Sunday, September 30, 2007

Other Awards at Bouchercon

Besides the Barry Awards, there were other Awards given out at Bouchercon in Alaska. The Macavity Awards were given, as chosen by the members of Mystery Readers International.

They are:

Best Mystery Novel - The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard

Best First Novel - Mr. Clarinet by Nick Stone

Best Non-Fiction - Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today's Mystery Writers edited by Jim Huang & Austin Lugar

Sue Feder Historical Mystery - Oh Danny Boy by Rhys Bowen

Best Short Story - "Till Death Do Us part" by Tim Maleeny

The Shamus Awards are presented by the Private Eye Writers of America. The 2007 Shamus Award winners are:

Best Hardcover - The Dramatist by Ken Bruen

Best Paperback Original - An Unquiet Grave by P.J. Parrish

Best First Novel - The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes

Best Short Story - "The Heart Has Reasons" by O'Neill DeNoux

The lifetime achievement award, "The Eye," was presented to Stuart M. Kaminsky

Keith Gilman was the winner of the 2007 St. Martin's/PWA Contest

The Anthony Awards were also presented at Bouchercon.

Best Novel - No Good Deeds by Laura Lippman

Best First Novel - Still Life by Louise Penny

Best Paperback Original - Ashes and Bones by Dana Cameron

Best Short Story - "My Father's Secret" by Simon Wood

Best Critical Nonfiction - Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today's Mystery Writers edited by Jim Huang and Austin Lugar

Congratulations to the winners!

The Muse and Other Stories of History, Mystery and Myth

Lillian Stewart Carl's latest anthology is a magical escape into the past, the past of history and literature.

If you have a familiarity with the basic bones of Carl's stories, they are even more enchanting. She covers literature, from Charles Dickens to Shakespeare to Johnson and Boswell. There's wonderful historical elements, from Ann Boleyn to Elizabeth 1, from Thomas Jefferson to World War II. Carl is adept at switching settings and language to fit the story. And, the pararnormal elements that appear in some of the stories is just an added bonus.

The thirteen stories include wonderful ones such as A Stake of Holly, set nineteen years after A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is on his deathbed, asking Tim Cratchit to find out the identity of the ghosts that visited him. As a young man, in one story, Thomas Jefferson is asked to find a murderer. And, for cat lovers, there is a tribute to the classic stories of Wodehouse and Christie, a fun mystery called Sardines for Tea.

The Muse and Other Stories of History, Mystery and Myth allows the author to explore a range of historical periods, and literary classics. Carl has intriguing plots in which she challenges the reader to look at culture with a different eye. Lillian Stewart Carl invites the interested reader into a collection of stories filled with the magic of the past.

Lillian Stewart Carl's website is

The Muse and Other Stories of History, Mystery and Myth by Lillian Stewart Carl. Delphi Books, ©2007, ISBN 978-9-9765185-5-6 (paperback), 251p.

Friday, September 28, 2007

For Teenage Girls who Read

If there's a teenage girl in your life who loves to read, and also loves MySpace, point her towards the website readergirlz.

October looks like a fabulous month on the site. YALSA (the American Library Association's group for Young Adult Librarians), has joined with readergirlz to present a month long experience to celebrate Teen Read Week. The readergirlz divas will be hosting 31 authors for 31 days in chats on the group forum. There will be a different YA author each evening in October at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST.

Meg Cabot kicks it off on Oct. 1. Other authors include Nikki Grimes, Chris Crutcher, Ann Brashares, and Lisa Yee. Bestselling vampire author Stephenie Meyer will end the series for Halloween, on October 31.

Check out the website for complete details. Looks fabulous for teenage readers!

2007 Barry Award Winners

Last night, the 11th Annual Barry Awards presentation took place at Bouchercon in Anchorage, Alaska. Mystery News and Deadly Pleasures co-sponsor the Barry Awards, named for an ardent ambassador of mystery fiction, Barry Gardner. The awards are voted on by the readers of Mystery News and Deadly Pleasures.

This year's winners are:

Best Novel - The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos

Best First Novel - Still Life by Louise Penny

Best British Mystery Novel - Priest by Ken Bruen

Best Thriller - The Messenger by Daniel Silva

Best Paperback Original - The Cleanup by Sean Doolittle

Best Short Story - "The Right Call" by Brendan DuBois

Congratulations to all of the winners. And, a personal congratulations to Louise Penny for Still Life, since I've been an ardent advocate of Penny's Inspector Armand Gamache series.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Contests for Art Lovers & latest winners

Congratulations to the most recent winners of the book contests. Pam N. of Hobe Sound, FL won the ARC of Harry Hunsicker's Crosshairs. The autographed copy of First Drop by Zoe Sharp will go to Karen B. in Bloomington, MN. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm offering two mysteries connected to the art world. The first is an ARC of Brush with Death by Hailey Lind, the latest book in the Art Lover's Mystery series. If you haven't yet read one of these fun mysteries, you're in for a treat. They feature Annie Kincaid, owner of a faux-finishing business in San Francisco. Annie was once arrested for art forgery as a teen, and has gone straight ever since. However it's hard to go straight when your grandfather is a renowned forger, and there's a sexy art thief in your life.

Or you could win Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge. Although it's not labeled a mystery, there are long-kept secrets revealed in a surprise ending. It's an intriguing story of survival, and redemption, in which generations are intertwined.

Brush with Death or Woman in Red? 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, October 4th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Playing for Pizza

It's going to be hard to decide what readers will enjoy John Grisham's latest novel, Playing for Pizza. It will be for those readers who enjoyed Bleachers, but not all of them. Perhaps it's for those who enjoy football and Italy. Right off the bat, I'll say I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure who I'll give it to next.

Rick Dockery is a washed-up third string quarterback. He was cut from the Cleveland Browns after he ended up in a playoff game, and proceeded to throw away a seventeen point lead. His agent can't find him a job on any NFL team, however the Parma Panthers would love to have him. That's Parma, Italy, where they have a team that plays football americano. Rick flees to Italy as a way to escape a paternity case

When Rick arrives in Italy, he's a stereotypical American football player. His new coach, Sam Russo, knows that he's in for culture shock, facing the language, the small cars, the cities. Food and women might help him over it. In Rick's case, it doesn't hurt that his new teammates, who play for the love of the game, pizza and beer, see him as their savior, the American quarterback who will help them win their Super Bowl.

Grisham's novel is a heartwarming story of a man who becomes part of a team and a city. For the first time in years, Rick Dockery is accepted, and finds people who know he's better than his past history. The book is funny and warm, with beautiful descriptions of Italy and its food. The story honors everyone who cares so much for a game that they play with gusto and heart. Playing for Pizza is a celebration of the passionate love of a game, and of life.

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Doubleday, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-385-52500-8 (hardcover), 262p.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jane Smiley

Happy Birthday to author Jane Smiley. No, I've never met her, but I had a delightful
experience relating to her Pulitizer Prize winning novel, A Thousand Acres.

When I was the Library Manager on Captiva Island, I was asked to do a book talk at the Sanibel Community Center, and they asked me to talk about A Thousand Acres. I prepared well. I even read King Lear after discovering A Thousand Acres was a modern-day retelling of that story.

And, then when I arrived, they told me that Jane Smiley's mother, Fran, was planning to attend. Now, there's a terrifying thought! Have you done a book talk with the author's mother in attendance? It was actually so enjoyable. I discussed the book, and then Fran took over and answered questions about Jane's life. I think everyone in the audience enjoyed it.

