Friday, March 24, 2017

Winners and Award Nominee Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Courtney W. of Loceya Spring, AL won City of the Lost. Lisa G. from Pensacola Beach, FL won The Widower's Wife. The books will go out today.

This week, I'm giving away two books that feature journalists. The books were award nominees. Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin is up for the Edgar for Best Paperback Original of 2016. Ellie Stone's holiday in the Adirondacks is interrupted by murder. Two men plummeted to their deaths on the rocks near a dangerous diving pool. But, the police soon learn the men didn't know each other. Ellie, a reporter and amateur sleuth, is caught up in an investigation involving free-love intellectuals, charismatic evangelicals, and old grudges.




Hester Young's The Gates of Evangeline was a nominee for debut novel from the International Thriller Writers. The contemporary Gothic novel takes Charlotte "Charlie" Cates to a Louisiana plantation. After a dream shows a young boy asking for her help, she accepts a job writing the story of a boy who disappeared years earlier. She's hoping she can prevent the death of a missing child while she's there. She uncovers secrets of love, betrayal and murder, secrets that could put her in danger.

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 line should read either "Win Heart of Stone" or "Win The Gates of Evangeline." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 30 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading today? I'm enjoying the first Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery, Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany. I like the sleuth's voice. Gemma Doyle moved from England to West London, Massachusetts where she's part owner of Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. It's a fun story.

So, I want to catch up. Are you slogging through an on-going book? Or, have you been racing through something entertaining? Let us know!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

The disease of the year must be ovarian cancer. Last month, I reviewed The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth. Hepworth's novel focused as much on the daughter as the dying mother, because the daughter suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder. There's a dying mother in Lauren Grodstein's Our Short History, again dying of ovarian cancer. But, the voice! Oh, the voice of Karen Neulander is beautiful and ferocious and demanding. It's perfect for the novel.

Karen Neulander is dying of Stage IV ovarian cancer. She hopes to have at least two more years with her six-year-old son, Jacob. As a single mother, it's just been her and Jake against the world, her beautiful son. She has her plans made. He'll move from their home in New York City to the Seattle area where he'll live with her sister Allison's family. And, she takes him there for the summer so he can make himself at home. It's there that she starts to write a book to Jacob to tell him about her feelings for him, her love and her hopes. And, she tells Jake about her family, her job as a campaign manager for Democratic candidates. And, then Jake asks to meet his father.

When Jake's father, Dave, learned Karen was pregnant, he insisted he never wanted to be a father, and even questioned whether the baby was his. Karen left, and never told him she kept the baby. Now, when she contacts Dave, he's ecstatic to learn he has a son, and wants to meet him. Jake and Dave bond immediately, and it shakes Karen. Now, on top of worrying that she's dying and leaving Jacob, she's worried her ex will try to claim their son.

It's all on the pages. Karen's voice is the voice of a mother pouring out her life and her soul to the son she knows she won't see grow. She knows he'll be at least eighteen when he reads the story she leaves behind. All of her feelings for Jake and her anger at Dave are on the pages, "My Jackson Pollack of feelings (rage, heartbreak, longing, sadness, patience, grief, sweetness, murder." The entire book is in Karen's voice as she writes her life, explaining herself to a Jake that she admits she won't even know when he reads it. She won't know what he looks like as an adult, where he'll go to school, what sports he'll play. Grodstein gives voice to a mother's love for her son. And, when her sister Allison deals with her problems with her older children, and comes to rescue Karen in a time of need, they fall asleep side-by-side. "We fell asleep pondering the condition of being mothers, which was, of course, the condition of helping the people you love most in the world leave you."

In Our Short History, a dying Karen Neulander writes a love letter to her son. There's heartbreak here, but the love is so strong, it outweighs the heartbreak. Grodstein has created a mother's voice in her novel, and it's a strong voice of love and anger and fear. This is a book for book clubs, a book you'll remember.

Lauren Grodstein's website is www.laurengrodstein.com

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein. Algonquin Books. 2017. ISBN 9781616206222 (hardcover), 352p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry

Anne Perry's Murder on the Serpentine wraps up the story of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt as we know it. However, since she's going to pick up the story of the next generation, I'm sure we'll see the couple again. Even so, this mystery is an excellent finale to this storyline.

