Friday, November 30, 2007

Books Read in November

Not too many mysteries due to the Christmas reading this month. Good month, though! Here's what I read.

Now & Then by Robert B. Parker - Spenser seeks to avenge himself on a man responsible for killing a client, who is now threatening Susan.

Alexander by Tonya Yvonne - Science Fiction novella about a boy observed by higher mortals from planet Gaia.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen - Georgia has a hard time surviving without a job, since she's 34th in line to the throne, but that doesn't preclude her investigating when her brother becomes a murder suspect.

The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank - Sentimental Christmas story about a ninety-three-year-old woman whose yearnings for an old-fashioned family Christmas brings back her childhood housekeeper.

Christmas with Paula Deen by Paula Deen - Recipes and memories from the restaurant owner and Food Network TV star.

The Tree Nobody Wanted by Tom McCann - A poor boy and his grandmother have only themselves and an ugly tree for Christmas in Brooklyn, but that doesn't mean there can't be a miracle.

Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron - (Teen novel) When Frannie's father dies, she tries to reach him through a puzzle he created.

Unwrapping Christmas by Lori Copeland - Story of Rose Bergman, who gives so much time to others, she neglects her own family.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert - Working in a public library.

Malice in Metropolis by Lonnie Cruse - It's bad enough when Sheriff Dalton is shot, but he won't put up with threats to his family.

Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright - The story of a journalist who uncovers a story about gifted jars of money, and learns about love.

Boom! Voices of the Sixties by Tom Brokaw - Personal reflections of the turmoil of the Sixties & the changes they caused.

A Lifetime of Secrets by Frank Warren - People sent in postcards, that are arranged by stages of life.

Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn - A young woman goes to England, looking for her father, but her secret could destroy her new friendships.

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon - First Father Tim novel, in which he returns home to Mississippi, reclaims his childhood, and uncovers the truth about the past.

On to December books!

Donis Casey at Velma Teague Library

Last night, award-winning mystery author Donis Casey appeared at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ, as one of the Authors at the Teague. Casey just won the Arizona Book Award for Best Mystery for her first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming.

Casey introduced the character of Alafair Tucker in that first book. Donis grew up in Oklahoma, and her family is from that part of Oklahoma where the books are set. She said she takes stories from family history, particularly her husband, Don's family, for some of the book. Her mother told her about incidents, or her in-laws did. She jokes that the worst crimes are taken from his family history, and not hers.

She does a great deal of research, reading, and discussing family stories to write her books. The murder in her latest book, The Drop Edge of Yonder, is based on an actual murder. One of the last scenes in the book, a powerful one, is based on an article she read over 30 years ago. A man told about someone he "killed" in a battle, who kept attacking him, even after he was basically dead.

Alafair Tucker, Casey's lead character, is not particularly interested in being a detective. She's a farm wife, with a husband and ten kids. What she is interested in is her kids, and keeping them out of trouble. In each book, one of the grown children gets in trouble, and needs their mother to get them out of it. Each book is about a different grown child. Phoebe, a gentle girl, is featured in The Old Buzzard Had It Coming. Alice, Phoebe's twin, is a headstrong girl who doesn't appreciate her mother's interference, is the lead in Hornswoggled. The third, and most recent mystery, The Drop Edge of Yonder, stars Mary, the good-natured daughter. Mary knows she holds a vital clue to a murder in her mind. She's been traumatized, but knows if she's left in peace, it might float to the surface. The problem is her mother. Alafair is desperate to keep her daughter safe from a killer who is still out there, so she hovers and snoops.

Donis Casey was raised in Oklahoma. She said in writing these books, she discovered people don't know anything about Oklahoma, or they have misconceptions. She sarcastically thanked John Steinbeck for that. She said in the 1910's, Oklahoma was a brand new state, and some people were very rich, with cattle, oil and land. Others who were poor and lawless poured into the state from all over. In some ways, Oklahoma was still the wild, wild west, but in the cities, it was cutting edge. It was racially different from other parts of the country. The Indians in Oklahoma were prosperous, educated, had their own nation, their own newspapers and schools. They were not happy with the influx of people. Nor were the blacks. There were black towns in Oklahoma, settled after the Civil War. They were not happy with their change in status. Some in the state were very left-wing, not at all interested in the war brewing in Europe.

Casey said in writing a historical mystery, the author must know about the place and time. The world was much larger, and much different in the 1910's. Crime investigation depended on where you lived. In London in 1914, a detective might have access to fingerprints, and other "modern" techniques. In Oklahoma in 1914, the local law knew the family and friends of the victim, and in Boynton, the local sheriff might have had a cousin like Alafair. People were inclined to tell her things, since she was "everyone's mother."

Alafair Tucker believes that loving can make you dangerous. Intuition, not intellect, might be the highest form of "knowing".

The pictures on the covers of Casey's first two books are her relatives. The one on the cover of The Drop Edge of Yonder was found at the Tempe Historical Museum. It looks like her father's favorite aunt, Mary Morgan, the character Mary was based on. The house on the cover is her grandfather's house in Boynton, Oklahoma, the model for Alafair's house.

In her most recent books, she includes a family tree, so readers can keep the family straight. She also includes recipes in the back of the books, and tells how to eat that food. She chooses titles that are ethnic sounding. The Drop Edge of Yonder is an old Texas saying that implies a place halfway between this world and the next.

Casey plans to do ten books, if she can maintain the high level of quality. She already has ideas for all ten. She's working on the fourth book right now. It will be set in 1915, and Martha, the oldest daughter, is the focus. It's a travel book, because Alafair, Martha, and Grace, the baby of the family, travel. The fifth book will be set in 1917. The world is changing. It's a time of turmoil, with some similarities to the current state of the world.

Farm families back then raised a labor force. At this stage of her life, Alafair can investigate crimes because her older daughters do much of the work around the house. Alafair is based a lot on what Casey observed about her grandmothers, her own mother, and heard of her mother-in-law. Women were less constrained on the frontier than in places such as New York City. The women were laconic, with terse deliveries. They talked straight.

Thank you to Bette Sharpe, librarian at the Velma Teague Library, for arranging for Donis Casey's appearance at the library, and to Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, for sales of the books.

And, I mentioned I'll be starting the new year of contests off with a bang. Donis Casey donated a copy of The Drop Edge of Yonder, and signed that and an ARC of Hornswoggled. I'll be offering them as prizes in the first contest of 2008, so watch for these books in January!

