The Last Death of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames

the-last-death-of-jack-harbin-by-terry-shamesThe Last Death of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames
Series: Samuel Craddock Mystery #2
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Jarrett Creek, Texas
Published by Seventh Street Books, 2014
Library book
253 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Right before the outbreak of the Gulf War, two eighteen-year-old football stars and best friends from Jarrett Creek, Texas, signed up for the army. But Woody Patterson was rejected and stayed home to marry the girl they both loved, while Jack Harbin came back from the war badly damaged. The men haven’t spoken since.

Just as they are about to reconcile, Jack is brutally murdered. With the chief of police out of commission, it’s up to trusted ex-chief Samuel Craddock to investigate. Against the backdrop of small-town loyalties and betrayals, Craddock discovers dark secrets of the past and present to solve the mystery of Jack’s death.

Town Café has all the charm of a cow barn. A big tin Quonset hut, it’s pockmarked on the outside, as if it was used for target practice in some past life. Bill Schroeder trucked it in about ten years ago and plopped it onto a lot near the railroad tracks. The place has knotty pine walls decorated with random signs advertising beer and farm equipment. Christmas lights are strung all over the place, year round. But the food is good.

Initial impressions

  • The characters, mystery and setting are so well done. I totally recommend this series!

The Story

  • Jack Harbin is an Army veteran who was in the Gulf War. He lost a leg and his sight. He was a star quarterback in high school in Jarrett Creek and still goes to all the games. He will talk football any day of the week and usually holds court at the Town Café. He’s sometimes hard to get along with, but football is always a favorite topic in Jarrett Creek, Texas.
  • When first Jack’s father dies and then Jack dies Samuel Craddock has to step in and figure out what’s going on.

Pluses

  • I really like this series. Samuel Craddock the protagonist of these books is someone I’d like to know.
  • This is written in first person, present tense–not something I usually like that well, but it works for this series.
  • This is practically a police procedural!
  • I like the way Ms. Shames portrays the small town life in rural Texas. I’ve lived in small rural towns in the west and this portrayal seems true-to-life. . . lots of gossip, everyone knowing at least a few things about their neighbors, people willing to pitch in and help when someone needs it, people making snap judgements about others and just like anywhere many shades of gray.
  • There’s a lot going on under the surface in this book. Some of the story goes back to Jack Harbin’s high school days, to his military days. And then what these things mean to the present day.

Minuses

  • I had a pretty good idea about the mystery, but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the book.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m happy there are five books in this series so far. I want to read the next book soon!

Awards

  • A Library Journal Best Book of 2014

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Terry Shames grew up in Texas, and has an abiding affection for the people she grew up with and the landscape and culture of the town that is the model for Jarrett Creek.
  • She graduated from the University of Texas and has an MA from San Francisco State University.
  • Terry now lives in Northern California with her husband, two terriers and a regal cat.

Reading Challenges

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Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-kurland-hallDeath Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St. Mary Mystery series #3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: Kurland St. Mary in rural England, 1817
Published by Kensington, 2015
Library book
281 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: As wedding bells chime in Kurland St. Mary, a motley group of visitors descends on the village—and with a murderer on the prowl, some of them may not be returning home…

Lucy Harrington has returned to Kurland St. Mary to help with her friend Sophia Giffin’s wedding. But her homecoming is made disagreeable by the presence of Major Robert Kurland, whose bungled proposal has ruffled Lucy’s composure, and a meddling widow who has designs on her father, the village rector.

Wary of the cloying Mrs. Chingsford from the start, Lucy has doubts about the busybody’s intentions with her father. But everyone else seems to think they make an ideal match—until the courtship is curtailed when Mrs. Chingsford is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. It’s clear that it wasn’t an accident, and in hopes of finding the culprit, Lucy and Robert call a truce and begin scrutinizing the wedding guests.

But the widow left behind plenty of enemies, and when one of them is the next to turn up dead, Lucy and Robert discover that the truth is far more scandalous than anyone could have imagined…

How was she supposed to deal with someone who asked the most outrageous questions with a smile on her face? She could only pray her father wouldn’t be taken in by the sweetness for too long before he discovered the sour underneath. But then men often seemed incapable of seeing much at all. . . .

and

There was a bitter sound to her words, but Lucy couldn’t blame her. Unwanted or unwed female relatives had very few options if their menfolk died.

Initial impressions

  • I love the characters in these books. The mysteries are good, too!

