2010 was not an easy year in our library system. We had too many losses - beginning with the loss of staff due to cutbacks, followed by the loss of hours, cutting our hours open to the public almost in half. But, our greatest losses were personal. My husband, Jim, died on February 15. Another manager lost her father. One of our librarians lost her mother. A number of friends suffered from the loss of beloved pets. And, one of my staff members has had a terrible last few months personally, including a tragic loss. So, that's a bittersweet toast to 2010. We're all ready to move on, with hope.
I'm looking forward to 2011 with hope. I have plans to attend Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe in March. Janet Rudolph, editor of Mystery Readers' Journal, is one of the attendees, and I can't wait to meet her. And, I've never been to Santa Fe, so I'm going a few days early to see the city. I'm also planning a couple trips to Ohio in the course of the year, if things work out right.
I'm excited about the authors I've already scheduled for Authors @ The Teague, knowing there will be ones added to the schedule. Poisoned Pen Bookstore is always a bright spot in my life, and I look forward to enjoyable evenings there. And Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime. What can I say about this wonderful group of authors and future authors? They're fun and interesting, and I'm looking forward to monthly meetings, and casual meetings at the Poisoned Pen.
I've mentioned before that I worked on a chapter for a reference book. I'm hoping the new edition of Genreflecting will be out this year. I wrote the chapter on mysteries. And, I did a short (very short!) interview for Women's World magazine as part of the January 31 issue. I was one of the people interviewed for an article about mysteries. I'll be watching for that.
So many of my hopes and wishes for 2011 revolve around books and friends. I want to continue to read wonderful blogs by friends such as Jen Forbus at Jen's Book Thoughts, and Kaye Barley at Meanderings and Muses. I hope to read what authors, publishers, and friends are doing on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LesaHolstine). And, I know there are terrific books coming out in 2011, since I already have stacks of them in my closet.
So, for 2011, I wish you a year filled with good books and good reading. And, for all of us, I hope it's a peaceful year, less stressful, with fewer losses in our life. We're going to miss all the loved ones we lost, family members, friends, and wonderful authors. But, I'm hopeful that 2011 will bring happiness, the love of family and friends, and, of course, stacks of good books, and the time to enjoy them.
Those who follow my blog regularly know my favorite work day of every month is the day of the brown bag luncheons, when we get together to discuss books. And, I love my quarterly brown bag luncheons, when I get to share books with library patrons. But, I also love Authors @ The Teague. Thanks to the authors, and, quite often, thanks to Barbara Peters at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, I get to introduce authors to readers. This year, I was lucky enough to host more than twenty authors at the library. What better way to end the year by sharing those authors one more time with all of you? So, here's 2010 Authors @ The Teague - the year in pictures.
We kicked off the year in January with Frederick Ramsay. I love his Ike Schwartz mysteries, set in
Virginia, but he brought Botswana to the Velma Teague Library when he talked about his most recent book, Predators, a mystery set in that country.
I loved Lou Berney's debut caper novel, Gutshot Straight, so it was fun to introduce him to library patrons.
Cara Black is a favorite, and she'll be back at the library on March 10 to discuss her new book. But, in 2010, she talked about Paris, her character, Aimée Leduc, and the 2010 release, Murder in the Palais Royal.
I met Alan Bradley when he was at the Poisoned Pen on his tour for his first mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Barbara Peters was kind enough to invite a couple of us to go out for drinks with them after his appearance there. He remembered that, and mentioned it in the acknowledgements of his second book. I told people he was my birthday present this year, since he appeared at the library on my birthday. Bradley told us all about Flavia de Luce, and his second book, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag.
Alan Bradley with me
We had a full house when Jacqueline Winspear returned for her second visit to the library. The Mapping of Love, the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, attracted a number of men interested in Winspear's research as well as the book itself.
Peter May with me
Peter May brought us three books when he appeared at the library. He discussed his standalone, Virtually Dead, as well as recent books, Snakehead and Freezeframe. My only disappointment? No kilt.
Jenn McKinley is not only a mystery author, but also a fellow librarian. She's also one of the terrific authors who blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs. In fact, I knew her as a blogger and author there before I knew she worked at a library here in Phoenix. And, how can you resist a mystery about cupcakes? I met her first at the Poisoned Pen. When she appeared at Velma Teague to discuss Sprinkle with Murder, we provided an appropriate treat, cupcakes. Now, I'm looking forward to her new series about a librarian.
I first met Kris Neri when she appeared in 2009 with Desert Sleuths. She's a member of that Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She's also the owner of the Sedona bookstore, The Well Red Coyote. She brought two books, Revenge for Old Times' Sake and High Crimes on the Magical Plane.
Kris Neri and me
Larry Karp returned to Velma Teague to discuss the concluding book in his series about Scott Joplin, The Ragtime Kid. I'm sure he has something in mind for a new mystery, though.
I can't tell you how much fun we had when we hosted Women Who Kill. Debut mystery author Jeanne Matthews joined Juliet Blackwell, Sophie Littlefield, and Zoë Sharp. They were all in town for a Poisoned Pen Conference, so we were lucky to snag them. I'll always be grateful to Zoë Sharp. She was our very first author for Authors @ The Teague. And, she'll be returning with Cara Black and Libby Hellmann in March. (Or maybe you can tell how much fun we had that day.)
Left to right - Authors in back - Zoe Sharp, Jeanne Matthews, Sophie Littllefield, Juliet Blackwell. I'm in front.
