Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Reviews by Brookins and Tooley

I have new book reviews for you today, one by Carl Brookins and two by S.D. Tooley. We'll start off with Carl's review of NOVEMBER HUNT by Jess Lourey.

November Hunt
By Jess Lourey
ISBN: 978-07387-3136-0
A 2012 269 page TP release
Midnight Ink Books

The eleventh novel in her Murder By The Month series brings sometime librarian-cum-private investigator Mira James squarely up against some respected town leaders. Mira is angling to become a licensed P.I. and needs many hours of supervised investigation in order to qualify. Given that her account in the local Battle Lake bank is flatter than the pancakes served at the local eatery, she has two powerful motives to take on the investigation of a local philanthropist and business man’s murder by his long time buddy.

November in Minnesota can be cold. Not only does the weather provide impediments, so do many of the town’s citizens, but Mira perseveres against bone-cracking cold and icy stares.  The author is a good writer and the story is enhanced with clever characters, and a lot of tongue-in-cheek dialogue.

The series is known for the self-deprecating insouciance of the main character and her slightly twisted outlook on life. The danger of this kind of approach is in going over the cliff. Sometimes the impact of a really powerfully crafted scene can be lessened by the odd verbal swipe.  The plot is well designed, and while there are few large surprises, the author spins this tale tightly and nicely to its conclusion with the aid of several interesting and amusing characters. This edition contains a series of discussion questions which can be useful to book clubs.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I note that the author and I are long-time acquaintances.

Carl Brookins
Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

A Cold Dish
By Craig Johnson
Penguin Books, March, 2006 and May, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0143123170

Walt Longmire is the sheriff in Wyoming’s Absaroka County, an area that appears to have more horses and pigs than people.  When a body is found in the mountains, Walt realizes the deceased was one of the young men who had assaulted a Cheyenne girl two years earlier. It is possible someone is seeking retribution for the crime. Walt relies on his friend, Henry Standing Bear, in addition to a couple deputies, the retired sheriff, and Ruby his dispatcher. Deputy Victoria Moretti is over-qualified for the job and Walt is waiting for the FBI or some big city to lure her away. Vic has the ballistics training and investigative skill Absaroka County sorely needs and Walt would like to groom her to take his job. He is recovering from the loss of his wife several years ago and still lives in their house, a cabin in desperate need of completion. More bodies pile up and by the looks of the antique weapon used, Walt starts to look at even more suspects, one of which could be his friend, Henry. Vic is one of the more interesting characters, possessing the skill and “take no prisoners” attitude of Carol O’Connell’s Kathy Mallory yet with the foul mouth of Dexter’s sister, Debra Morgan. Humor and mystery abound making for a refreshing change from mysteries set in big city precincts.  This is one series I will continue to follow.

S.D. Tooley
Author of the Sam Casey series and the Chase Dagger series

(Note from Mary: This is the first book in the Walt Longmire series.   This great series -- I love it as much as S. D. Tooley does! -- has been made into a TV series that keeps true to the characters as written by Johnson.)

Supernatural Born Killers (#9 in the Pepper Martin series)
By Casey Daniels
Berkley, Sept. 4, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0425251522

There are a lot of changes in Pepper’s life.  She has a new job and more responsibilities at the Garden View Cemetery.  As the detective to the dead, she is still finding it a challenge to convince Detective Quinn Harrison that she talks to ghosts.  With all these added tasks, Pepper needs help.  And who better to help a ghostbuster than ghosts.  Three such ghosts are more than happy to help with the newsletter, her budget, and secretarial duties.  Course, they want something in exchange.  Easy tasks for someone of Pepper’s stature.  Since the cemetery needs donors, Pepper is encouraged to cozy up to millionaire Milo Blackburne, a Superman fanatic who thinks Pepper is Superman’s long lost love, Lana.  New to the cast of characters are Pepper’s parents.  Pops has just been released from prison and her mother has devised a great family business…a detective agency.  Meanwhile a ghost who just happens to be Quinn’s former partner warns Pepper that someone is going to die at the comic book convention.  This series is always fun and Pepper is a stitch.  There may be a change in Pepper’s life, and I for one welcome it.  Another hit in an enjoyable series.