The next Authors at the Teague appearance will be by Leighton Gage, author of Blood of the Wicked. Gage will be coming from Brazil to speak at the library at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24th.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winners, Hell for the Holidays and Contest News

Congratulations to the latest winners in the contests on the blog. Beth R. in Hillsborough, NJ won Jason F. Wright's Christmas Jars, and Robert M. from Thomasville, NC will receive The Tree Nobody Wanted by Tom McCann. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Here's some important contest news. With the holiday season picking up, and the post office getting busier, I'm going to run one more contest this year. After next Friday, I'm not going to the post office again in 2007. The next contest will start on Thursday, Jan. 3. I'll start the year off with a bang, so make sure you watch for that contest! In the meantime, if you only enter the contests, thank you. Three hundred and fifty-nine people entered this week, one of the largest number ever. Thank you! And, if you read this blog for the book reviews, author news, as well as the contests, keep reading. Donis Casey will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library tonight, so I'll have pictures and a story sometime tomorrow. And, Troy Cook, author of The One-Minute Assassin and 47 Rules for Highly Effective Bank Robbers will be at the Poisoned Pen on Saturday, so I'll have pictures and a story Saturday night. Thanks for reading!

Chris Grabenstein is the author of the terrific Ceepak mysteries. He's also the author of the twisted Christopher Miller crime novels, Slay Ride and Hell for the Holidays. Grabenstein might have a warped sense of humor, but he was generous to give me two Advanced Reading Copies of Hell for the Holidays. One is an autographed copy. Jim will randomly select the winner of both copies, so just enter for Hell for the Holidays. If you'd prefer a holiday thriller, rather than the Christmas books offered last week, this is the time to enter the contest.

If you'd like to win one 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 Thursday, Dec. 6 at 6 pm MT. 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, November 28, 2007

Home to Holly Springs

If Proust hadn't already used Remembrance of Things Past, Jan Karon could have used that title for the first of the Father Tim novels. Instead, Father Tim Kavanaugh returns Home to Holly Springs.

At seventy, Father Tim is happily retired in Mitford, North Carolina, when he receives a mysterious letter with only two words, "Come home." Since his wife, Cynthia, is laid up with her foot in a cast, he packs up his dog, Barnabas, and sets out for Holly Springs, Mississippi. He faces the trip with some trepidation, because all of his memories of home are not pleasant.

It's a treat for readers of the Mitford series to discover Father Tim's hometown, and his childhood. There have been teasers in previous books, but, in this one, fans finally find out about his home life. The book starts slowly, with long descriptions of Holly Springs. However, it's the unraveling of a life story, and readers need to stick with the story. Perhaps all of Father Tim's puzzles are wrapped up too neatly, but it's a satisfying ending, with surprises for Father Tim, and the readers.

Jan Karon's website is

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon. Viking, ©2007, ISBN 9780670018253 (hardcover), 356p.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Lifetime of Secrets

Once again, Frank Warren, author of PostSecret, has compiled a remarkable collection of postcards, secrets people were willing to share with the world, in A Lifetime of Secrets.

This time, Warren has arranged the postcards by age to show "the common journey we all take through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, maturity." The secrets span lifetimes, from the youngest contributors or secrets of the youngest, to the oldest, expressing their satisfaction with life, or their reluctance to let go. Somewhere in this book is a secret to identify with or share.

They're haunting secrets. Sometimes they're painful ones, sometimes disturbing. Occasionally someone triumphs over life's trials. The entire book is moving. Perhaps this is the best book of any of the PostSecret books, revealing that at every stage of life, there are still secrets to reveal, to share, and to keep.

Frank Warren's website is

A Lifetime of Secrets by Frank Warren. William Morrow, ©2007. ISBN 978-0061238604 (hardcover), 288p.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Boom! Voices of the Sixties

Where were you in the Sixties? Tom Brokaw uses his latest book, Boom! Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today, to look back at that decade, the people who lived through it, and the results of those years. Knowing there are still unresolved debates about the politics, cultural and socioeconomic meaning of the Sixties, Brokaw examined his own life, and interviewed numerous others about their experiences.

He picks Nov. 22, 1963, the day of John Kennedy's assassination as the beginning of what we call the Sixties, and says it ended with Nixon's resignation in 1974. The people and events of the years between "challenged and changed almost everything that had gone before."

The Sixties were civil rights, women's rights, hippies, music, and, hanging over everything, Vietnam. Brokaw's book is a personal book in which he relates his own life and experiences during those years, and the changes he observed. He also interviewed people affected by those years, Julian Bond, Hillary Clinton, General Colin Powell, James Taylor and Garry Trudeau, among dozens of others, including students who opposed the war in Vietnam, and soldiers who went to war.

I'm a little young to remember the Sixties, but the decade still impacts our lives. Today, there's a woman, an African-American, and a Hispanic running for President. Those who remember Vietnam, watch Iraq, and comment on the similarities. Brokaw's book brings to life the events and people of the Sixties, and lays the trail to show how we arrived where we are today, with our politics and our culture. He's examined the country in a fascinating book, but he admits we still can't render a verdict as to the meaning of the changes, for good or ill. Brokaw's book is strong enough, with its variety of viewpoints, to be a text for studying that pivotal decade in our history.

In his book, The Greatest Generation, Brokaw dealt with people who shared an experience that brought people together. In Boom!, he's dealing with years that tore the country apart. The Sixties exploded onto the United States, and the repercussions of those years are still being felt. The country has never been the same.

Boom! Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today by Tom Brokaw. Random House, ©2007. ISBN 978-1400064571 (hardcover), 662p.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Finding Father Christmas

I hope you enjoyed the solid week of Christmas books. There might be one or two more scattered until December 25th. I thought the Thanksgiving week was the perfect time to kick off the holiday season with appropriate books. Maybe you found one title that was new, or that you enjoyed.

Like Unwrapping Christmas, Robin Jones Gunn's Finding Father Christmas has a Christian angle. However, this story isn't quite as pushy about the message. In fact, for me, the story stood out in this novella about a lost young woman.

On impulse, Miranda Carson took off for England at Christmas, hoping to find some traces of the father she never knew. At twenty-nine, she was alone in the world. Her mother, Eve Carson, had been an actress. Together they led a magical, gypsy life until Miranda found a birth certificate listing her father. Some of the spark left her life that day. Following the death of her mother, and then, four years later, the death of the woman who took her in, Miranda lost all trust in the world.

In Carlton Heath, a small British town, Miranda stumbled into a tea shop. From there, someone else seemed in control of her life. The welcome from the owners, their friends in a small community theater, and the Whitcombe family overwhelmed the young woman. She felt a warm welcome and acceptance, and received some special gifts. When she made an unexpected discovery, she was afraid to reveal that she had discovered her father's identity. Despite the kindness shown by her new friends, she was afraid the truth would ruin that friendship.

Robin Jones Gunn's Finding Father Christmas is a warm, endearing story about a naive young woman who stumbles into Christmas Present.

Robin Gunn's website is

Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn. Faith Words, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-446-52629-6 (hardcover), 161p.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Unwrapping Christmas

Rose Bergman's life had become so busy, that she didn't realize it was all collapsing around her. It takes an accident to slow her down in Lori Copeland's Unwrapping Christmas.

