Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mysteries for Nature Lovers - If you like Nevada Bar & C.J. Box

Nevada Barr and C.J. Box have long been favorite authors of both LPLS staff and patrons alike.  While they both write very distinct series, their books share many similarities.  Both authors draw on their professional backgrounds, which adds a great deal of realism to their writing.  Their protagonists read like real people who have flaws and make mistakes.  And, along with relentless pacing and plotting, both series feature the beauty and savagery of nature.

While Box and Barr are the most well known writers of nature-focused mystery, there are other very good ones out there that shouldn't be missed.

If you enjoy the Wyoming setting and environmental issues that Box tackles in his Joe Pickett series, David Bertsch might be a good one to try.  Both Bertsch and his protagonist Jake Trent are former lawers-turned-fishing guides, and that knowledge adds an extra dimension to the plot.  This first in his series is Death Canyon.

Scott Graham adds an archaeological element to the wilderness mystery in his National Parks series.  Both Barr fans and Reichs/Griffiths readers will find much to like here!  His debut is called Canyon Sacrifice.

Patricia Skalka's debut, Death Stalks Door County, introduces park ranger Dave Cubiak.  Set in
Wisconsin, the setting has a different feel from the others that take place in the West or Southwest.  Skalka's prose is reminiscent of the great Robert B. Parker's, so fans of the Jesse Stone series should try this one out.

Paul Doiron's game warden, Mike Bowditch, works in Maine.  Doiron shares the twisty plotting and top-notch characterization that Barr and Box are known for, but he does it from a first-person perspective.  This gives the prose an immediacy and an intimacy that sets it apart from the rest.  Consistently well-reviewed, he should be on every mystery lover's must read list.  The first in the series is The Poacher's Son.

William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor is a half-Irish, half-Native American P.I.  The rural Minnesotan setting and O'Connor's Ojibwe point of view makes this series fine company for Box and Barr.  Western readers and Tony Hillerman fans will also enjoy the series.  The first in the series is Iron Lake.

Set in the Rockies, Beth Groundwater's RM Outdoor Adventures series is perfect for white water rafters.  Or those of us who prefer to raft vicariously through fictional characters.  The rivers of Colorado are as important a character as river ranger and guide Mandy Tanner.  Start with Deadly Currents.

Dana Stabenow brings the rugged and brutal beauty of Alaska to life through P.I. Kate Shugak.  Kate and Barr's Anna Pigeon are kindred spirits as they are both tough, smart, and willing to do the right thing no matter the personal cost.  The first in the series is A Cold Day for Murder.

While Stabenow's a master of the genre, M.J. McGrath is brand-new.  White Heat starts in the Arctic as guide Edie Kiglatuk is hired to find the remains of a lost Victorian explorer.  Its haunting tone will appeal to fans of Scandinavian mysteries.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Coming Soon! Late summer 2014 releases

The end of the summer season promises to be an exciting one for readers!  Curious about what will be on the best seller list in a few weeks?  We've compiled a list of sure-fire hits and long-awaited series releases that we've recently ordered.

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee by Marja Mills is every librarian's dream literary memoir.  Mills had the opportunity to live next door to the Lee sisters, getting to know Harper and her sister Alice as only a neighbor and friend could.

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon is, perhaps, the most anticipated fiction release of the season.  Even though we've had the Father Tim prequels to hold us over, it has been nine years since the last Mitford book came out.  Need to refresh your memory?  Start with At Home in Mitford.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness closes out the All Souls trilogy, which started with A Discovery of Witches.  Harkness expertly blends genre elements, making this series a good pick for historical, fantasy, urban fantasy, and romance fans.

Son of  No One by Sherrilyn Kenyon is the latest in the highly addictive Dark Hunter series.  Strong characterization and a richly built world sets Kenyon apart from other paranormal romance authors.  While each novel can stand alone, there are plot threads that weave through the whole series.  If you want to start at the beginning, look for Fantasy Lover.

Shots Fired by C.J. Box supplements the Joe Picket series with four short stories featuring the popular Wyoming game warden.  This series is recommended for both mystery and western readers as well as Nevada Barr fans.