The story

  • Lucy returns to Kurland St. Mary to help her friend Sophia with her wedding. Sophia found someone to love in London, but Lucy didn’t have any proposals that suited her.
  • Guests begin to arrive for the wedding and since it’s a small village some guests stay at the vicarage.
  • It turns out the guests at the vicarage are Mrs. Chingford and her daughters. Lucy’s father knew Mrs. Chingford when they were both younger and he is pleased to see her again. Lucy hopes he’s not taken in by her.
  • Mrs. Chingford seems to know lots of gossip about the wedding guests and enjoys confronting people. However, Lucy’s father is enamored and announces his engagement to Mrs. Chingford.
  • When Mrs. Chingford falls down a staircase Lucy and Robert declare a truce and try to discover if this was an accident or a murder.

Pluses

  • Before I read the second book I saw that this book is about a wedding and, of course, I thought it would be Lucy and Robert’s wedding!
  • Lucy is happy to be back in her village. She didn’t like London very much, but she’s also sad she didn’t find a suitor in London.
  • Lucy and Robert declare a truce to their annoyance with each other to try to figure out how Mrs. Chingford died.
  • I like the mystery in this book as well as the wedding preparations.
  • We get to know more about several characters from earlier books and see more about their lives and motivations.
  • I do like the bits of romance in these books. I also like that these are more than the romance and that I like the characters a lot.
  • I like Lucy who is outspoken and a “managing” female. Robert is often impatient and always seems to say the wrong thing to Lucy. However, there’s some chemistry there and I hope they discover it soon!

Minuses

  • Sometimes the banter and insults between Lucy and Robert goes on too long. However, I do enjoy them and the story so I don’t let that bother me too much.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • The fourth book in the series–Death Comes to the Fair–comes out in November 2016. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): “Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter.. ”

Reading Challenges

Death Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-londonDeath Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St.Mary series #2
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: London and Kurland St. Mary in England, 1817
Published by Kensington, 2014
Library book
259 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: A season in London promises a welcome change of pace for two friends from the village of Kurland St. Mary until murder makes a debut. With the reluctant blessings of their father, the rector of Kurland St. Mary, Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna leave home for a social season in London. At the same time, Lucy’s special friend Major Robert Kurland is summoned to the city to accept a baronetcy for his wartime heroism.

Amidst the dizzying whirl of balls and formal dinners, the focus shifts from mixing and matchmaking to murder when the dowager Countess of Broughton, the mother of an old army friend of Robert, drops dead. When it’s revealed she’s been poisoned, Robert’s former betrothed, Miss Chingford, is accused, and she in turn points a finger at Anna. To protect her sister, Lucy enlists Robert’s aid in drawing out the true culprit.

But with suspects ranging from resentful rivals and embittered family members to the toast of the ton, it will take all their sleuthing skills to unmask the poisoner before more trouble is stirred up.

London was far more tiring and intimidating than Lucy had expected. As the Hathaways had engaged an extremely competent staff, she also had very little to do, which was disconcerting in itself. Apparently, living like a young lady at home was remarkably boring.

and

His assumption that the accumulated wisdom of generations of women was untrustworthy was slightly annoying, but not uncommon in this age of new science. Apparently, in order to be considered worthy, everything had to be proved anew. It seemed ridiculous to her. If willow bark cured a headache, and had done so for centuries, then why would one suddenly doubt it? It was typical of men to rewrite something just for the sake of it.

Initial impressions

  • The second book in this series continued to make me laugh sometimes and read quickly through the suspenseful parts.

The story

  • This book begins a few months after the end of the first book.
  • Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna leave for London for the season in hopes of finding husbands.
  • Much to his dismay Major Robert Kurland is summoned to London to receive a baronetcy for his heroism in the war.
  • They are all at Almack’s when a dowager Countess suddenly collapses and dies. It looks like poison and Major Kurland and Lucy Harrington again work together to solve the mystery.

Pluses

  • I read the first book in this series late last year and enjoyed the story and characters a lot.
  • The London setting is well done and though Lucy would like to find someone to marry she isn’t very happy to be in London. She finds it boring–at least until a murder happens–and she misses the countryside.
  • I like the characters in this series–Lucy, Robert, Anna, Sophia (Lucy’s friend)–even Robert’s former betrothed, Miss Chingford, is interesting and irritating at the same time.
  • There’s some romance in the book since Lucy, Anna and Sophia are in London all trying to find husbands. Of course, after the first book I expected Lucy and Robert to finally wake up and discover each other, but though they make some progress I wondered when or if it  would happen!