When I reviewed Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt for Library Journal, I had never met nor heard of the debut author. Beth's book went on to hit The New York Times' Bestseller List, become the first pick for the Sam's Club book club, and a Costco pick of the month. It's a favorite of book clubs. And, Beth became a friend of mine, a friend who agreed to appear at the library when she came to visit. In our audience that day was a college professor who told Beth she has her students study the book for characterization. It's hard to forget Beth Hoffman's wonderful characters. Beth even brought me a hat she made herself, typical of Savannah garden parties.
Beth Hoffman with me
I never thought I'd get the chance to host bestselling author Lisa Gardner at the library. She was in town on tour for Live to Tell, the fourth D.D. Warren book. It was so nice of Poisoned Pen Bookstore to share her with the west side of the Valley.
Although most of the authors who appear at Velma Teague are mystery authors, I do get the chance to host a few authors. Beth Hoffman was the first one this year, but there were a few others. Carrie Vaughn is the author of the Kitty series, about a DJ who is a werewolf. She discussed fantasy, the latest in that series, Kitty Goes to War, and a fantastic standalone that I loved, Discord's Apple.
Kathy Cano-Murillo is another author who doesn't write mysteries. She's a local author who writes nonfiction, and, now, women's fiction involving crafts. Cano-Murillo had a popular craft column for years in The Arizona Republic as The Crafty Chica. She brought her first novel, Waking Up in the Land of Glitter. Since her second book features Glendale, I hope she comes back when it's released.
Betty Webb always draws readers when she appears. The author of the Lena Jones books also has a series set in a California zoo, a little lighter than the Lena Jones mysteries. The Koala of Death was just as much fun as the first in the series.
I love to bring Camille Kimball to the library. So many of our readers like true crime, and Kimball's two books have been about crimes here in Maricopa County. What She Always Wanted was an interesting book about a wealthy woman who killed her husband.
It's also a treat to bring the Desert Sleuths. The authors, who are members of the Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, discussed and signed their second anthology, How Not to Survive a Vacation. I don't know when I've heard so much laughter from the audience and the panel.
I loved a recent blog post by Ann Littlewood. The author of the zoo mystery, Did Not Survive, posed on her blog with her Authors @ The Teague mug that we present to all of the authors. These zoo mysteries are darker than Betty Webb's, but just as informative about zoos and animals.
P.L. Gaus' Ohio Amish-Country mysteries are being reprinted, beginning with Blood of the Prodigal. He's been studying the Amish in Ohio for over thirty years, and the books are fascinating peeks into the Amish culture. He had wonderful stories to tell about his experiences doing research.
Hilary Davidson isn't a debut author, but The Damage Done was a debut mystery. Hilary writes Frommer guides and travel pieces. But, after reading The Damage Done, and hearing her discussion at the library, I think she'll be better known eventually for her crime novels. I enjoyed my time, and lunch, with this terrific author.
Hilary Davidson and me
Thank you to all of the authors who made Authors @ The Teague a successful series during 2010. I had so much fun, and I hope you enjoyed your appearance at the library.
So, what can you expect in 2011? Watch the sidebar on the blog for planned appearances. At the moment, these authors are scheduled -
Susan Pohlman - Jan. 22 - 2 p.m.
Donis Casey - Feb. 26 - 2 p.m.
Cara Black, Libby Hellmann & Zoe Sharp - March 10 - 2 p.m.
Vicki Delany & R.J. Harlick - March 30 - 2 p.m.
I'm sure we'll be booking more authors. And, I'm hoping we'll fit in the schedules for two authors I met this year. Deborah Coonts and Robert Dugoni should both be in the area when their new books come out, and I've been corresponding with both of them about appearing for Authors @ The Teague. Sneak peek pictures, in hopes they'll know I'd love to host them.
Robert Dugoni and me
So, if you're an author, particularly a mystery author, who will be in the Phoenix area, and want to appear in a small venue, with no promise as to the size of the audience, contact me! I'm at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Keep Authors @ The Teague in mind for your 2011 schedule!
And, thank you, again, to all of the authors who appeared for Authors @ The Teague in 2010. You truly are treasures. Thank you.
I'm not copping out on you on December 29th. But, my mother just left yesterday, readership is low this week, while people are still enjoying or recovering from the holidays, and I have a book review due soon for Library Journal. Perhaps the best reason to do a year end wrap-up is to do justice to the authors. It's not really fair to write a book review when readership this week is a third what it normally is. So, I'll summarize this year's reading in the next couple days, toast and remember the year on Dec. 31st, and kick off the new year with the Treasures in My Closet post. Watch for the listing of new books on January 1st.
In the meantime, here's part one of the 2010 book recap.
I read 178 books this year, down 23 from last year. But, 2009 was my best year ever, with 201 books.
There were a few mitigating circumstances this year. My husband died in February, so I lost some reading time for a while. And, I worked on a chapter for a forthcoming reference book every weekend for a month. So, it's not surprising I lost 23 books. Eighty-nine of the books read were mysteries and crime novels, exactly half. Hmmm. Maybe I should change that comment at the top, "with an emphasis on mysteries." No. Those are still the books I'm most passionate about, and I'm most interested in mystery authors.
I enjoy discovering the first book by a novelist. I read seventeen this year, fifteen of them mysteries. The exceptions were Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Fireworks over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff. Beth's book was on my list of the year's favorites. 2010 may be remembered as a year for exceptional debuts. Crime fiction readers should take note of Dennis Palumbo's Mirror Image, Liar, Liar by K.J. Larsen, John Verdon's Think of a Number, Gerrie Ferris Finger's The End Game, Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie, Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney, Drink the Tea by Thomas Kaufman, Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts, Bones of Contention by Jeanne Matthews, Avery Aames' The Long Quiche Goodbye, Hilary Davidson's The Damage Done, Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinna Ibe, Laura Alden's Murder at the PTA, Todd Ritter's Death Notice and Bruce DeSilva's Rogue Island. I'm sure there were a number of other outstanding debuts I missed, but this group includes some exceptional books. Thank you to all of the authors for their work. I was lucky enough to meet, and, even host a few of you. And, I'm looking forward to your second books!
