Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Neighbors by Carol Smith

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The striking, sprawling Victorian building dominates the fashionable London street.  During one lonely Christmas season, Kensington Court welcomes a new resident: Kate Ashenberry, in flight from an uncaring family and a broken love affair. 

In the dark hallways Kate will meet an odd assortment of neighbors: irrepressible Ronnie and Rowena Barclay-Davenport; high-stepping Miles Burdett and his ambitious wife, Claudia; exotic Eleni Papadopoulos from across the hall; acid-tongued dowager Mrs. Adelaide Potter; eligible heartthrob Gregory Hansen; and free-spirited actress Connie Boyle.  Some encounters will blossom into friendships; other will grow more menacing than a brush with a stranger ever could be. 

One potential neighbor has escaped Kate's acquaintance, for journalist Guy Bartlett had tumbled to his death shortly before her arrival.  Some tenants say his mysterious five-story fall a continent away was the most exciting story to touch their lives in years.  But after Kate moves in, more residents of Kensington Court die, each more horribly than the last... and each bafflingly murdered behind a door locked securely from the inside.  Trust between neighbors evaporates.  Kate fears her name is climbing higher on the killer's list of victims.  And always, across the courtyard at one rear window, a lone, unmarked watcher stands vigil.  
As a kid, watching the old black and white movies, I fell in love with apartment buildings like Kensington Court.  They are sprawling buildings, taken up entire city blocks, and are filled with all sorts of interesting people.  Of course, because I fell in love with this grand buildings though movies, I also knew to expect one or two things; either various residents in the building would be killed in a series of murders that seems impossible to solve, or one of them would end up giving birth to the Antichrist.  I figured I had nothing to lose in either situation, so I was already to move to a big city, and move right on it.  Then life happened, I live in a mid-sized city with no grand apartment buildings, and even if I did, I seriously doubt I could afford to live there.

Until I move to London or New York, which would require winning the lottery, I'm going to have to make due with old movies and well written mystery books.  I bought, and read, The Neighbors years ago, preblogging days, and it was all about the location.  Here was another chance to live in one of those grand buildings, even if it was only in my imagination.  And by the end of the book, did I not only want to live there, I wanted to take up an entire floor, all to myself.  Since quite a few of the tenants were dead by then, I'm almost betting I could have gotten a pretty good price on the space.  I think it was watching The Mad Miss Manton with Barbara Stanwyck the other night, that put me in the mood to give this one a read once again.

This is one of those books, that would not work in another location.  It's the size of the building that allows this story to unfold as it does.  It gives the characters the illusion of wide open spaces, but as the body count rises, the insular nature of the building allows the author to ratchet up the tension, filling the building, and the book, with a miasma of fear.

I'll be honest, Kate by herself would bore me to tears. Don't get me wrong, I like her, and think she would be a pretty cool neighbor, but I need the rest of characters to truly bring her to life.  These are the kinds of characters I've always envisioned living in one of these buildings, and they didn't let me down here.  They are such an eclectic, well written bunch, that there wasn't one I didn't have fun with on the page.  Even the nasty, bitter, gossiping hadrian of the group, was interesting enough to keep my attention.  Hell for that matter, the murderer among them had me fooled.  I would have gladly gone along with any plan they came up with, just thankful that they wanted to hang out with me.

And I almost forgot, the peeping tom referred to in the synopsis, is not the killer. I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying that, simply because had the peeping tom been the killer, that would have been way too obvious.  He is connected to Kate though, and while I find the connection and the peeping tom's involvement in the story to be a little contrived, by the time the book is over, I'm so ready for Kate to have her HEA, that I overlook the huge coincidences that were involved, and go with the flow

Challenges: A-Z Mystery

Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Work by Kaje Harper

Synopsis From Publisher:

Coming together as a family was supposed to make life happy-ever-after for Mac and Tony, but their two uprooted kids, demanding jobs, and a less than gay-friendly world don't seem to have gotten the message. 

Mac and Tony thought the hard part was over. They're together openly as a couple, sharing a home and building a life with their two children. It's what they dreamed of. But daughter Anna struggles with the changes, Ben is haunted by old secrets, Mac's job in Homicide still demands too much of his time, and Tony is caught in the middle. It's going to take everything these men can give to create a viable balance between home and work.  Especially when the outside world seems determined to throw obstacles in their way. 

If you couldn't tell by now, I absolutely love this series, and I'm pretty sure I will never get enough of Mac and Tony. Home Work is the third book in the series, and it seems to be the most emotional of them so far.  They are trying to figure out the dynamics of having a new family, with two kids who aren't used to sharing, but love each other, and their new family.  Add in the everyday complications that all couples face; trying to find time to spend together, setting individual responsibilities, juggling work and home, and the millions of everyday life events, and you have two men who truly love each other, trying to figure it all out.

Midway through the book, the four of them take an amazing step in order to bring their family together.  It's one of the more emotional scenes in the book, and I'll admit to a sniffle or two.  I love Tony, but it's Mac that truly shines here.  He has been alone most of his life, and he didn't have the best home life growing up, so for him to finally have a family of his own is amazing.  There is so much love between Mac and Tony, and between them and the kids, that they are quickly becoming my favorite couple of all time.  I would put them up against the iconic legends of coupledom, both on page and screen, and I have a feeling they would come out near the top of that list.

This is still a mystery book, and the one featured here is as twisted and deliciously convoluted as they come. A young man is found dead, frozen to the bridge his body dumped on, left out like so much garbage.  Needless to say Mac has his work cut out for him on this one, and it's pretty apparent that he is going to have to sift through a lot of lies and misdirection to get to the truth.  In the end, it's a case that almost costs Mac everything, including his own life, and it leaves him  and Tony with a whole new set of challenges.

The way the two of them together to face it head on, is about as emotional as it gets.  Seeing Mac, one of the strongest characters around, come to terms with what happens to him, so shortly after the happiest day of his life, almost broke my heart. In this back third of the book, the author really shows off her writing skills, and allows the characters to grow as one.

Since I've been rambling on about how great I think Mac and Tony are, and I'm grateful if any of you are still reading this review after plowing through my flowery language, I'll let you in on one last bit of information.  This book has to have one of the coldest, most calculating villains I've come across in a while, and I absolutely love it.

