Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Books read during October

It's time to summarize the books I read during October. It's a mixture, this month, made up mostly of lighter mysteries and nonfiction. Fun month!

One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald - Kyle traded one red paperclip for a house, bartering in front of millions on his blog.

Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan - Charlie McNally investigates for Channel 3 in Boston when a woman's lawyer insists she wasn't guilty of her husband's murder, despite her confession.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury - A juvenile novel, but a must read this time of year as Death himself shows eight boys the history of Halloween.

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs - Forensics pathologist, Tempe Brennan, examines clues to the deaths of teenage girls in Quebec, while searching for a childhood friend, connected to Acadia.

Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen - Fun mystery that introduces Elliot Freed, owner of a movie theater that only shows comedies, until a man dies during Young Frankenstein, and Elliot is mad enough to investigate.

Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth D. Samet - Samet became a civilian literature instructor at West Point, while the country was still at peace, but her experiences changed after 9/11.

The Drop Edge of Yonder by Donis Casey - In a mystery set in 1914 in Oklahoma, Alafair Tucker, mother of ten, investigates when her daughter, Mary, witnesses a murder, but can't remember what she saw because she was also hit by a bullet.

Tutu Deadly by Natalie M. Roberts - Introduces the first Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mystery, in which the dance instructor becomes a suspect when one of her "psycho dance moms" is killed, and the woman's daughter disappears.

Tapped Out by Natalie M. Roberts - Jenny T. Partridge gets caught up in a dance convention gone bad, when instructors disappear, her Volkswagen goes up in flames, and she's attacked by a snowplow.

The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd & John Mitchanson - Short pieces that prove our knowledge about "known facts" to be misconceptions.

The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told by Rick Beyer - Two page historical anecdotes, in chronological order, about the presidents.

Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber - Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, the three Prayer Ambassadors, return to earth to help three people before Christmas, in another warm, funny story.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Poisoned Pen Bookstore

As a mystery fan, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale is the place to go in the Valley when I want to meet or visit with mystery authors. Today's Arizona Republic's Business section has a terrific article called "No Mystery To Poisoned Pen's Success" by Oriana Parker.

I will add, the Velma Teague Library has partnered with The Poisoned Pen to provide the books we sell when authors appear here, including Zoё Sharp and Brenda Rickman Vantrease. We always appreciate their help.

(The picture is one I took at The Poisoned Pen of author Peter May, Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, and author Mary Anna Evans.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told

It doesn't do much for your ego to read two books in a row filled with information that you didn't know. I have to admit, I'm addicted to Rick Beyer's books. His latest one is The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy. His earlier ones, The Greatest Stories Never Told and The Greatest War Stories Never Told are equally fascinating.

In conjunction with The History Channel, Beyer researched and compiled 100 short stories about presidential history. Each entry is two pages long, so the book can be read in one sitting, or enjoyed piece by piece. They're compiled in chronological order, beginning in 1620.

If John Howland hadn't been rescued when he washed off the deck of the Mayflower, he wouldn't have married and had numerous descendants that include Franklin D. Roosevelt and both George Bushes. Other descendants include Humphrey Bogart, Alec Baldwin, and Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Richard Nixon, who was forced to leave office, in part because of the Watergate break-in, took part in an earlier break-in when he and two friends broke into the dean's office at Duke Law School to find out their grades. Had they been caught, there might not have been a later crisis in government.

These kind of anecdotes fill all of Rick Beyer's books. His latest, The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told, is a welcome addition to any history buff's library.

The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy by Rick Beyer. Collins, ©2007. ISBN 978-0060760182 (hardcover), 214p.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Book of General Ignorance

What if 230 of the "facts" that you thought you knew proved to be wrong? John Lloyd and John Mitchinson took 230 common misconceptions, and compiled the correct answers in The Book of General Ignorance. Trivia buffs will find a treasure in this book that sets the records straight.

What does a St. Bernard carry around its neck? How many legs does a centipede have? What is the Number of the Beast? If you answered brandy barrels, one hundred, and 666, you're wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's a toss-up whether you'll feel stupid or much smarter when you finish The Book of General Ignorance. By the time you read the page long entries for each of the 230 questions, you'll have had an enjoyable, educational experience. This collection of facts covers everything from history to science to cultural "knowledge" including stories about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Easter Bunny, and Cinderella.

The book has a slight British flavor because the authors compiled the questions for the BBC panel game QI (Quite Interesting). No matter what slant the book has, though, it's a fascinating examination of our misconceptions about the world around us.

The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson. Harmony Books, ©2007. ISBN 978-0307394910 (hardcover), 266p.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tapped Out

Natalie M. Roberts makes it dangerous to be a dance instructor in her Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mysteries. Jenny went from escaping from psycho dance moms in Tutu Deadly, to facing mad bombers in the latest book, Tapped Out.

Jenny's question? "Who would maim an innocent pink Volkswagen Bug? What kind of monster? The kind that wouldn't think twice about hunting a thirty-something, eccentric redheaded dance teacher." Jenny doesn't make a great living as a dance instructor and studio owner, so she grabs at the opportunity to teach for a couple days when Hollywood Star Makers comes to Ogden, Utah. She and the owner, Bill Flanagan, used to dance together, so it's a favor for a friend, as well as a chance to earn extra money.