So, Happy Birthday, Jane Smiley, and thank you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

McCafferty's Nine

Elizabeth Gunn brings back Jake Hines, Chief of Detectives in Rutherford, Minnesota, in McCafferty's Nine. It's a welcome return for those of us who have been waiting to see what's happening in Jake's life.

Gunn does an outstanding job combining Jake's personal life with a police procedural set in a medium-sized community. During the course of this seven book series, readers have grown to know Jake, and the police force that work with him. Now, while Jake anxiously awaits the birth of his first child, he also deals with two odd cases confounding the police. One series of crimes involves an odd cluster of assaults, women who have been mugged by a runner the police have dubbed "The Sprinter." Ray Bailey, head of the Peoples Crime section fears the runner is getting more violent. The other group of crimes involves an entire neighborhood that seems to have bogus charges on their credit cards. Although it's not usually a problem the police deal with, Jake gives the Property Crimes division a little leeway to work the case. Everything grows more complicated the night a police sting coincides with a murder.

And, Jake? He works hard to juggle the cases under his jurisdiction. At the same time, he's haunted by a warning dream of a wolf, one that always portends trouble in his life. He can't lose focus at work, although he worries about the forthcoming birth.

McCafferty's Nine succeeds in the best tradition of a police procedural. It allows the reader to follow a police investigation, while peering inside the personal lives of the police, particularly Jake Hines.

Elizabeth Gunn's website is

McCafferty's Nine by Elizabeth Gunn. Severn House, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-7278-6514-4 (hardcover), 216p.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Wave Goodbye

A couple days ago, after reading Robert Fulghum's new book, I wrote an entry here called A Wave, a salute to Larry Zimmer, the best teacher I ever had.

Today, I want to acknowledge another person in my life. I was shocked to read in American Libraries today that Dr. Raymond von Dran died July 23. Ray was most recently Dean Emeritus of Syracuse University's School of Information Studies. However, he was Assistant Dean at Catholic University of America when I went there.

I had applied to Catholic University for grad school in Library Science, and my parents and I went to Washington, D.C. to tour the school. I was surprised when the Assistant Dean gave us the tour of the school. And, then we had tea with him and the Dean, Dr. Elizabeth Stone, on her balcony overlooking the campus. I was sold on the school by the personal interest they took in the students, and by the promise that I could certainly get a job while I was going to school.

I went to Catholic, and, within a week, had a job working for the Library Science Dept. itself. So, most days, I had the chance to talk with Ray. And, halfway through the school year, when he called me into his office, and offered me the Departmental Scholarship, I was floored, and grateful.

Within the past year, I wrote to him, told him what I was doing, and thanked him for the opportunities in grad school. I received a very nice note back, saying he hoped he'd get the chance to see me when he was in Arizona.

Raymond von Dran made changes wherever he went. They were major changes at places such as Syracuse University. And, he made a wonderful change in my life, and gave me opportunities I would not have had. I'm glad I had the chance to thank him before his death. This is one last thank you.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Juggling Elephants

Jones Loflin and Todd Musig have written a parable of life for all of us who are trying to balance work, relationships, and time for ourselves. Juggling Elephants appears to be a light story about a busy man, but it actually has practical ideas.

The authors quote John Steinbeck in saying we are supposed to come from the circus "refreshed and renewed and ready to survive." Instead, they point out that many of us find the circus of our lives frustrating and difficult to handle. They tell the story of Mark, a man who was overwhelmed at work, had no time for his wife and daughter, and neglected himself. It took a trip to the circus, and a conversation with a ringmaster to convince them he needed to bring some order to his life.

Mark learns a few basic lessons that help him control the three-ring circus of his life. It's impossible to get it all done. When you try to juggle elephants, no one enjoys the performance. And, the ringmaster controls all three acts, but cannot be everywhere at once.

Are you trying to meet the expectations of everyone? Are you overwhelmed? Juggling Elephants looks like just another self-help book. However it's more than a business book. It's a book that just might have the idea that helps you organize your life so you don't have to continue to juggle elephants.

The website for this book, and the concept, is

Juggling Elephants by Jones Loflin and Todd Musig. Penguin Group, ©2007, ISBN 978-1-59184-171-5 (hardcover), 131p.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Wave

In Robert Fulghum's latest book, What on Earth Have I Done?, he lists questions he calls Conversation Lifeboats. It's an intriguing list that helps to make strangers no longer strangers. His first question is, "Did you ever have a great teacher - in school or out? Tell me."

This blog entry is a departure. It doesn't relate to a book or libraries. It does relate to me, and what helped to make me the person I am today. I already loved books. His class gave me an exposure to literature that is necessary for cultural literacy, for life. This note is about that great teacher in my life.

My sisters would probably say Larry Zimmer was their greatest teacher as well, but I can only speak from my experience. Larry Zimmer was my English teacher in my junior and senior years in High School. He challenged us, taught us more than any other teacher, brought the experiences of our first two years of high school English together. I had outstanding English teachers in those first two years, but it's the lessons I learned in Mr. Zimmer's classes that I remember.

We studied poetry - Frost and Sandburg. We wrote our own poetry, and many of us had it published. In those classes, I first read Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner. I read my first Eudora Welty short story, and, when I had the chance to meet her when I was in college, I knew who I was meeting. We worked in small groups, and did group presentations. We also had to research and do an individual presentation to the entire class. I pinpoint my love of Readers' Theatre to the day I appeared in front of the class to present the theory that Nero Wolfe was Sherlock Holmes' son. I had been captivated by a book that said that, and, wearing my father's bathrobe, and carrying a pipe, I portrayed the detectives. Mr. Zimmer gave me the confidence to get up in front of the class, and, completely out of character, make that presentation. We read Greek drama, Sophocles and Aristophanes. How many high school students still read Greek drama? Then, we took that drama, researched, and wrote Greek Reviews, major papers that were larger than any paper I ever wrote in college. He took us to Cleveland, to see a professional performance of Hamlet. He gave us phrases, and we had to write creative stories. I still remember one, "She met him over a strawberry ice cube."

I was in the accelerated English classes, but I took a reading class for independent study. Mr. Zimmer brought his class into the reading lab at the time, and, in working with the boys in that class who were not outstanding students, I had the chance to discover how much smarter they were than I was, in some of the more practical aspects of life. I couldn't read a map to save my life, and they could easily pick up that skill. It was a lesson just watching Mr. Zimmer work with them.

I went back to my hometown as library director, and Mr. Zimmer brought his classes to the library, and treated me as a peer. He told me to call him Larry, and we discussed his class assignments.

I never think of Larry Zimmer as Larry. I still admire the teacher I had, who helped me develop writing and reading skills. He expanded my reading world. He was one person who helped me become the person I am today.

I did write Larry Zimmer once, and thank him. I told him he was a wonderful teacher.

So, Robert Fulghum, Larry Zimmer was the great teacher I once had. And, this is a wave of thanks to Robert Fulghum for asking the question, and to Larry Zimmer, for all of the questions.

What on Earth Have I Done?

I've missed Robert Fulghum's books. He's the bestselling author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, but, even more, he's a master of the art of "taking the ordinary seriously." What on Earth Have I Done? is a collection of his stories and observations. His essays can make me laugh and cry in the course of the same work.

Fulghum says he's still asking the "Mother Questions" of himself. "What on earth have I done?" "What in the name of God am I doing?" "What will I think of next?" "Who do I think I am?" The stories in this book are aimed at finding the answers to life. What is life all about?

