The Monday Book Blog

Hidden Body 4I’m not here—I wrote this last week. (Hey, a gal has to take time off once in a while.) Actually, other than a few days over the 4th of July, oh, and family visiting the end of July, I’ll be at Camp NaNoWriMo. (That’s a fictional camp, quite proper for one who writes fiction.) I hope to finish writing a short story (that may become a novella if I don’t watch out). I call it Hidden Body, and my big plans are to include it in a book of short stories called—ta da— Hidden Body and Other Short Stories. I even made up a cover. This may not be the cover I eventually use. But, would you buy a book that looked like that? Let’s say, would you download a free book that looked like that? (I hope to make it free.)

My second project for the month is to complete editing Forgotten Body.

Five Stars For Mr. Monk

I loved the TV show—now long gone. It ran from 2002 through 2009. The books with original stories by Lee Goldberg kept on going after the Monk show ran its course. Then Lee Goldberg stopped writing them after quite a few, and Hy Conrad took over. I may have just read the final book of the series, since Mr. Conrad’s fourth book, Mr. Monk and The New Lieutenant, is his last one. He hopes someone else will continue, but when that one was published this year (2015) no one had yet stepped up.

So, here are my reviews of two of my favorite books—Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg, and Mr. Monk and The New Lieutenant by Hy Conrad.

6-29 Mr Monk 1

6-29 Mr Monk 2










My five-star review of the first was short: “I was a big fan of the Monk TV series, and I’m a big fan of Lee Goldberg’s Monk mystery series. This book is a neat combination of Monk, his phobias, and up-to-the-minute current events! And you can just guess Monk’s thoughts about that dog with those irregular markings.”

I’ve just finished reading the second book, and it deserves five stars as well. “Mr. Monk does not like Captain Stottlemeyer’s new lieutenant. He’s new, for one thing. (Of course, the feeling is mutual.) However, he and Natalie try their best. They now have their own detective agency with little business. Natalie takes on a divorce case (without Mr. Monk’s knowledge, and definitely against his approval). Then there’s the murder case that wasn’t—until Monk declared at a man’s funeral that he had been murdered. Now they are trying to save the Captain with the same symptoms while tracking down a missing client. Monk convinces Randy Disher to return. With all this going on, it isn’t only Monk’s OCD that confuses everyone. This time Stottlemeyer’s life depends on Monk’s success.”

Both authors worked on the Monk TV show. Lee Goldberg contributed to some shows and worked on different series as well. Hy Conrad was with the Monk show the whole time. Both authors give the reader the authentic “Monk” voice. Goldberg tends to give him more problems with his multiple phobias and personality disorders. Conrad, writing the stories as Monk begins to improve (slightly) still shows them, but they are possibly a bit more muted. (One reader’s opinion here.) Both authors present a humorous as well as nicely convoluted suspenseful story.

I do hope this isn’t the last Monk story.

Five Stars For Scout And Ant Farm

Okay, that title is confusing, right? Totally does not make sense.

6-22 Ant Farm coverLet’s start over. My five-star book today is Ant Farm, a mystery that was, only this past week, published by the Kindle Scout program. The Scout program is rather new to Amazon. It’s a win-win for both writers and readers. The writer who enters his or her book submits a complete manuscript and a cover design. The books accepted into the program are then presented to the voting/reading public with the cover illustration and the novel beginning. Both Amazon and the author then await the voting, or, as they call it, the nominations.

Voting, you ask? What is this? Who votes? Or, nominations? How and why?

That’s where the reader comes in. You read the offerings in a variety of categories. Let’s say that you find one beginning that makes you say to yourself, “Oh, I’d love to read that book!” Just click the link to nominate the book. (That’s the voting.) Then sit back and wait for the best part—the e-mail from Amazon telling you if the book has been chosen for publication. If it has? You get an advance copy of the e-book, all for free. Of course, they hope you’ll review it.

The win for the author? Publication with an advance, a contract, and more authority than self-publication. For, after all, Amazon hopes to come out ahead as well.

