Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 Top Reads - U.S. Crime Thriller Novels

Further to my post of December 17, 2016 (in which I listed my "2016 Top Reads: U.K. Crime Thriller Novels")  this post focuses on my "2016 Top Reads" U.S. Crime Thriller Novels. I have grouped books in my own fashion, alphabetically, and when possible, by the same publisher. There are debuts, stand-alone novels, a books which are part of a series. I did review the last two titles in the post, and hope you will read my reviews. 

This is not a "Best Books of 2016" list. My passion for the crime thriller genre is enormous. I hope you like my choices, and I encourage you to buy these titles, and support writers and publishers so more books may be written and published! 

If you click on a title, that will take you to its listing.  When you click on the author and/or the publisher, that will take you to their Twitter account.

Also, since this is my blog, I have added a title which I should have appeared in my  2016 Top Reads - U.K. Crime Thriller Novels list.  That title is OPEN WOUNDS by Douglas Skelton,which Luath Press published in the U.K. back on March 31, 2016.  However, the book was published here in the U.S. on September 30, 2016, and was nominated for the 2016 McIlvanney Prize (Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award).  And so, once again....


THE EX by Alafair Burke (HarperCollins, January 26, 2016)

THE OTHER WIDOW by Susan Crawford (William Morrow, April 26, 2016)

WHAT REMAINS OF ME by Alison Gaylin (William Morrow, February 23, 2016)

HARD COLD WINTER by Glen Erik Hamilton (William Morrow, March 8, 2016), Van Shaw Novels, Book 2

DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, June 21, 2016)

THE LOST GIRLS by Heather Young (William Morrow, July 26, 2016)

THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam/Penguin Random House, October 6, 2016)  Maggie Hope Mystery Series, Book 6

WALK INTO SILENCE by Susan McBride (Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing, December 1, 2016) Jo Larson, Book 1

WEDDING BEL BLUES by Maggie McConnon {Maggie Barbieri} (St. Martin's Press Paperbacks, May 31, 2016) Bel McGrath Mysteries, Book 1

THE DARKEST STREET by Alex Segura (Polis Books, April 12, 2016) Pete Fernandez, Book 2

THE ENGLISH BOYS by Julia Thomas (Midnight Ink , July 8, 2016)

HEART OF STONE by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books, June 7, 2016) Ellie Stone Mysteries, Book 4

QUIET NEIGHBORS by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink, April 8, 2016)

THE HATCHING by Ezekiel Boone (Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, July 5, 2016) The Hatching Series, Book 1

DARK FISSURES by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing, December 6, 2016) Rick Cahill Thrillers, Book 3

THE EMPRESS OF TEMPERA by Alex Dolan (Diversion Books, September 13, 2016)

STRONG COLD DEAD by Jon Land (Forge Books/Tor Books, October 4) Caitlin Strong Novels, Book 8

THE SPECIAL POWER OF RESTORING LOST THINGS by Courtney Elizabeth Mauk (Little A Books, October 1, 2016)

MIDAIR by Kodi Scheer (Little A Books, August 1, 2016)

DON'T YOU CRY byMary Kubica (MIRA/Harlequin Books, May 17, 2016)

WE ARE UNPREPARED byMeg Little Reilly (MIRA/Harlequin Books, August 30, 2016)

OPEN WOUNDS by Douglas Skelton (Luath Press Ltd., September 30, 2016) Davie Mccall Series, Book 4

SINCE SHE WENT AWAY by David Bell (Berkley Publishing, June 21, 2016)

UNDER THE HARROW by Flynn Berry (Penguin Books, June 14, 2016)

DEAD SOULS by J. Lincoln Fenn (Gallery Books, September 20, 2016)

THE PASSENGER by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster, March 1, 2016)

THE VANISHING YEAR by Kate Morretti (Atria Books, September 27, 2016)