But Jenny's life is always high drama. If it isn't a Mormon missionary running away to be a dance instructor, it's a snowplow running her down in her parking lot. When she receives death threats, and other dance instructors disappear, even homicide detective Tate Wilson has to take her seriously.

Once again, Roberts combines romance, humor and fast-paced suspense in the drama that is Jenny T. Partridge's life. Tapped Out is a rigorous workout for Jenny, with high impact for her fans.

The website for the Jenny T. Partridge mysteries is

Natalie M. Roberts' website, under her other writing name, is

Tapped Out by Natalie M. Roberts. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2007. ISBN 9780425218013 (paperback), 261p.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hank Phillippi Ryan contest and winners

Congratulations to the winners in the Give Me an L contest. Joanne W. of Creedmoor, NC will receive the ARC of Thirst by Pete Larson. The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik will go to Susan V. in Belfast, Maine. Thanks to everyone who entered the contests.

Face Time, the second book in Hank Phillippi Ryan's Charlotte "Charlie" McNally series, was just published earlier this month. Charlie is an Emmy award-winning television investigative reporter in Boston. Does she have the scoop of her career with the death row inmate who might not have killed her husband, or is she setting herself up for danger and failure when she investigates? This is the question in this new mystery.

Hank Phillippi Ryan has sent three autographed copies of Face Time for this week's contest, so this contest will feature three lucky winners. If you'd like to win a copy of Face Time, 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 next Thursday evening, November 1, at 6 pm PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail the next morning. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Chopin Manuscript

Why is Harry Middleton accused of murder, pursed by the feds, and targeted by assassins? It's because of The Chopin Manuscript, a priceless classical score and the secrets locked within its notes. Harry Middleton is also in trouble because of a group of fifteen thriller writers who wrote a serial thriller, available only at

The Chopin Manuscript began as a fundraising project for the International Thriller Writers (ITW). Jeffrey Deaver wrote the opening chapter, to establish the characters and the premise of the story. Fourteen other authors, including Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, and Joseph Finder wrote followup chapters, with Deaver finishing the story. This thriller is only available on the audio, narrated by actor Alfred Molina, whose film credits include Spiderman 2, Chocolat and The Da Vinci Code.

At the present time, readers can listen to the opening chapter for free at The price for the entire serial thriller is $19.95. The first chapters of The Chopin Manuscript are already available, and they will be added two chapters a week on Tuesdays, with the final installment on Tuesday, November 13th.

If you're a thriller reader, who enjoys listening to stories, The Chopin Manuscript will take you back to the days of suspenseful serial radio shows. Check it out at .

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Interview with Louie Lawent

Today, I had the opportunity to turn the tables on Louie Lawent, and interview the author of The Louie/God Interviews (What The Big Fella Really Thinks about Man And The Universe). He's also the author of a children's book, Gerty the Pig, as well as the co-writer of a pop rock song called "Pop Star", which is performed and co-written by Billy Livesay.

Lesa: Louie, thank you for taking the time to do an interview with me. Would you start out by giving my readers a quick summary of your book, The Louie/God Interviews (What The Big Fella Really Thinks About Man And The Universe)?

Louie: I grill God about his checkered career, but it's done benignly, and a frustrated Creator makes a good case for himself - well, most of the time. The interviews cover biblical happenings, His propensity to smite, evolution, pop culture, and a God who believes He's the victim of a disinformation campaign. It's "The Far Side" meets "The Thinker" meets the "Frat Boy." A God who considered creation "a good day in the hood." A God who when I asked Him His real opinion of people, he replied, "They're like radio songs that are fine for the car ride home, but you'd never purchase them to be part of your master collection."

Lesa: Neale Donald Walsch did a serious series of books called Conversations with God. And, Avery Corman wrote the book, Oh, God! that was made into the fun movie starring George Burns. Why do you think God had more to say to you, after these two books?

Louie: Well, Neale, in essence felt the being of God as an inner voice while I experienced the real thing. God had an intense need to comment about pop culture, especially American pop culture, along with clearing up a lot of misperceptions about Him and allowing the readers and me to be privy to little known facts about him. I was surprised that even heaven is plagued by a rabid rumor mill where the Big Guy takes His share of lumps. As far as Corman goes, he dealt in fantasy. Imagine, God appearing as an old man. How preposterous!

Lesa: Tell us a little about yourself, Louie, so we know why God picked you to interview him.

Louie: I think He knows I'm a fellow with a high ethical base - who wouldn't dare misquote Him. Who wouldn't be afraid to intellectualize the frat boy and bodily function industries when the occasion demanded it.

Lesa: Louie, you've written a children's book, Gerty the Pig, and song lyrics. Now that you've interviewed God, what's next?

Louie: Well, I hope to do more of the same. After all, Edison kept inventing. He didn't stop after the phonograph. It's a shame that pet rock guy hung it up instead of domesticating boulders.

Lesa: As a librarian, I always like to ask authors what role libraries played in their lives.

Louie: I loved going to the library during my childhood summers. My hometown had that wonderful library smell. I loved to read and it certainly gave me product. Over the years I have used it as a writer's resource. I prefer to own books, but even the library assists in this respect as when I see an interesting book there, I say, "That's a book I must have in my permanent collection." My hometown library in Berlin, Wisconsin is magnificent. It is open 6 days a week. Long hours. I live in the state of Oregon now. The library is presently closed because of budget problems. that doesn't speak well for the values of the community in which I live.