Challenges: Men In Uniform

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My New Found Addiction to Trivia Crack

I don't know about the rest of you, but within the last week, I've become addicted to Trivia Crack.  I kept seeing some of my Facebook friends playing it, but I try to avoid Facebook games, otherwise they become a huge time suck for me.  I can't even begin to tell you how much of my life was wasted playing Farmville, Castleville, Frontierville, Zoo World, and all the rest of the games, I got tricked into playing. 

Eventually I caved, and instead of playing on Facebook, I downloaded the app to my NOOK.   And the rest, they say, is history.  I can't stop playing it, and when I'm not playing against a friend, I'm rating user questions, just to keep my useless trivia skills razor sharp.  In my crazed addiction, I've even submitted twenty questions for community approval, I'm still waiting to see if any of them make it into the game.

Until then, I thought I would put the twenty questions I've come up with, and see if you guys, without cheating, can answer them.


The island of Gibraltar is a territory of which nation?

     Great Britian

In what state does the Mississippi River start in?



What is the smallest species of antelope?


What animal is also known as a wapiti?


What is the symbol of Curium on the Periodic Table?



Which of the following is not a shade of green?


What was the name of the prophetic rabbit in the classic book, Watership Down by Richard Adams?


Perry Mason is a creation of which American mystery writer?

     Richard Castle
     Ellery Queen
     Ryan David Jahn
     Erle Stanley Gardner

Who was the subject of Marie Tussaud's first wax sculpture?

     Benjamin Franklin
     Horatio Nelson
     Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Who wrote The Circular Staircase?

     Agatha Christie
     Mary Higgins Clark
     Mary Roberts Rinehart
     Jessica Fletcher

Who Wrote And Then There Were None?

     Patricia Wentworth
     Agatha Christie
     Mary Roberts Rinehart
     Erle Stanley Gardner


The 1928 Winter Olympic Games were held where?

     Squaw Valley
     St. Moritz

What was the first professional baseball team Daryl Strawberry played for?

     New York Yankees
     New York Mets
     Los Angeles Dodgers
     San Francisco Giants


In the 1966 TV Christmas special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, who is the voice actor that sings "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"?

     Thurl Ravenscroft
     Hal Smith
     Dallas McKennon
     Boris Karloff

In what year did Elijah Bond release the first commercially made ouija board?


Who played Zorro in the Walt Disney produced TV show?

     Van Williams
     Dennis Morgan
     Mario Lopez
     Guy Williams

Who played opposite Cary Grant in, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House?

     Ruth Hussey
     Bea Arthur
     Myrna Loy
     Rosalind Russell

What is not the name of a Thin Man movie?

     The Thin Man Goes Home
     The Thin Man Takes a Ride
     After the Thin Man
     Song of the Thin Man


The Spanish Flu pandemic that killed around 50 million people world wide, happened in what year?


What was the name of the American Great Lakes freighter that was sunk by a storm on Lake Superior, on November 10th, 1975?

     The SS Superior City
     The SS Edmund Fitzgerald
     The SS Monarch
     The SS Samuel Mather

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Fred Flintstone

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a cartoon junkie.  I find no shame in this, nor do I think it's something that leaves me open to ridicule.  I'm addicted to cartoons, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

There is a small caveat to my addiction, it can't be a cartoon that was made after I was in my teens.  For whatever reason, almost all cartoons since the mid 1990s are sloppy.  I'm not sure if it's because they have gone to digital animation instead of hand drawn, their horrible story lines, or a combination of the two.; but I can't handle the way cartons look anymore.  They aren't entertaining by any stretch of the imagination, and that's a damn shame.  I wish today's kids had the cartoon that I grew up with.  Even more than that, I wish they had the cartoons that my mom grew up with, including The Flintstones.

No matter how much Fred Flintstone bloviates, yelled, pushes his chest out, or stomps his humongous feet, his heart is always in the right place.  Fred is the quintessential blue collar family man caught up in taking care of his family.  He is loud, aggressive, and just a tad bit bossy, but behind his obnoxious exterior, is a man who truly loves his family,

Everything he is, everything he is about, everything he does is centered on giving his family a better life. He works his ass off at the quarry, takes the odd job around town, and is constantly trying to scheme his way into the moneyed elite.  He has a heart of gold, and not matter how much he may irritate people, he is the first in line to lend them a helping hand. 

I grew up with a father that was like Fred in a superficial way, but unlike him in more ways than one.  My dad was loud, obnoxious, pushed his chest out, and unlike Fred, threw a punch more often than not.  What he wasn't was a man who was willing to put his family first, and do what needed to be done to take care of them.  Who my dad was, is why I love Fred as much as I do.  I wanted a father, who despite what was on the exterior, was a man who put his wife and kids first.  I wanted a dad who did what it took to make sure we were safe and loved.  I'm not sure I wanted a prehistoric caveman who yelled "Yabba Dabba Doo" all the time, but I'm pretty sure that if I had, my father would still be around.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White (Password Clue)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Hard-boiled breakfasts, thrilling entrees, cozy desserts, and more - this illustrated cookbook features over 100 recipes from legendary mystery authors.  Whether your're planning a sinister dinner party or simply looking to whip up some comfort food, you'll find plenty to savor in this cunning collection.  Full-color photography is featured throughout, along with mischievous sidebars revealing the links between food and foul play. 

Let's think about this one for just a second.  How on earth would I be able to pass on this one.  The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook contains two of my favorite things in the world, mysteries and food.  It's a no-brainer, and I would have deserved to be victim number one, had I not jumped at the chance to get my hands on this one.

When I got it in the mail, and I'm not exaggerating this, I skipped all the way from the mailbox to my front door.  I was that damn excited.  Now it took me a few days to have the time to start trying out some of the recipes, but once I did, I have to admit to being a little impressed.  These aren't examples of complicated, high cuisine.  For the most part, the recipes are fairly simple, easy to follow, and it's the kind of food we all love to eat.

