Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Books Read in April

Well, I know I won't have finish the book I'm reading right now, so here's the list of books I read during April. Not a bad group.

People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks - The story of the conservator of the Sarajevo Haggadah, and the people involved with it over centuries.

A Stingray Bit My Nipple! - Erik Torkells - True stories from travelers, submitted to Budget Travel magazine.

Infinity & Zebra Stripes: Life with Gifted Children - Wendy Skinner - Skinner's story of raising two gifted children, and working with the school system.

Death Will Get You Sober - Elizabeth Zelvin - Debut mystery in which Bruce Kohler, an alcoholic, along with two friends, investigates when men start dying in detox.

A Pale Horse - Charles Todd - Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent to look for a man who disappeared, and when the man turns up dead, no one wants to identify him.

The House on Fortune Street - Margot Livesey - Four intertwined stories of lives, and unfortunate choices that lead to tragedy.

The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Acts - Richard Peck - Juvenile story of a rural Indiana family and school, in 1904.

The Crazy Hole in My Heart and The Cat Who Fixed It - Geneen Roth - Roth's account of life and death with her dad and her cat, Blanche.

Stone Creek - Victoria Lustbader - Two lonely people find each other, but she's married.

The Unraveling of Violeta Bell - C.R. Corwin - Maddy Sprowls, newspaper librarian, looks into the murder of a woman who claimed to be Romanian royalty.

The Prince of Frogtown - Rick Bragg - The story of Bragg's father, Charlie, completes his family cycle.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney - Juvenile novel in cartoons about Greg Heffley's first year of middle school.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Jeff Kinney's Diary of a a Wimpy Kid has been out for a year, but I just noticed its regular appearance on bestseller lists for kids. And, why not? It's the type of book that's hard to find, realistic with a great sense of humor. Readers are always looking for that book that will make them laugh, and this is the perfect one to hand to boys in middle school.

On the first day of middle school, Greg Heffley starts a journal. And, he illustrates it himself with cartoons that carry the reader through the whole book, and through that whole school year. Poor Greg suffers through all of the trauma of middle school, liking girls that don't like him, fighting with his best friend, wanting to be cool. He's stuck between an older brother, Rodrick, who picks on him, and a younger brother that gets him in trouble when Greg picks on him. He has a disastrous Halloween, and an equally traumatic Christmas. But, Greg keeps plugging. He just wants to be the best at something - in sports, or safety patrol, or in the yearbook.

Kinney's novel in cartoons, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is the first in a series. The second book, Rodrick Rules, continues with the misadventures of Greg, as he tries to survive the second year of middle school, and family life as the middle kid. Check out this enjoyable series, told from a normal boy's viewpoint.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Amulet Books, ©2007. ISBN 9780810993136 (hardcover), 217p.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Prince of Frogtown

There's a gospel song entitled, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and Rick Bragg tries to answer that question in the last book in his family history, The Prince of Frogtown. He received a great deal of acclaim with the first two books in his family trilogy, All Over But the Shoutin', and Ava's Man. Now, he finishes the family circle with this story of his father, and his own relationship with his stepson.

Bragg's father, Charlie Bragg, received short shrift in his previous books. Bragg's memories of his father are of a man who drank and fought, deserted the family, until finally, Bragg's mother, Margaret, took the family and left. Bragg's later memories are of a dying man with TB, who continued to drink. Those memories aren't the only story. It took Bragg's marriage late in life to a woman with a son to lead him back to his own father's life.

The Prince of Frogtown actually has three story lines. One is the story of Jacksonville, Alabama, a mill town where the workers worked hard, drank hard, and died hard. One story is about Charles Bragg, Rick's father, and his family. For years, Charles tried to escape his hard-drinking family's life, but his experiences in Korea started a long downward slide. And, the third story is Rick's own story of learning to love a boy who was not the tough, hard-fighting boy that Rick knew from his own boyhood. The three stories intertwine in another heartbreaking tale, one that Bragg, the storyteller, is so good at relating.

Rick Bragg discovered a father he never knew, from the tales of his father's cousin, and some of the men who were loyal to the memory of Charles Bragg, a friend from childhood. The Prince of Frogtown might reveal even more about Rick Bragg than the previous books do, from the way he tells the stories of his father, and his new son. Bragg's book shows a man yearning for a connection to childhood, and innocence, but aware of the cruelty of a world that changes that innocence. His comment about his father, "Did anyone ever do a better job than they did, of squeezing the last little bit out of being a boy?" shows that love of boyhood. And, the most enjoyable part of the book is Bragg's attempt to relate to his son.

