Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Darkness on the Edge of Town

I booktalked Darkness on the Edge of Town by J. Carson Black to my staff on Tuesday. This led to quite a lot of discussion about teens and the internet, and then to teens as risk takers. It was a terrific discussion flowing from a review of a book that only I had read.

This is the first in a series featuring Laura Cardinal, Arizona Dept. of Public Safety investigator. Laura is haunted by memories of an eighteen-year-old crime even as she searches for the killer of a young teenage girl in Bisbee, AZ. Despite the opposition and opinions of other officers, she starts to look for a sexual predator with internet connections. Anyone who is fascinated by internet crime of any sort, such as those who enjoyed Greg Iles' Mortal Game, will find this novel intriguing.

J. Carson Black's web site is:

Friday, March 18, 2005

Jay Leno's joke

A survey was taken asking people what they would do if they were given 1000 extra minutes in a day. Their answers?

Women said they would read a book.

Men said they would have sex.

See, men are smarter.

After they have sex, they still have 998 minutes to read a book.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

From: Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

From: Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

"I am going to walk to the library, because my church is too far away to go to on foot...It was my mother who taught me how to wander through the racks of the Belvedere-Tiburon library, and wander through a book, letting it take me where it would. She and my father took me to the library every week when I was little. One of her best friends was the librarian. They both taught me that if you insist on having a destination when you come into a library, you're shortchanging yourself. They read to live, the way they also went to the beach, or ate delicious food. Reading was like breathing fresh ocean air, or eating tomatoes from old man Grbac's garden. My parents, and librarians along the way, taught me about the space between words; about the margins, where so many juicy moments of life and spirit and friendship could be found. In a library, you can find small miracles and truth, and you might find something that will make you laugh so hard that you will get shushed, in the friendliest way. I have found sanctuary in libraries my whole life, and there is sanctuary there now, from the war, from the storms of our families and our own minds. Libraries are like mountains or meadows or creeks: sacred space. So this afternoon, I'll walk to the library."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Amazing Gracie

I don't read much nonfiction, and everyone who knows me, knows I am a huge dog lover. For this reason, I almost always read books that I consider "safe." That is, books where the dog doesn't die. But....Amazing Gracie is a wonderful story about a deaf, partially blind, albino Great Dane. Her story is told with humor by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff, and whimsically illustrated by Meg Cundiff. This book, written sensitively, but without melodrama, will make you laugh, rejoice, cheer and cry. It is also the story of the beginnings of the wonderful bakery for dogs, Three Dog Bakery. Humorous parts include Gracie's first day in her new home, Dan's dress shoes, and what the dogs were possibly thinking at stategic moments in the story. Since this is a book about Gracie's entire life, it naturally includes the end of her shining light. Be prepared to cry. This is a book that will last in my mind for a long time!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Prodigal Summer

Just finished Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer from 2000. I am a great fan of her work and can't believe it took me so long finally read this. Perhaps child rearing is the culprit.

This book falls into the category I love the best. Character driven fiction where they all have their own story and by the end they have intertwined and affected each other in strange and powerful ways. It is like a puzzle that reveals itself slowly. Or a tapestry being woven. How about a map unfolding to show the big picture. Ok, enough of that. But this book is beautifully written.

It is broken in to three points of view that present their chapters one at a time. As each chapter started I was certain that I liked this storyline the best...until the next chapter. Predators - deals with Deanna, a ranger in the National Forest. More at home with nature and solitude than with anything else - until visitors show up. She surprises herself with the choices she makes. Moth Love - introduces Lusa, a brilliant academic, who changed her entire life when she married a farmer with a large (invasive) family. What will she do when her life takes another unexpected turn? Old Chestnuts - describes Garnett and Nannie - neighbors and old rivals from way back. There is more to their story and their feud than even they know.

Each chapter is filled with biological facts so interesting and pertinent to the stories that they are seamless additions. I really learned a lot from reading this book.
It is a book about choices, fear, family, love, watching and waiting.