WHAT WAS MINE by Helen Klein Ross (Gallery Books, January 5, 2016) ***My review

INK AND BONE  by Lisa Unger (Touchstone Books, June 7, 2016) ***My review

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016 Top Reads - U.K. Crime Thriller Novels

Although I only was able to review two books in 2016, I did read quite a few. This post is the first of two, and is devoted to U.K. Crime Fiction|Thriller Novels of 2016. While I have chosen to compile a "2016 Top Reads" list, in order to encourage other fans of the genre to purchase and read these marvelous books, I have not, and I could not, arrange them in order of "the best books of 2016."  It would appear obvious that since I've gone to the trouble of doing this post that I love them ALL!

I've listed them in groups, alphabetically by author,  and grouped by publisher when possible. If you click on a title, that will take you to its listing. When you click on the author and/or the publisher, that will take you to their Twitter account.

There are two titles, HIS BLOODY PROJECT by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Skyhorse Publishing) and THE LIE by C.L. Taylor (Sourcebooks) which technically were published in the U.K. in 2015...BUT I did not read them until they were published here in the U.S.. The links here are for the UK versions, but all of the titles have U.S. publishers/editions. There is only one title which was published solely in a digital edition when I read it, SAVING SOPHIE by Sam Carrington (Maze, HarperCollins UK).


THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton (Penguin Books UK16 January 2016)
U.S.: THE WIDOW (Berkley Publishing Group, February 16, 2016) 

TASTES LIKE FEAR by Sarah Hilary (Headline Books, 7 April 2016)

THE WOLF ROAD by Beth Lewis (The Borough Press, 30 June 2016)
U.S.: THE WOLF ROAD (Crown Publishing, July 5, 2016)

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by Ruth Ware (Harvill Secker, 30 June 2016)
U.S.: THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 (Scout Press Books/Gallery Books, July 19, 2016)

THE WOMAN IN BLUE by Elly Griffiths (Quercus Books, 4 February 2016)
U.S.: THE WOMAN IN BLUE (Houghton Mifflin, May 3, 2016)

A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED by William Shaw (Hodder & Stoughton, 19 January 2016)
U.S.: A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED (Mulholland Books, January 19, 2016)

THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE by Louise Beech (Orenda Books, 30 September 2016)
U.S.: THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE (Orenda Books, December 1, 2016)

IN HER WAKE by Amanda Jennings (Orenda Books, 22 March 2016)
U.S.: IN HER WAKE (Orenda Books, July 1, 2016)

A Suitable Lie by Michael J. Malone (Orenda Books, 15 September 2016)
U.S.: PreOrder => A SUITABLE LIE (Orenda Books, January 1, 2016)

THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh (Orion Books, 11 February 2016)
U.S.: THE DEFENSE (Flatiron Books, May 3, 2016)

THE SISTER by Louise Jensen (bookouture, 5 July 2016)
U.S.: THE SISTER (bookouture, July 5, 2016)

LOVE YOU TO DEATH by Caroline Mitchell (bookouture, 13 November 2016)
U.S.: LOVE YOU TO DEATH (bookouture, November 13, 2016)

THE STEPMOTHER by Claire Seeber (bookouture, 19 July 2016)
U.S.: THE STEPMOTHER (bookouture, July 19, 2016)

WILLOW WALK by S.J.I. Holliday (Black and White Publishing, 10 June 2016)
U.S.: WILLOW WALK (Black and White Publishing, May 5, 2016)

THE LONDON CAGE by Mark Leggatt (Fledgling Press, 29 June 2016)
U.S. ebook edition: THE LONDON CAGE (Fledgling Press, June 22, 2016)

THE PERFECT GIRL by Gilly Macmillan (Piatkus Books, 22 September 2016)
U.S.: THE PERFECT GIRL (William Morrow Paperbacks, September 6, 2016)

HIS BLOODY PROJECT by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Skyhorse Publishing, October 18, 2016)
U.K.: HIS BLOODY PROJECT (Contraband/Saraband Books, 5 November 2015)

