Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Guest columnist

Robert Gray, owner of Fresh Eyes Now, recently asked me if I'd like to contribute a column to his web site on the subject of Librarian as Handseller.

Here's the link to his page.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sex and the Seasoned Woman

Gail Sheehy's latest book is aimed at women over 50, "Seasoned Women." In the past, the stereotype of these women have been "invisible, sexless older women," and Sheehy intends to change that image. She relates numerous stories of women over the age of 50 leading full lives, discovering sex, intimacy, new identities and new passions in life. This is a fascinating book, which gives hope to women everywhere.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cozy Up to a Good Book

I led a brown bag luncheon today, discussing a dozen books. Even though only 4 people attended, they checked out seven of the books. That's a success in my opinion!

Here's my book list from today's discussion.

Cozy Up to a Good Book
(But, not necessarily a cozy one!)

Black, J. Carson – Dark Side of the Moon (Adult Fiction) – Second in a mystery series
set in Arizona. This one takes place in Williams, where Dept. of Public Safety Detective Laura Cardinal investigates the murder of two young people.

Clement, Blaize – Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter (Adult Fiction) – First mystery to feature Dixie Hemingway, cop turned pet sitter, who finds a body at a client’s home.

Covington, Vicki – Bird of Paradise (Adult Fiction) – A retired Alabama waitress receives an inheritance that changes her life.

Egan, Timothy – The Worst Hard Time (Nonfiction – 978.032 E28w) Fascinating story of those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl.

Gibbons, Kaye – Charms for the Easy Life (Adult Fiction) Three generations of North
Carolina women struggle with life.

Grafton, Sue – S is for Silence (Adult Fiction) Kinsey Millhone investigates the thirty year old disappearance of the town floozie.

Hawke, Richard – Speak of the Devil (Adult Fiction) If you liked Rex Stout’s Archie
Goodwin or Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, meet Fritz Malone, a PI who witnesses a shooting during New York’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Lind, Hailey – Feint of Art (Adult Fiction) At seventeen, Annie Kincaid was arrested as an art forger. She finally got her life straight, and spent three years working her fingers to the bone to get TrueFaux Studios off the ground. Why has she ignored her business for days on end in favor of galloping around with an admitted art thief, breaking and entering, snooping, and getting kidnapped? Fun, caper novel.

Monroe, Mary Alice – The Four Seasons (Adult Fiction) The four Season sisters were
once close, but tragedy tore them apart. When the youngest sister dies, she sends
them on a quest that will reunite and change them.

Peck, Richard – London Holiday (Adult Fiction) When one of three childhood friends is
a victim of violence, they escape to a bed-and-breakfast in London, where they
find more than just an escape.

Santangelo, Elena – Hand My Head and Cry (Adult Fiction) Pat Montella has one foot in the past and one in the present. She can see history. And just when she’s at work digging on a Civil War-era estate, she has visions of a ten-year-old son of a slave.

Wynne, Marcus – Warrior in the Shadows (Adult Fiction) In this gritty thriller, Charley Payne, CIA operative turned forensics photographer, ends up in a fight to the death with an Aboriginal killer with shaman powers.

Of course, all the books sounded much better than these short summaries when we had the chance to talk about them. Fun!

Teacher Man

Teacher Man is the latest bestseller by Frank McCourt, Pulitzer prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes. This book broadly encompasses his thirty years of teaching which led up to Angela's Ashes.

During the first part of the book, I had a hard time accepting that McCourt's book was so well received. The first part seem disorganized and scattered as it jumped from his teaching career to his marriage to college to Ireland and back. However, the second part brought the first into focus. His teaching job at Stuyvesant High School in New York actually brought his career into focus for him, and the second half was more organized and polished, just as his life was. Although all the students and earlier jobs led to Angela's Ashes, it was his job as a creative writing teacher that brought out the best in his students, and the best in himself. His storytelling was more organized. His lessons had a focus.

It's a powerful ending. One of his students says, Mr. McCourt, you ought to write a book. Chapter 18 says, "I'll try."

Sunday, January 22, 2006


These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. - Gilbert Highet, writer (1906-1978)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


"It's no use going to school unless the library is your final destination." Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Trials and Triumphs of Sarah Lee Borders

I would hesitate to read a book put out by a publish on demand press but Kenneth A. Lilly's short novel is worth mentioning.

Lilly has written a compelling little book in which the narrator, Bill Roberts, meets an old man in a small Kentucky town, and decides to stay awhile and listen to Tomas Kimball tell the story of Sarah Lee Borders, a black woman memoralized in a statue in the town square. Borders, the granddaughter of freed slaves, changed the people of the town. As Roberts spends days listening to Mr. Kimball's story, he warms up to the story, the town and its people.