I’ve nominated four books so far. The first didn’t make it. The second was Ant Farm. I received my copy long enough before the official publication to allow me to read the book. Loved it. This is what I had to say about it:

“This is a Kindle Scout book, and, as one who voted for it, I got a free copy before publication. And, I’m sooo glad. This is a thriller, but, I’d say, also a more traditional mystery, as it is a puzzle as well. The puzzle part is the plot, as nuanced and devious as any reader could hope for. The thriller part is the impending danger involved for the hero, his son, and assorted other characters (not to mention the victims). The characters are a mix of likable and some you really hope see their comeuppance. Of course, first impressions can be deceiving. Another thing—the surprises never stop! (Be warned.)”

I’ve nominated two other books as well. The third was accepted, so I’m waiting for that free book. The fourth is still awaiting the end of the 30-day nominating period. (A reader is allowed a total of three books at a time, so I can go back to look for two more.) This is the link to the Kindle Scout program for both readers and writers. And, in case you want to read this five-star book, here’s the link for Ant Farm.



A Summer in Europe

A Summer in Europe

It’s been three years since I read this book, but I remember it fondly, so obviously, it was memorable. At the time I reviewed it this way:

“This is a simple story told in a wonderful and complex style. It’s long, but there isn’t an extra word anywhere. The author, Marilyn Brant, leads the reader in a journey through Europe with Gwendolyn Reese and a group of American and British tourists. You know how you see description of tourist spots and your eyes tend to jump, or glaze over? NOT in this book, because each description is so ingrained with emotions that the very street (or canal) becomes an integral piece of the story. Now, that’s writing talent! At the bottom, it’s a romance, but also a ‘coming-of-age’ (at thirty!). And definitely a story of adventure, mystery, every-day-life, age differences—but that’s what I brought to it. Maybe you will bring something else.”

Okay, I loved this book. And so did almost all of those who reviewed it on Goodreads.

One of my favorite reviews starts this way: “Oh this book is like sitting in the sun in the middle of a Roman piazza while eating a big scoop of gelato. It’s lovely and something to be savored. Just about the only thing I didn’t like about this book is that Gwen got to go to Europe for a month and I didn’t. Yeah, I’m pretty jealous of this fictional character!”

I discovered this reviewer is Meg and she’s a book blogger. I had to look up her blog. It’s one I want to follow.

Another review by Meredeth (another book blogger) starts this way: a”*yawns and stretches* Sorry, please excuse my sleepiness, I’ve just returned from a fantastic sojourn in Europe and I’m just a teensy bit jet-lagged…

“During the summer she turns thirty, Gwendolyn Reese – an unsophisticated and inhibited middle school math teacher that passionately loves listening to musical soundtracks – expects to be trying on wedding dresses, picking out flowers, and planning a wedding with her boyfriend of two years. But instead she is being shanghaied by her aunt’s S & M Club (S for Sudoku, M for Mahjongg – had you shocked there for a moment, didn’t I?) to travel on their five week tour of Europe.”
That’s two blogs I want to follow. Perhaps you will too.


Anteater coverNow, you have to admit—The Anteater of Death is an unusual name for a mystery story. Okay—crazy! But I truly like it. It’s got a lot going for it.

A. The name attracts attention. (Always good.)

B. The story lives up to the title. (Also good.)

C. The anteater (in a zoo, thankfully) is not only a suspect in murder, but has a devoted advocate in the heroine of the story—Teddy, the amateur detective.

This was how I put it a couple of months ago when I read The Anteater of Death:

The plot is full of unexpected twists, the characters are mostly known to eah other (for generations) and quite individual. The suspense is right up there, along with enough humor to fit the title. But there is also suspense to keep the reader on the edge of her (or his) seat. The book starts and ends with a chapter in the anteater’s viewpoint—quite a bit different than a human viewpoint. In between it’s Teddy’s story. She’s related to the wealthy zoo donors and working at the zoo. And yes, there is death. Great story for those looking for the unusual subject. Spiced with zoo and animal information.

Right now the Kindle ebook is $.99. Betty Webb is the author. She has two other zoo books, and a desert series of mysteries.

