A Review of The Secret Lives of Cats

One thing I like about being in a book club is that I get a chance to read books that I hadn’t heard of. And since I hadn’t heard of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s story, The Secret Lives of Cats, I’m glad that it came to my attention and I had a good excuse to read it.

 

Amazon describes it as: Winner of the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Choice Award for 2008, this Anthony-nominated story was one of the most talked about stories of the year.

 

I can believe it. I was drawn in by its first sentence. “Homer Ziff didn’t believe in old adages, but after his long and eventful spring, he couldn’t help but think that whoever put the words “curiosity,” “cat,” and “kill” in the same sentence had to be onto something.”

 

I like curiosity, cats, and of course crime fiction. So I’m there! You got me. (And look at this awesome cover. I love it.)

Screen Shot 2019-04-22 at 3.04.41 PM

I like the premise. Ziff wonders where his cats go during the day so he attaches a small camera to each cat’s collar. The camera takes still photos, not video. (This was written when GoPro was still new and incredibly expensive.) Every day he downloads and saves many of the photos to see where they go. He notices that they go to a place where other cats congregate and sit there. Are they looking at something? What are they doing? He’s fascinated and after several days it becomes apparent that what they are looking at are bones, human bones.

 

He calls the police. “When the operator answered, he said, “I think there’s a dead body in my neighborhood.” And that brought the detectives to his door.”

 

He has to explain to them that the cats have found a dead body, but he doesn’t know exactly where it is. And he has to do this without sounding crazy or guilty. Fortunately for him, one of the detectives understands right away.

 

I’ll let you read the rest of the story to find out what happens. I thought it was a full-length book so I was a little disappointed that it was a short story, only 33 pages long. I wanted more! I liked everything about it, the characters, the descriptions, and the plot. I thought it moved right along.

 

I highly recommend this short read and I’ll definitely be reading more by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I was curious to see what else she has written and was thrilled to find that she also writes a lot of sci-fi. I’ll confess that I’m a bit of a Trekkie so I was tickled to see that she’s written a few ST books too! (Insert The Original Series music here. Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ahhhh.)

 

So go check out The Secret Lives of Cats and the other books listed on her site. https://kriswrites.com/

 

Happy hunting and live long and prosper!


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The Bosslight Bookstore

Today I wrote a little something about one of my favorite book stores. So click on the link and head on over to Austin Mystery Writers and check it out!


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World War I Era Mysteries

These books look so good that I wanted to share this with you. Parts of my book, Gilt Ridden, also take place in West Texas during this era. CrimeReads is a great source for learning about old and new books.

https://crimereads.com/9-mysteries-set-in-the-immediate-aftermath-of-wwi/#


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Review of Meg Gardiner’s The Shadow Tracer

 

 

 

I read The Shadow Tracer a few months ago and I’ve been meaning to write a review. I know it’s not Meg’s newest book, it came out in 2013. But a good book is a good book!

 

Here’s the Goodreads description:

 

Can a person ever really disappear for good by going off the grid? And what happens when vanishing is no longer an option?

Sarah Keller is a single mother to five-year-old Zoe, living quietly in Oklahoma. She’s also a skip tracer, an expert in tracking people who’ve gone on the lam to avoid arrest, prosecution, or debt—pinpointing their locations to bring them to justice.

When a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, their quiet life explodes. Zoe’s medical tests reveal what Sarah has been hiding: Zoe is not her daughter. Zoe’s biological mother—Sarah’s sister, Beth—was murdered shortly after the child’s birth. And Zoe’s father is missing and presumed dead.

With no way to prove her innocence, Sarah must abandon her carefully constructed life and go on the run. Chased by cops, federal agents, and the group responsible for Beth’s murder, Sarah embarks on a desperate journey. Can her knowledge as a skip tracer help her stay off the grid, remain one step ahead of her pursuers, and find a way to save her daughter? 

 

 

And let me add, the “group responsible for Beth’s murder” are some of the scariest people I’ve ever read about. The Fiery Branch of the New Covenant, is a cult that spreads across four states, led by Eldrick Worthe, who is a creepy and scary SOB. You know, kind of guy that gives white trash a bad rep. And although he’s in prison, he still rules the clan/cult very effectively. They are determined to get Zoe because they think she’ll be the one to herald the new era for the cult. This family is full of meth heads and terrorists that have no qualms with doing whatever they think is necessary to get Zoe. And the creepiest of the family were Fell and Reavy. *shudder*

Keller is a good and solid character. I learned some things about being invisible to “the system”. And I enjoyed her relationship to Zoe. Zoe is a little mature for her age, but it worked for me. I assumed that if her mom is a skip tracer and knows the constant danger they could be in, she’s going to teach a thing or two to her kid along the way.

