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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

THE SKELETON BOX A Starvation Lake Mystery

by Bryan Gruley

The third in the Starvation Lake Mystery series finds local newspaper editor Gus Carpenter involved in the investigation of the bingo night burglaries in the small town of Starvation Lake.  While the residents are attending bingo at the local Catholic Church, homes are being broken into, but strangely, nothing appears to be missing; the thief just rifles through personal and financial papers.

As tensions mount, things take a turn for the worse when someone is murdered during another break-in.  The victim is the mother of Gus' ex-girlfriend, local police woman Darlene Espers.  Even worse, the murder occurred during the burglary of the home of Bea Carpenter, Gus' ailing mother.

The town of Starvation Lake is fraught with more turmoil.  Even as the local sheriff  is under fire to solve the burglaries, one of his deputies is working against him while planning his own election campaign.  Then there is the born-again Christian group that's not only kicking up a fuss, but threatening to disrupt the season for the local hockey team, the lifeblood of entertainment and pride for this small community.

Working with newcomer Luke Whistler, a seasoned older reporter, Carpenter finds himself looking into the mysterious disappearance of a beautiful young nun decades earlier, and how her disappearance may be linked to both his mother and the events in Starvation Lake today.

I've enjoyed all three of the author's books, and his characters and writing just keep getting better.  Mr. Gruley has created another fun and satisfying mystery with THE SKELETON sure to add it to your summer reading list!

ISBN 987-1-4165-6366-2
Pub. Date:  6/5/2012
336 Pages
Hardcover and eBook

Saturday, May 26, 2012

CLIFF WALK - Liam Mulligan Series No. 2

by Bruce DeSilva

Liam Mulligan, a seasoned investigative reporter with the Providence Dispatch Newspaper, is back in this new mystery from Bruce DeSilva.  The second in the Mulligan series deals with legalized prostitution and pornography, specifically child pornography and murder in Providence, Rhode Island.

As I've mentioned in earlier reviews, I don't enjoy fiction that deals with heinous crimes against children. Especially when the story involves body parts.  To be honest, I would have stopped before I started if I hadn't read Mr. DeSilva's first book, ROGUE ISLAND, and thoroughly enjoyed not only his writing style but also his portrayal of graft and corruption in Rhode Island.

Mulligan is a likeable man who is dealing with the demise of the newspaper business, as well as with Dorcas, his shrill and angry soon-to-be ex-wife. Mulligan is joined once again in his investigations by Thanks-Dad, his nickname for the son of the newspaper's publisher.  Attilla-the-nun, State Police Capt. Steve Parisi, and a host of other intriguing and fun protagonists add to the author's smooth writing style and tongue-in-cheek dialogue.

But best of all, and lucky for the reader, the plot of CLIFF WALK is secondary to his scathing portrayal of the city of Providence; terrific fun if you don't happen to live in Rhode Island.  Being from New Jersey, which is very often portrayed as a mob-infested, crime-riddled state, it's refreshing to let another state take the rap for a change!

If you can get past the subject matter, this newest Liam Mulligan mystery is a good read and very entertaining.

ISBN 978-0-76533-237-0
Pub. Date:  May 22, 2012
320 Pages
Hardcover and eBook 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


PATCH me in!

You can now find my book reviews and blog posts on the Stonington-Mystic Patch in Connecticut.  I've been submitting reviews for about two weeks and the response has been wonderful!  Thanks to everyone who emailed me.

Don't forget that you can also follow my reviews through the Recorder Newspapers in New Jersey.  You can find the Monarch Book Reviews link on the website of each of their sixteen community newspapers.

I've been reading some terrific new books and hope to continue to include more local authors, both in New Jersey and Connecticut.  Please check back to find new books to add to your summer reading list.

It's great to hear from each of you, so please keep your comments, emails and especially your ARCs coming!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


by Michael R. McGuire

Jake Fitzpatrick's life is a mess.  He's middle aged, divorced, friendless and working in a job he doesn't like.  Even his own mother doesn't like him very much. It can't get any worse; or can it?

When his Uncle Henry passes away and leaves him a large piece of land, it's a total surprise to Jake.  But the land comes with a catch; he has also inherited his late uncle's job as an undertaker, burying bodies on the land he just inherited.

