Sunday, December 31, 2006

Books read during December

I started out 2006 with a mystery, Blaize Clement's Curiousity Killed the Cat Sitter. The last mystery, and book, of the year was A Safe Place for Dying by Jack Fredrickson. During 2006, I read 154 books, most of them good ones, or I wouldn't have finished them.

My New Year's wish for you for 2007 is a happy, healthy New Year with lots of good books!

Here's my last list of books read for 2006, the books read during December.

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers by Troy Cook - In the book nominated for a Lefty Award for best humorous mystery, Tara robs banks with her dad, Wyatt, until she meets a sheriff's son.

Flesh and Blood by Michael Lister - John Jordan anthology about the ex-cop, recovering alcoholic prison chaplain, and the puzzles he solves.

My Secret by Frank Warren - Postcards sharing secrets from teens and college students.

A Whole New Life by Betsy Thornton - When Jackson Williams is arrested after his wife dies in a car accident, friends rally around.

Always Say Goodbye - Stuart M. Kaminsky - Five years later, Lew Fonesca returns to Chicago to find his wife's killer.

Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues - Robert Fate - ARC of the May publication in which Kristen Van Dijk, now a P.I., investigates the kidnapping of a Texas heiress.

Blown Away by Shane Gericke - Debut for rookie cop Emily Thompson, the target of a serial killer who knows way too much about her childhood.

Two for the Road by Jane & Michael Stern - The Gourmet columnists' careers eating roadfood.

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas - ARC of an April publication in which Rennie Stroud looks back at her early teen years, living next to a Japanese relocation camp during World War II, and the disruption that resulted. This will probably be one of my Best of 2007.

A Safe Place for Dying by Jack Fredrickson - Dek Ekstrom investigates extortion when his ex-wife's home is threatened in a secure, wealthy enclave.

Good Reading!

A Safe Place for Dying

Crystal Waters is a secure enclave in the Chicago area, in Jack Fredrickson's debut mystery. Dek Elstrom is trying to rebuild his life after his divorce and forceful expulsion from Crystal Waters, so he enjoys watching the news on TV when one of the mansions there explodes. However, when two representatives of Crystal Waters show up, begging for his help, he realizes his ex-wife's home might be in danger.

Elstrom ran a successful information service that fell apart at the same time as his marriage. Now, he lives in a turret built by his grandfather, and fights the government in Rivertown, a town that made a historical building of the turret. The money offered to investigate the explosion and an extortion letter is welcome to Dek, but he's ill-prepared for the consequences.

A Safe Place for Dying is a compelling story, as the reader follows Dek's painstaking investigation. Dek is a likeable, eccentric character, but a little too trusting for the job he's given. The results of this case may slightly alter Dek Elstrom's trusting nature when he reappears in Fredrickson's next case. I'm looking forward to more about Dek, his ex-wife, and his friend, Leo.

Jack Fredrickson's website is

A Safe Place for Dying by Jack Fredrickson. Thomas Dunne Books, ©2006, ISBN 9780312351687 (hardcover), 296p.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

John Donne

Last night, the world hanged Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq. I know he was a brutal dictator, responsible for so many deaths. However, Jim and I both turned to John Donne for consolation because neither of us believe murder is ever justified.

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

John Donne, Devotions, 1623.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Favorites of 2006

There are all kinds of "Best Books of 2006" lists out there right now, from the New York Times to all kinds of blogs. If you're interested in crime novels, check out the lists at I'm one of the reviewers who has a list on Bookbitch's site.

This list is a little different. These are my favorite books of 2006, the ones that surprised or moved me, or stood out, in my opinion. I read a number of very good books this year. This list includes ones that I continually mentioned to my friends and my staff. I talked about some of these so often it drove Jim, my husband, crazy. These are the ones I couldn't stop talking about.

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish - 5 women honor a dead friend's request to scatter her ashes around the country, as they travel in a celebratory funeral group.

The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley - The historian examines Hurricane Katrina and its affect on New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, pointing fingers of blame.

Charmed to Death by Shirley Damsgaard - I recommend the entire series, but this second one in the Ophelia and Abby series stands out, as Ophelia must come to terms with her powers as a witch.

Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy - The Minneapolis detectives return to look for a cop killer who built snowmen around the corpses.

The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery - The true story of the author's pet pig that grew to 750 pounds and thirteen years of age, surrounded by love.

Baby Shark by Robert Fate - When a pool hustler is murdered, and his daughter beaten and raped, she vows revenge on the biker gang. This debut novel is a made-for-movies, stand up and cheer book with a dynamite heroine.

Playing God by Kate Flora - Joe Burgess, "the meanest cop in Portland" (Maine), is introduced as he investigates the murder of a hated doctor.

Still Life by Louise Penny - A traditional mystery, introducing Chief Inspector Armand Gamache investigating the suspicious death of an elderly woman in a small town in Quebec province.

And, a sneak peek into 2007. I just read the ARC of Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas so I could review it for Library Journal. It doesn't come out until April. Pre-order this book, or, as soon as your library has it on order, place it on reserve. This is a powerful, provocative novel about a young girl coming of age during World War II, in a small Colorado town next to a Japanese internment camp. Rennie Stroud, and her wonderful parents, Loyal and Mary, are strong characters that will stay with you. There's one brief scene, so powerful, that it gave me goosebumps. Watch for Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas, and a review here in April.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

For Daniel

On Christmas, I talked with my sister, Linda. Naturally, at this time of year, we talked about gifts we received. But, Linda and I also talked about this blog, and her son, Danny, who is a reader. Almost everyone in my extended family reads, and reads alot. We're all eclectic readers, dipping into a little of everything. Linda said that Danny reads a little of everything, and she bought him a book and encouraged him to keep track of the books he's read. In recent years, I've kept track of all the books I've read. I also own the log that my Grandmother, Danny's Greatgrandmother, kept of the books she read.

Danny's in junior high, and Linda said he's seriously thinking about being a librarian. She also laughed and said she thinks it's because he thinks he could read all day.

Daniel, you and the other members of our family have already received a great gift. The following quote is for you.

"The great gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites. It gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination." - Elizabeth Hardwick

Friday, December 22, 2006

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Yesterday, on her website, J.K. Rowling announced the title of the seventh and final Harry Potter book. It's not yet finished, and doesn't have a scheduled publication date, but the title will be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I don't think J.K. Rowling will be the only one mourning the end of the beloved Harry Potter series.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Two for the Road

If you like good food, the latest book by the writers for Gourmet magazine, Jane & Michael Stern, will leave you drooling. Two for the Road is subtitled, "Our Love Affair with American Food," and it truly is a love affair.

In the mid-1970s, Jane & Michael Stern hit the road to review restaurants by travelling the back roads of the country. They intended to hit small towns with unlikely restaurants. They enjoyed good food, eating and sharing food connections with strangers. If you're tempted to go with them, you'll back away from that temptation when you discover they research roadfood by eating twelve meals a day.

This enjoyable book includes recipes, a number of interesting characters and fun road stories. There's even a chapter about inedible food. This is an enticing book, beckoning the reader to hit the road looking for good restaurant cooking, anything but chain restaurants. I'm just not ready to eat twelve meals a day.

Jane & Michael Stern's website is

Two for the Road by Jane & Michael Stern. Houghton Mifflin Company, ©2006, ISBN 9780618329632 (hardcover), 292p.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Blown Away

Shane Gericke's debut thriller actually did blow me away. The tension starts building with the opening chapter, and never lets up. When a killer forces a 911 operator to listen as he kills a cop, the reader knows it will be nonstop action.

Emily Thompson has had a tough life. Her beloved parents were victims of a hit-and-run driver on her birthday. On her thirtieth birthday, her husband died when his car was hit by rocks from an overpass. Now, seventy-two hours before her fortieth birthday, the rookie cop is targeted by a serial killer who enjoys playing games. And those games resemble ones that Emily and her parents played on Saturday nights. Someone knows too much about Emily's life.

Gericke introduces Emily as a slightly naive cop, forced to grow up quickly in seventy-two hours. When she and the police task force realize the killer is using a countdown toward a meeting with her, Emily doesn't know who to trust. All she knows is that the killer knows her well.

Gericke's debut marks a strong beginning in a new series of thrillers. I'll be waiting for the next one, Cut to the Bone, due out in 2007.

Shane Gericke's website is

Blown Away by Shane Gericke. Pinnacle Books, ©2006, ISBN 0786018135 (paperback), 329p.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Nominees for the Left Coast Crime 2007 Lefty Awards

Today, on DorothyL, author Meg Chittenden announced the nominees for the Left Coast Crime 2007 Lefty Awards for Best Humorous Mystery, in reverse alphabetical order by author.

