Saturday, November 27, 2010

Texas Thanksgiving Traditions

There are a lot of Thanksgiving traditions and watching football is just one of them. How about another Thanksgiving tradition - reading? I took advantage of the extra free time and did some extra reading.

The latest by Texas writer Livia Washburn was released earlier this month. It is called The Pumpkin Muffin Murder. As you may realize from the title of the blog, this cozy takes place around Thanksgiving. Our retired teacher Phyllis Newsom once again finds another body. This time it is the body of a community real estate leader and his wife is arrested for his murder. His wife is another teacher and was helping out with a community project to gather food for the needy. Needless to say. Phyllis finds it hard to believe she is guilty and becomes involved in her own investigation to discover the truth. This was a nice easy read and on top of that if places focus on things important to remember this season - being thankful and helping others with basic needs.

I also took the opportunity to read another book I got recently - Murder To Mil-Spec. It is a collection of short stories - A Crime Fiction Anthology to Benefit HOMES FOR OUR TROOPS. Each one of the stories had a connection to the military. I have to admit I enjoyed each one of these interesting short stories. It was interesting to see how each story was told in just a few pages. In case you are interested, the book can be obtained from Amazon and a portion of the sales benefits a good cause.

Finally, I got the opportunity to read another book I have called American Assassin written by Vince Flynn. My wife already had the opportunity to read it and she enjoyed it. Did I mention we are both big fans of the author and this character in his books - Mitch Rapp? This particular book takes us back in time and shows how and when Mitch Rapp became involved in the clandestine operations. Previous books have eluded to it and Mitch has gotten older in them so I think Vince Flynn did a great job going back in time to recount his start.

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving doing what you like to do. To end this I have to once again refer to a bumper sticker I have seen in the past - If you can read this, thank a teacher.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Texas Connection with Dismissed with Prejudice

I certainly was excited to find this Texas connection with the book Dismissed with Prejudice. The author Fletcher Cockrell lives and works in the Houston Texas area. Thanks to Lindsay at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for connecting me with this book. By the way, this is another Texas connection - Phenix & Phenix is located in Texas as well. If you are interested, you can find out more about the book and author at this link.

As you may be able to tell from the title - this is a legal drama / thriller. Did I mention Mr Cockrell was an attorney? So that means he would have an understanding of legal stuff based on his background. Well .... now for a brief review of his novel.

Craig Frazier is an assistant basketball coach in the LSU program. He works under Coach Tom Boyd and has been one of the reasons the school has been able to recruit a lot of good talent into it's program. Under the direction of his boss he has at times done some things that are minor infractions under NCAA rules - but these are only a portion of the infractions going on behind the scenes.

At the urging of one of the basketball's program supporters - Vic Banelli - Tom Boyd agrees to get rid of Craig Frazier. He understands it is better to get rid of Craig for the minor violations and reporting them rather than remain open to scrutiny which could bring out some of the other major violations he and Vic Banelli are involved in.

By agreeing to quit, Craig could get paid for the remainder of the contract period. If he does not quit, he will be fired and he will lose a whole lot more. Craig refuses to quit because he feels he was only doing what he was told to do and he does not want to take the whole blame - even though he knows publicly the blame will be leveled on him.

This is not the first time Tom Boyd has dismissed one of his assistant coaches in order to shift the scrutiny from himself. When Landon Duhon, a lawyer, hears about the latest firing, he suspects something fishy is going on so he approaches Craig about representing him in his case. He and Craig realizes they will not only be going against a popular coach but also a powerful institution in the form of LSU. What they do not know is how far this case will reach and who else stands to lose from it. If they had an inkling of an idea of what some of the measures that would be taken, they may have decided to drop it. As a matter of fact, at one point Duhon is on the verge of dropping the case when he experiences a personal loss - one he knows is a result from pursuing this case.

