Monthly Archives

March 2018

March Showers Bring Cover Flowers

It’s been raining on and off in L.A. for the past three weeks, which makes me miserable and cold. Had to put on socks and turtlenecks when it hit 70 degrees indoors! 🙂

I bought rain boots at the beginning of March, thinking I’d wear them for a couple of days and put them in the closet until next year. But I’ve worn them every time I’ve gone out this month. Granted, that’s only 5 times but still—it’s supposed to be spring!

All this might have something to do with my current attraction to book covers with bright flowers or artwork or sunny locales. They’re like happy pills on gray days. I haven’t read the books but the covers have done their job in catching my eye.

Check them out below, with fake plot lines I just made up because I don’t like to read synopses before reading a book. (For real descriptions, click on the covers.)

On the day of a concert, a member of an ensemble gives his fellow musicians flowers that are actually man-eating plants because nobody puts bass in a corner.


A young woman goes home, taking not only the shortest but prettiest route, and stops on the way to see Grandma with a basket of bread and lots of wine.


A single woman in Sicily having the time of her life cavorting with lions, code for swarthy Italian men. I want to teleport myself into this cover.


While I’m mentally in Italy, why not visit a museum? This novel is about an expat venting his angst through his art, the subject of which is the teacher who was so rubbish at teaching the man rudimentary Italian, the man ended up getting his wallet stolen by a prostitute when all he wanted was to find the nearest bathroom.


After her boyfriend cheated on her, the woman in this story goes to France, where she becomes chic and fabulous and rubs his face in what he missed out on.


This one has a dark background and disturbing title, but the flowers are so pretty! And the descriptor says this is a novel about living. That’s good enough for me.

Which covers piqued your interest?

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Book Review: THIS FALLEN PREY by Kelley Armstrong

In Kelley Armstrong’s This Fallen Prey, third in the Casey Duncan series (after A Darkness Absolute), the detective and the off-the-grid town of Rockton remain as fascinating as ever.

Rockton, situated in the Canadian Yukon, is a sanctuary for people hiding from their pasts, but Casey and Eric Dalton—sheriff and Casey’s lover—are told they must keep a serial killer there for six months, until further arrangements can be made for him. Refusal isn’t an option because Rockton will receive $1 million for its trouble.

Oliver Brady arrives accompanied by stories of his sadistic murders, and Casey and Dalton, along with deputy sheriff Will Anders, scramble to build a facility secure enough to hold him. The trio also have to deal with residents who, fearing for their safety, develop a lynch-mob mentality, demanding crowd justice instead of shelter for the alleged murderer.

But Brady maintains his innocence, and some in Rockton believe him. When people start dying, Casey races to determine the truth about Brady’s guilt before she becomes a victim.

Some of the plot reveals aren’t shocking, but Armstrong keeps readers guessing about Brady. She holds readers captive with a sense of dread constantly lurking beyond the next tree in Rockton’s surrounding woods.

With residents who have mysterious and violent pasts, and uncivilized hostiles living in the wild, anything can happen. Rockton isn’t safe at all, but the threat of sudden Lord of the Flies-like savagery is what makes This Fallen Prey riveting.

Buy it now

This review originally appeared on Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission. It contains an affiliate link that, if used, could provide a small commission to PCN.


Strong Women Taking Charge in TOMB RAIDER & COLLATERAL

Coincidentally, without even thinking about how March is women’s history month, I’ve been mostly reading books and watching movies and TV shows written or directed by women and featuring strong female protagonists.

I’ll write about the books in a separate post, but below are some quick thoughts about Tomb Raider, which opens Friday, and Collateral, the four-episode miniseries available now on Netflix.

Tomb Raider


I went in with very low expectations and was surprised when I didn’t find myself incessantly rolling my eyes. I can’t imagine this was the best project offered to Alicia Vikander after she won an Oscar, but the always riveting actress is the reason Tomb Raider is watchable. And hey, Angelina Jolie also chose to play Lara Croft after she won her Oscar so what do I know?

Vikander gives Lara a welcome vulnerability and grounds the action in this world even as Lara chases artifacts from ethereal realms. Yes, her arms and abs are corded with muscles, but her most impressive features remain her expressive and intelligent eyes, which let us know she can handle herself in tough situations.

The first half of the movie covers how Lara goes from being a broke bike courier to badass treasure hunter, and the second half resembles a video game that really wants to be Raiders of the Lost Ark. It doesn’t come close, but Vikander makes it palatable and you don’t feel stupider afterward.