THE DARKEST SECRET  by Alex Marwood (Sphere Books, 30 June 2016)
U.S.: THE DARKEST SECRET (Penguin Books, August 30, 2016)

BLACK NIGHT FALLING by Rod Reynolds (Faber & Faber, 4 August 2016)

THE LIE by C.L. Taylor (AvonBooksUK, 23 April 2015)
U.S.: THE LIE (Sourcebooks, June 7, 2016)

A DEADLY THAW by Sarah Ward (Faber & Faber, 1 September 2016)
U.S.: A DEADLY THAW (Minotaur Books, September 27, 2016)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hold On Until The Light Returns

My first thought upon waking was, "It is very dark." I rise several hours before dawn. My sleep is troubled--it has been for years--and consciousness is a break from the nightmares which accompany Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This time of year, as the days shorten and the nights lengthen, has often placed me in a deep depression and high states of anxiety. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I seek out extra therapy, sessions and make sure that, no matter how cold it is outside, I bundle up and get out in the sunshine for the light and the Vitamin D.

When I thought, "It is very dark," I was not only referring to the science of the Northern Hemisphere approaching its winter solstice. It is a very dark time in the United States of America as we watch the surreal but all-to-real parade of the President Elect's cabinet choices. His "diplomacy" has already imperiled us. I was sensitive to the misuse of the acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress disorder after the election, i.e. "PTSD" standing for Post-Trump Stress Disorder. But, oh, do I understand.

I want to share a key factor about how I have survived through over two decades of being a person who has mental illness.  While I wish it were otherwise, the mental health system in this country is light years behind being what it needs to be to serve all the people in this country who have mental illness. Strides have been made, but I fear and believe that many social services are going to be cut by the next administration.

So how do you hold on when your brain is telling you that everything is awful, that it shall always be this bad, that you will never feel good again?  You hold on. You do everything in your power to make healthy choices to get you through this bout until the sun shines inside you again.  You rely on yourself, because sometimes support networks (family, friends, mental health providers) may not be able to reach you as you stumble around in the dark, through the real long night of the soul.

Self-reliance is a very American ideal. Pioneers settling land had to be self-reliant until they were joined by others and able to form communities. Immigrants still have to be self-reliant, until they too are joined by others.  My relatives came to New York from Ireland and were lucky enough to find support within the Irish-American community.  My Great Uncle Frank was the youngest of ten brothers and grew up in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. He had no way of earning a living so he decided to immigrate to American.  He got off the boat in New York in 1927 at age nineteen.. He was a wiry but very wee little man. All he had were the clothes on his back.  As he made his way through out of the docks, he was stopped by a cop of horseback who said, "You there!  Where do you think YOU'RE going?"  My Uncle Frank told me he was terrified, and thought he would be placed on the next ship heading back to Ireland by this police officer who seemed the very image of Fionn mac Cumhaill.  Frank managed to sputter out that he had only just landed in New York.  The giant cop leaned down, and Frank thought he was going to get a lashing with the cop's truncheon.  Instead, the officer said, "So you'll be needing a job then, lad?  You go right around that corner, walk up to number 12, and tell them Officer Murphy sent you and you need a job."  My Uncle Frank followed those orders, and worked as a longshoreman for the next four decades.  Frank had help, but until that moment when Officer Murphy offered the lifeline, Frank was on his own.

