuing Lindsey, the cranky librarian, the charter boat captain who seems to have a crush on Lindsey, and all of Lindsey’s friends and neighbors.  These characters and their interactions and relationships make this a thoroughly enjoyable series.  I also love all of the library scenes – the programming, the patrons, the politics – they all feel so familiar on some level!

Title: Due or Die
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Publication: Berkley, March 2012

Mystery Mayhem

Here’s a quick look what’s new in some of my favorite mystery series!

billionaire blendThe Coffeehouse Mystery novels follow Claire Cosi, the owner of The Village Blend, a coffeehouse in New York City which she owns with her wealthy world-traveler ex-husband Matteo, having formerly been owned and run by her mother-in-law.  Claire is constantly stumbling into dangerous situations or finding dead bodies.  Much to the chagrin of her cop boyfriend Mike she sticks her nose into the authority’s business, trying to solve the latest murder.

In this latest installment, Billionaire Blend, a car bomb goes off outside of The Village Blend, killing the driver while the owner is in the coffeehouse talking to Claire.  The car happens to belong to a young tech-billionaire who wants Claire to create an exclusive coffee, affordable only by the ultra-rich.  Claire is soon drawn into the world of the wealthy, being flown around the world and taken to the most exclusive clubs.  More interestingly, she finds herself in the middle of corporate intrigue, cut-throat rivalries, and sibling jealousies.  Of course, in the end, it will all work out!

This is a fun series with little surprises but enjoyable characters.  Claire’s relationship with her ex-husband is interesting, old emotions wrapped up in a new type of partnership.  Madame, Claire’s mother-in-law, is a classy lady with a colorful history.  Mike and Claire struggle in their relationship at times, adding a dose of reality.  And Claire also struggles with motherhood to her adult child, Jill, balancing being there with learning to let go.  To top it all off there are recipes!  And I love recipes, even if I never actually make them!

Title: Billionaire Blend
Author: Cleo Coyle
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 400
Publication: Berkley, December 2013

books can be deceivingThe Library Lover’s Mystery novels is a cozy mystery series that I discovered recently.  It’s a fun mystery series, and it’s for library lovers, so how can it be bad?  🙂  The series follows Lindsey, the new director of the public library on the coast of Connecticut in Briar Creek, and of course the mysteries that seem to pop-up on a regular basis there!

In the first book in the series, Books Can Be Deceiving, Lindsey’s best friend and the children’s librarian, Beth, becomes the chief suspect in a murder.  When Beth tries to talk to a New York publisher about the children’s book she’s been working on she discovers that her boyfriend and Caldecott award winner, has stolen her ideas.  When she and Lindsey go to confront him what they find is his dead body.  Will Lindsey be able to figure out who did it before Beth is thrown behind bars?

Being the director of a small public library I enjoyed the way that the story revolved around this small library and its staff.  The characters are delightful, from the stern and cranky Ms. Cole who hates anything new and is constantly disapproving of Lindsey, to the supportive group at the Crafternoon Club at the library – a group of lively characters that share books, food, and crafts.  I am definitely looking forward to spending more time with the group from Briar Creek and seeing how this series matures.

Title: Books Can Be Deceiving
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Publication: Berkley, July 2011

murder as a second languageThe Claire Malloy Mystery novels follow Claire Malloy, a bookstore owner in a small college town, where she lives with her teenage daughter Caron.  Constantly stumbling into trouble, Claire also always seems to stumble upon the answer, much to the annoyance of her beau, Deputy Chief Peter Rosen.

In the latest installment, Murder as a Second Language, Claire has recently married Peter and moved to a beautiful house outside of town.  With the bookstore being run by hired help, and Caron busy being a teenager, Claire suddenly finds herself with time on her hands.  When she agrees to help out at an ESL tutoring center, she is pushed into being on the board which faces budgetary issues and accusations of embezzlement.  When an elderly Russian student, who is strongly disliked by most people at the literacy center, is found dead by the copier, Claire is back in the thick of it again.  Only this time Peter may actually want her help.

I found this book in the series to simply be ok, not great.  Claire’s overly bratty teenage daughter is starting to get on my nerves, and Claire actually started to in this book.  Maybe it’s because I have to work and there are a million things I would do with my days if I didn’t, but I found her “Woe is me, I have nothing to keep my occupied” attitude to be grating.  I liked her better when she was living in her crappy apartment, trying to make ends meet, and running her bookstore.  It will be interesting to see where her character goes from here…  And Caron?  Hopefully she goes far away to college…

Title: Murder as a Second Language
Author: Joan Hess
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Publication: Minotaur, December 2013

takedown twentyThe Stephanie Plum novels follow the bumbling bounty hunter through the streets of Trenton, New Jersey as she unsuccessfully tries to catch the latest skip.  With ex-prostitute Lulu and the wild and unpredictable Grandma Mazur helping her out, it’s a wonder she has trouble!  And of course there is a love triangle with both the hunky and secretive security guru Ranger and the gorgeous police detective Morelli both on the scene to get her out of trouble.