Everyone is busy in Rose's household, as Christmas approaches. Her husband, Joey, is working long hours in the family business. All of the church activities only added to the hectic schedule. But, Rose just couldn't say no because she felt as if she was serving the Lord. She might not have known what to say to a friend who was worried about her husband's health, or another woman whose son was on drugs, but she'd work at the Thrift Shop, take casseroles to someone, and write the Advent history for church. Maybe she didn't have time to cook for her family, and missed her son's science presentation, but she was giving back, wasn't she? Rose was on so many prayer and chat lists, it took her hours to work through them, but she didn't notice the problems with her own teenagers. And, as she rushed around preparing for Christmas, she didn't realize, "She was so busy doing Christmas, there wasn't time to experience Christmas."

Copeland's story is about a woman who discovers the need to get back to basics. The book may have too many religious overtones for some readers, but remember, this is Christian fiction. However, Unwrapping Christmas may have a message for most of us. It's a time of year to remember how important our families are, and that Christmas is about family, and a time together with family and friends.

Lori Copeland's website is

Unwrapping Christmas by Lori Copeland. Zondervan, ©2007, ISBN 9780310272267 (hardcover), 157p.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Christmas Pearl

Dorothea Benton Frank returns readers to Christmas memories of the past in her holiday novel, The Christmas Pearl. It's a sentimental over-dramatic story. However, it's the best kind of tale for the holidays, filled with good food, family and magic.

Theodora was afraid her ninety-third Christmas wouldn't have any of that magic. Here she was, the matriarch of a Charleston, South Carolina family, in a home steeped in tradition. And, all of that Christmas tradition and magic was wasted on her argumentative, spoiled family. The season lacked all joy, and Theodora was afraid she wouldn't be able to unite everyone for one special Christmas.

Nothing can compare with Theodora's Christmas when she was six. Their family housekeeper, Pearl, was more than a housekeeper. She was the manager of the household, caterer, and her grandmother's best friend. And, she was the one who loved Theodora passionately, and made it her mission to create the holiday season. With Theodora's sarcastic, lazy family, she yearns for nothing so much as Christmas past, when Pearl took charge of Christmas.

At 93, Theodora will get one more wish. Pearl will take charge of this Christmas, too. It's a sentimental story, and there will be a tear or two. Pearl's Gullah magic, and family recipes at the end of the book are special touches in The Christmas Pearl.

Dorothea Benton Frank's website is

The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank. William Morrow, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-06-143844-8 (hardcover), 176p.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Winners and Christmas Book Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of Clea Simon's book, Cries and Whiskers. Geraldine G. in Dallas, TX will receive the galley, and Tarah P. from Clarkston, MI will receive the autographed ARC. They'll go out in the mail tomorrow.

I've been reviewing Christmas books all this week to kick off the holiday season. I'm giving away copies of two of them. Christmas Jars is Jason F. Wright's warm story about a journalist who discovers that Christmas is more than a newspaper story.

The Tree Nobody Wanted is a Christmas reminder by Tom McCann, set in Brooklyn after the end of World War II.

If you'd like to win one 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 twelve hours early because I'll be at the Velma Teague Library on Thursday night, for an appearance by award-winning mystery author, Donis Casey.

The contest will end next Thursday morning, November 29, at 6 am MT. 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!

Happy Thanksgiving

I'd like to wish you all a Happy, safe Thanksgiving. Thank you for spending time reading my blog, and entering the contests. Thanks to all of the authors, publishers, marketing reps (especially Talia), and agents who have been kind enough to send books for reviews and contests, and messages for the readers. Thank you to Maddee and Kevin for helping me format the blog, and to Jim for helping with all of the pictures. A very grateful thank you to all of the authors, whether or not I've ever corresponded with you, for all of the joy of your books.

A personal note - thank you to my family - my mother and sisters, for their encouragement. It's nonpolitical to say, thank you to the troops who serve, protecting our country, preserving my right to say what I want on this blog.

And, the biggest thank you of all to Jim - for encouragement, patience, time downloading pictures, and picking the winners of all of the contests.

I'm very grateful to all of you. Happy Thanksgiving.

The Tree Nobody Wanted

Every Christmas story needs to be sentimental, and involve magic or a miracle. That's my rule for Christmas books. Tom McCann's The Tree Nobody Wanted, a nostalgic view back at an earlier Christmas, meets that standard.

Thomas, an eleven-year-old boy, tells the story of Christmas in 1946, just after the end of World War II. He lived in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn with his grandmother, Nanny. Everyone in that poor neighborhood knew one holiday truth. At 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the men selling Christmas trees on the corners went home, and poor people could go get a tree.

When Thomas was sent to pick the family tree, something drew him to a small, ugly, misshapen one. He thought about that tree's past, and its feelings about the whole experience of being cut down, with a future in the city dump after the holiday. Thomas knew the facts of life in a poor neighborhood. His mother was dead; he never knew his father, and his uncle would later die of alcoholism. Thomas was drawn to that tree.

He and his Nanny had nothing to decorate the tree with, except cherished memories, pictures, letters, and childish artwork. The tree became personal and meaningful to Thomas, and after Christmas, he couldn't bear to take it to the dump.

Instead, he snuck it into the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, where it became a symbol of the power of love and faith.

The Tree Nobody Wanted is a very simple story, told in only 40 pages. At times, there are too many lists and descriptions of sites in Brooklyn. It's a very personal, even autobiographical, story. Despite its flaws, such as the wordiness when it comes to scenic description, this sentimental little book brings a tear. In addition, the cover illustration by Frederick Jillson is a work of art, with the small textured tree within the larger tree, symbolizing the original tree and its growth.

Tom McCann's The Tree Nobody Wanted meets the criteria of a sentimental Christmas story, with a message of the power of love to bring a miracle to life.

The Tree Nobody Wanted by Tom McCann. Exeter Press Boston, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-9797407-0-1 (hardcover), 40p.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Where Angels Go

Debbie Macomber brings back her well-loved angels, Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy in this year's Christmas novel, Where Angels Go. Macomber says these are her most requested characters, and, with the warmth and humor of the characters and the books, it's understandable.

Once again, Archangel Gabriel has received prayer requests just before Christmas. Knowing his three Prayer Ambassadors have created havoc in the past when they've been sent to earth, he's reluctant to send them again. But other angels are a little busy this time of year, and Shirley, Goodness and Mercy are available.

At eighty-six, Harry Alderwood knows he's dying. However, he worries about his wife, Rosalie. He prays that he'll be able to get her into an assisted-living facility in Leavenworth, Washington before his death. Despite Mercy's ability to cause trouble, she has a talent in answering prayers. Harry becomes her assignment.