Murder Unleashed, by Elaine Viets, NAL

Go to Helena Handbasket, by Donna Moore, Point Blank

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers, by Troy Cook, Capital Crimes Press

Monkey Man, by Steve Brewer, Intrigue Press

No Nest for the Wicket, Donna Andrews, St. Martins.

Congratulations to all of the nominees, particularly Troy Cook whose book, 47 Rules of Highly Effective Robbers was reviewed here on December 1. Congratulations, Troy!

Troy Cook's website is

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers by Troy Cook. Capital Crime Press, ©2006, ISBN 0977627667 (paperback), 282p.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues

Baby Shark is back in Robert Fate's second novel, and once again, the body count is high, the action non-stop, and the story makes your pulse race. Kristin Van Dijk (Baby Shark) is now a private investigator, a partner in Otis Millett's agency. What are the two partners doing now? Otis sums it up when he says, "Well, take a hopped up heiress, a couple stiffs, stir some speed into the mix along with a hundred G's in cash, and I'd say you're gonna come up with something nasty for sure."

Kristin and Millett thought they were rescuing a kidnapped heiress. Throw in drugs, a crime boss, a streetsmart waitress, and a sexy cop. Set the whole story down in 1950's Ft. Worth/Dallas, and you have a successful suspense novel. Otis insists, "We ain't killed nobody who didn't come out here set on killing us." Kristin Van Dijk and Otis Millett are just waiting for the right actors to play them in an action film. Fate has another winner on his hands. Hollywood, are you reading this?

Robert Fate's website is

Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues by Robert Fate. Capital Crime Press, ©2007 ISBN 9780977627622 (paperback), 269p. (May publication)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Your favorite gift

There's a questionnaire going around the internet right now, and some of the blogs, called Holiday Get To Know Your Friends. It's twenty-five questions about how you celebrate/celebrated Christmas. It's fun, and you do get to know people a little better from their stories about what they remember and cherish from Christmas.

However, I have an added question. What was your favorite book related gift? Even if you don't email an answer to the blog, think about it. Do you remember the person who gave it to you? Did the gift have a special meaning?

I have two gifts that my mother gave me, at separate times, that have special meaning.

One year, she gave me a pillow she made. It had a verse on it, changed a little for the situation, "Richer than you I'll always be, I had a Father who read to me." The picture on the pillow was of my father reading to me when I was about a year old. I sobbed my heart out when I opened it. My father's been dead now for over ten years, but both my parents shared their love of books and reading with me.

Last year, she gave me another gift that made me cry. When I was in first grade, I made all A's on my report card. My father was so proud of me that he bought me my first "adult" book - Little Women. It was a few years until I was able to read it, but my FATHER bought me a book. Last Christmas, my mother gave me a little box. In the box was a bookmark. The box was lined with endpapers. It was endpapers from an early edition of Little Women.

My mother is one of those people who knows how to give gifts. You're lucky if you have someone in your life who knows your love of books, and shares that love, and a love of memories.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Always Say Goodbye

In the fifth book in the Lou Fonesca mystery series, Stuart M. Kaminsky takes the process server back to Chicago to look for his wife's killer.

Four years earlier, Fonesca fled, ending up in Sarasota, Florida, after Catherine was killed by a hit-and-run driver. He's been in therapy, made a few friends, but remains a loner, living his depression. Now, it's time to seek the person who killed Catherine. He said goodbye to the few friends from previous books, and flew to Chicago, where the reader meets Fonesca's sister, Angela, and brother-in-law, Franco. Franco, a tow-truck driver, threatens to take over the story with his likeable character, but it remains the story of Lou's loss and search for answers.

Fonesca's journey into the past introduces a new cast of characters, Lou's family, former friends at work, and a Greek family that feels threatened by the search. Did Catherine's death have anything to do with a case she was working on as a prosecuting attorney? Lou's search leaves bodies in his wake, as someone tries to stop him from finding answers.

Kaminsky brings Lou Fonesca full circle in this story. The lonely man realizes there were "people and numbers he had fled in Chicago, and people who had squeezed or pushed through the door into his life in Sarasota." There might be sequels, and I hope there are, because I like Fonesca and his friends. But, once Fonesca has found the answer to his wife's death, is there a reason for a sequel?

Stuart M. Kaminsky's website is

Always Say Goodbye by Stuart M. Kaminsky. Forge, ©2006, ISBN 0765316013 (hardcover), 272p.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Whole New Life

When Jenny Williams died in car accident on an Arizona mountain road, her death was a catalyst for change in a number of lives in Betsy Thornton's latest mystery.

Jackson Williams, Jenny's husband, was the first to realize his life would change, first when he was notified of her death, and then when he was arrested for her murder. Fortunately, his neighbor, Ruth Norton, rallied to his defense. She put aside her own lonely life, following her divorce, and met with Stuart Ross, Jackson's defense attorney. Ruth's young son, Tyler, is scared that he might have seen someone the night of Jenny's death. Then there's Mara Harvey, Jackson's twenty-one-year-old daughter who shows up after her mother's death, looking for the father she never knew. Even Ross and the private detective he hires find their lives changing as a result of this case. And, how does the Magician fit in? He's a homeless man with mental problems, supported by community activists.

Thornton writes an intriguing story of the effects of a tragic death on a small group of needy people.

Betsy Thornton's website is

A Whole New Life by Betsy Thornton. Thomas Dunne Books, ©2006, ISBN 0312357591 (hardcover), 277p.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Secret

Frank Warren follows up the success of PostSecret with a new collection, My Secret. PostSecret was a collection of postcards sent anonymously to Warren, revealing secrets that people hadn't shared. In two years, there were over 50,000 secrets on decorated postcards. According to Warren, those cards sent by young people stood out for their loneliness and heartbreaking secrets. My Secret is a small collection of postcards sent by teens and college students, never-before-seen cards from around the world.

I found both these collections to be emotional and moving. These two books are some of the most popular books amongst the library staff in our system, as they are passed from person to person. The reader can't help but be moved by the raw emotions expressed on some of these postcards.

Warren had a connection with the suicide helpline, 1-800-SUICIDE. According to cards, many people have connected to that number because of PostSecret. The forward to My Secret expresses thanks from the founder, a man who lost his wife, and eight years after founding the helpline, was in danger of losing that as well due to federal cuts. The PostSecret supporters came through with money to keep the suicide helpline alive. It's a wonderful connection in light of the troubled postcards you can read in both of these books, and the ongoing blog.

Frank Warren's website is

My Secret by Frank Warren. Regan, ©2006, ISBN 0061196681 (hardcover).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Flesh and Blood

Mystery writer Margaret Coel referred to Michael Lister's John Jordan character as sort of like Father Brown or a spiritual Sherlock Holmes. Jordan, an ex-cop, recovering alcoholic is the Chaplain at Potter Correctional Institution, "the meanest prison in Florida's Panhandle." He's not perfect. He's an introspective man, who thinks of himself as "still alone, still addicted, still living among the least and lowest." He sometimes falls off the wagon, and he's prone to depression.

However, Jordan finds himself seeking answers to impossible puzzles, mysteries with a religious theme. Is the young black girl who appeared following Katrina actually the second coming of Christ? What is the truth behind the Shroud of Turin? How does an unknown body appear in the locked rec yard of the penitentiary? Flesh and Blood is a fascinating anthology of deep mysteries. John Jordan is an intriguing character. He might not always find the answers to his own problems, but he understands human nature, and he seeks answers as "an ecclesiastical sleuth." If you're looking for thoughtful stories of the mysteries of life, try Flesh and Blood.

Michael Lister's website is

Flesh and Blood by Michael Lister. Pottersville Press, ©2006, ISBN 1888146133 (hardcover), 252p.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Treasures in my closet

At least I hope they're all treasures. At the moment, I have eight ARCs of books that are due out in January. ARCs are advanced reading copies sent by the publisher or the author.

In alphabetical order by author, these are the forthcoming books that you might look for in January. These aren't the projected bestsellers that I put on Heads Up! yesterday. But, the treat about an ARC is that you never know when you'll make a great discovery, a new author or title that you might not have heard of before. To me, each ARC holds the potential to be an entertaining, outstanding book.

Happy Reading!

Thomas B. Cavanagh - Head Games (Thomas Dunne Books - St. Martin's Minotaur) - Features Mike Garrity, retired police detective, with a brain tumor he calls "Bob."

David Stuart Davies - Forests of the Night (Thomas Dunne Books - St. Martin's Minotaur) - Features John Hawke, a private detective in wartime London, invalided out of the army in 1940 after losing an eye.

Barbara Ehrenreich - Dancing in the Streets (Henry Holt & Co.) - Nonfiction - A history of collective joy.

Jim Kelly - The Coldest Blood (St. Martin's Minotaur) - Small-town newspaper reporter Philip Dryden returns in a bittersweet story.