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Releases by Debut Authors - Spring 2014

If you're a mystery reader, this Spring's releases are for you!  There's something new in every subgenre from cozy to hardboiled police procedurals.  But don't despair, speculative fiction readers!  We've got two new authors this time around that are must reads.  Enjoy!

Fantasy/SF


The Forever Watch by David Ramirez is a good choice for mystery readers who want to delve into SF.  Ramirez blends elements from both genres to create a novel that is difficult to put down.  If you like Kristine Kathryn Rusch or serial killer fiction, this is a great one!

Malice by John Gwynne is a traditional epic fantasy by a brand-new talent.  Lauded for its detailed worldbuilding, fans of Tolkien, Jordan, and Martin should add this to the to-read list.

Mystery
Random House describes Run to Me by Diane Hester as Jodi Picoult meets Harlan Coben, but Mary Higgins Clark fans will find much to like here, as well.  Its tone is emotionally-charged and suspenseful, its protagonist slightly unreliable.  If you're looking for a stay-up-all-night read, this might be for
you!

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes is a series debut starring DCI Louisa Smith.  This British police procedural will appeal to Tana French and Mo Hayder fans.

Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper launches a new cozy mystery series set in a tea shop in upstate New York.  This is a great one for readers of the subgenre and a no-brainer for  Laura Childs fans!

Foal Play by Kathryn O'Sullivan is a perfect summertime read.  Set in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina, this series starter should appeal to Joan Hess fans with its stubborn fire chief
heroine, tricky plot, and quirky small-town secondary characters.

Eileen Brady brings real-life veterinary experience to her series debut, Muzzled.  It's part of the burgeoning "pet noir" subgenre, which mixes some of the pet cozy elements with darker content.  This is perfect for someone looking for a cozy with more bite.

Julia Dahl launches the Rebekah Roberts series with Invisible City.  Rebekah is a budding journalist, so fans of Mary Jane Clark, Lis Wiehl, and Jan Burke should try this out.  Faye Kellerman readers might also enjoy the Judaism-centered plot.

The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton is another series debut featuring forensic accountant Ava Lee.  Readers looking for a new strong, smart, independent heroine will definitely want pick this one up!

Night Heron by Adam Brookes is a suspenseful spy thriller that will enthrall genre fans.  This debut highly
regarded by critics from Booklist to NPR.  Brookes draws his own experiences as a new correspondent in China to add a great deal of realism to his prose.

Never Alone by C.J. Carpenter is a suspenseful police procedural that will appeal to J.A. Konrath and Chelsea Cain fans.

Canyon Sacrifice by Scott Graham blends national parks and archaeology for a fascinating read that will appeal to readers of Nevada Barr, C.J. Box, Kathy Reichs, and Elly Griffiths.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Books for Fans of Orange is the New Black

The second season of Netflix prison drama Orange is the New Black debuted on June 6. If you're like some of us on staff, you've already binge-watched the whole thing and are eaten up with unanswered questions. While you're settling in for months of agonized waiting for season 3, why not ease your pain with some OitNB readalikes? My coworker Liz (thanks, Liz!) and I have compiled this list of books featuring female felons from all walks of life and other characters who remind us of the Litchfield ladies.

Nonfiction:
Orange is the New BlackMy Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman If you haven't read the book upon which the show is based, you might want to make this your first stop. Reactions vary, especially among fans of the show who enjoy the in-depth (albeit fictional) back story and characterization. But if you're curious about what really happened, you'll want to give it a go.

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and other Female Villains by Jane Yolen
This collection of biographical sketches examines the lives and bad reptation of twenty-six of history's most vilified women. Each chapter is followed by a graphic novel-style debate about whether these bad girls deserve their tarnished reputation, or if the context justifies their actions.

Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox
Knox was accused of murdering her roommate while studying abroad in Italy, resulting in a controversial arrest, conviction, and eventual overturning of her charges. This memoir recounts Knox's experiences.

Runaway Devil: How Forbidden Love Drove a 12-Year-Old to Murder Her Family by Robert Remington and Sherri Zickefoose
When a family was discovered murdered in their home, authorities feared for the safety of the lone survivor, a twelve-year-old daughter, JR. But as the investigation continued, they were shocked to discover evidence that implicated JR as the murderer.