Beth Fischer is addicted to the World of Warcraft computer game. It's her escape. Beth can't put a failed marriage behind her, although it was nine years earlier. It's Beth's mother who prayed her daughter would find someone, and Goodness who is assigned the task of helping Beth cope with her fear of commitment.

Carter Jackson wants a dog so bad, but his father knows they can't afford everything that goes with a dog, vet bills, licenses, obedience school. Carter just knows that God will find a way to get a dog for a nine-year-old boy, so his prayer request is assigned to Shirley.

Once again, Macomber brings us a lovely, warm story, filled with the Christmas spirit. This book is already hitting the bestseller lists. I always enjoy the comfort and humor provided by Gabriel's three mischievous angels. Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy are charming, slightly ditzy, and utterly unforgettable. Readers may never think of angels in the same way, once they've met Macomber's three Prayer Ambassadors. It's fun to sit down for a few hours to escape into their world, and forget the hectic season that's almost upon us.

It's been a few years since Debbie Macomber brought us Shirley, Goodness and Mercy for Christmas. They appeared in Those Christmas Angels four years ago, and a reprint of Mrs. Miracle in 2005. Those of us who are fans were waiting for this special gift, Where Angels Go.

Debbie Macomber's website is

Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber. MIRA, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-7783-2515-4 (hardcover), 296p.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas Jars

A wise author, O.Henry, once said, "that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating." His "The Gift of the Magi," is the perfect Christmas story in my opinion, with tears, love, and hope. Jason F. Wright's Christmas Jars offers the same type of Christmas message, combining tears, love, and Hope.

As a baby, Hope was left in a booth at Chuck's Chicken 'n' Biscuits on New Year's Eve. The house cleaner who adopted her, Louise Jensen, fought for her daughter, told her the truth about that New Year's, and loved her as long as she lived. She encouraged all of Hope's dreams to be a journalist, and Hope made rapid progress at the local newspaper.

But when her apartment was broken into soon after her mother's death, Hope was lost and alone. Someone, understanding that, left her a Christmas Jar. There was over $200 in it, but for Hope, it was a message. It was a message that there was a story behind the Christmas Jar, and she began to dig for that story. She discovered other people who had received Christmas Jars from Good Samaritans, and, with the determination to write that story, she followed the leads until she discovered a family that might be the source of the Christmas Jars. Hope soon realizes she has the potential for a blockbuster of a story, one that could be above the fold on page 1. Or, she could destroy a Christmas secret.

The perfect Christmas story is sentimental, filled with love, tears, and a miracle or two. Wright's Christmas Jars meets all of those requirements.

Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright. Shadow Mountain Publishing, ©2005, ISBN 978-1-59038-481-7 (paperback), 122p.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas with Paula Deen

Paula Deen, Food Network star and owner of two restaurants in Savannah, Georgia, shares Christmas memories and recipes in the small book, Christmas with Paula Deen. It's the perfect book to kick off a week of Christmas books, because Deen includes recipes for holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

Buy or check this book out for its recipes. There are some great looking Christmas recipes, covering everything from candies and cookies to meat and mashed potatoes. Deen includes suggestions for gift presentations as well.

The stories themselves are repetitious if you're a Paula Deen fan, and already read her memoir, Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin'. Most of her stories of the holidays were included in that book. If you're a fan of her shows, though, it's enjoyable to have a few stories from her sons, Bobby and Jamie. Family pictures are included as well.

I do have a complaint about the print in this book. Although it's quite festive with the green and red print, it's difficult to read, and many people will not find it easy to read that print.

If you're looking for a fun Christmas gift for the cook in the family, this little book might fit the bill. However, take a good look at it with the reader in mind before giving it to someone.

Paula Deen's website is

Christmas with Paula Deen by Paula Deen. Simon & Schuster, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-7432-9286-3 (hardcover), 211p.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Malice in Metropolis

Fast-paced, riveting, and a page-turner are all words to describe Lonnie Cruse's Malice in Metropolis. Anyone who is a fan of her Sheriff Joe Dalton will be on the edge of their seat.

It's spring in Metropolis, Illinois and Massac County. Despite the daffodils out in the countryside, Dalton is not out at a farm to enjoy the beautiful weather. Even in rural America, there's a meth problem. Dalton is there to meet with a snitch. He'll never get a chance to talk to her, since he's shot after picking flowers for his wife.

Cruse's opening scene gives a hint as to Dalton's character and concerns. He's the kind of man who picks flowers for his wife and plans to fish with his grandson. He cares enough about the people he arrests to talk to them, and try to give them a second chance. He's not the kind of man who will take kindly to someone threatening him and his family.

Cruse builds up the tension in the latest Metropolis mystery, so that readers will anxiously turn pages. Each Sheriff Dalton mystery is better than the last, and this one is no exception.

Lonnie Cruse's website is

Malice in Metropolis by Lonnie Cruse. NaDaC Publishing, ©2007. ISBN 9780978588038 (paperback), 222p.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library

Don Borchert's book, Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library, might have a limited audience, but it's limited to anyone who ever worked in a public library. Buy it for your co-workers. Give it to grad students planning to get a Library Science degree. You might even want to buy it for governing bodies who think public libraries are nice, quiet places where nothing ever happens. Borchert tells the truth about the reality of public libraries.

Borchert introduces library staff as "invariably professional, courteous and unobtrusive." They're almost always educated in "Library Science, a degree as arcane as alchemy or predicting the future by reading the entrails of a recently slaughtered lamb." Yet, on a daily basis, the library staff deals with hiring decisions that went wrong, unruly kids, gang wars, drunks and drug dealers, and racial problems. At the same time, they have regular patrons who enjoy the books and computers. There's the pleasure of a group of third graders and children getting their first library card, storytimes, the volunteers and patrons who share their pleasure in the library. Anyone who has worked in a library for any length of time will nod with recognition at the stories of the large number of keys in the library, and the acknowledgement of the hard work of the pages.

Free for All captures all of the highs and lows, frustrations and joys of working in a public library. Don Borchert has written the story that everyone in libraries knew should be told. We've all said, "We ought to write a book. No one would believe what really happens in a library." Borchert just let the cat out of the bag.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert. Virgin Books, ©2007, ISBN 9781905264124 (hardcover), 237p.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Sneak Peek

Since Thanksgiving is next week, and many people will be on the road, spending time with family and friends, or kicking off the shopping season, I'm going to kick off the holiday season in style. Starting Monday, I'll have a week of reviews of Christmas books.