I'm glad I waited for this book (even if it was for some unknown reason). This book earns my first star rating in 2005.

Lady Luck's Map of Vegas

I'm always so impressed with Barbara Samuel's novels, and Lady Luck's Map of Vegas is no exception. Samuel, who lives in Colorado, writes about women in the western United States who may have had family problems, but resolve them, or find a way to live with them, by the end of the books. I checked out her website at, and she has also written a number of romances, some under the name Ruth Wind. But her women's novels are the ones that impress me - No Place Like Home, A Piece of Heaven, The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, and, now Lady Luck's Map of Vegas.

Forty-year-old India is a successful web designer with a large circle of friends. She also has an Irish lover that she sees monthly, Eldora, her widowed mother who can be demanding, and a schizophrenic twin sister who disappers into the unknown periodically. And, she's pregnant.

When India's mother wants to take Route 66 from Colorado Springs to Las Vegas, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her, fleeing the truth and her own doubts about her pregnancy. As they hunt for Gypsy, India's sister, along the route, Eldora reaches into her own past to reveal secrets she has covered up about her life.

Once again, Barbara Samuel has written of two women coming to terms with the results of their own actions. It's a strong, beautiful novel.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Al Capone Does My Shirts

No, I'm not mental and my dry cleaners name is Sam...

Just finished reading this Juvie chapter book by Gennifer Choldenko and I really liked it. A 12 year old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz in 1935 when his dad gets a job as one of the guards. You can see the Warden's daughter coming a mile off and you just hope the other kids don't let her get them into trouble. No such luck, she hatches the laundry scheme that gives us the title.

A touching and compelling componant of the book: Moose's older sister is autistic. Endnotes speak to the rarity of treatment for the condition at that time.

I thought it was especially interesting that families actually did live on the island in the 20s and 30s because the warden needed the guards close in case of emergency. It is a fast read with some terrific character relationships.


From Library Journal, March 1, 2005, p. 15.

"It was obvious to me then, and has become only more so as the years go by, that libraries are the sexiest places, and librarians the sexiest people, on earth."

John V. Fleming, Louis W. Fairchild '24 professior of English, Princeton University, Daily Princetonian, January 17, 2005.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Elizabeth Gunn

Elizabeth Gunn has a new book out called Crazy Eights. I have enjoyed all of her Jake Hines mysteries which are set in Rutherford, Minnesota. I had originally written to her when I read an early one. Since then, I've written every few years, but didn't know she lived in Tucson now.

Here are the emails we exchanged.

Thanks so much for your kind note. I love being a writer, but I suffer somewhat from the isolation it enforces, so it gives me a great boost to hear from readers.
I hope you can get to Scottsdale, but your remarks lead me to ask, would you like to have me do a talk/reading in your library? I'm doing several others with this book, and could easily come to yours for either afternoon or evening, whichever would work best.
Hope to see you soon,

Dear Elizabeth -

Every couple years I write when I finish another one of your books. The last time I wrote I was a library branch manager in Ft. Myers, FL. I'm now a library branch manager in Glendale, AZ, so I was very surprised to pick up Crazy Eights and see that you lived in Tucson. I know that you're going to be appearing at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale. It's not always easy for me to get there with my work schedule, but I hope I can make it the night you're there. I'd love to get a chance to meet you, since I've enjoyed all the Jake Hines mysteries.

I enjoy all the police procedural in your books, and I love Jake. But, I think I keep coming back to your stories because of the characters and their development. I love Jake & Trudy together, and I hope everything continues to work out for them. And I'm happy Jake and Maxine found each other. Please keep the character development going. Sometimes it's just important to us fans to watch our favorite characters' lives.

Thanks again for a terrific book.

Lesa Holstine

Friday, March 04, 2005

Brown Bag Luncheon Books

I'm doing a Brown Bag Luncheon next Wednesday to discuss Sleepers, books that people might have missed. Here's the list of the 15 books.

The Last Song Dogs - Sinclair Browning (1st in a
mystery series set in Arizona. Detective is a female
rancher and P.I.)