I'm not a huge breakfast eater, but I know it's the most important meal of the day, so I try to get by the best that I can.  I'm really not an egg fan, so the fact I was willing to make an omelet should shock everyone I know, but when I saw who contributed it to the book, I had to go for it.  I think you guys know that I'm a huge fan of Ben H. Winters The Last Policeman trilogy, and thank the lord, he included Detective Palace's Three-Egg Omelet.  If you are a fan of the series, you will recognize Hank's customary breakfast.  It was super easy to make, and while I'm still not a huge fan of eggs, I'm willing to love anything attached to Hank Palace.

After I had perused the entire book, I decided to try out Brad Meltzer's Italian Chicken.  Again it was a dish with only 7 ingredients, two of them salt and pepper, and it was so easy to make.  There were only 5 steps to it, the first was to preheat an oven and spray a baking dish.  I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was.  I think sometimes we forget that simple is good, and that sometimes it's the best way to go.

And not to name drop, but here are some of the other authors who have contributed recipes of their own: Louise Penny, Mary Higgins Clark, Rhys Bowen, Kathy Reichs, Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspear, Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton (the peanut butter and pickle sandwich her main character loves so much), James Patterson, and tons more.  This will be one of those cookbooks I go back to over, and over, and over again.

Challenges: Password (America)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Switching Commenting Back to Disqus

I've decided to switch back to Disqus for commenting.  I tried it out a few years ago, and had quite a few problems with it, but as time has gone by, I've noticed that a lot of the issues I had, are no longer happening for other bloggers.  

The biggest reason I'm switching back is that it does make it easier to reply to every comment. I try to respond by email now, but with so many people not setting up their email address for Blogger, it's becoming a less frequent option for me.  I'm going to miss having the comments pull up in a separate window, as I do think that makes it easier, but I'll learn to live without it. 

Hopefully this transition will go smoother for me, than it did a few years ago.  I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From TLC Book Tours Site:

Spring 1937.  In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability - and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure.  Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India.  But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England: her aging father, Frankie Dobbs, is not getting any younger. 

On a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn't ready to return.  Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, "You'll be alone in a most dangerous place," she disembarks in Gibraltar.  Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.

And the danger is very real.  Days after Maisie's arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar's Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service.  Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on "The Rock" - arguably Britain's most important strategic territory - and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process.  At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a different direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way. 

Earlier this week I reviewed Leaving Everything Most Loved, the previous book in the Maisie Dobbs series.  In that review, I tried my damnedest to not let the fact I had already read this book, bleed into it.  For the most part, I think I did a pretty good job keeping them separate, and not letting this book color what I had to say on the previous.  I'm not going to rehash what I had to say, though I'm still having some of those same problems, only magnified about a bazillion times.

To be perfectly frank with you guys, this almost became a DNF on page nine.  When I was about half way through the page, I had to put the book down, and walk away for over an hour. Even then, I had to force myself to pick the book up and continue reading it.  Regardless of what happened to upset me so much, the fact I even contemplated not reading a Maisie Dobbs book is upsetting enough.

I've been debating how detailed I wanted to get with this review, and I think I've decided to go in a direction that will include spoilers, so please stop reading if you don't want to know some of the pertinent details. On a personal level, it will be impossible for me to review this book, and explain my reactions to it, without giving away some of the secrets.  And be warned, I may ramble for a while before I shut up.

As a long time fan of the series, I've been all for Maisie marrying James Compton, and finding true happiness in her life.  Part of the issues I had with the previous two books was in the way she kept going back and forth on what her feelings were for him, and what she wanted out of the relationship.  She has some serious  hangups when it comes to her personal relationships.  Between her childhood and her experiences in the war, I get where they come from, but enough is enough.   I've been wanting to shake her, and tell her to not only make a decision, but to make the right one. After everything she's been through, she deserved to be happy, and any idiot could tell that James made her happy.  She was just allowing her personal issues, and self doubts, to get in the way.  At the end of the Leaving Everything Most Loved, I had the impression that she was going to make the right decision, and finally agree to marry James.

On page seven of A Dangeorus Place, I got my wish. She finally agreed to marry him, and I couldn't have been happier. It was by telegram, but I was expecting that.  On page eight, through another letter, we learn that Maisie is pregnant with their first child.  Then on pages nine and ten, all hell breaks loose.  A little over a year after they were married, James is killed in a plane crash, and Maisie loses the baby.  The whole four years between the two books are told within fourteen pages, all within letters or news stories.

It's not even the loss of James and the baby that has me so upset, though I think James was a great character, and I would have liked to see them grow old together, but it's in the way it happens that pisses me off so much.  These characters deserved better than this.  It's all off page, told as more of a prologue to the book, rather than as part of the story.  It's callous in it's execution and it comes across, at least to me, that the author didn't really care for the character or their relationship anymore.  And instead of just letting her say no to the engagement, and allowing James to move on with his life, she killed him off is a rather offhanded way.  The other way I could read it, was with Maisie being in a happy place, contented with life, the author wasn't sure in which direction to take the character.  So instead of ending the series, or moving Maisie into a new chapter of her life, she chose to completely upend her life once again, and start the neuroses and inner conflict all over again.  Cause heaven forbid, we have a happy character.  After 11 damn books, the drama can end.

The other problem I had with this one, and a few of the others, is that it seems the author is moving Maisie more into the espionage realm, and less on the mystery side of things.  I'm not a huge fan of spy thrillers, regardless of who writes them, so I'm not sure how much longer I'll continue with the series if that is the direction they keep moving in.  It's repeated a few times in this book that once the Secret Service has you in their sights, they don't let you go.  I'm hoping they do let her go, and that Maisie gets back to doing what she does well, solving crimes.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the rest of the book.  I think the author did a great job in setting the scene, something she has always been really good at.  With the Spanish Civil War in full steam across the water, Gibraltar is sitting on the edge of a precipice, and anything is possible with that much tension swirling around the island.  She has populated the island with some intriguing characters, though I did find a few of them to be rather one dimensional, and the storytelling itself is as spot on as it's ever been.  Jacqueline Winspear is a great story teller, I just hope she starts taking better care of her characters.

By the end of the book, I wasn't ready to run out in traffic anymore, and I am willing to give the series one more chance.  I want the next book to get back to what the series used to be like.  Tone down some of the angst, stop making her so insecure and indecisive, and let her be happy for once in her life.  Bring Billy and Sandra back into the fold, their absence was notable in this book.  For that matter, bring her father and the senior Comptons back into the story, the lack of the regular supporting characters has been another issue for me.  Stop sliding Maisie into the spy game,  and let her reopen her detective agency.  Let Maisie be the Maisie we all fell in love with in the beginning of the series.

