Monday, January 30, 2017

Law and Disorder (Book Review)

Title: Law and Disorder, Book 1, The Finnegan Connection
Author: Heather Graham
Publication: Harlequin Intrigue, paperback, January 2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Plot: Kidnapped while visiting her family home in Florida, Dakota “Kody” Cameron has no one to turn to – except the unexpectedly attractive man holding a gun. Outnumbered and trapped in the deadly Everglades, she has little recourse, but something in this captor’s eyes make her believe he is not as evil as the other men threatening her. Does she dare trust him?

Undercover agent Nick Connolly met Kody briefly in NYC where they both work and is afraid if she recognizes him the bad guys will kill them both. Though determined to maintain his cover, he can’t let Kody die. And his decision to change his own ruls of law and order are about to cause all hell to break loose. . .

Audience: Fans of romantic suspense; readers who like Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, and Kay Hooper.

My Impressions: This fast paced and, at times, humorous story begins on a historic estate in Florida, once owned by a 20th century mobster named Anthony Green. Kody, an aspiring actress in New York, is home briefly visiting her family, who nominally own the Crystal Manor, when she is kidnapped by a group of thugs dressed up as historic gangsters. Their leader, going by the name Dillinger, believes Kody can find lost treasure, reputed to have been hidden by Green years ago. He threatens to kill Kody and the staff managing the estate if Kody, who has always been fascinated by the history of her home, cannot locate the treasure.

Kody is a very resourceful heroine who doesn’t back down to thugs, but perhaps it’s a little over the top – given that people have been searching for 80+ years – how quickly she deciphers Green’s papers to deduce where the treasure is buried in the Everglades. Personally, I think having a gun being pointed at me while I researched lost treasure might inhibit my creativity! Add the fun of a kidnapper whose “deep, dark, blue and intense” eyes engender trust and make Kody yearn to get to know him better, even when he seems to be threatening her and her friends. While the reader assumes Kody will be rescued or save herself, this is a romp of a book that reveals Heather Graham’s love of history and her home state. So long as Heather doesn’t make me stumble about in the Everglades hunting for treasure amongst snakes, alligators, and goodness knows what else, I will continue to enjoy her books from the safety of an armchair.
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About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels. She’s a winner of the RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers’ Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For more information, check out her websites: TheOriginalHeatherGraham.com, eHeatherGraham.com, and HeatherGraham.tv. You can also find Heather on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes.
Please join Heather Graham, author of Love and Disorder as she travels with TLC Book Tours.
Tuesday, January 17th: The Sassy Bookster – excerpt
Wednesday, January 18th: A Holland Reads
Thursday, January 19th: Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, January 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, January 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, January 24th: Mama Vicky Says
Wednesday, January 25th: Books a la Mode – excerpt
Friday, January 27th: Books and Spoons
Monday, January 30th: A Bookaholic Swede – excerpt
Tuesday, January 31stSnowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, February 1stStranded in Chaos 
Monday, February 6thBook Reviews and More by Kathy – excerpt 
Monday, February 6thFrom the TBR Pile 
Wednesday, February 8thDog Eared Daydreams 
Friday, February 10thNot in Jersey 
Monday, February 13thBecky on Books 
Wednesday, February 15thReading Reality

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Plaid and Plagiarism (Book Review)

Title: Plaid and Plagiarism: Book 1 in the Highland Bookshop Mystery Series
Author: Molly MacRae
Publication: Pegasus, Hardcover, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Description: Janet, a middle-aged librarian from Illinois, her friend Christine, Janet’s daughter Tallie, and Tallie’s friend Summer, have moved to Inversgail in Scotland to run a bookstore, Ye Bonnie Books. Janet and her evil ex had bought a vacation home in Inversgail (which she got to keep after the divorce), and when the ladies go to check on the house, they find a dead body in the garden shed. As they settle into their new village, this intrepid foursome tries to help the local police solve the crime, in this first of a new series.

Audience: Fans of cozy mysteries, those who like books about books, and those yearning to go manage a bookstore in the Highlands (or anywhere else).

My Impression: I read a great review of this book and wanted to love it because I am definitely one of those people who romanticizes moving to a small village to run a bookshop (and with my luck, there would definitely be a dead body in my garden shed). However, having worked in publishing for 17 years, I also know that even one person can barely make a living owning/managing a bookstore so in addition to wondering how these characters (one is Scottish by birth so perhaps retained her citizenship while in the US) obtained work permits to move to Scotland, I wondered how they were going to pay for the mouthwatering scones they enjoy, not to mention everything else – Janet’s alimony was described as generous but it seemed unlikely her academic ex-husband had very much to spare.

Logistical quibbles aside, I would have liked more of a sense of place. The premise was fun but the delivery was weak.  These characters could really have been anywhere, not a quaint town in Scotland, and a few mentions of plaid and haggis were insufficient to set the scene, although there were quirky characters galore. Other than Janet being headstrong and bitter about her ex-husband and several mentions of the careers each had abandoned for Inversgail, there wasn’t enough about the four women to really distinguish them from each other. As a result, I did not care much what happened to them. The mystery itself was secondary to the women’s eagerness to help solve it. There were many red herrings (to go with a number of peculiar individuals whose behavior was never fully explained) – I am not sure if I fell for one or conjured it up on my own, but I certainly did not figure out who the killer was or guess why the murder had occurred.

Last year I read about a bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland where one can have a working holiday by renting a week at a bookstore through Airbnb.  Of course, I yearn to go to the Open Book and keep shop - what a combination of Maida's Little Shop and the bookstore dreams I am too practical to have.   Wigtown has been officially designated Scotland's National Book Town so I suppose it would be fun to visit even without getting to live above a bookstore - the waiting list for the Open Book appears to go through 2018, alas!

Source: I requested this book from the Boston Public Library after reading about it in Publishers Weekly.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Favorite Reads from 2016

According to Goodreads, I read 142 books in 2016 (this does not include rereads, however - my own calculations indicate that I read 149 books, not to mention that reading four Game of Thrones books is like reading a dozen ordinary books!).  Here are my favorites:

Suspense

The Dead House, Fiona Griffiths, #5 – Harry Bingham
This is the most compelling suspense series you haven’t heard of and I insist you go back and start with the first book in the series, Talking to the Dead. Set in Wales, this one is set against the backdrop of a mysterious monastery. Fiona is an extremely odd but endearing detective whose commitment to victims she is assigned to investigate (and those she is not) takes precedence over everything else in her life. She is also desperate to decipher the secrets of her birth, and it seems likely these two story lines will stay connected as the series continues.
I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh
The despair of Jenna Gray, the main character in this novel of suspense is almost too much to bear and requires occasional application of Kleenex. The story begins with a fatal car crash, then follows Jenna, as she tries to escape from her past in a remote cottage in Wales, while back in Bristol, two detectives are trying to track her down. I liked the detectives and hope the author will return to them in a future book.