Storm Front - Jim Butcher (lst in series about Harry
Dresden, a wizard in Chicago - only wizard in the
Yellow Pages. Terrific series about Good v. Evil.)

King Con - Stephen J. Cannell (The King of the Con Men
pulls off one last scam to avenge his cousin's

Fast Women - Jennifer Crusie (Humor, romance and
murder as a divorcee who desperately needs a job tries
to organize her boss at a detective agency.)

The Persian Pickle Club - Sandra Dallas (In the 1930s
in Kansas, a quilting club harbor a dangerous secret.)

The Merchant's House - Kate Ellis (1st in a British
mystery series in which Detective Sergeant and amateur
archaeologist Wesley Peterson finds a strange
relationship between his case of an unidentified boy
and a nearby dig where two skeletons have been

Home to Harmony - Philip Gulley (A Quaker minister's
humorous tales of life in a small Midwestern town.)

Murder in Alphabet City - Lee Harris (2nd in a mystery
series featuring NYPD Jane Bauer and her cold case

The Blue Edge of Midnight - Jonathon King (1st in a
mystery series featuring an ex-cop in the Everglades.)

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons - Lorna Landvik (Five
women in small-town Minnesota are linked together by
their book club for 40 years.)

Snow Treasure - Marie McSwigan - Possibly based on a
true story, in 1940 a group of Norwegian children
smuggle gold out of the country, under the noses of
the Nazis.

Julie and Romeo - Jeanne Ray - The story of two rival
florist families and the chaos that results when older
members of the families fall in love.

No Place Like Home - Barbara Samuel - Twenty-one years
after she fled her family home, Jewel Sabatino brings
her best friend home to Colorado, when he's too sick
to care for himself.

Sweet Hush - Deborah Smith - Hush McGillen's life as a
successful businesswoman is turned upside down when
her son brings home his new bride, the daughter of the
President of the United States, followed by a
deep-cover agent sent to rescue her.

Monkeewrench - P.J. Tracy - An odd software company
finds they're in trouble with the law when someone
imitates their latest computer game to kill people.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Book Quote

"Books are doors that lead into the street," Patricia would tell her.
"You learn from them, educate yourself, travel, dream, imagine, live
other lives, multiply your own life a thousand times. Where can you
more for your money. Mexicanita? And they also keep all sorts of bad
things at bay: ghosts, loneliness, shit like that. Sometimes I wonder
how you people that don't read figure out how to live your lives."

and from the same book,

" It's not a question of just reading books,'s also the physical
pleasure and inner peace of holding them in your hands.'

- Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Shape of Illusion

Sometime around 1975, I read a book called Shape of Illusion by William E. Barrett (author of Lilies of the Field). I had forgotten about the book until someone asked on Fiction_L for it. I remembered the plot vividly, and that the author's name began with B because I used to shelve it as a page. Funny, I first thought of another book by the author - The Left Hand of God, which I also read. But Shape of Illusion was a powerful story. The following is the plot as summarized on

"In a painting depicting Jesus, just after Pilot has
sentenced him to death, each viewer sees himself or
herself as a hateful member of the mob crying for
Christ's blood. The painting has been hidden for
hundreds of years. Now, found by a New York gallery
owner, it shakes the few he dares show it to, to their
foundations. But this isn't the story of the painting,
as much as the twentieth century artist who travels to
Germany to piece together the story of the painting.
Martin Heidegger the German Philosopher talks about
art in terms of a temple where the gods have fled, and
the true artist being someone who can bring them back.
Barrett is a master at creating a sense of the
spiritual in his readers. In Shape of Illusion he
brings life into the temple of the human spirit. Don't
get me wrong. Although Barrett was Catholic and his
books reflect that, there is no secularism in this
story. In fact the protagonist is a agnostic and his
beliefs don't change. But his sense of something
powerful outside himself does. And the way he figures
out he's met the girl he's supposed to marry is worth
the read alone."