Friday, July 27, 2018

Featuring on Friday - Susan Wittig Albert

Let's talk about a couple of Texas authors in the next two weeks.

First: Susan Wittig Albert.

Susan Wittig Albert

I discovered Susan's China Bayles series about 20 years ago? I was a few years new to Texas. My kids were old enough that I was getting back to reading books for adults. I liked mysteries. A coworker recommended the China Bayles Series. Then one day I think I was renewing my library card and the librarian helping me was (tada!) the leader of the Mystery Book Club, Kay. She told me about the book club (I was so excited). I don't know if it was that same visit, but I found out Susan was going to be their guest speaker. (How could I be so lucky). A lot happened in that visit to renew my library card. I am only going to show 1 book cover from each series or a stand alone. You will see why.

"Susan has been a fulltime novelist since she left her career as a university English professor and administrator in 1985. A New York Times bestselling author, her books include biographical fiction (A Wilder Rose) and mystery and historical fiction: the bestselling China Bayles mysteries; The Darling Dahlias; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert. Working together, the Alberts have also written over 60 young adult novels.
Susan's earlier nonfiction work includes Work of Her Own, a study of women who left their careers, and Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul's Story, a guidebook for women memoirists. That book led to the founding of the Story Circle Network in 1997. She has edited two anthologies for the Story Circle Network: With Courage and Common Sense (2004) and What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest (2007).
Susan's most recent nonfiction work includes two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. She serves as a co-editor of StoryCircleBookReviews
Susan says that she "grew up rural" and is proud to claim farming in her family heritage. She continues to live the rural life with Bill in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes, gardens, and raises a varying assortment of barnyard creatures. She has three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren."

Her books:

1.The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries: 26 books (I have read all but the most recent 2)


About the series: 
"China Bayles is the central character in this series of cozy mystery novels. China is an ex-lawyer who now works as a herbalist based out of Pecan Springs, Texas. There, she prefers to live a quieter existence with close friends and family." Each book features a specific herb. There are lots of references to local places which makes it fun to read, if you are familiar with the area.

2. The Darling Dahlias: I have read 6 of the 7 books. There are recipes in each book. Always fun. I tried a few.


About the series:
"New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert takes readers back to a small Southern town in the 1930s, where the ladies of the Darling Dahlias garden club double as Depression-era amateur sleuths." 

3. The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter: There are 8 books in this series. I have not read any of these books. I love the covers though.


About: "The series is based on the life of author/illustrator Beatrix Potter. In 1905, she bought a farm in the Lake District of England and it follows her as she moves away from the big city life to a new life in the country. The series is written for readers of all ages."

4. A Wilder Rose: a stand alone. I did read this. I liked it. I of course, read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was a child. Rose was Laura's mother and actually wrote the books.


About: "Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers." 

The notes have been woven into this story. Very interesting.

5. Loving Eleanor: I have not read this book.


"When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1932 campaign, the two women become deeply involved. Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship documented by 3300 letters.

Set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War, Loving Eleanor reveals Eleanor Roosevelt as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation's First Lady. Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see, celebrating the depth and durability of women's love."

6. The General's Women: I have not read this book, but it looks interesting to me. 


"Set during the chaotic years of World War II, The General's Women tells the story of the conflicted relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, his Irish driver/aide, and the impact of that relationship on Mamie Eisenhower and her life in Washington during the war. Told from three alternating points of view (Kay's, Ike's, and Mamie's), the novel charts the deepening of the relationship as Ike and Kay move from England (1942) to North Africa (1942-43) to England, France, and Germany before and after the Normandy landing (1944-45). At the end of the war, Ike is faced with the heart-wrenching choice between marrying Kay and a political future." 

7. Non fiction: Susan has written several non fiction books also as mentioned above:

Work of Her Own, a study of women who left their careers, and Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul's Story, a guidebook for women memoirists. That book led to the founding of the Story Circle Network in 1997. She has edited two anthologies for the Story Circle Network: With Courage and Common Sense (2004) and What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest (2007).
Susan's most recent nonfiction work includes two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place

As I recall, when Susan spoke to the Mystery Book Club, she also wrote for the Nancy Drew stories many, many years ago and for magazines when they had weekly serial installments. 

I have like all of the books I have read by Susan Wittig Albert. There is a lot to choose from.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Featuring on Friday - Barbara Venkataraman

Happy Friday! Boy is it hot here. Good weekend to stay in and read. :)

I shared the book Engaged in Danger by Barbara Venkataraman this week, so thought I would tell you more about her and all of the books she writes.

