Monday, June 25, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Thriller 3: Love is Murder edited by Sandra Brown

Thriller 3: Love is Murder edited by Sandra Brown
Mira, 2012
Crime Fiction; 608 pgs

Even at early age I realized romance alone wasn't enough for me.  Don't get me wrong. I do like romance, especially if the chemistry is just right, creating a bit of steam and heat. Still, I needed a bit more excitement in my books. Mixed with suspense and intrigue, well, it's hard to resist. For whatever reason, the more I read the more I've come to realize that I like my romantic suspense heavy in the suspense department and light in the romance. As a result, I tend to be picky about the novels I read that fall into the romantic suspense category.

Add to that my hit and miss record with short stories. Generally, I have found mystery short stories are less fulfilling than other types of short stories. Perhaps because so much time is spent on the plot and not so much on characters. While I love a good story as much as the next person, I am drawn most to good characterization and, in my experience, it is often what is sacrificed in the mystery short story.

With that in mind, I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up my Kindle and began reading Thriller 3: Love is Murder. Still, I was curious, and the list of authors with stories in this anthology made me drool.  Enough so that when I was offered a spot on the Love is Murder Tour, I jumped at the chance.

One thing I love about anthologies, and the reason I keep giving them a try, is the opportunity to taste test writing by authors I either haven't heard of before or ones I'm thinking of giving a try.  Although short story writing is not always the best barometer for determining an author's talent, it certainly is one way to go about it.  I came away from this particular collection with a nice (maybe too long) list of authors I want to explore further.  And in my mind, that's saying a lot.

I can honestly say this anthology has turned my past view of mystery short stories on its head. It was filled with a wide variety of stories, some heavier on the romance than others.  The stories were a mix of detective stories, CIA, military, FBI, hostage situations, kidnappings, urban fantasy, among others.  Sometimes the main characters were the bad guys, often they were not. There were stories I liked more than others, a couple that were flawed in the ways I expected, but overall, I was quite pleased and enjoyed the reading experience.

There were, of course, stories I was less than enamored with. Sherrilyn Kenyon's "B.A.D." and Heather Graham's "Grave Danger". Kenyon's story was a little too out there for me.  And while Graham's story actually started out really well, I felt it went on a bit long in the end. Mariah Stewart's "Without Mercy" reminded me of the Jaycee Dugard story a little too much. And while I loved the action of "Diamond Drop" by Roxanne St. Claire, the characters were a little too perfect to be believed.

Stories that particularly stood out for me in a good way included "Hard Drive" by Bill Floyd  about a detective who had affair with a woman suspected of killing her ex-husband.  I am not familiar with Bill Floyd, but his story has me wanting to read more by him.  The same goes for author William Bernhardt, whose "After Hours", another murder mystery (to say more would give the story away).

I was especially taken with Beverly Barton's story, "Poisoned", written from the perspective a Post Traumatic Stress victim who had witnessed a murder. Right from the start, Barton had me in her character's head, feeling her fear and anxiety. It was high in intensity all the way through with an ending that, while not a surprise to me, was definitely worth it.

J.T. Ellison's "The Number of Man" was another one I really liked, featuring a television reporter and her stalker. I especially liked the back and forth between the protagonist and antagonist. It was suburb writing.

Then there was Vicki Hinze and her story, "Wed to Death", about a drug agent being targeted for death on his wedding day.  The writing was good; there was plenty of action and just enough romance; the characters got under my skin; and I found the entire story to be sad and heartwarming.  I wouldn't mind spending more time with her characters.

I can't forget to mention Alexandra Sokoloff's "In Atlantis" though.  A broken-hearted woman re-imagines her life while on vacation where she meets a man she is sure is a jewel thief.  There wasn't anything I didn't like about this particular story.  From the characters to the twist, to the romance--and I'm usually not a fan of quick to bed stories.

Lee Child's "I Heard a Romantic Story" was one of my favorites.  It's such a tragic and well told story.  Heartbreaking, is the word I used in my notes.  Another favorite which I absolutely loved was "Holding Mercy" by Lori Armstrong.  Armstrong is an author I've been meaning to try for ages and my little taste of her writing has me salivating for more.  Her heroine is an FBI agent who is finally going to have a date with her man.  Only, a little pick pocket situation gets in the way. It was fun and action packed.

