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.