Fiction

New York Times Notable Fiction – 2018

 

The New York Times Notable Fiction of 2018 list has been posted. It’s always interesting to see which books the Book Review editors will choose for their “Best of…” lists for the year. The titles are sometimes bestsellers, sometimes from debut authors, several from international writers, but more importantly, the NYT Book Review editors have fallen in love with the story (or the writing) and ta-da! the book makes the list.

 

Check out ten of their notable fiction choices from 2018. Click on the book titles to read their reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"An American Marriage"  by Tayari Jones

 

"Cherry"  by Nico Walker

 

"Eternal Life"  by Dara Horn

 

"The Friend"  by Sigrid Nunez

 

"The House of Broken Angels"  by Luis Alberto Urrea

 

"Macbeth"  by Jo Nesbø. Translated by Don Bartlett

 

"Mirror, Shoulder, Signal"  by Dorthe Nors

 

"My Year of Rest and Relaxation"  by Ottessa Moshfegh

 

"There There"  by Tommy Orange

 

"Warlight"  by Michael Ondaatje

 

Happy reading!   🙂

 

 

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Christmas Themed Fiction – 2018

 

Are you a fan of Christmas themed fiction? Then this list of thirty-two novels, novellas, and short stories is for you.  🙂

 

The books were recommended by avid cozy mystery readers, as well as NBR subscribers, and fans of Christmas inspirational works. Click on the titles to find out more about the books, then snuggle up with a great Christmas read.

 

Susan Wittig Albert: “The Darling Dahlias & the Poinsettia Puzzle

 

Gretchen Archer:  “Double Deck the Halls

 

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson + 15 other authors: “Sleigh Bells & Sleuthing

 

Donna Andrews: “Lark! The Herald Angels Sing”  

 

Mary Angela: “Very Merry Murder”

 

Joy Avon: “In Peppermint Peril”

 

Laurien Berenson: “Wagging through the Snow

 

Leslie Budewitz: “As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles”

 

Ellen Byron: “A Cajun Christmas Killing”

 

Lynn Cahoon: “Santa Puppy”

 

Vicki Delany “Hark the Herald Angels Slay”

 

Barbara Early: “Murder on the Toy Town Express”

 

Morris Fenris: “Miracle of Christmas Boxed Set

 

Beatrice Fishback: “Winter Writerland

 

Amanda Flower: “Premeditated Peppermint

 

Joanne Fluke: “Christmas Cake Murder

 

Jacqueline Frost: “Twelve Slays of Christmas

 

Daryl Wood Gerber “Wreath between the Lines

 

Patrice Greenwood: “As Red as Any Blood

 

Carolyn Haines: “Gift of Bones

 

Victoria Hamilton: “Breaking the Mould”

 

Julie Hennrikus: “A Christmas Peril”

 

CeeCee James: “The Frosty Taste of Scandal

 

Miranda James: “Six Cats a Slayin”

 

Laura Levine: “Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge”

 

Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross: “Yule Log Murder

 

Liz Mugavero:  “Purring around the Christmas Tree

 

Nancy Naigle: “Hope at Christmas”

 

Gail Oust: “The Twelve Dice of Christmas”

 

Summer Prescott: “Christmas Reunion Killer”

 

Julie Seedorf:  “The Discombobulated Decipherers”

 

Jane Willan:  “The Hour of Death”

 

Happy Choosing!  🙂

 

 

 

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Author Profile: Jeri Westerson

 

Jeri Westerson is a born and bred California author who likes to write in her home office, in her back yard, when camping, or in a hotel by the pool. “As long as I can plug in my laptop occasionally, that's where I work.”

 

She has worked as a freelance reporter and written award-winning short stories. Jeri has also been nominated for 13 national awards (Agatha and Shamus included) and has been warmly applauded by The Historical Novel Society, The Library Journal, and Suspense Magazine (plus others) for her work in the historical, suspense, and crime fiction arenas.