As for Pamela Callow's story, "Break Even" . . . There was little question as to which author I would feature on the tour.  I was quite taken with Pamela Callow's first novel, Damaged, and so am excited about the opportunity to feature her here on Musings of a Bookish Kitty as part of the Love is Murder Tour. Her short story, "Break Even", is one of many stories in the anthology, and I am happy to report it is a great one.  It actually was among my favorites--and no, I'm not just saying that.

As I mentioned earlier, there's always the risk of putting too little into character development because of the briefness of a short story, and yet Callow was able to bring her characters to life in just a few pages while at the same time tell a rather intriguing and suspenseful story. Eddie Bent is a defense attorney, once at the top of his game. An unfortunate loss on a major case landed him at the bottom of the heap--until now. He is assigned the case of a young woman on the verge of being accused of murdering her rapist, a professor with a shady past. Eddie is sure this will put him back on top of the game.

A little taste of "Break Even" by Pamela Callow:
Tuesday, 4:58 p.m.

“Elaine, it’s me.” Eddie Bent cradled the phone to his ear, stubbing his cigarette in the plastic lid from his morning coffee. Ash pebbled the newspaper printouts strewn on his desk. It didn’t matter that his wife couldn’t actually see him smoking while they conversed over the phone, she would just know. That’s what being married for fifteen years did to you.
“Hi, honey,” she said. “I’m on my way home. What’s up?” Two years ago, she wouldn’t have asked that question—she would have known that if he called at supper time, it meant he’d been held up on another case. At that time, he was the go-to guy for high-profile clients on the wrong side of the criminal justice system.
What I especially liked about "Break Even", besides getting to know Eddie and his wife, was the way Pamela Callow built up her story, introducing the characters, their histories, all leading to an intense climax.  This particular story is light on the romance, although there's a lot to be said for the background story about Eddie and his wife and the deep love they clearly share for one another.
About Pamela Callow: Inspired by a U.S. tissue harvesting case, Pamela Callow wrote Damaged (June 2010), the first installment of her legal thriller series for MIRA Books. Pamela drew on her experience working in a blue-chip corporate environment to create series lead Kate Lange, a struggling thirty-something lawyer, whom RT Book Reviews hailed as, “…a standout character.” Damaged was chosen by Levy Home Entertainment as a June “Need to Read” Pick, with Top Ten Bestseller placement in Target and Walmart.

Indefensible (MIRA, January 2011), the second book of the Kate Lange thriller series, was described by Omnimystery Reviews as, “…a superbly plotted and suspenseful novel with a…riveting, dynamic storyline.” Tattooed, the series’ third installment, will be published in 2012.

Prior to making writing a career, Pamela worked as a strategy consultant for international firm Andersen Consulting. She is a member of the Nova Scotia Bar, and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Pamela lives in Nova Scotia, along with her husband, two children and a pug. She loves to go for walks (unlike her dog), drink coffee, and is currently working on the next installment of the Kate Lange thriller series. Visit her at or at

Be sure and stop by the BookTrib website for the Love is Murder Tour roster!  See what other authors were featured and what bloggers had to say about the book.

Source: Many thanks to the publicist for allowing me to be on the tour and providing me an e-copy of the book for review.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd

I stopped just outside the ward and leaned my head against the cool wood of the doorframe.  I couldn't remember when last I'd slept, or for that matter, eaten anything more than a few biscuits now and again with a hasty cup of tea. [opening paragraph]

An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
William Morrow, 2012
Crime Fiction; 272 pgs

Yes, it is true.  I am in love with another series.  Yet again I am kicking myself for waiting so long to read a book so many people I know have raved about. Better late than never, right?

For those who don't know, the Bess Crawford mystery series is set during World War I.  Bess is a nurse, working for the British military.  An Unmarked Grave is the fourth book in the series, but my first foray into Bess's world.  The Spanish flu epidemic is sweeping through Europe, cutting down civilians and soldiers alike.  It's made the jobs of the doctors and nurses on the war front even more difficult.  They are overextended and exhausted, praying they don't fall ill too. 

When an unaccounted for body is found among the deceased flu victims on the front in France, Bess is asked for her opinion.  She knows right away it wasn't the flu that killed the officer, one she recognizes almost immediately.  Instead, she believes he's been murdered. Before she has a chance to tell her superior about the body, she is struck down by the flu, her life hanging in the balance. When she awakens in a hotel back in England among her family and friends, she wonders if the body was just a dream.  Enlisting the help of family friend, Simon Brandon, Bess sets out to find the truth.  Did she see the body of the dead officer?  Was it murder?  And if so, who was behind it and why? 