Minuses

  • Major Kurland comes across as curmudgeonly and ill-mannered sometimes in this book–especially in his interactions with Lucy. He doesn’t understand that spending so much time with her might ruin her chances of finding a husband.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I had the third book in the series and I’ve already read it, too. I hope she writes a fourth book very soon!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter….

Reading Challenges

The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty

the-royal-wulff-murdersThe Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty
Series: Sean Stranahan series #1
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Montana
Published by Viking, 2012
Library book
352 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: A clever and fast-paced murder mystery full of wit, suspense, and fly fishing.

When a fishing guide reels in the body of a young man on the Madison, the Holy Grail of Montana trout rivers, Sheriff Martha Ettinger suspects foul play. It’s not just the stick jammed into the man’s eye that draws her attention; it’s the Royal Wulff trout fly stuck in his bloated lower lip. Following her instincts, Ettinger soon finds herself crossing paths with Montana newcomer Sean Stranahan.

Fly fisher, painter, and has-been private detective, Stranahan left a failed marriage and lackluster career to drive to Montana, where he lives in an art studio decorated with fly-tying feathers and mouse droppings. With more luck catching fish than clients, Stranahan is completely captivated when Southern siren Velvet Lafayette walks into his life, intent on hiring his services to find her missing brother. The clues lead Stranahan and Ettinger back to Montana’s Big Business: fly fishing. Where there’s money, there’s bound to be crime.

In Sean Stranahan’s philosophy of life, any man who had a fly rod, a quarter tank of gas, and four decent tires was never too far from home.

and

The rainbow marked the end of a story that had begun nearly nine months ago and he was reluctant to open his hand. Trout are the ghosts of moving waters, gone like the dreams one longs to remember. When this one glimmered away, he felt as if he’d caught smoke or that it had never been there in the first place.

Initial impressions

  • I love the Montana setting with fly fishing, the beautiful outdoors and rivers and the dichotomy of the people who flock to the Montana rivers for the fishing–some who have vacation homes in Montana, but only spend a few weeks every year in the state–and those who live year round and try to make a living in Montana.

The story

  • When a body is found in a popular fly fishing river the sheriff wonders if the young man is a victim of accidental drowning or murder.
  • Sean Stranahan is a painter, but not selling too many paintings. He’s recently come to Montana from New England and he’s living in his studio. He was a private detective in New England so his studio door is marked with both “Blue Ribbon Watercolors” and “Private Investigations.”
  • Velvet Lafayette walks into Sean’s office and hires him to find her father’s fishing spot. And keep his eye out for her brother. Sean asks her for her brother’s description since he has heard about the drowned fisherman. The two descriptions don’t match.
  • Sheriff Ettinger questions Sean while he’s out fishing when she and her deputies are questioning fishermen who might have seen something along the river where the young man died.
  • Later Sean is fishing with the fishing guide who found the body when someone shoots the guide. Sean manages to save the guide’s life and meets up again with Sheriff Ettinger.
  • They investigate these events from two different directions.

Pluses

  • I enjoyed this book partly because I grew up living in the U.S. West and loving the outdoors, but I don’t think you have to be familiar with those aspects of the book to enjoy this story.
  • When Velvet Lafayette walks into Sean’s life I felt a flash of the hard-boiled detective story such as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon where the femme fatale leads the detective on. Velvet has a rather bizarre story and it’s hard to know if she’s telling the truth.
  • The story revolves around trout, fly fishing and rivers in Montana. I loved all the outdoor scenes and writing. I grew up camping and fishing with my family in Oregon. My Dad tied his own flies so I relate to the fly tying and fishing.
  • The Royal Wulff fly (which you can see on the cover of the book) is a dry-fly pattern originally tied by Lee Wulff in the 1930’s and still used by fishermen today. It resembles a number of different types of mayflies. I like the authenticity that Mr. McCafferty uses without making the book boring.
  • The book also features Sheriff Martha Ettinger who has fought her way to the top of her profession. Along with her department she investigates the death of the young man found in the river. She’s a great character to read about. We see only a little of the woman behind the sheriff and I like that.
  • The characters are well-written and varied. We have both the sheriff’s and Sean’s points-of-view and since they are coming at things from two different directions that makes the story interesting as I wondered where their investigations would converge.
  • I love the humor in the story. In the first paragraph: “The client, whose largest trout to date had been the size of a breakfast sausage, reared back as if to stick a tarpon.” That sets the stage for lots more humor!
  • I like Keith McCafferty’s writing a lot. I think an outdoorsman and writer like Mr. McCafferty is something of a philosopher and I find some of that in his writing along with a great story.

