Best Fiction Reads of 2021: Part 2

Best Fiction Reads of 2021

We’re getting close to the end of 2021. At times, this year has seemed to drag by, second-by-second, and at other times it flew. Okay, it seemed to drag whenever I was looking forward to the release of a new book or an in-person book event. (Time always seems to drag when you’re anticipating something or at least it does for me.) Although this was a moderately bad year for me migraine-wise, it was actually a good reading year. Part One of my “best of 2021” left off with general fiction reads. Today, I’d like to focus on my suspense, thriller, Afrojujuism, Young Adult, and Sci-Fi reads. I have very eclectic reading tastes and this year afforded me the opportunity to read a number of great books across a host of fiction genres.


I began reading P.J. Tracy with the Monkeewrench series (man, I miss that series; guess it’s time for a re-re-read). I was sad to hear of the passing of half of this mother-daughter writing duo, P.J. Lambrecht, in 2016 and thought that might be the end of books by this author. I was happily surprised when Traci Lambrecht continued the Monkeewrench series and released this psychological thriller earlier this year, the first in a new series.

DEEP INTO THE DARK by P.J. TracyDeep Into The Dark, Detective Margaret Nolan #1, by P. J. Tracy
ISBN: 9781250813831 (trade paperback – released 09/28/2021)
ISBN: 9781250754943 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250783578 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250790071 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B088ML1NXZ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BKL7N6K (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 12, 2021

 

Sam Easton—a true survivor—is home from Afghanistan, trying to rebuild a life in his hometown of LA. Separated from his wife, bartending and therapy sessions are what occupy his days and nights. When friend and colleague Melody Traeger is beaten by her boyfriend, she turns to Sam for help. When the boyfriend turns up dead the next day, a hard case like Sam is the perfect suspect.
 
But LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan, whose brother recently died serving overseas, is sympathetic to Sam’s troubles, and can’t quite see him as a killer. She’s more interested in the secrets Melody might be keeping and the developments in another murder case on the other side of town.
 
Set in an LA where real people live and work—not the superficial LA of Beverly Hills or the gritty underbelly of the city—Deep into the Dark features two really engaging, dynamic main characters and explores the nature of obsession, revenge, and grief.
 
P. J. Tracy is known for her “fast, fresh, and funny” characters (Harlan Coben) and her “sizzling” plots (People); the Monkeewrench series was her first, set in Minneapolis and co-written with her mother. Now with Deep into the Dark she’s on her own—and it’s a home run.
 
 
 
Read an excerpt by clicking here.
 

I’ve read quite a number of titles by Nnedi Okorafor and this author does not disappoint. Most of her titles are classified as AfricanJujuism and they meld African folklore and legends with hints of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. This title was released early in the year and I enjoyed it so much I now have two different digital copies of the book (Kindle and EPUB formats). If you enjoy reading multicultural stories that blend Sci-Fi, Female Empowerment, Coming-of-Age, and good storytelling, I encourage you to grab a copy of this novella for yourself or a friend.

REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi OkoraforRemote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
ISBN: 9781250772800 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250772794 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250772961 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B087V5LZD2 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0879FRJ9X (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Tordotcom
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Novella | AfricanJujuism | Science-Fiction

 

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­—a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks—alone, except for her fox companion—searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

 

I was afforded the opportunity to read this Sci-Fi title shortly before its release. Sadly, this was during a severe migraine period so I was unable to write a review at that time. (It’s difficult to sit upright when dealing with severe vertigo. Photosensitivity issues and blurred vision make it impossible to look at a computer screen and type anything.) I enjoyed this book so much I recommended it to one of my local book clubs and then got to read it again and discuss it with the club. Happily, my club members seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. Several members strongly encouraged me to try the audiobook, still waiting for that pleasure. If you read The Martian or Artemis, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of Project Hail Mary to read. Don’t just take my word for it, Project Hail Mary won the Goodreads Choice Award for Science Fiction this year. Yes, millions of readers voted this book as the best Sci-Fi read for the year.

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy WeirProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir
ISBN: 9780593135204 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593135211 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781713630296 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08GB58KD5 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FHBV4ZX (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: May 4, 2021

 

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

 

The title of this next book just grabbed me, so it was immediately placed on my personal TBR list. I’m not a big reader of Sci-Fi, although I do enjoy what I read in this genre, nor am I a big reader of Steampunk, but this Steampunk Sci-Fi read pulled me in and I’m glad I read it. A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark is the first book in the Dead Djinn Universe and it packed quite a punch. If you’re going to add this to your TBR list (and you should), then I also encourage you to add A Dead Djinn in Cairo, Dead Djinn Universe #0.1, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, Dead Djinn Universe #0.3, to your list as well. I’m greatly looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

A MASTER OF DJINN by P. Djeli ClarkA Master of Djinn, Dead Djinn Universe #1, by P. Djeli Clark
ISBN: 9781250267689 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250267672 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250807731 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08JD2THTX (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08HKXS84X (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Tordotcom
Release Date: May 11, 2021

 

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…

 

The next book is another title from my personal TBR stash and list (versus the blog’s TBR list and yes, I actually have two separate TBR lists although there is often some crossover). I had previously read this author’s romantic suspense titles and was greatly anticipating the release of this suspense thriller, While Justice Sleeps. I enjoyed this one so much that I “lent” my hardcover copy to my 87-y.o. mother to read and she promptly lent it to one of my aunts to read after she finished it. I finally got my print copy back, but it made a few rounds in the family first. And yes, I do own a digital copy as well as a print copy of this book!

WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey AbramsWhile Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
ISBN: 9780385546577 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780385546584 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593413708 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9780593501764 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08L5KSV33 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08KSRQ7L1 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: May 11, 2021

 

While Justice Sleeps is a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together–excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn—the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases—has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court–a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

 

The next book is a title I won in an online giveaway via BookishFirst, Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn. This author has delftly combined a coming-of-age story with female empowerment, colorism, family, community, abuse, emotional health issues, as well as social and racial equity. Yes, there is tragedy in this story, but there is also laughter, love, friendship, and more. I passed this title along to not only my 87-y.o. mother to read, but to one of my 14-y.o. diva twin nieces as well. I’m happy to report that everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.

SUGAR TOWN QUEENS by Malla NunSugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn
ISBN: 9780525515609 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780525515616 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593397886 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08MV6KWH9 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MQ3G34L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 3, 2021

 

 From LA Times Book Prize Award Winner and Edgar Award Nominee Malla Nunn comes a stunning portrait of a family divided and the bonds that knit our communities.

When Amandla wakes up on her fifteenth birthday she knows it’s going to be one of her mother’s difficult days. Her mother has had another vision. If Amandla wears a blue sheet her mother has loosely stitched as a dress and styles her normally braided hair in a halo around her head, Amandla’s father will come home. Amandla’s mother, Annalisa, always speaks of her father as if he was the prince of a fairytale, but in truth he’s been gone since before Amandla was born and even Annalisa’s memory of him is hazy. In fact many of Annalisa’s memories from before Amandla was born are hazy. It’s just one of the many reasons people in Sugar Town give Annalisa and Amandla strange looks—that and the fact her mother is white and Amandla is brown.

But when Amandla finds a mysterious address in the bottom of her mother’s handbag along with a large amount of cash, she decides it’s finally time to get answers about her mother’s life. But what she discovers will change the shape and size of her family forever.

 

The final book on this list is another Young Adult title and a Jane Eyre fantasy retelling. (Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite stories and I enjoy reading anything inspired by or listed as a retelling.) This title had been on my personal TBR list from the moment I heard about it (hey, Jane Eyre retelling folks!). However, due to a few parental health issues followed by multiple deaths in the family, I didn’t get around to reading this until recently. Let me sum up with “WOW, Great Read!”

WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS by Lauren BlackwoodWithin These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
ISBN: 9781250787101 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250787118 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250819833 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08SNSSJZG (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2L2BRD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: October 19, 2021

 

“Lauren Blackwood’s can’t-miss debut is a magical, Ethiopian-inspired remix of Jane Eyre.” – Harper’s Bazaar

Within These Wicked Walls is an indulgently Gothic fairy tale, comparable in mastery with Mexican Gothic and Jane Eyre. An intricate magic system, a grimly humorous Black heroine, AND a heart-thumping romance? This book leaves nothing wanting.” – Jordan Ifueko, New York Times bestselling author of Raybearer

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. She would be hired, that is, if her mentor hadn’t thrown her out before she could earn her license. Now her only hope of steady work is to find a Patron—a rich, well-connected individual who will vouch for her abilities.