S.D. Tooley
Author of the Sam Casey series and the Chase Dagger series


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas, everyone! Just dropping by to share with you my favorite Christmas cookie recipe. Try it! You'll like it!

Christmas Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequilla
Sample the Cuervo to check quality.
Take a large bowl, check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
Turn on the electric mixer...Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add one teaspoon of sugar...Beat again.
At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still OK, try another cup...just in  case.
Turn off the mixerer thingy.
Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick the frigging fruit off floor...
Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry i! t loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.
Next, sift two cups of salt, or something.  Who giveshz a sheet.
Check the Jose Cuervo.
Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one table.
Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
Don't forget to beat off the turner.
Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Four Favorite Christmas Books

With Christmas only two weeks away, I thought I'd share with you my take on four currently available books that celebrate the holiday season in vastly different ways. 

 Fans of Jan Karon's Mitford series may recognize the work of Miss Read (the pen name of retired English schoolteacher Dora Saint). Miss Read's gentle stories of life in rural England filled 30 books over a period of 40 years. The 174 page CHRISTMAS TALES contains two novellas, Village Christmas  and The Christmas Mouse. Village Christmas tells the story of the elderly Waters sisters and their initial difficulty accepting the Emery family as new neighbors in the little village of Fairacre. The two households are brought together in an unexpected way, though, on Christmas Day, changing forever the lives of both the Waters sisters and the Emerys. Mrs. Berry of Caxley village faces her own holiday dilemma in The Christmas Mouse when she awakes on Christmas Eve to find two intruders in her home. The first is a mouse. The second is a runaway boy. Both have come seeking refuge from a winter storm, and both are dealt with by Mrs. Berry in the true spirit of the holiday season. For heart warming stories of Christmas good will, I highly recommend Miss Read's CHRISTMAS TALES.

 David Morrell's thrillers have been winning over fans since 1972 when FIRST BLOOD, his first Rambo novel, was released. In THE SPY WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS, Morrell once again tackles the gritty side of life, this time on Christmas Eve in the festive city of Santa Fe. A wounded Agent Paul Kagan blows his cover with the Russian mafia to save the life of an infant who may one day bring peace to his troubled homeland. With only the falling snow to cover his tracks, Kagan has little hope of escaping his pursuers -- until he stumbles into the home of an abused woman and her young son whose combined courage is equal to his own strength of purpose. This is a different kind of Christmas tale, one that echoes later scenes from the original Christmas story while also drawing on the eternal theme of redemption and self-sacrifice. Only a storyteller as accomplished as Morrell could blend past with present to create a bone-chilling yet heart-warming story like the one presented here. Well worth reading.