I met Rick Bragg a year or two before his marriage. He's a gentle man with people, careful of their feelings. I think he discovered that he hadn't been so careful with the story of Charles Bragg, a man he didn't really know. In the beautiful phrasing he's known for, Rick Bragg finally reconciles with his father, and closes the story of his own past in The Prince of Frogtown. In some ways, this is the saddest book of the trilogy. However, it's probably the book that will finally bring some peace to Bragg's own life.

The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg. Alfred A. Knopf, ©2008. ISBN 978-1-4000-4040-7 (hardcover), 288p.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Agatha Award Winners

The Agatha Award winners were announced last night at Malice Domestic in Washington, D.C.

The Agatha for Best Young Adult Mystery went to Sarah Masters Buckey for A LIGHT IN THE CELLAR

The Best Short Story Agatha went to Donna Andrews for "A RAT'S TALE".

Best Nonfiction Agatha went to Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley for ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: A LIFE IN LETTERS.

The Best First Novel Agatha went to Hank Phillippi Ryan for PRIME TIME

And, the Agatha Award for Best Novel went to Louise Penny for A FATAL GRACE.

Congratulations to all the winners, but my biggest congratulations, and hugs, go to Louise Penny and Hank Phillippi Ryan. I'm so pleased for both of you. Well done!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Betty Webb at the Velma Teague Library

As part of the Authors at the Teague series, Betty Webb, author of the Lena Jones mysteries, appeared at the Velma Teague Library, discussing what Publishers Weekly calls her, "Mysteries with a social conscience."

Betty said she worked in journalism for twenty years, and they didn't allow her to make things up. She wanted to make things up. While reviewing books for the newspaper, she found herself looking for the mysteries, so she decided she wanted to write mysteries. There was a fellow member of her critique group who was too sweet and too nice, and just couldn't kill people in her writing. She'd put them in a coma, and Betty kept telling her she needed to kill someone. While trying to figure out who she wanted to kill, she and her husband, Paul, went to a Scottsdale Art Show. When she said to Paul, "Someone should kill that gallery owner," he replied, "There's your dead body." She went home and wrote the first chapter of Desert Noir. However, she didn't know why the gallery owner was killed or who solved it. She needed to know who was going to solve the crime. Since it was her first book, Webb was still trying to decide if she would write grizzly books, or lighter, cozy or traditional mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie.

Her character, Lena Jones, came to her in a dream. Lena was found at the age of four, lying at the edge of a Phoenix road, Thomas Road, with a bullet in her head. She was in a coma for months, and when she came out of it, she couldn't remember anything, where she was from, who her parents were, or what happened to her. She had some brain damage, which led to some behavior problems. The behavior problems made her unadoptable, so she grew up in foster care, where she was raped, abused, and malnourished. However, she survived to get a scholarship to Arizona State University where she studied police science. After graduation, she worked for the Scottsdale Police Department, until she was shot on the job. When she was offered a desk job, she decided to open her own detective agency, Desert Investigations, in Scottsdale. After having that dream, Lena became the daughter Betty Webb never had, and she wanted to do a series about her, beginning with Desert Noir, the story about the murder of that Scottsdale gallery owner.

In the Desert series, Lena Jones is looking for her biological parents and her background. Webb said, mystery writers work out their hostilities by killing people in their books, but mystery writers are really sweeter than romance writers who can't take out their frustrations in their writing. She said romance writers are the rough and tough ones.

Betty Webb said she first found out about the problem of polygamy in the American Southwest when she saw an AP story out of Washington. She started to check it out, and took trips to the Utah border because most of the Arizona polygamy colonies are up there, towns such as Colorado City. She met Flora Jessup, a former sister wife who escaped, and now speaks out against polygamy, and helps other girls escape. She wrote Desert Wives, which has been optioned for Lifetime TV, but not filmed yet.

Polygamy is not about religion. If a man takes ten wives, who are not really wives, but concubines, and has ten children with each, he has one hundred illegitimate children. What do illegitimate children get? Welfare checks of $250 a month per child, and the money goes to the Prophet. That's the money that has made Warren Jeffs a millionaire, money from breeding girls for their lifetime. The Prophet moves girls from other households. Warren Jeffs built the compound in Ed Dorado, Texas that has been in the news. All that welfare money goes to Jeffs. Polygamy is about money, which is part of the story of Desert Wives. The families are interbred, which means 65% of the kids are genetically damaged, but the Prophet doesn't care, as long as the girls can breed. At eighteen, the boys are dumped out of the compound, and become the Lost Boys. The can't read or write, and are dumped in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Salt Lake City. In Texas, they work construction until eighteen, but they actually work for script that is redeemable only in compound stores. So, when they're turned out at eighteen, they still have no money. In Desert Wives, Lena masqueraded as a sister wife.