When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, she takes the job without question. Never mind that he’s rude and demanding and eccentric, that the contract comes with a number of outlandish rules… and that almost a dozen debtera had quit before her. If Andromeda wants to earn a living, she has no choice.

But she quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, the reason every debtera before her quit. But leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option because—heaven help her—she’s fallen for him.

Stunningly romantic, Lauren Blackwood’s heartstopping debut, Within These Wicked Walls, ushers in an exciting new fantasy voice.

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

 

Once again, I’m grateful to the authors, publishers, publicists, virtual book tour companies, book clubs, and libraries that have afforded me the opportunity to read so many wonderful titles. Part Three of my “Best of” list will focus on Historical Fiction. I hope you’ll return to read that one and stay tuned for Part Four focusing on Romance.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Book Showcase: THE GOOD SON by Jacquelyn Mitchard

THE GOOD SON by Jacquelyn MitchardThe Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard
ISBN: 9780778311799 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780369717559 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488212536 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781665104524(audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B094PSTKB7 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08QZMDJSD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: January 18, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Women’s Fiction | Coming-of-Age | Family Life

“Rich and complex, The Good Son is a compelling novel about the aftermath of a crime in a small, close-knit community.”—Kristin Hannah, New York Times bestselling author

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard comes the gripping, emotionally charged novel of a mother who must help her son after he is convicted of a devastating crime.

What do you do when the person you love best becomes unrecognizable to you? For Thea Demetriou, the answer is both simple and agonizing: you keep loving him somehow.

Stefan was just seventeen when he went to prison for the drug-fueled murder of his girlfriend, Belinda. Three years later, he’s released to a world that refuses to let him move on. Belinda’s mother, once Thea’s good friend, galvanizes the community to rally against him to protest in her daughter’s memory. The media paints Stefan as a symbol of white privilege and indifferent justice. Neighbors, employers, even some members of Thea’s own family turn away.

Meanwhile Thea struggles to understand her son. At times, he is still the sweet boy he has always been; at others, he is a young man tormented by guilt and almost broken by his time in prison. But as his efforts to make amends meet escalating resistance and threats, Thea suspects more forces are at play than just community outrage. And if there is so much she never knew about her own son, what other secrets has she yet to uncover—especially about the night Belinda died?

 

Read an Excerpt:

1

 

I was picking my son up at the prison gates when I spotted the mother of the girl he had murdered.

Two independent clauses, ten words each, joined by an adverb, made up entirely of words that would once have been unimaginable to think, much less say.

She pulled in—not next to me, but four spaces over—in the half circle of fifteen-minute spots directly in front of the main building. It was not where Stefan would walk out. That would be over at the gatehouse. She got out of her car, and for a moment I thought she would come toward me. I wanted to talk to her, to offer something, to reach out and hold her, for we had not even been able to attend Belinda’s funeral. But what would I say? What would she? This was an unwonted crease in an already unaccustomed day. I slid deep into my down coat, and wished I could lock the car doors, although I feared that the sound would crack the predawn darkness like a rifle shot. All that Jill McCormack did, however, was shove her hands into the pockets of her jacket and lean against the back bumper of her car. She wore the heavy maroon leather varsity jacket that her daughter Belinda, captain of the high school cheer team in senior year, had given to her, to Stefan, and to me, with our names embroidered in gold on the back, just like hers.

I hadn’t seen Jill McCormack up close for years, though she lived literally around the corner. Once, I used to stop there to sit on her porch, but now I avoided even driving past the place.

Jill seemed smaller, diminished, the tumult of ash-blond hair I remembered cropped short and seemingly mostly white, though I knew she was young when Belinda was born, and now couldn’t be much past forty. Yet, even just to stand in the watery, slow-rising light in front of a prison, she was tossed together fashionably, in gold-colored jeans and boots, with a black turtleneck, a look I would have had to plan for days. She looked right at my car, but gave no sign that she recognized it, though she’d been in it dozens of times years ago. Once she had even changed her clothes in my car. I remember how I stood outside it holding a blanket up over the windows as she peeled off a soaking-wet, floor-length, jonquil-yellow crystal-beaded evening gown that must, at that point, have weighed about thirty pounds, then slipped into a clean football warm-up kit. After she changed, we linked arms with my husband and we all went to a ball.

But I would not think of that now.

I had spent years assiduously not thinking of any of that.

A friendship, like a crime, is not one thing, or even two people. It’s two people and their shared environs and their histories, their common memories, their words, their weaknesses and fears, their virtues and vanities, and sometimes their shame.

Jill was not my closest friend. Some craven times, I blessed myself with that—at least I was spared that. There had always been Julie, since fifth grade my heart, my sharer. But Jill was my good friend. We had been soccer moms together, and walking buddies, although Jill’s swift, balanced walk was my jog. I once kept Belinda at my house while Jill went to the bedside of her beloved father who’d suffered a stroke, just as she kept Stefan at her house with Belinda when they were seven and both had chicken pox, which somehow neither I nor my husband, Jep, ever caught. And on the hot night of that fundraising ball for the zoo, so long ago, she had saved Stefan’s life.

Since Jill was a widow when we first met, recently arrived in the Midwest from her native North Carolina, I was always talking her into coming to events with Jep and me, introducing her to single guys who immediately turned out to be hopeless. That hot evening, along with the babysitter, the two kids raced toward the new pool, wildly decorated with flashing green lights, vines and temporary waterfalls for a “night jungle swim.” Suddenly, the sitter screamed. When Jill was growing up, she had been state champion in the 200-meter backstroke before her devout parents implored her to switch to the more modest sport of golf, and Belinda, at five, was already a proficient swimmer. My Stefan, on the other hand, sank to the bottom like a rock and never came up. Jill didn’t stop to ask questions. Kicking off her gold sandals, in she went, an elegant flat race dive that barely creased the surface; seconds later she hauled up a gasping Stefan. Stefan owed his life to her as surely as Belinda owed her death to Stefan.

In seconds, life reverses.

Jill and I once talked every week. It even seemed we once might have been machatunim, as they say in Yiddish, parents joined by the marriage of their son and daughter. Now, the circumstances under which we might ever exchange a single word seemed as distant as the bony hood of moon above us in the melting darkness.

What did she want here now? Would she leave once Stefan came through the gates? In fact, she left before that. She got back into her car, and, looking straight ahead, drove off.

I watched until her car was out of sight.

Just after dawn, a guard walked Stefan to the edge of the enclosure. I looked up at the razor wire. Then, opening the window slightly, I heard the guard say, “Do good, kid. I hope I never see you again.” Stefan stepped out, and then put his palm up to a sky that had just begun to spit snow. He was twenty, and he had served two years, nine months and three days of a five-year sentence, one year of which the judge had suspended, noting Stefan’s unblemished record. Still, it seemed like a week; it seemed like my entire life; it seemed like a length of time too paltry for the monstrous thing he had done. I could not help but reckon it this way: For each of the sixty or seventy years Belinda would have had left to live, Stefan spent only a week behind bars, not even a season. No matter how much he despaired, he could always see the end. Was I grateful? Was I ashamed? I was both. Yet relief rippled through me like the sweet breeze that stirs the curtains on a summer night.

I got out and walked over to my son. I reached up and put my hand on his head. I said, “My kid.”

Stefan placed his huge warm palm on the top of my head. “My mom,” he said. It was an old ritual, a thing I would not have dared to do in the prison visiting room. My eyes stung with curated tears. Then I glanced around me, furtively. Was I still permitted such tender old deeds? This new universe was not showing its hand. “I can stand here as long as I want,” he said, shivering in wonderment. Then he said, “Where’s Dad?”

“He told you about it. He had to see that kid in Louisville one more time,” I told him reluctantly. “The running back with the very protective grandmother. He couldn’t get out of it. But he cut it short and he’ll be home when we get back, if he beats the weather out of Kentucky this morning, that is.” Jep was in only his second season as football coach at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, a Division II team with significant chops and national esteem. We didn’t really think he would get the job, given our troubles, but the athletic director had watched Jep’s career and believed deeply in his integrity. Now he was never at rest: His postseason recruiting trips webbed the country. Yet it was also true that while Stefan’s father longed equally for his son to be free, if Jep had been able to summon the words to tell the people who mattered that he wanted to skip this trip altogether, he would have. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it’s a big day, our son’s getting out of prison.

