Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year & Thank You

Happy New Year! 

It takes a lot of wonderful people to help get Mystery Playground published every day and I can't close out 2015 without a big thank you to all of them. 

I'd like to thank the fabulous and prolific Kerry Hammond. Her posts range from books reviews to craft posts and everything in between. Next up is the amazing crafting team of Pat Hernas and Janet Kuchler who help make everything from lamps out of vintage slides to Agatha Christie placemats to herb gardens. I'd also like to thank book reviewer Sharon Long. 

A big thank you to our guest bloggers:

And our fabulous guest bloggers for Crafty Thursdays: It takes a special kind of person to makes these wonderful crafts. 

Dru Ann Love with the Detecting Drew Table Quilt

Barbara Graham and English Paper Piecing

Melissa Bourbon and Book Page Garland

Crazy Mug Rug with Molly McRae

Robin Berry and the Traveling Scissors and Needle Case

Pat Hernas and Adult Coloring Pages of Mystery

Decoupage Ornaments with Ellen Byron

Amanda Flower and How to Make a Book Tree

And last but not least, I'd like to thank all of our fabulous readers. Without you, there would be no reason for Mystery Playground. 

Happy New Year to All! See you next year with more fun...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sharon's New Year's Reading Resolutions

Sharon Long is here to share her New Year's Resolutions as far as what books and/or authors she is most looking forward to in 2016. You can also read Deborah's and Kerry's picks for 2016.

My first resolution is I plan on reading the following books the day they are released:

Forgive Me by Daniel Palmer releasing May 2016. When I met Daniel at this year's Bouchercon, he told me this is his best book ever and that I had to read it. With an endorsement like that, I can't wait. A side note, Daniel was absolutely hilarious on his panel and in person.

Redemption Road by John Hart releasing May 2016. John is another one of my favorite authors and it was a pleasure to met him this year as well.  I thoroughly enjoyed each of his previous books and am thrilled about this one. 

Wendy Webb is an author I love. She writes gothic novels. and will have two new books releasing in 2016. Wendy scared herself while she was writing one of them. I'm waiting hopefully to hear the new titles of the books and release dates.  

I am also looking forward to the latest books from my newest favorite authors. I have reviewed all of their previous novels on Mystery Playground in 2015.

Kristi Belcamino, whom I met and talked with quite a bit at this year's Boucheron. She has written four books to date in the Gabriella Giovanni series. I know she is working on her first standalone which I cannot wait to read. 

Ben McPherson, whose first book A Line of Blood is on several different Best Books of 2015 lists. I absolutely loved this book. I met Ben as well this year and he was gracious and humble with a great English accent. I know he is working on his second book which I will definitely be reading. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Kerry's New Year's Reading Resolutions

It's almost 2016, and so everyone here at Mystery Playground is thinking about what books were looking forward to reading in the new year. Here is Kerry Hammond with her New Year’s Reading Resolution.

The new year is upon us. It’s that time again, where we make grandiose promises to ourselves, the kind that purport to change our lives.  Rather than fall into the trap of making resolutions I can’t keep (like losing 20 pounds, or learning to speak fluent French—two resolutions I’ve made in the past and not followed through with) I’ve decided to be realistic this year.  In addition to being realistic, I’ve made my resolution a literary one. Why? Because if it involves reading, I know I can follow through.

I rolled a lot of ideas around in my head before making my choice. Should I promise myself that I will read the classics? Or should I concentrate on another category, like the list of banned books? How about trying all of those authors who were recommended by trusted friends? All of these are wonderful ideas, and worthy of any new year’s resolution list. But I decided to go a slightly different route.

I enjoy reading books that are part of a series. There’s just something about getting to know a set of characters who live beyond the pages of just one standalone novel. A series allows you to revisit old friends as they tackle new adventures. You can take time away and then return to the comfort of these characters as you would your favorite sweater when the temperature drops. I jump into a lot of series books midway through. Whether it’s because it’s a book I have decided to review, or my book club choice for the month. Either way, I end up missing a lot from the other books in the series, and I frequently tell myself that I will go back and start from the beginning. As you can imagine, it rarely happens.

So this year I decided to choose four different authors whose series have caught my attention and made me want to start from the beginning. My resolution is to read book one in each series and see where it takes me.

The first on my list is the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben. In addition to reading every standalone written by Harlan, I’ve read several books in the Myron series and enjoyed each one. They’re not only great mysteries, but they’re pretty funny as well. I want to go back to the beginning, which is Deal Breaker, to see what additional background I can get from characters like Myron and Win.