About Barbara: 

"Award-winning author Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law. Her works include: "The Fight for Magicallus", a children's fantasy; "If you'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place", a humorous short story; and three books of humorous essays: "I'm Not Talking about You, Of Course," "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities," and "A Smidge of Crazy", from her series, "Quirky Essays for Quirky People. Two of her books of humorous essays won the "Indie Book of the Day" award. "Engaged in Danger" was chosen as Book of the Day by and won first place in the Amateur Detective category of the Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition. Her popular Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery Series includes: "Death by Didgeridoo," "The Case of the Killer Divorce," "Peril in the Park," "Engaged in Danger" and "Jeopardy in July", the fifth Jamie Quinn mystery! "

Jamie Quinn series: As the blurb says, there are five books in the series. It is a cozy mystery series set in Hollywood Florida. Jamie is a "reluctant attorney" specializing in divorce. She is often trying to decide exactly what she wants to do. I like how the books follow Jamie in a regular day to day routine, interacting with peers, family and friends. Something always happens though and she gets involved in two different situations, that may or may not cross paths. There is also humor sprinkled throughout the books.

Books 1-3: Death by Didgeridoo, Death by Divorce and Peril in the Park are available as a "box" set in paperback, Kindle and Audible.
Book 4: Engaged in Danger
Book 5: Jeopardy in July - (currently listening)


Barbara has also written several non mystery, humorous books.


Quirky Essays for Quirky People includes two book; "A Trip to the Hardware Story and Other Calamities" and "I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course". 

About: A Trip to the Hardware Store"
"These humorous essays explore such quirky topics as: disastrous home repairs, ("A Trip to the Hardware Store"), an unfortunate dinner party ("Dinner is Served"), the truth about lazy people ("Lazy Bones"), the weird life of a debt collector ("Your Account is Past Due") and obsessions with gadgets ("Gadget Girl"). Other essays examine how surreal the aging process is ("Where Did the Time Go?"), why you shouldn't judge a person by their job ("Beyond Belief"), and how to complicate simple transactions ("High Finance").
"I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course"
A collection of humorous insights into important topics ranging from annoying pet people ("I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course"), to analyzing your inner child ("Irrational Fears"), to living like the Amish in the aftermath of a hurricane ("A Jolt of Electricity"). Other essays examine just how much damage can be caused by a sneeze ("It All Started with a Loud Sneeze"), why it is so complicated to buy a tube of toothpaste ("Ask Me No Questions"), how a parent's obsessive hobbies can become an inescapable vortex ("Crazy Hobbies"), and why spending the night in a sleep clinic is like being abducted by probing aliens ("Nightmare at the Sleep Clinic"). "

Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person
About:  "Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person is here and she has the answers to all of the questions you never thought to ask. As a dedicated and serious grammarian, she will do what it takes to be entertaining and enlightening, but never vulgar or coarse. Heavens, no! Where are her smelling salts? Warm and witty, Mrs. G.P. makes grammar interesting with rhyming, wishful thinking, story-telling and a champagne toast. You are cordially invited to join her for a spot of tea."
I read and reviewed this in April 2017. I really enjoyed it.


If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place...
About: "Meet Ella Boudreaux, a self-confessed nag. By no means -- as Ella herself insisted -- is she a negative person. Persistent might be a better word; she is the kind of person you'd ask
for directions if you were lost, or provides you with a long chat while waiting
in line at the grocery store.

"Nobody, and I mean nobody, can nag like I can." Written from a first person point of view, protagonist Ella Boudreaux immediately establishes her unique skill set.

And where has it gotten her? Nowhere, that's where.

She can't hold onto a job and she can't find her true calling, but she knows it's out there. Could a handsome stranger help her find her destiny? Or maybe he was her destiny."

I read and reviewed this also in April and enjoyed it also. It is a short story.

Barbara's most recent set of humorous insights is A Smidge of Crazy.

A Smidge of Crazy

About: A collection of humorous insights into important topics ranging from being targeted by annoying ads ("Nowhere to Hide"), to resorting to symbols when you've forgotten your words ("At a Loss for Words"), to figuring out what door that extra key opens ("My Extra Key"). Other essays examine how sitting is the new smoking (whatever that means), and why it is just so hard to focus when you have the attention span of a gnat." 
This is queued up in my TBR list.

Last but not least is a children's fantasy: The Fight for Magicallus.


About: "While experimenting with a magic wand, two young brothers are pulled into a computer game called: The Fight for Magicallus. In the land of Magicallus, they encounter goblins and knights who are on the brink of war because their ruler has mysteriously disappeared, and the knights blame the goblins! The boys learn of a frightening prophecy that foretells the end of Magicallus. They must find an ancient book hidden in a dragon’s lair before the prophecy comes to pass and they are all destroyed...

Can the boys find their way home? Will the knights and goblins go to war? Or will the dragon destroy them all? With both humor and suspense, this story pulls you in and doesn't let go."

Quite versatile! I haven't read all of Barbara's books but I have read several and really liked them all.
If you want a new cozy series, I recommend Jamie Quinn. If you need a laugh, check out her humorous books. Like fantasy or have children who like fantasy - The Fight for Magicullus looks good and has great reviews.

I hope you will check out Barbara's books. They can be found on Amazon and Goodreads. Her blog is A Trip to the Mobius Strip found at


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Engaged in Danger by Barbara Venkataraman

I listened to the 4th Jamie Quinn mystery last week.  Engaged in Danger by Barbara Venkataraman.