Now, it seemed important to hurry Stefan to the car, to get out of there before this new universe recanted. We had a long drive back from Black Creek, where the ironically named Belle Colline Correctional Facility squatted not far from the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Black Creek. Stefan’s terrible journey had taken him from college to prison, a distance of just two miles as the crow flies. I felt like the guard: I never wanted to see the place again. I had no time to think about Jill or anything else except the weather. We’d hoped that the early-daylight release would keep protestors away from the prison gates, and that seemed to have worked: Prisoners usually didn’t walk out until just before midday. There was not a single reporter here, which surprised me as Jill was tireless in keeping her daughter Belinda’s death a national story, a symbol for young women in abusive relationships. Many of the half dozen or so stalwarts who still picketed in front of our house nearly every day were local college and high-school girls, passionate about Jill’s work. As Stefan’s release grew near, their numbers rose, even as the outdoor temperatures fell. A few news organizations put in appearances again lately as well. I knew they would be on alert today and was hoping we could beat some of the attention by getting back home early. In the meantime, a snowstorm was in the forecast: I never minded driving in snow, but the air smelled of water running over iron ore—a smell that always portended worse weather.

Excerpt from The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Copyright © 2022 by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Published by arrangements with Harlequin Books S.A.
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

 

Meet The Author

Jacquelyn Mitchard Author Photo#1 New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard has written nine previous novels for adults; six young adult novels; four children’s books; a memoir, Mother Less Child; and a collection of essays, The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, and later adapted for a feature film. Mitchard is a frequent lecturer and a professor of fiction and creative nonfiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and their nine children.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Author Website

This excerpt and tour brought to you by MIRA Books

 

Book Showcase: THE TASTE OF GINGER by Mansi Shah

The Taste of Ginger by Mansi Shah
ISBN: 9781542031905 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781713620600 (audiobook on CD)
ISBN: 9781713620617 (MP3 audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B095SXYSGB (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08YYYVVTC (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: January 1, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Women’s Fiction | Friendship Fiction

 
In Mansi Shah’s stunning debut novel, a family tragedy beckons a first-generation immigrant to the city of her birth, where she grapples with her family’s past in search of where she truly belongs.

After her parents moved her and her brother to America, Preeti Desai never meant to tear her family apart. All she did was fall in love with a white Christian carnivore instead of a conventional Indian boy. Years later, with her parents not speaking to her and her controversial relationship in tatters, all Preeti has left is her career at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm.

But when Preeti receives word of a terrible accident in the city where she was born, she returns to India, where she’ll have to face her estranged parents…and the complicated past they left behind. Surrounded by the sights and sounds of her heritage, Preeti catches a startling glimpse of her family’s battles with class, tradition, and sacrifice. Torn between two beautifully flawed cultures, Preeti must now untangle what home truly means to her.

 

Read an Excerpt:

Chapter 1

 

A gaggle of women, all speaking over each other in loud, animated voices, filled my parents’ small living room. It was like watching a National Geographic special about social dominance, where pitch and decibel level determined the leader. They wandered around the room, grazing on homemade samosas and pakoras, careful not to get oily crumbs on the delicate fabric of their brightly colored saris.

I was sitting at the dining table near the front door so I could fulfill my assigned duty of greeting the guests as they arrived for my sister-in-law’s baby shower. From across the room, I heard snippets of conversation from my mother’s friends.

“Did you hear her son dropped out of medical school to be with that American girl?”

“I’m not surprised. I heard she walks like an elephant.”

Without knowing whom they were talking about, I sympathized with the girl. My mother had often accused me of this great atrocity­ walking like an elephant. I was around nine years old when I realized she wasn’t calling me fat. She meant I wasn’t demure and obedient­ qualities every good Indian daughter should have.

Near me, a pile of presents had amassed over the last hour. Boxes wrapped in pastel paper with cute cartoon monkeys, turtles, or bunnies. They made most thirty-year-old women feel one of two things: a maternal pang and the gentle tick of her biological clock, or the desire to run screaming from the room. I glanced at the front door, leaning toward the latter response, but wasn’t sure if it was because of the baby paraphernalia around me or the suffocating feeling I got whenever I went back to my parents’ house near Devon Avenue-Chicago’s very own Little India.

Across the room, my mother, dressed in an orange-and-gold sari that clung to her ample hips and chest, offered to bring my sister-in-law, Dipti, a plate of food. She’d been fawning over Dipti all day, telling her she needed to rest to keep the baby healthy.

“You are a mother now, beta,” she’d say, shooting me a look of disappointment every time she referred to Dipti being a mother. I winced inwardly at hearing the term of affection she used to call me as a child. It had been a long time since I had been beta.

My mother’s long hair, streaked with white, was pinned into a neat bun with dozens of bobby pins and adorned with small fragrant jasmine flowers. It opened her face and softened her sharp features. Until yesterday, we hadn’t spoken in months. Not since she found out that my boyfriend-now ex-boyfriend-and I had been living together in Los Angeles. Cohabitating with a dhoriya was, in her opinion, the most shameful thing her daughter could have done. Living with a white boy was right up there with marrying someone from a lower caste or talking back to your elders.

It’s not like I had made it my mission to disappoint her. Until then, I’d tried to convince myself that I’d end up with a caste-appropriate Indian even though I’d never met one that I’d been attracted to. But when Alex tilted my chin to meet his blue eyes before our lips touched for that first kiss, I knew I was in trouble. It wasn’t long before he became my first love, and I was convinced we were destined to be together. Until one day we weren’t. I’d just never imagined that I’d be the one letting him go. And so soon after I’d told my parents that if they couldn’t accept Alex into their lives, it was the same as not accepting me. Timing could be a real bitch sometimes.

A group of aunties who were crowded around Dipti burst into laughter. She was only five and a half months pregnant, so I’d thought I’d have a few more weeks to mentally gear up for this trip back home, but my mother had insisted on having the shower before our family­ well, everyone except me-went to India for my cousin’s wedding later that week. She’d consulted a priest, who’d consulted the stars, and today, Sunday, November 25, was the only auspicious date that aligned with both the cosmic universe and her social calendar.

So there I was, back in the house I’d been desperate to leave after high school, standing guard over the ever-growing mountain of onesies, rattling plastic toys, and other tiny treasures.

A chilly breeze wafted in when the door opened again. Small bumps formed along my arms. I’d lived in Southern California for nearly a decade now and couldn’t handle even a hint of the approaching Illinois winter.

“Miss Preeti!” Monali Auntie, my mom’s best friend, called as she kicked off her champals outside the front door near the other jeweled and beaded sandals before scurrying into the house. She had always been like a second, cooler, more approachable mother to me and was one of the few people I had been looking forward to seeing at this party.

“Where is your sari?” Monali Auntie asked, eyeing the sapphire panjabi I wore instead of an intricate, elaborate sari like the rest of the women in the room were wearing. She clucked her tongue before spreading her arms wide and swaddling me in a warm, caring hug. I made sure my hands steered clear of her hair, which was pulled back into a tight chignon that she had probably spent hours perfecting, and I knew better than to be responsible for a hair falling out of place. The spicy smell of cinnamon and doves lingered on her skin as if she had spent all day in the kitchen.

“The same place as your coat,” I said, raising an eyebrow. She was the first person to arrive without a jacket.

“Oy, you! Do you know how much time I spent draping this sari around my body?” She put a hand on her slender hip and posed for effect. “You think I’m going to get wrinkles on it after all that work?” She flicked her hand, dismissing the thought.

I laughed, expecting nothing less. Monali Auntie had three sons and had always insisted that because she didn’t have a daughter to pass her looks on to, she had a duty to maintain her style. Sacrificing comfort in the name of fashion was just one of those burdens.

Leaning closer to her, I whispered, “Well, I didn’t want to say it too loudly, but your sari does look much neater than everyone else’s.” How any woman managed to wrap six meters of fabric around her body without a team of NASA engineers had always been a mystery to me, but Monali Auntie managed to pull it off solo. Anytime I’d been in a sari, it had taken my mother and at least one other person to wrangle me into it.

