NC RA-Likes Agatha Award Winners

Looking for a new read? How about one that is a more traditional Mystery. Check out The Agatha Award Winners on NC RA-Likes.

What is The Agatha Award? Since 1989 Malice Domestic, an annual fan convention, has honored authors of traditional mysteries with The Agatha Award, named after mystery writer Agatha Christie. Malice Domestic defines a traditional mystery as one with no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence.

Best of all, The Agatha Award is picked by fans of the genre. Each year Malice Domestic convention registrants give their nominations and convention attendees vote on the submissions. The awards are presented at a banquet.

Here is a sampling of 10 recent Agatha Award winners:

  • Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr – DB065648 – National park ranger Anna Pigeon is patrolling the West Texas backcountry when she discovers the body of a colleague apparently killed by a mountain lion. A disbelieving Anna tracks a human killer as conflict erupts among park employees, hunters, ranchers, and conservationists.
  • In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen – DB090989
    England, 1941. Although an airplane crash kept Ben Cresswell out of battle, he is working for MI5 searching for spies. When a failed parachute jump leaves a suspicious corpse in his neighbors’’ Farleigh Place field, Ben investigates. Meanwhile, Pamela Sutton from Farleigh is secretly a government codebreaker.
  • Murphy’s Law: A Molly Murphy Mystery by Rhys Bowen – DB085427 (contains all 4 books of the series)
    Ireland, 1901. Molly Murphy flees to New York City after killing a would-be rapist in her home village. She assumes an alias for passage aboard ship, but at Ellis Island she is once again accused of murder. Handsome NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan is willing to help her prove her innocence.
  • Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen – DB079668
    Accompanying her actress mother to Reno for her quickie divorce, Lady Georgiana Rannoch is caught up in the secret investigation run by her beau, Darcy, of a suspected jewel thief. Meanwhile her mother is cast by a Hollywood movie mogul—but he ends up dead.
  • Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer – DBC00082
    Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer.
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia De Luce Mystery by C. Alan Bradley DB70410 (DB audio) and BR20172 (braille)
    England, 1950. Eleven-year-old aspiring chemist Flavia de Luce overhears her father in a heated argument with a stranger, who turns up dead in the garden of the Luces’ decaying estate. When Flavia’s father is charged with murder, she seeks clues in their village and his past to exonerate him.
  • Grime and Punishment: A Jane Jeffry Mystery by Jill Churchill – DB068692
    Jane Jeffry’s friend Shelley Nowack hires the Happy Helper Cleaning Service, who instead of sending the regular maid sends substitute Ramona Thurgood. When Ramona is found strangled with a vacuum-cleaner cord in Shelley’s house, Jane thinks the killer could be someone in the neighborhood.
  • The Long Call by Ann Cleeves – DB096754
    Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the North Devon church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too. But before he leaves again, he learns that a body has been found on the nearby beach.
  • A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman – DB093885
    The police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances Wynn—the American-born Countess of Harleigh—in her husband’s death. Frances assures them of her innocence, but must hide the scandalous circumstances of his demise. Her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.
  • A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George – DB028547
    Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth Earl of Asherton, and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers investigate the murder of a Yorkshire man. The main suspect is the victim’s daughter, who was found sitting by the headless corpse and confessed without apology. But she may have been driven to the crime by incestuous abuse.

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NC RA-Likes Sarah’s Paranormal Romance Picks

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Sarah’s Paranormal Romance picks on NC RA-Likes.

Some days I love nothing more than a paranormal romance.  However, as we all know after Twilight the market was flooded with sub-par vampire and werewolf fiction.  Publishers were trying to capitalize on the newfound desire for this genre.  I have been a lover of paranormal romance long before it was cool.  It can be hard to wade through

New to the genre?