On paper, it sounds like this miniseries covers too many timely issues: anti-immigration sentiment, racism, fear of terrorism, sexual harassment, PTSD, human trafficking, drugs, and a church’s resistance to gay female vicars.

But somehow Collateral makes it all work without being preachy, wrapping everything up in a mystery surrounding the assassination of a pizza delivery man. In this way the show reflects real life, where we have to deal with multiple obstacles every day.

As Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie, Carey Mulligan gives the most quietly commanding performance I’ve seen from her. Jeany Spark is haunting as Captain Sandrine Shaw, an intense war veteran who only wants to protect her country but no one protects her when she needs help. And it’s always wonderful to see Nicola Walker (Ruth from Spooks/MI-5), playing a vicar who must choose between her own needs and those of her parish. I was slightly annoyed, though, that her lover, Linh, is Vietnamese but played by an actress (Kae Alexander) who obviously isn’t.

Written by lauded playwright/screenwriter Sir David Hare and directed by S.J. Clarkson, Collateral is a thought-inducing show about the complex times we’re living in, and the compromises that are sometimes made in order to do the right thing.


Nerdy Special List March 2018

With Daylight Savings Time, I have no idea what day or time it is and have been eating dinner at 3:00 p.m. But I do know it’s March and time to post this month’s list of book recommendations. Pick them up before the next storm comes so you’ll be well stocked in reading materials!

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride (Crown Archetype, March 6)

In her highly moving memoir, Sarah McBride, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, invites the world into her struggle to not only become her true self but also fight for the rights of others like her.

McBride always knew she was female, but the world considered her male. In college, just before she earned a White House internship, she came out. McBride’s story is extraordinary, and she points out the privileges she enjoys that many others like her don’t.

Heartbreakingly honest, authentic, and inspiring, Tomorrow Will Be Different has the power to ignite change.

Buy it on Amazon

Mary Had a Little Lab by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis (Albert Whitman & Company, March 1)

This delightful picture book reads to the rhythm of the Mary Had a Little Lamb nursery rhyme in order to celebrate smart girls.

Mary, a science nerd, doesn’t have many friends so she invents a machine to make herself a pet—a sheep. When her classmates see how cool her sheep is, they all want one, too. Wonderful mayhem ensues.

The story’s charm has the added bonus of zany illustrations that include outstanding details. Perfect for little readers who like the wacky, sing-song nature of a Dr. Seuss tale, and for every little girl who needs to be reminded that smart is cool. (Read Jen’s full review at Shelf Awareness.)

Buy it on Amazon

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman (Dutton, March 6)

Los Angeles Times staff writer Amy Kaufman uses her insider knowledge and snarky love of the reality-television franchise to fill a whole book with details about The Bachelor, from tryouts through post-season fallout. Lest you think this is all fluff, Kaufman addresses the history of dating shows and delves into more complex issues of feminism and dating culture.

A great read for any fan, closeted or loud and proud.

Buy it on Amazon

From Rory at Fourth Street Review:

Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe (Grand Central, March 6)

Harley McKenna has shot a man, buried a mother, and plotted revenge, but her most defining characteristic is being the only child of Duke McKenna—widower, gun runner, and meth dealer extraordinaire. Harley plans to take over the family business, but not before she transforms it by whatever means necessary.

Barbed Wire Heart is a sharp, feminist novel about the length we’ll go to protect those in need, and how hard we hold on to the ties that bind, even when they’re strangling us. Sharpe has created an arresting family dynamic in the McKennas, and though I can’t speak to the constant Breaking Bad comparisons the novel has drawn, I will say it’s a compelling story.

Buy it on Amazon

PCN recommends:

The Sandman by Lars Kepler (Knopf, March 6)

Detective Inspector Joona Linna put serial killer Jurek Walter, aka the Sandman, behind bars years ago, so why are people who had tangential connections to Jurek still dying? Joona will have to confront his most terrifying nemesis again if he wants the living nightmares to end and to save one of Jurek’s victims.

From the first sentence, I was pinned to the page like I was hypnotized. Kepler, a pseudonym for husband and wife Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril, writes in a suspenseful, cinematic style that never allows readers to relax. Jurek is reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter in that he can inflict terror even in captivity. Grab The Sandman and then read the other books in this excellent series, too, starting with The Hypnotist.

Buy it on Amazon

Which books have you read this month?