Couldn't Keep it To Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters edited by Wally Lamb
This book collects first-person accounts from real female prisoners. Unfortunately, all LPLS copies have been lost, but I couldn't help sharing it.  If you're interested in what real women have to say about incarceration and want a variety of perspectives, ask a staff person at your local LPLS branch about interlibrary loan. We'll try to find a copy for you from another library!

Fiction:
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
First in a series, this novel introduces Stella Hardesty. Stella runs a sewing shop but spends her off hours meting out vigilante justice to abusive husbands and boyfriends. I think she'd have a lot in common with Claudette--remember what she did to the client abusing one of her cleaning service girls?

Let That Be the Reason by Vickie Stringer
Abandoned by her boyfriend and desperate for a way to support her child, Pamela assumes the alter-ego Carmen and rises from being a call girl to leading a major drug cartel. This novel is based on the author's real-life experiences, which included spending time in prison before achieving success in publishing.

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
Sixteen-year-old Ree must find her father, who has skipped bail after being busted for running a meth lab, and bring him back for his next court date. I can imagine Pennsatucky being in similar situations.

You might also want to read along with Piper, Alex, Taystee, and the rest. Books of Orange is the New Black tracks and lists the books that appear in the Litchfield library, on bunk shelves, and in the inmates' hands. It's a great resource for tracking down that interesting-looking book that you saw for just a minute on-screen but couldn't make out the title. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

7 Readalikes for Janet Evanovich Fans

Top Secret Twenty-One is out!  Are you impatiently on the hold list?  Already read it and waiting for the next one?  We've compiled a list of series to tide you over in the meantime.

The James Harry Denton series.  Steve Womack manages to maintain a gritty tone that is also funny and wry.  Denton has a good heart, and that often leads him to ignore his common sense for the common good.  Middle Tennesseeans will also get a kick out of seeing the Nashville area as it was in the 1990s.  The first book in the series is Dead Folks' Blues.

The Heather Wells series.  Meg Cabot created a former pop superstar turned college student and assistant residence hall director whose job and association with her private investigator landlord throws her into amateur sleuthing.  Cabot is most famous for her young adult books.  While this series is intended for adults, it is a good crossover for teens and sensitive readers, as most of the violence occurs offstage.  Combine that with the twisty plot and madcap humor, and you've got a perfect read. Start with  Size 12 Is Not Fat.

The Meg Langslow series.  If you're a Grandma Mazur fan, you should try Donna Andrews' long-running series.  The secondary characters really steal the show, and it's usually up to Meg to make order out of the chaos that ensues in their wakes. The first book in the series is Murder With Peacocks.

The Jane Jamison series.  Molly Harper's protagonist is a newly-undead children's librarian who has an overbearing family, a complicated love life, and an unfortunate habit of finding trouble.  Sound familiar?  This smart, funny paranormal series is appropriate for all sorts of genre fiction readers. Look for Nice
Girls Don't Have Fangs.

The Odelia Grey series.  Sue Ann Jaffarian brings real-life experience to her fiction, penning a protagonist that so many of us can relate to.  Odelia's an unapologetically overweight, intelligent, strong, middle-aged woman who juggles her crazy job, beloved friends, and stressful family issues with aplomb.  Her first story is Too Big to Miss.

Paige Turner series.  Amanda Matetsky's character is a war widow who wants to be a crime reporter - a vocation only occupied by men in 1954 New York.  Paige is easy to cheer for as she works toward her dream, solving mysteries along the way.  Her encounters with Detective Dan Street will please Castle fans as well.  Murderers Prefer Blondes starts the series.

Lt. Jacqueline Daniels series.  J.A. Konrath balances hilarity and suspense perfectly in this police procedural.  Jack chases serial killers while dealing with crippling insomnia, relationship troubles, and an ailing parent.  This series is grittier than most of these offerings, which would make this perfect for Patricia Cornwell or Robert B. Parker fans.  The first in the series is Whiskey Sour.

Are you an Evanovich fan?  What would you recommend?  Tell us in the comments!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Christy Awards Finalists 2014

The 15th annual Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction will be presented June 23, 2014 in Atlanta.

The Christy Advisory Board is pleased to announce finalists for the 2014 Christy Awards honoring Christian fiction.