The author of eleven ‘Crispin Guest Medieval Noir novels, featuring a disgraced knight turned detective in fourteenth century London, Westerson has recently created another series – ‘The Booke of the Hidden Series.’ The six new books star Kylie Strange (the human heroine and owner of the new tea shop in town), Erasmus Dark (a handsome demon), a motley troop of Wiccans, and a dastardly biker gang. Title #1, “Booke of the Hidden,” is a funny, edgy, paranormal romance – set in the fictional small town Moody Bog, Maine.

 

Read my review here  in the "Try Something New This Summer" post. (audiobook now out as well).

The setup? Kylie has just moved into her house, begins renovation, and accidentally releases a demon, Erasmus Dark, centuries old Guardian of the Booke of the Hidden. Kylie must make sure that no other demons are released, while getting the escaped ones back into the Booke. Of course, if that happened in the first entertaining novel, the series would be over. Westerson promises that although the series may get a bit darker as it progresses, the humor will remain, as will the electric/forbidden romance between the lead characters.


Jeri is writing the series keeping this credo in mind: “In a paranormal romance, it’s imperative that one of the protagonists is the paranormal part of the relationship, though sometimes one or both leads discover some sort of paranormal talent they never knew they had.”

 

It takes about nine months for Jeri to complete a novel. This gives her time to research and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, let it stew, and rewrite it yet again. As a rule, she pens two books a year. She once did four, but doesn’t recommend trying to complete all four in a year if you like to sleep. When working with multiple books in the same series, she likes to get at least 30 pages on paper for each during the developmental stage. This method helps her establish and maintain the tone and the direction of the series, “rather than relying on a paragraph of a synopsis.”

 

Challenges that faced her while working on the ‘Booke of the Hidden’ series: “It was certainly different getting used to writing in a new genre, a genre that I've enjoyed reading and watching for years. Trying to think like a 26-year-old woman, and not sounding like a 58-year-old one, was terribly fun.”

 

Most of the authors in the NBR Profiles like to cook, and Jeri is no exception. She makes her own breads and pasta, and also does comfort food like chili. But her favorite recipe is her Oven Fried Chicken.

 

Jeri Westerson’s Oven Fried Chicken

 

1) Take any chicken parts (with skin and bones or without) and marinate in soy sauce for several hours.

 

2) Place the marinated chicken into a bag and shake in a mix of almond meal (or ground up Corn Flakes) with herbs and spices (garlic powder, lemon pepper, Old Bay, onion powder, oregano, pepper, rosemary, dried sage, salt, thyme)

 

3) Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour and fifteen minutes until done.

 

Jeri promises that “they are juicy and flavorful and even better cold for a picnic the next day.”


 

Jeri has appeared on NPR, has served as president of the SoCal Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, as VP for the LA Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and president of the OC Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She revealed that she lives in southern California “with her home-brewing husband, a complacent (licensed) desert tortoise named Harley, and 40,000 bees.”

 

About those bees… she and her husband built a hive for them after the bees destroyed a birdhouse. The bees hang around and provide the occasional jar of honey. Yum!

 

Book #2 in the series, DEADLY RISING, released October 23, 2018. Check it out here.

 

 

Readers can sign up for Jeri’s quarterly ‘Booke of the Hidden’ newsletter at her website BOOKEoftheHIDDEN.com. Go to the bottom of the page and click on the Mail Chimp logo.

 

Happy paranormal reading, everyone!

 

 

 

 

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“43 Missing” by Carmen Amato

 

In “43 Missing,” Detective Emilia Cruz, the first woman detective in Acapulco, has been called in on a federal level case – a search for the missing bodies of 43 male college students who participated in an annual protest rally. After stealing busses from a local bus company, they were stopped by the police, handed over to a drug gang, and never seen again.


Cruz is part of a task force of five law enforcement officers hand-picked by the Attorney General’s office because of their lack of affiliation with any previous inquiries or associations with the families. Their parameters are clear: ‘Don’t gather new evidence or interview the families, but the government wants to confirm or deny the conclusions of the previous investigations and put the matter to rest.’