This is one of those books that puts me in the mood for a leisurely afternoon of reading--the sunlight streaming in the window, maybe a plate of crackers and cheese to nibble on with my ice water closeby.  It's not a fast paced book, but it is a page turner, one I enjoyed immensely.  Bess is someone I wouldn't mind having over for lunch now and again.  She is smart and independent, thoughtful and resourceful.  She has an easy way with people that probably works well for her in both her profession as a nurse and her side job as an amateur slueth. 

With a father high up in the military, Bess is able to get away with an awful lot. It explains away how easily Bess can get in and out of places, but at times it seemed to be too convenient. I didn't let this bother me much, however, since I was enjoying the characters and story so much.

I admit to having a little literary crush on Simon Brandon.  So little is said about him in this particular novel, but what I did learn made me like him very much.  He sounds like such a gentleman--sure he's protective of Bess, but he also trusts her opinion and isn't quick to dismiss her the way many men in that era might.

I do wish I had time to start with the first book in the series.  As with most series books, there is always a backstory that is worth knowing going into later books.  Just the same, An Unmarked Grave stands alone on its own well.

I loved the historical touches the authors put into the novel.  It brought the time period home for me and made me feel like I was actually there.

I can tell the mother and son team writing as Charles Todd will become a fast favorite of mine if this book is anything to go by.  I look forward to reading more about Bess Crawford--and hopefully getting to know Simon Brandon a bit more.

To learn more about the Charles Todd and their books, please visit the authors' website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of An Unmarked Grave provided by the publisher.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reading Challenge Update

Ho hum. I have barely thought about my reading challenges since I first signed up for them. Isn't that awful? I got it in my head that if I signed up for them and started my own, I would make more time for both reading and blogging, two activities I love doing. Oh well. Best laid plans and all that.

I really appreciate everyone who is taking part in the Merely Mystery Challenge. You all are doing so well, and you've even given me ideas of books to read for some of the categories. I can't thank you enough. As a way to say thank you, I am giving away a book of your choice (up to $30 value) to one challenge participant at the end of the month. You don't have to do anything other than make sure you signed up for the challenge and have posted at least one review between the start of the challenge in January and the end of June (evidenced by linking the review in the monthly/bimonthly Mr. Linky here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty--see sidebar). For each review linked, participants will receive one entry--so, the more reviews you have, the more entries! The winner of the giveaway will be announced in early July. So, your job? Make sure you've added your reviews to Mr. Linky by June 30th!

As for all those other challenges I signed up for . . . I haven't been reading to meet any of the challenge requirements, but, taking a look at the criteria, I see I've met some of them unwittingly. I say that's progress! In a round about sort of way, at least. Mostly though, I suppose one can say I have a lot of reading to do between now and the beginning of the new year if I expect to finish any of them!

The Eclectic Reader Challenge
Literary Fiction
Crime/Mystery Fiction - No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
Romantic Fiction
Historical Fiction
Young Adult - Archon by Sabrina Benulis
Fantasy - Dark Time by Dakota Banks
Science Fiction - Under the Skin by Michel Faber
Non Fiction - Catherine the Great: A Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
Thriller /Suspense - The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey
Your favourite genre - Mystery - A Trick of the Light by Louise Penney

If I go by this challenge alone, I would say I am doing fairly well, wouldn't you?  Don't look at my poor progress on the other challenges then, please.  I currently am reading Stephen King's The Stand which will fit nicely under the horror category.  And then that would knock out my commitment to read one book for the Stephen King Project as well.  I considered counting Charles Todd's An Unmarked Grave as Historical Fiction for the Eclectic Reader Challenge but I wasn't sure if it qualified.  I kind of feel like that would be cheating given the challenge is to read books from a variety of genres, and a Bess Crawford mystery set during World War I certainly is historical--but it's also very much a mystery.  Then there is Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, which takes place mostly in the late 1590's.  The vampire/witch thing makes me wonder if it would be a little too out there for the historical fiction category as well.

Essay Reading Challenge
I challenged myself to read at least 10 essays this year, which I knocked out at the beginning of the year when I read Between Interruptions: 30 Women Tell the Truth about Motherhood edited by Cori Howard . Although I began the book in 2011, I read the majority of the essays in January of 2012. I also read and reviewed Orwell's essay entitled "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell. While there is some speculation that it is more a story than an essay, it is considered an essay by most reputable sources.  I currently am listening to Me Talk Pretty One Day, a collection of essays by David Sedaris.

