Friday, August 31, 2007

Prime Time Contest & Latest winners

The books for the latest winners are heading east. Congratulations to Sue B. in Rockville, MD, who won Chris Grabenstein's Whack A Mole. The autographed copies of Louise Penny's A Fatal Grace are going to Elsie M. in Windsor Locks, CT and Janel G. in Freeland, MI. Thanks for entering the contests!

This week, I have a special treat for you. I recently reviewed Prime Time by
Hank Phillippi Ryan, at This intriquing mystery features Charlotte "Charlie" McNally, Boston's TV 3 investigative reporter. Face Time, the next book in the Charlie McNally series, is due out in October.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, the author, informs me that Prime Time is not available at the moment on Amazon. So, she sent me eleven autographed copies, just for winners in the latest contest here. If you win, you'll have the chance to own an autographed copy of the first Charlie McNally mystery.

Since this is a slightly different contest, with eleven copies available, I'm asking you to take one additional step for me. Along with your name and address, please tell me where you heard about this contest. Did you read about it here, on my blog? Did you learn about it from Cozy Library, DorothyL, ARM, Crimespace, a sweepstakes site, or someplace else?

It's very simple to enter. If you'd like to win, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win Prime Time. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end at 6 pm PT on Thursday, Sept. 6. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Interview with Louise Penny

If you've been entering the contest for Louise Penny's A Fatal Grace, or love her books, as I do, you might be interested in this interview with her. It's at

Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly

Robert Dalby, author of Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly, takes us back to Second Creek, Mississippi, for another warm, enchanting story about the interesting residents. Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly is a welcome return to the town with a reputation for eccentric people and weather patterns.

Laurie Lepanto was President of the Nitwits, a group of influential, wealthy widows, until she married Powell Hampton, the man who danced with the women while the Nitwits tried to save their local grocery store, the Piggly Wiggly. She still has clout with the group though, and her return from the honeymoon means that she's hatched another scheme for her friends. Hale Dunbar Junior, Mr. Choppy, the owner of the Piggly Wiggly, is running for mayor now that he closed the store. Laurie hopes that her plans, along with Powell's radio spots, and the support of the Nitwits, will take Mr. Choppy over the top in his campaign against Floyce Hammontree, the mayor with his hand in his pocket. It's going to take a great deal of scheming, and maybe some luck, to topple the man who has been in power for so long in Second Creek.

Robert Dalby has written another enjoyable story about the unpredictable town of Second Creek, and its odd residents. This one digs a little deeper into the characters of the Nitwits, who have all overcome their past in order to succeed as strong, influential women. Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly succeeds because of the care in which Dalby handles current issues, such as Alzheimers, gay children, library funding, and second marriages. Let's hope there are more stories coming out of Second Creek, Mississippi, a community with heart.

Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby. G. P. Putnam's Sons, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-399-15428-7 (hardcover), 273p.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Manny Files

Christian Burch's juvenile book, The Manny Files, is targeted for an audience of nine to twelve-year-olds, but I have a problem with that. I don't think most children that age would appreciate the humor, the relationship between the manny and Uncle Max, or even Keats Dalinger. Since Keats is in third grade when the book starts, I don't know how many children past third grade will want to read the book, and most third graders would find the book beyond them. I don't think many young people would care about the Birthday Biographies. That said, for an adult, this is a charming, wonderful book.

Keats Dalinger is the narrator. He's the third child in a family of girls, and the smallest in the third grade. His oldest sister, Lulu, is in seventh grade, and he finds her intimidating. His sister, India, is only a year older than him, but they get along fine. She's the creative one in the family. His youngest sister, Belly, is only three, and she likes to go naked. The family has gone through a number of nannies, and then a man shows up. Lulu immediately dislikes the manny, and starts to keep "The Manny Files," her complaints about his actions.

Keats adores the manny. He's funny, and outrageous. He packs Keats' lunch with a coconut that has on it, "Be interesting." Despite Keats' problems at school, with a bully, and his teacher, the manny shows him how to handle his life with laughter. And the manny is thoughtful and charming, to Keats' teachers, the bus driver, and the family's grandmother, who comes to live with them.

This book had more funny scenes that most books. The manny always encouraged Keats and his grandmother to be outrageous. Here's just one scene, from page 192. 'When the doctor came into Grandma's room, she was lying in her bed wearing a pair of light blue hospital scrubs. She had a butter knife and fork in her hands and a surgeon's mask over her mouth. I had a shower cap on my head and looked like a nurse. The manny was sprawled out on the floor, pretending to be dead.

'Grandma said, "I did all I could, but I am afraid that I just couldn't save him. All I could do was butter him with this cholesterol-free spread."

'She waved the butter knife in the air.

'The doctor laughed and said, "I see that it might be time to move you to the psychiatric ward. You could all share a room."

"I could be like One Flew over the cuckoo's Nest," said the manny, "and Grandma could throw a drinking fountain through the window and we could escape."'

I loved this scene, and earlier ones. I just don't see most young people understanding some of the humor. And, I'd be careful in giving the book to children without their parents' reading it, since it's obvious to an adult that the manny and Uncle Max are gay.

How was the book? Terrific. I loved it, and I'd recommend it for adult readers.