Lesa: And, one last question. What do you think was God's most important message in your book, The Louie/God Interviews (What The Big Fella Really Thinks About Man And The Universe)?

Louie: That He lives. But we better behave!

Lesa: Thank you, Louie, for taking the time to answer my questions.

The Louie/God Interviews (What The Big Fella Really Thinks About Man And The Universe) by Louie Lawent., ©2007. ISBN 9781430328797 (paperback), 83p.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bud Krogh at Changing Hands Bookstore

Twenty-seven years ago today, Egil "Bud" Krogh was reinstated to the bar. If his name doesn't ring any bells for you, think Watergate "plumbers". Krogh was Deputy Counsel to the President, under John Erlichman, and co-director of the White House "plumbers." Today, he appeared at Changing Hands Bookstore, to talk about his past, and his new book, Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices and Life Lessons from the White House.

Krogh was very accessible. He introduced himself to each audience member ahead of time, shaking hands, and asking questions. He is appearing at Arizona State University tomorrow, speaking to law school students to tell them what he wishes he knew thirty years ago. They'll be taking high pressure jobs, and need to know how to survive. And, that he hopes they do better than he did. His book, Integrity, tells what happened to him and why it happened. He said his middle son, Matthew, helped him write the book because he has a message that is relevant today.

Krogh served four and a half months in prison for conspiracy for his role in the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, following the release of the Pentagon Papers. He was disbarred, readmitted in 1982. He's been practicing energy law in Seattle for 26 years.

He wrote this book to say here's what happened, here's the history of it, and I'm sorry to the American people. The dedication of his book says, "To those who deserved better, this books is offered as an apology, an explanation, and a way to keep integrity in the forefront of decision making."

Krogh said he arrived on the White House staff because of family connections. John Erlichman was a long-time family friend. He knew him since Krogh was twelve. He even babysat for Erlichman's kids. He clerked for him during law school, and when Erlichman was appointed Counsel to the President, Krogh jumped at the chance to be Assistant to Counsel to the President. He didn't ask any questions. He said, "Integrity requires thinking through the consequences of your decisions."

How did Bud Krogh become involved in the covert operation to invade the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist? In 1971, the administration panicked following the publication of the Pentagon Papers. They were afraid that Nixon would lose credibility to negotiate with the Chinese. Ellsberg was viewed as a traitor and enemy. At 31 years of age, Krogh was asked by Erlichman to be co-director of an investigation. Kissinger picked David Young. Krogh picked Gordon Liddy to work with him. Charles Colson picked E. Howard Hunt. Either Liddy or Hunt proposed a covert operation to photograph Ellsberg's papers because it was a matter of National Security. On Sept. 3, 1971, the operation was put into effect. No one considered the ethical, spiritual, and legal consequences of their actions.

In 1972, when the Watergate break in became public knowledge, Krogh realized this second covert operation was a result of the first one. He resigned from government in May 1973, and was indicted. He decided to plead guilty when he realized he had used "National Security" as an excuse to deprive someone else of their civil liberties. He felt relief after his plea. He then spent four and a half months in prison. He did have David Eisenhower tell Nixon that he did not want a pardon.

What did he learn that is relevant today? He learned that good people make bad choices when personal integrity goes out the door. He was absolutely loyal to Nixon and Erlichman and never questioned himself.

Krogh said there is pressure for results, and to conform. He referred to group think. His Integrity Zone model consists of three questions.

1. Is it whole and complete? (consequences)
2. Is it right?
3. Is it good?

Six years ago, Krogh wrote a "Memo to Bush White House staff" in an opinion piece for The Christian Science Monitor." It was a reminder to read their framed commission to their positions, the commission that says, "Special trust in your integrity." He did not have anything positive to say about the way this administration upholds that integrity, or the Constitution.

In speaking of Nixon, he said Nixon could never face up to committing a crime.He did say in his opinion, the most important decision in domestic policy during Nixon's administration was the decision to nominate William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court.

Krogh reminded everyone that he took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to obey the President. Daniel Ellsberg, in writing the forward of the book, reminds readers that he and Bud Krogh took the same oath. In discussing that forward, Krogh says "the leaker and the plumber are forever embedded in the covers of the same book."

Bud Krogh's book, Integrity, is his apology to all those who suffered in the Nixon years, years that began the loss of confidence in government, a feeling that is still in effect in this country.

Bud Krogh's website is

Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices and Life Lessons from the White House by Egil "Bud" Krogh. Perseus Publishing, ©2007. ISBN 9781586484675 (hardcover), 240p.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tutu Deadly

All Jenny T. Partridge's friends and family told her she needed to get a life outsider her dance studio, and away from her psycho dance moms. She needed a life that provided food since she was a starving artist and dance studio owner. That didn't mean she wanted to spend her life in prison for killing one of her stage mothers, even if it meant regular meals. Natalie M. Roberts introduces Jenny in the cozy, fun mystery Tutu Deadly.