Robert Fulghum divides his time between Seattle, Washington, Moab, Utah, and Crete. Each of his homes brings out his imagination, his humor, and his unique way of viewing life. He successfully integrated himself into a group of men at a cafe in Crete. His story of that integration, using humor, had me laughing aloud.

His work is thoughtful. It's his own view of life, but a lucky person will identify with some of his stories. They are small pieces, with a great deal of heart. He's a storyteller, with a good storyteller's ability to move the reader.

On page 82, Robert Fulghum says, "When you read these words, I hope you understand it is my way of waving to you. And I hope, with all my heart, that you wave back."

Mr. Fulghum, you don't use a computer, except for writing. So, you'll never read these words. But, I'm waving back.

Robert Fulghum's website is

What on Earth Have I Done? by Robert Fulghum. St. Martin's Press, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-312-36549-3 (hardcover), 308p.

The One Minute Assassin

Troy Cook's first book, 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers, is an award-winning novel that was nominated for the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Crime Novel. Now, with The One Minute Assassin, he takes dead aim at the California political process, and proves he can hit the target. His second book is even funnier than his award-winning first one.

There are 123 candidates in a recall election for governor of California, and a number of them are "wackos running for office." They include a former child actor, a rap-star, a mayor, a bodybuilder, and a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company. However, when one dies on television, and one takes a dive from a building, it appears that someone might be arranging for gubernatorial candidates to be killed. And, it might have gone well, except they targeted Eleanor Black.

Eleanor's brother, John, and his partner, Harley, have a business that specializes in deadbeat dads and sexual predators. John hates the political arena and anything to do with it, but when his niece calls in a panic, saying someone tried to kill her mother, his protective instincts kick in. Now, he not only must watch his sister's back, but also deal with two high-strung teenage girls, and his mother, the Senator, otherwise known as the Barracuda. His job? Protect all the women in his life from two incompetent assassins, a greedy candidate, and the Russian Mafia.

Outside of some of the Florida authors, no one does offbeat crooks and criminals as well as Cook. Who else would pair up a stringbean-shaped failed gambler and an ex-football player dependent on pharmaceuticals, with Russian organized crime? Even Black's business partner is an oddball, an Aussie, ex-sniper, martial arts expert and private investigator. It's a cast destined for catastrophe.

Anyone who is a Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey fan will welcome Troy Cook's inclusion in their ranks. His books, including The One Minute Assassin, are perfect mixes of gallows humor, eccentric characters, and shrewd portraits of the absurdities of American life.

Troy Cook's website is

The One Minute Assassin by Troy Cook. Capital Crime Press, ©2007, ISBN 9780977627646 (paperback), 287p.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Garden Spells Hits Bestseller List

If you missed my Sept. 1 review of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, you might want to backtrack and check it out. This first novel hits the New York Times Fiction Bestseller List at number seven this coming Sunday, according to their website.

It's a special, magical debut.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Winners and Early Contest

I'm sorry I had to end the last contest three hours early. I won't have access to a computer after 5 pm tonight in order to notify winners, and get the books ready to go out in the mail. So here are this week's winners. Michael H. in Wyomissing, PA won the autographed copy of Margaret Coel's Eye of the Wolf. Rosalyn S. from Coconut Creek, FL will receive the ARC of The Chicago Way by Michael Harvey. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

If you missed Zoё Sharp's appearances here in the U.S., you still have a chance to get an autographed copy of First Drop. I bought a paperback copy of the book, the first Charlie Fox thriller set in the U.S., and had Zoё sign it for the contest.

Or you could win an Advanced Reading Copy of Crosshairs, the latest Lee Henry
Oswald mystery by Harry Hunsicker. The hard-nosed Dallas detective faces a former intelligence operative, a deadly enemy in this new mystery.

First Drop or Crosshairs? 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, September 27th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On Wings of the Morning

I recently reviewed Marie Bostwick's On Wings of the Morning for Library Journal in the Sept. 15, 2007 issue. The review is reprinted here, with permission.

Bostwick, Marie. On Wings of the Morning. Kensington. Nov. 2007. c.384p. ISBN 978-0-7582-2256-5. pap. $14. F

In Fields of Gold, Bostwick told the story of Eva Glennon, a young Oklahoma woman. Now her son, Morgan, gets the chance to tell his tale. The other narrator is Georgia Carter. Both characters grew up in the 1920s and 1930s, children of unmarried mothers. Morgan, whose father is a famous aviator he’s never met, is lucky to have an extended family that loves him; despite his background, he becomes a confident young man. Unlike her mother who always searched for the right man to solve her problems, Georgia knows she has to be a realist. Both Morgan and Georgia turn to flying as a refuge and a way to find happiness. When World War II breaks out, Morgan enlists as a pilot. Georgia, who married a flight instructor and learned to fly, finds her own wings through joining up with the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASP). When Morgan returns to the States for retraining, he meets Georgia, and they struggle to find love. The book takes some liberties with Charles Lindbergh’s life, but Bostwick does an excellent job telling the story of the WASP. Since this novel doesn’t need to be read as a sequel, it is recommended for most fiction collections.—Lesa M. Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

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

Monday, September 17, 2007

Edenville Owls

Robert B. Parker's Edenville Owls might be marketed as a teen novel, but it's one that any fans of Parker's Spenser books will want to pick up. Not only is the character of Spenser foreshadowed in this, but as in many of Parker's books, there are traces of Parker's own life.

Bobby Murphy, the narrator, is starting eighth grade in the fall of 1945, after Roosevelt's death and the end of the war, when it seems to be a whole new world. Together with four friends, Bobby had formed a basketball team, the Edenville Owls. The five hung around together, played basketball without a coach, and became known around town as the Owls. They were already known to their new English teacher, Miss Delaney, a woman they all admire.

Bobby sometimes acts as a smart aleck, but it's actually to cover up how smart he is. His friend, Joanie, sees through him. They've been friends since they were three, and they still are friends. Bobby can talk to her when he can't talk to anyone else. He tells her about a stranger who argued with Miss Delaney, and his feeling the man hits her. Together, they hatch a scheme to find out Miss Delaney's connection to the man.

At the same time, Bobby and the Owls have found out how bad they are as a team. Bobby spends time observing other teams, so he and the Owls can change their techniques. Throughout the book, the team takes on teams that should beat them, but Bobby can "figure things out."

The one thing he has a hard time with is his feelings about Joanie. She's one of his best friends, but she's an attractive girl, and he's jealous when his friend Nick goes to a dance with her. Joanie is wise beyond her years, though, and she talks things through with him.

Edenville Owls is an interesting mystery, however for Parker fans, it's intriguing. Is Joanie modeled on his wife Joan, the woman he's known since childhood? Miss Delaney attended Colby College, just as Parker and Joan did. Bobby tells Joanie he wants to be a writer. In his comments that he wants to be honorable, like Philip Marlowe, the reader can see the beginnings of Spenser.

It might be marketed as a teen novel. I'm not sure teens would appreciate the details about life in the 40s, the way Parker's adult readers would. Bobby seems to be a young Spenser, and Joanie a young Susan. Spenser fans will want to check out this book.

Edenville Owls by Robert B. Parker. The Penguin Group, ©2007, ISBN 978-9-399-24656-2 (hardcover), 194p.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Zoё Sharp at the Velma Teague Library

Zoё Sharp, author of First Drop and Second Shot, the Charlie Fox thrillers that are set in the U.S., appeared today at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ. She and her husband, Andy, arrived early enough that Zoё was able to judge the final pictures in our library photo contest.