New Writers’ New Book

5-25-5th grade coverI’m one of the retirees who have been helping ten fifth graders who want to write. (When other kids see us passing through the school halls, they ask, “Are you the grandmas?” Yep, that would be us.) This week we will deliver their finished book. They will each get two copies—one to keep and one to give away to a favorite person. (Or, two to keep—their choice.)

All of the children wrote one, or more stories, we edited them, made suggestions, they learned that writing is also rewriting. Some illustrated their stories. One created the cover. One boy was definitely writing a book, but he managed to make a story out of the first two chapters. One of the girls seems destined to take Steven King’s place, but since she was also prolific, we encouraged one of her sweet stories.

They accomplished quite a bit in a half hour a week, especially since 5-25 5th grade kidsthere were several late days for snow that seemed to always happen on our Tuesday morning at the school. They did their writing on a computer easily using a hunt-and-peck system they had each worked out for themselves. (Although it was easy to transfer their work, I really do think it might be better to teach typing skills before using the keyboard. But I’m definitely of the old school—learned how to type in high school on a manual typewriter.)

But, enough of that. I enjoyed working with the kids. I’ve got to say, at least one inner city school is giving the children lots of choice in their education, for we could not have done this without some cooperation from the overworked teachers.

A Five Star Read-Under Any Title

Original Cover

Original Cover

The book is the first of the Persephone Cole Vintage Mystery Series taking place in the early 1940s. The author is Heather Haven. I read this mystery a couple of years ago. Was it called Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse (the original title) or The Dagger Before Me? I don’t remember. Was the cover the original one (pictured left) or the new one? Think it was the original, but, I read the book on my Kindle, so I’m not sure.

As I remember the story, I like the first cover the best. Persephone (Percy for short) is big and beautiful—extra large size. She’s a single mother, living with the extended family (space was a problem) and helping her father in his detective business. She’s determined to succeed at her first solo case. It’s in the theater, which is an added complication—since she doesn’t know that much about theater. But, she’s a good faker (she hopes). And so does the reader—pulling for Percy with every page.

There are so many great reviews of this title, I’d like to quote from a couple of them:

Second Cover

Second Cover

Percy is certainly not the stereotypical mother of the 1940s. She’s a tough woman with an attitude big enough to match her 5’11” frame. She possesses a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. I love the way she handles people, men in particular, who doubt her abilities as a detective. Though she can be brash at times, Percy also knows how to turn on the charm when she needs to. I can just as easily picture her buttering up a potential witness with free food or roughing up a hostile one.

Here’s what another reviewer had to say:

I found Percy engaging. I liked her moxie. Not exactly feminine, people “often remarked that between her wild hair, thin body, and daffy personality, she reminded them of a Dandelion caught in a windstorm.” (I like that word-picture.) Percy does things like: “she popped a nut into her mouth and separated the meat from the shell with her teeth.” Haven offers delightful and “punny” prose: “What color the interior was supposed to be was difficult to say. I’m going with drab.” Or how about this one—when Percy looks up at a man, we read: “It was novel, looking up to someone not standing on a stepladder.”

And here’s my review:  Persephone Cole (Percy for short) is a female detective in early 1940s New York during World War II. There’s great historic atmosphere (sweaty because it’s a non-air-conditioned heat spell) dealing with strange accidents in the theater district. She detects undercover as a manager who doesn’t really know that much about managing, but she’s right up there with detecting, including gun-handling. The nicely convoluted plot kept me guessing, and the ending was wholly satisfying. Definitely recommended for readers of historic mystery (with sassy women).

I’m wondering, why the title and cover change? I understand an author wishing to present the best face to her readers. And, since I do love this series, I hope it was a good choice. But I have to ask, which cover and which title do you like?


Does My Book Need a Vocabulary List?

5-14 Paper and penOkay, that’s a question I seldom ask myself. I write mystery (mostly) taking place in the current time, and in the country where my books are sold. I don’t have any characters speaking a foreign language.