Try J. R. Ward’s The Brotherhood series (the books are best sellers for a reason).  These modern day vampires are fighting a war against a race trying to exterminate them.  I love a good wounded hero trope, and those abound within the series.  The romance is there, but unlike some romances there is a plot that is not related to the relationship.  The characters have lives outside of their significant others.  The Brotherhood’s initial members (and the main characters of the books) are: Wrath – the vampire king who saw his parents murdered when he was young, and now fights the races’ enemy in the field rather than accept his place on the throne.  Rhage (side-note you get used to the names) – A vampire cursed by the races’ deity for his impulsiveness with a beast that emerges when he loses his temper or is in danger.  After decades with his curse he longs for the day he can be free of it.  In the meantime, he self-medicates with women and fighting trying to keep himself on an even keel.  Zsadist – A former slave stolen away from his family who was later freed by his twin brother after decades of abuse.  He is angry at the world, but especially women like his former mistress.  His scarred face, and attitude hides a soft gooey center.  Vishous – The smartest of the brothers.  He is an IT genius.  He is also the coldest and most logical of the crew.  He can see the future (which sounds like a cool superpower) to paraphrase what he thinks about it…how would you like to know how all your brothers die…and be unable to stop it.  Phury –  Zsadist’s twin brother who took a vow of celibacy.  He feels survivor’s guilt, and struggles with drug addiction.  Finally, there is Tohrment – happily married to Wellesandra he is a brother with his life together and the leader of the team (under Wrath the King).  One last note about the series…the characters problems don’t end after they get together and their book ends. No cliffhangers, there is a happily ever after feel, but the characters are constantly evolving and, as in life, new issues crop up that they must face.  You owe it to yourself to try the series.  If Dark Lover (DB) is not to your taste.  Try Lover Eternal (DB)  If you still don’t enjoy the series, it might not be for you. 

Another good starting place is Sherrilyn Kenyon.  She has several series.  The most popular being her dark-hunter series, and the league series.  The dark-hunter series follows a group of men and women who, as they were dying, were in so much pain their souls cried out for vengeance.  The goddess Artemis agreed to grant them one act of vengeance in exchange for their eternal servitude.  She holds their souls.  They serve her by fighting “daimons” soulless vampire like creatures who steal human souls to live.  The author is an ancient history buff who uses her knowledge of ancient cultures to flesh out the characters.  Ancient greek spartans, celtic warriors, even an Atlantean.  The world is also inhabited by were-creatures and various other life forms. 

The league (also a series by Sherrilyn Kenyon) is set in outer space.  There are several species (mostly humanoid).  The books focus on a group of characters called the Sentella.  This organization is dedicated to preventing oppression by the league.  The league is an intergalactic overseer comprised of assassins.  Main characters include Nykyrian – former league assassin, Syn – tech genius and wanted felon, Darling – prince and explosions expert, etc. 

Other Paranormal Series:

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NC RA-Likes Clay’s African History Picks

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Clay’s African History picks on NC RA-Likes.

The history of the African continent is fascinating, but often neglected. Here is a list of some exciting and surprising books that will give you a fuller understanding of Africa in both the distant and recent past.

A good starting point is Africa: A Biography of a Continent (DB047170) by John Reader. This book is vast in scope but extremely readable. Its emphasis on the impact that geography and the environment have on developing societies gives it a useful centralizing theme while Wonders of the African World (DB050022) by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  focuses more on the relics and ruins of the cultures, states, and empires of the continent.

If you want to read about one of the most fascinating historical figures of early modern African history, try Linda M. Heywood’s excellent Njinga of Angola (DB088721). This is a biography of the Mbundu queen who succeeded her father to the throne, led troops in battle, played the forces of early European colonialism against each other, and navigated the rise of the Atlantic slave trade.

Tales of African history are usually dominated by Victorian explorers like Stanley and Livingstone. However, King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild is a corrective for the myths of the discovery of the “Dark Continent”. It focuses on the Congo and demonstrates that exploration and colonialism, rather than being a great civilizing mission, are intended to wring wealth out of the continent for the benefit of Western powers, and it shows how the damage done by colonialism would continue to plague Africa throughout the 20th century.

The challenges of state-building in modern Africa are well documented. The Looting Machine (DB087525) by Tom Burgis lays out the economic trials African states face in a weighted international system. The competition for power and wealth within nations sometimes results in conflict with catastrophic human consequences such as the Rwandan Genocide, heartbreakingly told in We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families (DB051323) by Philip Gourevitch, and the Sudanese civil war related in They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky (DB062551) by Alephonsion Deng.