Watch for reviews of these books, and a couple others. It's a sneak peek into next week, and the holiday season.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cries & Whiskers Contest & Winners

The Give Me an H contest ended this morning when Meredith P. in Round Pond, ME won Down River by John Hart, and Frank B. from Mattituck, NY won the copy of Warren Hammond's KOP. Congratulations! The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

As promised, the prizes this week are copies of Clea Simon's Cries and Whiskers. The latest book to feature Theda Krakow has not yet been published. Because of the Thanksgiving holidays, Clea and I agreed to offer these two copies a little early. I have one galley, and one autographed ARC of Cries and Whiskers to give to lucky winners. It will be a random selection, so you don't need to pick which one you get. I'll give one to one winner, and one to the other one.

If you'd like to win one of these ARCs, 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 22, at 6 pm MT. 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, November 14, 2007

An Evening with Anna Quindlen

"A bigger threat to democracy is to cut library budgets than to cut defense budgets." Although the crowd was not made up of librarians, this was the statement from Anna Quindlen that drew applause last night. As a librarian, I found it to be one of her most powerful statements.

I was lucky enough to have tickets to the Flinn Foundation Centennial Lecture Series at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University. Since 1989, the Flinn Foundational Centennial Lecture Series has provided Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, with the resources to bring "some of the world's most influential intellects to campus." The lecture is free to the public. Past speakers have included Edward Albee, David Halberstam, Carlos Fuentes and Annie Dillard. For me, this was an opportunity to hear Anna Quindlen on "The Value of Reading and Writing in a Democratic Society."

Quindlen may be the author of five bestselling novels, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and the first writer to ever have books on the New York Times Fiction, Nonfiction, and Self-Help Bestseller lists, but, most of all, she's a person who values reading and books.

She said she reads like a maniac, galleys, mysteries, and rereads classics. She has resisted writing blurbs because her friend, Calvin Trillin, told her she has too many friends who are writers, and someday she wouldn't like something they wrote, and she'd lose a friend. However, when the Book-of-the-Month Club asked her to be on their editorial board, she realized she could help great work get noticed.

Anna Quindlen says she goes against conventional wisdom to say, this is a very good time for readers and reading. For those who say kids don't read, when have kids gone ga-ga over a single book, an old-fashinoned book with black letters on white pages, stood in line to get books, and then slipped into their bedroom to read? For those who say Harry Potter was all about hype, when a "twelve-year-old settles down with a book longer than Crime and Punishment, it's not hype."

Quindlen said when she thinks of her childhood, she was always in a club chair with her mother in the doorway saying it's a beautiful day outside. The happiest part of her life was when she was back at home, in her book. She left the characters, as if in a game of statues, and they came back to life when she got back. She lived within books. They were truer to her than anything else in life.

In America, we pay lipservice to reading, she said. We say how important it is, but view readers as lazy, aimless dreamers. However, "Reading is the pathway to the world." People testify through the written word. She said, it's impossible to be a true citizen of a democracy without reaching out to books. And, it's then she stated, "A bigger threat to democracy is to cut library budgets than to cut defense budgets."

She said, news coverage of Vietnam, as compared to that of previous wars, humanized the people of Vietnam, rather than demonized them. For the first time, it provided an understanding of the people we were fighting.

Thomas Jefferson said, "When the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."

Anna Quindlen does not see the written word, and books, going away. She's been hearing for many years that paper will be superceded by comptuers. The laptop is wondrous, but no one wants to take a laptop to bed. No one wants to pass Heidi down to their daughters on disk. People have been predicting the demise of ink on paper for years, and they're wrong. A book can be savored, carried with us, and has a heft to it.

She said, censors are the greatest threat to reading, not the Internet. The American Library Association (ALA) publishes an annual list of Challenged and Banned Books. According to Quindlen, a person could be well-read just by reading all of the books on that list, the books that have challenged, frightened, and enraged people. Even censors can't kill books.

Anna Quindlen said well-written stories with interesting characters still manage to find audiences. Just look at Harry Potter. And, one of her final comments. "Reading creates a history for ourselves."

It was an inspirational evening, one that reminded me why I'm proud to be a librarian, and a reader.

(And, a personal thank you to two other librarians, who put up with even my flat tire on the way to the event. Thank you to Lisa Colcord and Bette Sharpe.)

A Note from Clea Simon

Clea Simon, author of the Theda Krakow mysteries, including Cries and Whiskers, has given me a couple copies of it to give as prizes in the contest that will start on Thursday. She was kind enough to send a note as well.

Dear Readers,

What is the deal with women and cats? Or, I guess I should be specific and own up to my own foibles, with me and cats? I figure since you’re reading this -- and since Lesa has been so kind as to include me and my latest book, “Cries and Whiskers,” in her blog, I should address the big issues.

For starters, I’ve got to say I’m not anti-dog. Several of my close friends have dogs; one has Irish wolfhounds, two of ‘em, which are larger than she is (though not, I hasten to add, larger than me. Vicki’s quite petite.) Nor do I have anything against men and cats. Many men love cats – the best men I know love cats (and I include my husband Jon in that category). But I’m a woman who loves cats, and now I’m a mystery writer who writes about women and their cats. So it’s only fair to ask: What gives?

Well, I could say it is simply a time-honored tradition. Long before Lilian Jackson Braun, women and cats were linked through history and mythology. I could cite references to Bast (the great Egyptian goddess who not only controlled the flooding of the Nile but also the making of paper and the brewing of beer – begin to see a connection?) and to Freya (who flew through the air on a sleigh drawn by cats). I could talk about witches and familiars, and, well... you get the idea.

Or I could get contemporary and refer you to the real female-feline issues that intrigue me. Because there are some strange connections. Did you know, for example, that most cat hoarders (you know, “crazy cat people”) are in fact women? That’s one reason the victim in my first mystery, “Mew is for Murder,” is an old lady who lives alone with a bunch of cats. But, on the flip side, the vast majority of people who do rescue work – like several of the characters in my new mystery, “Cries and Whiskers” – are women, too. These connections are fascinating to me, and they are why I put at least one in each of my Theda Krakow mysteries. How can two species be so in tune? How many ways can we humans and these semi-domesticated little tigers interact? There’s material here for decades to come.

But to get down to the truth, sometimes I think I write mysteries with cats in them because I love the diminutive beasts. Simply put, cats are wonderful companions for writers. I’ve lived with all sorts of animals. At one point, I had a pet toad. He was named Dyatt. But there’s something about a purring cat that’s conducive to writing. My current feline companion, Musetta, is quite the task mistress. True to her name, “little muse,” she inspires me with both her grace and her clumsy kittenish antics. She’s as prone to sliding off a pillow as she is to gracefully “cat walk” along a sill. On cold days, when my home office gets chilly, she leans up against my legs and warms me more than even my fuzziest slippers. And whenever I’m ready to call it a day, to let some scene resolve itself – she invariably lies across my toes and falls asleep. And how can I disturb a sleeping cat? Instead, I write a little longer. I re-read what I’ve already written. I stay at my desk for just enough time to let me finish off that section – and for Musetta to finish her nap.