Lilly's story has a message about the importance of the individual, no matter what their race, and how one kind act begets another. The story of Sarah Lee Borders is the story of one person who changed a community for the better. Sarah Lee continued to influence the growth of the community long after she was gone.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Feint of Art

Two sisters, one a historian and the other an artist, combined their knowledge for this debut mystery written as Hailey Lind. Annie Kincaid gave up the life of art forger when she was arrested at the age of seventeen. She became a respectable business owner, specializing in faux finishes at her studio, True/Faux. Why is she suddenly up to her neck in violence and murder? Just because she agreed to authenticate a work by Caravaggio at San Francisco's Brock Museum, and declared it a fraud, she's caught up in a reckless search for drawings. "Two fakes, two forgers, and one murder were adding up to one big boatload of trouble."

For a while, Annie Kincaid was a problem for me. Then she herself summed up her reckless behavior. She said, "Three years working her fingers to the bone trying to get True/Faux Studios off the ground, and then I ignored it for days on end in favor of galloping around with an admitted art thief, breaking and entering, snooping, getitng kidnapped." When I accepted Annie as a character in a caper novel, not just as an amateur detective, I was much happier with the book.

Annie describes herself and her studio as "a bit quirky, occasionally contrary, but with lots of character." Welcome to Annie Kincaid's world in this new series. If you enjoy madcap romps, and movies such as "What's Up, Doc?" and "Foul Play" with chases and explosive endings, check out Feint of Art.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Speak of the Devil

Speak of the Devil, Richard Hawke's first Fritz Malone novel, will be released tomorrow. I wish it was already time for the second in the series. Fritz is another one of those smart-mouthed, street smart detectives such as Spenser and Archie Goodwin, loveable, good-hearted, and with their own code of honor.

On his way home from the bagel shop, Fritz stops to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade for just a moment, long enough to notice a gunman aiming at one of the floats. As bystanders are mowed down, Fritz gives chase and shoots the sniper. Or does he? Not according to the NYPD, who have their own story for the media. As the son of the former Police Commissioner, Fritz gets dragged into the secrets that the police and the Mayor are trying to protect. Blackmail, threatening letters and crooked cops are problems that the authorities would not like to see exposed in the media. But no self-respecting PI would allow the authorities to keep him from investigating on his own.

Speak of the Devil is about connections. Fritz's girlfriend is the daughter of the detective that introduced him to the business. His father and the present police commissioner were coworkers. Even a local bartender was married to Fritz's mother. As the novel develops, the circles of connections grow smaller and smaller. It's a powerful device that finally narrows the list of suspects.

Speak of the Devil is a fascinating story that involves the reader from page one. I'll be waiting for the next Fritz Malone story, just as I wait for the next Spenser.

Sidenotes: Richard Hawke's website is www.RHawke.com. Hawke has also written the Hitchcock Sewell mysteries, beginning with The Hearse You Came In On, under the name Tim Cockey. That website is www.timcockey.com.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Warrior in the Shadows

Marcus Wynne's second thriller starts with a bang, and never lets up. If your curiosity is aroused by an opening sentence that says, "The man who would soon be eaten had enjoyed a superb supper," Warrior in the Shadows will keep you turning pages.

As a forensic photographer, Charley Payne is called to the crime scene when a brutal murder occurs in Minneapolis. The former CIA agent is intrigued by the crude drawings on the walls at the crime scenes, and tracks down a woman who can instruct him in Australian Aboriginal art. A gruesome murder that strikes close to home sets Charley on a collision course with Alfie Woodard, an Aboriginal shaman who studies dark magic.

This is one novel with a killer who is just as fascinating as the protagonist. Alfie's story is typical of an Aboriginal child taken from his parents to be raised by whites in Australia. After a military career, Alfie became a contract killer, but he also returned to his roots and studied to understand the Dreaming, the mystical Aboriginal world.

Wynne has written a powerful thriller in which modern forces collide with primitive beliefs and powers. The mystical world of the Aboriginal natives sets this story apart from other novels about a protagonist tracking a killer.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter

Animal lovers need to know right up front that no animals were injured in the course of this book. Blaize Clement's first mystery is Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, featuring Dixie Hemingway. Dixie is a former deputy with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Dept., who left due to personal tragedy. Now she works as a pet sitter, taking care of people's pets, and lives in an apartment on the same property as her brother and his partner. She's worked to recover, but discovering a body in the house owned by one of her clients doesn't help. Although she's tried to shield her emotions in the last few years, Dixie allows her feelings to drag her into the investigation. She's pushed a little by the investigating officer, Detective Guidry, who treats her as a colleague.

Clement's first mystery is an outstanding debut. Dixie is a sympathetic character who's had problems in the past, and had a difficult time coping with tragedy. She's fought back, with help from people she loves. And, she might still have problems coping with life, but she's working on it. Dixie Hemingway is a strong, likeable character. I hope she'll continue to move on with her life, with the help of the strong supporting cast, in a number of books.

On a personal note, as a Ft. Myers, FL resident for eighteen years, I enjoyed the Sarasota setting.

I'll be rooting for Blaize Clement, and pushing her Dixie Hemingway series.

It was a terrific book to kick off the new year.


I started this book blog on Jan. 6, 2005, and named it Nikki's World after Nikki, our youngest cat. The web site is www.nikkishome.blogspot.com. On March 14, 2005, I added a counter to it, and from then until Dec. 31, the end of the year, 1,976 people viewed the site.

Thank you to everyone who read about books on this site during 2005. I hope more people read it, and participate or make comments during 2006. It's always interesting to read other people's comments about books.

I'm looking forward to a good year with lots of good books. I wish the same for you!

New Mystery Series in 2005

I'm on an Internet discussion group called ARM (Anal-Retentive Mystery Readers). It's a group for people who insist on reading mystery series in order. We discuss books, our lives, and provide support for each other. It's a great group.

For the end of the year, one of the members listed new mystery series she started during 2005. I thought it was interesting, so here's the list of the new series I started this year. It doesn't mean I'll continue to read them, but I started the series this year.

J. Carson Black's Laura Cardinal series - Darkness on the Edge of Town
Claire Matturro's Lilly Cleary series - Skinny-Dipping
Lou Jane Temple's Spice Box series - The Spice Box
Sandra Balzo's Maggy Thorsen series - Uncommon Grounds
Holly Baxter's Elodie Brown series - Tears of the Dragon
Louise Ure's Calla Gentry series - Forcing Amaryllis
Sandra Scoppetone's Faye Quick series - This Dame for Hire
Jasper Fforde's Jack Spratt series - The Big Over Easy
Catherine Simpson's Robin Ballantyne series - Out of Mind
Karen Olson's series - Sacred Cows
Clea Simon's Theda Krakow series - Mew is for Murder
Donis Casey's Alafair Tucker series - The Old Buzzard Had it Coming
Paul Levine's Solomon & Lord series - Solomon vs. Lord
Deborah Turrell Atkinson's Storm Kayama series - The Green Room
Chris Grabenstein's series about two NJ cops - Tilt-A-Whirl
Cecelia Tishy's Regina Cutter series - Now You See Her
Martin Edwards' series - The Cipher Garden
Tasha Alexander's Victorian series - And Only to Deceive
Maddy Hunter's Passport to Peril series - Hula Done It?
Sammi Carter's Abby Shaw series - Candy Apple Dead

Books read in December, 2005

I read eleven books during December to finish the year with 145 books finished. There have also been books I started, but didn't finish for one reason or another, but they aren't included in the 145 books. Not a bad year!

December naturally includes a few Christmas books. Here's the list for the month.

1. Miracle on I-40 by Curtiss Ann Matlock. A waitress and her two children travel home for Christmas with a lonely trucker.

2. 1225 Mistletoe Lane by Lenny Castellaneta. An angel sends a lonely man back to 1963 to save a woman.

3. Candy Apple Dead by Sammi Carter. First in a mystery series in which Abby Shaw inherits her aunt's candy shop, but spends time investigating a murder when her brother becomes the primary suspect.

4. It's Not My Fault! or Can a Rabbi's Son Find Happiness as a Tennis Pro? by Daniel Waintrup. Autobiography, anecdotes and tennis lessons.

5. There's Something About Christmas by Debbie Macomber. A reporter given her first break falls for a pilot while flying with him on stories about fruitcake.

6. Every Book Its Reader by Nicholas A. Basbanes. The power of the printed word to change lives and the world.

7. The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley. Pastor Sam Gardner plots to make a scrapbook as a present for his wife, who thinks he's having an affair, or worse.

8. S is for Silence by Sue Grafton. Thirty-some years after a town floozy and her car disappears, her daughter asks Kinsey Millhone to investigate.

9. Nail Biter by Sarah Graves. Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree is compelled to investigate when a fifteen-year-old girl disappears shortly after a murder in Eastport, Maine.

10. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. The untold story of the people who survived the Great American Dust Bowl.

11. Blue Blood: Duke-Carolina, Inisde the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops by Art Chansky. Story of the basketball teams at Duke and North Carolina.