The Manny Files by Christian Burch. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ©2006. ISBN 9781416900399 (hardcover), 296p.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Who Kills Librarians?

Mystery author Radine Trees Nehring sent me a short story, published as a pamphlet for the Rogers Public Library in Rogers, AR. It's called "Who Kills Librarians?" Set in a public library, it incorporates children's programming, reference and other areas of the library in this enjoyable mystery. It stars Carrie McCrite, retired librarian, who is featured in Nehring's mystery series.

My library system has all of Radine Trees Nehring's To Die For mysteries. Now that I've finished her short story, I'm going to read the first book, A Valley to Die For.

Since I finished Who Kills Librarians?, and enjoyed it, I'll pass it on to the first librarian who comments on my blog. Just comment, and include your email address. I'll email you to ask for your mailing address, and I'll send it on.

And, be careful at the library!

Radine Trees Nehring's website is

Book Crush

Librarians are probably Nancy Pearl's biggest fans. She's a librarian herself. She's the model for the Librarian Action Figure. Pearl's One Book, One City program, developed when she was a librarian at the Seattle Public Library, became the forerunner for all One Book programs. As the author of Book Lust and More Book Lust, she appears throughout the country, and recommends books on NPR. And, now, she takes on the task of recommending books for kids and teens with the new book, Book Crush. I think it's her best book yet.

Pearl divides the book into three categories, and then topics that reflect the books listed. Her categories are Youngest Readers, Middle-Grade Readers, Ages 8-12, and Teen Readers, Ages 13-18. Her topics and annotations of the books leave any reader with suggestions. These are valuable lists for librarians and parents.

Don't miss the interesting introduction, in which Pearl discusses a reader's emotional readiness for books, and the importance of a parent's involvement. Nancy Pearl's Book Crush should be in the hands of every public librarian, and every parent who wants their children to read.

Nancy Pearl's website is

Book Crush by Nancy Pearl. Sasquatch Books, ©2007. ISBN 1-57061-500-4 (paperback), 288p.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Paths Not Taken

When I can't get into any other book, Simon R. Green's Novels of the Nightside work. Paths Not Taken is another creepy novel featuring John Taylor, a private investigator in the Nightside.

The Nightside is the "sick, magical city within London." It's always night there, always three in the morning. Taylor's mother, Lilith, is a powerful being, not human, and the creator of the Nightside.

Taylor's convinced that someday he may be the destruction of everyone and everything he knows, so he feels he has to go back in time to the origin of the Nightside. The only way to do that is to convince Old Father Time to send him back, since he controls all time travel. But, something is standing in Taylor's way. First a man appears who clearly doesn't belong in the Nightside, and Taylor decides to help him. Tommy Oblivion, another private investigator, offers to help. He's an existential detective who adds humor to the story. He deals in probabilities, and is quite talented in confusing people. Eventually, John Taylor, Oblivion, and Shotgun Suzie face Old Father Time, and head back toward the beginning of the Nightside.

Once again, Green combines mythology, Biblical stories, and history into a fantasy story that is creepy and attractive at the same time. He continues to add interesting characters, such as Tommy Oblivion, but brings back old favorites. Paths Not Taken leads the reader and John Taylor down some interesting roads.

Paths Not Taken by Simon R. Green. Ace Books, ©2005. ISBN 0-441-01319-8 (paperback), 262p.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Special winners and 3 book contest

For the first time ever, two men won the latest contest for ARCs. William M. of Lincoln Park, MI will receive the copy of Silent Assassin by Lori Andrews. The autographed copy of Fire Prayer by Deborah Turrell Atkinson will go to Jeffrey B. from San Clemente, CA. Congratulations!

I'm offering three books this week, from two of my favorite mystery series. One is the latest John Ceepak mystery by Chris Grabenstein, Whack A Mole. Grabenstein takes the reader back to the New Jersey shore, where Ceepak and Danny Boyle must deal with a serial killer.

And, don't miss the chance to win an autographed copy of A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. I'm lucky enough to have two autographed copies to give away this week. Penny's latest book takes Inspector Armand Gamache, and readers, back to the village of Three Pines in Quebec. It's winter in Three Pines, so now is your chance to share it with Gamache and the townspeople.

If you'd like to win either of these books, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end a little later next week, since I hope to go to The Poisoned Pen on Thursday night. It will end at 6 am Pacific Time next Friday, August 31st. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Chicago Way

I reviewed Michael Harvey's The Chicago Way in Library Journal, Aug. 15, 2007. Here's the review, reprinted with permission.

Harvey, Michael. The Chicago Way. Knopf. Aug. 2007. c.304p. ISBN 978-0-307-26686-6. $23.95. M

The latest incarnation of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe is ex-Chicago cop Michael Kelly, who narrates his tale in crisp staccato prose. Kelly is drawn into an eight-year-old rape case after his former partner is found dead on Navy Pier. The rape victim becomes Kelly's latest client, a woman whose story intrigues a DNA analyst and a TV anchorwoman. Kelly's investigation soon takes him into deep, dangerous waters, with connections to the mob, a cover-up, and a serial killer. Debut author Harvey borrows elements from Chandler and Robert B. Parker's Spenser to create an appealing, crusading sleuth. Despite a certain lack of originality in the serial killer, who resembles notorious murderer John Wayne Gacy, this is recommended for all public libraries. Harvey is the cocreator of television's Cold Case Files, and that may add patron appeal.—Lesa M. Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

Copyright © 2007 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Prime Time

Hank Phillippi Ryan, the Emmy® award winning televison reporter, introduces readers to another investigative reporter in Prime Time, her first Charlie McNally mystery. And Ryan has another success on her hands.