So if cats fascinate you, whether you have a real feline in your life or not, I hope you’ll find something in my books to make you purr. And if they don’t, perhaps one of my books will take you for a walk on the wild side – and open you up to a feline future!

Thanks so much for joining me today. And thank you, too, to Lesa, for hosting such marvelous contests and blogs.

All best,


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cries and Whiskers

Clea Simon's third Theda Krakow mystery, Cries and Whiskers, is a treat for cat lovers, as well as those of us waiting for further developments in Theda's life. Over the course of three books, Theda has matured and developed important relationships.

However, the freelance journalist's life crashes around her in this latest book. And, Theda has a great deal of trouble handling change. Her boyfriend, Bill, a homicide detective, is laid up with a broken leg. An acquaintance, an animal rights activist, was hit by a car while trying to rescue feral cats. One friend is pregnant, one is avoiding her, and her best friend, Vi, is talking about dropping out of school. At times, Theda feels as if her friendships are going "horribly wrong."

She can count on her beloved cat, Musetta, to be there for her. Despite her complicated life, covering the club scene in Cambridge, scrambling for story ideas, Musetta is waiting for her to cuddle and play. While Theda investigates a mysterious new band, Swann's Way, that she can't find information about, Musetta waits at home. When Theda is confronted with angry developers and drugs in her familiar club scene, Musetta is there to boost her morale. And, then one day, even her relationship with Musetta goes "horribly wrong."

Readers of the Theda Krakow mysteries know she leads an interesting, complicated life. She dates a detective, involves herself with other cat lovers, and covers music for the local club scene. As a freelance reporter, she scrambles for story ideas. She's a loyal, supportive friend. And, in this book, she reveals the depth of her love for Musetta, and the importance of that relationship in her life. She reveals that when she returns home to Musetta, saying I "reentered my real life." When that real life is threatened, all of Theda's investigatory skills come into play. What does she know that threatens someone?

It takes Theda Krakow, a cat lover, to unravel the tangles in the ball of yarn that is Clea Simon's Cries and Whiskers.

Tomorrow: Watch for a note from Clea Simon, and, then on Thursday, you'll have the chance to win copies of Cries and Whiskers.

Clea Simon's website is

Cries and Whiskers by Clea Simon. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007, ISBN 1-59058-464-4 (hardcover), 240p.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Boys Do Read!

As part of my continuing comments saying kids and teens DO read, despite articles that say otherwise, I'm offering family proof. This picture is my nephew, Tony, along with my sister, Christie, and Food Network star, and author, Alton Brown. Alton Brown is a favorite in my sister's household, since he combines science, common sense, history and cooking. Tony bought Alton's book, I'm Just Here for the Food, and then stood in line for an hour and a half to get Brown's autograph.

Thanks, Tony! One more for the readers!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Frannie in Pieces

Delia Ephron is probably best known as the screenwriter of movies such as You've Got Mail, and Michael, but she's also written children's books, adult ones, and books of humor. Now, with Frannie in Pieces, she successfully wrote a teen novel.

Frannie's parents may have divorced when she was six, but she still had both of her parents. When her father died a week before her fifteenth birthday, she lost the person she loved most, and the one who understood her. Worst of all, she was in the house for two hours before she found his body.

Frannie reacts with anger, and fear. She worries about everything, and even reads small print, looking for poison in ingredients. She isolates, spending her time in her bedroom, lying on the floor. She refuses to see her best friend, Jenna, who seems to have deserted her by finding a boyfriend. Frannie feels alone in the world, until she puts together a puzzle, one that she thinks is a gift from her father. The handmade puzzle, with a wooden box with her name on it, makes her feel close to her father. It's "something sacred, a secret just between us."

As Frannie works on the puzzle, she's sucked into the world, an unfamiliar one to her, but a place that she seems to find her father. What kind of answers can Frannie find in a puzzle world?

Frannie in Pieces is a thoughtful examination of a fifteen-year-old girl's life and feelings, following the loss of the most important person in her world. There are so many parts of Frannie's life that she realizes she looks at from the wrong angle. Even the phrase her father told her, "Save the blues for last," means more than just the process of putting a puzzle together. Ephron has given the reader a book to explore meanings, and explore life, along with Frannie. It's a beautiful, warm book of love, and the exploration of the meaning of love, life, and going on with life after death.

Delia Ephron's website is

Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2007, ISBN 9780060747169 (hardcover), 374p.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Going International

My first international link from Lesa's Book Critiques was on Zoё Sharp's webpage, the British author of the Charlie Fox novels. Zoё was a welcome guest at the Velma Teague Library when she was on her U.S. tour for Second Shot.

Yesterday, I heard from Martin Edwards, British author of the Lake District Mysteries and the Liverpool Mysteries, as well as other novels. If you'd like to hear his voice, check out his blog at, where he introduces himself. Martin is going to link to Lesa's Book Critiques from his blog.

As of today, Eric's Boekensite, a Dutch site, will include Lesa's Book Critiques on Eric's Directory, the English language section. This blog is one of the first nine from the United State to be included in this online niche directory consistign of book-related websites. Eric Verbiest has selected sites that he feels would be of interest to his visitors. I'm honored to be included with Sarah Weinman's Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, Murderati, and The Rap Sheet. Eric's Boekensite is very interesting.

Thanks to Zoё Sharp, Martin Edwards and Eric Verbiest for thinking Lesa's Book Critiques might be of interest to your readers, in the U.S. or Europe. I've gone international!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Louise Penny's blog

Louise Penny, one of my favorite authors, started a blog this month. If you haven't read her mysteries set in Quebec, why not? Start with Still Life, the book that won the New Blood Dagger in England, the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada, and the Dilys Award from the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. Once you've met Inspector Armand Gamache, you'll want to read A Fatal Grace. And, those of us who are fans in the United States, can't wait to read The Cruelest Month, which is due out in March. And, I know at least two of us who are eagerly awaiting Louise Penny's appearance at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ in March.

Louise's blog is at She's going to try to post daily, but I hope she's not neglecting her writing! I'm in Arizona, so the weather and life in Quebec is quite different when I read about it. For me, it's a chance to spend a couple minutes a day reading about one of my favorite authors.

Louise Penny's website is

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Give me an H Contest, and winners

Congratulations to the winners in the last contest here. Daniel H. in Biddeford, Maine will receive the ARC of The Takedown by Patrick Quinlan. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain goes to Gina M. in Hundred, WV. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

I have two ARCS (Advanced Reading Copies) by authors whose names begin with H for the latest contest. One is Down River by John Hart, bestselling author of The King of Lies. Adam Chase was acquitted of murder, but he's spent years in exile from his home in North Carolina. When he's called home, Chase faces violence, bodies, and family secrets. Down River is one of the prizes this week.