Other books, often ones I read, are set in past centuries or other countries. They might have a list of names, or words that are unfamiliar. That’s handy. There are other instances that necessitate word lists—often involving unusual occupations, or even hobbies. But cozy, or almost cozy mysteries? Most readers know enough of the words used to describe recipes, needlework, antiques, pets, and the various occupations of our favorite amateur sleuths.

Now, back to my question. One of my mysteries involves boating. The following is a paragraph that may have non-boaters thinking I must have missed a few grammar lessons in elementary school.

“The coiled anchor rode smelled musty, even though it was 5-14 anchorcompletely dry. Little colored plastic tags lay, woven into the fiber to measure off the feet as the line payed out. Would I have to remove all that line to see if there was anything underneath? Not tonight. Too much trouble. I flashed around the interior one last time. There was a small piece of paper stuck low, under a few coils of the rope. I pulled it out.”

Did I misspell something? I checked a boating site from the Great Lakes. This is a sentence describing how to anchor a boat. “When all the rode has been payed out, gently back down on the anchor to set it in the bottom.”

RODE – anchor chain or line (rope) that attaches the anchor to the boat

TO PAY OUT, or PAYED OUT – to allow the rode to uncoil and leave the anchor locker so the anchor is lowered

Or, is that just too much? Personally, I think so. I don’t mind reading a book with a few things I have to infer from context. What do you think?

Book Party for THE CLIENT’S WIFE

cover-The Clients Wife2Yes, I went to a book party last week, and I tell you—Thomas Wiggin knows how to party. Big room with chairs set up—check. A showing of a full movie—check. Cookies and popcorn—check. Adult beverages—yeah! Coffee and tea, sure—but choice of wine as well as martinis, both gin and vodka—check! And, icing on the cake—the reading of a scene by the author who made it come alive. (After all, he had a long stint as a starring actor of both daytime and nighttime TV—not to mention writing episodes of the daytime drama, then performing a one-man show he wrote.)

Of course, that’s beside the point. The important part of a book party author signing 2is the book. And, getting a new slant on the where, why, and how of the author’s inspiration and carry-through of that book.

Thomas Wiggin was inspired by his parents, the Gershwin music they loved, and the Nick and Nora Charles movies of the 1930s. So how did those things all come together?

Mr. Wiggin had an answer for that. In those old movies, Nick and Nora had a son, Nick, Jr. What we didn’t know is that Nick, Jr. was not into the detective scene, but his daughter Emma was. Yes, Emma Charles spent time with her grandparents. She learned to love Gershwin, investigations, and martinis. As the book, The Client’s Wife begins, Emma has left her job with the police department and has begun her own detective agency. All she needs is to find a man who appreciates the finer things of life. Gershwin, good English, and the kind of relationship her grandparents had. (All this, of course, while solving crime cases.)

I’ve only started reading my new, signed copy of The Client’s Wife. It’s heading toward my five-star category.


Agatha Winners

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hank Phillippi Ryan

For writers of cozy, or almost cozy mysteries (think Agatha Christie), Malice Domestic is the conference to interact with their readers. Of course, the Agatha award—a teapot—is coveted. I was there in spirit only. Naturally, I awaited the final word from Saturday night’s award banquet. And, I wanted to see how my picks fared.

Since I mentioned all short story authors, I can claim a victory for that! (Art Taylor won.) I scored again with my write-up of Writes of Passage. It won for best non-fiction. I’m wondering, since I was one of those who contributed an essay, can I claim one sixtieth of an Agatha? (Good question.) The editor who did claim the teapot, Hank Phillippi Ryan, also won for best contemporary novel. Another of my favorite authors, Rhys Bowen, won for best historical novel.

This is the official line-up of Agatha winners:

Best children’s / YA: Code Buster’s Club, Cast #4 by Penny Warner
Best short story: The Odds Are Against Us, by Art Taylor
Best nonfiction: Writes of Passage, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan with Elaine Will Sparber
Best first novel: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran
Best historical novel: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen
Best contemporary novel: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan
In addition, Cynthia Kuhn won the Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers.