Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so much to be thankful for in 2015. But, it all starts with family, and the time I was lucky enough to spend with them this year. The trip to New York City with Mom and my sisters is one I'll never forget. I made a trip home in August, had lunch with Linda on the way to Mom's, and then had a nice week with Mom and Christie's family at the fair where her daughter shows her Pygmy goats. And, now I'm spending Thanksgiving weekend with Mom and Linda's family. I'm so thankful that we all enjoy each other's company, and can enjoy laughing together.

I'm lucky I was able to travel this year. I went to New York City three times, and saw so many Broadway shows. You all know I'm passionate about theatre. And, if it's a favorite show, I may see it a couple times. (Well, OK, I saw Les Miserables four times in the last year, all with Ramin Karminloo in the lead.) I'm grateful that I was able to make those trips, and attend shows while I was there.

I went to St. Louis a couple times with my friend, Donna. And, I FINALLY met Kaye Wilkinson Barley! She and I have been online friends for what seems like forever. We were roommates at Bouchercon in Raleigh, with plans to do it again in New Orleans. I'm grateful for wonderful friends, including Chantelle and Jamie and Anna. And, all of you who are online friends are blessings as well.

And, how can I not include the cats in my blessings? They're warm and cuddly, and they give so much for so little. Food, and a warm place to sleep.

And, I'm grateful for co-workers I enjoy, a supervisor who is wonderful, and high hopes for the new director in January. After forty-two years in libraries, it's still great to work here.

And, of course, what would this blog be without saying I'm grateful for books and authors and publishers and publicists and friends who love books and mysteries and attend conferences?

I'm just grateful I have the life I do, working in a public library, surrounded by books, with a loving family, great friends, warm cats, and the chance to travel. It doesn't get much better than this.

Whether you're hitting the road to spend time with family and friends, hosting them, or spending it alone in the comfort of your own home, I hope you find a moment or two to count your blessings. And, I hope you have at least one person in your life to share those blessings, because that person may be the most important gift.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells

It's probably the best recommendation I can give women's fiction; recommended to my mother. I think she'll appreciate Robin Wells' epic novel, The Wedding Tree.

At 91, Adelaide McCauley is ready to die when she finds herself looking down from the ceiling in her hospital room. However, her mother tells her she can't cross over until she reveals family secrets to her granddaughter, Hope. Hope is in the room with her Uncle Eddie and his partner, Ralph, when they're all told Adelaide can't live at home by herself. It's then that Hope jumps in to offer assistance.

Hope really has no place to go after her short-lived marriage broke up, leaving her penniless and without a job. A short stay at her grandmother's in Wedding Tree, Louisiana might be just what she needs as she helps Gran clean out her possessions before she moves to California with Eddie. It will turn out to be a time of discovery for both women. But, Hope had no idea a little girl would crawl through the doggy door and discover her trying on Gran's dressing gown. What is even more embarrassing is when Sophie's father, Matt, comes looking for his daughter, and sees her as well.

Adelaide, Hope and Matt all serve as narrators for this compelling, sometimes heart wrenching story. It's Adelaide's story, though, that truly is moving and bittersweet. As she drifts into the past, she takes the reader to World War II New Orleans, where she's living her dream, working as a photographer for a newspaper. And, it's there she falls in love. But, the war, parental pressure, and contemporary standards force her to leave everything behind and return to Wedding Tree. And, it's in Wedding Tree that she hides a secret that will forever haunt her.

The Wedding Tree is a multigenerational romance featuring two spirited women. But, it's Adelaide who will break your heart, the woman who lived at a time when women were expected to stay home, raise children, and not work outside the house. Fortunately, all three narrators do find unexpected ways to achieve their dreams in this enjoyable novel.

Robin Wells' website is

The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells. Berkley. 2015. ISBN 9780425282359 (paperback), 432p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book from a review journal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Just a note as to winners of the last contest. Bonnie P. from Palo Alto, CA won Isabella Alan's Murder, Served Simply. Rita R. of Searcy, AR won Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette. I'm mailing the books today.