While researching, Betty learned that polygamists are racists who pass out flyers at shows, such as survivalist shows. She checked out publishers of racist materials, and found there is a big market for publishing flyers, books, video games, and recordings. In her next book, Desert Survivors, Webb asks, what kind of person would own a publishing company that published racist material.

Desert Run came about because Webb lives near Papago Buttes, where there was a prisoner of war camp for Germans during World War II. On Dec. 24, 1944, twenty-five Germans dug a tunnel under the stockade to escape with a collapsed boat. Why a boat? Because their map showed rivers, which are actually dry river beds in Arizona. They were all members of U-boat crews, who thought they would sail out Cross Cut Canal.. When they discovered the canals were dry, they abandoned the boat, and spread out through the desert. They eventually all surrendered.

Betty Webb calls Desert Run her Glendale, AZ book. In her story, after the war, several of the German men came back, and moved to Glendale. One is still alive in the book, and Lena makes a trip to interview him. She's early one day, and goes through Glendale's antique stores. She's been living in a furnished apartment, and has never taken interest in her home, which is common with foster children. But, in one store, she sees a lunch pail with Roy Rogers, and buys it. She finds a Lone Ranger and Tonto bedspread, and by the time she leaves, she bought an apartment full of 50's and 60's cowboy furniture.

All of Webb's books start with a body because she said she likes to kill people. In Desert Run, Lena finds the body of a ninety-four year old man, a former prisoner. This is Lena's first cold case, a contemporary murder tied back to a murder during the WWII escape.

Desert Cut is Webb's new book, which has already gone through its first printing. Everyone knows about the illegal immigration problem in the United States. But, there's also a serious problem with legal immigration. Americans have big hearts, and they, and church groups, bring in people who have been displaced by war or famine. However, we've brought in groups that have beliefs that little girls are of less value than goats, and some of the beliefs are terrible. Some of their practices should not be continued in the U.S., but the groups that brought them in might not have known enough about the culture when they brought them. Now, some bulletins published even say it's not child abuse, it's cultural. Betty Webb said she first heard about it from an article about a court case in Atlanta, Georgia. There are severe child abuses against little girls, usually between the ages of 2 and 9, with the biggest group under seven. They call it a "rite of passage," and it's done with anesthesia, with antiseptic aftercare. The purpose is to make a girl a faithful wife.

Webb said her publishers were leery about the subject, but Desert Cut was published on Feb. 15, and the first edition has sold out. It received a starred review in Booklist, a magazine for librarians. Webb said, "Reach librarians, and you reach the world." You reach people once librarians find out about an issue. Then you'll get the word out.

For her research, she talked to people online who were fighting against the custom. Two Somali women, who were fighting against it, were found dead, deaths labeled "accidental." She said the custom is popular in African and Mideastern countries. Webb said France has had a large number of problems, and they've been arresting people, and prosecuting.

The next Lena Jones mystery, "son of Desert Wives," will come out in Fall 2009, Desert Lost. It's about the lost boys and urban polygamy, polygamy in the Phoenix area and the Valley.

Webb started another book at the time she was writing Desert Cut, because that one was so traumatic. She started a warmer, lighter mystery, which will be published this November. Webb volunteers at the Phoenix Zoo, and she loves zoos. The first book in her zoo series is The Anteater of Death, again from Poisoned Pen Press. Betty said there's an anteater named Jezebel at the zoo, and she's a Code Red animal. Code Red means, if it escapes, its shot on sight. Why is an anteater dangerous? When it stands on its hind legs, and balances on the tail that is as strong as a kangaroo's, it has four inch long claws that can dismember a jaguar. When a body is found in the anteater's enclosure, torn apart, the zookeeper, a woman named Teddy, thinks the anteater was framed. The zoo is on the California coast, and Teddy lives on a houseboat. The first and last chapter of every book in the series will be told from an animal's point of view. However, Webb isn't trying to make the animal anthropomorphic. The books will be about animals that the reader wouldn't normally associate with death.

Betty Webb said she wrote her first mystery at 56. There are no big issues in her new series. Webb likes big issues, so she'll continue to write the Lena Jones books, and her heart is with Lena Jones, the daughter she never had.

In a couple weeks, I'll have autographed Lena Jones books to offer as prizes on my blog. Watch for the chance to win two of these dramatic books.