Jenny's a dance instructor in Ogden, Utah, when suddenly she's a murder suspect. One of her "psycho dance moms" died of poisoned cookie dough Jenny was selling for a fundraiser, and another mother said Jenny delivered it. Now, Jenny's in trouble, her star dancer has disappeared, and there are two hot men eyeing her. Unfortunately, one is a homicide detective, and one is a U.S. Marshal.

Jenny T. Partridge always stars in her own daily dramas, with her over-the-top gay dance instructor, James, her family members from hell, two hapless Mormon missionaries who have latched on to her, and the psycho dance moms and reluctant dancers. But, when she stars in Tutu Deadly, she brings humor and spark to the comic mystery.

The website for the Jenny T. Partridge mysteries is

Natalie M. Roberts' website, under her other writing name, is

Tutu Deadly by Natalie M. Roberts. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-425-21486-2 (paperback), 248p.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Iorn Ties - Colorado Book Award Winner

Congratulations to Ann Parker, whose mystery, Iron Ties, just won the Colorado Book Award for Popular Fiction.

The first book in Parker's Iron Rush series, Silver Lies, introduced Inez Stannert, a saloon keeper in Leadville, Colorado in the 1870s and 1880s. Silver Lies went on to win a Willa Award for Historical Fiction and the Colorado Gold Award.

Anyone looking for historical mysteries that bring American history to life should try Parker's Iron Rush series.

Ann Parker's website is

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Drop Edge of Yonder

The summer of 1914 is already sweltering in Oklahoma, but murder makes life even more oppressive in Donis Casey's latest mystery, The Drop Edge of Yonder. Casey, who just won the Arizona Book Award for Best Mystery for her debut, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, brings back Alafair Tucker in this third mystery, to cope with a family murder.

Alafair is a farmer's wife in Oklahoma, and a mother of ten. Daily life of cooking, cleaning and washing for the family keeps her busy, but her main concern is protecting her family. She thought nothing of allowing two daughters, Mary and Ruth, to accompany their uncle, Bill McBride, on an afternoon horseback ride with his girlfriend, Laura. However, Bill is shot, his girlfriend abducted, and Mary is left unconscious on the ground, suffering from a head injury. As Mary struggles to remember the events that lead to Bill's death, Alafair eyes the neighbors and her own farm hands, suspecting everyone. When Laura and Mary's lives are threatened, Alafair knows her family will not be safe until the killer is found.

Life and death hit home for Alafair Tucker in this latest mystery. The sorrow and anger over Bill's death is balanced by the joy of a birth in the family. Fear for one family member who is threatened by a killer is balanced by fear for another who is giving birth.

The Alafair Tucker mysteries are suspenseful page turners. While telling a story of an Oklahoma farm family in the early twentieth century, Donis Casey is capable of playing with the reader's anxieties. The Drop Edge of Yonder is the third intriguing mystery in this series. Don't miss the earlier two, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming and Hornswoggled. You'll want to get to know Alafair Tucker and her family.

Donis Casey was an academic librarian for many years at Arizona State University in Tempe. She's a third generation Oklahoman who grew up on a farm and in small towns. The Tempe resident will talk and sign books at 7 pm on Thursday, Nov. 29 at the Velma Teague Branch Library, 7010 N. 58th Ave. in Glendale, AZ. Casey's books will be available for purchase at the program. No reservations are necessary. I hope to see you there!

Donis Casey's website is

The Drop Edge of Yonder by Donis Casey. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007. ISBN 978-1-59058-446-0 (hardcover), 217p.

Give Me an L Contest & latest winners

Congratulations to the latest winners in the book giveaway contests. Patricia D. from Lancaster, PA won Cora Harrison's My Lady Judge. Jacqueline Winspear's Messenger of Truth will be going to Audrey L. in Bloomington, MN. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week's contest is Give Me an L because the authors' last names begin with L. I usually offer mystery authors' books, and Pete Larson fits that bill. The promotional copy tells the story of Stu Carlson, a bartender. When one of his regulars is arrested for poisoning another one, Stu is convinced the man could not have done it.

Lorna Landvik's The View from Mount Joy, is not a mystery. You could win an ARC of this novel. It's the story of Joe Andreson, a likeable man, whose greatest fault is his lifelong obsession with a cheerleader who went to school with him. Landvik is best known for her humorous women's novels, such as Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.

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 next Thursday evening, Oct. 25th, at 6 pm PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail the next morning. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stop You're Killing Me

What do Eric Stone, Jeffrey Cohen, Jacqueline Winspear, Kathy Reichs, Lillian Stewart Carl, Chris Grabenstein and Elaine Viets all have in common?

They're mystery writers. I've mentioned them on my blog during October. And, they all have a mystery series. So, for all of us mystery addicts who need to read mystery series in order, the website is essential. This terrific site allows readers to find series by author, by the name of the series character, and even by setting of the book. If you haven't been to the site, now is a good time to check it out. It's one of the important links from my blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Soldier's Heart

Professor Elizabeth D. Samet, a civilian professor, teaches in the Dept. of English at West Post. Her thought-provoking book, Soldier's Heart, is subtitled "Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point." In 1997, she arrived at a peaceful West Point. After Sept. 11, 2001, she observed the changes at the school, both in the students and the curriculum. Her book questions her own role, and shares her observations as to what the study of literature and film provided the young men and women preparing for war, how literature helps them understand their complicated lives.