Throw in an FBI agent looking for vengeance, a U.S. Marshall who helped Keller years ago, and a few other characters, and you have a great cast. I’ve seen some other reviews that say this isn’t her strongest book so that whet’s my appetite for more from Gardiner.

So what’s the verdict? It’s a wham-bam, edge of your seat thriller! This book had me rushing through the pages until the very end. It was going by so fast, I felt I could hardly catch my breath.

VP Chandler


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Interview on KAZI Radio

A big thank you to Hopeton Hay and his interest in our anthology, Lone Star Lawless. It was my first time to be on the radio! I was so nervous that I forgot to talk about more stories and I forgot to mention that all proceeds will go to the Port Aransas Library. I also want to thanks Scott Montgomery and Molly Odintz for letting me be a part of it.

 

KAZI Radio interview


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No Mark Upon Her- Review

 

I just finished Not A Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie. It’s the first Crombie book I’ve read and I enjoyed it. I know, I know, it took me a while to get around to reading one of her books, but I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the last.

 

The body of a rower, who has been training for the Olympics, in found in the Thames. Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid gets the case. Soon after, his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, indirectly joins the investigation by means of working on another case. The victim had been a police officer in James’ jurisdiction so the team has to walk a fine line while investigating other officers.

 

The story has many suspects and twists and turns, but not too many. It was easy to keep track of who was doing what. There’s corruption, heartbreak, scandal, PTSD, many things that kept my interest and had me turning pages. Oh, and if you’re a dog lover, you’ll like it. I was particularly interested in the process of rescue and recovery using dogs. She goes into it in some detail and she showed the personality of the two dogs in the story. One of the dogs also helps a character with his PTSD, which I liked and found interesting.

 

Crombie also delved into the world of competitive rowing. What little I know on the subject is from reading The Boys In the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. (I highly recommend the book. It’s about the young men who competed on behalf of America in the 1936 Olympics.)

 

So this story was much more recent and it showed how the British upper class revere the sport. The terms Blue Team and Blue Boat figure prominently throughout the story. Learned a thing or two. Apparently rowing for Cambridge in the blue boat carries quite a bit of prestige, which I assumed it would.

 

As a side note, I find it intriguing that Crombie writes about Britain and British society since she was born an American and is currently living in Texas. I see in her bio that she lived in England for a while, so I think that explains why she’s so adept at it. I find the whole process of writing about another culture interesting.

 

So go check it out. It’s a quick read. Trust me! If I can breeze through it, you can too. Enjoy!


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Review of Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

photo courtesy of marthahallkelly.com

The first thing I have to say about this book is, wow! Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel gets a solid “A” from me. The second thing is that I can tell she did a lot of research. On her Goodreads page she says she did ten years of research for the book. (That’s right. You can go to Goodreads and ask authors questions!) If you’ve ever tried to write any historical fiction, you will often find that getting the details right can be time consuming and frustrating. Kelly has masterfully layered bits of history and details of places that put the reader right in the environment of the time. And a third observation, the voices of the three characters are unique. You see the world through their eyes and the reasons they make the choices that they do.

 

The three women that we follow are:

 

  1. Caroline Ferriday who is a New York socialite. The kind of socialite that can walk around the block and go to the fundraiser at the Vanderbilt mansion. Yet Caroline and her mother work hard to save orphans in France and later, the Rabbits of Ravensbrück.
  2. Kasia Kuzmerick is a teen in Poland. Her father works at the post office and her mother is an artist. She’s close to her younger sister, Suzanna. Their world of Girl Guides and boy crushes ends abruptly when the Nazis invade Poland. They both get sent to Ravensbrück and become one of the famous Rabbits.
  3. Herta Oberheuser is a young German doctor fresh from medical school who’s trying to find her way amid the male-dominated field of medicine. She takes a government job at Ravensbrück thinking that she will have more freedom to pursue her love of medicine and help people. The moment she arrives she realizes she’s made a mistake.

 

And to steal a quote from the Lilac Girls Goodreads page:

 

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. 

 

 

Again, Kelly does a fantastic job of weaving details of time and place into each story. It’s evident that she’s done extensive research like what the Vanderbilt mansion looked like, and idioms that people said in New York, Poland, and Germany. She paints pictures that put me right in the scene. I could clearly smell and hear the action. Of course, that includes fetid and cold Ravensbrück too.

 

I kept reading because I was interested in each character and I wanted to see how all three stories finally came together. Kelly’s story about the Ravensbrück Rabbits is based on real events and people. Caroline Ferriday was a real person that worked for the justice of the Rabbits, Kasia and Suzanna were based on the two Polish sisters, Nina and Krystyna Ivanska, and Herta Oberheuser really was a medical doctor at the camp. I won’t tell you what happens to them because I don’t want to spoil anything. But their stories of love and survival are compelling, Even more so since it really happened.

 

Why is it titled “Lilac Girls”? There’s a quote near the end of the book, when Ferriday is working in her garden.