Her lips stretched into a satisfied smile as she smoothed the thick bundle of pleats cascading from her waist to the floor. Then she tugged the delicate dupatta draped around my neck like a scarf. “I suspect your mother was not very happy with this decision.”

“Is she ever?” My clothes were still traditional Indian wear, but certainly less formal than the sari that was “expected of a respectable woman” my age, as my mother would say.

“Just because you’re a lawyer doesn’t mean you must always argue,” Monali Auntie joked before turning to scan the room. “Now, where is the guest of honor?”

I gestured toward a group of women near the sofa. Dipti’s fuchsia­ and-parrot-green sari flattered her figure despite the mound protruding from her belly. The silk patterned border covered her stomach and left more of her back exposed, as was the customary style of Gujarat­ the state in India where my family and the other women in the room were from. Despite living in America for over twenty years, my parents didn’t have any friends who weren’t Gujarati. Much to my chagrin as a teenager trying to fit into this new country, Devon Avenue gave my parents the option of living in the West without giving up the East, and expecting their children to do the same.

Monali Auntie said, “Come. I need to give her my wishes. And you need to mingle with the guests rather than sitting alone like a lazy peacock.”

I dreaded having to listen to everyone ask me why I wasn’t more like Dipti, why I was thirty and not married, a spinster by Indian standards. They’d whisper behind my back about the poor fate my mother had been dealt. An unwed daughter over the age of twenty-five reflected a failure of the parents. If only they had taught me to cook or clean properly, perhaps then I would have found a nice Gujarati boy by now. And if the fates were kind, might even have popped out a kid or two.

Monali Auntie stood poised to shoot down any excuse. Before I could utter a word, my cell phone vibrated, and my law firm’s number popped up on the screen.

“Sorry, Auntie, it’s work. I need to take this.”

She shook her head and wagged her finger at me while I backed out of the noisy room and into the kitchen.

After closing the door, I whispered into the phone, “So glad it’s you.”

Carrie Bennett, my best friend and partner in crime at work, laughed. “Is your trip down memory lane that bad?”

I slumped against the counter. “It’s as expected. Why are you at the office now?”

“Because being a lawyer sucks. The Warden forgot you were out of town this weekend, so I’m stuck working on some bullshit brief that needs to get filed tomorrow. I’m in your office-where’s our file on the senator case?”

The Warden was the moniker Carrie and I had given our boss, Jared Greenberg. “Thanks for covering,” I said before explaining where she should look to find the documents.

After we finished chatting, I lingered in the kitchen for a few moments, staring out the window at the little wooden swing hanging from the oak tree in our small fence-lined backyard. Burnt-orange and deep-red leaves littered the ground around it. The swing’s chains were rusty from many years of harsh, wet winters. A year after we’d moved into this row house, my father had put it up to remind my mother of the hichko that sat in the garden outside her family’s bungalow in India.

Whenever she received a pale-blue onion skin-thin letter from her family in India, she went straight to that swing and read it over and over until the paper nearly ripped apart at the delicate creases. The swing had been his attempt to make America feel more like home and was one of the only thoughtful gestures I remembered him showing her. Not surprisingly, an arranged marriage coupled with a culture that didn’t accept divorce did not result in many romantic gestures between my parents.

The basement door opened, and my brother, Neel, came through dressed in jeans and a hoodie. He looked so much more comfortable than I felt. I’d have traded places with him in a second. He and my father had been relegated, willingly so, to the basement, where they could watch football while the party was underway.

“Just grabbing more snacks,” he said. “How’s the babyfest going?”

“Awesome,” I said dryly. “I get to sit in a room and watch everyone fawn all over your perfect wife in her perfect sari with her perfect baby on the way.”

Neel picked up a samosa and sank his teeth into the crunchy pastry shell. He had the metabolism of a hummingbird and could probably eat his weight in fried food without it affecting him in the slightest. “If it’s any consolation, she’s less perfect when she’s puking up water and bile in the middle of the night.”

I scrunched my face. “Are you seriously eating while talking about puking bile?”

He shrugged and took another large bite. “Bile is nothing. I see way worse at the hospital. This kid came in on Friday with-“

I held up my palm. “Unless this story ends with the kid having a paper cut, you can stop.”

Our mother walked into the kitchen with a full bag of trash. “What are you doing hiding in here?” she said to me. “People are asking about you.”

After an hour of eavesdropping while I’d sat at the dining table greeting guests, I knew they weren’t, but it wasn’t worth arguing about. “I had to take a call from work.”

It was technically true. But my mother’s sour expression made clear she didn’t approve. She thought I should be more focused on starting a family than on my career. When I had been born, my parents had followed the tradition of having an Indian priest write out my Janmakshar–a horoscope that mapped out my entire life. According to that, like my cousins, I should have married by twenty-five and had two kids by now. Shunning dirty diapers in favor of clean paychecks was only one of many deviations from my Janmakshar.

“Why doesn’t Neel come out and say hi to everyone?” I said, casting him a mischievous grin. ‘Tm sure the aunties want to congratulate him too.”

Neel dashed toward the basement. “Sorry, women only,” he called over his shoulder. ”I’ll talk to them some other time!”

I had taken a step toward the living room when inspiration struck. “I’ll be right there.” I turned and ran up the stairs to my bedroom to get the one thing that would make this party more bearable while having the side effect of pleasing my mother.

With my Canon T90 SLR camera covering most of my face, people hardly noticed me. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of bringing it down sooner. My parents had given it to me for my thirteenth birthday. Presents until that point had been academic workbooks so I could pull ahead of my peers in school. As an immigrant child of immigrant parents, I grew up knowing my future had to be their future. That meant getting the best grades, going to the best college, and getting the best job to ensure the sacrifices they had made for us were validated. Spending even a dollar on something that didn’t further that agenda was unthinkable. When I got the camera, for the first time I understood how my American friends felt on their birthdays, focused more on having fun than being practical. But then the next year I’d started high school, and my birthday present had been the application packets for all the Ivy League colleges. “Never too early to start planning,” my dad had said. It made me cherish the camera even more.

After high school, I’d wanted to become a photographer, but my parents had balked at the idea. “The only wedding photos a decent girl should be taking are the ones she is in!” my mother had said. My father had summed it up more succinctly: “It’s a lower-caste job. Medicine is better.” I could not live in Neel’s shadow any longer than I already had, so medicine was not an option.

After college, I convinced my parents to let me spend a year pursuing photography. Confident I could earn a decent living at it, I pacified them by agreeing to go to law school if it didn’t work out. I’d been twenty-two, full of passion and energy, and so very naive. After interning at a studio in downtown Chicago for what amounted to less than minimum wage, I wasn’t any closer to being able to move out of my parents’ house and support myself. I hated that my mother had been right. For years I hadn’t been able to pick up the camera again, as if my failure was somehow its fault rather than my own. It wasn’t until Alex had encouraged me to start again a year ago that I had. I began slowly, bringing it out when traveling or at the occasional family event I was guilted into attending. Like Dipti’s baby shower. With the cold war between my mother and me in effect, I would never have come were it not for Neel. It was important to him, so no matter how uncomfortable it made me, I had to suck it up. Besides, even I knew not showing up would be crossing a line with my mother in a way that I couldn’t take back. My family was no different from every other Indian family we knew, and putting on the pretense of being a happy family was more important than actually being one. There would have been no greater insult than the shame of her having to explain to her friends why I wasn’t there.

I meandered through the room trying to find the best lighting. Gita Auntie, one of my mother’s friends, animatedly spoke to some of the guests. She was short and slight, well under five feet and one hundred pounds. She looked up at her friends, her eyebrows scrunched, while she gestured wildly. Peering through my lens, I waited for a moment when she appeared calm and happy, her cheeks full of color and a smile on her face, before I clicked the button and released the shutter.

She turned toward the flash, startled. “Oh, Preeti. You must give me warning so I can check my hair. Now come. We take one with all of us.” She put one arm around my mother’s shoulder and beckoned for me with the other.

“Oh, no, no, Auntie. I’m fine behind the lens. Besides, this camera is old and hard to use.”

“Oy, excuses! Keep your camera then. But at least be social.”