Betty Webb's website is

Desert Cut by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2008. ISBN 978-1590584910 (hardcover), 277p.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption and Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Give Me a "K" Contest. Author J.T. Ellison, whose short story "Prodigal Me," is included in Killer Year: Stories to Die For From the Hottest New Crime Writers, donated a copy of the book, so I had the ARC and the book to give away. The Killer Year ARC will go to Kristie S. of New Brighton, MN, and the book will go to Kay M. of Lubbock, TX. Lorrie H. from Glendale, CA will receive the ARC of Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs.

I have a special contest this week. Robert Fate's latest Baby Shark novel, High Plains Redemption, is due out in May. He's offering five autographed copies of the book, to be sent directly from the author. However, you have to enter the contest on this site in order to win. Don't wait until Baby Shark is made into a blockbuster movie to discover this series. Now's your opportunity to read the new, fast-paced book, Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption.

If you'd like to win Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win High Plains. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, May 1 at 6 p.m. 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, April 23, 2008

Betty Webb to appear at the Velma Teague Library

Betty Webb, author of Desert Cut, and the other books in the Lena Jones mystery series, will appear at the Velma Teague Library on Saturday, April 26, as part of the Authors at the Teague series. Webb will speak at 11 a.m. at the library, located at 7010 N. 58th Ave., Glendale, AZ. Following her discussion of her books, Webb will sign books, which will be available for purchase. Poisoned Pen Bookstore, from Scottsdale, will provide the books.

Please join us on Saturday for what is sure to be an introducing discussion.

Desert Cut by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2008. ISBN 9781590584910 (hardcover), 277p.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Unraveling of Violeta Bell

The third Morgue Mama Mystery, The Unraveling of Violeta Bell by C.R. Corwin, provides a little more proof that a crusty librarian may have a heart of gold, and a mind for crime.

Maddy Sprowls is the Head Librarian for The Hannawa Herald-Union, an Ohio newspaper. Behind her back, she's known as Morgue Mama to the staff, who depend on the curmudgeonly librarian. Against her better judgment, she suggests a story after she sees four women who hire a Yellow cab every Saturday to take them to garage and estate sales, using the same driver every week. When a young reporter writes the story, and one of the women is murdered soon after, Maddy becomes an unwilling investigator. It seems the paper's editor-in-chief is a henpecked husband, whose wife is a friend of the cab driver's sister. That explanation of Maddy's involvement is as convoluted as this fun mystery.

Soon, Maddy is checking out the stories of an eccentric cab driver, a retired striptease artist, and a claimant to the Romanian throne. As a librarian, she knows where the stories are buried, and has a fellow employee to dig around on the computer for her. Maddy is a credit to her profession, a librarian who might not know the answers, but knows how to find them.

The Unraveling of Violeta Bell reveals more about Maddy's personal life, as she digs into Violeta Bell's past. Who was the dead woman? Was she more than an antiques dealer? Was she really a claimant to the Romanian throne? As the reader learns more about the victim, we also learn more about Maddy, the appealing grump. The complicated plot, and Maddy's new complications in life, a boyfriend and a dog, as well as sleeping problems, makes C.R. Corwin's latest book the best in the Morgue Mama Mystery series.

The Unraveling of Violeta Bell by C.R. Corwin. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2008. ISBN 9781590585016 (hardcover), 230p.

The House on Fortune Street

"Everyone had a book, or a writer, that was the key to their life." Margot Livesey's The House on Fortune Street brings together four people whose lives are not only intertwined, but also closely linked to authors. It's a fascinating examination of the road taken, and the road not taken.

Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod met at St. Andrews University. Was it luck that brought the two women together, or was it fate? The two young women both experienced traumatic events in their lives at the age of ten. As the reader watches Abigail and Dara go through life, it's fascinating to see the effect of that event. Was it luck, or fate, that brought Dara together with a musician named Edward, and Abigail together with a Ph.D. candidate, Sean?

Livesey tells four stories, that of Sean, Cameron, who is Dara's father, Abigail and Dara. She is very skillful in peeling back layers of the story to reveal lives. It's amazing to view the story from four different viewpoints.

It was just as interesting to see Livesey's inclusion of the authors. When Abigail quotes her grandfather, "Everyone had a book, or a writer, that was the key to their life," Dara's stepfather responds. "Does the person have to have read the book? Or is the connection there anyway, and some people figure it out and others don't?" It's up to the reader to examine Cameron's link to Lewis Carroll, Sean's to John Keats, and Dara's to Virginia Woolf. The most surprising link, and one that humanizes her, is Abigail's connection to Charles Dickens.

Luck, chance or fate? Connections to authors? No matter how readers view The House on Fortune Street, it will probably be a satisfying book.