Richard North Patterson - Exile (Henry Holt & Company) The bestselling author's story of a trial lawyer defending the woman he loves against a charge of conspiring to assassinate the prime minister of Israel

Deanna Raybourn - Silent in the Grave (MIRA Books) Debut mystery set in Victorian England, introducing Lady Julia Grey, investigating her husband's death.

Sandra Ruttan - Suspicious Circumstances (TICO Publishing) The debut mystery by one of the Killer Year 2007 authors, featuring cop Tymen Farraday and reporter Lara Kelly.

Marcus Sakey - The Blade Itself (St. Martin's Minotaur) Debut novel about a man trying to forget his past, until an old friend gets out of prison.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Heads Up!

The publishers are kicking off 2007 with some big authors and their potential bestsellers. Now's the time to get on the holds list at your local library, or preorder them at your favorite bookstore. (Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the January publications in my TBR pile in my closet.)

These are scheduled January releases.

Barbara Taylor Bradford - Ravenscar Dynasty
Alice Hoffman - Skylight Confessions
Lincoln Child - Deep Storm
Jayne Ann Krentz - White Lies
Lilian Jackson Braun - The Cat who Had 60 Whiskers
Janet Evanovich - Plum Love
Linda Fairstein - Bad Blood
Brian Haig - Man in the Middle
Iris Johansen - Stalemate
Richard North Patterson - Exile

Cozy Library

I just added a link on the right to Diana Vickery's great website, Cozy Library. It's at

Diana's homepage describes the purpose of the site, and sets the scene better than I can, so I'm going to quote her.

"The Cozy Library

Picture an overstuffed chair, comfortable enough to sit in for hours. Imagine a cup of cocoa, topped by whipped cream, steaming on a nearby table. You might even feel the warmth from a roaring fireplace and hear gentle rain making music on your windows – it’s a perfect afternoon to be indoors.

Now put a book in your hand – but not just any book – a Cozy Book, one chocked-full of kind-hearted characters, with a terrific story masterfully told, and a satisfying – and generally happy -- ending. No explicit sex or violence, no wall-to-wall profanity.

You’re now in the Cozy Library.

The Cozy Library has been designed for readers who enjoy a good cozy read. It is a place to learn about cozy books you haven’t read or to get to know your favorite cozy authors."

As we head into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a cozy might be just what you need to escape. Check out Diana's website!

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers

Troy Cook's first mystery has been nominated for the All Books Reviewers' Choice Award, and deservedly so. It's packed with crime, bloodshed, humor and romance.

Poor Tara Evans has lived a life of crime since she was nine. She and her father, Wyatt, went on a crimespree of bank robberies, governed only by his rules as to how to rob a bank without getting caught. At twenty-two, Tara thinks something is seriously wrong with her father. He's grown more bloodthirsty and enjoys killing people during the robberies. He also has a strange glint in his eye when he looks at her. When Tara meets Max Williams, the son of a small-town sheriff, she thinks it might be time to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her father doesn't agree with her.

Max and Tara flee across the southwest, running from Wyatt, Max's father, the FBI and a couple of stupid crooks. The modern-day Bonnie and Clyde make up their own rules as they go along, rules that might help in their future lives and survival. Only time will tell if romance can conquer two crazed fathers and a deranged FBI agent.

Troy Cook's website is

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers by Troy Cook. Capital Crime Press, ©2006, ISBN 0977627667 (paperback), 282p.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Congratulations to Robert Fate & Troy Cook

Congratulations are in order to Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark, and Troy Cook, author of 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers. Both authors are published by Capital Crime Press, a small press. So, congratulations to Capital Crime Press, as well!

Baby Shark received one of two Editor's Choice 2007 nominations in the Mystery Genre by All Book Reviews.

Cook's mystery, 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers, was the mystery nominee for the All Book Reviewer's Choice Awards.

And, for anyone who loved Baby Shark, here's a sneak preview of the cover of the sequel, Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues.

Look for a review of that here, in the next couple weeks.

Books read in November

I know I'm not going to get a chance to finish Troy Cook's 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers tonight, so here's my list of books read during November.

Hundred-Dollar Baby - Robert B. Parker - I love Parker's Spenser books, with the witty language and the characters of Spenser and Hawk. In this one, April Kyle returns, twenty years after Spenser helped the teen runaway hook up with a high-class madam. Now, April needs help again.

The Worst Person in the World - Keith Olbermann - One year's worth of commentary from Olbermann's MSNBC TV show.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson - Idyllic memoir of life in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s.

A Final Judgment - Michael A. Black - Third Ron Shade mystery in which the Chicago private investigator takes on two cases without all the facts.

Don't Murder Your Mystery - Chris Roerden - Advice for those who want to write mysteries.

Fools Rush In - Sunny Frazier - Christy Bristol, a police clerk, is abducted by a meth dealer so she can do his horoscope.

G'Day to Die - Maddy Hunter - Tour guide Emily Andrew takes her Iowa senior citizens to Australia, where she suspects a tour member has been murdered.

The Handmaid and the Carpenter - Elizabeth Berg - The story of Mary and Joseph.

Philippine Fever - Bruce Cook - ATF agent Sam haine finds himself in a political mess in the Philippines.

First Impressions - Nora Roberts - Reprint in which two people fall in love, despite their misunderstandings and past.

Still Life - Louise Penny - First mystery. A traditional mystery featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache investigating the suspicious death of an elderly woman in a small village in Quebec.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Question for new authors

Sandra Ruttan asked a question of new authors today on the blog, Killer Year-The Class of 2007,, "If there was an author moment that you could harness like a ship in a bottle, what would it be? What's the moment you'd like to preserve and be able to relive forever, or a pivotal moment that made a huge difference for you?"

Cornelia Read, author of A Field of Darkness answered, "I don’t know if this counts as the most exciting moment, but I think the moment that I was most nervous about that turned out okay was during my first joint signing with Lee Child.

We were at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, which I had heard so many great things about that just being there was intimidating, much less to be sitting up on a barstool holding a microphone in one hand and a bottle of water in the other in front of a couple of hundred people who were there to see Lee.

He gave me the kindest introduction I could ever have imagined, and was of course totally witty and charming and articulate, and then it was my turn to say something.

I remember thinking, “okay, I now have to open my mouth, so I just hope it’s not to throw up AND that I don’t make him look totally nuts for having invited me to do this.”

I had no idea what I was going to say, and I don’t actually remember anything I DID say (something about Lawrence Welk and Jell-O salad?), but the people in the room laughed, and after that I knew it was going to be okay.

That was an amazing day. I still don’t quite believe it actually happened.

Of course, the next day at the sublime Murder by the Book in Houston I actually *did* throw up—right before we started the gig there–but luckily it wasn’t in front of anyone. Lee especially."

Jim & I were there for that first appearance by Cornelia at The Poisoned Pen. She sold me. I went home, read the book, and raved about it here.

Cornelia Read
Author of A Field of Darkness

Check out the Killer Year blog for other answers.

Still Life

Louise Penny's first mystery, Still Life, is the best traditional mystery I've read this year. I even contacted a friend who has been missing Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet to tell her she'll appreciate Penny's book. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec is a wonderful character, worthy of taking Thanet's place.

In the small village of Three Pines, there has been no crime, and no need for a police force. When Jane Neal, a retired schoolteacher, is found dead in the woods on Thanksgiving weekend, Gamache and his team is called in to investigate the death. Armand informs the townspeople that they harbor secrets they might not even know, and somewhere in those secrets is the cause of Neal's death.

Gamache, in his mid-50s, is the head of homicide for the province. His lack of cynicism is one reason he might not have risen higher in the force. He's a fascinating man. He's been married for thirty-two years to a wife he trusts with the information about his cases. He has acted as mentor to a number of young people on the force, and has a loyal team working with him. He is not perfect. A subordinate realizes that his fatal flaw may be his desire to help people. Armand Gamache is a kind man, civil even while he investigates a death.

Penny has given us a wonderful new character, and set him down in a fascinating environment. I haven't read about such a self-absorbed village since reading Val McDermid's A Place of Execution. The characters are as intriguing as the setting. Still Life, which won the Arthur Ellis award for best first crime novel, is well-deserving of accolades.

Louise Penny's website is

Still Life by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2006, ISBN 0312352557 (hardcover), 312p.

Monday, November 27, 2006


If you are a subscriber to Lesas Book Critiques through bloglines, you may have suddenly received an update of the last 25 posts. I know I did. Those of us who have blogs through blogspot, and switched to the new Beta version, noticed that there was no update since Nov. 16 through bloglines. They could no longer pick up the feed. I have the feeling the problem was not with bloglines, but was with the server for Lesas Book Critiques when they switched to the Beta version. I know a number of other blogs were affected.

Hopefully, everything is fixed now, and the blog feeds should be back to normal.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

First Impressions

Nora Roberts' romance is a reprint of a 1984 publication. In First Impressions, she creates two likeable characters who fall in love, despite their misunderstandings.