Stop back on Friday for another Christmas mystery giveaway!

Book Chat - Penguin's December Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian Cozies

Jinx is back! Somewhere in the middle of the book chat, you'll see Jinx. I know people missed him.

Here are the book titles I discussed this month, the December releases from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian.

Here Today, Gone Tamale - Rebecca Adler (1st Taste of Texas Mystery)
Give Up the Ghost - Juliet Blackwell (6th Haunted Home Renovation Mystery)
Guilty as Cinnamon - Leslie Budewitz (2nd Spice Shop Mystery)
Murder at Whitehall - Amanda Carmack (4th Elizabethan Mystery)
Pouncing on Murder - Laurie Cass (4th Bookmobile Cat Mystery)
Scorched Eggs - Laura Childs (6th Cackleberry Club Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Fat Tuesday Fricassee - J.J. Cook (3rd Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery)
Ghost in the Wind - E.J. Copperman (7th Haunted Guesthouse Mystery)
Dead to the Last Drop - Cleo Coyle (15th Coffeehouse Mystery, hardcover)
Murder Most Howl - Krista Davis (3rd Paws & Claws Mystery)
The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle - Laura DiSilverio (2nd Book Club Mystery)
The Iced Princess - Christine Husom (2nd Snow Globe Shop Mystery)
Suspicion at Seven - Ann Purser (14th Lois Meade Mystery)
To Brew or Not to Brew - Joyce Tremel (1st Brewing Trouble Mystery)

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman

Doors. I'm fascinated by pictures of doors and windows. They always suggest possibilities to me. What's behind those doors and windows? So, I was immediately sucked into Brian Grazer's comments about curiosity in the book he co-authored with Charles Fishman. In the introduction to A Curious Mind, he says, "For me, curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility. Curiosity has, quite literally, been the key to my success, and also the key to my happiness."

Brian Grazer is the producer of A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Splash, and J. Edgar, among other movies, with his business partner, director Ron Howard. For his entire life, Grazer has been curious, a trait encouraged by his grandmother. He used that curiosity to get his first job in movies, to meet some of the biggest names in the film industry, and, then to branch out to have "curiosity conversations" with innumerable people from Dr. Jonas Salk to Senator Barack Obama to Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. Although the book touches on some of those conversations, Grazer's purpose is actually to discuss curiosity itself.

Grazer challenges readers to ask questions. 'The ability to ask any questions embodies two things: the freedom to go chase the answers, and the ability to challenge authority, to ask, "How come you're in charge?"' And, he reminds us there are countries where people are imprisoned for answering questions. He says, "Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage." And, he discusses all those institutions where innovation and creativity is encouraged. But, who is encouraging curiosity, essential to both of the other traits?

And, those curiosity conversations? He calls that emotional curiosity. He wants to know what makes people tick.  When Grazer relates anecdotes about his workplace, and his methods of questioning staff, he includes suggestions for supervisors trying to learn what makes their staff tick.

A Curious Mind is a fascinating book. It's a peek inside Grazer's own mind, as well as an investigation of curiosity itself. And, despite the fact that the book isn't about the curiosity conversations themselves, the list of people Grazer met with is awe-inspiring. The man, the producer, who sees his work as storytelling, succeeds in telling his own story as an example of curiosity in work. If you're curious about curiosity and its possibilities, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life is an excellent choice.

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Glazer and Charles Fishman. Simon & Schuster. 2015. ISBN 9781476730752 (hardcover), 300p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Note from Lynn

My friend, Lynn Kaczmarek, stopped by with a note that's perfect for the season, and this weekend. I hope you enjoy hearing from her occasionally.


I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately. Perhaps it’s the need to bury myself in something so I don’t think about how wrong things have gone in the world. I read mysteries/crime fiction/thrillers almost exclusively – it’s the structure, the knowing that bad things will happen, but resolution will be achieved. And there are some wonderful books being written these days.