Thomas is now commander of Special Branch, the part of Her Majesty's government that deals with threats to the safety of the nation. But, he's not prepared to be summoned to meet with Queen Victoria herself. The aging Queen is troubled and concerned for her son's reputation. She's been on the throne for sixty-two years, and knows it's almost time for Edward to take over. She wants Thomas to personally look into the background of Alan Kendrick, a new friend of the prince's who seems to have a great deal of influence over him. And, she wonders if Alan Kendrick knows more than he should about the death of an advisor to the Queen.

Sir John Halberd's body was discovered in the Serpentine, a shallow river that runs through Hyde Park. Rumors swirl as Society wonders what he was doing there at night. Now, Thomas must work himself into the right places to hear the gossip, without informing Charlotte of his interest. After nineteen years of marriage, the couple has been used to working together. But, Thomas' new position, and this assignment from the Queen, means he can't tell his wife what he's doing. For the first time, Charlotte feels lost and unneeded.

As Thomas struggles with the most important case of his life, one that could influence all of England, readers witness a good man troubled by his conscience, and his need to take actions that sometimes bother him. It's a story of power, and how it can be used and misused. At the same time, Charlotte's emotions and actions are important to the story. Perry has brought the couple together, summarizing their years and their cases, in this fascinating story. And, the finale is an ending appropriate for Thomas and Charlotte Pitt's storyline.

Anne Perry's website is www.anneperry.co.uk

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry. Ballantine Books. 9780425284988 (hardcover), 288p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Recap - Anne Perry at The Poisoned Pen

I had never heard Anne Perry, so I was lucky enough to see her at The Poisoned Pen when I was in Arizona. I really liked her latest Thomas and Charlotte Pitt book, Murder on the Serpentine. Here's the recap of the program.




Thomas Pitt, who is now commander of Special Branch, is asked to take a special assignment by Queen Victoria, who is in the last years of her reign. The assignment puts Thomas in a difficult position. He can’t go home and talk to Charlotte about the case now that he’s head of the anti-terrorist force. Charlotte has to do a work around with Emily in order to find out information. Perry said Emily is made for deviousness. Lady Vespasia is currently on her honeymoon with Victor, so they are not available for advice or assistance. Perry deliberately sent Victor out of the country so Pitt had to work on the investigation by himself.

Perry said this book poses a moral question, whether you will do something repugnant to you to fulfill a duty – your job – going against your better nature to save the country. It’s something Thomas would rather not do, but must. The danger is very real.

After Prince Albert’s death, there was a great deal of tension between Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. Victoria has always been fun, but Albert was a prude. While at Cambridge, Bertie had a fling with an actress. Although Albert was sick, he went to scold him despite the terrible weather, and he died soon after. Victoria blamed Edward for his father’s death. She wouldn’t let him participate in government until just before she died. However, the Germans were fond of him and his libertine behavior.

Edward had a penchant for friends who were not quite appropriate, not just women. In Murder on the Serpentine, Victoria was concerned about one of Bertie’s new friends. She asked a trusted friend to look into the man’s background, and her friend ended up dead. She was concerned she had sent him to his death. Was it an accident or murder? Here’s a woman who has outlived most of her the people she loved. She’s fragile. She’s been the Queen since she was nineteen. Can Thomas tell her the truth? She asks to see him, and personally asks him to investigate.

The book also deals with armaments, and the fear of a second Boer War.

And, there’s some of the bitchiest dialogue between women in some of Perry’s scenes. It’s cruel, but said with a smile. Perry said there’s elegance in the façade of British society.

Asked if she was writing anything else, Perry said she wants to write an international thriller set in the 1930s in Berlin. There’s so many things she’d like to do. She’s doing the final edit of the Daniel story. Daniel is the son of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The book is set in 1910. Perry said she can only work all the time. She can’t do any more. She does her best work in the morning when she’s sharpest. Afternoon work isn’t as good.

