Friday, June 30, 2006

Books read in June

Not only was this a good month for books, but a good month for authors. I've been attending Thrillerfest, and I'll get pictures and my experiences posted in the next few days, but it's been great!

In the meantime, here are the books I read during June.

Blood's Burden by Alex Matthews - Therapist Cass McCabe and her husband, Zach, are called by Zach's son when he finds his girlfriend murdered, and he knows he'll be the primary suspect.

The Last of Something by Susan Kelly - Introspective story of 3 college friens and their reunion twenty years later.

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher - When the daughter of a friend is mixed up in black magic, wizard Harry Dresden must fight magic to save her.

The Art of Deception by Laurie R. King - San Francisco Police Inspector Kate Martinelli investigates when her corpse turns out to be totally involved in the world of collecting and reinacting Sherlock Holmes' world.

Eye of Vengeance by Jonathon King - A departure from King's Max Freeman series. Nick Mullins, a Florida journalist who lost his wife to a drunk driver, is the link to a sniper's kills.

Blue Screen by Robert B. Parker - Two series characters, Sunny Randall and Chief Jesse Stone, get together when a movie star's sister is murdered.

The Greatest War Stories Never Told by Rick Beyer - 100 short tales from military history.

The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley - Fascinating story of the few days in which Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Wisdom of Our Fathers by Tim Russert - Letters from sons and daughters about their fathers.

The Husband by Dean Koontz - A landscaper is given a couple days to ransom his wife for $2 million.

And You Know You Should Be Glad by Bob Greene - Emotional story of Greene's lifelong friendship with Jack, who died of cancer.

Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich - Ranger's daughter is kidnapped at the same time that he disappears.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fiction Nation/A Field of Darkness

Fiction Nation is broadcast by Kim Alexander on Take Five XM 155 daily. This is the information on the web site today.

A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. Maddie Dare is an ex-trust fund deb who escaped the antics of her family on the moneyed north shore of Long Island. She keeps a smart remark and her shotgun handy, and with all the bodies piling up in dumpy, edge-of-the-known-world Syracuse, it's a good thing she's armed. Ms. Read uses lots of her own history for this dark, witty thriller, proving that truth makes the best fiction. Thanks to Lesa Holstine, who pointed me towards this book.

Click here to read the complete review

These are Kim Alexander's short reviews of A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read.


A Field of Darkness

by Cornelia Read

I'm Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. I have to thank listener Lesa Holstine who emailed me with this recommendation. She said since I love a good character, I might like Madeline Dare, and she was right on. Maddie is a fallen ex deb, coming from great big money on Long Island. Now she and her shotgun live with her often absent but awfully charming husband in Syracuse, New York, which she makes out to be like a less charming toxic waste dump. Maddie writes light and fluffy features for the local newspaper, and grudgingly finds herself caught up in a murder mystery that goes back 20 years and may involve her family. A Field of Darkness is Ms. Read's first novel, but there's nothing of the debut in her confident and bitingly funny dialogue. The contrast between rural life in upstate New York, and parties thrown by her family on Long Island (which have nothing to do with food, I found out) is dizzying. I kept asking myself, what would it be like to live like that? And I meant both worlds. A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. I'm Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Take Five, XM 155.


I'm Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is A Field of Darkness by first time author, ex-deb Cornelia Read. Ms. Read and her heroine, Maddie Dare, have a lot in common — as she puts it, her family's wealth is so old, it's gone. Both real and fictional fathers lived in a car on the beaches of California. And they both spent the summer of 1988 in Syracuse. Unlike many debut novels, this basis in the real world never feels self indulgent. Read takes her life and turns it into a mystery packed with fascinating characters, and most of the time you can't tell who the bad guys are and who the good ones are. In A Field of Darkness, Read maintains an extremely dark and witty tone, and I particularly liked the scenes set among her family, people with names like Binty and Lapthorne, living like fallen Gatsbys in crumbling Long Island mansions. In Maddie, Read has created a great heroine, always willing to follow her instincts, even when she knows it's a really bad idea. A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. I'm Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Take Five, XM 155.