It wasn’t an ideal compromise, but I preferred it to pasting on a fake smile that would be preserved for years to come. As I moved closer, Gita Auntie continued her story about another friend’s daughter. “You know, now she will never find a good Indian boy. She’s damaged. What family will allow her to marry their son after she lived with that American boy, hah?”

They all nodded with that side-to-side bobble that to the untrained eye could have been yes or no, but they all understood what was meant by it.

A lump formed in my throat. My mother shifted her gaze toward the worn carpet, a light-tan color that had survived the last couple of decades remarkably well, but that was probably due to the strict no-shoes policy within our home. Her biggest fear was that her friends would find out I wasn’t so different from the girl they were gossiping about, that once everyone knew the truth, I’d be destined to be alone forever. No good Indian family would let me marry their son.

Gita Auntie reached out and cupped my chin with her thumb and index finger and shook my face from side to side. “Our little Hollywood lawyer. When will it be your turn?”

I leaned back to politely break from her grasp. Gita Auntie didn’t believe in personal space, preferring to communicate with her hands rather than her words.

“I work seventy hours a week,” I offered as my excuse.

“You must think more seriously.” She put her hand on my shoulder and then lowered her voice. “You are thirty, no? After that, you know, women lose their luster.”

I bit back the urge to say I had just bought a fancy new moisturizer that promised to keep my “luster” intact for years to come. Instead, I forced out an empty laugh and found myself using Alex’s old coping mechanism. He’d do it whenever he was agitated. It used to drive me crazy, but right now, counting slowly in my head was a better plan than causing a scene and making the day with my mother more uncomfortable than it already was. One, two, three

Monali Auntie must have noticed the troubled look on my face, because she put down her plate and marched over to our group.

“Come. Let me take a photo of you with your family.” She was the only person in the room I would have trusted with my cherished camera. And she knew it.

My mother and Dipti adjusted the pleats on their saris as we stood in a line with my mother in the center. After making sure her clothes were in order, she reached over and took each of our hands, her quintessential family-photo pose. Nothing to give away that she hadn’t spoken to her only daughter in months. After all, what would people think if they knew?

As we stood waiting for the click of the shutter, I could focus on only one thing. It was small. Stupid. I knew that, especially given how the past year had gone. But I couldn’t shake the feeling. She had reached for Dipti’s hand first. Part of me was angry, but another part of me-the analytical side-didn’t blame her. After a long day at the hospital, Dipti still could roll out a paper-thin rotli that puffed evenly when placed on the heat and could dance a flawless twelve-step garba routine. Even if I’d been given a week to prepare, I couldn’t have done either of those things. And she never talked back to my mother. Ever.

I gritted my teeth. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen

It seemed obvious that even though I was the daughter she had, Dipti was the one she wanted.

Excerpt from The Taste of Ginger by Mansi Shah.
Copyright © 2022 by Mansi Shah.
Published by Lake Union Publishing
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

 

Meet The Author

Author: Mansi Shah

Mansi Shah is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. She was born in Toronto, Canada, was raised in the midwestern United States, and studied at universities in Australia and England. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling and exploring different cultures near and far, experimenting on a new culinary creation, or trying to improve her tennis game. For more information, visit her online at mansikshah.com.

Connect with the Author:

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Guest Post: PJ Peterson – PICKLED PINK IN PARIS

Pickled Pink in Paris by PJ Peterson Banner

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope you’re all having a wonderful month of December so far. Have you ever wondered about all of the careers held by the authors we read? I know authors that are former (and current) teachers, librarians, lawyers, doctors, law enforcement officers, military personnel, actors, athletes, etc. Thankfully, these highly creative souls also provide us with hours of reading pleasure by crafting such wonderful stories. I’m pleased to welcome P.J. Peterson, a former internist and author of Pickled Pink in Paris, a Julia Fairchild Mystery, to the blog today. Ms. Peterson will be discussing using her medical knowledge and expertise in her writings. Please help me welcome the accomplished, P.J. Peterson. Thank you, Dr. Peterson for joining and sharing with us today, the blog is all yours.

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Readers, especially my friends, have asked if I write from my experiences or do I make everything up in my head. The answer is that I do both. In each of my first four Julia Fairchild books (Number four will be published in December 2021, I hope), a number of the adventures are true to life, although modified to fit the pretend situation.

Some things that are true: I won a limbo contest years ago, am a certified scuba diver, have been on a half-dozen tap/jazz dance cruises, and am a (retired) Internal Medicine specialist. I have never been in a helicopter or an underwater cave with blind fish, or captured a bad guy, although I’ve helped the police a couple of times when someone tried to pass a forged narcotic prescription.

I have been to all the locations in my books which helps to be able to use all the senses when describing a setting. The one exception is that I didn’t get to visit Paris until after I finished writing Pickled Pink in Paris because my trip was cancelled three times. I had to use Rick Steves’ travel guide and maps to make sense of Julia’s adventure there. I relied on online resources as well for detail. Most of my writing otherwise arises from my creative imagination, although often there is a smidgen of truth lurking beneath the surface.

Because of my training as a physician, I like to insert something related to the practice of medicine in each of my stories. My heroine, Julia Fairchild, is a young internist, and is loosely based on a much younger version of myself, although I portray her as much braver than I think I am. It makes sense to me to have her use her astute diagnostic skills as she solves the puzzle in front of her. I told my patients regularly that a physician is a detective who uses patients’ symptoms and physical findings to identify the diagnosis. Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a British physician, as many of us know.

When I am writing a scene that is purely fiction (in the truest sense of the word), I picture myself in the setting that I’ve created and imagine what I would be seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and touching. For the catacombs scene in Pickled Pink in Paris, for example, I imagined what it might be like to be in complete darkness, in an unfamiliar place, cold, and very frightened that I wouldn’t be found before I became a pile of bones.

I write dialogue by talking aloud as I write to make it as realistic as possible. In high school debate my specialties were extemporaneous and impromptu speaking. That background of learning to speak off-the-cuff is helpful when making up conversations.

When my readers read one of my Julia Fairchild mysteries, I hope they feel as though they are right there with my characters, experiencing the moment, and immersed in the story. Then I will have done my job as an author.

PJ Peterson

Pickled Pink in Paris

by PJ Peterson

December 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Pickled Pink in Paris by PJ Peterson

A major business deal is disrupted by murder.

But a young physician has the key to the case…

A dying man’s last word whispered in her ear: “…mushroom…”

When medical internist Julia Fairchild receives an invitation to Paris from her long-distance beau, Josh, she packs a bag, grabs her sister Carly, and jets off for the City of Lights. But once they arrive, death and suspicion take the place of champagne and escargot. Josh’s business partner is dying in the hospital, and the gendarmes are convinced Josh is behind it.

Naturally curious and driven to seek justice, Julia jumps at the chance to clear Josh’s name – but he doesn’t seem interested in proving his innocence. Is he hiding something? Will Julia uncover the true murderer and salvage what’s left of her Paris vacation, or is she next on the killer’s hit list?

If you love Louise Penny, Laura Child, and Sue Grafton, you’ll enjoy reading this fun-filled cozy mystery! Find out why fans say “It’s a must read!” Don’t wait…

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Finngirl, LLC
Publication Date: August 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 246
ISBN: 1733567518 (ISBN-13: 978-1733567510)
ASIN: B09C2P8KQG (Kindle edition)
Series: Julia Fairchild Mysteries, Book 3
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Goodreads

Author Bio:

PJ Peterson

PJ is a retired internist who enjoyed the diagnostic part of practicing medicine as well as creating long-lasting relationships with her patients. As a child she wanted to be a doctor so she could “help people.” She now volunteers at the local Free Medical Clinic to satisfy that need to help.

She loved to read from a young age and read all the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books she could find. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she wrote anything longer than short stories for English classes and term papers in others. Writing mysteries only makes sense given her early exposure to that genre. Sprinkling in a little medical mystique makes it all the more fun.