Shane Abbott returned home to Western Maryland after her grandmother's death. She inherited the rundown home, which she planned to renovate into a museum and antique shop. When Vance Banning bought the property next door, she hired the unemployed carpenter to work on her house. The bitter, angry man agreed to help, not telling her he was President of Riverton Construction, Inc., a successful company. Banning had been hurt once by his late wife. He never intended to let a woman hurt him again.

Roberts presents an enjoyable, romantic story, with a Christmas ending. It's a pleasant tale for the holiday season.

Nora Roberts' website is

First Impressions by Nora Roberts. Silhouette Books, ©1984, ISBN 0373285388 (hardcover), 301p.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Philippine Fever

Sam Haine feels like he's "in quicksand, sinking fast" in Bruce Cook's first novel. Here is he, a simple agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Homeland Security, tracking a shipment of arms meant for a Texas paramilitary group. He didn't know what he was getting into when he was sent to the Republic of the Philippines.

Haine didn't know the Philippines was a world of payoffs. Everyone is crooked in the world of sex, sin and sales. It's a country where terrorism, the sex trade and gun-running intersect. As Sam's contact in the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation, "Bogie" Lorenzano explained, the country is "Crimes layered on top of other crimes, intersections betweeen different criminal gangs."

Philippine Fever is a fast-paced story of one man's fight in a confusing world he doesn't quite understand. Haine's quest is thwarted by the American government, the CIA, Philippine politicians, and parties who are involved when no one knows it. As Cook takes Sam Haine into this strange world, he takes the reader on the same wild ride. Cook brilliantly brings all the worlds together in a smashing conclusion. After following Haine into the mire of the politics and life in the Philippines, it's almost a relief to have loose ends tied up.

(Side note - Cook's research and knowledge of the Philippines is evident, and very helpful to the reader.)

Bruce Cook's website is

Philippine Fever by Bruce Cook. Capital Crime Press, ©2006. ISBN 0977627675 (paperback), 288p.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Handmaid and the Carpenter

Elizabeth Berg's The Handmaid and the Carpenter is one of the most poignant versions of the Christmas story that I've ever read. This beautiful little book is actually the story of Mary and Joseph, their courtship and life together. In Berg's rendition, Mary is 13 and Joseph almost 17 when they fall in love. Joseph was a skillful stonemason, carpenter and woodcarver from a well-off family. Mary's mother knew the prediction of a great destiny for her daughter, a young woman who couldn't read, but loved and honored all of nature. With the other women in her family, she shared gifts of curing and strong perceptive abilities. Joseph didn't understand Mary's deepest nature and her curiousity about the world.

Berg tells the love story of this dissimilar couple. In his heart, Joseph never could understand about Mary's pregnancy, but he loved her enough to wed her and take care of her son. This is a beautiful story of love for the holiday season.

Elizabeth Berg's website is

The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg. Random House, ©2006, ISBN 1400065380 (hardcover), 153p.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

G'Day to Die

Tour guide Emily Andrew returns in Maddy Hunter's latest "Passport to Peril" mystery, G'Day to Die. This time, Emily takes her senior citizens from Iowa to Australia. Not only does Emily have to deal with the eleven eccentric travelers, but her life is further complicated by retired Swiss police detective Etienne Miceli and tour director Duncan Lazarus as the two men vie for her affections.

Along with her romantic problems, Emily always suspects the worst when a fellow tourist dies. When she realizes that feuding representatives of cosmetic companies are along on the trip, all fighting over anti-aging cosmetics, she suspects foul play when one woman dies early in the trip.

Maddy Hunter's books are filled with wacky characters from the belligerant owner of a pest control company who collects spiders to Emily's own grandmother, a lottery winner. At times, it's difficult to remember the characters. The plots are all a little outrageous. How many unnatural deaths will one tour guide encounter? Hunter does make each location interesting, with fascinating descriptions. If you enjoy cozy mysteries filled with odd characters, set in interesting locations, you might want to try the "Passport to mystery series.

Maddy Hunter's website is

G'Day to Die by Maddy Hunter. Pocket Books, ©2006, ISBN 1416523790 (paperback), 288p.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fools Rush In

I had problems with the original premise of Sunny Frazier's book. Why would an undercover narcotics cop get his ex-girlfriend, a civilian police employee, involved in a case? Not only does James Wolfe, AKA Wolfman, ask Christy Bristol to cast a horoscope for a notorious meth distributor, but he takes her joyriding to deliver the horoscope and balloons. I was afraid I wasn't going to like Christy since she was so susceptible to an expert manipulator.

But, give the book, and Christy, a chance. She's abducted by Lloyd Parr's crew in order to continue to explain his horoscope. In the time she's held captive, she uses her psychic gift to try to manipulate Parr and his gang. She knows she's in danger, and might not survive. She spins her horoscope tales just as Schererazade did, in order to keep herself alive. Despite the filth and terrible conditions she's forced to endure, Christy proves to be a fighter. You'll rapidly turn pages, hoping for Christy's success.

Sunny Frazier took a shaky start, and turned it into a successful story.

Fools Rush In by Sunny Frazier. Wolfmont Publishing, ©2006, ISBN 0977840255 (paperback)

Wolfmont Publishing's website is

Contest winner of Deb Baker's books

Congratulations to Cindy M. of Eden, UT. She's the winner of autographed copies of Deb Baker's Dolled Up for Murder and the ARC of Murder Passes the Buck. Enjoy!

Deb Baker's website is

Monday, November 13, 2006

Don't Murder Your Mystery

Chris Roerden, who has been an editor for over forty years, offers advice to those who want to write, and publish, mysteries. She suggests techniques to assist writers in learning the craft. Roerden says, "Your most valuable resource for learning the craft of writing is the work of other authors." She analyzes passages from 130 published crime wriers to demonstrate successful treatment of writing techniques.

I'm not a mystery writer, and I don't intend to write. However, I think Roerden's tools are invaluable to those who want to attract readers, and interest screeners who read manuscripts. If I was planning a mystery, I would grab the opportunity to take Roerden's advice. It's offered with humor and warmth. Roerden wants writers to eliminate mistakes in their manuscripts, mistakes that lead to failure. She doesn't guarantee success. She guarantees that if you follow her suggestions, you'll be working hard, polishing your manuscript, and presenting a work you'll be proud to offer under your name.

Chris Roerden's website is

Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden. BellaRosaBooks, ©2006. ISBN 1933523131 (paperback), 304p.

Contest for Deb Baker's books

Yesterday, I had the chance to meet Deb Baker at Borders in Phoenix, and she was nice enough to sign a couple books for me so that I could offer them as prizes. I have an autographed copy of Dolled Up for Murder and an autographed ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of Murder Passes the Buck for one lucky winner.

All you have to do is email me at!
with the correct answer to this question. What relation is Gretchen Birch, the protagonist of Dolled Up for Murder, to Gertie Johnson from Murder Passes the Buck? The answer can be found on the Oct. 11 review of Dolled Up for Murder. Send me your answer with the Subject: Deb Baker's Books. Include your answer, name and mailing address in the email. At noon (Mountain time) on Friday, Nov. 17, I'll draw the winner. Your books will go out in the mail on Saturday!

Good luck!

Deb Baker's website is

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Deb Baker at Borders in Phoenix

I had hoped to get over to hear Deb Baker's presentation at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on Wednesday, but I got caught at work. Instead, Jim and I went to Borders at Biltmore Fashion Square in Phoenix today, where she was signing books. We were lucky enough to catch her in a lull in her book signing. Deb's very warm and friendly, and it was so nice to meet the author of Dolled Up for Murder and Murder Passes the Buck. We just had a few minutes to talk since a woman approached with five copies of Dolled Up for Murder. Hopefully, its Phoenix setting helped with sales. When we left the store, Deb was still surrounded by fans.

Tomorrow, I'll be posting details about a contest for autographed copies of Deb Baker's books.

Deb Baker's website is

Picture: Left to right - Deb Baker, Lesa Holstine. Photo taken by Jim Holstine.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Final Judgment

Michael A. Black's A Final Judgment is the third novel to feature Ron Shade, a former cop turned private detective in Chicago. Shade is an intriguing character. He's a frugal loner who lives with his three cats, but has the money to be a partner in two businesses, a security firm and a gym. And the gym is his true love, because Shade is a kickboxer who might have one more chance to be the International Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion of the World.

Shade may be a loner, but he's loyal, and hates to disappoint a friend. That's how Shade ends up taking two cases with unreliable clients. When a lawyer who's an old friend asks him to assist with a wrongful death case, it's a last-minute request. The last detective on the case committed suicide, and the high-profile opposing law firm is bringing pressure to settle out of court. Shade doesn't like the pressure. And, he doesn't like the feel of the case.