The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey. HarperCollins. ©2008. ISBN 9780061451522 (hardcover), 311p.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Craggy Hole in My Heart and The Cat Who Fixed It

Geneen Roth had issues, issues with her weight, and issues with love. Once she dealt with her problems with food, she still had problems with love and death. It took a cat, Blanche, to help with those problems, and Roth tells that story in The Craggy Hole in My Heart and The Cat Who Fixed It.

Roth had sixteen years of eating discorders. When she quit dieting and settled at her natural weight, she went on to write two books and taught workshops. But, she never thought she had the capacity to love. Then a friend gave her a little white kitten named Blanche, who turned out to be a he, and grew to twenty pounds at the age of two years old.

Geneen Roth was afraid to let herself love. "Why love someone who is just going to turn around and either leave or die?" Suddenly, between Blanche and the impending death of her father, she was forced to deal with those issues in her life. This is a very personal book, in which Roth analyzes her life, and her relationships with her parents to address her fears. It sometimes takes the death of someone you love to discover how important love is. Blanche, a cat with unconditional love, was Roth's role model for acceptance of life. Just a warning that cat lovers need to know the natural ending for a book about love and death. The subtitle says it all. The book is The Craggy Hole in My Heart and The Cat Who Fixed It: Over the edge and back with my dad, my cat, and me.

Geneen Roth's website is

The Cragggy Hole in My Heart and The Cat Who Fixed It by Geneen Roth. Crown, ©2004. ISBN 1-4000-5083-9 (hardcover), 238p.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Teacher's Funeral

Richard Peck's The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts, might be considered fiction for ages 8 to 12, but I think it's a novel many adults will appreciate. And, if you read or volunteer with seniors, the book just might bring back memories.

Russell Culver tells the story of the year he was fifteen, growing up in rural Indiana. His dream was to set out for the Dakotas, and work on a threshing crew. Instead, he found himself facing another year in eighth grade.

When Russell's teacher died just before school started, he and his younger brother, Lloyd, were convinced they wouldn't have to attend the one room county schoolhouse in Hominy Ridge. To their horror, the school board, including their father, came up with the worst possible teacher - their older sister, Tansy. Tansy's determination to be a good teacher only strengthens Russell's determination to leave the farm.

Peck's story is a nostalgic look back at one room schoolrooms, schoolboy pranks, rural life, and the changes in the early twentieth century. Richard Peck vividly portrays the people, bringing them to life. The Teacher's Funeral is a humorous story, worth laughing over no matter what age you are.

The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts by Richard Peck. Dial Books, ©2004. ISBN 0-8037-2736-4 (hardcover), 190p.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Winners and Give Me a K Contest

Congratulations to the winners of a New York State of Mind contest. Caryn St. C. of St. Louis, MO will received Notorious by Michele Martinez, and Christopher H. from Elk Grove, CA won the autographed copy of Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

If you enjoy short stories by crime writers as much as I do, you'll want to enter to win Killer Year: Stories to Die For... from the Hottest New Crime Writers, a collection edited by Lee Child. Laura Lippman wrote the Afterword in this book that includes stories by Ken Bruen, J.T. Ellison, Gregg Olsen, and others. I have an ARC to give away in the contest.

Or the other K stands for Kathy in Kathy Reichs. Bones to Ashes is an ARC of the latest book featuring Temperance Brennan. Since Reichs' books are the inspiration for the Fox TV series, Bones, they've become even more popular than they were. This latest book could be read even if you've never read a previous crime novel by Reichs.

Would you like Killer Year or Bones to Ashes? If you'd like to enter for both books, please send two emails. Email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win Killer Year or Bones. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, April 24 at 6 a.m. 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!

Interview with Dorothea Benton Frank

Dorothea Benton Frank's new book, Bulls Island, was just released. She was kind enough to take time to answer a few questions about South Carolina, her writing, and her life.

Lesa - Dorothea, thank you so much for taking the time to do the interview. Let's start with a question about a place you love. As in previous books, you return to South Carolina for your latest novel, Bulls Island. What is it about South Carolina that makes it so important in all of your novels?

Dorothea - South Carolina is the land of my American ancestors, who fought in every war in our nation's history. It is also one of the very important cradles of American civilization. It is rich with stories of bravery and hard won freedom, of gentility and love of family and even its climate is dreamy and sultry with such intense heat, salted breezes and the riots of hurricanes. So beyond the fact that my family has been in South Carolina, the Lowcountry in particular, for over three hundred years, my stories are frequently placed in the south because I love it. But, in The Land of Mango Sunsets, Full of Grace, Shem Creek and Bulls Island, one third or more of the action takes place in the New York area where I have kept a residence for almost thirty years. You should write what you know, I think.

Lesa - Would you give us a summary of the book, Bulls Island?