Charlotte McNally is Boston's TV 3 investigative reporter. She's been on top for twenty-some years, always looking for the big story to win the ratings war. But, she's forty-six now, with a bitchy news director, and Charlie isn't sure she's still camera material. She needs a big story for the November sweeps, or she may be swept out herself.

While reporting the morning news, she notices a story about a missing man who works for Azratech Pharmaceuticals. Mentally, she adds that story to her list of possible stories for sweeps week. The story appears to be a no go when the police say the man died in a car accident, an apparent suicide. However, Melanie Foreman, the man's widow, says differently. She claims her accountant husband sent emails to Charlie before his death, and had work files that mean nothing to her. Within a short time, Charlie and her producer/friend, Franklin, are digging into a weird story involving emails, accidental deaths, and interesting patterns of property ownership. When Franklin is attacked in his parking lot, Charlie knows they have a story. But, can Charlie trust anyone, even the attractive English teacher who also received email? This investigative piece has the potential to not only end Charlie's career, but also her life.

Ryan is an expert at tracking Charlie's progress in the investigation. Prime Time is a compelling mystery. And, I'll be waiting for her next mystery, Face Time, in October.

I'll also be watching for the return of Charlie McNally. At forty-six, she's experienced, an award winner, and on the top of her game. She's also insecure and vulnerable when it comes to her job. Charlie's identity is totally tied to her work. Franklin's partner shrewdly questions her about her life, and she realizes she's alone. All she has is a career that is threatening to women when they age. Charlie realizes that women in journalism often make choices, fame or family. Charlie is looking not just at one last chance in her career, but also at what may be one last chance at love. Hank Phillippi Ryan has brought us a character mature women can root for. Let's hope the next time we see Charlotte McNally, in Face Time, she'll have another fascinating mystery, and an equally enjoyable personal life. Charlie's a winner. As Ryan, and Charlie, have shown, forty-six is a woman's Prime Time.

Hank Phillippi Ryan's website is

Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Harlequin, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-373-88135-2 (paperback), 276p.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Cursed Inheritance

In the ninth Wesley Peterson mystery, A Cursed Inheritance, author Kate Ellis gives Peterson a complicated home life to complement his workload. Once again, Peterson struggles to give his wife, Pam, and his growing family the attention he gives to his latest murder case.

Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson and his superior, Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Heffernan are called in when an unidentified body is pulled from the river. It becomes their case when the man is found to have been stabbed. When their victim turns out to have a connection to Potwoolstan Hall, it leads to a story out of Heffernan's earlier career.

Today, Potwoolstan Hall is a healing center. Twenty years earlier, it was the site of a family massacre, in which it appeared that the housekeeper had shot and killed five people and then turned the gun on herself. The younger daughter returned to discover a bloody scene. But the housekeeper's young daughter had also been there, and, as an adult, she's still trying to remember what she saw. The corpse from the river will lead a number of people back to Potwoolstan Hall, and its history.

At the same time, Wesley's friend, Neil Watson has his own mystery to solve. He's in Virginia, as a visiting archaeologist, with a family commission from his grandmother. He's to find the man she knew as a young woman, a man whose own family is connected to Potwoolstan Hall, and the 1605 settlement of a Virginia town.

Neil's letters home to Pam and Wesley further inflame Pam's dissastisfaction with Wesley's long hours and lack of family time. She's trapped at home with two young children, while both men have engrossing outside work. Neil's letters serve to link the distant past to Wesley's current situation, but they also link Neil, Pam and Wesley.

As usual, Ellis does an excellent job linking history with current crimes. In this case, three generations of crimes are closely tied to Potwoolstan Hall.

She always does an excellent job showing that police work can be frustrating and time-consuming as witnesses are not available, and people lie for their own reasons. The police work on more than one case at a time, and the work is often repetitive and plodding.

Anyone who liked Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet mysteries, with the combination of mystery and family life, might appreciate Kate Ellis. Ellis combines police procedural, family life and a cold historical case into enjoyable stories.

Kate Ellis' website is

A Cursed Inheritance by Kate Ellis. Piatkus, ©2005, ISBN 0-7499-0725-8 (hardcover), 361p.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Winners and A is for? contest

Congratulations to the winners of the Give me an H contest. Betsy P. in Jasper, TX won Jane Haddam's Glass Houses. Triple Homicide by Charles J. Hynes will be going to Katharine A. in Sarasota, FL. And, once again, congratulations to Francisca M. in Newport News, VA who will receive an autographed copy of The Jerusalem Syndrome by Anne Montgomery for being the 20,000th visitor to my blog.

