Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winners & Elizabeth's Cozy Mysteries

Congratulations of the winners of the last contest. Ann P. of Bolivar, MO won M.C. Beaton's The Blood of an Englishman. Laura B. will receive D.E. Ireland's Wouldn't It Be Deadly. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I have two cozy mysteries by authors whose names are Elizabeth. Taken In is the latest Southern Sewing Circle mystery by Elizabeth Lynn Casey. Librarian Tori Sinclair and the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Circle head to the Big Apple to appear on a morning show. But, fellow member Dixie Dunn's rendezvous with a man she met online ends with her arrest for his murder. Now, the sewing circle must unravel tangled secrets and alibis to catch a killer.




And, Elizabeth Craig's Southern Quilting mystery is Shear Trouble. The Village Quilters of Dappled Hills, North Carolina are desperate to finish their quilts before an upcoming show. But, two members of a rival quilting guild ask to join them. One, Phyllis, is hoping to join them permanently since the other is now dating her ex-boyfriend. But, when he ends up dead with Phyllis' missing shears buried in his unfaithful heart, quilter Beatrice Coleman puts her detective skills to use.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject headings should read either "Win Taken In" or "Win Shear Trouble." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6 PM CT.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gabrielle Zevin at the Southern Festival of Books

Gabrielle Zevin, author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, was the author I was most looking forward to hearing at the Southern Festival of Books. She was funny, and interesting, and I actually ended up hearing her twice.

Zevin was first published when she was fourteen and wrote an angry letter to the editor about a Guns 'n' Roses concert. She was then asked to be the newspaper's teen music critic. She's the author of eight novels for adults and young adults.

It was Zevin's third time at the Southern Festival of Books. This time, she was there to talk about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, a book that celebrates independent bookstores and booksellers. A bookseller finds a toddler in a bookstore in a story that shows how books can make a difference in a life.

In Feb. 2004, Zevin sold her first novel. Her second novel sold in July. Zevin said she has talked to other authors who, like her, have very sad first novel stories. There's a gap between expectations and realities.

Gabrielle Zevin loves bookstores. When she was her child, her parents would go grocery shopping and give her money to go to the bookstore so she could buy anything she wanted. Now, no one would let a child in a bookstore by herself, but at that time her parents thought nothing bad could happen in a bookstore. And nothing ever has.

Zevin asked two questions in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. "Why do bookstores matter?" "How do the stories we read define our lives?"  In the book, Maya's mother left her in a bookstore. Zevin said "Children who read become adults who want to know."

Gabrielle Zevin's parents took her to the library every week like it was church. They went to Burger King, then the library. Her parents were in computers. Her grandfather bought her books. He had been a great old Communist who wrote letters to The New Yorker.  When she was twelve, he gave her a book that he said would change her life. He gave her Satanic Verses. According to Zevin, "Children don't become readers by accident."

To Gabrielle Zevin, bookstores represent good. The French government has classified books as an essential good like food, bread, water, electricity.

Zevin thinks all published authors should belong to at least one book club. There are a number of book clubs in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Booksellers are useful as to choosing books. There's a sales rep in the book. Zevin had never thought about how a book gets from a publisher to a bookstore. A sales rep is really important. There will be between 150,000 and 250,000 books published, and the same number of self-published books next year. How do you choose? Booksellers and librarians are important.

Bookstores are about the future of literary culture. Booksellers are curators of what's good. Zevin said in England there's a program that prescribes books for people who are depressed. That's how important books are seen to be.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is Gabrielle Zevin's eighth novel. She wrote three YA novels in a row that nobody wanted. So, when she wrote Fikry she wrote the best book she could in case she never wrote another one.

Gabrielle Zevin's website is www.gabriellezevin.com

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Betrayed by Heather Graham


Sleepy Hollow. Heather Graham's latest Krewe of Hunters novel has the perfect setting, as if this series featuring law enforcement and the paranormal needs any more creepy settings. But, I love these books. I need to go back and pick up some that I've missed over the years. But, if you're in the mood for Halloween, fascinating characters, legends and history of New York, along with the paranormal and a touch of romance, you can't go wrong with The Betrayed.

FBI agent Aiden Mahoney has tried to deny his gift, so he's a little uneasy with his new assignment to the Krewe of Hunters, a group of law enforcement people with special psychic gifts who have been handpicked. He doesn't tell anyone when an old friend, politician Richard Highsmith, appears to him and tells him, "They got me, my old friend." But, the next day he's sent to Sleepy Hollow to look for the missing Richard. Aiden knows, though, that his childhood friend is dead.