"43 Missing" is based on an actual 2014 case in Mexico. It garnered quite a bit of international attention and was thought at the time to be gang/drug related. Nobody, not even the Mexican government, disputed that. 


In Amato's fictional account, the families want closure. They know the boys are dead, but they have to find where the bodies were buried. It's been a year and a half and the families feel corruption is getting in the way of the truth. They don't want to point fingers or cast blame because they fear for their lives if they do speak up. In “43 Missing,” several previous investigations conducted by various agencies pointed to inadequate actions by the Mexican government, and nothing was done to either bring anyone to justice or to find the bodies.


Emilia agrees to participate because of the connection to an old, intensely personal case. She may be able to find the person, her own brother, against whom she must exact revenge. So far, she has risked everything – friends, an important relationship, her job; now maybe her life.


What is uncovered in "43 Missing" is astounding. Amato is thoroughly convincing in her version of what might have happened in real life. The two cases of the missing boys and Cruz' search for personal revenge overlap in complex and frightening ways. This is a haunting page-turner.


Amato's books are set in Mexico, with vivid images of the country's landscape and unique architecture, both old and new. She includes descriptions of the meals eaten in street-side cafes and great restaurants, reminding me how much I love Mexican food.


Taut writing ramps up the tension in “43 Missing,” as Amato deals with the issues plaguing any two countries battling the drug trade and human trafficking along their borders. The tragedy of decent members of society caught in the crossfire, stayed with me long after I finished the book. 


In real-life, the 43 bodies have yet to be found.


“43 Missing,” nominated for Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion award, is book #6 in the Detective Emilia Cruz series. Please visit http://carmenamato.net/ for more information about Ms. Amato’s distinguished law enforcement background and the other books in the series.

 

 

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National Book Awards – 2018

 

Selected from these lists of five finalists in each category, the winners were named at the annual National Book Awards ceremony on November 14, 2018. (Indicated in red.) Please click on the book titles to discover more about the books.
 

FICTION

A Lucky Man    Jamel Brinkley

Florida Lauren Groff

Where the Dead Sit Talking   Brandon Hobson

The Great Believers  Rebecca Makkai

The Friend  Sigrid Nunez

 

NONFICTION

The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation    Colin G. Calloway

American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic Victoria Johnson

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth Sarah Smarsh

The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke    Jeffrey C. Stewart

We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights   Adam Winkler

  

YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE

The Poet X   Elizabeth Acevedo

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge  T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle   Leslie Connor

The Journey of Little Charlie   Christopher Paul Curtis

Hey, Kiddo   Jarrett J. Krosoczka

 

 Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!  🙂

 

Click here to browse all of the 2018 National Book Award Finalists.

 

 

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“The Code” and “The Black Ace” by G.B. Joyce

 

“The Code” and “The Black Ace” written by award-winning Canadian sportswriter G. B. Joyce, are set in the world of professional hockey. Former pro hockey player, Brad Shade, worked as an investigator for four years post-hockey, but is now an assessor scout for a hockey team based in the States. He interviews junior league prospects and their families, watches them play, and analyzes why they would or would not fit into the franchise. Millions of dollars are at stake and kids that do well in junior hockey might not have what it takes mentally or physically to make a career of it.
 

 

During a scouting trip, Shade has trouble arranging a meet with one of the prospects. In the course of tracking him down, Shade uncovers some disturbing information, a major coverup seems likely, the prospect’s teammate goes missing, and people wind up dead. And Shade gets a chance to apply his P.I. investigative skills to his present scouting gig.

 

“The Code” shows the underbelly of the junior hockey leagues, highlighting the greed and money to be made. Sadly, in any big money sport with youth being fed into the majors, there are parents that chase the dream without regard for what the kids want. And as G.B. Joyce points out, unless there is a real hunger/enthusiasm for the game (not for the fame or money alone), it’s unlikely that even a talented player will have much staying power.