Minuses

  • There might be too much “fish” talk for some readers, but I think the book is worth reading through that even if you don’t like fishing.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m ready to read more books by Mr. McCafferty! I’ve bought the second book in the series and hope to read it soon. The fourth book in the series–Crazy Mountain Kiss–comes out in June 2016.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • As well as being a novelist for Viking/Penguin Books, Keith McCafferty is the Survival and Outdoor Skills Editor of Field & Stream. He has written articles for publications as diverse as Fly Fishekeith-mccaffertyrman Magazine, Mother Earth News, Gray’s Sporting Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and on subjects ranging from mosquitoes to wolves to mercenaries and exorcism. Based in Montana and working on assignment around the globe–he recently spent a month in India trekking the Himalayas, fishing for golden mahseer and studying tigers–Keith has won numerous awards, including the Robert Traver Award for angling literature. He has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award.

Reading Challenges

Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima

killing-trailKilling Trail by Margaret Mizushima
Series: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #1
Genre: Contemporary Mystery, Police Procedural
Setting: Timber Creek, Colorado–the high country in Colorado
Published by Crooked Lane Publishing, 2015
Hardback, Library
320 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a single father, Mattie and Robo must track down the truth before it claims another victim. But the more Mattie investigates, the more she realizes how many secrets her hometown holds. And the key may be Cole’s daughter, who knows more than she’s saying.

The murder was just the beginning, and if Mattie isn’t careful, she and Robo could be next. Suspenseful and smart, Killing Trail is a gripping read that will have readers clamoring for more Mattie and Robo for years to come. Fans of Nevada Barr and C.J. Box will love this explosive debut.

Deputy Mattie Lu Cobb liked her new partner. In fact she was quite taken with him. She enjoyed being with him, something she’d found lacking with previous partners, and they seemed compatible. . . .

. . . Mattie stole a quick glance. Born in Russia, he was a handsome guy: straight black hair, intense brown eyes, and white teeth that flashed when he grinned. Large and muscular, strong and rugged, he was the only one in the department who could outrun her in a cross-country foot race.

Initial impressions

  • I love this book. And can’t wait for the next one. The Colorado setting, mystery and story of Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner K-9 police dog Robo are excellent.

The story

  • Because drugs have become an issue in Timber Creek and the surrounding national forest Timber Creek County have purchased a police service dog and assigned Officer Mattie Cobb as his partner.
  • Mattie and her new partner Robo have returned to Colorado after receiving training at K-9 Academy.
  • They answer a call about suspicious activity at a cabin and Robo finds the body of a local teenager buried in the National Forest near the cabin.
  • The rest of the book is the investigation of the murder and where it takes the police and the community.

Pluses

  • Mattie and Robo are such good characters. They are getting to know each other and Mattie has to learn to trust Robo. I love watching that happen.
  • I love reading good police procedurals. I’m picky about the ones I read. I don’t like the gritty, intense stories about police officers who are as dirty as the criminals they’re after. I know those police exist and I know the longer a police officer is on the job the more jaded and pessimistic they often become. But I want to read about police who are trying to do a good job the best way they can.
  • That is the case with this book. Mattie hasn’t had an easy life. She was raised in foster homes and she has trust issues, but she wants to help people when she can. She’s a very solitary person, but she’s learning to trust a few other people as well as Robo.
  • Other characters–police officers, the veterinarian, foster care people and others–are interesting and multi-faceted. We don’t always know why some of them react the way they do, but they’re an interesting group of people.
  • I especially like Dr. Cole Walker, the veterinarian in the book. Most of the story is told from Mattie’s point-of-view, but we also have some of Cole’s POV. As the book opens he has received divorce papers and is wondering how to tell his two daughters that their mother wants nothing to do with the three of them.
  • The scenes with Cole interacting with animals shows his deep compassion for them. The author’s husband is a veterinarian so I felt those scenes were accurate and I really liked reading about the things a vet has to do to care for animals. And he’s trying to juggle that and raise his two daughters.
  • I really like the way Mattie and Robo learn to work together during this book–the different ways Robo works depending on the commands and equipment Mattie uses. That is fascinating to read about. I have so much respect for the ways dogs can help us in the military and police as well as search and rescue dogs. I also like the way the book shows Robo and Mattie work in the community in positive ways–not just as arresting officers.