My recent reading has included Lake House by Kate Morton, The Alienist by Caleb Carr, Elizabeth George’s new book A Banquet of Consequences and Louise Penny’s newest, The Nature of the Beast. All are wonderful examples of fine writing, fine characters, fine plots. But Penny’s books are something more – they are filled with horrible things couched in poetry. And as a result they are even more frightening. But always, thankfully, they provide hope… sometimes only a glimmer, but hope nonetheless. And for that I am eternally thankful.

And with Thanksgiving soon approaching, I find I am ever more thankful for books. For those that provide hope; for those that expand the curious mind and for those that keep the dark world at bay. May you too have something or someone in your life for which to be thankful. As for me, I’m off to read something remarkable on this dark, dreary, cold Wisconsin day.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

All Dressed in White by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

I kept expecting the grand reveal in All Dressed in White by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke. They had certainly gathered the suspects together as in any Agatha Christie mystery. It just shows how clever the book is that they even managed to switch up the traditional ending.

Laurie Moran, producer of Under Suspicion, a true crime-based news special focusing on cold cases, is about to make her latest pitch to her boss when Sandra Pierce insists on seeing her. Five years earlier, when Laurie was dealing with the greatest tragedy of her own life, Sandra's daughter disappeared. Because of Moran's own problems, she never knew the story of "the Runaway Bride". On the eve of her wedding at the Grand Victoria Hotel in Palm Beach, Amanda Pierce vanished. While Sandra's ex-husband, Walter, clung to the belief their daughter was out there somewhere, Sandra was convinced someone took her. Now, she wants Laurie's team to investigate the unsolved case for Under Suspicion.

It may not be easy to gather the entire wedding party together, but Laurie's secret weapon is the host of the show, trial commentator and lawyer Alex Buckley. Together with her team, they're able to bring everyone back to the Grand Victoria to re-enact the set-up. With a little pressure, someone "Under Suspicion" might reveal the truth.

The second mystery in the Under Suspicion series continues to examine cold cases. It's a clever premise. The authors use multiple viewpoints to tell the story, which works perfectly for the scenario of a television show re-enacting unsolved crimes. And, despite the large casts, the characters are still unique enough to stand apart so the reader can keep the suspects in mind. Laurie Moran's supporting team from her professional and personal lives are deftly woven into the storyline. And, these storylines do read as if they were scenarios for a reality show.

If you're a fan of cold cases, as I am, All Dressed in White, and the earlier book, The Cinderella Murder, are fast-paced, compelling stories.

Mary Higgins Clark's website is

Alafair Burke's website is

All Dressed in White by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke. Simon & Schuster. 2015. ISBN 9781501108556 (hardcover), 271p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, November 20, 2015

Winners and a Christmas Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the Ashton Lee two-packs of Cherry Cola Book Club books. I'm mailing the books to Jeannette M. from Ventura, CA, and Linda R. of Dickinson, TX.

'Tis the season to give away Christmas books so they'll arrive in December. This week, I have two mysteries. Lucy Burdette's Death with All the Trimmings is set in Key West, so it's definitely not the typical Christmas setting. Hayley Snow, food critic for Key Zest magazine has a busy holiday schedule. She interviews the chef-owner of the hottest new restaurant just before it's set on fire and a body is discovered. The owner had revealed someone was sabotaging her kitchen. Now, amid holiday festivities and visiting relatives, Hayley tries to find an arsonist and a killer.

Isabella Alan's Murder, Served Simply is an Amish Quilt Shop mystery. Quilt shop owner Angie Braddock has a lot on her plate this Christmas. Her parents are visiting, but, unfortunately so is her ex. Angie's preparing her store for the town's traditional progressive dinner, which features a sleigh ride that stops at each shop for a different course of the meal. The meal ends with an Amish-themed Christmas play, but when an actress falls to her death, and the sheriff suspects fall play, tension heats up in the community. Angie and her quilting circle must stitch together clues before the holiday is ruined.

Which Christmas mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Death with All the Trimmings" or "Win Murder, Served Simply." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

And, VERY IMPORTANT! This giveaway ends Tuesday, November 24 at 6 PM CT. It's a short contest so I can get the books out in the mail on Wednesday.