Perry and Peters discussed Anne Perry’s recent move from Scotland to West Hollywood. She said she couldn’t take her all of her books. She only took thirty, most of them poetry. She loves Dante’s Inferno. He said, “You’re not punished for your sins, but by your sins.” There was a lengthy discussion of the alphabet when she mentioned a history of the alphabet book. If language isn’t written, that civilization is lost.

There were conversations about World War II, language, laundry, Princess Margaret, war memorials, the RAF and British pilots in the United States. Barbara Peters said the conversations at The Poisoned Pen often contain lengthy digressions because they can’t talk about the books for more than five or ten minutes because people haven’t yet read it. Anne Perry said she loves to talk with the readers, though, and take their questions. She likes to know what readers are thinking. She writes to communicate stories to the readers.

Peters said she often asks authors who their readers are. Who is their audience? When she said Anne Perry knows her readers, Perry said, “A lot of retired English teachers and librarians.” Also clergy and nuns.


Anne Perry said she’s editing an anthology for Mystery Writers of America. She picked the topic of odd couples – detectives who pair up with someone in an unlikely pairing. For instance, Charles Todd wrote about Ian Rutledge and his ghost.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tucson Festival of Books

My trip to Arizona was all about books. I flew to Phoenix with my friend, Donna, and then we drove down to Tucson. The book festival means friends. We had a birthday dinner with a friend and her guests on Friday night. Saturday, we weren't on the grounds for ten minutes when I ran into a former co-worker and her husband. It's so good to see Arizona friends. Oh, and just to let you know, we left Indiana just before the cold weather settled in, and arrived in Arizona to enjoy sunshine and 90 degrees. Beautiful! And, very much appreciated in March.

While Donna went to a variety of panels, most of the ones I attended were in the mystery field. Some of the panels seemed a little odd, and the panelists struggled to discover what they had in common, other than they wrote mysteries or thrillers. I went to the first one to see a writer who was going to be on the panel I moderated on Sunday.

Darynda Jones, Hester Young, John Sandford

What do Darynda Jones, Hester Young and John Sandford have in common? Well, Jones and Young have some paranormal elements in their books, but Sandford doesn't. He was an excellent storyteller, though.

The moderator of that panel was Lee Harris. She hasn't had a Christine Bennett book out in eleven years, but I read every one of them.

Lee Harris

Following that panel, I headed off to hear Donis Casey and Andrew Gross talk about family and the influence on their books.

Donis Casey
Andrew Gross
Because Terry Shames and I both marked her appearance for the wrong day, we were able to find time to go to lunch together.

Terry Shames
I was able to catch Craig Johnson just as he took his place at Clues Unlimited's booth.

With Craig Johnson
Then Cara Black was kind enough to spend time talking to me about sites I should see in Paris.
With Cara Black

On Sunday, I spent time talking to friends at Desert Sleuths, Sisters in Crime. I went to see Terry Shames and Andrew Gross on a panel. Donna and I caught up with each other when we went to a ticketed event, Lisa See, Christina Baker Kline, and Martha Hall Kelly. A search for gelato led to other friends from Glendale, and I sat with them for a while before heading off to moderate a panel.

I moderated a panel called Deadly Debuts with Gina Wohlsdorf and Hester Young. I'm sure it wasn't easy for them with only two people on a panel.

Hester Young, me, Gina Wohlsdorf

My panel was the last one I attended, but I hurried to another room where I stood in line with Donna to have Craig Johnson sign a book. And, I took a picture of her with Longmire star A. Martinez and Craig.

A. Martinez, Donna, Craig Johnson

Terrific book festival. It's changed some while I was away from Arizona for the last four years. But, it's still wonderful. The organizers do an excellent job, and it runs smoothly.

From Tucson, we headed to Scottsdale for the next few days. More pictures soon!



Saturday, March 18, 2017

What Are You Reading?

Between laundry, taking my car in for servicing, tons of emails at work, and, of course, basketball, I haven't had time to catch up with my blog yet. There will soon be pictures from the Tucson Festival of Books, and coverage of a couple events at The Poisoned Pen. But, today, it's all about you.

What have you been reading in the last week? Let's catch up on your reading instead of mine. I'd love to know what books you're listening to or reading.