I'm Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. This is Read's debut novel, and she uses much biographical material from her own life to create the narrator, Maddie Dare. It's hard to imagine how she turned out a functioning member of society, much less an extremely fine writer, coming from the depravations of the upper, upper class on Long Island, where there is so much money that there isn't anything else, and no one has to do anything, particularly not work. Maddie leaves it behind and marries a truly great guy — with a job as a railroad worker of all things — to her family's horror, but the penalty is she follows him to the edge of civilization: Syracuse, New York. A Field of Darkness moves between Maddie's utterly bizarre family in their Long Island estates, and her husband's equally peculiar family of upstate farmers with ease. While the murder mystery that makes the main plot of this book is compelling, it is Read's clever, darkly funny observations that made this book so good. A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. I'm Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Take Five, XM 155.

That's this week on Fiction Nation, on Take Five, XM 155.

This is what the web site says about Kim Alexander's Fiction Nation -

Fiction Nation is where you'll find book reviews, essays, gift recommendations, and the secrets to instant weight loss and younger looking skin! Fiction Nation can be heard daily on Take Five, XM 155.

Fiction Nation started its life as an idea for a book review show at XM Satellite Radio. Originally, it was going to focus on science fiction and fantasy, since I felt the nerd population was badly underserved. After about a year of pitching everyone in the building ("Lady, I'm just delivering pizza! And I hate your ideas!") I tried it out on Amy Reyer, who runs Take Five, Women's Talk on XM 155. She decided to put my show on the air, for which I am very grateful. Fiction Nation first aired in September of 2005.

Fiction Nation is primarily a book review show, but you'll also hear essays about bookstores and writing, among other things. You won't hear reviews of political rants, screeds or tracts. No diet books. No biographies. Nothing but fiction, mostly by authors that you may not yet know. (I figure John Grisham and Stephen King don't need my help at this point.) I've branched out from my original concept and talk about all kinds of fiction, although I do like my vampire books.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Congratulations to Louise Ure!

Congratulations to Louise Ure who was just nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First Novel for Forcing Amaryllis. The last time I was so keen on a first novel, it was Jonathon King's The Blue Edge of Midnight, which won the Edgar for Best First Novel. I hope Louise has the same good luck!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

And You Know You Should Be Glad

Author and journalist Bob Greene hasn't had the easiest life in the last few years, between the scandal at the Chicago Tribune and the sudden death of his wife. In his current book, And You Know You Should Be Glad, he relates the story of another tragedy, the approaching death of his best friend, Jack, from cancer. As always, Greene pulls at the heartstrings. This time, though, the tragedy is also a celebration of life and friendship.

Jack became Greene's best friend at the age of five, when he stood up for him in the classroom. Along with other friends, they formed a group they called ABCDJ - Allan, Bob, Chuck, Dan and Jack, boys that became and remained friends. When Chuck calls Greene and the others, he lets them know Jack has cancer, and it's serious.

Jack is the one that pulled the group together. He wasn't going to make all his remaining months about death. He was making them about his life. Greene says, "He was tasting his life," as they spent time walking around their hometown of Bexley, OH, remembering the moments of their lives.

I'm from small-town Ohio, and stories took me home, including the ones about the Ohio State Fair. But, I could only mourn as someone who never knew the remarkable man who must have been Jack. Bob Greene shared the story of his best friends life as a way to celebrate the life, a way to mourn, and a way to testify that the rest of us should be celebrating the moments of our lives, and the people who made them special.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wisdom of Our Fathers

Author Tim Russert said his first book, Big Russ & Me turned out to be an invitation for sons and daughters to talk about their fathers. His latest book, Wisdom of Our Fathers, contains the letters that those children wrote, telling about their memories and the advice they received from the fathers they loved, grew to love, or sometimes realized they didn't love. It's a tearjerker for those of us who are sentimental and lost our fathers years ago.