And, someone will win Kop by Warren Hammond. It's a combination of crime and science
fiction, a story of Juno, a dirty cop on an impoverished planet. How does a crooked cop become a sympathetic hero? Trap him between a crooked mayor and a police chief, and set him up for a fall.

If you'd like to win one of these ARCs, 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 morning, November 15, at 6 am MT. 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, November 07, 2007

Fall Brown Bag Luncheon

Each quarter, I hold a brown bag luncheon in my office, and invite library patrons and city staff to attend, and discover fifteen books they might not have read. It's usually a small group here, and then the next day, I repeat the program for library staff who pack their lunch, and come in from all three of our libraries. It's a fun chance to explore books and authors people might not have read. Here are the fifteen books I'm going to talk about this week.

The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told by Rick Beyer - In chronological order, 100 stories about Presidential history.

On Wings of the Morning by Marie Bostwick - The story of two young people from the Midwest, who yearned to fly in the days prior to, and during WWII.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen - Georgie is 34th in line to the throne, and desperate to make a living. She isn't going to make money investigating a murder in which her brother is the suspect, or spying on her cousin for Queen Mary.

The Drop Edge of Yonder by Donis Casey - Alafair Tucker's brother-in-law is murdered, and her daughter, Mary, a witness who can't remember the event, so Alafair digs in to find the killer. Another terrific mystery involving Alafair's family in Oklahoma in the early 20th century.

Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen - Elliot Freed owns a movie theater that only shows comedies, but he's not laughing when someone dies of poisoned popcorn in the theater.

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer - Mix in a food columnist with a deadly frying pan, a hitman, and a wedding, and it's a recipe for fun and disaster.

Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby - When "Mr. Choppy" Dunbar runs for mayor in Second Creek, Mississippi, it's up to the Nitwits, wealthy and eccentric widows, to help with the campaign.

The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank - At 93, Theodora needs a miracle to have an old-fashioned Christmas with her cantankerous family, but it might work when her beloved former housekeeper shows up.

What on Earth Have I Done? by Robert Fulghum - From Seattle, to Moab, Utah, to Crete, Fulghum searches the world for friends who will share his philosophy of life.

McCafferty's Nine by Elizabeth Gunn - While waiting for the birth of his first child, Chief of Detectives Jake Hines and his team deal with credit card theft and a running purse-snatcher who is getting more dangerous.

The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson - 230 common misconceptions laid to rest.

One Red Paperclip by Kyle Macdonald - Macdonald tries to trade for a house, using the Internet and Craig's List, beginning with one red paperclip.

Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber - Macomber's beloved Prayer Ambassadors, Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy return to earth to help with three Christmas prayers.

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs - The mystery series that brought us the TV series, Bones. Tempe Brennan deals with her own childhood mystery, in a story involving cold cases, and the bodies of missing girls.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon - A couple tries to live off of the food they can buy that is produced locally.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Her Royal Spyness

Rhys Bowen is known for bringing a time period and setting to life in her mysteries, and her latest ones, Her Royal Spyness is no exception. With the Evan books, she takes readers to Wales. Her Molly Murphy books transport readers to the world of an Irish immigrant in New York. Now, we're transported to England in the 1930s to spend time with a family member considered minor royalty.

Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is the daughter of a deceased Duke, and the sister of one. Georgie is impoverished, and the only savior on the horizon is marriage. Knowing her relatives want to marry her off, she escapes to London, only to find herself having tea with Queen Mary. The Queen wants her to attend a party in order to spy on her son, David, who seems to be linked with an American woman who is still married.

Before the house party, Georgie has time to find and lose a job at Harrods, become a cleaning woman for wealthy women, and find a body in the bathtub at her brother's London home. Unfortunately, the deceased had recently met with her brother, Binky, and had papers to claim their family estate. Now, Georgie may find herself not only a spy for the Queen, but also an investigator trying to save her brother from a murder charge.

I haven't read Bowen's award-winning Molly Murphy series, but Her Royal Spyness shares a humorous tone with the Evan Evans series. How does someone thirty-four times removed from the throne make a living in 1932? It's fun to watch Georgie take on society and a murder case. She's a strong, brave woman who conforms with some of society's expectations, while breaking new ground. Hopefully, Her Royal Spyness will return with more adventures.

Rhys Bowen's website is

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-425-31567-8 (hardcover), 324p.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Note from Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hank Phillippi Ryan was generous enough to give autographed copies of her two Charlie McNally mysteries as prizes in the contests here. I wanted to give Ryan, the author of Prime Time and Face Time, the opportunity to talk about her books.

Dear Readers:

In my thirty years as a television reporter, I have wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians and chased down criminals--and it's been so rewarding to know that my work has changed laws and changed lives.

But I must admit--there's a nothing as exhilarating and satisfying as knowing that new readers will be entering the world of the Charlotte McNally Mysteries. When I first got the idea for Prime Time--and I remember the moment perfectly--I instantly became obsessed with writing the novel that would explain the mysterious message that I actually got on my computer. In Face Time--I wondered what would happen if Charlie staked her career on proving a convicted murderer was innocent--and then began to wonder if they were actually guilty? And who would want to dupe her into such a mammoth mistake? And why is eyewitness identification so dangerous?

Charlotte McNally--a smart, savvy, successful reporter who is married to her TV job and wonders what happens when the camera doesn't love her anymore--became my new best friend. I loved creating Charlie's world--with all the good guys--and bad guys--and all of her challenges to uncover the blockbuster stories she hopes will save her job. And at 46--she's fighting the battle against being replaced by a 20-something.

Is Charlie me? That's what everyone is curious about. My husband insists: yes. I insist: no. She's--younger than I am. She's braver than I am. I've never been held at gunpoint by a psychopath. Charlie and I do share a sense of humor and a way of looking at the world. But everyone in television who reads about her says--her stories are a real insider look at how the TV news biz works. And it isn't always a pretty picture.

Here's the scoop--my next Charlotte McNally mystery--coming soon--is Air Time. Everyone in TV knows that's what you struggle for--more air time. There's deception, intrigue and murder in big-city airports. (And a pretty juicy explanation of why the airlines lose so many suitcases.) What's more, it's a different kind of air time for Charlie--this intrepid reporter is terrified of flying. And if she's going to break her next big story--she's going to have to take to the air.

So thank you so much for entering Charlie's world! And for entering the fabulous contests on Lesa's site. (Aren't they amazing?) After you finish hanging out here, visit me!

All the best, and with much gratitude,

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Alexander is the first science fiction novella by Tanya Yvonne. It's planned as the first in the Alexander series, in which Alexander, a five-year-old at the start of the series, becomes aware of his own abilities.