At the same time, he reluctantly agrees to keep two teenagers apart, at the request of a cop he always disliked. He knows the cop's daughter is more involved than it appears, but he's stymied by her parents at every turn.

Shade is a complicated character dealing with complicated problems. Compliments to Black for such a fascinating character who makes the reader care so much. I never thought I'd care about the preparation for and the competition of a kickboxing competition. Even a reader who is not interested in kickboxing can become intrigued by Shade's world. This strong character has a bleeding heart when it comes to his friends. He also has a bleeding heart when it comes to justice, whether it's justice in the criminal world, or justice when it comes to his friend and manager in the kickboxing world. Shade will always be reaching for justice.

(As a sidenote, Julie Hyzy's investigative reporter, Alex St. James, from Deadly Interest, appears in the final scene of A Final Judgment, just as Shade appears in the final scene of her book. See the October 29 review of Deadly Interest.)

Michael A. Black's website is

A Final Judgment by Michael A. Black. Five Star, ©2006. ISBN 1594144265 (hardcover)

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

If you're at all nostalgic for the 1950s, Bill Bryson's memoir is the book for you. He and my husband have the same feeling about that era. "I can't imagine there has ever been a more gratifying time or place to be alive than America in the 1950s. No country had ever known such prosperity."

Bryson was born in 1959 in Des Moines, Iowa. His family was a little better off than most because his parents both worked, his mother as an editor, and his father as a sports reporter for the Des Moines Register. It was a time when people were unsophisticated as to food, but it was a nation free of chain restaurants, so every community had unique restaurants. Bryson discusses the fact that every community was unique as to businesses, restaurants and the communities themselves. He had a solid middle-class life in these years. It was a period in which people were in love with TV and cars. At the same time, they were threatened by nuclear war, polio and Communism. Despite an idyllic childhood, Bryson tells of these threats to the nation's happiness. He himself attacked any threats through his secret identity, the Thunderbolt Kid, a being with the superpower ability to carbonize and eliminate people who impeded his happiness.

Bryson's world was a world of "endearing innocence," and he does his best to share that innocence with his readers.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. Broadway Books, ©2006. ISBN 076791936X (hardcover), 270p.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Heads Up!

Here's a few titles coming out in December. This will give you a chance to place holds at your local library, or order them from your favorite bookstore.

Next by Michael Crichton

True Evil by Greg Iles

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers by Lilian Jackson Braun

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Worst Person in the World

Nightly on his MSNBC show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Olbermann counts down the three people in the news whose stories are offensive or stupid, or as he said, "Those "Worsts" are the mortal enemies of honesty and dignity, of selflessness and class." His latest book contains a year's worth of nominees for "The Worst Person in the World." He selects one person, and 202 strong contenders.

His strongest contenders include Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the Dept. of Homeland Security. However, there are also numerous people you never heard of. Some of the entries are even so stupid that they become funny. Olbermann's worst person in the world? FOX TV's Bill O'Reilly who was nominated for the honor over thirty times in one year.

My conclusion? There are some pretty stupid fellow human beings out there.

The Worst Person in the World by Keith Olbermann. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ©2006. ISBN 0470044950 (hardcover), 267p.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Winners of Baby Shark contest

Thanks to Robert Fate, who sent me two additional copies of Baby Shark, there are four winners of the book! Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. The correct answer was: Kristin was 17 when her father was murdered.

Congratulations to these winners! I'll be contacting you for your mailing addresses so I can send your book out to you. I hope you enjoy Baby Shark as much as I did.

Angie G., Longmont, CO
Linda N., Ontario, Canada
Pam N., Hobe Sound, FL
Moyra T., Blaine, WA

Robert Fate's website is

Baby Shark by Robert Fate. Capital Crimes Press, ©2006. ISBN 0977627691 (paperback), 270p.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hundred-Dollar Baby

I love Robert B. Parker's Spenser character. I have read all thirty-four of the books in that series, including this new release, Hundred-Dollar Baby. I know some people say there isn't much of a plot or much of a mystery. They're right. I love the characters of Spenser and Hawk, and the witty exchanges between the two. I enjoy Spenser's abrupt answers to people who question him. And, I'll always picture Avery Brooks as Hawk.

Twenty years after Spenser met April Kyle, the teenage runaway in the book Ceremony, April returns. Spenser was unable to change her habits, so he set her up with a high-class madam who might at least educate her. April is no longer a street prostitute. She shows up in Boston as the manager of her own high-class all-woman enterprise. However, she turns to Spenser for help, saying some men are trying to take the business away from her.

Spenser, the white knight with a code of chivalry, once again tries to rescue his damsel in distress. It's another wonderful Spenser story with the return of familiar characters. As I said, I love Spenser.

Hundred-Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2006. ISBN 0399153764 (hardcover), 291p.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

By the Chimney With Care

By the Chimney With Care is a holiday crime story collection edited by Tony Burton. The anthology offers a little for everyone - murder, nostalgia, hauntings. Herschel Cozine kicks off the collection with "The Plight Before Christmas," a crime-ridden takeoff of "The Night Before Christmas." "Popcorn for Christmas" by Debra Gray De Neoux & O'Neil De Noux takes the reader to New Orleans for a sad, lonely story. Readers of Jasper Fforde will appreciate "Murder in Toddler Town" by Rob Rosen. Gary R. Hoffman's Christmas story is haunting. The entire collection of stories of crime during the holidays is a gift to the reader, introducting authors that might be unfamiliar. The authors and publisher are also making an additional holiday present. All proceeds from this enjoyable little collection benefit Toys for Tots.

The holiday season is such a busy time that reading often falls by the wayside. This appropriate collection will offer short, appropriate breaks during the hecticness of the season. By the Chimney With Care will keep you in the holiday spirit.

Wolfmont Publishing's website is

By the Chimney With Care ed. by Tony Burton. Wolfmont Publishing, ©2006. ISBN 0977840239 (Paperback), 208p.

Books read during October

Not quite as many books this month, due to the baseball playoffs and World Series.
Here's the list of books I read during October.

For One More Day - Mitch Albom - A troubled man gets one more day with his deceased mother.

All Mortal Flesh - Julia Spencer-Fleming - Terrific mystery in which Russ Van Alstyne's wife is found murdered, and he and Rev. Clare Fergusson are the primary suspects.

Wins, Losses, and Lessons - Lou Holtz - Bestseller by the college football coach discussing football and life.

Dolled Up for Murder - Deb Baker - Gretchen Birch's mother disappeared from Phoenix following the murder of a doll collector.

Fantasyland - Sam Walker - Walker spent the 2004 season playing Rotisserie (fantasy) baseball.

Shooting Gallery - Hailey Lind - Annie Kincaid finds the body of a sculptor hanging in a tree. Things go downhill from there is this fun caper.

Paper Woman - Suzanne Adair - During the American Revolution, Sophie Barton, her lover, and her brother, neutral parties, become trapped between warring forces.

Playing God - Kate Flora - A new series introduces Joe Burgess, "the meanest cop in Portland," as he investigates the murder of a doctor disliked by everyone.

Deadly Interest - Julie Hyzy - Alex St. James, a news researcher in Chicago, reluctantly investigates when her neighbor is killed.

By the Chimney With Care - ed. by Tony Burton - Holiday crime anthology.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Deadly Interest

At times, I felt sorry for Alex St. James in author Julie Hyzy's second mystery featuring her. Alex leads a busy life as a researcher at a television news magazine show in Chicago, but she didn't seem to have much joy in her life. Instead, she accepts a great deal of responsibility - looking for the reasons behind a neighbor's murder, taking care of her adult sister who has Williams Syndrome for two weeks while her parents are in Europe, and still trying to stay current at her job, despite the physical beating she took from a home invader.

Alex was with Mrs. Vicks, her neighbor, just hours before she was killed. Afterward, she felt guilty because she didn't have time to listen to her talk about the problems she was having with bank accounts at the bank where she worked. Her guilt, and some jealousy toward a newsman, made her overcome her reluctance to investigate, and agree to snoop when Alex' aunt, a police detective, and Mrs. Vicks' boss all asked her to help.

Alex was a reluctant detective, aware she was an amateur. When she had an argument with Detective Lubinski, she realized, "Here he was, trying to clear a murder, stuck working with a member of the media he so despised, and at every turn, I made big mistakes and gross errors in judgment." Alex' strong character, and her own acknowledgement of her lack of experience make her more likable than many amateur detectives. She even admits, "This isn't the job I signed on for, you know. News research isn't supposed to be a life-threatening occupation." Check out Julie Hyzy's Deadly Interest, the second Alex St. James mystery. Despite her reluctance to investigate, the reader knows Alex will be back because she has a great deal of curiousity and a keen sense of justice.

Julie Hyzy's website is

Deadly Interest by Julie Hyzy. Five Star, ©2006. ISBN 159414494X (hardcover), 385p.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Contest for copies of Baby Shark

Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark, was generous enough to give me two copies of Baby Shark to use however I wanted. I'm going to offer them as prizes.