Thanks to Barbara, this was my introduction to audible books!


"Finally, life is good for reluctant family law attorney, Jamie Quinn--her father may get his visa soon, her boyfriend is the bomb, and her law practice is growing like crazy--but when she agrees to take on a high-profile divorce case, everything falls apart. What looked like an opportunity to work with her friend Grace and make some serious bucks has turned into a deadly game, one that could destroy their friendship and tear their town apart. Why couldn't Jamie just leave well enough alone? "

My thoughts:
While the Jamie Quinn series is a cozy, there is nothing cozy about the story.  Jamie receives threats to cease and desist with the divorce case. Why is the soon to be ex so hostile about it? Then there are Jamie's neighbors Mike and Sandy. Sandy's sister and brother in law were killed in a plane crash and have adopted their daughter, Katie. There are some unanswered questions about the plane crash.  Jamie's boyfriend Kip has left for Australia for work for two months, and now Grace, Jamie's best friend won't talk to her. Surrounding all of that, there is computer hacking, kidnapping, unsavory characters and possible money laundering. Whew.

The series takes place in Hollywood Florida. I lived in south west Florida for several years so it is fun for me to read about places I recognize. I had not listened to an "audible" book before. Years ago, I listened to a book on tape but I think the tape broke or something and never finished it. I resisted "audible" books as I did e books. I like the real thing. But then I received a Nook as a gift and I love it. Now I received an "audible" and guess what I discovered? I can enjoy more than one book at a time! I can listen to one book while I do things around the house or listen at work if I have some slow time. Most of you probably already know that. :) Yay for me! Thanks Barbara.

It's a really good book. Fast paced and unpredictable.

On to book 5!

I received a free book and voluntarily provided this review.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Our July Mystery Book Club selection was Before the Fall by Noah Hawley.

You may recognize Noah Hawley as a screenwriter, and producer. He has published four novels and penned the script for the feature film Lies and Alibis. He created, executive produced, and served as showrunner for ABC's My Generation and The Unusuals and was a writer and producer on the hit series Bones. Hawley is currently executive producer, writer, and showrunner on FX's award-winning series, Fargo.


What it's about: 

"On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

Was it by chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something more sinister at work? A storm of media attention brings Scott fame that quickly morphs into notoriety and accusations, and he scrambles to salvage truth from the wreckage. Amid trauma and chaos, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy grows and glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, morality, and the inextricable ties that bind us together."

What we thought (the book club members that is): Everyone finished it and all liked it. Some more than others. Everyone liked the story; easy to read, quick read, and draws you in. The story was told in a bit of a different way. The main event happens at the beginning, then each character's story is told separately as they are gradually woven together. Several of the characters are not very likeable. Several of the characters are very likeable. But I think that shows good writing - if the author can cause some emotion toward a character whether positive or negative. 

The book was nominated for a McCavity Award in 2017 for Best Novel. It did win ITW (International Thriller Writers) Thriller Award for Best Hard Cover Novel in 2017 and an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2017.

Everyone agreed they would recommend it. Let me know what you thought about the ending...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Featuring on Friday - Virginia King

This Friday, I am featuring another Australian author, Virginia King. Virginia writes the Selkie Moon series. 

I first "met" Virginia and Selkie through a read and review opportunity and have read all of the series since. I have also really loved being part of Selkie's Circle. (see at the end of this post).

About Virginia: 

"When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series, what’s a writer to do? That’s how I came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. I sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up -- a modern woman with a mythical name. Soon I was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded my life, I'd been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days I live in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with my husband, where I disappear each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

You can read about how the series evolved here: here:, taking on a life of its own through several versions, guided by readers and editors and agents and publishers. The First Lie has won a BRAG Medallion and the series is now a trilogy + prequel."

The first thing that attracted me to the series was "selkie". One of my favorite movies I watched with my kids was The Secret of Roan Innish which was about a selkie. 

From Wiki: Selkies (also spelt silkies, sylkies, selchies) or Selkie folk (Scots: selkie fowk) meaning "Seal Folk"[a] are mythological beings capable of therianthropy, changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin. 

The series is set in current time but Virginia used mythology and folklore in each of the books. And there are some really interesting characters! 

There are four books in the Selkie Moon series. Each book is set in a different country. (Virginia is working on the fifth in the series.)

Laying Ghosts is the prequel to the series.

The First Lie (Selkie Moon Mystery #1)


The Second Path (Selkie Moon Mystery #2)


The Third Note (Selkie Moon Mystery #3)

Virginia also wrote a book called Leaving Birds which is a " collection of creepy folktales with adult themes." Really good.


You can get a free copy of Laying Ghosts at

If you like the series, Virginia has a fun Facebook group called Selkie's Circle,  where she shares folklore, funny cartoons and quips and gets fans opinions for her works in progress. 

I am so looking forward to book five!