Saturday, August 17, 2013

Getting Ready for My First Bouchercon

I have been reading like mad as I prepare to attend my first Bouchercon, and I have discovered many new, wonderful authors and continued to read my long-time favorites.  Feeding my love of mystery series, I have lucked into some new favorites, too.  In addition to the mystery/crime series that I discussed in my previous post on series reading, I now have the following to savor: Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, Hank Phillippi Ryan's Jane Ryland, Anna Loan-Wilsey's Hattie Davish, Lucy Burdette's Haley Snow, Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy,  M.J. Rose's Recarnationist novels, Mark Pryor's Hugo Marston, Heather Graham's Cafferty and Quinn, and Jen J. Danna's Abbott and Lowell.  Stand-alone favorites are rolling in, too, with Lindsay Faye's Dust and Shadow, Simone St. James' The Haunting of Maddy Clare, Catriona McPherson's As She Left It, Susanna Calkins' A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, and Lori Roy's Until She Comes Home.  I still have selections to read for Bouchercon and ones I know I won't get to until after, but it has been one great summer of reading for me. 

Today, I am starting to post reviews of the above mentioned authors/books and will continue to do so right up to my departure for my Bouchercon vacation extravaganza (Virginia Beach, Albany, Niagara Falls).  I'm about as excited as a bookaholic can get as the date for this event rapidly approaches.  It is no longer a count of months, but of days, and I am simply a giddy girl anticipating the face-to-face with my author rockstars.  So, let the reviews begin and the days fly.


The Other Woman (Jane Ryland, #1)The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's 2 a.m.  Do you know where your daughter/mother/grandmother is?  If she's lucky, she's finishing The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan. To a bookaholic such as myself, staying up late to finish an awesome book is on the grand experiences level of reading.  When I started reading last night, my goal was to read 200 pages in The Other Woman and finish it today.  Ha.  I laugh at my naivety.  There would be no putting this book down until it was finished.  Reading at its best. 

Jane Ryland is starting over in her career of news reporting after her fall from grace as a television newscaster star. She now finds herself working as a reporter for a Boston newspaper and being assigned the less newsworthy issues.  For Jane, being out of the loop is unbearable, and she quickly finds ways to connect to the bigger stories.  Her assignment to cover the wife of a senate candidate leads to a search for the other woman, but the other woman proves to be an illusive term and person. As is often the case, present-day puzzles stem from past actions and events, both from Jane's life and the political scene in which she becomes involved.  Jane's friendship with Detective Jake Brogan and his investigation into recent homicides of young women left near city bridges contributes more dots in Jane's search.  With election day closing in, time is a constricting commodity.  Not only are a senate race and the lives of young women at stake, Jane's redemption from her public career disgrace is on the line. 

Hank Phillippi Ryan has created a mystery/crime thriller/political puzzle that will satisfy readers of all three interests.  I lean more towards mystery and crime, but Ms. Ryan has shown me that political intrigue can be fascinating, too.  Because, really, it's all about people and what makes them tick, motivates them, and sometimes leads them to paths of destruction for others and themselves.  That's mystery indeed, and the combination of elements leads the reader on a delightfully suspenseful chase of first one twist, then another.  Not to be ignored is the restrained but apparent chemistry between Jan and her detective, a fire that simmers waiting for the flame to rise.  So, what's not to enjoy in reading The Other Woman?  I suspect that Ms. Ryan will continue to titillate our reading pleasures in the next installment of this series.    
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The Haunting of Maddy ClareThe Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love a good ghost story, and The Haunting of Maddy Clare is indeed a good ghost story.  It passed my ghost story test, which is dreaming about it.  When scary carries over to my sleep, I am thoroughly satisfied.  Simone St. James has made me a very happy reader.  The ghost story has historical aspects, with WWI having recently ended, and romantic aspects, with two of the main characters trying to fight their attraction to one another, as well as an angry ghost.

Sarah Piper is a London girl in her mid-twenties and surviving on temp work through an agency.  Her life is rather uneventful and focused on finding work to pay the rent and eat.  All of that dramatically changes when she accepts an assignment to accompany ghost hunter Alistair Gellis to a small English village where a female ghost, Maddy Clare, is haunting the barn in which she committed suicide.  The owner of the barn and nearby house is desperate to be rid of Maddy and her tricks and unruly behavior.  Sarah is to be Alistair's assistant, but his usual assistant, Matthew Ryder, turns up, too, and the three of them must work together to try and understand what the unsettled ghost wants before she can rest. Alistair and Matthew have never encountered a more devious or powerful spirit. Maddy Clare will bring a terror into the three associates' lives that is truly beyond this world.  They must find the missing pieces to the tragedy of the girl's short life or face destruction of their own lives.  Maddy is not easily appeased. 

Kudos to Simone St. James for writing a superb scary tale that would have had me closing my eyes in parts if it had been a movie.  It is an amazing debut novel, and I look forward to more great scares from her. 
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