All you have to do is check my blog for Sept. 21 where I reviewed Baby Shark. How old was Kristin Van Dijk when her father was killed?

If you'd like a chance at this gritty novel, email me at Email me! with the subject BABY SHARK, the answer to the question, your name and email address. On Friday, Nov. 3, at 8 am PDT, I'll draw two names from the correct entries, and contact you for your snail mail address. As with all book sites, I will not release your information to anyone.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Playing God

In Kate Flora's new mystery series, Joe Burgess, "Portland's meanest cop," is working nights when he catches the case of a murdered doctor. Flora has not only done a wonderful job with an intriguing new character, but she has made February in Maine a vital part of the book.

Burgess is the most experienced detective on the Portland police force, so his supervisor allows him to work the case, despite his hatred for Dr. Stephen Pleasant. It seems that everyone had a reason to hate Dr. Pleasant. On page 180, Burgess says, "This case has everything - unhappy wife, angry ex. Hookers. Drugs. Money problems. Maybe blackmail and a vic nobody liked, including his patients."

Although this reference is about Pleasant, it could also refer to Burgess. "It was about power. Being larger than life, with larger than life needs." Playing God. Flora's title has numerous meanings in this compelling police procedural. One of the best mysteries I've read this year.

Kate Flora's website is

Playing God by Kate Flora. Five Star, ©2006. ISBN 1594144613 (hardcover), 396p.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Barack Obama/The Audacity of Hope

Jim and I went to the Orpheum Theatre last night to hear Illinois Senator Barack Obama talk about his book, The Audacity of Hope. Changing Hands Bookstore sponsored him, and the theatre was sold out before last Friday. Jim was smart enough to suggest we go very early, even though he wasn't speaking until 7 pm. When we arrived in downtown Phoenix, there was already a line at 5 o'clock. We met a very nice couple in line, Eldrin and Caroline, who had been to the Democratic rally in Tempe earlier in the day. He was a retired government teacher, and we had a lot to talk about while we waited for two hours.

It was worth waiting. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon spoke a little about Barack Obama, but he was actually introducing the governor. Governor Janet Napolitano talked about some of the material in Obama's book before she introduced him. Senator Obama came out to a standing ovation. He said he was very pleased that the governor had read his book. "As you know, not all politicians read." The audience was very appreciative of Obama's allusion. He talked about the fact that the American people have much more in common than divisive politics would lead us to believe. And, the comment I appreciated the most was his emphasis on "The essential decency of the American people." He did not discuss the current hot news item, whether or not he will run for President.

After he spoke for about 45 minutes, Senator Obama signed his books. A politician is very fortunate if he's left-handed. He was able to sign books, and also reach out and shake hands. He spoke to each person, asked me my name, and thanked us for coming. He was very personable and charismatic. I'll be interested in reading his book, The Audacity of Hope.

I wanted to thank my husband, Jim Holstine, for the picture of Senator Obama.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. Crown, ©2006, ISBN 0307237699 (hardcover), 375p.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Paper Woman

Suzanne Adair's first novel is a powerful story of history and suspense set in a part of our history little known to most of us. Sophie Barton, a thirty-three-year-old widow, becomes the unlikely heroine in the southern theater of the American Revolution. How many of us know the part that the southern colonies, Georgia and Florida, as well as Cuba and the Caribbean played in the revolution?

Sophie was content to run her father's printing press in Alton, Georgia, not involving herself in the disputes between the British and the rebels. However, when British soldiers ask her to identify her father's body, she finds herself suspected of being a rebel. When she and her brother, David, decide to find their father's killer, they flee the British, running south with Mathias, a close friend, his Creek cousins, and his French uncle. The group plunges headlong into danger, chased by the British, threatened by Spanish spies, all on a mad rush to St. Augustine, and eventually Cuba.

Adair's debut novel is a compellling story of a strong woman, capable of more than we gave women credit for during the war. Sophie outlived two husbands, lost children, sent one child away to be raised, ran a business, and eventually, rode for weeks through dangerous wilderness, fighting off bandits with her musket, and hiding from the British. When her life, and her loved ones were threatened, she was very capable of fighting. Paper Woman is a fascinating historical novel, an intriguing story of suspense and danger, and the story of a strong woman. Paper Woman is published by a small press, but this book is well worth searching out, for all the elements that make it a wonderful debut novel.

If you're looking for a pageturner with history, romance, suspense, and a strong woman character, you can't go wrong with Paper Woman.

Suzanne Adair's website is

Paper Woman by Suzanne Adair. Whittler's Bench Press, ©2006, ISBN 0978526511 (paperback), 289p.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where's your favorite corner?

Where's your favorite corner to cuddle with books? This is in the corner of my library, The Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ.

Apology and a quote

My reading slows down in October, with baseball playoffs and the World Series. This year, the Detroit Tigers will be playing in the World Series, and Jim Leyland, their manager, is my mother's cousin. My husband, Jim, and I have cheered for Jim Leyland's teams when he managed Pittsburgh, the Florida Marlins, and now the Tigers. We're big baseball fans, but to have a family member involved in the World Series! What more can I say?

So, I don't post as much during October. I'm reading a fascinating new historical mystery, Paper Woman by Suzanne Adair. It's set during the American Revolution. I'll review it when I finish, but it'll take me longer than usual to read due to baseball.

In the meantime, here's a reading quote.

"Great fiction can change our lives; turn us around corners. No movie ever did that to me. I might walk and talk a bit differently for a few minutes after leaving an effective film but that's about it. Novels have heft; films are filmy." - John Barth

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Shooting Gallery

The second book in Hailey Lind's Art Lover's Mystery series is even more fun than Feint of Art. Annie Kincaid, owner of a faux-finishing business in San Francisco, returns again to bumble her way through more escapades in the art world.

Why is Annie the only person at a gallery opening who notices the body hanging in a tree? Why is one of her best friends on a tour of a museum when a painting is stolen? Why did her mother suddenly show up with an interest in a murdered sculptor?

Poor Annie is still attracted to Michael, or whatever his name is, a "dashing, larceneous art thief," much like her grandfather, a successful art forger. At the same time, she's fighting her attraction to Frank, her landlord, "one of the most trustworthy guys she knows."

Let's face it, Annie's life is a mess. She can't attend a public event or meet a man without disaster striking. Hailey Lind has created a character to rival Stephanie Plum in the disaster department, but Annie is brighter and faster on her feet. Shooting Gallery is a fun caper novel, with non-stop action. It has everything a successful caper should have, right down to the chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. There's sexual tension, great characters, and disaster after disaster. Anyone who enjoyed Foul Play or Moonlighting will appreciate Shooting Gallery. Fans of Janet Evanovich will enjoy the series. And, anyone who just enjoys a fun book set in the art world will enjoy the Art Lover's Mystery series.

Hailey Lind's website is

Shooting Gallery by Hailey Lind. Signet, ©2006. ISBN 0451219732 (paperback), 352p.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Sam Walker was a columnist for the Wall Street Journal until he cut back on his job in 2004 to join Tout Wars, a private "Rotisserie" baseball league dominated by some of the biggest names in the fantasy baseball world. Fantasyland is his enjoyable story of "A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe."

This isn't a sports book for everyone. Unless you're a baseball fan, or have played fantasy baseball, quite a bit of the book won't mean anything to you. But, if you've ever played fantasy baseball, even on a small scale, the book is as addicting as the game itself. Walker tries everything, from scouting the teams during spring training to hiring a numbers person and an astrologer, to make his team competitive. Readers will nod as he makes wise choices, or laugh at some of his stupid decisions. This is a fun book for anyone who once sat at their computer for hours at a time, watching games in which they desperately cheered for one player.

Fantasyland by Sam Walker. Viking, c2006. ISBN 0670034282 (hardcover), 354p.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Quill Book Awards

The Quill Book Awards were presented last night, awards sponsored by NBC and Reed Business Information to celebrate the publishing industry. The list of winners is available at

I did want to highlight three winners. Janet Evanovich won for Twelve Sharp in the category Mystery/Suspense/Thriller. Arizona author Diana Gabaldon won for A Breath of Snow and Ashes in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category. And, John Grogan's touching story, Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, won in the Biography/Memoir category.

Dolled Up for Murder

Deb Baker, author of the Gertie Johnson Yooper mysteries, introduces a new mystery series, with relatives of Gertie's. Gretchen Birch, Gertie's niece, has some serious problems. She's almost thirty, unemployed, and has a dwindling savings account. She has a cheating long-term boyfriend. And, her mother is wanted for questioning in a murder.