Since my father died almost fifteen years ago, and I started this book on Father's Day, it was particularly poignant. I couldn't reach out and tell him once again how much he meant to me. One chapter in this book was entitled "Daddy's Girl." As the oldest, I certainly was a daddy's girl. The pictures on my first birthday point that out as I followed my father all around the farm. A couple essays mentioned the few times the writers saw their father cry. My father cried on the day I was Valedictorian of my high school class. For four years I worked for that day because my father told me my freshman year he expected me to be Valedictorian. It was close, but the day I came home and announced I had the best GPA and would be Valedictorian, and I did it for Dad, I was so proud. And, when he met me on the football field after my graduation and my speech, he hugged me and he cried.

Each of Russert's chapters brought back memories of my father, Randall Growel, and I could have answered each chapter. I'm grateful the book brought back wonderful memories. Most of all, I'm grateful that I had such a wonderful father.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Days of Summer

My first review for Library Journal appears in the June 15, 2006 issue. I reviewed Jill Barnett's romance, The Days of Summer. Here's the review, courtesy of

In Barnett's (Sentimental Journey ) first novel in four years, the effects of a car accident reverberate across three generations and 45 years. In 1957, drunk financier Rudy Banning kills himself, his wife, and two others when his car plows into a musician's station wagon. Banning leaves two young boys to be raised by their tyrannical grandfather. The musician's widow, Kathryn Peyton, would have committed suicide except for her four-year-old daughter, Laurel. Thirteen years later, brothers Cale and Jud Banning are rivals, their powerful grandfather having pitted them against each other. Both men fall for Laurel when they meet on Catalina, and she's torn between them until a tormented Kathryn reveals the truth about the Banning relationship to the Peytons. Laurel's decision to flee will change everyone's lives. When a building project brings Laurel's daughter and Cale's son together years later, Laurel must decide to make peace with the past or allow her mother's obsession with the Bannings to destroy another generation. This absorbing romance is filled with engaging characters whose eventual maturity changes the course of family history. Their lives are all changed, not only by time, but by the relationships they formed when they were young. It's unusual for a romance reader to have the opportunity to observe the changes in characters over a long period of time, and Barnett handles the span of time with skill. Highly recommended for public libraries collecting romance.-Lesa M. Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

Copyright © 2006 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Library Journal's website is

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Great Deluge

Angry. Frustrated. Ashamed. These are all emotions that historian Douglas Brinkley's bestseller caused in me when I read the history of one week, Aug.27-Sept. 3, 2005 and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There were heroes in the book - the Coast Guard, the Director of the Louisiana SPCA, numerous doctors and nurses, a large number of individual citizens. But, the bureaucracy failed. Brinkley's criticisms were aimed at President Bush, FEMA, Michael Chertoff, Michael Brown, Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco. Many of the police in the New Orleans Police Department did not come across as heroes, but some did. As Brinkley's story unfolds day after day, I was caught up in the stories and emotions.

I was angry at the federal government's lack of response. If reporters and truckers could get into New Orleans, why couldn't and wouldn't the government? Where was Bush's compassion for the people of the Gulf Coast? I was ashamed that the government failed to assist American people in the timely manner in which they assist other countries in times of disaster.

Brinkley has written a moving, powerful book.

The Greatest War Stories Never Told

I have another blogger to thank for pointing me toward Rick Beyer's fascinating little book. I read about it at, which is called Nonfiction (Readers) Anonymous. The writer's description was interesting, so I picked up Beyer's book.

The Greatest War Stories Never Told includes 100 stories relating unusual events about war. The short (two page) essays are accompanied by drawings and captions that further explain the event. It's in chronological order, beginning in 371 B.C. with a Theban military unit known as the Sacred Band, consisting of 150 homosexual couples. My favorite story was set in 1913, when fifty-three thousand Civil War veterans returned to Gettysburg to reenact Pickett's Charge.

This is a little gem of a book.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blue Screen

The latest Sunny Randall novel brings Robert B. Parker's private detective into Police Chief Jesse Stone's jurisdiction, so fans can get two Parker mystery series for the price of one. Sunny is hired to protect C-movie list star Erin Flint, but it's Erin's sister who is murdered. Stone allows Sunny leeway in her investigation, and the two wounded souls discover they have a great deal in common. As the case heats up, so does the relationship.