Even in 2006, facing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, knowing they would probably be sent there as lieutenants after graduation, Samet said, the "seniors remained strangely full of hope. Indeed, their attitude suggests to me that the romance of military life can withstand just about anything." Samet's comments about the idealism of her young students, destined to be officers and leaders, are fascinating.

Samet discovered that literature helped many of her former students through difficult times. After deployment, they often wrote to tell her what they were reading. She teaches Homer, Thucydides, Vergil. Poetry is popular with her cadets. Thoreau's Civil Disobedience is taught. T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom resonates with the cadets because of the current war.

I can't say enough about Soldier's Heart. Samet's book is beautiful. West Point brought her back to her own feelings of idealism, as she worked with young people who were committed to a shared mission. No matter how you feel about war, it's hard to not admire the young men and women who are preparing to lead. And, it's hard not to admire Elizabeth D. Samet, whose mission to teach humanity and understanding to those young people is revealed in Soldier's Heart.

Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth D. Samet. Farrar, Stsraus and Giroux, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-374-18063-8 (hardcover), 259p.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm reading Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth D. Samet, a wonderful, thoughtful book about her years teaching literature at West Point. The review will be posted in a day or two, whenever I finish. However, I just couldn't resist quoting some of her comments right now. The review of her book won't be the perfect spot for these comments, but a librarian's blog needs these comments.

She says Dell War paperbacks sent to the USO or for mailing overseas to the troops during World War II carried the message, "BOOKS ARE WEAPONS - in a free democracy everyone may read what he likes. Books educate, inform, inspire; they also provide entertainment, bolster morale. This book has been manufactured in conformity with wartime restrictions - read it and pass it on. Our armed forces especially need books."

She goes on to say, "From the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the USA Patriot Act of 2001, American presidents have tended to meet crises with legislation designed to curtail and suspend rather than to enlarge freedoms, including intellectual freedom and freedom of expression. That's why I relish the idea that 'books are weapons.'"

Not exactly what you expected from a teacher at West Point? Samet's book will surprise you.

I like the thought that "books are weapons."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Eric Stone at The Poisoned Pen

I'm going to miss Eric Stone's appearance at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on Monday night, Oct. 15th at 7 pm because I have to go to a meeting. He's appearing there to publicize his latest book, Grave Imports. Grave Imports is the sequel to The Living Room of the Dead. Stone's hero is American expatriate journalist Ray Sharp, who is based in the Far East. Grave Imports deals with the illegal trade in stolen Cambodian art.

I met Eric Stone two years ago when he appeared at The Poisoned Pen Central in Phoenix, which has now closed. He was there to talk about The Living Room of the Dead. However, I went to hear him talk about his baseball book, Wrong Side of the Wall. It's subtitled, "The Story of Blackie Schwamb, the Greatest Ballplayer in Prison History." As baseball lovers, Jim & I both found it fascinating. Stone's stories about interviewing Schwamb were equally fascinating.

Eric Stone was giving away two tickets to the Diamondbacks baseball game and a chance to accompany him to the game. I was lucky enough to win the tickets, and took a co-worker since Jim couldn't go. Eric is a terrific companion at a baseball game, so grab the chance to go with him, if he offers tickets. And, great seats as well.

Thanks again, Eric, and good luck with Grave Imports. Wish I could be there.

Eric Stone's website is

Grave Imports by Eric Stone. Big Earth Publishing, ©2007, ISBN 9781932557446 (hardcover), 328p.

Friday, October 12, 2007

MySpace for book lovers

I started a MySpace account today, more than anything to contact other book lovers who might be interested in my blog. I'm at or you can find me under Lesa Holstine, if you'd like to invite me to be your friend.

For me, it's one more place to talk about books.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The British Isles Contest & Winners

Congratulations to the latest winners of the book blog contest. Marilyn R. of Cedar Park, TX will receive the autographed copy of The Muse and Other Stories of History, Mystery and Myth by Lillian Stewart Carl. The autographed copy of Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan will be going to Joanne S. of Poughkeepsie, NY. The books will be out in the mail tomorrow.

This week's contest will allow the winners to escape into the history of the British Isles. Jacqueline Winspear's Messenger of Truth takes Maisie Dobbs back to London in 1931 in an intriguing story of art, smuggling and post-war England. This is a paperback copy of the unusual book.

Or you could visit Medieval Ireland in Cora Harrison's My Lady Judge. In sixteenth century Ireland, a judge named Mara uses ancient Irish laws to solve the case, when the body of her assistant is found is the mountains. My Lady Judge is an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy).

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.

This contest will end a little later than usual, due to my work schedule. The contest ends at 6 am PT next Friday, Oct. 19th. Jim will draw the winners at that time, and I'll be posting them sometime that morning. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail that morning. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Some Like It Hot-Buttered

How can one author come up with someone as loveable as Aaron Tucker for one mystery series, and then another one just as sweet in Elliot Freed? Jeffrey Cohen introduces Elliot in Some Like It Hot-Buttered, the first Double Feature Mystery. I'm projecting great success for this series, since the first book manages to be fun and witty, and serious at the same time.