When a doll collector is found dead on Camelback Mountain, Caroline Birch, Gretchen's mother, was the last person seen with the victim. Now, Caroline has disappeared, and the police are looking for her. Gretchen's Aunt Nina flies her to Phoenix, to help with the search. Baker leaves the reader little teasers as to Caroline's whereabouts, and what she is doing, but the reader remains confused. Gretchen and her mother are both searching for a killer connected to the doll collecting community, but they're searching from opposite ends of the country.

Baker gives the reader fascinating glimpses into the doll collecting world, with the information that begins each chapter. This is a suspenseful mystery, filled with tension. At the same time, Baker is able to introduce quirky, fun characters into the story. Gretchen's Aunt Nina trains small dogs to ride quietly in purses. Her mother, Caroline, restores dolls, and has an unusual, secretive relationship with a homeless man. Even Gretchen's Aunt Gertie has a small, long-distance role.

Dolled Up for Murder is an enjoyable, suspenseful mystery with fun characters, and great descriptions of Phoenix life.

Deb Baker's website is

Dolled Up for Murder by Deb Baker. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2006. ISBN 0425212637 (paperback), 288p.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wins, Losses, and Lessons

Lou Holtz, the college football coach known for his success, imparts his lessons about life in this current New York Times bestseller. If you're a football fan, or interested in inspiration for life, this is well worth reading.

Holtz, from East Liverpool, OH, was the first member of his family to go to college. HIs uncle exposed him to organized football; his grandfather made him a Notre Dame fan; and his high school coach told his parents he should go to college and become a coach. Although he was only 155 pounds, he played on Kent State University's football team. It was there that he learned you must believe in yourself, and give 100%.

As a fan of college football, I particularly enjoyed the stories of his coaching years at Notre Dame. He spent eleven years there, and retired, only to return a couple years later at South Carolina. The successful coach learned from his successes and failures at schools such as Ohio State, the University of Arkansas, University of Minnesota. And, his failure in the NFL reminded him of his lesson of the importance of commitment, which he lacked when he agreed to coach the New York Jets.

Holtz' book is an enjoyable football book, filled with Holtz' inspirational lessons.

Wins, Losses, and Lessons by Lou Holtz. William Morrow, c2006. ISBN 0060840803 (hardcover), 318p.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Heads Up!

I just thought I'd give you a Heads Up! about some of the new books coming out in November so you can get on the waiting list at your local library or order them ahead of time at your favorite bookstore.

Mary Higgins Clark - Santa Cruise

Nelson DeMille - Wild Fire

Charlaine Harris - Grave Surprise

Carl Hiaasen - Nature Girl

Tony Hillerman - The Shape Shifter

Jonathan & Faye Kellerman - Capital Crimes

James Patterson - Cross

J.D. Robb - Born in Death

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

All Mortal Flesh

Julia Spencer-Fleming won every award in the book for her first mystery, In the Bleak Midwinter. She's outdone herself with her latest one, All Mortal Flesh.

The Reverend Clare Fergusson, an Episcopalian priest, and Millers Kill police chief Russ Van Alstyne have fought to maintain their propriety, despite their strong feelings for each other. When Van Alstyne told his wife he was in love with Clare, she threw him out of the house. At the opening of this book, he is living with his mother when his police force brings him in because his wife has been found murdered in their house. Clare and Russ are immediately the prime suspects, and the primary focus of the gossip in Millers Kill. As Spencer-Fleming says, "It is a cliche that there are no secrets in a small town. It is also true." Everyone in town knew why Russ' wife threw him out. To make matters worse, the state cops are called in, and they take away Russ' authority. Even without a badge, he uncovers some illegal dealings that may lead back to the body in his house.

All Mortal Flesh is a powerful book. If you've been following the series, it will tear you apart as you watch Clare and Russ struggle with their emotions and the current crisis in Millers Kill. Spencer-Fleming throws curves at the reader that will leave you guessing. Even the ending comes as a shock. All Mortal Flesh deserves to be one of the best mysteries of 2006.

Julia Spencer-Fleming's website is

All MOrtal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming. St. Martin's Minotaur ©2006. ISBN 0312312644 (hardcover), 336p.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Brad Meltzer at The Poisoned Pen Central

Brad Meltzer, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Book of Fate, appeared at The Poisoned Pen Central in Phoenix today. His program was probably slightly different than most of his appearances on this book tour, because he not only addressed the public, but also members of the Arizona Bar Association. I've only heard Meltzer once before, and that was on a panel at ThrillerFest. In both cases, he showed a great sense of humor which makes his presentation fun to listen to. Today he talked about research and publishing his first book. He was in law school while he worked on The Tenth Justice, and he used his professors to ask questions about his contract with his publishing company. While writing that book, he learned how important it was to research, and to go and see firsthand the sites he talked about. Brad Meltzer stressed the importance of research and firsthand knowledge.

Jim and I went to see Brad Meltzer as part of our wedding anniversary celebration. There's nothing I'd rather do than hear an interesting author, and get the chance to meet him. While we waited in line, we watched him talk to others. He introduced himself to each person, listened to them, and thanked them for coming to see him. He's the same type of warm author as Rick Bragg, the type who is genuinely nice and shows that when meeting others. He told me he recognized my name, thanked us for coming, agreed to pose for a picture with Jim, and wrote the nicest dedication in The Book of Fate. We also asked him to sign the Author's Note because he mentioned Sandusky, OH, which is just west of our hometown. He did that, and then hugged me and thanked us again. I'll go back to hear Brad Meltzer, not only because he's a good writer, but also because he's a nice person.

The picture is my husband, Jim Holstine, and Brad Meltzer.

Brad Meltzer's website is

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. Warner Books, c2006. ISBN 0446530999 (hardcover), 510p.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Books read in September

Here's the list of books read during September. Fabulous nonfiction - A Three Dog Life and Brainiac.

Coronado by Dennis Lehane - Story collection

The Alibi Club by Francine Mathews - A group of women are involved int he attempt to save plans for the atomic bomb when France falls to the Germans.

The Sweetest Hours by Laura Pederson - Short sotires on different types of love.

Hornswoggled by Donis Casey - In Oklahoma in 1913, Alafair Tucker is concerned when her daughter falls for the widower of a murdered woman.

Cattery Row by Clea Simon - Freelance reporter Theda Krakow investigates when a friend who breeds cats is murdered.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron - Essays

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas - Memoir of life after Abby's husband is hit by a car and suffers brain damage.

Poison to Purge Melancholy by Elena Santangelo - Pat Montella sees ghosts and investigates murder in a Williamsburg house, and has to cope with future in-laws at Christmas.

The Trouble With Witches by Shirley Damsgaard - Witches Ophelia and Abby go to Minnesota looking for a teenage girl, and find a group dealing with study of the paranormal.

Baby Shark by Robert Fate - When a pool hustler is murdered, and his daughter beaten and raped, she vows revenge on the biker gang that's responsible.

The Drowning Man by Margaret Coel - Stolen petroglyphs and a retired priest threaten the tribes and the mission on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Wreath of Deception by Mary Ellen Hughes - Jo McAllister becomes the primary suspect the day a clown is killed at the opening of her craft shop.

Brainiac - Ken Jennings - Adventures in the world of trivia buffs by the Jeopardy champion.

Anthony Award Winners

Well, the first time mystery authors that I championed did well this year at Bouchercon. Chris Grabenstein won Best First Mystery for Tilt-A-Whirl. I was lucky enough to get to meet both Louise Ure and Chris at ThrillerFest and their pictures are on this blog under ThrillerFest. Congratulations to both of them!

The Anthony Award winenrs are:

Best Mystery Novel: Mercy Falls by Willaim Kent Krueger

Best First Mystery: Tilt-A-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein

Best Paperback Original: The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman

Best Short Story: "Misdirection" by Barbara Seranella

Best Critical/Nonfiction: The Heirs of Anthony Boucher by Marv Lachman

Best Fan Publication: Crimespree Magazine, edited by Jon and Ruth Jordan

Special Service to the Field: Janet Rudolph, for Mystery Readers International

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Award winners at Bouchercon

Congratulations to Louise Ure, author of Forcing Amaryllis. She just won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel. Very deserving!

Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark, was nice enough to send me the list of award winners presented so far at Bouchercon, as announced by Mystery News from Black Raven Press.

The Shamus Awards were presented by the Private Eye Writers Association:

The Eye - Award for Lifetime Achievement: Max Allan Collins
Best Hardcover: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Best Paperback Original: The James Deans by Reed Farrel Coleman
Best First Novel: Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure

The Macavity Awards, voted on by the members of Mystery Readers International:

Best Novel: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Best First Novel: Immoral by Brian Freeman
Best Nonfiction: Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
Best Short Story: "There Is No Crime on Easter Island" by Nancy Pickard
Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

The Barry Awards, voted on by the readers of Deadly Pleasures;

Best Novel: Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook
Best First Novel Published in the U.S. in 2005: Cold Granite by Stuart Macbride
Best British Novel Published in the U.K. in 2005: The Field of Blood by Denise Mina
Best Thriller: Company Man by Joseph Finder
Best Paperback Novel: The James Deans by Reed Farrell Coleman
Best Short Story: "There Is No Crime on Easter Island" by Nancy Pickard
Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mystery Fandom: Janet A. Rudolph

The American Crime Writers League announced that Dick Adler is the recipient of this year's Ellen Nehr Award for mystery reviewing. Adler reviews for the Chicago Tribune.