On more positive notes, Unbowed: A Memoir (DB067068) by Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Prize winner from Kenya, deals with the link between the environmental and social reform, as well as the role of women in Africa. Long Walk to Freedom (DB039555) by Nelson Mandela, the most significant African political figure of the 20th Century, outlines his struggle against Apartheid, the South Africa system of white supremacy, and the success he had in helping to establish majority rule in South Africa. Both of these biographies admirably demonstrate not just the path of struggle, but the possibility of triumph.

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NC RA-Likes Allen’s Werewolves Picks

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Allen’s Werewolves picks on NC RA-Likes.

Allen writes, “While vampires are often crafty, scheming horror villains; werewolves are “get the job done” villains. For too long vampires have been seen as the “A-list” and werewolves the “B-list”. Your introduction to werewolves may have come through the movies such as “The Wolf Man” starring Lon Chaney, Jr. or through television , such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with Seth Green as Oz, the rocking werewolf. Let’s not forget the late, great Warren Zevon’s song “Werewolves of London”.”

If you enjoyed any of those you might enjoy werewolves in literature.

For the younger set, two books you might want to read:

Now if you like a mystery with a werewolf, then go for “Werewolf Cop”(DB081342) by Andrew Klavan.

Of course if your taste run to romance you may wish to read the “A Wild About You Novel” by Vicki Lewis Thomas. Start with “A Werewolf in Manhattan”(DB073045).

Finally, the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer. For many people this series introduced them to the whole Vampire vs Werewolf conflict. Book One is “Twilight”(DB062066).

Enjoy any or all of the above and listen for howling at a full moon.

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NC RA-Likes Marlene’s Maeve Binchy Picks

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Marlene’s Maeve Binchy picks on NC RA-Likes.

Marlene writes, “Maeve Binchy is a favorite of mine. She wrote novels about Irish families and friends who lived on farms, in villages, or in towns. She made her readers feel the joys and sorrows that her characters experienced. The descriptions of Ireland made me want to get on a plane and go! She could make me laugh and cry in the same chapter. I read Circle of Friends (& saw the 1995 movie).  Then I read all her books.”

Here’s a list of some of Marlene’s favorites by her:

Scarlet Feather – DB51764

Cooking-school friends Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather created the Scarlet Feather Caterers in Dublin. Their first year is challenging both professionally and personally. Their struggles, their family and friends, the ups and downs of catering all make for a good read.

Evening Class – DB44308

Life can seem dull in Dublin, but not for Aidan Dunne when he is passed over for a school principal position. He and Nora O’Donoghue, just returned from 26 years in Italy, begin a series of evening classes teaching Italian. And then the real fun begins!

Light A Penny Candle – DB43536

In 1940 shy, 10-year-old Elizabeth White is evacuated from wartime London and plunged into a large and contentious family in the Irish village of Kilgarret. She and Aisling O’Connor become best friends. Elizabeth returns to Ireland as an adult, but her life remains entwined with the O’Connors.

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NC RA-Likes Dick’s Victorian Era Picks

The Victorian Era refers to the reign of England’s Queen Victoria which stretched from her coronation on June 20, 1837, until her death on Jan. 22 1901.  Here are some both fiction and non-fiction book recommendations that span an era that saw the beginnings of widespread use of steam locomotives and ended with the dawn of manned flight.

Victoria: A Biography by A.N. Wilson DB80349 

An excellent book on her life including the fascinating story of her inclusion into the line of royal succession and her later family tree that extended in every royal family in Europe (for better or worse).

Barrow’s Boys: A Story of Daring, Fortitude and Outright Lunacy by Fergus Fleming DB63049

Although this book’s narrative starts out in the pre-Queen Victoria era it does extend into her reign and tells the story of the daring (and oftentimes outright crazy and/or sadly tragic) 19th British exploration of the world’s then-unknown regions mostly centered on the discovery of the mythical Northwest Passage to China.

Victoria’s Daughters by Jerrold Packard DB95190

Passed over for accession to the throne and most often forced into arranged marriages to various European Royal families Victoria’s five daughters and their offspring influenced world history for generations most famously the three royal cousins who were the heads of state of Great Britain, Russia, Germany during WW1.