Elliot Freed could be considered a loser. "I was a divorced man in his late thirties, living alone in a rental I really didn't call home, operating a business that didn't have a chance to survive, pining after a woman who had chosen to leave me for a guy who spends most of his day with unconscious people, and brooding over another woman I'd met less than a month before, and who had just dumped me, before I even knew what I was being dumped from. I didn't own my own home, my own car, or a stick of grown-up furniture, and my closest confidant was my father....Clearly the only thing left to do was investigate a murder."

After his divorce, Elliot sank money from the sale of his parents' house, and his alimony money, into a movie theater, Comedy Tonight, a building desperately in need of renovation, but one where he could show only comedies. Elliot knew something was wrong when the customer didn't laugh at Young Frankenstein, and he proved to be right when the man was found dead, killed by poisoned popcorn. The more he learned about the dead man, the more he liked him, and felt bad that the man died in his theater. Elliot felt violated that a man died in his theater, and didn't die laughing. The only thing Elliot could do was poke around. He liked Barry Dutton, the Police Chief in Midland Heights, New Jersey, but he just couldn't trust the police not to blame his staff. Especially when pirated DVDs were found in the basement of the theater.

Cohen creates wonderful, likeable characters. Elliot is a loveable, smart loser. Police Chief Dutton is subtle and intelligent. And, Elliot's ticket seller, Goth-wannabe, Sophie, is priceless. Along with the rest of the cast, they star in a jumbled mystery, with a convoluted perfect ending that only Elliot could resolve. It's a witty, enjoyable mystery.

Jeffrey Cohen's Some Like It Hot-Buttered is perfect for anyone who needs a "Comedy Tonight."

Jeffrey Cohen's website is

Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2007. ISBN 978-0425217993 (paperback), 304p.

A Lifetime of Secrets Release Date

I usually don't highlight a book just because of its release date, but A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren is one that we've been waiting for in the library system where I work. I requested it for my branch, and I'm already third on the waiting list. Warren appeared on Today this morning, which probably kicked off the holds.

Warren's book PostSecret is one of the most popular books in my library branch. He started out by inviting people to send him creatively decorated postcards that reveal a secret from their lives. He has received more than 150,000 anonymous postcards since November 2004.

I'll be waiting to read this one.

A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2007, ISBN 9780061238604 (hardcover), 144p.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bones to Ashes

Kathy Reichs' tenth novel, Bones to Ashes, takes forensic anthropologist Temperance "Tempe" Brennan into her own past. It's a troubling, but fascinating, examination of Tempe's troubled childhood, and that of other young women who lost their innocence, childhoods, and sometimes, their lives.

Following her brother and father's deaths, Tempe's mother moves the small family from Chicago to Charleston. Summering on Pawleys Island the summer she turned eight, the lonely young girl met Évangéline Landry. The two became friends, sharing poetry, childhood, and Évangéline's stories of L'Acadia, her home in New Brunswick. When Évangéline mysteriously disappeared two years later, a devastated and puzzled Tempe spent two summers trying to find her.

Almost forty years later, Tempe still sees her friend in the corpses of teenage girls. She's just returned to her job in Quebec when she's thrown into two cases involving the bones of girls. Hippo, a Sergeant on the Cold Case squad, sends her bones that had been in a policeman's officer. And, Lieutenant-Detective Andrew Ryan, a homicide officer, is haunted by six missing girls. Three of those bodies have been found near water. It's Tempe's job to tell the stories of those bodies, bodies that remind of her Évangéline.

Tempe reaches the point where she hates her job, her life, and the world. However, she's obsessed with the past, and is determined to dig out the truth. Tempe's search for Évangéline leads to an unexpected story about the people of Acadia, and complications in the cases of the missing girls.

Ten years ago, I put aside Deja Dead, Reichs' first book. There was too much French language, and too many technical details. Over time, Reichs has learned to easily explain the French to those of us who don't read it. Bones to Ashes flows easily in both languages. However, there is still too much technical jargon. Every scientific expert in the book is too wordy, and given to explaining every bit of research they did on the way to a discovery.

Bones to Ashes is a complicated examination of a troubling period in the medical history of Acadia and Canada. And, it's a somber look at the world of missing girls. Those girls who went missing had lives as troubled as Tempe's and Évangéline's. Somewhere inside, Tempe realizes she could have been one of those girls, and she worries that Évangéline became one of them. Bones to Ashes will continue to haunt the reader long after it's finished, in the same way that the stories will haunt Tempe Brennan.

Kathy Reichs' website is

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs. Scribner, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-7432-9437-9 (hardcover), 320p.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Halloween Tree

When I think of Halloween books, I naturally think of Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree. It's an eerie tour of the history of Halloween, guided by Death himself. It's the perfect book for the season for readers of nine to twelve years old, who will shiver with delight at some of the gruesome details.

In a small Midwestern town on the afternoon of Halloween, Tom Skelton put on his bones. After meeting up with his other friends, they discovered one boy was missing, Pipkin. Pipkin "was the greatest boy who ever lived...a cross section of all the boys who ever ran, fell, got up, and ran again." Pipkin, looking ill, sent them to the House, the one house in town that might be haunted. There, they found the Halloween Tree, one that grew 100 feet in the air, and held 1000 pumpkins with faces that came alive. And, they met Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud.