If you get the chance to hear Zoё speak, grab it. She started out discussing her background, and then talked about her books. She said she photographs things, usually race cars. She hangs out of fast-moving cars. So, when they visited Daytona Beach, they went to car shows, and a car stereo show. At the time, she thought it would be a wonderful place for someone on the run with a teenager, because the place is filled with teens.

Sharp's character, Charlie Fox, came out of the military under a cloud. She trained as a bodyguard, and her first job was in the U.S. Naturally, as the newest one on the team, she got the nasty job of looking after a fifteen-year-old. This is the background for First Drop, just released in paperback. After she and the boy finish riding a roller coaster at an amusement park, someone shoots at them.

Zoё said since she and Andy have made about 35 trips to the U.S., part of the problem is trying to keep Charlie's Britishness. She said she likes to visit unusual places, so she can add elements to her books. She said a cab driver in Oklahoma City couldn't figure out why anyone would come there.

She believes setting is as much a part of the book as another character. Road Kill, the book in between First Drop and Second Shot, is set in Ireland, and she used the location as part of character. Second Shot is set in North Conway, New Hampshire, and she wanted the small town feel.

Sharp said she does a great deal of research. The internet can put you in touch with people who really know details. You can discover resources through the internet, but you can't get snippets such as smells if you don't go the location. She said she does research, and then less than 90% of research gets in the book. She may keep only 10%, just what is needed. She said she talked to someone who was shot to get the feel that comes through in Second Shot. Zoё said she's a lazy reader who is a lazy writer. She skips over much of the narration.

Zoё told us that you can't shoot anymore in Britain, so she takes the opportunity to get out and shoot guns when she comes to the U.S. She likes to have shot the guns she uses in the books. They had just been in Houston, where they shot. Last year, at Bouchercon, she put a prize up for bid, breakfast and a chance to go to the gun range with the author. The woman who won had been blind since birth, and always wanted to shoot. They bought radios at Radio Shack, and hung them over the targets. She did so well, that they brought out a submachine gun.

One of the audience members asked her about her method of writing. She said she makes time. She has a full-time day job, photography. She and Andy have travelled 30,000 miles a year in England alone for the job. So, writing has to work around her day job. She works on the laptop in the car. She sets herself a monthly target, so many words a month.

Zoё plots her books because the editor wants to know the plot. However, she doesn't plot out her characters behavior, and they can change. In discussing one of her characters who had the name of a librarian, she mentioned that libraries in the U.K. have been supportive. There are not as many independent bookstores as in the U.S., so libraries and book clubs there have been important.

Charlie Fox's military career has not yet been written about in an entire book. Sharp tries to reveal a little of the backstory in each book, without spoiling previous books for those who haven't read them. Charlie Fox was ill-prepared for civilian life. Special Forces backgrounds are good for close protection. Women, especially, don't stand out. Charlie's job is to blend in, because if someone is a target, the first intent is to kill the bodyguard. If you can't identify the bodyguard, it makes it harder. Backstory indicates that Charlie has had some successful jobs. In Sharp's latest thriller, Second Shot, Charlie doesn't have the physical self-assurance because she's been injured. Zoё said she read a number of the authors whose female characters seemed passive, in need of rescuing. She wanted to create a woman who did her own rescuing.

In discussing photography, she reminds people she is a photographer, not paparazzi. Her long lens is for motorsports, not looking in people's windows.

The question was asked, are you Charlie Fox. The answer was, they do have a lot of the same interests. Zoё did competitive rifle shooting. She rides motorbikes. They are no longer allowed to shoot in the U.K., following a school shooting about ten years ago, when guns were banned. Unlike Charlie, Zoё only shoots on ranges.

Sharp was asked about the beginning of her books. Her response was that first lines are so difficult. They usually aren't the start of the story, just a jumping off point. It takes her a while to get the beginning. She finds it important to find the voice for a book. She has to find the rhythm of words. She writes a fairly straight forward style.

When she was asked about Charlie's background, she said there is a bias against women in the military in the U.K. They don't believe women can do the job. Charlie is still searching for respect, particularly from her parents.

Zoё Sharp always knew she wanted to write. She wrote her first book at fifteen, one that is unpublished. But, she did submit it at the time, and received rave rejections. She did all kinds of odd jobs. When she bought her first car, it was an old Triumph Spitfire. She rebuilt it, which led to writing about car restorers, then all kinds of stuff about cars. Eventually, they asked her to take pictures to go with the words. Now, she really only does the photography, and her husband, Andy, writes. On this trip, though, Andy has been pressed into service as the photographer.

Zoё was writing a classic car column for a magazine when she started getting death threats. Was it because she was a woman? When she started writing in 1988, few women were writing about cars. She's still the only woman photographer in the U.K. doing car shoots. And, now that she's writing thrillers, she recognizes that some people feel that women can't write thrillers.

She's currently writing a standalone. The next book in the Charlie Fox series, Third Strike, has already been submitted to the publisher. That one starts in New York, goes to Boston, and then to Houston. She's done a number of short stories, including ones that feature Charlie. For the U.S. paperback release of First Drop, she wrote a story that's included in that book.

Following Zoё's book signing, we took some pictures.
I took one of my husband, Jim, with her. And, before we finished up, Jim took a nice picture of me with Zoё.

After pictures, we invited everyone over to a local coffee shop, A Shot of Java . The owner, Lisa Dowd, was nice enough to open up just for us. Nine of us went over, and had the chance to talk to Zoё and Andy. It was the perfect ending for our day. Their day? They were heading off to a gun club.

If you get a chance to meet Zoё Sharp, you'll enjoy it. It will make you appreciate the Charlie Fox books even more. The books set in the U.S. are First Drop, and now, Second Shot.

And, check out Zoё's website, where she has a blog of her U.S. trip.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature may be Robin Brande's first novel, but if this one is any indication, she's going to be a star in teen literature. Her book has humor, irreverence, common sense, and a little romance. It's a romantic comedy addressing serious issues. It's a novel many adults would also enjoy.

Mena Reece's first day of high school isn't going well. Her former best friend, the pastor's daughter, is snubbing her, along with all of her ex-friends from Sunday School. Mena sent a letter to a young man, confessing that the church, and her friends, had targeted him. Families were sued, Mena's an outcast, and her parents aren't speaking to her because they might lose their business.

So, it's a lonely teenager who enters biology class on the first day of school, to be greeted by an eccentric, award-winning science teacher, and a boy named Casey who becomes her lab partner. Casey is bright, funny and offers a friendship Mena needs.

If things weren't bad enough at school, when Ms. Shepherd starts to teach evolution, everything goes haywire. Mena's former friends protest, demanding to be taught intelligent design. The pastor shows up, church members run for the school board, and Casey's sister, Kayla, editor of the school newspaper, jumps on the story. Suddenly, Mena is caught between the science she has learned to respect, and the religious beliefs of her family and the church that threw her out. With Casey's family, she not only finds a refuge, but a blog online in which she can express her beliefs as Bible Grrrl.

Mena is a likable teen, caught up in issues that are very real today. As she struggles to find her own identity, and her own moral compass, she is every teenager.

There will be some who object to Brande's treatment of the members of Mena's church. However, I feel she offered a fair discussion of evolution vs. intelligent design, science vs. religion. If readers are willing to finish, they'll discover that Mena finds that religion and science both have their place, and the beliefs are not incompatible.