Catch Up With PJ Peterson:
www.PJPetersonAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @mizdrpj1
Facebook – PJ Peterson

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for PJ Peterson. There will be TWO US Winners. ONE winner will receive (1) $25 Amazon.com Gift Card and ONE winner will receive one (1) physical copy of Pickled Pink in Paris by PJ Peterson. [U.S. Only] The giveaway runs December 1 through January 2, 2022. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: John Nardizzi – THE BURDEN OF INNOCENCE

The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi Banner

Good day, book people. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy participating in reading challenges every year. Some years I actually meet most of the goals from various challenges, but, more often than not, my reading challenge fizzles out sometime in February or March. I usually meet the total number of books I want to read for the year and that’s it. If you’re a mystery or crime fiction reader, then I hope you’ll enjoy today’s visitor. Please help me welcome John Nardizzi, author of The Burden of Innocence, as he shares some of his crime fiction recommendations. Perhaps one or two of these titles might help you meet your reading challenge goal for the year. Thank you, Mr. Nardizzi for joining us today and sharing with us, the blog is all yours.

Voices of Crime – Top 4
by John Nardizzi

I started out in the detective business in San Francisco, a city with a rich history of both real and fictitious detectives. I partied in the same building where Dashiell Hammett lived. But I did not know that my childhood literary fascination with the genre would lead to working in the industry—and also writing crime novels.

The question I get most often from readers: What are the books that most closely resemble the actual tone and feel of real investigations? Contrary to most people’s understanding, PI work has not gone completely high tech, limited to database research. Yes, that is part of the job (and a fun part of it too). Modern investigations still revolve around the most important thing in a trial: witnesses. PIs talk to strangers about difficult things. And those witnesses provide color and tone for the case—all their flaws and imperfections exposed.

So for me, great crime novels speak in the voice of not just the detective, but the witnesses and criminals. Here are my four “must-read” books for any fan of the genre:

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Set in Italy, Patricia Highsmith’s beautiful prose contrasts with the spare, calculating mind of Tom Ripley. A low-level con man, Ripley sees an opportunity to subsume himself in the identity of his rich friend Dickie Greenleaf, leading to murder and betrayal. Story plays out amid beautiful beaches and seaside apartments in Italy, lavish meals and endless glasses of red wine. No one puts you into the delusional, paranoid mind of a criminal better than Highsmith. Great insights: “This is what I like, sitting at a table and watching people go by. It does something to your outlook on life. The Anglo-Saxons make a great mistake not staring at people from a sidewalk table.”

Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn

Sometimes called the creator of “surf noir”, Nunn tells the story of apathetic, strung-out old surfer Sam Fahey, who comes across a Mexican woman named Magdalena fleeing a pack of wild dogs in the waste lands at the border. She is working to uncover environmental crimes committed by factory owners. Sam finds some compassion and helps Magdalena, who is fleeing the murderous Armando. Amid the grasslands of the Tijuana River Valley, Sam and Magdalena tangle with drug traffickers, bandits, and refugees from the maquiladora factories burning through cheap labor at the border. Dark stuff redeemed by some fine writing.

The Grifters by Jim Thompson

Author Jim Thompson grew up in Oklahoma Territory and worked later at a honky-tonk hotel in Texas where he took odd jobs procuring all kinds of vices for the guests during Prohibition. This later led to Thompson’s prolific output of crime fiction and screenplays, but none better than his take on a group of grifters operating in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The book opens with Roy Dillon, a young con artist who gets caught in a scam and takes a bat to the belly for it—leading to his long-gone mother, veteran con Lilly Dillon, coming back to nurse him back to life. He resents her, but she’s a lot tougher than he is. And Lilly doesn’t much care for his girlfriend, so we know how that will end. Lilly always gets the last word: “Grift’s like anything else Roy, you either go up or down. Usually down, sooner or later.”

The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

Hard-boiled PI C.W. Sughrue rambles all over the west, solving two mysteries at once: tracking down a girl who went missing in San Francisco while also searching for a complex mess of a writer, Abraham Trahearne. The writer is lost in a boozy haze of wartime regrets and mixed blessings of fame; he is also the centerpiece—like a big baby—of a strange domestic triad of ex-wife, current wife, and mother, all living on his Montana ranch. Part road trip, part buddy novel, part mystery, part black widow revenge, Crumley writes like few others. And he seemed to have a blast writing the women characters as they lead the men around the ring like blind horses–just too good of a view back into the 1970s to be ignored. Be prepared—the rude poetry of the book is so saturated in booze and western machismo that you might stumble just touching the pages—as PI Sughrue opines: “I try to stay two drinks ahead of reality and three behind a drunk.” Words to live by.

John Nardizzi
www.johnnardizzi.com

The Burden of Innocence

by John Nardizzi

December 6, 2021 – January 31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Burden of Innocence by John Nardizzi

Private investigators Ray Infantino and Tania Kong take on the case of Sam Langford, framed for a murder committed by a crime boss at the height of his powers.

But a decade later, Boston has changed. The old ethnic tribes have weakened. As the PIs range across the city, witnesses remember the past in dangerous ways. The gangsters know that, in the new Boston, vulnerable witnesses they manipulated years ago are shaky. Old bones will not stay buried forever.

As the gang sabotages the investigation, will Ray and Tania solve the case in time to save an innocent man?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Crime Noir
Published by: Weathertop Media Co.
Publication Date: December 5, 2021
Number of Pages: 290
ISBN: 978-1-7376876-0-3
Series: PI Ray Infantino Series, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

Author Bio:

John Nardizzi

John Nardizzi is writer and investigator. His work on innocence cases led to the exoneration Gary Cifizzari and James Watson, as well as million dollar settlements for clients Dennis Maher and the estate of Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the film Conviction.

His crime novels won praise for crackling dialogue and pithy observations of detective work. He speaks and writes about investigations in numerous settings, including World Association of Detectives, Lawyers Weekly, Pursuit Magazine and PI Magazine. Prior to his PI career, he failed to hold any restaurant job for longer than a week. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Catch Up With John Nardizzi:
JohnNardizzi.com
Goodreads
BookBub — @johnf4
Twitter — @AuthorPI
Facebook — @rayinfantino1

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Book Spotlight: HOW TO BOOK A MURDER by Cynthia Kuhn

How to Book a Murder (A Starlit Bookshop Mystery)
by Cynthia Kuhn

About How to Book a Murder

How to Book a Murder (A Starlit Bookshop Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crooked Lane Books (December 7, 2021)
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1643858599
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 9781643858593 (Hardcover)
Digital ISBN : 9781643858609 (eBook)
Digital ISBN : 9781666529913 (Digital Audiobook)
Digital ISBN : 9781666512373 (Audiobook on CD)
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08QVJFZZK (Kindle edition)
Digital ASIN : B09GL3P4WK (Audible audiobook)

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Perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Kate Carlisle, in award-winning author Cynthia Kuhn’s series debut, small-town bookseller and literary event planner Emma Starrs is out to close the book on a killer intent on crashing the party.

To help save her family’s floundering Colorado bookstore, Starlit Bookshop, newly minted Ph.D. Emma Starrs agrees to plan a mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy, well-connected high school classmate Tabitha Baxter. It’s a delightful evening of cocktails and conjecture until Tabitha’s husband, Tip—hosting the affair in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin—winds up murdered.

In a heartbeat, Emma and her aunt Nora, a famous mystery writer, become suspects. Emma is sure the party’s over for Starlit events, until celebrated author Calliope Nightfall, whose gothic sensibilities are intrigued by the circumstances, implores the bookseller to create a Poe-themed launch event for her latest tome. Throwing a bash to die for while searching for additional clues is already enough to drive Emma stark raven mad, but another shocking crime soon reveals that Silvercrest has not yet reached the final chapter of the puzzling case.

Someone in this charming artistic community has murder on the mind, and if Emma cannot outwit the killer, she and her beloved aunt will land behind bars, to walk free nevermore.

About Cynthia Kuhn

Cynthia Kuhn is an English professor and author of the Starlit Bookshop Mysteries and the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. Her work has also appeared in Mystery Most Edible, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD, and other publications. Honors include an Agatha Award, a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant, and Lefty Award nominations. Originally from upstate New York, she lives in Colorado with her family. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Author Links

Website: cynthiakuhn.net

Twitter: @cynthiakuhn

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cynthiakuhnwriter

Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/authors/cynthia-kuhn

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/39587.Cynthia_Kuhn

Blog: chicksonthecase.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/2MPiEMh

Giveaway

Enter to win one (1) digital copy of How To Book a Murder, a Starlight Bookshop Mystery by Cynthia Kuhn AND one (1) $20.00 USD gift card to BookShop.org. Prizes will be distributed via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours at the conclusion of the giveaway period. Void where prohibited by law.