This week, A is for two authors, two authors who feature strong women characters. When I went to see Debby Atkinson at The Poisoned Pen earlier this week, I had her autograph the ARC of Fire Prayer. Now is your chance to meet Storm Kayama, the heroine of Fire Prayer and Atkinson's other books.

Or you could win an ARC of The Silent Assassin by Lori Andrews, featuring Dr. Alexandra, a bioterrorism researcher and forensic specialist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

If you'd like to win either of these books, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end at 6 pm Pacific Time next Thursday, August 23rd. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where Has the Mystery Midlist Gone?

Diana Tixier Herald has an excellent article about midlist mysteries on the Readers Advisor Online blog. Although the blog is directed at librarians, anyone interested in mysteries will appreciate the article. It discusses the smaller publishers who have emerged to publish mysteries since many of the big publishers have cut back.

Publishers covered include Perseverance Press, Midnight Ink, Poisoned Pen Press, Rue Morge Press, and several others.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Deborah Atkinson at The Poisoned Pen

It was a fun evening at The Poisoned Pen last night. I went to meet Debby Atkinson, author of Fire Prayer. But it was a small group, and, as we waited for Barbara Peters, we introduced ourselves. Mystery and romance author Annette Mahon was there. Annette is originally from Hilo, Hawaii, and came to support Debby. Frederick Ramsay and his wife, Susan, were also there. Like Debby, Dr. Ramsay's publisher is Poisoned Pen Press, and he and Debby had done book signings together in Hawaii. The mystery field is definitely a small world.

When Barbara Peters arrived, she and Debby began by discussing the cover of Fire Prayer, Atkinson's latest mystery, published by Poisoned Pen Press. Barbara said it was a challenge to use that cover because it's controversial to use flowers on the front. Flowers indicate to some people that it's a romance. She said it's a hard-hitting book. Is the cover sending the right message?

Deborah's first book, Primitive Secrets, marked the original appearance of her character, Storm Kayama. Storm was just out of law school, clerking for her uncle in his firm. She finds him slumped over, dead in his office one day. It also introduced her Aunt Maile, a traditional healer and R.N.

Barbara and Debby discussed the fact that Hawaii has some of the same problems as Alaska and the Native Americans, medical problems such as diabetes and weight issues. They also mentioned that when Storm is in trouble, her ‛aumakua, or family totem, the pig, shows up. Storm herself is not a believer, but does begin to believe in her totem. Atkinson's books combine Hawaiian issues with contemporary issues that affect all of us. For instance, in her current book, Fire Prayer, there is a lot of corruption, and developers who pay for land. At the same time, the title itself comes from the sorcerers who lived on the island of Moloka‛i, and prayed for fire.

The Green Room is Atkinson's surfing mystery. In this one, she was trying to portray the excitement, danger and high stakes involved in the surfing competitions. It's a sport that is not well-known, but there is a great deal of money involved.

Debby's book, Fire Prayer, has just been released. It takes place on Moloka‛i, an island not as well known, but the one known to residents as the most Hawaiian of the islands. There actually was a protest at Moloka‛i Ranch, but not a death as there was in the book. Water rights were an issue at the time.

When Debby began to discuss the fact that, in the book, the residents of the small community are all tight mouthed, Barbara commented that it's a village mystery in its own way.

Debby said its a bit like working a jigsaw to make it all fit in the books. She and Barbara said she had problems with point of view in the first book, Primitive Secrets. Atkinson said she's learned a lot about writing as she went along.

She said there's a whole range of subjects she can use, living in Hawaii. So many mysteries set on the water deal only with drugs and money. Atkinson said the book she's working on now takes place on the main island, and has to do with a dive shop.

Debby said she likes to see what drives people, what in the past gets together with their present lives to drive them over the edge. That's certainly true in her latest book, Fire Prayer.

When asked what made her start writing mysteries, she said she had always wanted to write. She loved mysteries, and maybe she just wanted to participate or contribute to the genre. Her degree is in zoology, and she went to grad school in biochemistry, so her background is in the sciences.

She said she does keep an ongoing outline of each book, but often has to go back to check previous books for details, such as last names or Storm's birthday, if she even mentioned when her birthday was. She does backstory on Storm in order to get to know her.

Atkinson started writing in 1988 or 89, and started with magazine articles. Her first novel, which wasn't published, was a drug one. Her second book was Primitive Secrets, which was published by Poisoned Pen Press.

Barbara Peters said one thing people don't realize is that when working with manuscripts, much of the time is spent deleting material. Often authors don't know where their book starts. She said for some reason Chapter 4 can be the one that should start the book. Annette Mahon said she heard Chapter 3.

The small group made for a very informal, enjoyable evening at The Poisoned Pen. Poor Debby Atkinson, though, is leaving for home after touring for Fire Prayer, heading to the islands on Wednesday, when there is a hurricane predicted to hit on Tuesday.

Deborah Turrell Atkinson's website is

Fire Prayer by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007, ISBN 978-1-59058-402-6 (hardcover), 296p.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The 20,000th Visitor

Congratulations to Francisca M. of Newport News, Virginia. Francisca was the 20,000th visitor to my blog, viewing it late yesterday afternoon.

As the 20,000th visitor, Francisca was offered her choice of a number of ARCs and books, and she selected an autographed copy of The Jerusalem Syndrome by Anne Montgomery.