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature would be an interesting book for discussion, even with an adult group. I can't wait to see Robin Brande challenge readers in her next book.

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande. Alfred A. Knopf, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-375-94349-2 (hardcover), 268p.

Robin Brande has two websites. One is . The other site is

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Winners and New Contest

Congratulations to the latest contest winners. Helen K. in Winchester, VA won the ARC of The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews. The autographed copy of Whack A Mole by Chris Grabenstein will be heading to Vincent S. in New Milford, CT. The books will be on their way tomorrow.

This week, I put my money where my mouth is. I've been recommending Margaret Coel's books, so I bought a paperback copy of Eye of the Wolf, and had Coel autograph it. I'm giving away that autographed copy.

The second book comes with a caveat. Someone can win an Advanced Reading Copy of
The Chicago Way, a mystery by Michael Harvey, set in Chicago, and reminiscent of Chandler. However, this was a review copy sent to me, so my name and a comment were written on the front. The Chicago Way is NOT a pristine copy, but it's a wonderful way to discover a new author and character.

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, September 20th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Zoё Sharp appearing Sunday 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 library is located at 7010 N. 58th Ave., Glendale, AZ 85301.

In 2005, St. Martin's Press published Sharp's first book to be set in the U.S., First Drop. Charlie Fox finds herself in Florida, acting as bodyguard for a fifteen-year-old boy. First Drop was a bestseller with the Independent Mystery Booksellers' Association and was nominated for a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel. First Drop has just been released in mass market paperback to coincide with the publication of Second Shot. That book brings Fox, bodyguard and ex-British army, back to the United States in a white-knuckle thriller. The next Charlie Fox book, Third Strike, will be out in summer 2008.

Zoё lives in the English Lake District, and is married. Her hobbies are sailing, fast cars (and faster motorbikes), target shooting, travel, films, music and reading.

The Velma Teague Library is providing the opportunity for readers and fans to meet Zoё Sharp. Hope you can be at the library this Sunday at 1 pm!

The Girl with Braided Hair

Why Margaret Coel's books are not as well known as Tony Hillerman's is a mystery to me. She brings to life the culture and history of the Arapaho Indian Tribe of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Her latest mystery, The Girl with Braided Hair, is one of her masterpieces. She skillfully ties together a cold case, American Indian history, and the repercussions that still reverberate through the reservation, thirty-four years later.

In 1973, the American Indian Movement (AIM) tore apart the community on the Wind River Reservation. After Wounded Knee, Lakotas and other Indians fled to the reservation, and hid out, trying to escape federal prosecution. Liz Plenty Horse was a single mother who went to Washington with AIM, saw her daughter's father killed by a member of AIM, and still stayed with the movement. However, when she was labeled a snitch after an AIM leader was killed by police, she fled with her baby in the car.

Decades later, Father John O'Malley is called to the site when a skeleton is uncovered on the reservation. The Arapaho elders want to know who the woman with the braided hair is, and what happened to her. The women of the tribe are even more insistent. They turn to Vicky Holden, an Arapaho lawyer, and insist that she find out the woman's story. Many of them share Vicky's history, women beaten by their men, with no recourse in the community. Each of those women know that body could have been theirs. The girl with braided hair had been beaten and shot, murdered and left with no identity.

When forensics determine that the girl died in 1973, the results are silence on the reservation. The 1970s were violent times when Indians from all over showed up on the reservation. The fear that gripped the reservation thirty years earlier, still hangs over it. Even the elders are afraid. When Vicky receives warnings to "Stop," and is shot at, she and Father John realize the danger is still there. Someone wants to keep the secrets of the past, stories that could be revealed if the girl with braided hair is identified.

Coel's latest book is a story of connections and repercussions. Vicky's son remembers his mother as a beaten wife. When they witness a woman being attacked in an alley, he and his mother rush to aid her. They end up as witnesses to an event that haunts Vicky. That could have been her, or her daughter. And, she's even more determined to find the identity of the skeleton. She can't prevent the murder, but she can seek justice.

Father John is going through his own crisis. He's already been at the Wind River Reservation mission longer than the Jesuits allow. He must decided if he's willing to take a sabbatical, and turn the mission over to someone else. He can't face leaving the Arapaho, or Vicky.

And, then there's the reservation itself. In 1973, the country was torn apart by the Vietnam War. AIM tore the reservation itself apart, pitting the Indians against each other. One of the elders referred to it as "War right here in Indian country." Thirty-four years later, that war is brought home again, as the women fear for their lives, and the men try to shut down the investigation, out of fear.

Margaret Coel has a powerful message about history repeating itself. Violence and fear have the power to tear apart a family, a community, and a country. The Girl with Braided Hair brings to light a part of American Indian History that most of us don't know. It was a time of revolutionary change for the Indians, but in revolution comes death and destruction, and fear as well. And, the repercussions of fear will haunt generations. Vicky Holden, Father John O'Malley, and the Arapahos of the Wind River Reservation will never be the same because of the discovery of one skeleton. The story of The Girl with Braided Hair will haunt everyone involved, including the reader.

Margaret Coel's website is

The Girl with Braided Hair by Margaret Coel. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-425-21712-2 (hardcover), 293p.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Second Shot

Doubt is "a sword that kills", and it might just kill Charlie Fox. The opening of Zoё Sharp's Second Shot finds the bodyguard lying on her belly in the bottom of a snow crusted shallow ditch, shot twice. As Simone, the woman she was hired to protect, stands over her with a gun, Charlie saw grief and anger and shock in her eyes. It was never supposed to end this way.

Sharp skillfully backtracks in the story to bring the reader to the beginning. Charlie's last case in the United States, as told in First Drop, ended in tragedy. Charlie is still suffering from the remorse and doubt afterward. When her boss and lover, Sean Meyer asks her to go to Boston, she's reluctant. But, a little girl needs her help, and she signs on for the job.

Simone Kerse recently won $25 million in a lottery. At the same time, she dumped her daughter, Ella's father. Now, Simone claims Matt is bothering them. The media certainly is stalking them. It's the stuff of tabloid dreams, "A scorned lover, a tug-of-love child, a whiff of violence, and best of all-money." Charlie's greatest concern is for the four-year-old, Ella, who doesn't understand what's happening. Simone's greatest wish is to find the father she hasn't seen in years. Sean says, "This should be a nice easy's just a case of holding her hand while she reacquaints herself with Daddy." Simone, Ella and Charlie flee from the problems in England, only to find greater troubles in New England.

Charlie discovers nothing is as it appears when she gets to the United States. The detective Simone hired has died in a car accident, but his partner wonders if it was mroe than that. Who is the well-dressed man who picks Simone up at the Aquarium? When Simone's father shows up to meet her, his story is fishy as to how he knew she was there. He has a life Simone knew nothing about, a wife and a threatening business partner.

This is a painful book for Charlie, both mentally and physically. It's a tough book for the reader, because of Charlie's emotions and injuries. However, readers will be caught up in Second Shot, another riveting story that only proves that Zoё Sharp is becoming a master of the thriller.

Who do you trust, when you no longer even trust your own skills and reactions? Charlie doubts herself. She isn't sure Sean still has her best interests at heart. She doesn't like the people and stories surrounding her client. As the opening scene reveals, she even has to doubt her principal, as Simone stands over her with a gun.

Buddha said, "There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates....It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills." It might not give Charlie Fox the chance for a Second Shot.