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS

December 6 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT

December 6 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW

December 7 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – CHARACTER GUEST POST

December 7 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW

December 8 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

December 9 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 10 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW

December 10 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW

December 11 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

December 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

December 12 – Laura’s Interests – SPOTLIGHT

December 13 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 13 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – REVIEW

December 14 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

December 14 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW

December 15 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT

December 15 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

December 16 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST

December 16 – Moonlight Rendezvous – REVIEW

December 17 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

December 17 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST

December 18 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – REVIEW

December 19 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT

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Book Spotlight: MIMI LEE CRACKS THE CASE by Jennifer J. Chow

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code (A Sassy Cat Mystery) by Jennifer J. Chow

About Mimi Lee Cracks the Code

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code (A Sassy Cat Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (November 30, 2021)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
Print ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1984805037
Print ISBN-13 : 9781984805034
Digital ISBN : 9781984805041
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08XQ2T9BS

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One of BookRiot’s Best Upcoming Cozy Mysteries for the Second Half of 2021!

 

When murder follows Mimi Lee to her romantic island getaway, she puts on her best sleuthing hat with her sassy cat in tow in this adventurous cozy mystery by Jennifer J. Chow.

Mimi Lee just found an extra perk to being a pet groomer at Hollywoof (other than cuddling animals all day long, that is). Pixie St. James, one of Mimi’s clients and the investor behind Hollywoof, has offered her and her boyfriend, Josh, a getaway at her vacation home, nestled on beautiful Catalina Island. With the island just outside of Los Angeles but still far enough from the hustle and bustle, Mimi, Josh, and their cat Marshmallow (who, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a dingy pet hotel) are excited for their relaxing stay.

That is, until Pixie’s last renter, Davis D. Argo, turns up dead. Mimi and Josh’s romantic getaway immediately turns into an enormous buzzkill, especially when Pixie asks Mimi for help. The police suspect Pixie, and Mimi knows a thing or two about wrongful allegations. Mimi figures it couldn’t hurt to snoop a little since she’s already there, and soon discovers that a valuable item is missing. Except Pixie isn’t the only one in the neighborhood who has been robbed. There is something strange happening on the island, and Mimi won’t stop until she finds out what it is.

 

About Jennifer J. Chow

Jennifer J. Chow is the Lefty Award-nominated author of the Sassy Cat Mysteries. The first in the series, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, was selected as an Overdrive Recommended Read, a PopSugar’s Best Summer Beach Read, and one of BuzzFeed’s Top 5 Books by AAPI authors. She’s active in Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Crime Writers of Color. Connect with Jennifer online at www.jenniferjchow.com.

Author Links

Website www.jenniferjchow.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/JenJChow

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jenjchow/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JenJChow

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

November 30 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

December 1 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 2 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

December 3 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

December 4 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT

December 4 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

December 5 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

December 6 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

December 6 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

December 7 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

December 8 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

December 9 – Cozy Up With Kathy – SPOTLIGHT

December 9 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

December 10 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – SPOTLIGHT

December 11 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

December 12 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT

Giveaway

Enter to win a print copy of Mimi Lee Gets a Clue and Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines by Jennifer J. Chow via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. There will be one (1) winner selected at the end of the giveaway period. Giveaway limited to US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.

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Guest Post: Robert Douglass – THE LITTLE TOWN OF SUMMERVILLE

 

Good day, book people and welcome to December! Am I the only one having a hard time accepting that we’re in the last month of 2021?! Have you ever wanted to be a writer? I used to work with my ex-husband translating documents (he translated, I edited) from Arabic-to-English back in the 1990s and early 2000s. We also worked with an Arab publishing company re-writing several novellas. Let me tell you, good writing is hard work and I don’t know if I can say if what we produced was good writing or not. We kept receiving requests for writing, translation, and editing, so I guess we were doing something right. As a result of that work, I’m in awe of anyone that craft a readable and believable story from scratch. I’m pleased to introduce a new-to-me author, Robert Douglass. Mr. Douglass’s debut work is the cozy mystery The Little Town of Summerville. He has graciously consented to visit today and share his thoughts on learning from a favorite author. Thank you, Mr. Douglass for sharing with us, the blog is now all yours.

Capturing The Style of My Favorite Author

Using the term ‘my favorite author’ is a bit deceiving, as it’s hard to pick just one, but one author that always astounds me is Mario Puzo. Among other works, he wrote The Godfather back in the 60s. The book is divided into three sections and the first section, in my opinion, is top tier gold standard for writing.

I am currently writing a cozy mystery series. It is light, cute, very family friendly and ‘The Godfather’ is the complete opposite. So, how on Earth could I possibly find the writing style of Mario Puzo of any benefit to me? Well, Puzo has tremendous ability to show the struggles and injustice of the world at such a personal level that the reader becomes concerned for the characters and can relate to their problems. Perhaps Puzo is playing on the arrogance of the reader, that he can understand the depth of irony that is unfolding in front to him and so the reader believes he fully understands the situation and wants the character to prevail. I am guilty of such arrogance as it is intoxicating to follow the story line of this new world I have entered.

There are many characters that show these qualities but I’ll only touch on a couple of them. The first character is Amerigo Bonasera. The reader encounters him early in the story during a court appearance and then at an Italian wedding. The wedding is a colorful and rich story world setting with members of the family and friends, lots of food and wine, music from the band and lots of dancing. Amerigo follows the Italian tradition of being allowed to talk to the father of the bride on the wedding day. It’s not a man he usually gets to talk to as he now has a meeting with the Godfather. The reader had seen Amerigo in court and how the crooked judge handled him and is reminded of the injustice as he relays the details. The Godfather explains he will handle the situation and the reader secretly rejoices for justice to be served yet is a bit bewildered as he knows this is very illegal activity. The great writing of Puzo has emotionally hooked him.

The second character is Captain McCluskey, the policeman. The reader has already seen the crooked judge and as Puzo shows McCluskey scene after scene the reader realizes he is a crooked cop. At first the reader dislikes him but through Puzo’s skillful writing as the scenes continue, he starts to wonder if the poor policeman got tricked and pushed into his dishonest ways and starts to feel sorry for him. Eventually the reader catches himself and says, ‘Wait a minute, he’s a crooked cop! He brought all these problems on himself!’ Can I write as skillful as Puzo? No, but I’m sure going to try! Long live the characters!

Robert Douglass
R. T. Douglass

The Little Town of Summerville

A Dog Named Chubby

by Robert Douglass

December 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Little Town of Summerville by Robert Douglass

Jack Wellington moves from the big city to make a new start. He jumps at the opportunity to become a detective in Summerville.

A peculiar case is assigned to him as artwork has been stolen and a dog is missing. Fellow detective Charlie Finch, a man adorned with decades of service, uncovers clues with Jack. They become intrigued by the words and actions of a neighborhood boy and wonder how much he might know.

Clues are followed but it’s the kids in the neighborhood who provide the most relevant clues. As the detectives get closer to them with their questions, the pressure of the kids struggle unfolds.

Kids, dogs, thieves, and a detective who meets a gal named Sally in the little town of Summerville.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Amazon
Publication Date: November 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 200
ISBN: 9798677929410 (paperback)
ASIN: B09KS12LMY (Kindle edition)
Series: The Little Town of Summerville, 1
Purchase Links #Commission Earned: Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Robert Douglass

Robert has an AAS in Microsoft Networking Technology from Glendale Community College and is a Microsoft Certified Professional.

He likes reading, writing, and exploring natural wonders. His favorite pastime is telling tall stories around the campfire.

Catch Up With Robert Douglass:
RTDouglass.com
Twitter – @RTDouglassLit
Facebook – @RTDouglassAuthor

Tour Participants:

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Guest Post: Steven C. Harms – THE COUNSEL OF THE CUNNING

The Counsel of the Cunning

by Steven C. Harms

November 8 – December 3, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Good day, book people. For those of you in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! One of the many things I’m grateful for are the amazing characters developed by authors. Where would a good story be without good characters (and an amazing talent for crafting readable and believable storylines)? Like many of you, I have beloved characters from classic literature as well as contemporary fiction. However, I never really gave any thought to an author having a favorite character in anything they craft. I’m incredibly pleased that Steven C. Harms, author of The Counsel of the Cunning is willing to stop by and discuss just that, his favorite character in his writings. Sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and let’s learn which character Mr. Harms likes best. I hope you’ll stick around to follow the blog tour and learn more about this book and author. Thank you, Mr. Harms for joining us today. I’ll now be turning the blog over to you.