When it is dark, you need to hold on until the light returns. You need to find out what will help you cope. I do not mean to imply you are alone, as in not another human being cares about you. But when I am suffering from depression and/or anxiety, it feels as though I am alone. Some days coping means staying in my nightgown and robe, cuddling my dog, and binge watching television episodes of "House Hunters International." This year I'm not doing as badly, so I have a list of what I must do to stay strong:

  1. Set a regular wake-up and sleep time. I get up at 6:00 a.m., and am in bed by 10:00 p.m.. I may have risen earlier or had trouble falling asleep at night, but having specific points for waking and sleeping keep me on track.
  2. Pay attention to nutrition and eat healthy. I have survived months of depression subsisting on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Now I take the time to cook simple but health-giving meals, full of vegetables, some protein, and healthy carbohydrates. I also make sure I eat at regular intervals. I limit my caffeine to one cup of coffee in the morning. 
  3. Limit stress. This is far easier to say than to do. Some of these are measures which I use constantly, and some are temporary fixes. When I wasn't feeling well at the beginning of the month, I deactivated my Facebook account since I couldn't bear to read one more political story, or read one more person's dire predictions of "THE FUTURE." I did not read the news or watch the news on television.  My usual arsenal:  I pray. I get out and walk. I do breathing exercises. I listen to music which feeds my soul. I do puzzles. I watch comedy shows. I look at funny animal videos on YouTube. I have two wonderful dogs. I stay in touch with the people I love. I need to direct myself because stress will enter your life no matter how vigilant you are. So I build up my coping skills, and gird myself with happiness and relaxation.
  4. Reminders that, "This too shall pass." I am a history buff, and so I read about people who had to survive atrocities, and who were able to hang on. I have many examples in my family history of people who managed to cope through terrible times and were able to move on to happier, richer periods of life. Post inspiring quotes around your home where you can see them. Watch inspiring movies like "The Shawshank Redemption." You will make it.
Do not dwell in or on the darkness. The light shall return.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Starting Over, Again and Again

On December 8, 1980, I was studying for finals at Wesleyan University. My underwhelming scholastic performance coincided directly with the fun I had been having socially. I had enjoyed a fantastic first semester of college. I was seventeen, and had been assigned to live in an off-campus co-ed house which we dubbed "The Rude House." I formed many close friendships which remain vital all these decades later. 

Wesleyan wasn't merely a top-level liberal arts college.  It was "liberal" politically. Jimmy Carter had lost his bid for re-election, and some old television star with big hair was going to be President of the United States.  I had been so upset that I too young to vote in the election.  However, I could not but help look forward to finally turning eighteen-years-old this December, and being excited and optimistic about the future because I was young.

You cannot get along with everyone in a college residence. One guy irked me but we had one huge passion in common.  We both were Beatlemaniacs.  Although it had been over a decade since the legendary and iconic band had broken up, and we had been seven-years-old, "H" and I were as passionate about The Fab Four as the fans were on  day The Beatles landed at Idlewild (February 7, 1964). The Beatles and their music helped Americans heal from the collective horror and grief experienced after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. H and I and all our classmates were born during the Kennedy Administration, and actually grew up with The Beatles as the soundtrack of our childhood.

We both had found comfort in their beautiful music, and were obsessive about all facts having to do with The Beatles. We could never say who our "favorite" Beatle was. We each flip-flopped about whether it was John Lennon or Paul McCarthy. H. and I were extremely excited because John had released his seventh studio album, "Double Fantasy," in late October after a five-year break from the music scene.

John was the "bad boy," possessed of good looks, irreverent wit, and sex appeal. Raised during World War II in Liverpool, John had a primal wound because his mother Julia had left him to be reared by his Aunt Mimi. There was no post-war economic boom in England as there was in the United States, no upward social mobility.  John was "an angry young man." Thankfully, instead of becoming a criminal, he became a working class hero. Lennon threw his broken heart, anger and passion into making music. After The Beatles broke up John and his wife Yoko Ono relocated to New York City. He went on to record six studio albums. As a peace activist, Lennon protested the Vietnam War so Richard Nixon tried to have him deported from the U.S.. Lennon fought to remain for years (he got his "green card," document of permanent residency in 1976). 

On October 9, 1975, John's own birthday, Yoko gave birth to their son Sean. John left the public forum and the music scene so he could be a stay-at-home father.  I  have wondered if being the primary caregiver to his little boy helped heal his wound from his own childhood.  He doted on Sean, and the photographs and home movies from Sean's birth until the autumn of 1980 are genuine artifacts of love.  And once healed, he returned to his life's passion, and began making and writing music again. 