For those who prefer fantasy over spy stories or tales from the English countryside for their Christmas reading pleasure, I highly recommend Terry Pratchett's HOGFATHER. Pratchett's Discworld series has sold in the millions all over the world, making him one of England's bestselling authors of fantasy and satire. The Hogfather is Discworld's version of Santa Claus, and when he goes missing on Hogswatchnight, it's up to Death, in all his bony weirdness, to fill in as the red-suited, white-bearded, sleigh-driving giver of gifts to children. Death (WHO SPEAKS ONLY IN CAPITAL LETTERS) is aided by his manservant Albert, a former wizard who gained near immortality ("near" because he still has 34 seconds of life left in his hourglass life-timer, although the sand doesn't flow as long as he stays put in Death's domain) while Archchancellor of the city of Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University. It's Albert's job to teach Death how to "ho, ho, ho" in a way that doesn't frighten the pants off the little kiddies of the world. Other characters include Susan Sto-Helit, Death's granddaughter (don't ask how this can be; just read the book!); Mister Teatime of the Guild of Assassins (a bad guy, for sure); Ridcully, current Archchancellor of UU whose only Hogswatch wish is for his own personal bathroom (he hates sharing with other wizards); Ponder Stibbons, a young wizard whose greatest triumph has been engineering the building of HEX, a "thinking" machine (think computer); and Foul Ole Ron, Coffin Henry, and the Duck Man, three of Ankh-Morpork more colorful beggars (who are even too poor to belong to the Beggars Guild). And one mustn't forget the Auditors, a ghostly gray group of beings who despise individuality and are at the heart of the mystery surrounding the Hogfather's disappearance. This is a story of the power of belief and what happens to people when beliefs (some will call them myths) are derided as irrational and implausible fantasies. Pratchett has fun with his Discworld, but he's not at all adverse to pointing out mankind's failings while doing so. As Death said when the king gave the beggars a banquet on Hogswatchnight, "DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL ALL WARM INSIDE? WHERE WERE YOU ALL THE OTHER NIGHTS OF THE YEAR?" Oh yeah, Pratchett will nudge your conscience even while he's tickling your funnybone. If you think you can take it, read the book. :)

Lastly, may I present A MERRY LITTLE MURDER, the first book in my "Rhodes to Murder" mystery series newly released this month as a mass market paperback by Worldwide, a division of Harlequin. 

ER nurse Caroline Rhodes becomes a suspect in a case of multiple murder when she survives a bombing on the psychiatric ward at St. Anne's Hospital. Who could be so evil as to use the trimmings of Christmas to kill six patients and a young student nurse? And why do the police automatically view Caroline with suspicion? Is it something in her past that's drawn their attention, or is it just because she's a newcomer to the little university town of Rhineburg, Illinois? Caroline enlists the help of Professor Carl Atwater to dig into the lives of the seven victims and help her clear her name. What they discover is a tale of scandal and greed rooted in an unholy alliance made many years before. 

Caroline may have dug up proof of the killer's identity, but with the murderer hard on her heels, surviving long enough to expose the truth may take a Christmas miracle.

As you'll notice, there are two covers shown here for A MERRY LITTLE MURDER. The cover pictured above belongs to the Worldwide edition of the book. The cover to the left belongs to the earlier trade paperback and e-book edition.

To learn how I discovered the perfect weapon to use in A MERRY LITTLE MURDER, plus find information on ordering the Worldwide edition of the book, please visit Harlequin's Reader Service webpage at

To order the e-book or trade paperback edition of the book, please visit



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Went Fishing, Caught 4 Deer

My brother-in-law sent me this awesome story. I'm reprinting it here because I'm sure you'll love it as much as I did.

The Best Day Of Fishing Ever! 

Tom Satre told the Sitka Gazette that he was out with a charter group on his 62-foot fishing vessel when four juvenile black-tailed deer swam directly toward his boat.

"Once the deer reached the boat, the four began to circle
the boat, looking directly at us. We could tell right away that
the young bucks were distressed. I opened up my back gate and we helped the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals onto the boat. In all my years fishing, I've never seen anything quite like it!
Once onboard, they collapsed with exhaustion, shivering." 

"This is a picture I took of the rescued bucks on the back of my boat, the Alaska Quest. We headed for Taku Harbour. Once we reached the
dock, the first buck that had been pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back as if to say 'thank you' and disappeared into the forest. After a bit of prodding and assistance, two more followed, but the smallest deer needed a little more help."

"This is me carrying the little guy."

"My daughter, Anna, and son, Tim, helped the last buck to its feet. We didn't know how long they had been in the icy waters or if there had been others who did not survive. My daughter later told me that the experience was something that she would never forget, and I suspect the deer felt the same way as well!"

I told you! Awesome... huh?

"Kindness is the language the blind
can see and the deaf can hear." - Mark Twain