Searching for Pipkin, who had disappeared, Mr. Moundshroud took Tom Skelton and his friends on a strange trip into the past, with "All the deep dark wild long history of Halloween waiting to swallow us whole." They covered 10,000 years in a story of man's fear of the disappearance of the sun for the winter, a story of celebrations and holidays created to fight the dark. From the cavemen to the Egyptians to Druids, then to Christians, and the families of Mexico, men have observed the coming of winter, and death.

Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, and Ray Bradbury, ask "What is Halloween? How did it start? Where? Why? What for?" Bradbury's The Halloween Tree answers those questions in a spooky story that is just as captivating the second, or third, or fourth time it's read.

Ray Bradbury's website is

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. Alfred A. Knopf, ©1972. ISBN 0-375080301-7 (paperback), 145p.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

First October contest and Latest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the last September contest. Kim M. in Pensacola, FL won the ARC of Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge. Hailey Lind's Brush with Death will be going to Janel G. in Freeland, MI. The books will be in the mail tomorrow.

I have two current books to give away this week, ones I just read and reviewed in the past week. Many of you had the chance to win Prime Time, the first Charlie McNally mystery by Hank Phillippi Ryan. The second book, Face Time, is scheduled for release on October 9. I have an autographed copy for one lucky winner.

If you're a fan of history or literature, you'll want to own Lillian Stewart Carl's latest anthology. The Muse and Other Stories of History, Mystery and Myth is an autographed copy perfect for anyone who enjoys mystery short stories.

Did you know you can enter to win both books? You do have to send two emails, though. So, Prime Time or a terrific collection of stories, The Muse? 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 11th. Jim will draw the winners, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Face Time

It's not often that a mystery brings tears to your eyes, but Hank Phillippi Ryan's second book, Face Time, does just that. It takes a special character to make a reader care about their life.

Charlotte "Charlie" McNally is back, eight months after Prime Time, still working for Channel 3 in Boston as an investigative reporter. Charlie has to answer a question for herself. "When it comes to ambition, politics, and love, how far would you go to get what you want?" And, then she has to ask the same question while probing into a woman's conviction for murder. Three years earlier, Dorinda Keeler Sweeney confessed to her husband's murder, and she hasn't spoken about it since. The Constitutional Justice Project, and Dorinda's attorney are convinced it's a wrongful conviction, and they convince Charlie and her producer, Franklin Parrish, to investigate. However, Dorinda refuses to talk to them. And, someone in the attorney general's office is blocking the investigation. Now that Oscar Ortega, the state's first Hispanic attorney general is running for governor, he might have a reason to impede their case.

Hank Phillippi Ryan skillfully manipulates Charlie's life. Even the title of the book, Face Time, has multiple meanings. Face Time is plastic surgery. It's the pictures used to identify Dorinda as a killer. It's the personal time Charlie realizes she needs to give to the people in her life, her mother, her boyfriend, Josh, and Penny. And, of course, it's the triumph of an investigative reporter who brings home a scoop, a ratings success during television sweeps.

Charlie McNally is every woman in her forties, trying to balance her hectic work life with the needs of two generations. Her mother recuperates in the hospital, following plastic surgery before her wedding. Charlie is struggling to meet the needs of her boyfriend's eight-year-old daughter, Penny. At times, she sounds absolutely frantic, juggling phone calls. Ryan's Face Time is Charlie McNally's story. However, it's a mystery for every woman who struggles with life, and triumphs over obstacles and opposition.

Hank Phillippi Ryan's website is

Face Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Harlequin, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-373-88142-7 (paperbck), 282p.

One Red Paperclip

You may have heard of Kyle MacDonald, author of One Red Paperclip, and you just don't know it. In 2005, he started trading, beginning with one red paperclip. One year later, he had a house.

MacDonald was 25, an unemployed guy "between jobs" who lived in Montreal with his girlfriend, Dominique. She paid the rent, put food on the table, and he couldn't find a job he wanted to do. He wanted to put his heart into something. He remembered a game he played as a kid called Bigger and Better. It was a kind of scavenger hunt in which you trading for something bigger and better. And, his father had always quoted, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

On July 12, he placed an ad on the website Craigslist, offering to barter one red paper clip. His note read, "P.S. I'm going to make a continuous chain of up trades until I get a house. Or an island. Or a house on an island. You get the idea."

With MacDonald's wacky sense of humor, he viewed it all as "a real-life Choose Your Own Adventure book." First he traded the paperclip for a fish pen. That went for a doorknob. Eventually, it became more than a job. It became an obsession. As MacDonald traveled back and forth across Canada for his part-time job, he found ways to trade. After six months, he hit the right trade to get some media coverage, and then he made the comment he would go anywhere to trade, except Yahk, Canada. The media attention grew, until eventually Kyle MacDonald had 3,800,000 hits on his blog where he told the story of the one red paperclip.

This is a book about hope and possibility. It's about Kyle's wish, and the people who made it happen. Kyle MacDonald may have written One Red Paperclip, but it's a book for anyone with a dream.

Kyle MacDonald's website is

One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald. Three Rivers Press, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-35316-0 (paperback), 307p.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

November Bestsellers?

It's that time of month when I pull out my crystal ball and take a stab at guessing the bestsellers for November. Last month, I said I predict the fiction. I am intrigued by two nonfiction books from authors who have had bestsellers in the past. I wonder if Bill Bryson's William Shakespeare (The World As Stage) will hit the lists. And Tom Brokaw's book will be Boom! (Personal Reflections of the Sixties and Beyond). The baby boomer audience is certainly big enough to push that one onto the lists, if they're interested. We'll see.