Minuses

  • I don’t really have any!

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • This is one of my favorite books so far this year.
  • I’m so excited that another Timber Creek K-9 mystery written is set to be published September 2016! I can’t wait.

Awards

  • Debut Mystery of the Month for December, 2015, by Library Journal
  • Nominated by RT Reviews for the RT Reviewer’s Choice award for Best First Mystery

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Margaret Mizushima has a background in speech pathology and practiced in an acute care hospital before establishing her own rehabilitation agency. Currently, she balances writing with assisting her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. Her short story “Hay Hook” was published in the 2014 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology Crossing Colfax. She enjoys reading and hiking, and she lives on a small ranch in Colorado where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/Author Margaret Mizushima, on Twitter @margmizu and on her website.

Reading Challenges

February reading challenge updates

my-reading-challenges

February updates

When I look at these stats I come to several conclusions…lol.

  • You can see the specific books read and reviewed (or not read) in each category if you check out my “Reading Challenges” Pages.
  • I’m reading more mysteries than fantasies or science fiction so far this year.
  • I’ve read and reviewed quite a few NetGalley books–and thus new releases–so far this year (so I haven’t read any TBR books yet).
  • I’ve read books in several categories, but just haven’t reviewed the books yet. That should change in March.

Audiobook Challenge

  • Audiobooks read and reviewed: 0
  • Challenge Goal: 20 -30 audiobooks
  • I’m listening (or rather not listening) to an audiobook. I only listen during certain times and haven’t found those so much.

Cloak and Dagger Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 6 mysteries
  • Challenge Goal: 31+ books

Goodreads Challenge

  • Books read: 20 books
  • Challenge Goal: 100 books
  • I’ve only reviewed 7 of the 20 books I’ve read in 2016. I’m doing better reading than getting some of my books reviewed.

I Love Libraries Reading Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 0
  • Challenge Goal: 18 books

Netgalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 6 books
  • Challenge Goal: 25 books

New Author Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 7 books
  • Challenge Goal: 30 books
  • All 7 books I’ve reviewed so far this year are from new authors

New Release Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed:  6 books
  • Challenge Goal: 31 – 45 books

Science Fiction/Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 0

TBR Pile Challenge

  • Books read and reviewed: 0
  • Challenge Goal: 31 – 40 books

What about you? How are your reading, reviewing and challenges going so far this year?

Two new reading challenges

my-reading-challengesI’ve decided to add two more reading challenges to the challenges I’ve already signed up for.

I-Love-Libraries-reading-challengeI Love Libraries Reading Challenge–hosted by Bea @ Bea’s Book Nook.

I do love libraries! The small town I grew up in didn’t have a bookstore until I was an adult. My mom took me to the library almost every Saturday morning and I could spend hours looking at books and selecting ones to check out. I loved it when I started looking in the adult section–probably when I was 10 or 11. That’s when I discovered Agatha Christie and Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton. They all opened new worlds to me.

As an adult I’ve continued to use libraries. Whenever my husband and I have moved (and we’ve moved at least a dozen times since we’ve been married) one of the first things we do is visit the library and as soon as I can I get a library card. Through the years I’ve done lots of research at libraries as well as checking out lots of books. I’ve even volunteered at my children’s school libraries.

Because my husband is taking an early retirement I’m not going to be able to buy as many books as I’ve done in the past. Using the library–both for digital editions and for physical copies of books–is one of my strategies to save money.

Goals

My goal is 18 books. I hope I read even more. I also will try to do a wrap-up post each month to show how I’m doing.

………………………………

netgalley-and-edelweiss-reading challenge

The Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge–hosted by Falling for YA.

I haven’t used Netgalley very much and I’m not signed up on Edelweiss at all. Last fall I started requesting more books and I’ve been approved for most of them. When I saw this reading challenge I decided it would be a good one for me to help keep me on track. Because I don’t have a lot of books on Netgalley yet my percentage keeps dropping every time I request a new book.

Goals

My plan is to request, read and review enough books that my percentage stays above 80%. Thus, my goal for this year is 25 books–the Gold level. And I hope to complete a wrap-up post each month.

Have you signed up for either of these challenges? Any others?