Zoё Sharp's website is

Second Shot by Zoё Sharp. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-312-35895-2 (hardcover), 320p.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Life on the Refrigerator Door

Alice Kuipers' first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, begins as a slice of life familiar to most of us, notes left on the refrigerator. Fifteen-year-old Claire is in that difficult year. She's a fifteen-year-old, busy with friends, falling in love for the first time, babysitting. She's also responsible for some of the grocery shopping, cleaning house, and taking care of Peter, the rabbit.

At 43, Claire's Mom is a single mother and a busy obstetrician. The two seldom see each other, and communicate through notes. In a short book that covers a time period just over a year, the reader laughs and acknowledges their typical mother-daughter "communications." It's regrettable that so many people have such busy lives that they don't have time to sit down together, and only meet in passing. For Claire, and her Mom, it becomes even more tragic when "Mom" finds a lump in her breast.

Kuipers' poignant story allows the reader to feel for her characters. We observe "Mom's" frustration, worries about work, her feeling that she's lost control, and, finally, her concern for Claire. We watch a fifteen-year-old grow up, passing through the emotions of her first love, growing in responsibility and admiration for her mother. And, we observe the stages they go through when it's discovered that Claire's Mom has breast cancer.

By the end of Kuipers' book, with its originial format, the reader is truly moved by Life on the Refrigerator Door.

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-06-137049-6 (hardcover), 220p.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally

The authors of Plenty, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon are journalists who became the subject for their own work. Their off-the-grid experiment began in a small way, at their cottage in northern British Columbia, with a meal with friends. When they returned home to Vancouver, James was appalled by a statistic from Iowa State University. "The food we eat now typically travels between 1,500 and 3,000 miles from farm to plate."

In reaction, the couple decided to spend one year eating locally, food grown and produced within 100 miles of their home. As they struggled with their 100-mile diet, they suffered through bad growing seasons for expected produce, the loss of environment for fish, and the lack of wheat. Along the way, they found others interested in their blog about their experiment, and discovered other people who were trying similar experiments to enjoy the food they could eat locally.

Alisa and James had different reactions to their new lifestyles. In alternating chapters, they record their stories. Alisa found hunting for groceries had become a chore. At times, she grew depressed over the lack of variety or the small disasters they encountered. Her writings show a woman passionate about land. She writes descriptively about their year and its problems.

James, on the other hand, is much more scientific in his observations. He's the one who presents statistics and results of interviews and experiments. He's also the cook in the family, the one most likely to experiment with new ways to use food.

From March 2005 to March 2006, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon challenged themselves to eat locally. Plenty is the result, a book that is sometimes funny, sometimes educational, and, always fascinating.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon. Harmony Books, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-307-34732-9 (hardcover), 264p.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Margaret Coel at The Poisoned Pen

Margaret Coel appeared at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale today, to celebrate the publication of her thirteenth book, The Girl with Braided Hair. I've read all but that last book, and I've been waiting to see her. She was vivacious and knowledgeable, and wonderful to hear.

Coel said when her first book, The Eagle Catcher came out, The Poisoned Pen and Rue Morgue bookstores bought almost 100% of the copies. Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, said she wouldn't know it was September if Margaret didn't show up with another book about Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden.

Margaret Coel acknowledges a friend who was a Jesuit priest on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming in her books. She said she created her lead character, Father John, because she wasn't an Arapaho. She wanted a character who was an outsider like her, someone who could take readers on a journey to get to know people. She actually had the character come to her in a dream, a big, good-looking red haired man who said he was her man, and he was a priest.

Jesuits were missionaries to reservations on the Plains. In 1878, some of the leaders of the Arapaho tribe went to Omaha and asked the Jesuits to start a mission, and gave them the land on the Wind River reservation.

In discussing the Arapaho tribe, she said a man wrote a poem referring to them as a "Travelling People." They were nomads whose homelands stretched across the plains, from Colorado to Wyoming.

Coel said in the past she has done a slide show about the records the Arapaho kept. Their original records were pictographs and on hides. When they saw the ledgers the Jesuits used, they began to keep their records in ledgers.

Coel's other lead character, Vicky Holden, is an Arapaho lawyer, in partnership with Adam Lone Eagle. They are not always in agreement as to what's important in the law. Adam is interested in the big issues, protecting natural resources and the lands and reservation. He's a big picture lawyer. Vicki treats the law one person at a time.

Vicky Holden was an abused wife,a woman who was ashamed, and wanted to protect Ben, her husband, because he was a tribal leader. Vicky finally left her husband, her children, and the reservation, and went to law school before returning. Coel says she still hears from women who are mad she killed Ben, Vicky's ex-husband. They say, "He was so nice. He was changing. He was so good-looking." However, she also received a two page letter from a woman in an abusive situation who finally said, "If Vicky can do it, I can do it." She's now divorced.

All of Margaret Coel's books deal with issues. Her new book, The Girl with Braided Hair, deals with AIM, the American Indian Movement. It's set both in 1973 and the present. The 1970's were a very violent time. AIM sought justice for American Indians. The Trail of Broken Treaties was a march on Washington. They took over the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) building, and held it for one week, before Nixon sent in negotiators who gave them $60,000, enough for bus tickets home for everyone. AIM also took over Wounded Knee for 72 days. There were many indictments. Some people went to prison, and others slipped away and went underground to reservations. They did call attention to the plight of the American Indians, and started cultural schools. AIM did some good things, although the underbelly of it was a divisive, violent organization.

This '70s history of AIM is the background of the current book, a novel in which a skeleton is found on the reservation. Everyone is disturbed because a young girl, in her twenties, who had a child, was murdered. Coel said a friend who is a forensic anthropologist said they can pinpoint the time frame. The girl was killed in the summer of 1973, based on plant residue and the clothing.

Margaret Coel said a friend of a friend contacted her, and said she had worked on the Wind River Reservation in the 1970s, and sent her a journal of the time, including information on AIM.

Today the Arapaho of the Wind River Reservation have oil and gas on the plantation, but they are not rich. They get royalties. Fifteen percent goes to the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, and they use it for local government, such as roads and police. The other 85% goes to the people themselves. They also run ranches, and work on the state highways. The men like to work outdoors.

What is Margaret Coel writing now? She's writing a standalone. Catherine McCloud is a reporter in Denver. (Coel was a reporter in Denver years ago.) There's a Denver police detective and a professional detective. Someone is trying to kill McCloud, not for a story she has covered, but because of a story she might cover. This, too, deals with the Arapaho tribe. She does have a contract for another Father John book.

Margaret Coel said that she thinks a series allows authors and readers to explore characters. "Readers read novels out of their own experiences. What comes out is a combination of what the author brings and what the reader brings."

Margaret Coel brings passion and knowledge to her series books. I'm sure The Girl with Braided Hair is no exception.

Margaret Coel's website is

The Girl with Braided Hair by Margaret Coel. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-425-21712-2 (hardcover), 293p.

Nicholas Griffin at The Poisoned Pen

Nicholas Griffin was one of two authors who appeared at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale today. He was promoting his book, Dizzy City.

He's an interesting young man with quite a British accent. His father is English, his mother an American, his wife is Venezuelan, and his dog is from New Jersey. His first book was actually set in Lake Havasu, AZ. His uncle was the man responsible for selling the London Bridge, that is now in Lake Havasu. He also brokered the deal for the Queen Mary to go to Long Beach.

Nicholas is a very soft-spoken, self-effacing author. He said he never meant to write crime/suspense. He would have said he writes about self-deceit. He writes about people who justify themselves by saying they're doing good, but things catch up with them.