In this latest installment, Takedown Twenty, Stephanie is on the trail of a mob boss that was arrested for running someone over (several times) but no one will tell her where he is.  To make matters worse, he’s Morelli’s actual godfather, causing his grandmother Bella to give Stephanie the evil-eye for trying to catch him.  And Ranger’s around too – asking Stephanie to help him track down the killer of a client’s elderly mother – which will require spending some time with Grandma Mazur at the bingo halls.  Oh, and did I mention that there’s a giraffe named Kevin running around loose throughout the streets of Trenton?

I have always loved this series, it is the only set of books that consistently makes me laugh out loud while reading.  Unfortunately, they don’t make me laugh quite as much as they used to…  The stories have become too formulaic, there are no surprises, just different versions of the same antics.  And honestly I’m getting really tired of the whole Ranger vs Morelli thing.  Grow up and make a decision and move on already!  Or at least have something interesting happen between them all!  Having shared my frustrations with the recent books in the series, I still need to be fair and say that I did laugh out loud, and it was still a fun and fast read.  I just know it could be (and should be) better…

Title: Takedown Twenty
Author: Janet Evanovich Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 320
Publication: Bantam, November 2013

Mystery Mayhem

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of a good (and even some not-so-good) mysteries.  I thought I’d share some more quick thoughts on what’s new in some of my favorite series.

angora

The Seaside Knitters Series takes place in Sea Harbor, on the coast of the Atlantic.  A series of locals find themselves trying to rights wrongs and help the police solve local crimes.  One of the main characters, Izzy, owns a knitting shop where she meets with family and friends (her Aunt Nell, the eccentric elderly Birdie, the lobsterwoman Cass) on Thursday nights to knit, share food, and brainstorm.  The books are light, typical whodunits, but the characters are warm, friendly, and familiar and the setting is one of my favorites – a northeastern coastal town – with all that brings – good seafood, unpredictable weather, and breathtaking scenery.

In this latest installment, Angora Alibi, Izzy is about to give birth to her first child, but something doesn’t feel right, things are not peaceful.  When a young man is killed during a scuba dive Izzy knows that they need to find the murderer among them before her baby is born.  Joined by all of her friends in Sea Harbor and traversing rumors of theft, drug deals gone wrong, and adultery, the killer is ultimately discovered, leaving Sea Harbor ready to accept its newest member.

Title: Angora Alibi
Author: Sally Goldenbaum
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 321
Publication: Penguin, May 2013

cookbook

The Bibliophile Mystery series follows Brooklyn Wainwright, a rare book expert in San Francisco, and she continues to trip over dead bodies and find the killer.  She is joined by her ever-so-handsome British boyfriend, Derek, who also happens to be a security expert and bodyguard.  There is a cast of other wonderful characters throughout the series, including her wacky, peace-loving, commune-living, hippy family.

In this latest installment, Brooklyn’s sister Savannah is cooking at the opening of a former classmate’s new restaurant with other members of her class.  When the restaurateur is found stabbed to death in the kitchen after the dinner is over, Savannah is the one holding the bloody knife.  Turns out, no one really liked their old “friend”, but who killed him and why?  Was it blackmail, jealousy, a spurned lover, or could it have something to do with the antique cookbook that he gave to Savannah years ago?

This may have been my favorite book in the series so far – a wonderful combination of my favorite things – mystery, books, and food!  It was fast-paced and fun, with a touch of romance and plenty of humor.  I never tire of Brooklyn’s family and some of my favorite scenes are those with her mother – what spells and incantations will she use next on her poor daughter?!

Title: Cookbook Conspiracy
Author: Kate Carlisle
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 312
Publication: Penguin, June 2013

12th

I am not a big fan of James Patterson’s books – it’s probably a good thing that I’m not or I’d have something new to read every week!  He is certainly one of the most prolific and best-selling authors today, although he does not actually write all of his books himself – hence me not being a huge fan.  If you look you will notice most of his books have his name in large letters at the top and then, in smaller print, at the bottom it will say “& someone else”.  Patterson admits to writing the outlines and then working with his writers on the editing process but leaving the majority of the actual writing to other writers.  Whether you agree with his methods or not (and I don’t), he sure knows how to sell books and I know that his works are among the most popular at our library.

Having said all of that, I do still read his Women’s Murder Club series.  The series takes place in San Francisco where Lindsay (a police officer), Claire (the medical examiner), Yuki (an assistant DA), and Cindy (a news reporter) all work to solve the latest murders.  12th of Never is the latest in the series and Lindsay is a new mom but her peace and quiet can’t last for long. An English professor is having dreams about murders and no one believes him until they actually start occurring.  A girlfriend of a star player for the 49ers is found shot to death in her car and no progress can be made on the case before her body mysteriously disappears from the morgue.  And Randolph Fish, a serial killer coming out of a two-year coma, is ready to talk about where the bodies are buried, but he only wants to talk to Lindsay.  So Lindsay is back at work, joined by the rest of the women’s murder club, working with her partners in the force, to see that justice is served.