In August, the Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime held their Write Now! 2010 Conference, inviting me to attend as their first fan guest of honor. It was a wonderful day. I had the chance to meet the authors who spoke; Jim Born, Robin Burcell, Bryan Gruley, and Sheila Lowe. I can't thank the Desert Sleuths enough. They gave me a year's membership to the group. And, they debuted their own story collection there, How Not to Survive a Vacation. They are a fun group to host for Authors @ The Teague. Thank you, to true sisters.
I can't do a year's wrap-up without mentioning the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. It's been a few years since it was popular to refer to your favorite place, other than work and home, as "the third place." But, the Poisoned Pen truly is the third place in my life, where I meet friends, authors who sometimes become friends, and discover books. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that ebooks won't be the end of this wonderful independent bookstore. Thank you to Barbara Peters and her wonderful staff.
And, thank you to every reader of this blog. I want to thank you as readers who love books. You comment on the posts, tell your friends about the blog, follow me here, and on Twitter (@LesaHolstine). I love to run the contests, and give you the chance to win a book. It's fun to tell you about books and discuss them here. I love to hear that you read and enjoyed a book I reviewed. Thank you for all the comments. I love to write this blog because I know you're reading it.
So, come back tomorrow, when part 2 will include the year in pictures.
Between college bowl games and pro football, December and January are perfect months to pick up Mark Oristano's A Sportcaster's Guide to Watching Football. I love football, and I've been watching high school, college and pro games for forty years, but I still learned more about football from Oristano's book.
Oristano brings years of experience to this enjoyable book. He spent thirty years as a professional sports broadcaster, working for both the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers Radio Networks. He also has extensive experience with TV and NFL Films.
The book is designed for those who know little about football, and want to know more, either for themselves, or because there is a fan in their life, and they want to be more informed. Oristano breaks the game down into easily understood terms, and provides a glossary for essential football terms. He even provides a halftime break with his own list of the 10 most important people in NFL history. And, the anecdotes included are funny, and related to the point Oristano is trying to teach.
You can't go wrong with this book if you're interested in learning more about football. Even a football fan will appreciate Oristano's breakdown of football. Mark Oristano's A Sportscaster's Guide to Watching Football is an excellent instructional tool. (It also passes my family test. I'm passing it on to a nephew who loves sports.)
I had high hopes for I Want What She's Got! by the mother/daughter team of Bette James Laughrun and Kathie Nelson. It's subtitled "The Secrets of Creating an Outrageous Life." Knowing Laughrun was in her sixties when she remade her life, I thought this would be a perfect end for 2010 and beginning for 2011. I was hoping for ideas for increasing the possibilities in life.
Laughrun's book is designed for inspiriation and motivation. She suggests women ask themselves seven questions to help them define the life they want, an "outrageous, over-the-top life." They include questions such as what is my purpose in life. Why am I here? What talents can I bring to the party? How can I make a difference in the world? Readers are asked to look at their relationships.
Laughrun and Nelson summarize each chapter with questions to help readers chart their lives. And, there are "life design tools." They also chose to focus on God and faith, which came as a surprise to me, based on the summary of the book.
I Want Want She's Got! might be appropriate for those readers who want inspirational books including scripture and faith. It wasn't what I expected, nor what I was looking to read. The original questions were interesting, but I bogged down in this small book since I wasn't interested in the faith-based motivation. If you're looking for self-help and motivation, pick this book up with the knowledge that it's faith-based.
I'm sure you're curious as to how author Jim Born relates to my Christmas. Jim was the keynote speaker at the Desert Sleuths Write Now! 2010 Conference in August. He's the author of numerous books, including, under the name James O'Neal, The Human Disguise and Double Human. And, he's also a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
My family remembered. Oh, did they remember! I had a cat-filled Christmas, with knickknacks, a sweatshirt, a pin, a plaque, and a shirt. So, here's my Christmas shirt. But, I still only have five cats!
So, thanks, Jim. My family had a great time with that comment.
You may know Joel Osteen as pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the largest church in the U.S. He is also quite a storyteller, even for those of us who don't follow his preaching or his TV show. His latest book is perfect for Christmas Eve. The Christmas Spirit is subtitled "Memories of Family, Friends, and Faith." And, what else is Christmas about?
Osteen views Christmas as a time to celebrate family, faith and love. And, in many stories in this book, they go hand-in-hand. He tells stories of his father who grew up poor during the Depression, and always wanted to provide a feeling of security for his family. His joy in providing for his family carried through, not just at Christmas, but in little things, including stories of a grey box where the children could turn for needed money. There's a story of a Christmas bicycle, and the secret Joel shared with his father that year. Osteen learned lessons from the lives of his parents and grandparents, and shares those stories with humor and joy.
Osteen's book is a small collection of memories gathered from his family, his wife's family, and a few friends. Certainly as a minister, he relates the stories to his opinions about God and faith. You can read those as someone who believes, or you can accept Osteen's stories as a chance to remember your own Christmases past.
Whether or not you care about the Christian aspects of the book, if you love Christmas, you might appreciate Osteen's stories, and the comment, "I realize now one of the main things our parents and grandparents gave us for Christmas was memories."