Once again, congratulations to Francisca. And, thank you to all of you who have visited, read the blog, entered the contests, and made comments over the last two years. I hope you continue to come back to Lesa's Book Critiques.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Lincoln Highway

Michael Wallis is the author, and Michael S. Williamson, the photographer, of this fascinating book, subtitled "Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate." It's a fascinating road trip for armchair travelers, covering 3,000 miles and thirteen states.

There's almost a poetic description of this road. "All along the Lincoln Highway...are death sites, crime scenes, battlegrounds, and the settings of natural and man made disasters that have been popular tourist attractions." In 1913, the Lincoln Highway opened. For a brief moment, it's in New York before moving to New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, it travels through country that includes lands farmed by the Amish. The road then moves on to West Virginia and Ohio.

Being from Ohio, I appreciated that chapter about the small towns located along the 240 miles of Lincoln Highway in the state. As a fan of Ohio high school football, I recognize the importance of Massillon. When the road leaves Ohio, it continues through the midwestern states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowas and Nebraska. There are lonely stretches through Nebraska and Wyoming, before reaching Utah and the stories about the Mormons. Nevada has a fascinating history, of army experiments, wedding chapels and prostitution. Upon entering California, stories include ones about the Donner Party.

Wallis and Williamson visit small towns, interesting people, and unique little restaurants. No review can do justice to their road stories. But, if you have itchy feet, this book will make you hunger to pack up and head out, preferably on The Lincoln Highway.

The Lincoln Highway by Michael Wallis and Michael S. Williamson. W.W. Norton & Company, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-393-05938-0 (hardcover), 293p.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fire Prayer

Deborah Turrell Atkinson's third Storm Kayama novel, Fire Prayer, is her best mystery yet, an exploration of secrets and culture in the Hawaiian Islands. Storm's trip to Moloka‛i is one more key that unlocks the past, a past that has haunted a small close-knit community.

Storm, a lawyer, accompanies her partner and lover, Ian Hamlin, on a business trip to Moloka‛i, but hopes to spend most of the time vacationing with her beloved Uncle Keone and Aunt Maile. Hamlin is looking into the disappearance of a wealthy client's son, while Storm plans to look up the ex-wife of a high school friend, Tanner Williams. Events quickly spin out of control, when Tanner's wife is murdered, and his son, the young boy who called 911, runs away from the hospital, where he was treated for diabetes. Tanner has his own problems with his bipolar disorder, and he might not be capable of dealing with his son's needs.

It seems natural that in a small community, Storm and Hamlin's interests collide. Ten years earlier on Moloka‛i, there was a fatal fire, and the oldest son of Hamlin's client died. Tanner was part of a circle of friends who had been protesting development on the island, men who were suspects in the fire and death. While horseback riding, Storm's friends and family stumble across the body of the missing second son, and once again suspicion falls on the same small group. In parallel stories, Atkinson tells of Storm's search for answers that might be linked to the past, and Tanner and Luke's current troubles. Those parallel tracks hint at a connection between the fire and murders ten years later.

Storm identifies with Luke because when she was twelve, her bipolar mother committed suicide. Now, she and others are looking for another child exposed to violence, and coping with a parent with bipolar disorder. Atkinson skillfully weaves Storm's story and issues with Hamlin into the story of the Moloka‛i community. Storm Kayama is a sensitive, caring woman who knows how she could have struggled, if it hadn't been for her aunt and uncle.

Fire Prayer is a complicated story. Unresolved issues in the past are still haunting the island. Atkinson says, "Like tangled and hungry flames, tendrils of violence reached from the past and tormented individuals today." Atkinson's gift lies in her ability to bring an enchanted world of beauty to life. She also shows that secrets and anger can destroy the most beautiful world. In Atkinson's Fire Prayer, lives are destroyed, and paradise ruined, by man's fears. Deborah Turrell Atkinson points out that man himself is the serpent in that tropical Eden.

Deborah Turrell Atkinson's website is

Fire Prayer by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007, ISBN 978-1-59058-402-6 (hardcover), 296p.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Give me an "H" contest, and winners

Congratulations to last week's contest winners. Lemuel W. of Louisburg, NC won the ARC of Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi. Cindy M. of Eden, UT will receive Dead Madonna by Victoria Houston. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week's contest will end a little early so I can get the books out in the mail before going on vacation. Deadline will be 6 am PT next Thursday, Aug. 16th.

Give me an "H" is the theme for the week. Are you interested in an author who has a successful series? Or, would you like to try a newcomer to the crime writing field? You could win an ARC of Glass Houses, the twenty-first Gregor Demarkian novel by Jane Haddam. Demarkian has retired from the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit, but he's asked to investigate when a member of a prominent Philadelphia family is arrested as a serial killer.

Or you could win an ARC of Triple Homicide, marking the debut of author Charles J. Hynes. Hynes, a veteran district attorney in Brooklyn, spins the story of two generations of New York cops, and two men, an uncle and his nephew, who dared challenge the famous "blue wall" of silence.