This was actually one of the better in the series recently – the last several were a little too dull in my opinion.  The pacing was good, the parallel story lines were interesting, there were developments in many of their personal lives, and the ending was a bit of a cliffhanger.  Not high literature, but a fun quick read anyway.

Title: 12th of Never
Author: James Patterson
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 432
Publication: Little, Brown and Company, April 2013

piazza

The Faith Fairchild Mystery series centers on the detecting skills of Faith Fairchild.  Faith, a minister’s daughter, did what she swore never to do, and married a minister herself.  Uprooted from her beloved Manhattan, she now lives in Aleford, a small New England town, where she raises her two children and runs her own catering business.  Faith is a snob – a food snob and a clothing snob – but her devotion to her husband Tom (who orders his clothes from L.L. Bean and thinks cooking is opening a can of Campbell’s), her children, and her myriad of down-to-earth friends in Aleford make her likable.  Of course she does have that propensity for stumbling over dead bodies and getting involved in finding the killer!

In this latest installment, Body in the Piazza, Faith and Tom are on an anniversary trip to Italy to see the sites and spend a week at their friend’s new cooking school.  Their peaceful vacation is disrupted when they stumble across a stabbed man dying in the piazza in Rome.  When they leave Rome for the cooking school, the mystery follows them, many of the guests at the school are not who they seem, and Faith will need to use her skills to determine the truth and find the culprit.

This was a fresh addition to a series which I thought was faltering.  The descriptions of Italy and the food (I always leave these books hungry and wanting to cook!) were enticing, and the new cast of characters was a welcome break from Aleford.

Title: Body in the Piazza
Author: Katherine Hall Page
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 261
Publication: Harper Collins, April 2013

closeknit

The Knitting Mystery series takes place in Fort Collins, Colorado, and revolves around a group of friends and the Lambspun knitting shop.  Kelly is the main character, an accountant transplanted from the east coast upon the death of her aunt – the first murder in the series.  Along with her boyfriend, Steve, and a cast of close friends, Kelly becomes embroiled in numerous murders, generally to clear the name of a suspect who also happens to be someone Kelly knows and likes, noodling through the clues while she works on her latest knitting project.  The descriptions of the scenery in Colorado, the knitting shop, the food in the attached café, the relationships and camaraderie among this ever-growing and changing group of friends, make this a fun series.

In this latest installment, Close Knit Killer, a hated man is stabbed in the throat and left to die in his car at the end of the Lambspun driveway.  Everyone wanted him dead, but an instructor at the knitting shop and a local handyman were both seen angrily confronting him and are on the police’s radar.  Kelly ultimately discovers the shocking truth, saving the innocent from prosecution.  This installment ends with a cliffhanger, with the canyon ranch of a friend in jeopardy due to forest fires, leaving me awaiting the next installment to see how everyone fares.

Title: Close Knit Killer
Author: Maggie Sefton
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 272
Publication: Berkley, June 2013

Tuesday Top Ten

toptensummertbr

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten list of books that I want to read this summer.  There are WAY more than ten, there are always way more than ten books on my TBR list, and I am probably forgetting some or there are some that will hop to the top of the list later this summer when I realize they are coming out, but here’s what I’m looking forward to right now…

  1. How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny – Most anticipated book for me is definitely this one, I cannot say enough wonderful things about her Inspector Gamache series of books and have even managed to hook my husband!  The last book left me hanging and I have waited nearly a year and can hardly wait any longer!
  2. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz – I’m a big fan of the Odd Thomas series and just getting started on the latest installment!
  3. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I love Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book was one of my family’s favorites for story time, and I am looking forward to his latest adult novel.
  4. In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt BellNext in my Indiespensables subscription!  They haven’t steered me wrong yet!
  5. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver – This thriller is getting a lot of positive press, and I’m hoping it will live up to the hype.
  6. The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel – Behind every great man… I just can’t imagine sending my husband into space (of course, there ARE days…), and I think it’s fascinating to get a glimpse of these women who share that bond.
  7. Silver Starr by Jeanette Walls I really enjoyed her memoir and the novel based on her grandmother’s life.  I’m hoping that her fiction work is as engrossing!
  8. City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan – Having read and enjoyed Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, I am looking forward to reading this follow-up story of the characters.
  9. Cozy Mysteries – A bunch of my favorite mystery series have new books coming out this summer –  Angora Alibi by Sally Goldenbaum, Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle, Body in the Piazza by Katherine Hall Page, …  easy, quick, fun summer reading!
  10. Summer Reads! – There are a bunch of authors who come out with books each summer that are perfect quick reads for sitting on the back deck or the beach with an iced tea – Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews, The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Last Original Wifeby Dorothea Benton Frank, Island Girls by Nancy Thayer, Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand, …