As I spend time with my mother this Christmas season, making candy and cookies, attending a play, shopping for little gifts, just spending the time together, I'm treasuring every memory we're making. Joel Osteen's The Christmas Spirit might just remind you of memories in your own life.
Follow-up - I find it very telling that Lane Smith's picture book, It's a Book, is only available in book form. It is a picture book, and my library has it in the children's collection. But, so many adults who are booklovers appreciate the humor and the slight digs in this book, things many children will not appreciate as much as adults. So, don't hesitate to pass it on to adults.
This book is a little controversial in the review for children's books. It's designed for ages 4 to 8, but, there's a comment about a jackass, one of the characters, that causes the controversy. However, I have to say, as an adult watching the digital revolution, worrying about the future of books, I found Lane Smith's It's a Book wonderful. So, the best thing I can do for you is show you a clip from the book, and recommend it for adults. If you're a book reader, you should love it.
Let me know what you think, if you get a chance to see Lane Smith's It's a Book. For me, it's a keeper.
Follow-up - As I said in the post about my favorite books of the year, it felt as if Lisa Genova was my discovery of the year. A co-worker raved about Still Alice, and I went back and read it when I was sent Left Neglected to review. These are remarkable books, written by a scientist, who tells the stories of women who suffer from disorders. Here's what I said about Still Alice.
Lisa Genova's Still Alice is a novel you'll read with your heart. And, it will break your heart, but Alice Howland's story is so tragic, and so realistic, that it needs to be read. I'll thank the friend that recommended it to me. And, you won't regret picking it up on my recommendation. I promise.
As a speaker, Dr. Alice Howland was introduced as "The eminent William James Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Over the last twenty-five years, her distinguished career has produced many of the flagship touchstones in psycholinguistics." However, Alice Howland, at only fifty, lost a word in that speech she presented. She lost other things, but chalked it up to getting old and menopause. But, her youngest daughter, Lydia, noticed she repeated questions. Alice didn't panic though, until she couldn't find her way home from Harvard Square one day. Alice's husband, John, a scientist himself, didn't notice Alice's problems. But, Alice did, and she pushed her way into doctor appointments until she was diagnosed. Alice had early-onset Alzheimer's.
Lisa Genova's story of a woman with Alzheimer's is unusual because it tells the story from Alice's viewpoint. So many Alzheimer's stories deal with the elderly. Instead, we see a brilliant young woman, at the top of her profession, with three grown children and a successful husband, realize that someday she was going to lose her sense of Alice. And, in Alice's two-year journey, we watch her husband's denial, the uncertainty as to how to handle it, and the eventual loss of the Alice she thought she was. "Who was she if she wasn't a Harvard psychology professor?" Genova shows us a woman who knows what she's losing, and she recognizes it before her family does.
Lisa Genova holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, and she combines her scientific background with an insight into the heart and mind of a woman who suffers from Alzheimer's. It's important to know that the National Alzheimer's Association endorsed the book.
I can't praise this novel highly enough, and I won't give more details. You should read this book to see Alzheimer's from the victim's point of view. Still Alice is unique because Genova shows that Alice, as she becomes, still embodies someone beautiful. She no longer knows her family, but she recognizes love. And, she herself embodies the comment her mother once made about butterflies. "Just because their lives were short didn't mean they were tragic."
Lisa Genova's website is http://www.lisagenova.com/
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Simon & Schuster, Pub. Date, 2009. ISBN 9781439102817 (paperback), 320p.
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book
Follow-up - As I said, I reviewed Lisa Genova's Left Neglected for Library Journal. The book is released in January, so I'd suggest you watch for it. It might be a terrific addition to your own TBR pile. Gift cards, anyone?
If I hadn't been sent Lisa Genova's Left Neglected to review for Library Journal, I might not have gone back to read her novel, Still Alice. I'm so grateful that I was selected to review the one, so I could discover Genova as an author. Here's my review of Left Neglected, as it appeared in the Nov. 15, 2010 issue of Library Journal.
Genova, Lisa. Left Neglected. Gallery: S. & S. Jan. 2011. c.336p. ISBN 9781439164631. $25. F
With a Ph.D. in neuroscience, Genova brings an expertise to this novel about a woman suffering from a little-known neurological syndrome. Sarah Nickerson is a high-powered business executive, juggling 80 hours of work, marriage, and life with three young children. Following a car accident, she wakes up to learn she’s suffering from brain damage, a syndrome called left neglect that leaves her unable to feel or see anything on her left side. As she struggles to recover, Sarah also copes with other aspects of her life “left neglected” owing to her busy lifestyle: her relationship with her mother, her son’s inability to concentrate, and her own quality of life. Once again, the author of Still Alice, a best-selling debut about a woman dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s, has created a character with a compelling voice and perspective in a moving story that shows how brain trauma forces people to change their lives. VERDICT This is a positive novel about hope and strength that should find a market with those who appreciate contemporary women’s fiction and readers who either are coping with brain disorders or have family members with these conditions.—Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ
Copyright 2010. Library Journal, LLC. Nov. 15, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.
I never actually reviewed Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay here, although I reviewed the earlier books in the trilogy, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. At the time I read it, I had flown home, and left the book for my nephews.
So, here's a quick summary of the final volume in the best young adult series I've read in years. In a future North American, Katniss Everdeen and a friend from District 12, Peeta Melerk, have twice survived the Hunger Games, a televised competition that pits young people from each district against each other. However, each time Katniss survived, she found herself at odds with the people in power in the capitol, while she was viewed as heroine by the people in the districts in the country of Panem. Now, in Mockingjay, Katniss must decide if she'll accept the responsibility of becoming the symbol of the rebellion, a rebellion that will change the course of Panem.