Although the pay for his new job is substantial, Jake suddenly finds himself in a shadowy Kafkaesque world.  He doesn't know who he's working for, where the bodies are coming from, or why these people are dying.  Just as he's adjusting to his new found wealth and the horrors of his new job, he discovers that one of the bodies isn't technically a body at all; the woman he's supposed to bury isn't dead.  While he's agreed to take on the role of undertaker, Jake's not a murderer, and he finds himself on the run as he tries to stay one step ahead of the people he's been working for as well as trying to stay alive.

THE UNDERTAKER'S HILL is an intriguing and fascinating debut novel.

Author Bio:  THE UNDERTAKER'S HILL is Michael R. McGuire's first mystery novel and is available at as well as  He has been an active playwright for twenty years and his plays have been produced throughout Connecticut, New York and the rest of  the country.  He is a 2005 CT Artist Fellowship recipient for his play THE NEW GIRL, and his play for young actors, PERSEPHONE RULES! is published by Brooklyn Publishers.  Mr. McGuire's current production THE DRAFTS: WHEN HALF THE SPHERE IS VISIBLE, a four playwright collaboration by Horse Trade Theater at The Red Room in New York City is running through May 26, 2012.  Don't be surprised to find Michael as part of the waitstaff at a local Stonington Borough restaurant....he's the one who bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Stephen King.

Pub. Date:  February 2012
199 pages
eBook and Paperback

Thursday, May 17, 2012

THE ODDS, A Love Story

by Stewart O'Nan

Marion and Art Fowler are at the end of life as they knew it.  Married for thirty-one years, their marriage is pretty much over.  Marion just can't forgive Art for cheating on her and, with their children grown and gone, she's ready to begin a life of her own.  Compounding their marital problems, the Fowlers are one step away from foreclosure on their home and on the verge of bankruptcy.

Art is still deeply in love with Marion and he has convinced her to spend Valentine's weekend in the honeymoon suite of the poshest Indian casino on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.  While revisiting the local sights as they did on their honeymoon decades ago and enjoying lavish dinners together, Art has a simple sink-or-swim plan for the weekend.  He has withdrawn all of their remaining money to try to win enough to get their lives back on track financially at the high stakes roulette table and, at the same time, repair their marriage.

Like LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, Stewart O'Nan's characters in THE ODDS tug at your heartstrings.  In this wonderfully written and poignant tale, the author brings Art and Marion to life in a touching story of love, hope and redemption.  O'Nan creates beauty in the everyday and THE ODDS is a delightful book...not to be missed!

ISBN 978-0-670-02316-5
Pub. Date:  January 2012
192 pages
Penguin Group

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I was thinking about being a mom and the different stages of my sons' development and, consequently, the different names children have for their mothers. 

When your children are very small, it's music to your ears when your son or daughter begins to babble mamamamama, even though it comes long after da-da.  When they're toddlers, your name becomes Mommy as they wrap their sticky little fingers around your neck and give you a kiss and tell you how beautiful you are!  However, when they are just on the cusp of throwing a tantrum, that same Mommy can quickly become MomEEEEE! in a shrill voice. 

We morph into Ma (pronounced MAAAAA  which rhymes with the sound a cartoon sheep makes, in a loud voice) when our children reach middle school or high school, usually around the same time they begin to think you're just too stupid to have even grown up and had a family.  Ma and Mom can be used in alternating shifts during those teen years, depending on just how annoying your child thinks you are at the moment.  This stage doesn't last forever as you know, because you never see cards addressed to MA in your local card store for mother's day.

When they finally grow up and go to college or move on with their own lives, you can expect to settle into a nice, comfortable "Mom", if all goes well.  There can be minor variations on this theme.  For example my youngest used to call me Mommo which I thought was very cute.
Mother also crops up every now and then through the years as a form of reprimand when our children find us to be particularly annoying, i.e., "Mother, did you have to kiss me goodbye when you dropped me off at school?!?" 

I have a friend who refers to her own mother in conversation as Mother.  Not MY mother, but mother, as in, "Mother is having trouble with her computer", or "I'm taking Mother to Crate and Barrel on Saturday".  To me, that sounds cold and distant and I can't help but wonder if "Mother" beat my friend with a wire hanger when she was growing up, a la Joan Crawford.