Ever since he read Charles Todd's books, he's wanted to write about World War I. His book, Dizzy City, is about WWI and a confidence artist. He picked an aspect of WWI that isn't as well known as others. President Wilson ran on an anti-war platform. The United States had a great number of German-American citizens. However, the sea lanes were ruled by England, and the country traded heavily with the allies. Economics actually determined which side the U.S. supported in the war. However, before the country entered the war, it was a very polite war. English officers showed up to speak at movie theaters. German U-boats would patrol the coast, and officers would hold dinner parties and tour the U.S., promoting the German cause. They would even warn ships before sinking them, allowing the people to get off the ships.

In England, there were towns terribly hit by war deaths. One town in northern England had 300 die, and 800 injured in one day in 1916. Before that, they had just a few deaths. But "Pal Enlistment" allowed friends to join up together, and men from pubs, factories, and towns would join up together, but then they went to war together, and died together.

The main character of Dizzy City deserted the British Army after losing all his friends on the Western Front. England shot deserters for cowardice, so Ben went to New York City. He's a deserter, suffers from shell-shock, and has no money or career in New York. He had been a small-time con man, and now he joins up with another con man in this novel.

Griffin discussed the book, The Big Con, a book that chronicled con men in America. The period from 1880 to 1916 was the heighth of cons becasue con artists follow money. The Depression ended cons. Griffin said it was interesting that the book said the majority of con artists from that time were from Indiana.

Dizzy City is Griffin's fifth book, but the only one in print at the present time.
What is Nicholas Griffin working on now? He's writing a script about Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton. Burton once disguised himself and went on a haj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Burton spoike 28 languages, was able to pass undetected on the haj, and his very British wife burned all of his writings after his death. The script is for a bio-pic for an Canadian company.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle Died

According to Publishers Weekly, Madeleine L'Engle died last night in Connecticut, at the age of 88. L'Engle was best known for her children's books, particularly the Newbery Medal winner, A Wrinkle in Time, and its sequels, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time.

I met Madeleine L'Engle in Washington, D.C. when I was in grad school. I was one of the first in line to have her autograph what was then her time trio. I still have it in a boxed set. You can imagine how disappointed I was in some ways when she added a fourth book and then a fifth, that I didn't have autographed.

I know she signed the same for everyone, but it seemed very special that she wrote comments in each of her books, relating to the science in the books. She wrote something about tesseracts in A Wrinkle in Time, and something about mitochondria in A Wind in the Door. I probably couldn't tell you much about science from school, but I can tell you that a wrinkle, a tesseract, is the shortest distance between two points.

Thank you, Madeleine L'Engle, for such special books, and a wonderful memory.

Madeleine L'Engle's obituary in the New York Times can be found at

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lots of winners & the next contests

Congratulations! Eleven readers won autographed copies of Hank Phillippi Ryan's mystery, Prime Time. Tomorrow I'll be mailing the books to:

Jack Q., Birmingham, AL
Donna C., Wyomissing Hills, PA
May S., Petersburg, VA
Deborah W., Andover, KS
Nancy F., Valley Village, CA
Pattie T., St. Louis, MO
Cathy J., St. Louis, MO
Aldo C., Moorpark, CA
Doris Ann N., Fostoria, OH
Juanita F., Sandusky, OH
Donna K., Evansville, IN


If you missed the chance to win Whack A Mole by Chris Grabenstein, don't despair. Chris was kind enough to send an autographed copy of this John Ceepak mystery. Some lucky winner will win this book.

And, someone will win an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews. It's the eighth book in the Meg Langslow series.

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, September 13th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Boy Who Saved Cleveland

James Cross Giblin's historical fiction story, The Boy Who Saved Cleveland, is based on a true story of the Cleveland settlement. This juvenile novel captures the isolation of the settlers, along with the threat of illness.

Seth Doan, the hero of the story, was a real person who grew up to be sheriff. In this story, he is just a young boy who came with his parents and sister to the small settlement of Cleveland. There were two other cabins in the community, just south of Lake Erie. Seth enjoyed fishing for perch, and reading. He was cossetted by his father because he was the only surviving son. However, when everyone fell ill with the "shakes and fever," a form of malaria, it was up to Seth to keep the development fed, so that people survived.

I was interested in this story because I'm from northern Ohio. Cleveland was part of the Western Reserve lands given to residents of Connecticut. My hometown, Huron, is on Lake Erie, in what was the area of the Western Reserve called the Fire Lands, later combined into Firelands, because land was given to people burned out of their homes in Connecticut during the American Revolution.

The story brings to life one small episode in northern Ohio's history. It also brings back a memory of that wonderful Lake Erie perch. Ahhhhh.

The Boy Who Saved Cleveland by James Cross Giblin. Henry Holt and Company, ©2006, ISBN 978-0-8050-7355-3 (hardcover), 64p.

October Treasures in the Mail

I found four new ARCs in the mail today, two of which are books coming out in October. More October treasures to be added to my closet!

The first is the latest Artie Cohen mystery by Reggie Nadelson, Fresh Kills. Artie is alone in Manhattan when his nephew appears, just released from the young offenders' institution. When bodies begin to appear, Artie doesn't know what or whom to believe.

Red Mandarin Dress is by Qiu Xiaolong. While Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is on vacation, bodies are found, dressed in red mandarin dresses. When the newspapers scream about Shanghai's first sexual serial killer, Chen finds himself in the middle of a politically sensitive case.

Have you discovered any treasures lately?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Road Kill

Zoё Sharp revs up the tension in Road Kill, a Charlie Fox thriller. Road Kill serves as a transition piece. Charlie needed downtime after her job in Florida, an experience related in First Drop. She needed time to regroup and make decisions about her feelings for her boss and lover, Sean Meyer, and her current job as a bodyguard, working in Sean's close protection business. Instead, she's thrust into a world of motorcycle racing and danger.

While trying to find some peace working on her parents' second home, Charlie answers a frantic call that a friend has been crushed in a motorcycle accident, run over by a van that might have intended to hit her and the man killed on the bike. Clare's partner, Jacob, is somewhere in Ireland, and needs to be informed of the accident. Charlie is suspicious of Clare's story of the ride, and subsequent events at Clare's house and a funeral only add to her doubts. When Jacob's son, Jamie, sneaks into the house, Clare is wary. When she's brutally attacked by Jacob's ex-wife and her boyfriend, she and Sean are angry. Wild stories circulate about the motorcycle accident, and Clare's actions do nothing to stem the speculation. Instead, she and Jacob ask Charlie to watch over Jamie on an organized motorcycle trip to Ireland, with members of the Devil's Bridge riders. Despite their misgivings, Charlie and Sean head to Ireland with the group, knowing they don't know the whole story behind the trip.

Road Kill is an action packed story of motorcycles and violence. However, it is also an intimate book, as Charlie Fox delves into her own feelings, about her relationship with Sean, her past, her thorny relations with her parents, and her future. Sharp may have been talking about a bike, but one paragraph on page 173 sums up Charlie's current issues, problems with the case, her career, and her relationship with Sean. "Now, I'd climbed aboard something with outrageous speed and power that just begged me to lean that little bit further, push that little bit harder. Something that coaxed and beguiled and seduced me to take another risk. And would kill me in a heartbeat if I let it get away from me."

Zoё Sharp's Road Kill might not be a necessary read in between First Drop and the latest Charlie Fox book, Second Shot. But, for readers to know and understand Charlie, it's an important link.