 

 

But it’s fitting in a way- Father loved the fact that a lilac only blossoms after a harsh winter.

 

 

In Kelly’s Author Notes she says she first learned about Ferriday from a 1999 article in Victoria magazine about Ferriday’s house in Bethlehem, Connecticut called The Hay. She couldn’t get it out of her mind and drove up there to see it. She was lucky on the day in May, she was the only visitor and got to tour the grounds at her leisure. There was a picture of Ferriday posing with some women. The guide told her the story about the Rabbits. The story stuck with her.

 

And I’m not the only one who’s glad it did.

 

 

If you would like to learn more—-

 

The Ferriday house- http://www.ci.bethlehem.ct.us/bellamy_ferriday.htm

 

An article about when Kelly met one of the women- http://www.marthahallkelly.com/one-of-the-last-ravensbruck-rabbits-tells-her-terrifying-story/

 

Ravensbrück- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravensbr%C3%BCck_concentration_camp


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What I’ve Been Doing, And Changes To Come

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I thought I’d give you an update on what’s going on and tell you about the change I’m going to make on the blog.

So what have I been up to? Hoo boy, let’s see.

In September I went to Bouchercon in New Orleans. It was a blast! I’d tell you more but what happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans. 🙂 But I can say it was cool meeting so many nice and talented people.

Laura Oles and I starting the road trip to Bouchercon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austin Mystery Writers is working on a new anthology. I’ve written a short story about a Texas Ranger who is asked to save a girl who has been kidnapped by a villain. (historical crime fiction.) I think the anthology will be out sometime this year.

 

 

A short story of mine, Kay Chart, was published by Mystery People. Here’s the link to it. (This one I’d categorize as historical suspense.) It’s really short, only a couple of pages long. I hope you like it. I had fun writing it. It’s creepy!  https://mysterypeople.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/crime-fiction-friday-kay-chart-by-valerie-p-chandler

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early November attended the 2nd Writer Unboxed UnCon in Salem! It was a blast to see my many friends again. It was filled with so much information and wisdom, that I couldn’t give it justice if I tried to explain it. So instead, I’ll provide a link that explains the events we had and lessons learned from the writers who attended. The conference focuses on the craft of writing. Writer Unboxed- Author in Progress.

My beloved Writer Unboxed Mod Squad fellows. <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the conference was the launch of the Writer Unboxed book, Author In Progress. I’m honored they asked me to participate in the project. It’s full of essays on the process of writing. Lots of big names in there like Donald Maass and Lisa Cron. It’s available in all major books stores and online. Here’s a brief article about it. 

 

Author In Progress! I’m honored they asked me to provide some comments on essays.

 

 

Gale Albright

The week after the UnConference, Austin Mystery Writers did a presentation at the Wimberley, Texas Library. It was a small gathering but we had an interesting back and forth about the process of writing, and we talked about Murder on Wheels. After the event, members of AMW gathered at a local restaurant and had lunch. I’m glad we did that because we hadn’t gathered for a few months. Little did we know that a two days later we’d lose fellow member Gale Albright. She was participating in NaNoWriMo and suddenly had a heart attack. Gale was such a strong force in AMW (Yes, like a Gale force wind.) that suddenly losing her took the wind out of my sails. I had trouble writing anything for a couple of months. That’s another reason why I haven’t written a blog post in a long while. It’s still unreal to me. I hear her voice and her laugh. I can hear her telling me to get with it and get work done. I push things away so now, four months later, it’s starting to sink in.

 

 

In other news, I’ve made a few videos, and more are to come. I know they aren’t great, but I have fun thinking about them and making them.

  • Here’s one called Reflection (from Mulan), about my main character, Kay Stuart. Reflection
  • Here’s another. I was just having fun in my car. I like the vintage look I gave it. (It’s a horrible angle! But c’est la vie.) It’s one of my favorite songs, singing with Queen Latifah’s version of Baby Get Lost. 

I’ve got a couple of more videos coming soon.

 

So now I’ll talk about some changes I plan to make here on my blog. I plan to post about once a month, but instead of trying to come up with a topic, I’ll write a book review. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. There are so many good books our there, I’d like to share them with you! Not all of the books I’ll be talking about will be mysteries. I’m more than just a mystery writer! I like all kinds of sub-genres of fiction. I also think this may provide some interesting discussions. Or maybe it will at least provide you with a new book for you to enjoy. Not all of the books will be new. In fact, I may just choose one at random from my Goodreads list.

I’ll also keep you up to date on the music I’m writing and the jewelry I’m making. That’s right. Because I don’t have enough to do, I want to try my hand at jewelry.

Oh yeah, and I’m still progressing on my book, Gilt Ridden. If you’d like to keep up to date with my progress, sign up for email notifications.

Ciao!


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