As usual for Parker, there is a slight mystery, with a great deal of verbal innuendo, witty conversation, and a fun story for those of us who love Parker's word usage.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Eye of Vengeance

I love all of Jonathon King's books, and Eye of Vengeance is no exception. King departs from his Max Freeman character to introduce Nick Mullins, a Ft. Lauderdale crime reporter.

Mullins lost his wife and one daughter in a terrible accident at Christmas time. The man who killed them, and went to prison for manslaughter, is now out on parole. Nick stalks the man, feeling that his punishment was not long enough for what he did. At the same time, Nick realizes he has to try to move on, for the sake of the daughter he still has.

When a sniper takes down a pedophile/murderer, Nick covers the case with a strong interest because he made a personal connection to the mother of the victims. When a second man is killed by the sniper, and then research finds an earlier death, Nick's suspicions grow because each dead criminal was once profiled in Nick's columns.

Although King reveals the name of the sniper early in the book, the suspense just grows in this fascinating story of two vengeful men and their converging paths.

Once again, Jonathon King has done a fascinating character profile.

King's website is:

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Art of Detection

This was the first of Laurie R. King's mysteries that I've read, and, despite my personal difficulties with it, it won't be the last one. This novel featured Kate Martinelli, a San Francisco Police Inspector, a character who I really liked.

Kate investigates when a man who specializes in Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle is murdered. In fact, he specializes so much that the lower part of his home is decorated to resemble 221B Baker Street, and he hosts a Holmes Dinner Club there. Was he murdered because of his obsession? Was he murdered because of a previously unknown manuscript that has a strange storyline in that it's set in San Francisco?

I enjoyed Kate's personal life with her partner and their daughter even more than the mystery itself, although I was interested in that storyline because of the Holmes connection. My biggest problem may be due to the fact that I read an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) in which the print for the manuscript was written in a script-like type. I've never liked that type. It's difficult to read. I didn't like it when I read Babar as a child, and I don't like it now.

I would pick up another Kate Martinelli story to read about Kate and her family and friends.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Proven Guilty

Jim Butcher's eighth entry in the Dresden Files series might not be quite the pageturner that a few earlier entries are, but it's just as intriguing. Once again, Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago yellow pages, must battle evil to save the city, and a friend. Harry's first hint of trouble occurs when Molly, the teenage daughter of a friend, appears at his door, saying there was a death at a con, and her boyfriend was arrested. Harry bails him out, only to discover that phobophages, spirits that feed on fear, have invaded the con, taking the form of movie monsters. Events spin out of control after that, as Harry realizes Molly is involved more than he thought, and he must lead a small force to the Realm of Faerie to save Molly from black magic.

Each new book in this series evolves into a more complicated storyline as the wizards who are Wardens fight traitors in their own midst, the Red Court of vampires, and evil in the world. Harry is a complicated, wonderful character in this urban fantasy series.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blood's Burden

I was a little concerned about starting in the middle of the Cassidy McCabe mystery series, books by Alex Matthews. Blood's Burden is the eightth, but I didn't have to worry about feeling lost. Matthews does an excellent job in filling the reader in as to the past history of her main characters, without rewriting the previous books.

Cass McCabe is a therapist, married to a reporter. Cass' stepson, Bryce, has a troubled relationship with his father, Zach, that doesn't become any better when Bryce is suspected of killing his girlfriend, and Zach believes he might be guilty. Cass becomes the go-between who tries to investigate the case, while working to get the two men to make peace. Bryce may have been in a locked townhouse with Kit, the victim, but who else might have wanted her dead? Her father is an influential minister who wanted her out of his life. Her ex-boyfriend is a drug dealer. It seems like Kit was playing around with other men. If Cass can convince Zach and the cops that there are other suspects, she'll feel better about Bryce's chances.

Blood's Burden is the first of Alex Matthews' mysteries that I've read, but I was very interested in Cass, the main character. Although she is a therapist, she doesn't pretend to be perfect. Cass is still working on her relationship with her husband, her own fears, her feelings about a baby. From what I've read in this book, and Alex Matthews' web site, Cass is a growing, changing character. The Cass McCabe books are for those of us who have our flaws, but are hoping to change. It's encouraging to watch Cass work on herself, and with others, in this absorbing mystery.

Alex Matthews' web site is