This story is indeed a thriller. It is not something I would have been interested in initially but I have to admit I am glad I read it. Of course I felt some personal connection to the story when he mentioned a recruiting trip to San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas - a junior college I attended before -AND- I know they had a good basketball program there. I think the background of the author as both a lawyer and his personal connections to sports were definitely assets he used well in writing the story.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My First Read From Iris Johansen

There was a comment on the back of the Advance Readers' Edition of Catching The Night I got from Ann-Marie at It said, "Dear Reader, If you've never read Iris Johansen before, CHASING THE NIGHT is where to start." This describes me to a tee. And I did not know what I have missed. This book was definitely worth reading!!!

There is a lot to this story and it would be hard to give you a good feel for it. There was certainly a lot of interesting characters in this book and I would like to briefly introduce you to some of them.

First there is Eve Duncan who became a forensic sculptor after her daughter turned up missing. Now she tries to help other people get closure when an unidentified skeleton turns up by reconstructing the face from the skull. Occasionally the spirit of her daughter shows up and encourages her to continue.

Catherine Ling is one of the CIA's top talents. She is highly driven to find her son who was kidnapped when he was just two. Over nine years have passed so she convinces Eve Duncan to do an age progression from the only photo she has of her son when he was two.

Joe Quinn is a cop and is Eve's love interest. He came into her life after she lost her daughter and has been with her since. In this book you learn a lot about his former life - especially with the service.

Kelly Winters is a 14 year old gifted kid who is rescued by Catherine Ling from a drug lord and all out bad guy in Columbia. She and her dad were both prisoners but he was killed before Catherine Ling got there. Her gifts and young age play a significant part in the overall story.

Venable is another guy in the CIA and Catherine works under him. She has been trying to get him to give up information on the man who took her son.

That man is called Rakovic. Catherine almost destroyed his life of crime years before she had her son. He has recovered and is a massive force in the crime world and the thing that drives him is destroying Catherine. His first step was in the kidnapping of her son years ago and he keeps reminding her he has control over her through her son.

This is just a handful of significant characters in the book but their stories play important roles in the overall story. One might think there are too many important characters in this story but I think each one brings something to the story. It would be difficult for me to explain how - that is why I suggest you check it out yourself.

Should you find yourself enjoying this book, there are plenty more written by the author. You can check out her website at

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

About Nov Selection For MRD Group

The November selection for Firewheel's B&N Mystery Reading Group was by the author Dick Francis. The title of the book was Whip Hand. It featured Sid Halley who was once a winning horse jockey. However an accident in racing caused him to lose one of his hands and a portion of the arm. Now he is working on being a private investigator.

In this story he finds his hands full. First he is approached by a horse owner who suspects foul play in regards to promising horses she owns. The last three were highly regarded and were favorites in their last big race. Instead of winning they fell short and later were found to have heart problems. She has another horse that is highly ranked and does not want a repeat of her last three contenders. She wants Sid to look into this and make sure it does not happen again. Yet she does not see Sid much more than a former jockey.

If that is not enough, Sid's ex father in law wants him to help investigate trouble Sid's ex wife has gotten in with a conman who has disappeared. While he is sure Sid can help, his ex wife still berates him.

Finally, one of the horse track board members wants him to investigate one of the security members at the track. There is suspicion that there might be a problem in the security at the track. Does he really expect to find something wrong or is he trying to divert attention elsewhere?

There is a lot going on in this book and sometimes it seemed there might be toooooo much going on. But this book was hard for me to put down and it was not just because I needed to have it read for our discussion group.

So how did our discussion group feel about it? There were six members present tonight and the vote was four thumbs up (with one wavering) and two thumbs down. Some of the other members had read the author before and said it was typical Dick Francis style. Would I be willing to give the author another try? Perhaps - we shall see. I understand his son is now writing the books since Dick Francis passed away.

In case you are wondering, Dick Francis was once a horse jockey and he has written a lot of mystery books around the horse racing industries. Kind of goes with the adage - you should write about what you know.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bridge Works Books Teams With Elliott Sawyer

This is an interesting discovery!!! I had not heard about Bridge Works Books before. They are an independent book publisher. You can check out their website at Bridge Works Publishing. They teamed up with first time author Elliott Sawyer - or was it vice-versa???