When I turned this book over to my nephews, I left it with young men who were seventeen and twenty-five. And, they each had friends who wanted to read it. Collins' series, as I said earlier, is one of the most riveting, original series I've read in years. I know other adults who have read and loved it. But, I also know this series was popular with young men who like to read exciting fantasy books. You might want to consider this series as a last minute gift.
Follow-up - After I reviewed Bury Your Dead, I had the chance to have dinner with Louise Penny, and then accompany her to the Poisoned Pen to hear her discuss the latest book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. It's not an easy book to summarize without giving away important elements of the story. Fortunately, Louise said I managed to handle it well in my review. And, Louise went on to win Agatha and Anthony Awards for the previous book in the series, The Brutal Telling. Bury Your Dead was even better.
Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries have dominated the traditional mystery awards this decade. But, none have been as magnificent, as haunting, as this sixth book in the series, Bury Your Dead. In some ways, it's a quiet, introspective story, but that makes it all the more powerful. I can't use enough superlatives to describe a story that brilliantly intertwines two murder investigations, a police case that went tragically wrong, and the history of Québec.
It might be Carnival time in Québec City, by Armand Gamache is not there for the entertainment, but to find a quiet place for contemplation, and recovery from an investigation that ended in tragedy. His time is spent with his retired mentor, walking the streets with his dog, Henri, and researching in the quiet Literary and Historical Society. Few people venture into the library at this last bastion of Anglo Québec, but Gamache appreciates the opportunity to delve into the past, and the history of a battle that changed the complexion of the province. And, he appreciated the quiet atmosphere until an historian is found dead in the basement of the building. For the members of the Lit and His, the death couldn't have stirred up more attention. Augustin Renaul had been obsessed about one thing - searching for the missing body of Samuel de Champlain, the founder and father of Québec. Now, his murder in the basement would only stir up publicity and resentment.
But, why would Renaul have been digging for Champlain's remains there, anyways? Asked to work unofficially on the case, Gamache is intrigued with the great man's history, and his missing body. The opportunity to investigate here allows him time to recover emotionally from a case that haunts him, as he replays the past over and over in his head. At the same time, he has started to doubt his findings in another case, one related to Three Pines, when he arrested a man for murder. Since he doesn't have time to look into that, he asks Jean Guy Beauvoir to work on the supposition that the man in prison might be innocent, and visit Three Pines. Once again, readers are allowed into the small world where Gamache found a second home, and comfort, while Beauvoir only feels uncomfortable returning there.
Over and over, I've used the word tragedy when referring to this story. Bury Your Dead is about people who are unable to bury the past. That inability to let go haunts so many of the characters, including Armand Gamache, a man who can't forgive himself, and shoulders the responsibility for death. And, that inability to let go causes otherwise sane people to kill, and an entire province to share an obsession with their past.
Although that theme dominates the story, winter, and the weather, are crucial elements as well. In Three Pines, the residents fantasize over tropical vacations. It might have something to do with their setting, boarding on the forest. "And, when the winter sun set on a Québec forest, monsters crawled out of the shadows. Not the B-grade movie monsters, not zombies or mummies or space aliens. But older, subtler wraiths. Invisible creatures that rode in on plunging temperatures. Death by freezing, death by exposure, death by gong even a foot off the path, and getting lost. Death, ancient and patient, waited in Québec forests for the sun to set."
In some ways, Bury Your Dead reminds me of Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time, the classic story of a recuperating detective investigating one of history's great mysteries. Penny has given Armand Gamache a contemporary case, but he's just as fascinated by the mystery of Champlain's whereabouts. And, he needs to take his mind off of his own story.
But, Louise Penny has given us her own masterpiece. The Brutal Telling led up to this book, but it could only begin the powerful story told in Bury Your Dead.
I seldom add a note to my reviews, but, as a librarian, I had to include the following short section. I started to say it doesn't have a lot to do with the story, but it does. Penny didn't put a word wrong in this book, and the comments about information, knowledge and power is actually an important element in the make-up of Armand Gamache. So, my favorite passages are thoughts of Inspector Langlois, of the Québec City homicide squad as he sits in the library of the Literary and Historical Society.
'It smelled of the past, of a time before computers, before information was "Googled" and "blogged." Before laptops and Blackberries and all the other tools that mistook information for knowledge...'
"He remembered how it felt to find himself in the library, away from possible attack but surrounded by things far more dangerous than what roamed the school corridors.
"For here thoughts were housed."
"Young Langlois had sat down and gathered that power to him.. The power that came from having information, knowledge, thoughts, and a calm place to collect them."
Those quotes are a librarian's dream. Thank you, Louise.
FTC Full Disclosure - I'm giving a different type of disclosure with this book. The publisher did send me an ARC of the book, hoping I would read and review it. But, anyone who knows me, knows that Louise Penny has become a friend of mine since the publication of her first book. Even so, she knows, as do other authors, that I never give good reviews just because I'm a friend of an author. In this case, Bury Your Dead is just as good as I said, and friendship has nothing to do with my opinion of this book.
Follow-up - I was so impressed with Deborah Coonts' Wanna Get Lucky?, and with her appearance at the Poisoned Pen, that I asked if I could interview her for my blog. If you go back in the blog, my interview with her appears on June 19th, and her appearance at the Poisoned Pen appears on the May 21 blog, under Macmillan Night at the Poisoned Pen. I'm already hearing great comments about the second book in the series, Lucky Stiff, due out in February.
Here's my earlier review of Wanna Get Lucky?