What's in a Name Challenge 5
A book with a topographical feature
A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title - My husband told me that a Trick of the Light does not qualify.  Although, I could argue this one.  There are many tricks of the light in the sky.  Rainbows for one.  Or what about an Archon?  That's an angel, right?  Why wouldn't you see one of those in the sky sometime?
A book with a creepy crawly in the title
A book with a type of house in the title - My husband says a grave doesn't count as a type of house because vampires only sometimes sleep in one.  They don't actually live in one.  And dead people, well, they don't count.  Otherwise, I'd have met this requirment. 
A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Shapeshifter: The Demo Tapes, Year 1 by Susan Helene Gottfried (Finally!  Something that fits!  Because I do carry music in my purse now and then.)
A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title - I think a person could find a cut on a calendar.  You know, like a rip.  No?  Well, it was a stretch. 

Clearly I am doing abysmally at the What's in a Name Challenge.  So far.  There's still time!  Don't count me out just yet.

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Aha!  A challenge where I can actually count Charles Todd's An Unmarked Grave (review to go up this week) because the rules say so.  I thought of counting Before the Poison by Peter Robinson due to the World War II story thread, but decided against it since it mostly takes place in modern times. I also recently read Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, which takes place mostly in the late 16th Century, which I think would qualify for this challenge, given very little of the book is set in modern times.  I got to spend time with quite a few well known historical figures, including Queen Elizabeth.  If I count Shadow of Night and An Unmarked Grave towards this challenge, I've got it in the bag! I need to post my review of Shadow of the Night, of course, and a wrap up will follow later in the year.  Even though I only commited to reading two books for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, I'd like to squeeze one or two more in.

Finishing the Series Challenge
I seem to be starting more new series than finishing any of the old ones.  Oops.

Merely Mystery Challenge
The Whodunit: Missing Daughter,Shattered Family by Liz Strange
Locked Room Mystery
The Inverted Detective Story
The Historical Whodunnit: An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
The Police Procedural: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penney
The Professional Thriller
The Spy Novel
Caper Stories
The Psychological Suspense - The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey
Spoofs and Parodies

Four is better than none, I suppose. I'll get there.  I can't not finish my own challenge.

So there you have it.  My challenge progress--or lack there of.  How are you progressing with your reading challenges?

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Taking a Break

My dear Readers, Sunday is upon us again.  And it's a new month!  I wish I could say the month got off to a great start.  I was really really really looking forward to the start of June.  It means that horrible May is behind me.  June actually did start out on the good side, only yesterday it took a dive when we landed in urgent care.  Things happen.  Mouse is fine, if a little bruised.  She entertained the hospital staff and patients with her smile and antics.  That girl never sits still, I tell you!  She really is fine--only a minor injury from an accident that had the potential to be so much worse.  I think my husband and I were more shaken by the experience than she was.  We rushed out the door so fast, I put her shoes on the wrong feet!

On the book front, I am still reading the same books I was reading when I posted my last Sunday Salon post.  Although I sneaked in An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd last week just because I could.  I also started reading Stephen King's The Stand.  Oh, and I am now reading Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files, which was the only book I had handy Friday afternoon when I was desperate for a book and unable to get my hands on one of the ones I was already reading.  It's quite funny so far.

I would like to continue my series on Mouse's favorite books, but I haven't had a chance to write up anymore posts.  With my husband's birthday this week and my brother and his wife's upcoming visit, they likely won't get written any time soon.

I'm expecting a rather lazy summer blog wise. I had planned to post a couple of short story reviews over the next three weeks, but I think I'll hold off.  With everything going on, a break is in order. 

Wishing everyone a brilliant summer!  Happy Reading!

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012 June/July/August Reviews

If you haven't already, please sign up for the Merely Mystery Challenge here!

One of my favorite parts of challenges is supporting and cheering on my fellow participants--not to mention all the great new-to-me book recommendations I come across! Please leave direct links to your June/July/August review posts for qualifying reviews for the challenge here. Participants without blogs can post reviews on general review sites such as LibraryThing, Goodreads or Shelfari. And if you have the time, stop by and check out some of your fellow participants reviews as well! I am sure they would love to hear from you!

Please include your name or blog name along with the title of the book you reviewed as well as a direct link to your review post (not just a general link to your blog). Thank you!

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.