Alexander is the product of an experimentation by the higher mortals of the planet Gaia. Philana, the leader, believes it's best to study humans in their natural habitat. She views them as the missing link in the higher mortals evolutionary chain. She's opposed by Alcina, who views Alexander as a failed experiment, and plans to eliminate him.

Since Alexander's mother died, he only has his twenty-four-year-old Aunt Brina to support him. Through the scientific work of the higher mortals, Brina and Alexander will have to find the strength to fight Alcina's cohorts.

Although Alexander is an interesting debut for a science fiction author, there are some problems with the work. There is little character or plot development. Even a novella should have both. The ending is too abrupt, even though the work is meant to be the first in a series. Yvonne has set up an interesting premise, in which higher mortals observe the humans and earth, and interfere in their lives. Perhaps she needs to work on Alexander as a novel, rather than a novella, a format which does not leave enough room for exploration and development. Tanya Yvonne has made a promising start, though, with Alexander.

Tanya Yvonne's website is

Alexander by Tanya Yvonne. AuthorHouse, ©2007, ISBN 978-1-4343-0934-1 (paperback), 109p.

Now and Then

Now and Then is Robert B. Parker's thirty-fifth Spenser novel. I've read all thirty-five. I've read just one of his Jesse Stone books, a couple of the Sunny Randall, his juvenile book, and the two he wrote as homages to Raymond Chandler. It's the Spenser novels that I appreciate for the humor, wit, and the long-running characters.

Over the years, many people have grown tired of Susan Silverman, Spenser's partner. However, Spenser has never grown tired of the woman he loves. In fact, years earlier, they went through a bad period when Susan left him, and Spenser loves her all the more because of what they went through. That doesn't mean he wants to be reminded of it.

When a man shows up at his office, he's convinced his wife is cheating on him. Dennis Doherty is broken up when Spenser finds evidence she has a boyfriend. Things are complicated by Doherty's job in the FBI, and his wife's lover, who brokers terrorism. It's even more complicated when Doherty and his wife are murdered. Spenser takes it personally. It's too reminiscent of the time when Susan left him. He had the chance to get her back. Doherty never had that opportunity, because he was killed.

Once again, as in an earlier book, Spenser rounds up a group of familiar friends, Hawk, Chollo, Vinnie, and even his friends in the local police force, to help him set a trap. The most recent Spenser books haven't been heavy on plot, and they're often reminders of previous stories. However, for those of us who still love Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, it's satisfying to read about those familiar characters, with their charm and wit. We all need a meeting with friends "Now and Then."

Now and Then by Robert B. Parker. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2007. ISBN 978-0-399-15441-6 (hardcover), 296p.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

December Bestsellers?

With the holidays, December is a slim month for book publication. It's hard for authors to compete with the hustle and bustle of the season. There may be some new appearances on the bestseller lists, but I only see two of the blockbuster authors cracking the lists.

Dean Koontz' latest, The Darkest Evening of the Year, will undoubtedly make the list.

T is for Trespass will be the twentieth Sue Grafton novel to feature Kinsey Millhone. This one will only come as a surprise if it doesn't make the lists. And, it couldn't happen to a nicer person. Sue Grafton is one of the nicest authors I worked with during the five years I served as Authors Chair of the Lee County Reading Festival. A few other authors, including Rick Bragg, gave just as much time to their fans, but no one gave any more time than Sue did. And, she was the only one who signed autographs, including tee shirts and hats, as she came out of the restroom.

Reading might slow down during the holidays, but you still might want to place your library holds or preorder these books now from your favorite bookstore.

Friday, November 02, 2007

"The Man Who Won the War"

Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. died yesterday at the age of 92. He was the pilot of Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II.

According to newspaper accounts, Tibbets will be cremated because he didn't want to take the chance of protesters or anyone defacing a headstone. To some, Tibbets was a killer of thousands. However, to those of a generation who is dying out, Tibbets was a hero, the man who brought them home from the Pacific, and saved innumerable American lives.

Tibbets himself told his story in The Tibbets Story. However, the book that touched my life was Bob Greene's book, Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War.
When Greene went home to Columbus, Ohio to be with his dying father, he realized his father's hero, Paul Tibbets, lived close by. In meeting with Tibbets, Greene learned about his father, and that generation, a generation of men who fought in the Pacific, and seldom talked about their experiences.

My father-in-law, Harry Holstine, fought in the Pacific. He was headed to Japan when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. My husband, Jim, feels the same way that Bob Greene and his father felt. If that bomb hadn't been dropped, Jim would not be here today, because Harry probably would never have made it home. Harry was that silent generation, who came home, and never talked about the battles he fought, and the medals he won. He told me more than he ever told Jim, and that wasn't much. His war diary, despite the fact he fought on numerous islands in the Pacific, talks about poker games, laundry and baseball.

Harry lived with us in Florida for ten years before his death. I couldn't have asked for a kinder father-in-law. So, no matter how others feel, Jim and I are grateful that Paul Tibbets brought Harry home.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Darker Contest and Winners

Congratulations to the three winners of the autographed copies of Hank Phillippi Ryan's latest book, Face Time. The books will go to Kay M. in Lubbock, TX, Rich L. in Washington, PA, and Tracey W. in Wonder Lake, IL. They'll be in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I have two darker crime novels to offer as prizes. One lucky person will
win an ARC of the hot book, HeartSick by Chelsea Cain. Two years after his kidnapping, Detective Archie Sheridan is addicted to pain pills, estranged from his family, and obsessed with the woman who kidnapped and tortured him.

Dot Racine is at the center of Patrick Quinlan's The Takedown. However, Dot Racine, a sexy real estate exec is dead. There's more than one person who might have wanted her dead. Someone will win this ARC.

If you'd like to win one of these ARCs, 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 8, at 6 pm MT. 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!


My review of Souvenir by Therese Fowler appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of Library Journal. The review appears below, reprinted with permission.

Fowler, Therese. Souvenir. Ballantine. Mar. 2008. c.384p. ISBN 978-0-345-49968-4. $21.95. F

Fowler's debut is the heartbreaking story of a woman who made what she thought was a responsible decision, only to have to live with the consequences. Meg Powell had always loved Carson McKay, and the families thought they'd end up together. But when Brian Hamilton offered to forgive the mortgage Meg's irresponsible father couldn't pay, Meg agreed to marry him. Seventeen years later, Meg's a successful obstetrician in a loveless marriage. Her daughter, Savannah, almost 16, thinks she's found love on the Internet and acts recklessly. Carson is a successful musician, on the verge of marriage to a younger woman, although he's never forgotten Meg. When Meg discovers she has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), she knows she has only one chance to make peace with the past and give her daughter hope for the future. The choices made by Meg and Savannah may be controversial with some readers, but, nevertheless, this outstanding debut is recommended for all public libraries.—Lesa M. Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

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