Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Summer Stunners: End of July and First of August Reading

There are so many amazing books that have come out the end of July and are coming out the beginning of August, I decided that I had to put a post up on the blog here about them.  I was going to just include two weeks, but I fudged a little, picking up a few titles before and after the last week and first week of those months.  So, find your favorite reading spot and surround yourself with the abundance of riches in the below list.  I've also included some covers to tempt readers even more and a group picture from Kensington of titles they released yesterday.  I attended an online launch party for the Kensington titles last night, and it was a blast.  The online author events are so much fun, and readers can learn so much about both their favorite authors and new authors.  During this time of limited social outings and canceled travel plans, we can still count on amazing authors to provide we readers with toppling to-be-read piles and hours of enjoyment.  So, here are some books to consider.

End of July

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor by Eve Chase (July 21st) 
Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay (July 21st)
Exit Strategy (NYPD Negotiators, Book #1) by Jen Danna (July 28th 
The End of Her: A Novel by Shari Lapena (July 28th) 
The Wild Card (Queen of Spades #6) by Kristi Belcamino (July 28th 
Afterland by Lauren Beukes (July 28th) 
The Fate of a Flapper: A Mystery (The Speakeasy Murders #2) by Susanna Calkins (July 28th)   
Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession edited by Sarah Weinman (July 28th 
Tea & Treachery (Teas by the Sea, #1) by Vicki Delany (July 28th 
He Started It by Samantha Downing (July 28th)
From Beer to Eternity (new series) by Sherry Harris (July 28th)    
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (A Countess of Harleigh Mystery #3) by Dianne
Freeman (July 28th) 
When She Was Good (Cyrus Haven #2) by Michael Robotham (July 28th

First of August

Scot on the Rocks (Lexie Campbell, Last Ditch Mysteries #3) by Catriona McPherson (Aug. 3rd in Kindle format) 
The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Aug. 4th)
The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne (Aug. 4th) 
The Last Mrs. Summers (A Royal Spyness Mystery) by Rhys Bowen (Aug. 4th) 
Rules for Being Dead by Kim Powers (Aug. 4th) 
Key Lime Crime (A Key West Food Critic Mystery #10) by Lucy Burdette (Aug. 11th) 
We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin (Aug. 11th) 
Booked for Death (A Booklover’s B&B Mystery, #1) by Victoria Gilbert (Aug. 11th)   


Monday, July 27, 2020

Exit Strategy (#1 NYPD Negotiators series) by Jen J. Danna: Reading Room Review

Coming in hot. This phrase in its military meaning of “all guns blazing” describes the first book in a new series by Jen J. Danna to a tee. The book opens with the main character, Gemma Capello, saving a life and then quickly moves to the next day, which will be the timeline for the book’s narrative. It’s a challenge for an author to take a single day in the life of a character and make that day action-packed throughout. Danna meets that challenge flawlessly. Readers will be riveted to the spot as the clock counts down on a day rife with danger and suspense. One NYPD hostage negotiator will have to keep a cool head in the face of disaster, but as the opening scene so aptly demonstrates, Gemma Capello has nerves of steel under pressure. 

Gemma Capello is the only female in a family of NYPD police members and one fireman (FDNY). Her path to the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team, or HNT, started with the death of her mother when Gemma was only ten. Watching her mother shot point-blank by a gunman in a hostage situation laid the groundwork for Gemma’s choice of career, one in which she excels, and it drives her to personalize the team’s goal of no dead hostages. But, personal tragedy only serves to strengthen her skills as a cool-headed, intuitive negotiator, not distract her. At thirty-five, Gemma is a valued and experienced team member, whose focus in life is the job. 

There is one day of the year all the Capello family members of NYPD and FDNY reserve for a day-off with the entire brood. The Feast of San Gennaro is a tradition for the Capellos to come together and eat food prepared with family recipes and enjoy just being with one another. So, the day begins with Gemma and her family enjoying their Italian feast, but her father, Tony Capello, who is Chief of Special Operations for the NYPD, answers his beeping phone, and one by one, New York’s finest in the Capello gathering are called to a hostage situation of city-wide importance. Someone is in the mayor’s office at City Hall with multiple hostages, possibly including the mayor himself. All departments are on high alert, and Gemma is chosen as one of four negotiators to work at the negotiating command center. Being chosen for this high-profile case underscores Gemma’s value in the HNT. Her boss, Lt. Garcia, has handpicked the finest for this critical operation. 

It’s soon determined that the mayor was out of the building when his office was seized by a lone gunman, but the deputy mayor, a close personal friend of the mayor's, is a hostage and is being singled out as a prime target. The initial contact with the hostage taker has Garcia as the voice of the team, talking to the man and trying to convince him to end the situation by releasing the hostages and surrendering. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Garcia is not a good match for handling this man, as there seems to be little rapport between the two. Gemma then takes over talking to the gunman, establishing a link of trust between them. The pressure is on, trying to save the hostages and hold off the NYPD A-team, who wants to go in with a physical show of force and gun power to end the stand-off. As Gemma uses all her negotiating skills to bring the situation to a bloodless solution, they learn who the hostage taker is and what motivates him. It’s a shocking revelation, as Gemma and her team realize they’re dealing with a man who has little to lose. 

The action moves beyond City Hall and takes Gemma into some areas of NYC that will fascinate readers. From the inoperative City Hall Subway Station, with its decorative glass skylights and its colorful tiling, to the foods and landmarks of Little Italy to the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, with its Gothic architecture and catacombs, the story is enhanced by its surroundings as it propels the suspense towards an uncertain end. These places never take over the story but blend into it in an organic use of setting and story supporting one another. This author could give a writing class on achieving a successful marriage of these elements. 

The police procedural aspect of this story was educational for me, as well as an absorbing part of Gemma’s life. The efforts and coordination of the NYPD negotiating team and the other departments to bring about the desired result in a hostage situation was a gripping look at how narrow is the window between success and failure in an operation. However, the story always reigns supreme in this book, and it is the family aspect which will touch readers’ hearts, how the Capello sister, brothers, and father are all dedicated to their jobs, but their family bond is the one that gives them strength. Jen J. Danna has done a superb job of introducing the Capellos and the NYPD Negotiators series to readers. No cliffhanger, but lots of avenues to explore for future books. I’m excited about this series and what Gemma and her negotiating team will face next. 

Author Information

Jen Danna, with Ann Vanderlaan, also writes the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, an outstanding forensic crime fiction series of five books so far.  Danna and Vanderlaan also team up under the name of Sara Driscoll for the FBI K-9s series, in which the FBI’s elite Human Scent Evidence Team uses highly trained dogs, including a black lab named Hawk, and their FBI handlers, including Meg Jennings.  I am a big fan of this dog and human team, who have introduced me to a whole new, intriguing world of crime fighting.  In fact, I have been a fan of this writing team and of Jen Danna solo since the beginning of publication of all these books.  Jen brings to this new series, which again, she is doing solo, all the excellence I’ve come to expect of her writing and storytelling.  Her dedicated research and attention to detail makes her books a trusted source of historical background for stories and enriches both story and characters.  Jen Danna, who just happens to have a kick-ass background herself, as she is a scientist specializing in infectious diseases, is an author who seems to have and endless supply of captivating stories.  While waiting for the next NYPD Negotiators book, readers, who haven’t already done so, can enjoy the other two series.