Friday, September 29, 2006

For One More Day

Mitch Albom's third novel does not measure up to Tuesdays with Morrie or The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I'm sure it will make the bestseller lists, but it won't stay on the lists as long as either of the others.

Albom's story of Chick Benetto, a failed baseball player, is the story of a man who didn't realize how much his mother loved him until it was too late. After his parents divorced, Chick continued to strive to please his absent father. Even on the day his moahter died, he was playing in an Old Timers Game because his father called. When he realizes his life has fallen apart, he decides to commit suicide, and once again, his mother steps in to be there for him.

This novel isn't even maudlin because Chick Benetto is actually a dislikable character. As the reader watches Chick reject his mother, time after time, it's hard to feel sorry for him. Instead, I felt as if he should grow up and take some responsibility for his life. The premise, "Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever," doesn't even work. Chick doesn't show any love for his mother until it's too late. I thought it was a faulty premise, and a weak story.

Mitch Albom's website is

For One More Day by Mitch Albom. Hyperion, c2006. ISBN 1401303277 (hardocver), 197p.


Ken Jennings, the author of this enjoyable book, is, to date, the champion with the longest run on the game show, Jeopardy. His book is subtitled, "Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs." Jennings' book isn't just about his Jeopardy experience. That story is mixed in with stories of college quiz bowls, trivia nuts and authors, and even an entire town that holds a trivia contest for fifty-four consecutive hours.

I'm a librarian and a mystery lover. This journey into the world of trivia was a fascinating book. When it shows up as one of my top nonfiction books of the year, don't be surprised. It won't be a lasting piece of literature, but it's an engrossing book for anyone who has every felt like a nerd because they enjoy knowledge, trivia and odd facts.

Jennings offers a well-written book, filled with trivia questions and fascinating stories about the trivia world.

As an aside, I had fantastic service in a local restaurant when I took this book. The waiters kept stopping at my table, asking if everything was OK, and would I ask them another trivia question.

Ken Jennings' website is

Brainiac by Ken Jennings. Villard, ©2006. ISBN 1400064457 (hardcover), 269p.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wreath of Deception

Mary Ellen Hughes introduces her Craft Corner Mystery series with Wreath of Deception, an enjoyable cozy with a likeable heroine and supporting cast.

Jo McAllister moved to Abbottsville, Maryland following the tragic death of her husband in a fire. With the support of her best friend, Carrie, she's opening a craft shop in the small community. Despite her misgivings, opening day is a resounding success, until Jo returns after dinner and finds the body of Kyle Sandborn, the man she hired to be a clown for the afternoon. This second tragedy makes Jo the primary suspect in the eyes of the local police, but it brings her a strong support network of women who become regulars in her crafting classes.

Knowing Jo is under suspicion, the women of the crafting group push her to start her own investigation. She's not sure she should snoop, but with the help of Charlie, Carrie's fifteen-year-old son, Jo pries at the local country club and little theater. In a small community, everyone seems connected, so Jo's suspicious of everyone's story.

Wreath of Deception is an enjoyable mystery, with a great supporting cast.

Mary Ellen Hughes' website is

Wreath of Deception by Mary Ellen Hughes. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2006, ISBN 0425212246 (paperback), 260p.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Colonel's Tale

The Colonel's Tale is S.H. Baker's third mystery to feature Dassas Cormier, who is Chief of Police in his small hometown of Marshall's Bayou, Louisiana, in 1924. Since the woman does not return his feelings, he has turned his attention to his community and his extended family. When his sister, Coralee, writes that she's stranded in Lake Charles, Texas, with her guest, Colonel Jedidiah Gilmore, Dassas goes to bring them home for the Thanksgiving holidays. When he arrives, he finds that Gilmore, the famous journalist, has witnessed a bank robbery, and become the target of muggers. However, the more he listens to Gilmore's tall tales, the more he begins to distrust his version of the truth.

Cormier becomes involved in the puzzle because someone follows the trio back to Marshall's Bayou. With a family and community to take care of, Cormier dislikes prowlers and violence in his own backyard. His investigations will take him back to Lake Charles before the truth is discovered.

Dassas Cormier is a warm, caring man. The story is a slight mystery, with an easily discovered ending. Cormier's relationship with his brother's family, and, eventually his sister, is the strength and charm of this story.

The Colonel's Tale by S.H. Baker. Zumaya Publications, ©2006. ISBN 1554003002 (paperback), 160p.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Drowning Man

Margaret Coel's mysteries, set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, are not comfortable books to read. The protagonists are troubled people, living in a world where the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes are continuously fighting for their rights. At times, there is a feeling of futility in these books, even when there is a successful conclusion. There are always more battles to be fought.

A sacred petroglyph, The Drowning Man, has been stolen from Red Cliff Canyon. Father John O'Malley, pastor at St. Francis Mission, is contacted. Someone offers the petroglyph back to the tribes, using Father John as the intermediary.

Seven years earlier, another petroglyph was stolen. Two Indians were suspects, and one was murdered while the other went to prison. Now, that young man's grandfather insists to Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden that his grandson could not have done it, and needs a new trial. Even though Vicky is in the middle of a fight for the tribes, a fight to keep the Bureau of Land Management from building a road through the sacred canyon, she's willing to work for a wrongly convicted man.

While Father John and Vicky fight to preserve the sacred places, the mission itself is under a threat when a retired priest takes up residence there. One threat after another piles up - the mission is threatened, Vicky is threatened and followed, and Father John's job is once again in jeopardy. Father John's prayer could sum up the wishes for the tribe, Vicky, and himself. "Don't let the people lose any more than has already been lost."

Margaret Coel's books are thoughtful examinations of the problems for the tribes in today's world, as well as the examination of two troubled people, Father John and Vicky. In all of her books, including The Drowning Man, she presents flawed people fighting to preserve and build a better life. Coel's books can be read for the tribal history, the mysteries surrounding the tribal life, or the ongoing stories of Father John and Vicky. They are compelling books, telling an important story. No matter why a reader seeks them out, they'll come away with a greater appreciation of the value of the past and vanishing cultures.

Margaret Coel's website is

The Drowning Man by Margaret Coel. Berkley Crime Club, ©2006, ISBN 0425211711 (hardcover), 321p.

Heads Up!

Tuesday is publication day for the new Dick Francis, a treat for those who thought Francis was done writing after his wife died.

Under Orders by Dick Francis (Putnam, $25.95, 0399154000). Jockey turned detective Sid Halley returns in this new novel by the equestrian mystery master.

According to the New York Times, Delacorte Press will publish Hannibal Rising, a novel about the early days of Hannibal Lecter, on December 5. The novel by Thomas Harris will precede by two months the release of a movie of the same name for which Harris wrote the screenplay. Instead of Anthony Hopkins, Gaspard Ulliel will play the young Dr. Lecter.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Baby Shark

Robert Fate's first novel is a made for the movies page-turner. It's violent with a stark world, and a gritty heroine. Baby Shark was meant to be a film, so moviegoers can stand and cheer when Kristin Van Dijk faces down her opponents.

Kristin was only seventeen when her father, a pool hustler, was killed by a motorcycle gang. She herself was dragged back into the pool hall, beaten, repeatedly raped, and left for dead when the bikers torched the place. If it hadn't been for Henry Chin, the Chinese owner of the pool hall, who dragged her out, she would not have survived. Henry was also responsible for her emotional survival. He took her home, gave her a dog and trainers to teach her self-defense, survival and shooting. She and Henry prepared for the day they could avenge themselves against the gang. When they found out the cops were looking the other way about the deaths and fire, they knew they were on their own. They hired a private investigator, Otis Millett, to find the gang members, while they waited.

In the months they waited, Kristin turned herself into Baby Shark, a pool hustler who drew a great deal of attention in Texas in 1952. Texas was a cruel place in 1952, a place of motorcycle gangs and crooked cops. It was a world where a Chinese man and a white woman living on the same property would not be accepted. It was a world where female pool hustlers were rare, and violence was common. Kristin became Baby Shark, a denizen of this world.

Robert Fate has created a fascinating world inhabited by intriguing characters. Baby, Henry and Otis have to become cold-blooded killers to seek vengeance. Readers will find themselves cheering for Baby Shark in her fight against evil.

Robert Fate's website is

Baby Shark by Robert Fate. Capital Crimes Press, ©2006. ISBN 0977627691 (paperback), 270p.