I don't want to say goodbye to Maisie, but I didn't want to say goodbye to Buffy Summers either.  That show lasted seven seasons, and in reality, it was time for it to be over.  The Maisie Dobbs books have now lasted through number eleven, and while I don't want to see her go, it might be her time as well.  I'm hoping that book twelve corrects some of the issues I, and a lot of other readers, have been having.  If not, maybe I'll just pretend the network pulled the plug.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Bastian Balthazar Bux

The 1984 film adaptation of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story was a huge deal to me the first time I saw it. It was a movie that changed my imagination for the rest of my life.  How cool was it  that there was a place, Fantasia, where every legend, every fictional creature ever dreamed up by man, had a place to live.  Who wouldn't want to live there?

Can you imagine a place where Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Eeyore, Buffy Summers, Mame Dennis, Zeus, and Isis, all had a place to mingle and coexist?  They would all band together to fight against Trollocs, Orcs, Sauron, Ursulla, Michael Meyers, and others of their ilk.  And yes, I do still play this game in my head.  Every time I read a book, watch a movie, or get sucked into a TV show, every single character is sorted in this imaginary land in my head; the good guys on one side of the planet, the bad guys on the other.  At one point in time, I kept lists, had the characters divided into guilds, and had them forming governments and businesses.  I'm no longer that obsessed with the idea, but I can't totally let it go either.

As great as the idea of Fantasia was for me, the best part of the me, was who the real hero was.  It wasn't the obvious choice, the young warrior Atreyu.  In the end, the real hero was the nerdy, bullied kid, who just wanted to escape his feelings of  neglect and displacement.  Bastian Balthazar Bux just wants to escape his existence.  He has no real friends, he's not getting the attention he needs at home, and he's being bullied in school.  When he gets lost in the story of Fantasia, it's not long before he realizes that he's not just reading a book, that he is in fact witnesses to, and to a degree, participating in, something far greater than himself.

It's this young boy, this junior bibliophile, who has the key to saving Fantasia. Its on his tiny shoulders, and it's his imagination that must save the day.  This is a case where all it takes for the hero to save the day, is to use his mind.  For a nerdy, junior bibliophile watching this movie for the first time, it was life affirming.  It gave me hope that I didn't need to be some super strong athlete, to make a difference.

I own this movie, and I still watch it from time to time.  My heart still beats faster as Bastian struggles with the truth.  I still cheer, sometimes out loud, when he accepts the idea that he can make a difference.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Friday Night Jamie by Bren Christopher (Password Clue)

Synopsis From Publisher:

Jamie is an accountant who lives by a strict schedule: every day is planned; the future is predictable.  And that schedule includes one night a week when he allows himself to blow off steam at a gay dance club in the City.   One Friday night he gets more than he bargained for when he meets Matt, an out of work stranger with long dark hair and rough hands.  The attraction is undeniable but Matt does not fit Jamie's idea of the perfect man to share his carefully ordered life. 

Instead, Jamie longs for a date with his dream man: handsome, sophisticated Keith, a successful Vice President at his prestigious New York accounting firm, a man on his way up.

But everything changes when Jamie discovers a suspicious error in one of is accounts.  Suddenly, he finds himself on the run from both the mob and the FBI -- and the only man who can help him in the tall, dark-haired stranger he rejected.  Because Matt is not who he seems -- and neither is Keith.

Even in the world of m/m romance books, Friday Night Jamie is not high literature.   It won't make my best of the year list, even if I did one for romance books only, nor is it all that original.  What it is, is a whole lot of fun.  This is the kind of story Lifetime makes into movies, and who doesn't binge watch those every once in a while.  Why hasn't anyone started a gay version of the Lifetime channel, I can promise it would be a huge hit.

Lifetime movies have, for the most part, have two essential truths; first impressions can't be trusted and looks can be deceiving.  In most cases, if a man appears to be too good to be true, he is.  The man that is perfect on paper, is the man to run away from.  The man who doesn't check off every little box on your "must haves" list, he's the one you want to keep.

As in the perfect TV movie, the perfect guy will always show his true colors, normally in a deadly way.  Keith is not exception to that rule, though why Jamie found him to be all that desirable is beyond me.  Either the poor boy had blinders on, or he's a dumb as a bunch of rocks.  Since he doesn't come across as dumb in an other aspect of his life, I'm going to have to go with blind.  Matt on the other hand is golden form the moment he walks on the page, and for any man to have the patience he does, is a miracle all on its own.  Once Jamie gets his head out of his ass, Jamie and Matt are great together.  They are so very different from each other, but I've always thought that opposites make great pairings.  They both brings such different things to the table, that together, they compliment and smooth out each other's rough patches.

What follows is the normal cheesy movie of the week fare.  Jamie stumbles upon some bad stuff, the FBI gets involved, people get killed, the heroes go on the run from the bad guys, more people get killed, and the two heroes live happily ever after.  The mystery aspect is pretty light, as far as the heroes having to solve anything, but what's there was enough to hold my interest.   Like I said, nothing that isn't predictable or new, but it's a hell of a lot of fun to read.

Challenges: A-Z Mystery, Password (Friday)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From Back Cover:

London, 1933.  Two months after Usha Pramal's body is discovered in the waters of a city canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs for help.  Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, but evidence indicates they failed to conduct a full investigation.  Usha had been staying at an ayah's hostel, a refuge for Indian women.  As Maisie learns, Usha was different from the hostel's other residents.  But with this discovery comes new danger, as a fellow lodger who was close to Usha is found murdered. 

As Maisie is pulled deeper into a unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case, and by a growing desire to see more of the world.  At the same time, her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore. 

It's been almost two years since I read the previous book in the series, Elegy for Eddie, and I'm finding that I can almost copy that review, and paste it here. Now since then, I have gone back to read the books I skipped over, and as of right now, I've read the entire series, including the next book, A Dangerous Place, which I will have a review of later in the week.  Maisie is still a little too angsty in this one, still a little too unsure of herself, or what she wants in life.   The title fits not only the story, but where her mindset is at.

By the way, I'm trying to write this review, and not allow it to be tainted by the fact I've already read the next one.

I know Maisie has been through a lot in her short life, that she has lost more than most of us will ever have to deal with.  Her experiences in the first World War, and what she suffered through, will always taint her perceptions of who she is, and what she wants.  I really do get it.  I also get that if Maisie was the creation of a less gifted author, that a lot of the issues would be glossed over and forgotten, and that would be a damn shame.  Maisie Dobbs in one of the most complex and four dimensional characters I've come across in a long time.  Jacqueline Winspear has done a find job at developing her into a character that is so admirably damaged.  I just wish, and while it was to a degree, that the angst had been spread out just a tad bit more.  I wish Maisie had been dealing with all of her issues the entire length of the series, and not have them come to the forefront in the last two books.

Maisie has deep wounds that she forced to the back or her mind, thought she had dealt with, but with the death of her mentor Maurice, she is now having to deal with them head on.  For the last two books she has been reevaluating her place in life, what she wants out of it, and on a more fundamental level, who she is.  Me personally, I wish it hadn't taken two full books to do it, that she would have made up her mind on some of the subjects long before, but I get that I can't make a character behave in a certain way, just to appease my sense of timing.  And yes, I get that unless you have been reading this series from the beginning, you won't understand half of what I'm saying, so I apologize for that.  I can honestly say that I'm relieved by the end, because I know she is finally on the right track, that she isn't going to be stupid and reject James, that she is finally going to allow herself to be happy.

One little side note before I move onto the actual mystery aspect of the book, I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable with what happens to Billy in this book.  Having him flirt with the idea of having an affair with Sandra, seems so out of character of him.   I get that he and his family have had some horrific things happen to them, and that he probably feels more adrift than Maisie, but when is enough enough.  I think the author has done a real disservice to this character, it was almost as if she wasn't sure what to do with him anymore, so lets just screw his life up completely, and push him aside.  I know that by the end, he is back on the right track, but it still feels as if the author is done with him, and that's a crying shame.  Billy has been the oddly beating heart of the series, and it's going to be horribly saddening to see him go away.  I just wish we would  have had more closure with him, and his family, before that happened.

If you can't tell by know, this series, for me at least, is about the characters more than the mystery aspect.  As in the previous books, the mystery itself, while rather violent, still has, for lack of a better word, a gentleness about it.   This author is so gifted at writing Maisie's character into the story, it's a little hard to differentiate where her and the mystery are separated.  The author, much like Dame Christie, is gifted at weaving a rather intricate story into a tale that is both challenging, and easy to follow.  At no point in time, with any of these books, have I felt as if I was being tricked or purposefully led astray by the action.  It's, as always, well crafted and well told, and worth the read.

One last note, if you think this review is a jumbled mess, I get it.  My feelings are so over the place, so confused in my head, that writing a coherent review for this one, has been a struggle.  I tried to express myself as clearly as I could, but I'm not sure if I pulled it off.  So please accept my apologies, but also know that if I didn't like this character, and this series as much as I do, I wouldn't be having this issue.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Challenges: A-Z Mystery

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Three Ex-Boyfriends & The Books They Made Me Love

For the most part, a lot of us think of ex-boyfriends (or ex-girlfriends) in a rather negative light. For whatever reason, they are the ones we invited into our lives, only to have them leave on a negative note.  There may have been something horribly wrong in the relationship, or that spark may have just fizzled out.  In a lot of my past relationships, it was the timing of the whole thing that was a huge factor.  I've dated some great guys, just one of us would not be ready for a serious relationship. No matter the reason it didn't work out, most of us don't like think of our past relationships.  They tend to be examples of failure, and failure never feels good.

I would like to think I've taken something positive out of every relationship I've been in, no matter how disastrous they turned out to be.  From Andrew, I learned to love Dos Equis Amber, and it's still the only beer I will drink.  From Alberto, I learned how to recognize my limitations, and not to try and push myself into accepting things I'm not willing to deal with. From Joel, I learned to love Shania Twain, and that I won't put with the silent treatment.  From Martin, I learned that I don't have infinite patience and expecting a different result with the same factors in place, is a dumb idea.  And from some of my ex-boyfriends, while the love may not have lasted between us, assuming it was there to begin with, I did leave the relationship with a new love.  Some of those relationships exposed me to new books, and authors, I've grown to cherish over the years.

My relationship with Vincent was doomed from the start.  I got sucked in the night my first real boyfriend, Jeremy, broke up with me.  It seemed that Jeremy was tired of sneaking around behind my back, and wanted to be able to pursue others, without it being a secret.  Vincent was a mutual acquaintance of ours, and one night at the club, it seems as if they joined forces.  Jeremy told him he was going to break up with me, and that if Vincent was interested in me, to be waiting in the wings to come swoop me up.  It was a tacky thing to do, oh lord was it tacky, but I fell for it.  I let him comfort me that night, soothe away my pain, and my first rebound relationship was born.  It didn't last very long, thank god, but I did walk away from it with my first book boyfriend, Vanyel Ashkevron.

Vincent was a huge Mercedes Lackey fan, and he kept on talking about the three books in her Last Herald Mage trilogy.  He knew I loved to read, and I think he was trying to connect with me on a more than physical level.  It wasn't long before I was in love with not only Vanyel, but with Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series in general.  Here was a world in which men and women were called, from all corners of society, to serve their kingdom.  They sacrificed their lives in some cases to defend their realm, and they were to the one, good and honest people.  The Heralds, and Vanyel in particular, where the personifications of sacrifice and honor, and I loved them for it.  

I now own 40 of her books, have read them all numerous times, and Vanyel is one of my all time favorite characters.  I try to visit with him at least once a year, though blogging has made rereading a little more difficult than it used to be. 

Derek was my first kiss and first, well you don't need to know that part.  I met him in college, and while I can't say we ever dated, it was more than a casual hookup.  It was during the first semester of my Freshman year, and I wasn't really out to a lot of my friends on campus.  A bunch of us had gone to another town to a club that allowed anyone 18 and over to come in.  We met him there, and a bunch of us became friends.  He came down to our campus one night to hangout, and while a few of us were talking, I slipped in my coming out so smoothly, two of them didn't realize I did it for a good ten minutes.  That night I kissed a guy for the first time, and it felt like I was coming home.  Over the next two years he was a great teacher, if somewhat infrequent, and while I think we really did care about each other, the love spark never happened.   We are still friends, connected on Facebook, and I will always be grateful for making my first of everything as enjoyable as it was. 

He ended up moving to Colorado, and for the longest time we kept in touch, and I actually took a trip out there for a visit one year, and that's when I was introduced to The Thief of Always by Clive Barker.  It was one of Derek's favorite books, and I was enraptured almost from the first page.  It's a modern day fable of a young boy who just isn't happy with his life.  He is bored all the time, and just knows there is something out there, something better than what he has now.  He is quickly conned into visiting a magical house where all four seasons, with the accompanying holidays, cycle throughout the day.  Little does he know that every day spent in the house, is a full year in the real world. Once he figures out something is really wrong, he does everything he can to get home.

This is another of those books that I've read multiple times, and has led me to reading Clive Barker's Abarat series as well.  I've fallen in love with the way he writes books for young adults.  They are edgy, darker in tone, and completely surreal.  I haven't read The Thief of Always since I started blogging, but I'm pretty positive it will be getting a visit this Fall. 

What can I say about Brent? He was slight nerdy, adorably nice, and hung up on someone else.  I'm positive this wasn't a love match for either one of us, but we enjoyed each other's company, and for the most part we had fun with it.  It was one of those relationships that just sort of fizzled out, all on it's own, and thankfully we both not only recognized it, but we were okay with it as well.  We stayed friends for a while, but life drifts people apart, and the last I knew he was living in Florida.

Brent introduced me to the books of Guy Gavriel Kay, and I owe him dinner a thousand times over for making that introduction possible.  I've had a hot/cold relationship with fantasy for a long time now, and for whatever reason, I tend to be a little picky in what I read.  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I can pick up any Kay book, and I will instantly fall in love with the world he created, and the inhabitants that dwell there.  There is a lyrical quality to his books that is pretty impossible to explain, but it makes his books a physical pleasure to read.  Within a few pages, I will be transported into another world, and I will never want to leave.  His writing is beautiful, and his characters are so well written, you can't imagine them not existing in real life.  He has never failed to deliver, and as I'm writing this post, I'm feeling an almost overwhelming pull to grab a few of his book off my shelves, and lose myself for the next few hours. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Shirlee Kenyon

Occasionally, I will fall in love with a character on the big screen because of the actor/actress playing them.  That's not to say I wouldn't have enjoyed the movie, or the character, had a different actor been cast, but it's the actor that makes it go form like to love.  In a rare case it makes me go from being in love, to being obsessed.  It doesn't even have to be that great of a movie, or one that will change the hearts and minds of the general public, but it needs to entertain me.  It needs to make me laugh out loud, hide my eyes in fear, or turn my head to keep someone from seeing me cry.  If the movie, and the actor, can make me do all three things, it's even better.   Not sure that's ever happened, but I'm looking forward to the day.

One of those not so great movies was Straight Talk, starring the delicious Dolly Parton.  It's not groundbreaking, the writing isn't the best, but Dolly Parton as Shirlee Kenyon is all I needed to fall in love.

Shirlee is the typical small town girl.  She is working a dead end job, is in a dead end relationship, and once she can't take it anymore, she packs it all up and is off to Chicago.  Once there, she has not job prospects, and most importantly, no money.  When you have to go out on the ledge of a bridge in order to safe your last bill, you are down on your luck.  Through a big misunderstanding and even more smaller ones, Shirlee ends up on the radio.  She is Chicago's newest talk radio host, and the city will never be the same again.

What makes Shirlee that small town girl, the folksiness and the advice that sounds like it's coming from your 90 year old grandmother, is what makes her a hit on the radio.  She is so sweet, naive, and about as uncynical as you can get.   She tells it like she sees it, and before long she's about to go national.  The only issue, her boss has been promoting her as Dr. Shirlee, and she is definitely no doctor. 

Shirlee, and by default Dolly, is the reason why this movie is so great.  She goes through life with such heart, that's is hard to find anything wrong with the world while you are in her presence.  I love her for many of the same reasons I fell in love with Celeste Talbert, another character in an okay movie, made great by the actress playing her, Sally Field.  Of course, the fact that I can't help but laugh through the vast majority of my time spent with Shirlee endears her to my heart. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Young, beautiful, and successful, Elena Michaels seems to have it all.  Her happy, organized life follows a predictable pattern: filing stories for her job as a journalist, working out at the gym, living with her architect boyfriends, and lunching with her girlfriends form the office.  And once a week, in the dead of night, she streaks though a downtown ravine, naked and furred, tearing at the throats of her animal prey. 

Elena Michael is a werewolf.

The man who made her one has been left behind, but his dark legacy has not.  And though Elena struggles to maintain the normal life she's worked so hard to create, she cannot resist the call of the eleite pack of werewolves from her past.  Her feral instincts will lead her back to them and into a desperate war for survival that will test her own understand of who, and what, she is.

Do you ever think about a series you used to love, but for whatever reason, it lost it's appeal?  If you don't, no sweat, I do enough thinking about it for everyone.  I'm one of those that feels a strong guilt about it.  Now I'm not beating my chest and flogging myself, but I do feel more than a tad bit of remorse.

 I can't tell you how many series I have gotten into over the years, then completely lost interest in.  For the most part it happened preblogging more than it does now, and I have no clue as to why.  Most of the series I've lost interest in would be classified as urban fantasy, and that may have an overly large role in it.  It didn't take long for me to get bored with all the vampires, werewolves, wizards, and demons living in a modern world, so the books they inhabited didn't appeal to me for very long.   There are a few that I still read when a new book comes out, but for the most part, I flirted for a while, then dropped them faster than you could say Lestat.  One series that lasted for a few books before getting the cold shoulder was Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series, of which, Bitten is the first book.

Oddly, even though I gave up on the series, I still love this book, and I hadn't read it since I started blogging.  For whatever reason, I picked it up last week, and a few hours later, I was turning the last page.  It didn't take long for me to fall right back in love with Elena, Clay, Jeremy, and all the rest of the Pack.  I'm not really sure what the author had going on in this one, and Stolen the second book in the series, but the writing is so much better, and the characters are fully fleshed out in a way I can't say about some of the later books.  I really wish she had stuck with this first set of characters, instead of going off and getting the rest of the supernatural races involved.

In Elena and Clay, you have the perfect couple.  They love each, can't live with out each other, but they have both made some horrible decisions, putting so much tension into their relationship, it pulsates off the page.  When the book opens, they haven't been in the same state for over a year, and their reintroduction doesn't go smoothly.  If it wasn't for the dangerous situation they were having to deal with, and the rest of the Pack members acting as a buffer, that tension made have become too implosive, harming the reading in the process.

The writing in the first few books, and in Bitten specifically, is so tight, so put together, it's hard to find any flaws in it.  Armstrong keeps the narrative moving at a natural pace, allowing the characters and the events to set the tone.  She doesn't force them into convoluted interactions, or behaviors that go against who they are.   It's a perfect blend of style, characterization, and storytelling.  But most importantly, it's a book that has a permanent home of my bookshelves, even if it's extended family was served with eviction papers.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Breaking Cover by Kaje Harper

Synopsis From Publisher:

For homicide detective Mac, it's been a good year.  Having Tony to go home to makes him a better cop and a better person.  For Tony, it's been hard being n love with a man he can't touch in public.  Evasions and outright lying to friends and family take a little of the shine off his relationship with Mac, but Tony is determined to make it work. 

As the Minneapolis Police Department moves into a hot, humid summer, Mac is faced with a different challenge.  A killer has murdered two blond women, an the police have no real clues.  Mac hates to think that another murder may be the only way they'll make progress with the case.  but when that murder happens, it hits close to home for Tony.  And suddenly Mac faces an ultimatum; come out into the sunshine and stand beside Tony as his lover, or walk away and live without a piece of his heart. 

This is the second book in the Life Lessons series, and it was even better than the first.  There was not one aspect of the book that failed to keep my interest, and in the case of the mystery aspect of it, it kept me on the edge of my seat for the vast majority of the time.

It's been about a year since the happenings of the first book, and the two men have fallen into a pretty complacent, but happy relationship. Yeah, Tony isn't all that happy about Mac's refusal to come out of the closet, but he understands Mac's reasoning behind it.  Mac has never been happier, but he is scared to death of coming out.  He doesn't think his colleagues will take it very well, and he's scared about what would happen with his daughter's primary caregiver, a very uptight and conservative cousin.  Mac still has his own place, but has a key to Tony's.

Their personal life comes to a head when the mother of the young boy he has been helping to raise, the son of a best friend who dies before the series ever started, is the third victim in a horrible fashion, with the young boy in the other room.  Tony, while named as guardian in the will, finds himself in a custody battle with the boy's grandparents, who feel Tony is a horrible choice to raise their grandson.  Now who cares that those same grandparents threw their daughter out and have had nothing to do with the child, but they can't have a homosexual raise the kid.  Tony panics, and does everything he can to make sure he is granted custody.  And sadly for the relationship, he understands with Mac being unable to come out, their relationship could be a stumbling block.

At this point in time, as much as I like Mac, I can't help but think he's being a coward and hurting himself in the process.  When Tony gives Mac a chance, bet it a small one, to come out i the open, Mac shuts down, and Tony is forced to walk away.  Neither is happy with the situation, but neither man can see around his own needs given the circumstances they find themselves in.

Through a few agonizing weeks leading up to the custody hearing, both men are miserable, and the impasse holds.  And this is where I fall in love with Mac all over again.  In order to make sure Tony is granted custody, he comes out, though not with a lot of forethought.    It's a wonderful scene, and it's written with such honesty, that I couldn't' help but smile the entire way through it.   Some of the issues he was scared of start coming true, especially some of the reactions from his coworkers.  The interactions are written honestly and with such detail, that you can't help but feel a bit sorry for the guy, and have a lot of pride in him at the same time.  It's a long painful process for him to go through, especially since it means he's really having to come to a place within himself where is is fully comfortable as a gay man.   Their relationship isn't fixed fully right away, but you know that they, along with the two kids, are on a strong road to forming a family they can all be proud of.

The mystery itself is a grand adventure, and it's obvious that the author has done her homework.  The investigation is plodding and tedious at times, but the men and women involved are dedicated to their jobs and they slog through it all.  There is a lot of police procedural details in the book, and it makes the story that much richer.  There is nothing far fetched about the details, or the solution, and it reads like a well scripted show on the ID channel.

The solution, and the final confrontation are brilliantly written and at times I really wasn't sure how it was all going to end.  I know it's a romance mystery, so the ending has to be happy, but the standoff is so full of tension, that I was afraid things were about to go horribly wrong.

Challenges: Men in Uniform 

Friday, March 6, 2015

New Spring by Robert Jordan (Password Clue)

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

For three days the battle has raged in the snow around the great city of Tar Valon.  In the city, a foretelling of the future is uttered.  One the slope of Dragonmount, the immense mountain that looms over the city, is born an infant prophesied to change the world.  That child must be found before the forces of the Shadow have an opportunity to kill him.  Moiraine Damodred, a young accepted soon to be raised to Aes Sedai, and Lan Mandragoran, a soldier fighting in the battle, are set on paths that will bind their lives together.  But those paths are filled with complications and dangers, for Moiraine, of the Royal House of Cairhein, whose king has just died, and Lan, considered the uncrowned king of a nation long dead, find their lives threatened by the plots of those seeking power.

After I had done my Favorite Fictional Character post on Perrin Aybara, I was longing to dive back into the world of Robert Jordan.  While I was craving a taste, I really didn't want to gorge on the entire feast, so I went back and reread the prologue to the entire series, New Spring.  During my last drive to reread the entire series in order, so I could finally read the concluding book, I skipped over this one, though I'm really not sure why.  At only 334 pages, it's a rather short read compared to the other 14 books, so it wouldn't have taken much to fit this one in at the beginning.

When I dove back into these pages, it was like I was coming home.  I don't think I truly realized how much I had fallen in love with the world, and how much it meant to me.  After I finished A Memory of Light, I don't think I fully processed everything that happened, nor did I allow myself to fully accept some of the events that took place in that final book.   Because of that, my mind has been in turmoil when it comes to these books, and finding myself once again walking among the characters, healed some of that for me.  It wasn't a complete healing, I would have to spend time with some of the others for that to happen, if it's even a possible goal to reach.  I think I need to see a few epilogues written, instead of reading a prologue, but since I'm sure that will never happen, I'm going to be of two minds on this series for a long time to come.

New Spring was originally intended to be the first book of a prologue history, but like so many things, I think this will be the only one.  This is the book where we first meet Moiraine, Lan, and Siuan Sanche.  They are three of my favorite characters in the series, so seeing how they got their start on such a perilous journey is a treat to read.  In the 14 books of the main series, you know they all have tight relationships, but being able to see how they first formed, and how strong those relationships were from the beginning, is comforting in it's own way.  It's always nice to have the back story, so you can understand the way the dynamics work, and even more importantly, why they work.

If anyone is interested in getting started with the series, and why you wouldn't I have no clue, this is a good place to start.  It was published after book 10, but I'm not sure that really mattes all that much.  Since this is a relatively short novel, and it explores the history of some of the events and people involved, it's a good place to get your feet wet and decide if this is something for you.  In the end, I think it will be, and you'll be more than glad to get started on the journey.

Challenges: Password (Spring)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Lassie

I don't think there is a boy my age, or a girl for that matter, who wasn't envious of Timmy Martin.  Growing up, I was a sucker for dogs.  There was rarely at time when we didn't have at least one dog, and I loved them all.  I won't say I didn't have favorites, cause I did, but I'm a true dog lover, so they were all awesome to me.  Maybe one day I'll tell you guys about a few of them, but for now, I need to tell you about a particular fictional dog.  And she's one that almost all of us loved, as much as we did our household dogs.

Like most dog lovers, I'm a sucker for a story that features a dog as the hero.  In the past I've done Favorite Fictional Character posts about some of my favorite dogs, including Benji, but this about a certain Collie who will always be a household name.

The star of 11 feature films, 12 TV shows and made for TV movies, 2 radio programs, and over 50 books, Lassie is the Collie with a heart of gold and the courage of lion.  She has saved kids from danger, park rangers from being killed, and other animals from harm.  She is a guardian angel on four legs, and I prayed that someday I would have a dog just like her.

I've always thought that a large reason humans and dogs have formed such deep bonds over our history on this planet, is that dogs are such loyal creatures.  It's that loyalty and devotion, between both parties, that makes our existence on this planet tolerable.  And not matter how strong a bond exists between a dog and it's human, the bond is always stronger when their human is a child.  For me, Lassie embodies all that is right in that connection.

Regardless of who the kid was; Jeff, Timmy, Joe, or the countless others, Lassie was at her best when she was with them. She cared for them, protected them, and gave them the kind of companionship that kids everywhere yearned for.  She was the perfect dog, and turned millions of kids into dog lovers.  Even though I've ended up with my own Lassie a time or two, and I treasure those memories for all they are worth, I will always have a special place in my heart for Lassie herself, and all she represents. 


Monday, March 2, 2015

If Only They Weren't Dead

My brain hasn't been able to let go of a post that Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books did the the other day. She posted about the authors she would automatically buy from when they release new books, and how her list has changed over they years.  And like any good post will do, it got me thinking of who would be on my list, and it was fairly short.

Other than a few of the m/m romance writers I've become addicted to, there was only one author, Daryl Gregory.  I could name a few other authors I enjoy, but I only buy the books that fit into a certain series, not everything they write.  That list was a little longer and included Mercedes Lackey, Simon R. Green, S.M. Stirling, Guy Gavriel Kay, and a few others, but that doesn't really answer the original question.

My brain took this question one step further though.  I started to think of all the dead authors I enjoy, and how badly I wish they still had new books coming out. So that is the list I'm going to share with you guys.  So please, if you have an in with a really good medium, could you please get the word out and let these authors know that they still have a willing audience for their work.

Agatha Christie - I don't think it's possible to know me, and not know that I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan.  I don't think she has ever steered me wrong, and even when I don't particularly love one of her books, I know they are better than half the stuff that's being written today. I would love for her to be able to give them lessons on how to write a good mystery.

Mary Roberts Rinehart - If there is a mystery writer I love as much as Agatha Christie, it's Mary Roberts Rinehart.  She was called the American Agatha Christie at one point in time, and her writing more than lived up to that honor.  I have yet to read one of her book that I didn't like, and I'm running out of them to read.  I just wish she was still around to feed my addiction.

Erle Stanley Gardner - I got hooked on his books because of his most famous creation, Perry Mason.  For that reason alone, I love him.  But even his none Mason books have been good and well worth the read.  I would pay good money to have him still writing Perry Mason books, I'd even be willing to kill for it. 

Robert Jordan - This is a man who saved the fantasy genre for me.  Other than one or two other authors, I had given up on it, then I discovered his Wheel of Time series.   He wrote epic fantasy in a way that made it come to life in my head, and in my heart.  He is what all these other authors should be trying to be.  I just wish he was around to give me more Rand, Perrin, and Mat. 

Frank Herbert - If there is a saving grace for science fiction, it's the writing of Frank Herbert.  I think most of you guys know by now, that I am not a science fiction fan.  When I first discovered Dune, my entire outlook shifted, and I've never looked back.  I could have read about that world until the day I die.  I know his son tried to continue the books, but they just weren't the same. 

Shirley Jackson - There was nobody better at taking the ordinary, everyday occurrences of life, and making them feel disjointed and unnatural. She could twist a story like nobody else, and make your entire foundation shift and crumble.  The Haunting of Hill House and "The Lottery" are probably her two works that almost everyone knows, but I've never read anything by her that wasn't up to that same standard.  

Flannery O'Connor - I'm not even sure what to say about Flannery O'Connor, except to say she was a gifted novelist, and an even better short story author.  She was able to pack so much into a short story, a talent that not many have.  Like Shirley Jackson, I've never read her work, and not fallen in love with it.  She was Queen of the Southern Gothic, and how I wish she was still around.