Wanna Get Lucky? Believe me, you will, if you make time to read Deborah Coonts' debut novel, Wanna Get Lucky? It's the sexiest, funniest, caper novel I've read in years; one of the best books I've read this year. Move over Stephanie Plum. Lucky O'Toole is sexy, sarcastic, and she has a brain.
And, she's also having a really bad day. As head of Customer Relations for the Babylon, "an over-the-top mega casino/resort on the Las Vegas strip," she's head troubleshooter. So, when Lyda Sue Stalnaker is on the news, plunging to her death out of the Babylon's helicopter, right into the Pirate's Lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel, Lucky knows her day isn't going to go well. But, it's never just one incident at a time in the casino business. It's a naked man sleeping under a stairwell, the man with a snake in his room, and the regular guest who wrecked one of the hotel's Ferrari. That's just a normal day for Lucky. And, a normal week brings the Adult Film industry's annual banquet at the same time the Trendmakers, a spouse-swapping group is in town for their convention.
But, it isn't so normal when she has to check up on the sexy new security guard with the Texas accent. Something about him seems just a little off. And, the Big Boss' reaction to the helicopter incident seems odd. Lucky O'Toole's instincts for trouble are usually quick. So, why didn't she see it coming when her best friend, Teddie, Las Vegas' star female impersonator, wants more than just friendship? This could be much more than one troubleshooter can handle on her own. It's a good thing Lucky has an interesting group of friends.
Coonts' Lucky O'Toole is a star. She's smart, sarcastic, and uses her sarcasm as a defense mechanism. And, her talent for sexual innuendo is unbeatable. She's loyal to the Babylon and its staff. She would be a wonderful friend, and dangerous enemy. The characters in this book are wonderful, beginning with Lucky, Teddie, to Lucky's assistant, Miss Patterson, and Lucky's mother.
And, then there's Las Vegas itself. Coonts has given us the city in all its over-the-top outrageousness. She's filled the city with outlandish characters, and surprises. Wanna Get Lucky? is the perfect book for the city. It's the perfect book to introduce Lucky O'Toole, and I can't wait to read the next one, Lucky Stiff. Lucky's troubles will be our pleasure, I'm sure.
Follow-up - I originally published this review on April 11. It would have been Jim's 61st birthday. Regina Brett's God Never Blinks is the only nonfiction book to make my list of favorites. It hit home when I read it. It made the July list, and it remains the book that meant a great deal to me following Jim's death. It's a book that would fit so many transitions in life. I've never met the author, but I can't thank her enough for this important book.
Jim would have turned 61 today. And, I can't tell you how much it means to me that so many of you gave books to libraries in his memory. There will be books in Jim's memory in Alaska, England, Ireland, Florida, Utah, Texas, and small towns all over the country, especially Ohio, and, of course, in the Glendale Library System, where I work. So many of you gave money to my library that I've been able to order books Jim would have appreciated - books on baseball, thrillers, history, biographies, and physics.
But, I wanted to tell you about one I discovered that was so special that I used some of the money to buy copies for every library in our system, in Jim's memory. It's a book that helped me get through the last two months. I read a few essays, then put it down. But, it means so much to me. Regina Brett's God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours was the book I needed. And, Tuesday is release date for the book.
Before I tell you about the book, let me tell you about Regina Brett. Brett was born in Ravenna, Ohio in 1956. Ravenna is in Portage County, neighboring Mahoning County, where I was born in 1957. Regina Brett and I were at Kent State Unviversity at the same time. I never knew her, and she quit school when she became pregnant, but it seems so odd that someone with that similar beginning has written a book that means so much to me.
When I turned fifty, Jim threw a surprise party I will never forget, bringing in my family without tellng me, and secretly working with my staff. When Regina Brett turned fifty, she wrote a newspaper column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer about fifty lessons life had taught her. Her lessons came from her life as a single parent, working on her problems with her relationship with God, battling cancer, and her difficult childhood as one of eleven children. The column went viral, appearing in church bulletins, newsletters, and small-town newspapers. That popular column became the book, God Never Blinks, with Brett's soul-searching essays.
If you haven't read the book, Brett's lessons sound like platitudes. There are titles such as, "Life isn't fair, but it's still good." That one hit my heart. How about "Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does." There's the lesson, "All that truly matters in the end is that you loved." And, perhaps, Brett's most important message is, "No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up for life." These stories are honest, and heartfelt. They touched me, moved me, and made me cry at times. I haven't argued with God about Jim's death. I didn't need Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
I needed the lessons of Regina Brett's God Never Blinks. For Jim's birthday, I wanted to share this book with you. And, it may be an important book to share with others who are going through hard times. Life goes on. It was my mother who said, "Life will be different. It will never be the same. It can be just as good, but it will be different." These are two wise women from Ohio, my mother, and Regina Brett, with lessons to help people keep on living.
Follow-up - The first part of January was a very good time for books since I read Brande's Fat Cat and Barbara O'Neal's The Secret of Everything then. Both books made my mid-year list of favorites, and they ended up on this list as well. I was lucky enough to hear and meet Barbara Samuel O'Neal at the Tucson Festival of Books in March. And, I can't wait to read her new book, How to Bake a Perfect Life. It's due out next week, as a trade paperback. I already have it ordered. Here's a sneak peek at the cover of that one, before the review of The Secret of Everything.
Barbara O'Neal, who gave us one of my favorite books of last year, The Lost Recipe for Happiness, has written another beautiful story, a gift of loneliness, love, family, reparation, and forgiveness. The Secret of Everything is filled with that beauty, plus food, with a little of the magic O'Neal shares with Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman. O'Neal's latest book is a treat for the senses, and the heart.