Zoё Sharp's website is

Road Kill by Zoё Sharp. Piatkus, ©2005, ISBN 0-7499-3616-9 (paperback), 392p.

And, if you're going to be in the Glendale or Phoenix, AZ area on Sunday, Sept. 16, don't forget that Zoё Sharp will be speaking at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale at 1:00 pm.

October Treasures in my Closet

If the piles of books in my closet are any indication, October isn't as big a publishing month as September. Thank heavens! It might give me a chance to catch up on the September books.

At the moment, I only have five books in my closet, slated for October release. It's an interesting collection of titles, though.

Claudia Dain's latest romance is The Courtesan's Daughter. It's a Regency story of a young woman's prospects for a suitable match, limited by her mother's past as a courtesan before she became a countess.

Three Sisters is James D. Doss' latest Charlie Moon mystery. Moon, part-time rancher and part-time tribal investigator, teams up with his aunt, a Ute shaman, and a friend who is chief of police to find the truth behind the death of one of three sisters.

John Hart, author of The King of Lies, brings dark family secrets to the surface in Down River, the story of Adam Chase, a man acquitted of murder, who is forced to return home to North Carolina and confront the past.

The Snow Empress is the latest thriller by Laura Joh Rowland. In 1699 Japan, Sano Ichiro, the samurai detective, and his wife Reiko, are caught up in a dangerous scheme after their son is kidnapped.

As a librarian and former English major, I find the last book fascinating. Elizabeth D. Samet's book is Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point. While fighting in Iraq, Samet's former students at West Point share what literature and movies mean to them.

I hope there's a title here to interest you.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

October's Bestsellers At a Guess

I hope readers realize that when I suggest possible bestsellers, I'm concentrating on fiction titles. It's obvious that Bill Clinton's Giving (How Each of Us Can Change the World) will be a bestseller, but I hate to get into a discussion of all the political books. Rather than discuss religion, money and politics, I pick fiction titles. Now's the time to place holds on these forthcoming books at your local library, or order them ahead of time from your favorite bookstore. Here are my ideas as to the October bestsellers.

I'm picking -

Vince Flynn's latest thriller - Protect and Defend
Ken Follett's followup to The Pillars of the Earth - World Without End
Charlaine Harris' An Ice Cold Grave
Iris Johansen's Pandora's Daughter
Jan Karon's first Father Tim novel - Home to Holly Springs
Of course, Robert B. Parker's new Spenser novel, Now and Then
Terry Pratchett is finally making the lists. His new book is Making Money.
Following the success of Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold's The Almost Moon

Question - Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta's books are slipping in popularity. Her new book Book of the Dead will probably make the list. How long will it stay on the list? My guess is that it will slip quickly.

I'm sure these books won't all crack the lists, but it's fun to guess ahead of time. Take your pick!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Garden Spells

Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel, Garden Spells, is an enchanting, magical book. Anyone who is an Alice Hoffman fan should scoop up this book. Garden Spells is special in the way that Hoffman's Seventh Heaven was special. It brings to life characters and a community, mixes in a little magic, and tears you apart when you have to leave.

The first six years of Claire Waverley's life were terrible. She lived with her mother, who went from man to man, stole to keep them dressed and fed, and slept in cars. When her sister, Sydney, was born, they returned to their grandmother's house in Bascom, North Carolina. Claire saw it as a refuge, and clung to home. Sydney, like her mother, fled from the family history, and hit the road at eighteen.

At thirty-four, Claire owns Waverley's Catering, making dishes from the magical plants that grow in the legendary Waverley garden. For Waverleys have "gifts." Claire's is plants, and it's closely tied to the garden. To give a taste of that, there's a beautiful paragraph on pages 10 and 11. "Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets....The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not."

Sydney fled from Bascom, lived her mother's life, stealing and moving on, until she returned home with her daughter, Bay. Sydney didn't understand Claire, or her link to the family home. Sydney didn't want to be "different," the way the Waverleys were. But Claire and home were a refuge that Sidney needed for Bay.

Two sisters, with a great deal to learn about life and each other, have a great deal of untapped capacity for love. Neither woman knows love when it arrives on their doorstep. Bay, whose gift is to know where things belong, understands the peace that comes with love and home. This is a story of people learning to open up to love, just as the Waverley flowers open up and bloom.

Allen herself has a gift for characters. Claire, Sydney and Bay are interesting characters, with a great deal of depth. Evanelle, the family cousin adds a touch of humor, but also serves as a god-like character. Evanelle has a gift of anticipation. She gives gifts before people know they need them. Each character created by Allen has been skillfully drawn to bring them to life, the Waverleys, their loved ones, and their enemies.

Sydney Addison Allen uses words for a magical effect. Her phrasing and descriptions add to the enchantment of the book. The descriptions of men in love giving off sparks or lighting fires is captivating.

Local legends are important in this story, as one professor remarks. The Hopkins men marry older women. The Clark women have a talent for sex. Then there is the Waverly magic, shared by Claire, Sydney and Bay. Just as in a Hoffman book, magic is a part of life, accepted and not explained.

Garden Spells combines love, longing, anticipation, and fear, mixes it with magic, humor and legend, for a recipe for enchantment. Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells is a beautiful book that casts its own spell over the reader.

Sarah Addison Allen's website is

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Bantam Books, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-553-80548-2 (hardcover), 290p.

Books Read During August

I had company for a week, so that's my excuse for only reading thirteen books in August. Of course, if you believe the most recent telephone poll (which I don't), that's more books than most people read in a year. If it's true, I'm glad I don't know any of those people.

Here's my list for August.

Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson - An Idaho sheriff has to protect a possible Presidential candidate from an assassination attempt.

The Titan's Cure by Rick Riordan - Third in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. Percy goes to San Francisco with Zeus' daughter in an attempt to save his friend, Annabeth, from the monster uprising.

Agnes and The Hitman by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer - Agnes, a food columnist, suddenly becomes a target, and a hitman shows up to protect her.

Doctor Syn by Russell Thorndyke - Story of Dr. Syn, who is a vicar and the Scarecrow, and the smugglers of Romney Marsh.

Fire Prayer by Deborah Turrell Atkinson - Storm Kayama's old friend is in trouble on Moloka'i. His wife's been murdered, his son's on the run and there's a history of violence on the island.

The Lincoln Highway - Michael Wallis & Michael S. Williamson - Coast-to-coast on the Lincoln Highway, New York City to San Francisco.

A Cursed Inheritance - Kate Ellis - Another combination of cold case, current case and archaeology in the Wesley Peterson series. This one connects a twenty-year-old slaying with a recent murder, and an archaeological site in Virginia.

Prime Time - Hank Phillippi Ryan - Charlie McNally, a TV investigative reporter, digs into the truth behind a supposed suicide, while worrying if she's too old, at 46, for television.

Paths Not Taken - Simon R. Green - John Taylor goes back in time to discover the origins of the Nightside.

Book Crush - Nancy Pearl - Recommended books for kids and teens.

The Manny Files - Christian Burch - Keats Dalinger, the smallest in his class and only boy in his family, tells about the male nanny that came into his life.

Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly - Robert Dalby - The Nitwits, a group of widows in Second Creek, Mississippi, work on the mayoral campaign for Mr. Choppy, the former owner of the Piggly Wiggly.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen - The Waverley sisters, Clare & Sydney, share a family history and legend of magic. One embraced it, the other ran from it until forced to bring her daughter home for their own safety.