Fiction titles are a little easier.

Of course, David Baldacci's Stone Cold will make the lists.
Greg Iles has Third Degree.
James Patterson - Double Cross
Richard North Patterson - The Race
J.D. Robb - Creation in Death

Probably an easy month for predictions. Get on the waiting list at your library, or place your orders now at your favorite bookstore.

Monday, October 01, 2007

November Treasures in My Closet

I have an interesting collection of books in my closet, Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of books that are coming out in November. If you're looking for new discoveries, you might want to check out some of these books. Pre-order them now from your favorite bookstore, or place a hold at your local library.

Free for All by Don Borchert is subtitled, "Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library." Borchert is a librarian in Los Angeles who writes about business as usual in today's public library.

Hidden Moon is the latest Inspector O mystery by James Church. Inspector O returns to North Korea after a mission abroad, only to find a police commander demanding action following a bank robbery.

Hell for the Holidays is a Christopher Miller holiday thriller by Chris Grabenstein. Miller faces a group of domestic terrorists who have targeted Thanksgiving.

Laura Joh Rowland takes the reader to 1699 Japan in her latest thriller, The Snow Empress. Sano Ichiro, the samurai detective, is held hostage while searching for his kidnapped son.

Person of Interest is the new book by Edgar Award winning author Theresa Schwegel. Leslie McHugh's marriage to an undercover cop is on the rocks, so when money goes missing from their bank account, she takes matters into her own hands.

If you're looking for a teen historical mystery, try Libby Sternberg's The Case Against My Brother. In 1922 Portland, Oregon, two teens face anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant sentiments, the Ku Klux Klan, and the local police when one of the brothers is accused of theft.

Josie Marcus, mystery shopper, returns in Elaine Viets' Accessory to Murder. Josie goes undercover to find the killer of a hot young designer of thousand-dollar scarves.

Humor, thrillers, mysteries or teen books, there's something in November for every reader.

Books read in September

It's always a good month when I finish fifteen books. One book every two days isn't bad, especially when you work a full-time job.

Here's my list.

Road Kill - Zoё Sharp - Charlie Fox tries to protect a friend's son on a motorcycle trip to Ireland, when she doesn't know the whole story.

The Boy Who Saved Cleveland - James Cross Gibbin - Juvenile Fiction. Historical fiction about Sean Doan, a boy who fed the settlers of Cleveland during an epidemic.

I Believe in Unicorns - Michael Morpurgo - Juvenile Fiction. Story of a town that saved the library books in wartime.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally - Alisa smith & J.B. MacKinnon. The authors spend one year eating food grown within 100 miles of their Pacific Northwest home.

Life on the Refrigerator Door - Alice Kuipers - Notes between a single mother who learns she has cancer, and her fifteen-year-old daughter.

Second Shot - Zoё Sharp - Charlie Fox goes back to the U.S., to Boston, to act as bodyguard for a lottery winner and her young daughter.

The Girl with Braided Hair - Margaret Coel - Vicky Holden and Father John look for a killer connected to AIM, the American Indian Movement, when the body of a young woman killed in 1973 is discovered.

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature - Robin Brande - Young Adult Debut - Mena Reece, a high school freshman, is an outcast from her church and her friends, but finds a friend and respected teacher in a biology class.

Edenville Owls - Robert B. Parker - Teen novel in which a smart boy, Bobby Murphy, his friend Joanie, and the four boys on the basketball team, the Owls, try to find out why their teacher is having problems with a man.

The One Minute Assassin - Troy Cook - With 123 candidates running for governor of California, John Black has no intention of running until his politician sister is injured by an assassin.

What on Earth Have I Done? - Robert Fulghum - Stories and observations from the bestselling author of All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Juggling Elephants - Jones Loflin & Todd Musig - A parable explaining how to organize life and work.

McCafferty's Nine - Elizabeth Gunn - While Jake Hines anxiously awaits the birth of his first baby, he deals with credit card theft, muggings, and finally murder.

Souvenir - Therese Fowler - Debut novel in which Meg Hamilton gave up her first love for her family, and when she finds she has ALS, realizes what she lost.

The Muse and Other Stories of History, Mystery and Myth - Lillian Stewart Carl - Anthology of stories based on history and literature, with a touch of paranormal.

October 1, 1983

Where were you 24 years ago, on October 1, 1983? I was at the Huron Public Library, in Huron, Ohio, where I was Library Director. Jim and I were married at 5 pm in the library meeting room, by our friend, Reverend Dick Gingher. We had met at the public library, so Jim suggested we might want to get married there. My parents, and Jim's parents attended. Jim even played the piano before the wedding. When we went out to the car afterwards, my staff had tied paperback books to the bumper of the car. We all went to dinner at a restaurant that's no longer in Sandusky, Fannie Baer's. And, a week later, we left on our honeymoon, to Cooperstown, New York, so we could see the Baseball Hall of Fame. We actually enjoyed fall in New York, and Cooperstown itself, but we went to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. And, in our lives, it has been books and sports ever since.

Happy 24th Anniversary, Jim.