Tessa Harlow felt lost and guilty, after a hiking tour she led ended in tragedy. She suffered a broken arm and an infected foot, but recuperation at her father's oceanside home left her restless. So, despite her father's premonitions and warnings, she headed to Los Ladronas, New Mexico, a town reputed to be a new hot spot for foodies and celebrities. Tessa thought the town north of Santa Fe might offer a new site for tours. Instead, she ran into a past she never knew she had.
Her first night in town, she ran into Vince Grasso, a sexy man who did search-and-rescue. Vince, a widower with three young daughters, was focused on raising them, and trying to see his two oldest daughters, Natalie and Jade, through a rough period. At eight and six, they were suddenly at war with each other. Natalie, the oldest, felt lost and alone, trying to keep her mother's memory alive.
For thirty years, Vita Solano enjoyed sharing her passion for food at her restaurant, 100 Breakfasts. As a woman who was abused, and lived through it, she offered jobs, and hope, to women who ended up in jail. Her latest project was Annie, just released from prison. But, her restaurant was also a refuge for other lost souls, including Tessa, Vince, and Natalie.
Barbara O'Neal neatly intertwines the lives of her characters with the story of the town, Los Ladronas. As Tessa relives her recent tragedy, memories flash back from her childhood, memories that seem rooted in the history of the town, and its infamous commune. But, these are memories, and stories, that her father never told her. Now, his greatest fears are coming true.
It takes a commune, death, love, resurrection, and forgiveness, to reveal The Secret of Everything. Mix together a story of family, add some dogs, and enough recipes to make a foodie drool, along with a little magic. Here's a book of love, and loss, and tears. It's the type of story Hoffman and Allen have successfully created. Now, add Barbara O'Neal and The Secret of Everything to that special, must read list.
(Before giving the website, let me add that the copyright for Barbara O'Neal's books are under the name Barbara Samuel, the author of other books about strong women, family, and love.)
Follow-up - Robin Brande's Fat Cat actually was published in 2009, but I read it this year, so it makes my favorites list. I reviewed it on Jan. 9th, and it made my list of favorite books of the first half of the year. It's a book that generated a great deal of comment at the first posting, when I was participating in a meme, revealing ten things you might not have known about me. If you haven't heard of this terrific young adult book, you might want to check it out.
I thought Robin Brande's debut young adult novel, Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, was outstanding, but her second book, Fat Cat, hit me in the heart. The Arizona author writes a unique combination of science, teen angst, and positive changes. Fat Cat is funny, and touching, with a little romance, and strong female characters. It's a treat for the reader who remembers being chunky, a geek, or ostracized as a teenager.
Cat Locke is a seventeen-year-old math and science whiz, determined to succeed in a challenging class in Research Science. Success with the special topic project means a chance for college scholarships to MIT or Duke or Harvard. Cat also wants to beat Matt McKinney in the science fair, the boy who was her best friend until at age thirteen, she heard him agree with another boy that she was "Fat Cat." For four years, Cat and her best friend, Amanda, have hated Matt for his betrayal. Now is her chance to get even.
But Cat's hope for a project that matches her interests in insects are dashed, when she randomly draws a project dealing with Homo erectus. She devises a project using herself as the test subject, changing her diet, eliminating most modern conveniences in her life, and changing her lifestyle. Suddenly, she's attracting the attention of intelligent boys she's known for years, because "Fat Cat" is no longer so fat. So, Cat's experiment takes another turn as she incorporates the male reaction in her experiment. And, all along, she's determined to show up Matt.
In both of her books, Brande created teenage girls who coped with ostracism by peers. Her girls are bright kids who find their own support network, and triumph. These are likable, strong girls, and it's a pleasure to watch teens rise above the pettiness of teenagers. In Cat's case, she learns quite a bit about teenage boys, and about her own pettiness. Cat is a positive role model for any geeky teenage girl. She doesn't hide from her intelligence, and uses it to succeed. Along the way, she discovers she may be the one holding herself back.
So, here's number nine about me, and the reason I could identify so much with Fat Cat. I was a chunky nerd in high school, new to the public school system as a freshman. And, my locker was across the hall from the location where some of the freshman and sophomore thugs hung out. As a chunky freshman nerd, I was an easy target for comments about my looks and my "pig nose," not comments to make an insecure freshman girl any more confident. I disliked those guys so much that, forced to ride the school bus home with that same group, I talked my best friend into walking home with me every day after school, even going so far as to walk home in a snowstorm. We did that until I was sixteen, had a job, a driver's license, and my own car. (Unfortunately, I didn't lose weight as Cat did.)
Oh, I triumphed by my senior year. I was class valedictorian, and ended up assisting some of those same boys in reading lab. But, it's a miserable experience knowing what thoughtless teens have said about you. I admire Cat Locke for using her brains to learn about herself, mentally and physically. And, I admire Robin Brande for giving us intelligent teenage girls, who are not afraid to be smart. Thanks, Robin, for Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, and, even more, for Fat Cat.
Follow-up - I originally reviewed Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman's debut novel, for the October 1, 2009 issue of Library Journal, although the book wasn't released until January 2010. In January, I snagged Beth for a blog interview, and that appeared here on Jan. 4. Sam's Club launched its book club with this book, and the book went on to become a New York Times bestseller. And, in June, I was lucky enough to meet Beth, and host her for Authors @ The Teague. If you missed Saving CeeCee Honeycutt when it was published, it's now out in paperback, perfect for giving as a gift, gifting yourself, or using for a book club. ($15 list price for paperback.)
My review is reprinted here, with permission.