By the time Richard arrives in Sleepy Hollow, Maureen Deauville and her dog, Rollo, have already found Richard's head on top of an effigy of the headless horseman. But, Mo's job isn't over. The police look to her and Rollo, a search-and-rescue team, to find the missing body as well. But before they can find the politician's body, they find the headless body of a woman. Now, Aiden and Mo have to decide who the target was, and if someone else got in the way. A dangerous killer is taking advantage of the seasonal festivities in Sleepy Hollow, and everyone is scared. It will take research into the past, the help of some ghosts, and sleepless days and nights for the FBI, the police, and Mo to put together all the connections that lead to a cunning killer.

Graham's latest Krewe of Hunters novel introduces a fascinating new team. Aiden's unused skills complement Mo's polished ones, and her work with her dogs. And, there's a strong attraction between the two. Graham's two main characters, along with the dog, are intriguing leads. There's a host of interesting supporting characters as well.

One of the attractions of this story is the wealth of material that Graham has to use based on the Sleepy Hollow location. She capitalizes on Washington Irving and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But, there are ghosts from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War periods who are essential to this story. The setting is rich in local color, and it's a bewitching addition to Graham's book.

Graham's Krewe of Hunters series is known for the paranormal elements and the wonderful local color.  I warn you, though. They're addicting. The Betrayed is just the latest of her books that I couldn't put down.

Heather Graham's website is www.eHeatherGraham.com

The Betrayed by Heather Graham. Harlequin MIRA. 2014. ISBN 9780778316565 (paperback), 362p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Monday, October 27, 2014

November Cozies from Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian



This month, we have a few holiday mysteries, some favorite authors, and just a short glimpse of Jinx, who was in the living room totally ignoring the filming until just the last minute. I hope you enjoy the books, the book chat, and Jinx.

The November book releases are:

Lethal Letters by Ellery Adams - 6th Books by the Bay mystery
Mrs. Jeffries and the Merry Gentlemen by Emily Brightwell - 32nd Victorian mystery
The Chocolate Book Bandit by JoAnna Carl - 13th Chocoholic mystery
A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle - 1st Fixer-Upper mystery
Snow White Red-Handed by Maia Chance - 1st Fairy Tale Fatal mystery
No Mallets Intended by Victoria Hamilton - 4th Vintage Kitchen mystery
For Better or Worsted by Betty Hechtman - 8th Crochet mystery
Mulled Murder by Kate Kingsbury - 21st Pennyfoot Hotel mystery
On Borrowed Time by Jenn McKinlay - 5th Library Lover's mystery
Plagued by Quilt by Molly MacRae - 4th Haunted Yarn Shop mystery
Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere - 1st Material Witness mystery
A Dog Gone Murder by Elaine Viets - 10th Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mystery


Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Haunting is Brewing by Juliet Blackwell

I very seldom review eBooks. I consider myself a librarian first and a blogger/reviewer second, which means I want everyone to have access to the books I review. Once in a while, though, when something that I want to read is only available as an eBook, I'll make an exception. Juliet Blackwell's A Haunting is Brewing was worth that exception. Blackwell's novella brings together the amateur sleuths from both of her series, the Witchcraft mysteries, and the Haunted Home Renovation series. I didn't want to miss the first meeting of Lily Ivory and Mel Turner.

Mel's the general manager for her family business, Turner Construction. She has a hard time saying no when a project involves an historic house and at-risk youth. She's regretting that as she hurries to complete the work on the Spooner House, a run-down Victorian mansion. But, it needs to be up to code in time for the Halloween ball to raise money to continue to maintain the house.

There's one major problem with the Spooner House, though. Mel, who can sense the presence of ghosts, and talk with them, finds the Spooner dolls extremely creepy. Thaddeus Spooner inherited a fortune, and went on to become a famous doll maker. But, he created a life size family of dolls in the likeness of his own family before everyone but his son died. Did they die of the flu or did the son murder them? If one of the student volunteers hadn't been found dead in the house, Mel might not have worried about it. But, now he's one more ghost she can talk to, and she isn't convinced he committed suicide.

When Maya, one of the volunteers, recognizes Mel's frustration that she can't help the deceased man, Maya introduces Mel to her boss at Aunt Cora's Closet. Lily Ivory not only owns the vintage clothing store, she's a witch. She's convinced that she and Mel can restore peace to the house, and, hopefully, find a killer. The skeptical Mel, who only learned recently that she can talk to ghosts, now has to accept the idea of witches, voodoo, and poppets, puppets with a spirit in them.