Dorothea - It's hard to say in a few sentences what Bulls Island is all about because it covers a lot of emotional as well as geographical territory and is almost four hundred pages long. That said, I would say it begs the question of how far would you go to protect someone or some place that you loved? What do you do when you have told a lie so horrible that everyone who loves you would be justified in hating you if you are discovered? And is there such a thing as a love that lasts forever? How important is money? How much does professional success mean to you? It's a busy book with a lot going on. And it's probably more of a romantic thriller than anything I have written, if that's a genre. I don't know because the protagonists don't scare you, but they worry you until all is revealed. I hated to put the pen down on this one because I wanted to stay longer with the characters.

Lesa - When I read the book, I found the island itself fascinating. Would you describe Bulls Island for blog readers?

Dorothea - Bulls Island is a barrier island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. It is home to over two hundred species of birds and a healthy population of snakes and alligators, including the infamous Gatorzilla, the largest American Bull Nose alligator on record. It looks a little like Jurassic Park and its ecology is in perfect balance, earning it a Class 1 Protected status from the federal government. You can visit it with Coastal Expeditions, and the contact information is in the back of my book. Take bug spray.

Lesa - Dorothea, I know very little about your background. What led you to writing?

Dorothea - I did not begin my writing career until I was in my early forties, and it was launched as I tried to deal with the grief of losing my mother and our home on Sullivans Island. Before that, I raised money and awareness for the arts and education in New York and New Jersey as a volunteer fundraiser serving on various boards, including the NJ State Council on the Arts, and The Montclair Art Museum. The apparel business led me to New York, and pregnancy led me to New Jersey, where I raised our two children.

Lesa - I understand you split your time between South Carolina and New Jersey. How does your life differ when you're in each place?

Dorothea - This is the easiest question ever! I'm happier in Charleston! My children are in college here, my sister and brother live here, and I have a million old friends here.

Lesa - So many authors say the book they are currently writing is their favorite one. Other than that, do you have a favorite book, and why?

Dorothea - Sullivans Island will always be my favorite book because it brought me back home. Well, at least for part of the time.

Lesa - What can you tell us about your next book?

Dorothea - It's a sequel to Sullivans Island.

Lesa - One last question that I always ask. I'm a public librarian. Do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?

Dorothea - I was born in the pre-B&N/BAM/Borders world where if you liked to read, you developed a healthy relationship with the library. Sullivans Island didn't have street lights, but we had a library. Ask anyone; I basically lived there. Libraries are far more important than the average person thinks on any given day, because they put the world and anything you want to know about it at the fingertips of the average person just like me. It is no exaggeration to say my library and all the possibilities for life I found in its shelves, well, it changed my life in a thousand good ways.

Lesa - Thank you so much, Dorothea, from taking time from your touring schedule, and your life, to answer questions for readers.

Bulls Island by Dorothea Benton Frank. William Morrow, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-06-143843-1 (hardcover), 352p.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

National Library Week, One Librarian's Journey

On April 12, Barbara Fister asked on Moments in Crime, "Why do you read?" I answered, "It's in my blood."

Since this is National Library Week, it's a good time to answer the question, "Why are you a librarian?" I could answer the same way, "It's in my blood." It's true. My great-aunt worked in a high school library. My mother worked in a vocational school library, and to this day, she volunteers at the library at the Catholic school we all attended.

My parents always took us to the public library. One of the highlights of my childhood was the week my parents house sat down the street from the library, and I could walk there every day. I'd pick out a stack of books, and go back to spend the afternoon in a hammock on the screened in porch. When I was sixteen, my locker partner quit her job as a page at the public library. When I told her I'd love to have that job, she passed on that comment, and the library director, Mrs. Dunn, called me and offered me the job. I worked six days a week with some of the best librarians I've ever worked with. To this day, I credit Erma Dunn, Aileen Hartley and Millie Schilman for my library background. My goal when I went to college was to return as Director of the Huron Public Library. In the meantime, both of my sisters worked as pages at the library.

I went to college at Kent State University, did student teaching in the library of Valley Forge High School under Thelma Knerr, and spent six months as the high school librarian at Garfield Heights High School. But, I wanted that MLS so I could work in public libraries, so I went to Catholic University of America.

Upon graduation, I worked in public relations/programming at the Upper Arlington Public Library outside Columbus, Ohio. One year later, I had my dream job. I returned home to be Director of the Huron Public Library (which didn't look then like its current picture.)

After marrying Jim, who I met and married in the library at Huron, we moved to Florida, where I worked first in Charlotte County, and then in Lee County. I had some wonderful island years, as the branch manager on Captiva Island. From Captiva, I moved to the Rutenberg Branch Library, a small library in a park, but the second busiest library in the Lee County System. I spent almost ten years there, but when the library was to be closed, I moved to Arizona.