We were all young and deeply in the process of discovering who we were.  The lessons we learned in our classrooms on all the great areas of humanities, arts and science made our minds open to the fact that life is finite and you have to choose what you will and what you won't spend time doing. 

On the evening of December 8, 1980, we students and new friends gathered as a pack in one cozy bedroom on the third floor of "Rude House," laying around in piles with our textbooks and notebooks. I think we realized that we were lucky to be in college, that we better not mess up that status, because after student life came "Life."

There was a knock on the door. H. walked into the room, and I saw his eyes scanning the room. Then  he walked over to where I sat and said, 

"John Lennon's been shot."

I thought H was playing a horrible practical joke on me. Yelling at him, I told H he was the biggest jerk in the world, and that he was mean and cruel.  H was red-faced, and walked over to our friends portable radio, turned it on and said, "Listen."

It was true. We gathered around the radio, until the announcer said that John Lennon had died on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, My heart broke. I spent the rest of the night crying, and brought my guitar over to the Center For The Fine Arts along with some candles and sat out in the cold Connecticut night singing every Beatles song I knew.

When the world feels as though it has ended, and that we cannot possibly face what is ahead, it's important to recall that human history occurs cyclically. We don't seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.  I would never suggest turning a blind eye or deaf ear to current events. There's always a chance to change something through our actions, maybe something so small and slight that we won't be able to see its positive effects for days, years, or decades. 

We cannot overlook the atrocities,  nor can we stop trying to prevent evil. But, alas, in "Life," we cannot always change the course of history. So turn inward, to your own life, and figure out how you will remain strong by embracing your passions, creating good art, by healing yourself, by holding your loved ones as close as you can, and appreciate being alive. Gird yourself with love so that we may fight what's to come.

"Our life together
is so precious together"

Sunday, December 4, 2016

We All Can Do Something

Today I am focusing on what can be done and not, as I have for the past twenty-six days, on what has happened, what is happening, and what may happen. I've never been able to play Emperor's New Clothes, to pretend and to deny when bad events are occurring.  However, the immense amount of bad news and fear has had me paralyzed by well-informed futility syndrome.  

I first heard this term while watching Bill Moyers (Moyers & Co.) on PBS in April 2013. His guest was environmental activist Sandra Steingraber.  During the course of their conversation, Steingraber said,

"Well-informed futility is an idea that psychologists hit upon in the 1960s, specifically to explain why the people watching television news about the Vietnam War came to feel more and more futile about it. Whereas people who watched less television felt less futile. So it seemed like a paradox, right? The more informed you are, you think of knowledge as power.
But in fact, there is a way in which knowledge can be incapacitating. And so the psychologists went further and now have applied this to the environmental crisis and point out to us that whenever there's a problem that seems big and overwhelming, climate change would be one, and at the same time, it's not apparent that your own actions have any meaningful agency to solve that problem, you're filled with such a sense of despair or guilt or rage that it becomes unbearable.
And so my response to that is basically what the book Raising Elijah is all about. So I try to take well-informed futility as my starting point and let people know that there is a way out of this. But because we can't -- I can't honestly tell you that the problem is less bad than it is, the response has to be that we scale up our actions. So the problem is huge. And so our actions have to be huge as well."
There is no time to waste, no time to be paralyzed with fear.  So today I propose we each take one step forward. One way we all can make a difference and do something proactive is by becoming an organ donor. Perhaps some people view this as unpleasant, maybe even morbid. I think people dying because they need an organ transplant and there are no organs available is far more lamentable.  
I am an organ donor.  I urge you to become an organ donor too.  Here is a link to  the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, about OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network).   To quote from this web page,
119,642 people need a lifesaving organ transplant (total waiting list candidates). Of those, 77,102 are active waiting list candidates. As of 10:25 p.m. today.