A little history about the Christy Awards; The Awards are named after Catherine Marshall and her book Christy which has more than 10 million copies in print and is estimated to have been read by more than 30 million people.  The awards started in 1999 when a dozen Christian publishers saw a need to establish a Christian fiction award that recognized several genres of Christian fiction.

Did you know that our library system carries many Christian Fiction authors and titles?  Check out the following titles up for Christy Awards for 2014.

Contemporary

Every Waking Moment
by Chris Fabry

The Prayer Box
by Lisa Wingate

Stones for Bread
by Christa Parrish



Contemporary Romance/Suspense

Dangerous Passage
by Lisa Harris

Once Upon a Prince
by Rachel Hauck

Rosemary Cottage
by Colleen Coble

Vanished 
by Irene Hannon

Contemporary Series

Firefly Island
by Lisa Wingate

Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel
by Melody Carlson 

Take a Chance on Me
by Susan May Warren



First Novel

Burning Sky
by Lori Benton

A Cast of Stones
by Patrick W. Carr

Dear Mr. Knightley
by Katherine Reay



Historical

All For a Story
by Allison Pittman

Burning Sky
by Lori Benton

Sweet Mercy
by Ann Tatlock



Historical Romance

Harvest of Gold
by Tessa Afshar

Stealing the Preacher
by Karen Witemeyer

Under a Blackberry Moon
by Serena B. Miller



Suspense



Outlaw
by Ted Dekker

Singularity
by Steven James



Visionary



A Cast of Stones
by Patrick W. Carr

Dragonwitch
by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review - Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris’s new Midnight Texas series has officially launched!  I got my hands on the first title, Midnight Crossroad, last weekend and thought I’d follow up my last Charlaine Harris post with a review.

Long-time Harris readers will find the biggest difference between Midnight and the others is the viewpoint.  Harris has traditionally been a first person author: the character tells the story from his or her perspective and any information the reader gets is limited to the character’s knowledge.  Midnight is written in third person omniscient, so we get multiple perspectives from multiple characters at a time.

Having had first person expectations, it was a bit jarring to dig into the book to find that her style had changed.  But by the third chapter I had adapted just fine.  By mid-story, I began to wonder if Midnight itself might actually be the narrator.

It’s a weird thought, I know, but this is a series in which the town is a character.  Not a sentient one of course.  (At least, not yet.)  It's made up of all the protagonists, and there's a distinct feeling that the narrator, be it the town or Harris herself, is keeping back a multitude of secrets.  Midnight is an integral part of the story with its own identity and personality.  Think Eureka, Star’s Hollow, or Macomber’s Cedar Cove.  Cross Mayberry with Sunnydale, and you’d get Midnight, Texas.  

Change in viewpoint aside, Midnight Crossroad is most definitely a Charlaine Harris book.  Like all of her books, paranormal and non, it is a mystery at its core.  It isn’t apparent at first, as she takes her time introducing you to Midnight and its inhabitants, but around page 80, you’ll realize that the mystery and its resolution are very much tied to this introductory world building.  

Its tone and humor level are very similar to the Harper Connolly series.  In fact, one of the main characters came from that series and, if you’re a long-time Harris reader, you might recognize one or two more from her other worlds.  When I read about this possibility last fall, I feared it might be annoying.  And, honestly, if you’ve binge-read her entire backlist recently it still might be.  For me, having read her over the course of a decade, I don’t remember many secondary characters and probably won’t recognize them unless they name drop Sookie or Lily or Harper, so it wasn't a problem.

Despite the character overlap, the series is not a direct spinoff or sequel but more of a crossroad where all of her worlds meet.  (See what I did there?)  In fact, this book is a terrific jumping-off point for new readers as it is representative of her body of work overall (despite the aforementioned perspective thing), but it stands alone very well and allows for exploration of her other series over time.

Bottom line?  Midnight Crossroad features a strong mystery and a compelling cast, but long-time Harris readers should be prepared for some style changes and character cameos from other series.  New-to-Harris readers will enjoy the mystery mixed with light paranormal elements.

It will appeal to a broad range of readers, so if you like urban fantasy or mystery, you should give this a try.  Due to the low violence level, adventurous cozy fans will also find much to like here.

Have you read Midnight Crossroad yet?  Are you looking forward to it?  (Or not?)  We’d love to hear from you in the comments!