If you'd like to win either of these books, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end at 6 am Pacific Time next Thursday, August 16th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Zoё Sharp appearing in Glendale, AZ

Zoё Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox thrillers, will be appearing at the Velma Teague Branch Library in Glendale, AZ on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1 pm. The British author will be doing a whirlwind tour of the United States to publicize her latest book, Second Shot. Charlie Fox is heading to New England in the second book to feature a U.S. setting.

I reviewed Sharp's earlier book, First Drop, on July 8 on my blog. If you enjoy Lee Child's Jack Reacher, you'll love Charlie Fox, the heroine of Sharp's thrillers.

Zoё Sharp will be coming from England, so now is your chance to see her if you live in the Valley in Arizona. If you can't make it to the library, she'll be appearing at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale the day before, Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1 pm.

We hope you can make it to the Velma Teague Library. The address is 7010 North 58th Avenue, Glendale, AZ 85301.

I'll remind you again the week before the event, so you don't miss this special appearance.

Zoё Sharp's website is

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Book Buddies

Last night, I spent an hour and a half on the phone with my friend, Ann. We talked about her son and my husband, my job and her schooling, but mostly we talked about books. Ann was my Children's Librarian at one time, and now she's gone back to school to get her PhD and teach children's librarians. We always loved to talk about the books we were excited about.

We talked about Harry Potter, naturally, for over a half an hour. And, she loves Stephenie Meyer's books, and my library was the first library Meyer ever appeared at when Twilight first came out. I love Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. Rick Riordan appears often in Austin, where Ann lives now. And, I told her she has to read Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer's new book Agnes and the Hitman.

Ann's one of my best friends, but she's also a book buddy, someone I can call up and we naturally talk about books. I talk books with my sisters and my Mom whenever we call. And, my husband, Jim. We have a longstanding joke, that we only got married to read. Those are special people to me, people I share books with.

Do you have book buddies in your life?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Wilfrid Gordon Mcdonald Partridge

I've never reviewed a children's picture book here before, but Mem Fox's Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge was too good to miss. It's a story for anyone with a relative with Alzheimer's, teachers, or anyone with friends in retirement homes. It's just a beautiful book.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a young boy who lives next to "an old people's home," and he's a friend of all the residents. However, his favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt because she has four names like he does. He doesn't understand his parents when they say she's lost her memory, so he asks some of the residents about memories. Their comments help him collect some items that he shares with her, items that help her share her memories with the young boy.

I picked up the book because I'm working in the children's department at the library today, and a teacher was looking for it. She's planning a lesson around memories, and she's going to ask the children to bring in an item that relates to a memory. However, I think it's a beautiful book about the love between a young boy and an older woman, ninety-six according to Mem Fox. And, it's a thoughtful story when you consider older people or loved ones with Alzheimer's who are losing their memory.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge has something to share with most of us.

Mem Fox's website is

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. Kane/Miller Book Publishers, ©1985, ISBN 0-916291-04-9 (hardcover), unpaged.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dr. Syn: A Smuggler Tale of the Romney Marsh

Jacqueline Winspear mentioned the smugglers of Romney Marsh in her fourth Maisie Dobbs mystery, Messenger of Truth. That took me straight back to my childhood and the Disney movie, Dr. Syn, or The Scarecrow. It was a haunting movie about smugglers, with memorable music. Out of curiousity, I went exploring on the web, only to find that the movie was based on a book called Doctor Syn written by Russell Thorndyke in 1915. Dr. Syn, and the smugglers of Romney Marsh are common stories in Kent in England, but the book is not easy to find here. I borrowed it through Interlibrary Loan.

Dr. Syn is the story of Syn, the vicar of Dymchurch, a coastal village of Kent, and Mipps, the sexton. Mipps was a ship's carpenter for years, and now acts as the village's coffin maker. There are stories in the village of demon riders, and lights and sounds in the marsh. And, the fishermen and villagers of Dymchurch seem quite contented with their vicar, their squire and their lot.

When the King's Men arrive in Dymchurch, they are led by Captain Howard Collyer, a man determined to catch and hang the smugglers he suspects are sheltered in the village. Collyer seems to know a great deal about smugglers, and a pirate named Clegg, that was hanged in the area. Young Jerry Jerk watches all the proceedings with interest, because he hates his schoolmaster, and hopes to be a hangman, and hang the man. The young man is observant, and sees more than he should in the marshes one night. Suddenly he's a witness to murder, and becomes a welcome confidant of the Captain and the vicar.

Thorndyke's book is an exciting tale of opposition to the crown, smuggling and piracy. Dymchurch is the perfect area for such a story because "This corner of England is a very hotbed of enemies to the government." The book was written in 1915, so it may sound a little old-fashioned with some odd ideas about voodoo and curses, but it remains a riveting story. And, if I ever get the chance to see the Disney movie again, I'm grabbing it.

Naturally, there's no website for Russell Thorndyke, but for more information about Doctor Syn, the books, films and legends, check out

Dr. Syn: A Smuggler Tale of the Romney Marsh by Russell Thorndyke. Doubleday, Page & Company, ©1915. (hardcover), 315p.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Agnes and the Hitman

OK, ladies. Forget about Morelli and Ranger. Shane is the hottest hitman out there. No one does sexy and comic suspense as well as Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. Their new book, Agnes and the Hitman is as much fun as their previous collaboration, Don't Look Down.