So what does Bridge Works Books brings to the joint venture? They have a list of other successful authors under their belt. And what does Elliott Sawyer have to contribute? This book benefits from his personal experience in the military and his duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more information on the author, check out his website.

Thanks again to Maryglenn for bringing this book to my attention.

Jake Roberts has been assigned to lead the Kodiak Platoon on missions in Afghanistan. His men are not exactly the cream of the crop - they all have problems of some sort and have been placed here to do the dirty jobs.

Part of the book's story involves a mystery involving "the severance" but there are a lot of pieces that make up the story.

So what is "the severance"? Well..., on one of the missions the Kodiak team came into contact with 4.6 million American dollars. The money was sent to Afghanistan for reconstruction purposes. It was stolen by an Afghan contractor. While the Kodiak team was on a nighttime mission, they ran into this money. Once they discovered the money, their plans were to keep the money as "severance" when they leave war.

Somebody finds out about the "severance" and is threatening to take it from them. Who is it and how dis they find out about it? There are several possibilities to take into consideration and it is only by reviewing incidents leading up to the discovery of the money and since then that it becomes clear.

At times when reading the story, I thought some of the details were just filler for the story. I was surprised how a lot of it actually came together to make the story. It certainly helped the author had some background in what goes on over in Afghanistan.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Miles Corwin Release!!!

You heard it right. There is a new release of a Miles Corwin book. It is called Kind of Blue and it was published by Oceanview Publishing. It was released on November 1st of 2010. Thanks to Maryglenn McCombs for giving me a heads-up on this book.

There is an elite group of detectives in the Los Angeles Police Department belonging to the Felony Special unit. These are the best of the best and when an ex-cop is murdered, the case is sent over to this unit. But this case is very important to the chief of police and he wants it handled by the best detective in the unit. The problem is the best detective in the unit quit 11 months earlier when he was upset suspended from a case he was working on. In that case, a potential witness was murdered and the detective Ash Levine was upset over it and made it personal in order to find the person responsible. Lieutenant Frank Duffy was the one who suspended him and now he must convince Ash to come back and work on this case.

A little background is revealed about detective Ash Levine - he is Jewish. Before he became a cop and later a detective - much against the wishes of his parents - he went to Israel and served in the service over there. His family was affected by the holocaust years before he came along and so he harbors some emotions because of that. When he came back to the states he became a cop and was brought up the ranks by now Lieutenant Frank Duffy.

Ash agrees to come back on this case and even though Duffy has told him he has to leave the past case along, he wants to work on it on the side when he gets the chance. Of course not everybody is happy about having him back on board. And there is at least one bigot in the group who Levine finds it hard to work with. But he gets to working on the case and starts digging stuff up. As we are to find out, even though there are those who want the truth about the murder of the ex-cop to come out, there are those who want to cover it up. Can this case be related to the case Levine was involved in investigating when he was suspended almost a year ago? This is something you can look forward to discovering when you read the book.

What are some of the things this book offers? Although I am not a part of the California and specifically LA culture, I think it offers a lot of information about this as part of the story. Not only is our investigator Jewish but he likes to surf. He also a variety of foods from different nationalities which is due to the diversity available in LA. Of course there are several levels of the society available and portrayed in the stories. Of course this a story of the cops and detectives and the criminals involved in gangs and drugs but sometimes there can be a fine line between the good and bad. And while differences can be sources of conflicts, sometimes those differences just don't make that much of a difference.

In general here are some things I found interesting about the story. When the story started out in the Prologue, the story was told on the outside. But when detective Levine was introduced into the story, it starts to take on the first person point of view. I think this is important in telling this type of story.

Another thing I like is how the title is tied into the story. Obviously Kind of Blue ties into the law enforcement aspect of the story. But it is also tied into another aspect of our detective - his musical taste and how it relates to his moods. Kind of Blue is the title of a song by Miles Davis and Levine likes to listen to the jazz by him. As a side note, I think it is interesting that the author shares the same first name as the jazz artist.

I was impressed by this book. Does it sound like something you would be interested in reading?