Don't even get me started on those grown children who call their mothers by their given name.  I can't imagine one of my sons saying, "Lynn, would you like more coffee?"  Lynnie, however, they've used on occasion. 

Be it Mommy, Ma, Mom or Mother, a rose by any other name............!  Happy Mother's Day!

Flower photos taken by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.

Monday, May 7, 2012


by Mia March

Following a terrible car accident, Lolly Weller becomes a single mother to Kat, while also raising her two nieces, Isabel and June.  Now grown and living their own lives, June and Isabel receive a summons from their aunt to come home to the small Maine town where they were raised.  She has something important to discuss with them and Kat and wants to do it in person.

Isabel has just discovered that her husband has been having an affair and wants a divorce, and June is a struggling single mother, trying to deal with her young son's desire to meet his father.  Although they've been emotionally estranged from each other as well as from Kat and Lolly, both are grateful for the chance to escape the turmoil in their own lives.  Unknown to Isabel and June, although Kat has lived at home helping her mother with the inn, she longs to travel to far away places to become a master baker.

All three cousins are stunned when they discover that Lolly has brought them all together to tell them she's been diagnosed with cancer.  Lolly is determined to remain upbeat, and as is the custom, Friday night at The Three Captains' Inn is movie night, and the theme for this month is a selection of Meryl Streep movies.

Staying on at the inn to help Lolly through her treatments, the cousins find themselves revealing the problems in each of their own lives while watching and discussing each Meryl Streep movie selection.  As they bond with each other, they begin to define their own lives and their dreams for the future.

Although a little too predictable, THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB is nice, engaging, chick lit.

ISBN 9781451655391
Pub. Date:   To be released June 19, 2012
352 pages
Paperback and eBook

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


by Saloma Furlong

Some of you may remember my review of WHY I LEFT THE AMISH by Saloma Furlong, reprinted below.  When I reviewed the advance reader copy of Ms. Furlong's poignant memoir on October 28, 2010, I never expected to meet Saloma and her husband David, nor did I expect that we would become friends.

But we have become friends, and she and her husband have stayed with us both in NJ and CT when she has book readings in the area.  During the Furlongs first visit to our home, long after our husbands were asleep, like teenagers, we stayed up till the middle of the night just talking and laughing!

Saloma has been busy since her book was published in January, 2011.  At home in Massachusetts, she's continued to work on the second installment of her memoir, while travelling extensively, giving talks at libraries and bookstores.  She appeared in the documentary THE AMISH, as part of THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, which aired on PBS this past March.

Continuing her busy schedule, Ms. Furlong is currently visiting libraries and bookstores throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.  You can read more about Saloma Furlong and the places she'll be visiting on her blog,  ABOUT AMISH.

My review of WHY I LEFT THE AMISH, October 28, 2010:

Ms. Furlong's memoir takes us inside the rural life of the Amish in Ohio; a life ruled by the men of the community.  Growing up in an abusive and dysfunctional family, the author suffered many indignities before summoning the courage to embark on a new life in Vermont, a place she had only visited in magazines and in her own imagination.

As an outsider, or someone considered "English", I didn't know much about the Amish culture before reading this book.  I always considered them to be peaceful religious people who worked the land and didn't participate in wars or use modern technology.  Their sense of community seemed to be the cornerstone of their peaceful existence.  And let's not forget those beautiful quilts we all covet.

It never occurred to me that even within this group there could exist a caste system and tolerance for abuse -- emotional, physical and sexual -- with little or no protection for the young women of the community.  Every facet of the author's life as a young Amish woman was training for subservient community life with no concern for individual pursuits.  As her anger at her situation grew, so did her desire to create a life of her own.

How wonderful for Ms. Furlong that she was able to meet so many people that would assist her in finding her way in the world.   As she became more mature and confident, she was able to return to the Amish community for her father's funeral with far less trepidation than one would expect.

If you'd like to learn more about the Amish life, Ms. Furlong's book raises the curtain for a peek inside this culture and religion in her fascinating and heartfelt memoir.  The author's courage is uplifting and I look forward to reading the next installment of her journey.

ISBN 9780870139949
Pub. Date:  January 2011
190 pages
Paperback and eBook