The Victorians by A.N. Wilson DB58822

An interesting look into the vast world of British politicians, authors, artists, explores and eccentric personalities from this era in history

And a few fiction recommendations:

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins DB21677

First published in 1869 and considered one of the forerunners of the modern detective mystery genre this is an excellent mystery combined with a bit of adventure concerning the search for a legendary diamond and its effect on the extended members of a family.

Victorian Ghost Stories: An Oxford Anthology Edited by Michael Cox DB35421

The Victorians loved their ghost stories (many taking place around Christmas) and here is a great collection containing both well-known and obscure authors. Perfect for curling up with at night.

Drood by Dan Simmons DB68808

Historical fiction that combines mystery with some supernatural & horror, the story concerns author Wilkie Collins (see The Moonstone above) and his relationship to Charles Dickens during the final years of Dickens life and his last and unfinished novel The Mystery Of Edwin Drood.

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NC RA-Likes Clay’s Hardboiled Detective Fiction

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Clay’s Hardboiled Detective Fiction on NC RA-Likes.

The hardboiled detective is an American style of mystery novel that originated in the 1920s. It was a reaction against the prevailing mystery style where sleuths caught criminals by sifting clues to solve puzzles. The hardboiled genre usually cared less about the technicalities of “who dunnit” and focused more on a detective trying to right a wrong in a dangerous and corrupt world.

Dashiell Hammett was the father of the hardboiled detective story. His most famous novel was The Maltese Falcon (DB74949), where he created the model for the American private eye, Sam Spade. Despite the character’s everlasting fame, he only appeared in that one book. Hammett also wrote The Thin Man (DB16349), which was hardboiled only a most generous sense and mostly remembered for the series of frothy comedy movies it spawned.

Raymond Chandler refined the hardboiled detective genre by simplifying Hammett’s literary prose to create the prototypical terse understated language. Chandler’s first and most-read book was The Big Sleep (DB32657), where he premiered the sardonic private eye, Philip Marlowe. All seven Marlowe novels were moody and effective, but his masterpiece was The Long Goodbye (DB42704).

After Hammett and Chandler wrote the rules for the hardboiled story, many other authors expanded or broke those rules. Among the best was James M. Cain, probably best known for The Postman Always Rings Twice (DB17817). Among the most prolific was Mickey Spillane, who stripped away the nuance with his two-fisted private eye Mike Hammer, a gaudy comic book version of Philip Marlowe. The first Hammer was I, the Jury (DB18608) or you could submerge in the neon mayhem with Five Complete Mike Hammer Novels (I, the Jury, Vengeance is Mine, The Big Kill, My Gun is Quick, Kiss Me Deadly) DB53637. And while author Jim Thompson shared the same brutal outlook as Spillane, he found more humanity in his characters and his prose. Bleak but rewarding, his first was The Killer Inside Me (DBC08669).

In the last few decades, many writers have taken up hardboiled fiction, exploring what came before them and putting their own spin to it. Elmore Leonard started in Western pulps, but wrote lively hardboiled bestsellers well into the 21st century including Fifty-two Pickup (DB57057) and Get Shorty (DB31976).  James Ellroy made his reputation by returning to the world of the hardboiled masters with his L.A. Trilogy — The Black Dahlia (DB27689), The Big Nowhere (DB59258), and L.A. Confidential (DB31404). Michael Connelly has established himself as one of the great modern hardboiled cop writers with his Harry Bosch series, the first of which is The Black Echo (DB34800).

Two other writers stretched the genre further. Walter Mosley created the African-American private eye, Easy Rawlins, in Devil in a Blue Dress (DB32935) set in Los Angeles in the 1940s. Each successive book in the series moves forward in time, aging the character and confronting him with troubles of modern American history. And Philip Kerr uses the same technique beginning in March Violets (DB66544), but his character, Bernie Gunther, is a German detective in Nazi-ruled Berlin in the 1930s and his series deals with World War II and into the Cold War years.

I’ve only mentioned a few of the great hardboiled writers and novels out there. There are many more with a range of characters and settings and stories. They can be literary or two-fisted (or both!), but while they can wallow in a cynical view of human nature, they also allow hope that some of us will try to be better, and help others no matter the odds.