My Favorite Character in the Viceroy series

When I created detective Roger Viceroy, one of my major influences was Jack Reacher from Lee Child’s amazing series. I fashioned Viceroy’s character somewhat in that mold, but I wanted and needed him to be different. I landed on the back story and the environment in which Viceroy operates the differentiator.

Whereas Jack Reacher embodies a free-wheeling vigilante, random happenstance plot involvements, and a homeless vagabond to a degree, Viceroy by comparison was placed into a structured environment as head of a special detective unit. But the differences didn’t end there. The most obvious one you’ll find as you read the series, is the support team. While Reacher was a loner who primarily worked solo, Viceroy has a team of two behind him as they work the crime investigations as a three-part team. I believed a series where the reader not only falls for the protagonist (in my case Roger Viceroy), but also bonds with two other support members was appealing.

I came up with two characters – Regina Cortez and Trevor “Silk” Moreland. I drew Regina’s physical appearance and demeanor from a former assistant I had in a previous job. She was someone I had the utmost respect for as she brought professionalism to work every day during our eight years together. It was that loyalty and dedication that resonated with me and ended up being Regina’s style as well.

But it’s the second character that I want to focus on – Silk, a former high school athletic star who went onto a decade’s work as a top-flight detective for the Milwaukee PD. Silk is part of Viceroy’s detective unit by the time the first book, Give Place to Wrath, opens. He grew up on Milwaukee’s streets, standing 6’5″ with a wit and a well-timed irreverent attitude that seem to work well. Silk is, by far, the character that gets the most response from readers. They love him and want to see more of him in future books.

As I developed the character, it was Silk’s irreverential trait that opened a door, allowing me to write his dialogue with some humor and flare, and his interactions and reactions with a much wider berth, while also providing me the freedom to use him for plot moments that worked better than Viceroy or Regina.

Silk seems to resonate with readers in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I think it’s his dry, yet pinpoint humor he invokes at just the right moments combined with his dedication to being “a monster for details,” as Viceroy describes him. He’s completely sold out to being a detective and is passionate about finding clues or angles that others may have missed. Silk knows that being a detective is his life’s calling and the chapters he’s in just seem to have a more energetic bounce to them.

I’m confident Viceroy and Regina provide plenty of likability as well, but Silk stealthily beats them to being the reader’s favorite of the three. Who am I to argue? ♦


 

The Counsel of the Cunning

by Steven C. Harms

November 8 – December 3, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Counsel of the Cunning by Steven C. Harms

Roger Viceroy faces a return to the FBI and a life he vacated long ago, until a knock on his front door announces the presence of billionaire and former U.S. Senator, Jürgen Sandt.

The past has come back to rear its ugly head. Sandt stands on his threshold for a reason: a decade prior the senator’s only son disappeared into the jungles of Guatemala, and Sandt has come to convince Viceroy that further investigation is now necessary. A package left mysteriously outside the family estate, opens the door to the possibility that his son is still very much alive.

Viceroy and his team agree to take on the hunt. Their search steers them from the back streets of Milwaukee to the stealthy corridors of Washington, D.C.—an eerie trek that will ultimately lead to an ancient site that supposedly doesn’t exist.

As Viceroy closes in on the truth, a parallel plot emerges. Not only could it point to the reason behind the cryptic disappearance of Bertram Sandt, but it could also launch a deadly battle that will put millions of lives at stake. On pure instinct, Viceroy knows nothing is adding up. Somehow, somewhere they missed a clue, and if it’s not discovered soon…it may be too late.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: November 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN: 9780578933795 (paperback)
ASIN: B0973PH3H8 (Kindle version)
Series: Roger Viceroy Series, #2
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Steven C. Harms

Steven C. Harms is a professional sports, sponsorship, broadcast sales, and digital media executive with a career spanning over thirty years across the NBA, NFL, and MLB. He’s dealt with Fortune 500 companies, major consumer brands, professional athletes, and multi-platform integrated sports partnerships and media advertising campaigns. He’s an accomplished playwright having written and produced a wildly successful theatrical production which led him to tackle his debut novel, Give Place to Wrath, released November 9, 2021 from Suspense Publishing. Harms is a native of Wisconsin, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. He now resides in the greater Milwaukee area as a sponsorship executive.

Catch Up With Steven C. Harms:
StevenCHarms.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @StevenCHarms
Instagram – @stevencharms
Twitter – @steven_c_harms
Facebook – @authorstevencharms

Tour Participants:

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Enter to Win:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Steven C. Harms. There will be THREE (3) winners for this tour. Each of the THREE (3) winners will receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card (US Only). The giveaway runs November 8 through December 5, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book 349: CITY OF TIME AND MAGIC by Paula Brackston

City of Time and Magic, Found Things #4, by Paula Brackston
ISBN: 9781250260697 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250260703 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250818874 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TZ38281 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2HCFLR (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 23, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy | Time-Travel

Xanthe meets Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

 
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Xanthe Westlake no longer only has Harley to rely upon when finding lost things that sing to her. She has confided her talents to step through time to her mother, Flora, and her boyfriend, Liam. The third book of this series, The Garden of Promises and Lies ended with Xanthe traveling back in time with Liam. Unfortunately, Liam was snatched from her when they attempted to return to their own time. Now Xanthe, Harley, and Flora are eager to find something that not only sings to Xanthe but will take her back to the right time to rescue Liam. Xanthe’s past travels haven’t been without danger, especially in the form Benedict Fairfax, another time spinner. But this time she has to deal with dangers that not affect those of that time period, but her loved ones as well. Is Liam safe? Where is he? How is he? What dangers, if any, are awaiting Xanthe back in time? And what would motivate another time spinner to snatch Liam in an effort to obtain Xanthe’s attention?

If you’ve been following me for any time now, you know beyond any reasonable doubt that I re-read the previous books in this series—Little Shop of Found Things, Secrets of the Chocolate House, and The Garden of Promises and Lies—to re-familiarize myself (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), before reading City of Time and Magic. Just as the third book in this series was a bit different from the first two, this book reintroduces us to Elizabeth (Hawksmith) Balmoral, originally introduced in The Witch’s Daughter, as well as Mistress Lydia Flyte, Erasmus Balmoral — a time stepper, former lover to Lydia Flyte and now married to Elizabeth Hawksmith, Dougal Harley — publican, neighbor to Flora and Xanthe, and Xanthe’s “advisor.” We’re also introduced to a host of other characters that play major and minor roles within the story, including more time spinners. This particular chapter of Xanthe’s ongoing saga, she must not only right a wrong from the past, but she also to choose the side of the righteous spinners. Her choice will have repercussions on her friends and acquaintances from the past as well as her contemporary loved ones. Does she have to battle evil again, well you’ll need to read the book to find out for yourself!

Reading City of Time and Magic took me a bit longer than normal, not because I found in uninteresting but because of a variety of family trials (elderly parental health issues and a death in the family). I was simply unable to focus my attention on reading for a few days because of these situations. However, once I began to re-read this book, I was enraptured and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. I enjoyed the interaction between Liam and Mistress Flyte, Liam and the Balmorals, as well as Harley with everyone else. Yes, Harley gets to travel back in time to assist Xanthe. Xanthe, Liam, and Harley make quite the team in this story and although I can’t tell you more about what happens, I sincerely hope that they will have more adventures in the future, especially with Elizabeth Hawksmith Balmoral! Can you tell I enjoyed this story? City of Time and Magic has hints of romance, intrigue, magic, betrayal, and more. I can’t say that this is the best book in the Found Series because I love them all. I can say that if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of City of Time and Magic to read. This author provides the reader with fascinating glimpses of the past and usage of past items when compared to contemporary times. The juxtaposition of the timelines is just one of the many things that make this series so enjoyable, at least to this reader. If you enjoy historical fiction, contemporary fiction, bits of fantasy, or just plain good writing, then I encourage you to read this series, consider it a gift to yourself for the holiday season! Something tells me I’ll be getting all four books for my 87-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”