Juliet Blackwell has always made the paranormal seem acceptable and understandable in both of her series. With two characters with similar interests in the supernatural working in the same neighborhood in San Francisco, it seems logical that Blackwell would take the next step and introduce Lily and Mel. And, it works beautifully. Readers who like either series will welcome the budding friendship between the two characters.

I'm sure the world of historic house renovation and vintage clothing will not collide often. And, the Witchcraft series is often darker than the Haunted Home Renovation one, as Lily struggles with past history, hers and the history of witches. But, every now and then, it would be a treat to see Mel, Lily, and Oscar together. Lily's historical knowledge and Mel's ability to communicate with ghosts makes these stories even more interesting. And, how can anyone resist Oscar's charm?

And, maybe it's appropriate that a friendship between a witch and "an up-and-coming ghost hunter" should begin in the ether. It's just too bad that only eBook readers can appreciate Blackwell's enjoyable story, A Haunting is Brewing.

Juliet Blackwell's website is www.julietblackwell.net

A Haunting is Brewing by Juliet Blackwell. InterMix Books (Penguin Group), 2014. ISBN 9780698181922 (eBook).

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

Walt Longmire, Craig Johnson's sheriff from Absaroka County in Wyoming, made his first short story appearance in, "Old Indian Trick" about ten years ago. That story went on to win the Cowboys & Indians Tony Hillerman award. Johnson sent it in a Christmas newsletter that year, then learned the following year that subscribers were waiting for the next Walt Longmire Christmas story. What's a writer to do? He went on to write eleven more short stories, now released as Wait for Signs.

There are Christmas settings, a Memorial Day one, a New Year's story, and ordinary stories of not-so-ordinary occurrences in the life of a Wyoming sheriff. As Johnson says in his Acknowledgements, some are mysteries; some of the stories have some mysterious elements; and some have none. In other words, these are typical Craig Johnson, and Walt Longmire, stories. Lou Diamond Phillips, who played Henry Standing Bear in the television show Longmire, points out the difficulty in creating characters, settings and a plot, and making them come together in an absorbing short story. Craig Johnson succeeds beautifully in every one of the stories in this collection.

Those of us who read the books, or watched the television series, will welcome Walt, along with the appearance of familiar characters - Henry Standing Bear, Vic, Dog, Cady, Lucian Connally, And, there are familiar symbols and stories, such as the owls, and Walt's Christmas connection with Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There's the trademark wry humor, along with the kindness. Although Johnson says "Walt is kind, decent, caring", there's that same kindness in Henry. And, there's a darkness in both men as well, a loneliness at times. It makes both of them human, not super-human.

Wait for Signs should be added to so many collections. Consider it as a gift for those who love, and miss, Westerns. It's a perfect companion to Johnson's Spirit of Steamboat. I'm buying a copy for myself to keep with my favorite Christmas books, even though not all the stories are set at Christmastime. It's for all of us who want to know what Walt Longmire is up to in between his larger adventures. And, it's for all of us who love Craig Johnson's beautiful writing, his stories about Walt and his friends. In fact, Craig Johnson's Wait for Signs is just right, for so many reasons.

(And, on a non-book related note, Wait for Signs could also be a banner of hope for all of us who have tweeted, hoping a network would pick up Longmire. This book is for all of us who regret the loss of one of the best shows on television. For all those who support it, #LongLiveLongmire.)

Craig Johnson's website is www.craigallenjohnson.com

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson. Viking. 2014. ISBN 9780523427919 (hardcover), 183p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, October 24, 2014

Winners and a Humorous British Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Lisa W. from Rochester, IN won Kathy Aarons' Death is Like a Box of Chocolates. Mary Kennedy's Nightmares Can Be Murder will go to Barbara H. from OBrien, OR. I'll mail them today.

This week, I have two fun British mysteries to give away. Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland is the first book in a new series featuring Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins. If they don't find the real killer of Higgins' rival and Eliza's employer, Professor Henry Higgins could go to prison. He's the chief suspect after he made a scene and put an outrageous article in the newspaper, one that told the truth.





If you missed the earlier giveaway, I have a copy of Agatha Raisin's 25th adventure, M.C. Beaton's The Blood of an Englishman. Agatha Raisin hates amateur dramatics, but the neighborhood version of Babes in the Woods has its own drama when the local baker is murdered. The feuds and arguments behind the scenes soon prove that a number of people might have wanted Bert dead. On her way to solving the case, Agatha makes her usual almost fatal mistakes.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Wouldn't It Be Deadly" or "Win The Blood of an Englishman." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. This contest will end one day early, Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 6 PM CT.