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NC RA-Likes Dick’s Fiction Mixed with Fact

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Dick’s Fiction-Fact picks on NC RA-Likes

Like mystery mixed with a bit of actual historical people & places? Here’s some interesting spy, suspense, intrigue and who-done-its that mix fiction with the fact.

The L.A. Quartet by James Ellroy – Series Code LAQ

Taking place in post-WWII Los Angeles and proceeding into the early 50’s Ellroy’s series while not linked together thematically feature many of the same characters interacting. Filled with corrupt politicians, morally questionable police and thoroughly evil authority figures mixed with actual historical and entertainment personalities these are a dense read that requires concentration but well worth the effort.

Bernie Gunther Mysteries by Philip Kerr – Series Code BGM

Starting off in Weimar Republic Germany, Kerr’s hard-boiled German detective moves through WWII with even some stops in post-WWII South America. Excellent engrossing mysteries that give a real authentic feeling to the historical locations.

Ethan Gage Adventures by William Dietrich – Series Code ETG

A mixture of spy, intrigue and bit of Indiana Jones mixed in, these books feature American adventurer Ethan Gage who initially starts off getting involved in Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign and subsequently travels throughout Europe interacting with many historical personages and events throughout the Napoleonic era.

Books by Alan Furstz:

These are just a few of the books written by Alan Furst. Although not connected in a series all his books take place in the shadowy world of pre-WWII Europe and feature spies, double agents, femme fatales all dealing in coded messages, stolen secrets and assassinations.

Amelia Peabody by Elizabeth Peters – Series Code PEA

For something a bit lighter Elizabeth Peter’s books feature Edwardian era archaeologist/sleuth Amelia Peabody solving mysteries in Egypt while artifact hunting.

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NC RA-Likes Allen’s Future Shock

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Allen’s Future Shock picks on NC RA-Likes

If you are of a certain age, at sometime in the 1970s you may have become acquainted with the term “Future Shock”. A short definition of “future shock” found in the 1970 book “Future Shock”(DB010603) by Alvin Toffler, is “too much change in too short a period of time”. Some may argue that we are all living in a state of future shock at this time.

There have been many fine books written on this topic. Some focus more on the social, political and economic changes. Others focus more on the scientific and technological. The best concern the interconnectedness between the areas. In addition to the book mentioned above, I would recommend the following in nonfiction:

  • “The Third Wave”(DB015083) by Alvin Toffler
  • “The Next One Hundred Years: A Forecast for the Twenty-first Century”(DB068611) by George Friedman
  • “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100”(DB073056) by Michio Kaku

One area of fiction which has done an admirable job of incorporating the concept of future shock, is the science-fiction subgenre of cyberpunk. Two excellent examples are:

  • “Neuromancer”(DB034589) by William Gibson
  • “Islands in the Net”(DB043055) by Bruce Sterling

I hope you will consider these books as you need a break from the barrage of emails, posts, texts, tweets and twenty-four news. None of which existed when Alvin Toffler wrote his book fifty years ago. – Allen Wight

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NC RA-Likes Dick’s Historical Fiction Picks

Looking for a new read? Check out RA Dick’s Historical Fiction picks on NC RA-Likes

Have you read the books by Patrick O’Brian, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series or the Hornblower books by C. S. Forester and been interested in learning more about the actual history of those author’s fictional settings? Here is some non-fiction reading suggestions about the Napoleonic Wars.

The War for All the Oceans by Roy Adkins – DB087938

  • If you have enjoyed Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series here is an excellent overview of the 1798-1815 naval conflicts that formed the basis for those books

Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt by Nina Burleigh – DB065237

  • Concise read concerning Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt focusing on the scientific and archaeological aspects such as the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.

Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace by Dominic Lieven – DB73520

  • The actual history that formed the background of the Leo Tolstoy novel.

Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts – DB080236

  • I have read a few biographies on Napoleon and this is the best. Well written and sticks with the facts rather than mythmaking.

Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World by Roy Adkins – DB061276

  • I’ve always been interested in the naval history of this period and this book along with an excellent overview of Nelson’s life and the battle of Trafalgar also gives an interesting history concerning the oftentimes brutal life aboard a fighting ship of that time.

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