Next up is Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series. I actually fell in love with this series after watching the television show Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, where Phryne is portrayed by Australian actress Essie Davis. I have been meaning to start reading the books from the beginning, and since there are already 20 books in the series, I have a lot to look forward to. The first up: Cocaine Blues. These books are set in the 1920s and feature a wealthy female detective who turns her nose up at social conventions that try to keep women behind the scenes.

To get my British fix, I’ve chosen Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May series, set in present day London. The two detectives are part of the Peculiar Crimes Unit and I jumped into the series when an employee at Barnes & Noble recommended the author. At the time, I purchased the latest release, so I think it’s time to go back and start from the beginning with Full Dark House.

Last on my list is the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo. We’ve read this author several times in the Crime & Beyond book club and they’re dark, graphic, and wonderful. The series is set in Oslo, Norway and follows the troubled existence of a policeman and the killers he hunts. The first book in the series is The Bat.

What are your New Year’s resolutions, literary or otherwise?

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Deborah's New Year's Reading Resolutions

Another year is almost gone, proving once again that all the cliches about time flying are absolutely true. It's customary to make a New Year's resolution and then forget about it in a few weeks. So my New Years resolution is pretty laid back and easily achievable. My resolution is to make time to read four particular books that I am excited about. Of course, I'll wind up reading more. 

Chris Pavone's The Travelers

I really enjoyed reading Pavone's previous standalone thrillers, The Expats and The Accident. In his third standalone, a mild-mannered travel writer gets sucked into a game of lying and spying. Duplicity is the name of the game here. This book comes out in March.

Laurie R. King, The Murder of Mary Russell

King's protagonist, Mary Russell is a female match for Sherlock Holmes and it is so much fun to get lost her in her world. This time, the action begins when Mary learns secrets from Mrs. Hudson's past that lead to murder. 

Here's what Laurie R. King had to say about the book at the Bouchercon convention in October.

This book comes out in early April. 

Catriona McPherson's Quiet Neighbors

Catriona McPherson brings us another psychological thriller in, Quiet Neighbors. It's about a woman who runs away to a wonderful old book shop. This book comes out in early April. I'll be interviewing Catriona at the Left Coast Crime mystery fan convention in Phoenix, February 25-28. 

David Morrell's Ruler of the Night

This is the third book in Morrell's historical Thomas DeQuincey series. I loved the first two books as they wind through London in 1855, in the early years when the town had its first nascent police force. The character of DeQuincey, based on the writer called The Opium Easter.

Come back tomorrow and see Kerry Hammond's reading plans for 2016.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review: Dead and Buried

Kerry Hammond is here to review Dead and Buried by Stephen Booth.

Dead and Buried is the 12th book in the British Cooper & Fry mystery series by Stephen Booth. It was published on November 4, 2014, by Witness Impulse, in paperback. This is the second book I’ve read by Booth, the first was The Murder Road, which I really enjoyed. So when I saw Dead and Buried at Bouchercon, the yearly Mystery Fan Conference, I grabbed it for a Mystery Playground review.

Ben Cooper is a Derbyshire Detective Sergeant who investigates crime in the Peak District. Wildfires are blazing on the moors, and firefighters believe them to have been started by arsonists. It’s all hands on deck to fight the fires and the police are called in when items are unearthed that link back to a double missing persons case from two years prior, one that was never solved. Detective Inspector Diane Fry, now working with another department, has been called in to assist, and her relationship with Cooper is tenuous at best. Their rivalry is raised to another level when Fry stumbles across a body in an old abandoned lighthouse that once housed a pub. To make matters worse, once the dead man is identified, he is linked to the unsolved investigation of the missing couple. The dead man was one of the pub patrons who last saw them alive.

As Cooper takes up the cold case, he realizes that he was also at the pub, drinking with friends, on the night the couple disappeared, and he must reconcile his vague memory of events with the new murder investigation. He is unsure if he can trust his own, spotty recollection of the night. While he works on the case, the fires continue to burn, threatening the entire area and its residents.

Booth is skilled at crafting the quintessential British police procedural. I love this genre of detective story because not only is there a mystery to solve, but there is usually a long buried secret as well. The reader is able to follow along and solve the current case, all the while learning about the people in the town. We find that there is a lot under the surface in these small areas of England—at least fictionally—and the way the pieces are unraveled keeps the suspense building and the pace active. This is a great series to read in order, or piece by piece. The mystery is standalone, even if some of the relationships and plot points continue throughout. 

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