Today, I'm the manager of the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ. What do all of
these libraries have in common? The small ones, Huron, Captiva, Rutenberg and Velma Teague, were small buildings with wonderful, caring staff. The staff in each of these places cared deeply for the people of their communities, and, in every case, tried to provide outstanding service, and outstanding collections to the people.

I love libraries. I share that love with a great aunt, my mother, my sisters, the husband I met at the library, and the wonderful people I've worked with, and for, over thirty-five years. I have a nephew who volunteers at his public library, and nieces and nephews who have used the libraries since they were babies. It's in our blood.

It's National Library Week. What's your library story?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National Library Week, and a Thank You

April 13-19, 2008 is National Library Week. Libraries are celebrating, but the women of Writers Plot are celebrating as well, telling their stories of public libraries. Jeanne Munn Bracken said something that brought back a distant memory. She said public librarians must have a "broad range of interests."

I went to grad school at Catholic University of America in Washington,D.C., and was employed by the library school as an administrative assistant for the Virginia Program and the summer institutes. I worked in the office with three other grad students, two of whom had also graduated from Catholic University as undergrads. I don't know what the English undergrad program is like at Catholic now, but at that time, they spent their senior year specializing in one author. I had gone to Kent State University as an undergrad, and took a wide variety of courses. The women I worked with intimidated me, and I was afraid there was something lacking in my education.

One of the summer institutes I worked on was taught by Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress. One afternoon, he came over to the department, and sat with me stuffing envelopes for a mailing list for the class. He asked me what I wanted to do when I graduated, and I told him I wanted to work as a public librarian, but then told him my fears. I didn't think my education was up to par. He said, but you want to be a public librarian. You need to know a little bit about everything, not anything in depth. And, he said, a public librarian doesn't need to know the answers. They need to know how to find the answers.

Frank Kurt Cylke has received numerous awards over the years. He has been Director of NLS since 1973. This is just one more thank you. But, during National Library Week, I'd like to take the time to say thank you to a man who gave me confidence to know I made the right decision, and had the right background, for the job I wanted for life.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Pale Horse

I was first caught up in Jacqueline Winspear's mysteries, such as Maisie Dobbs and An Incomplete Revenge, exploring the world of a nurse, turned private investigator, who suffered shell shock during World War I. When I read Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, I discovered a different view of the after affects of the Great War. The latest book in the series, A Pale Horse, examines the feeling of guilt.

Rutledge himself spent 1914-1918 fighting in France, and he brought back terrible memories, including that of the death of a man named Hamish, who haunts Rutledge, and speaks to him. This series, and A Pale Horse, cannot be discussed without mentioning Rutledge's past. His experiences color his investigations.

A Pale Horse opens in the ruins of an abbey, where a group of schoolboys took their schoolmaster's alchemy book to try to raise the devil. When then discovered a dead man, wearing a gas mask and a black cape, they fled in fear, swearing not to talk about it. The local police immediately latched onto the schoolmaster as their suspect.

However, Scotland Yard has an unusual request from the War Office. A man went missing in Berkshire, and Inspector Rutledge is sent to check out his disappearance. It doesn't take long for him to determine the boys know something about the dead man, and that man may be Rutledge's missing person. Despite these first steps, Rutledge's case is complicated by the lack of knowledge about Partridge, his missing person. And, the people who lived near Partridge are eager to keep their own secrets, so they want no part of the case.

Throughout this complicated investigation, Rutledge encounters people unwilling to acknowledge relationships or reveal secrets. The Great War left many people with guilt, including Rutledge himself. The book's stories tell of the guilt of the people who fought, and those who didn't, those who tried to end the war by extraordinary means, and those who suffered as a consequence. It tells of the pain of people who forced to take action, such as Rutledge, and the guilt and memories they suffer. A Pale Horse is a powerful story of the past, and the people who continue to suffer as a result of war, and, as a result of lack of understanding of the past.

Charles Todd's website is

A Pale Horse by Charles Todd. William Morrow, ©2008. ISBN 978-0061233562 (hardcover), 360p.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Death Will Get You Sober

My husband is a retired addictions professional, with many years in the field. When I started reading Elizabeth Zelvin's debut mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, I felt as if I had already met her characters. Bruce Kohler, the alcoholic amateur detective, is recognizable to anyone familiar with alcoholics. Along with his friends and acquaintances, he provides an accurate picture of the addictions field.