Weddings can be murder. And, if things don't go right, Agnes Crandall might end up killing someone. "Cranky Agnes" is a food writer who agreed to host the wedding of her best friend's daughter at her new home, Two Rivers Mansion. She and her fiancé will cater the wedding, host it and write a cookbook together, and, in exchange she'll get three months off the mortgage she owes to the grandmother of the bride. She's a food critic. Why is someone out to kill her?

Shane is on a job when his Uncle Joey calls for the first time in years, and says his "Little Agnes" needs help. So, Shane returns home to Keyes, SC, and manages to walk in just after Agnes has knocked a killer into the basement with a frying pan. From their first meeting, there's an attraction, but Agnes is still engaged to a wimpy chef. And, things just seem to pile up for Agnes as she tells Shane, "I got Joey in the kitchen, a cop in the front hall, a dead body in the basement, and you in my bedroom. Where do you want to start?"

Start with a wedding, throw in a moth-eaten dog, a secret agency, the Mob, a wicked woman, dry humor, guns and murder, a hunky hitman, and Crusie and Mayer have another hit on their hands. It's a fun, quick-paced and enjoyable story, with two likable leads. The food is hot, and the sex is hotter. Agnes and the Hitman is as enjoyable as a decadent dessert. How could they make this story more delectable?

Oh, yes, Moot. The cherry on the top is the cameo appearance of the one-eyed alligator from Don't Look Down. Don't miss the topper.

Agnes and the Hitman is a treat.

The website for Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer is

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. St. Martin's Press, ©2007, ISBN 13-978-0-312-36304-8 (hardcover), 384p.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Treasures in My Closet

Oh, there are some real jewels in my closet for September! I have twelve ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) of books that are due for publication that month. Place holds at your local public library now, or preorder them from your favorite bookstore.

How about Zoё Sharp's next Charlie Fox thriller? Charlie returns to the United States, this time to New England in the latest book. Second Shot will be published in September. Zoё's book is on the top of my pile since she'll be appearing at the Velma Teague Library mid-September.

The Blacksmith's Daughter is the second novel of the American Revolution by Suzanne Adair. Betsy Sheridan and her husband travel to the Georgia frontier, searching for her fugitive parents. However, British Lieutenant Dunstan Fairfax is watching. The first in the series, Paper Woman, was the winner of the Patrick D. Smith Award from the Florida Historical Society.

HeartSick by Chelsea Cain is one of St. Martin Minotaur's big books for the fall. Think Silence of the Lambs. I was warned not to read it alone or at night. Detective Archie Sheridan was a kidnap victim. Two years later, he's addicted to pain pills, estranged from his family, and obsessed with the woman who kidnapped and tortured him.

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers was an award winner. Now, author Troy Cook returns with The One Minute Assassin, a novel in which one candidate for Governor of California tries to kill his way to the top while an ex-P.I. takes action when his sister becomes a target of assassins. Over one hundred candidates in a story that sounds out of California's political history.

Kathy Lynn Emerson brings back Lady Appleton in Face Down O'er the Border. In 1577, Lady Appleton heads to Scotland in a story of mystery and political intrigues.

Steve Hamilton is known for his Alex McKnight series. In a departure, his new
thriller is Night Work. Joe Turnbull is a juvenile probation officer with a tragic past. When his date is murdered, he realizes his past is catching up to him, and he faces a powerful, unknown opponent. Watch for Night Work!

Kathy Lee Emerson had Scotland in the 1500s. Cora Harrison takes the reader to medieval Ireland in My Lady Judge, a debut mystery also set in the 16th century. A woman named Mara, appointed by King Turlough Don O'Brien to be judge and lawgiver, seeks answers to the death of her assistant.

Down River is the new book by John Hart, author of the bestseller, The King of Lies. Adam Chase left North Carolina after being acquitted of a murder charge. When he's forced to return home five years later, he faces violence, murder and destruction.

Unspoken is the second mystery by Swedish author Mari Jungstedt. Inspector Anders Knutas and his team investigate a teen's disappearance that could be connected to the brutal murder of an alcoholic photographer. It's a dark, atmospheric Swedish crime novel.

From Sweden to Cape Cod for Jon Loomis' crime debut novel, High Season. Frank Coffin returns home to Provincetown, Massachusetts to beome sheriff. He expected a few thefts and small town crime. He didn't expect the murder of a TV evangelist and a rising body count.

T. Lynn Ocean also has a debut mystery, Southern Fatality. Sounds like a fun book featuring a sassy ex-Marine named Jersey Barnes, a comedic group of her father's geriatric friends, a computer hacker, a sexy partner, and a faithful dog, all in a North Carolina setting. Jersey finds herself in the middle of a high-stakes coverup, a kidnapping and a computer virus.

It's quite a leap from North Carolina to Eric Stone's Far East. In his second Ray Sharp novel, Grave Imports, the action moves from Hong Kong to China to Thailand, and then to Cambodia as the hero follows the trail of looted treasures.