 

A Canadian TV show, “Private Eyes,” is currently being broadcast in the USA. The show is fun and when I discovered that it was based on Joyce’s books, I picked up “The Code,” and soon after, “The Black Ace.” The similarity between the books and the TV show end with the game of hockey and Shade’s stint as a P.I.  Even our hero’s name has been changed to Matt in the TV show. Both versions are good; Shade’s investigations are dogged in both, but on TV he's a full time P.I. and in “The Code” any investigation is tied to the game and his job as a scout.

 

I love the game of hockey in its purest form, so while there is a mystery to be solved in “The Code,” reading this as a sports book was a distinct pleasure. I saw several episodes of the show before picking up the books, and each brings something new to my understanding of both P.I. work and the game of hockey.
 

 

“The Black Ace” is the second book in this hockey/detective series.

Shade is now the official scouting director for the L.A. team, but still spends a lot of time on the road checking out prospects in the junior leagues. 
 

He learns that former teammate and roommate, Martin Mars, has died and that his death has been classified as a suicide. Shade and "Whisper" played together in a history making, five overtime game. On behalf of the franchise, he and a colleague, Chief, attend the funeral. When Shade and Chief pay their respects, the widow shares her doubts that her husband could have committed suicide and asks Shade to look into it. 
 

Shade can’t say no, but Chief has a bad feeling about the situation. Before long, they are beaten up, jailed, threatened, and no closer to the truth. The mystery is why anybody would care enough about their presence to harass them. Shade is not intimidated, won’t leave town because of his promise to the widow, and the threats blow back on the bad guys. He and Chief do some digging, uncover Mars’ shocking past, as well as a mega bucks deal that may be the reason Mars is dead.
 

Shade had attitude on the ice and his off-ice personality hasn't changed. His view of the world is a tad snarky, but he’s entitled. Shade’s manager blew his millions on a shady real estate deal and Shade’s ACL was shredded by an opponent he never liked. But that snarky veneer shows cracks when faced with a good person who needs help and when guilt for his own actions in the past come skating into the present.
 

As Joyce walks us through the process of choosing the next Wayne Gretzky or Martin Brodeur, we learn what kinds of deals need to be made to protect the players and/or the front office. Both books contain lots of tidbits about the life of a hockey player. Did you know that the players fly first class because the seats are bigger/wider? Most of the players have well developed thighs and shoulders and they simply can’t fit into the seats in economy. And here I thought they were just after the special drinks and snacks only available up front.
 

Shade is a complex character, nicely layered with references to the impact life on the road has on his personal relationships. He’s upfront about the career ending injuries he and other players have sustained and knows full well that he was not a gifted player, just a very smart one with a genuine love of the game.

 

According to the online booksellers, “The Code” and “The Black Ace” are followed by “The Third Man In,” rounding out the Brad Shade series. It’s on my ’to buy’ list.

 

Please visit    https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/authors/14875/gare-joyce   to learn more about G.B. Joyce (Gare Joyce for non-fiction) and his books.

 

 

 

 

 

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McIlvanney Prize: Scotland Crime Book of the Year – 2018

 

Bloody Scotland 2018

 

The Scotland Crime Book of the Year Award, now called The McIlvanney Prize, is given at Bloody Scotland, a premier conference for crime writers. Eligible authors must be born in Scotland, live there, or set their books there. The winner receives 1,000 pounds and the book is promoted for a year by a major bookstore chain in Great Britain. Links to books included. The winner is indicated in red.

 

2018 Finalists

Lin Anderson, “Follow the Dead


Chris Brookmyre, “Places in the Darkness


Charles Cumming, “The Man Between


Liam McIlvanney, “The Quaker

 

Congratulations to all the finalists and to the winner!  🙂

 

Previous winners are noted below:

2017: Denise Mina – “The Long Drop”

2016: Chris Brookmyre – “Black Widow”

2015: Craig Russell – “The Ghosts of Altona”

2014: Peter May – “Entry Island”

 

 

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