Hoffman, Beth. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Pamela Dorman Bks: Viking. Jan. 2010. c.320p. ISBN 9780670021390. $25.95. F
In Hoffman's charming debut, Cecelia Rose (CeeCee) Honeycutt tells the story of her tragic life and the strong women who stepped in to save her. At age 12, CeeCee realizes her mother, flouncing around Willoughby, OH, in prom dresses and matching shoes, is crazy and the town's laughingstock. Her father is never home, and nothing is going to change so CeeCee buries herself in books as an escape. But her true liberation comes after her mother's tragic death when great-aunt Tootie sweeps CeeCee off to Savannah. There, a group of powerful, independent women offer the young girl love, laughter, and a new chance at life. Readers who enjoy strong female characters will appreciate CeeCee, a survivor despite her heartbreaking childhood, and Aunt Tootie and her friends, all of them steel magnolias. VERDICT Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best, this coming-of-age novel is sure to be a hit with the book clubs that adopted Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees. Interestingly enough, both novels share the same editor. [Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/09.]—Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ
Every year, I watch as one magazine or newspaper after another picks the "Best Books of..." And, I always disagree with their choices. Some are too boring. I've never heard of some of the titles. My patrons would never read some of those books. Where are the books that were just loved for one reason or another?
Back in July, I posted a list of my favorite books read in 2010. Four of those books made this final list of my favorite books published or read in 2010. They have nothing to do with anyone else's lists, just the books I loved this year. Even though they're my favorite books, the list might give you a few last minute Christmas ideas. And, since I'm on vacation beginning tomorrow, for the next ten days I'll be reprinting my reviews of these books, with updates as to their status. (But, don't worry. I'll still be reading and answering comments.) I may drop a new review in now and then, if I have time to read and post.
My list is topped by Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. It's hard to believe the book came out in 2010, since I read it in August, 2009 for a Library Journal review. But, this wonderful story of CeeCee, the young girl with a troubled past, who was taken into the hearts of a wonderful group of women in Savannah, came out in 2010. It made the New York Times Bestseller List, and it's now out in paperback. So, if you haven't read it yet, or know someone who loves books set in the South, you might want to pick this one up.
Robin Brande has only written two YA novels, but I loved both of them. And, I could identify with Fat Cat. When I reviewed this story of a girl who suffered in school, many of my readers wrote in to tell of their fears in school. Cat was a science whiz who changed her lifestyle for a project, and to show up the boy who was her best friend until she heard him call her fat. It's a book that spoke to my heart.
Do you know Barbara O'Neal's books? O'Neal used to write as Barbara Samuel, and her books under either name are wonderful women's novels. I hesitated to put her book, The Secret of Everything, on this list, because she has a new book coming out December 21, How to Bake a Perfect Life. What if I like it even more than The Secret of Everything? I guess it doesn't really matter. In The Secret of Everything, a tour guide who had a tragic accident, ends up in a New Mexico town where she finds the secrets of her childhood.
God Never Blinks by Regina Brett makes this list for so many reasons. This was a book that hit home after Jim died. It's written by a newspaper columnist who offer 50 lessons for life's little detours. The book has lessons for life, no matter where you are. I used memorial money to buy copies of it for all of our libraries, buying it in memory of Jim, because I thought it was so important. My mother gave a copy to the hospital library. It's a book for crisis, grief, changes in life, or, as the author says, "life's little detours."
Deborah Coonts' Wanna Get Lucky? makes the list as my favorite debut crime novel of the year. Suspense, humor, and a little romance. Perfect. Lucky O'Toole, the troubleshooter at a Las Vegas casino, has her hands full handling the body that fell from her casino's helicopter, her boss, her unusual mother, and her boyfriend, Teddie. All in a day's work. And, if I get lucky, Deborah Coonts will be able to fit a visit to Authors @ The Teague in her February calendar.
My favorite book in an on-going mystery series is Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny, who somehow manages to get better with every book. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is on leave in Quebec City in a story that describes that winter setting beautifully. While he agrees to look into a death, he also investigates the secret of Champlain's missing body and ponders a recent tragic mistake. Penny manages to juggle three storylines in her latest masterpiece.
My favorite finale to a series was Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay. It's the last of the Hunger Games books, and the rebellion against the Capitol has finally happened, with a reluctant Katniss as the symbol of rebellion. There's no short summary that can do adequate justice to this strong series. But, it was a series that attracted readers of every age and both sexes. I turned my copy over to my nephews, seventeen and twenty-five, after I finished it.
My discovery of the year was Lisa Genova. When I received her novel, Left Neglected, to read for Library Journal, I also went back to read her book, Still Alice. One book has to deal with a disorder called Left Neglect. The other tells the story of a Harvard professor who discovers she has early-onset Alzheimer's. Genova, with a PhD in neuroscience, uses her scientific background to take readers into the minds and hearts of women suffering from disorders. These two stories were beautiful, as women triumphed even in tragedy.
And, my final favorite of the year was a picture book, one that is not available as an e-book, which gives you a hint. It's a book that, unfortunately, might represent the past in a few years. I hope not. I shared this book with co-workers, family, and loaned it to my sister to take to her workplace. It's funny, while also being a little scary. It's Lane Smith's It's a Book.
I've read 175 books so far this year, but these are my top ten. Not necessarily ones that top the "Best of" lists, but my favorite books of 2010. I'm looking forward to 2011, and more book treasures.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
Splish, Splash, Splosh!: David Melling
Book: Splish, Splash, Splosh! Author: David Melling (@DavidMelling1) Pages: 22 Age Range: 2-5 Splish, Splash, Splosh! by David Melling is a medium-sized boar...
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.