There's something for everyone in the piles of Treasures in My Closet.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Winners and August Contest

Congratulations to the winners of last week's book contests. Kathy S. of Hailey, ID will receive the autographed copy of Alafair Burke's paperback, Judgment Calls, along with a notepad. The ARC of The Conjurer by Cordelia Frances Biddle will be going to Evelyn M. in New York, NY. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Dead Madonna is the latest Loon Lake mystery by Victoria Houston. Houston brings back Police Chief Lew Ferris and retired dentist Doc Osborne in this enjoyable small town mystery. You don't need to like fishing or have read the earlier books to appreciate this ARC.

Volk's Game is a well-received debut by Brent Ghelfi. I have an ARC of this book that introduces Russian gangster Alexei Volkovoy. There is a sequel planned, so it
might be a good time to try to win a copy of Volk's Game.

If you'd like to win either of these books, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win...whichever title you want. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end at 6 pm Pacific Time next Thursday, August 9th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

The Titan's Curse

Once again, during a break from school, Rick Riordan sends Percy Jackson on a quest to save the world and the Greek gods. The Titan's Curse, the third book in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, is just as inventive and exciting as the first two.

When the story opens, Percy, the half-blood son of Poseidon, has teamed up with Annabeth, Athena's daughter, and Thalia, the daughter of Zeus, to rescue two half-bloods at a military school. Half-bloods, children of one mortal parent, and a god, are often children who are loners. Arriving at the school, the three young heroes meet their satyr friend, Grover, and the two children, but they find their plan foiled when the vice principal turns into a monster, grabs the kids and awaits reinforcements. Help arrives in the form of Artemis and her Hunters, but Annabeth is lost over a cliff along with the monster.

Returning to Camp Half-Blood, the Oracle prophesies that five will go on a successful quest, but only three will return. So, Percy and his friends must find a way to reach the other coast in order to save Annabeth, and thwart the plans of the monsters and Titan's who are attempting to make a comeback.

Riordan does an outstanding job with Greek myths and creatures. He brings the stories to life, as viewed by young people. And his heroes? Young people who have trouble in school, outsiders. With only one mortal parent, they often are living with a stepparent. On breaks from school, instead of going home, they travel, have fights, live on their own, and successfully defeat the enemy. There are rewards and thanks from parents and other adults (gods) at the end of the trip. Life doesn't run smoothly. People die, but it's for the greater good. Rick Riordan has messages for his readers, but they're coached in enjoyable story format.

Rick Riordan's The Titan's Curse is another successful book in the series. It's a series to give to anyone, child or adult, regretting the last of Harry Potter.

Rick Riordan's website is

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan. Hyperion Books for Children, ©2007. ISBN 978-1-4231-0145-1, 312p.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Usual Suspects - Sept. Bestsellers?

These are just my guesses as to some of the books that will make the bestseller lists when they're published in September. Now is the time to get on the waiting list at your local public library, or order the books from your favorite bookstore.

Tomorrow - Treasures from My Closet, and the next book contest.

Today, a few of the usual suspects will probably be bestselling authors again.

Start with John Grisham, and his latest book, Playing for Pizza. This is definitely not his normal book. Instead it's a short novel about a former American football star who moves to Italy to play for the Parma Panthers. I'm looking forward to it, but I don't know if most of Grisham's fans will be.

James Patterson & Howard Roughan - You've Been Warned
John Sandford - Dark of the Moon
Stuart Woods - Shoot Him if He Runs (A Stone Barrington Novel)
Tess Gerritsen - The Bone Garden
Nicholas Sparks - The Choice

Personally, it's one more month that I'm more excited about the Treasures in My Closet than the prospective bestsellers.

Killer Weekend

Fortunately, Ridley Pearson only makes the reader sweat through four days of tension in his latest thriller, Killer Weekend. Any more days might have caused too much stress for the reader, and for Pearson's Sheriff Walt Fleming.

Fleming was only a rookie cop when he saved Elizabeth Shaler from a knife-wielding intruder. Now, he's the sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho and Liz Shaler is New York attorney general, poised to announce her candidacy for President. So, for the days leading up to a weekend conference attended by the rich and famous, and the weekend itself, Fleming has to put aside his personal problems, and deal with Secret Service and other security forces jockeying for control. His biggest worry? A killer in the Salt Lake City airport seems to be headed straight for Sun Valley, and no one has a clue to his identity.

Pearson elects to reveal the identity of the killer, but that just adds to the suspense as the reader follows him step-by-step. He builds tension à la Patterson, with short crisp chapters that move faster and faster, culminating in a tricky confrontation.

If the book has a weakness, it's the cruelty to animals. It's very appropriate, considering the characters involved, however animal lovers will not want to pick up this book.

Sheriff Walt Fleming is not Superman. He has family problems, everything from a father he hates to a troubled teenage nephew. He struggles with his divorce. Perhaps one of Pearson's strongest scenes is the final scene of the book when Fleming shows just how human he is.

On so many levels, this book's title works. It's the the story of a killer's weekend. It's a killer of a weekend for so many people involved, especially Walt Fleming. And, if you pick up Killer Weekend, prepare to lose any interest you had in anything else. It will kill your plans as well.

Ridley Pearson's website is

Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-399-15407-2 (hardcover), 323p.