Bruce wakes up in detox on the Bowery on Christmas Eve. After a couple days drifting in and out of consciousness, he finds a well fed, well-groomed man in the bed next to him. Godfrey Brandon Kettleworth the Third, calls himself God, and others call him Guff. Bruce and Guff are kindred spirits, since neither could remember what they did to end up in detox. With their long history of drinking, it could have been anything.

Bruce first encounters a death in the detox when he stumbles over a body in the laundry room. However, it was an older man, who was expected to die soon. When he witnesses Guff's violent death, filled with convulsions and heaving, it's a different story. Guff was too young to die of alcoholism, and his death bothers Bruce. It bothers him even more when he discovers he's one of the few people who liked the man. The death was so disturbing that Kohler turns to his best friends for help.

Bruce's best friend, Jimmy, is a recovering alcoholic and a computer genius. Bruce's girlfriend, Barbara is an addictions counselor, and so codependent that she's willing to help Kohler investigate, hoping the problems will keep him sober. When Barbara takes a few jobs moonlighting, she discovers some secrets in the detox files, and a few other unexpected deaths throughout the area. Is Guff's death an anomaly, or is it related to the other deaths of alcoholics?

Elizabeth Zelvin portrays the reality of alcoholism and detox, with its black humor and tragedy. Her characters are realistic examples of people struggling with their sobriety. And her pictures of AA meetings are very realistic. Death Will Get You Sober will strike home with anyone familiar with alcoholism or the addictions field. The beauty of the debut mystery is that it has the dry humor and original characters that will also strike a chord with readers unfamiliar with the field. This first book, with its appealing amateur detective, Bruce Kohler, is a welcome addition to the mystery field. Elizabeth Zelvin does a brilliant job in capturing the world of alcoholism and recovery.

Elizabeth Zelvin's website is

Death Will Get You Sober by Elizabeth Zelvin. St. Martin's Minotaur, copyright 2008. ISBN 978-0312375898 (hardcover), 260p.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Note From Elizabeth Zelvin

Elizabeth Zelvin, author of Death Will Get You Sober, has sent a note to readers today. Her mystery novel is due out Tuesday, April 15. I'm in the middle of it, and I can say she's introduced an original character to mystery fiction. Death Will Get You Sober is a book that's hard to put down. In addition, Elizabeth's short story, "Death Will Clean Your Closet," published in Murder, New York Style, has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story. That award will be presented at the Malice Domestic Conference the weekend of April 25-27. Congratulations, Liz, and thanks for the note to readers.

Dear Readers,

Do any of you think you have to be an alcoholic to like Death Will Get You Sober? Questions like this have been keeping me awake at night in the months before publication of my debut mystery. Although I believe that sober alcoholics and others recovering from addictions and codependency will get a big kick out of the book, the answer is not at all. In fact, the only group I’m pretty sure will not appreciate my protagonist Bruce’s journey from detox on the Bowery on Christmas Day to a future with some potential for happiness and a solved murder case are active alcoholics who have no intention of giving up the booze and resent anyone who mentions the possibility.

One reason I love reading—perhaps this is true for you too—is that I get to open a window on an infinite variety of worlds that I may never enter, even some I wouldn’t want to in real life. I don’t have to have rafted down the Mississippi to appreciate Huck Finn or gone whaling on the North Atlantic to respond to the beauty and power of Moby Dick. I enjoy reading dog mysteries, for example, although—or perhaps because—I am happy never to get my face licked or have to carry a pooper scooper.

What I’ve tried to do in Death Will Get You Sober is open a window on the world, not of drunks, but of recovery. Somewhere in the AA literature it refers to the process as a “moving and fascinating adventure.” I agree. In my years working in treatment programs and in my therapy practice, I’ve never ceased to marvel at how people who have lost or thrown away everything can turn their lives around. Not all of them, but some—even some on the Bowery, where Bruce’s story begins. But I didn’t want to get preachy, so I invented Bruce.

I hope you’ll like Bruce as much as I do. He’s smart, funny, sexy, and under a lot of b.s. that he’s built up in years of drinking, he’s got a heart. You may also like his friends, Barbara and Jimmy. Barbara’s the world’s most codependent addictions counselor. She’s always ready to help and mind everybody’s business, especially Bruce and Jimmy’s. Her boyfriend Jimmy is Bruce’s best friend—or was from the age of 8 till 15 years before the story starts, when Jimmy got clean and sober and Bruce didn’t. Now the friendship has a second chance. Some of you may find how that works out as interesting as who’s been murdering homeless alcoholics, including Bruce’s detox buddy with the big trust fund and the unfortunate nasty streak. Read the book and find out!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

New York State of Mind Contest & Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Con Lehane autographed books. David S. from Lexington, KY won Beware the Solitary Drinker, and Cindy H. from Edwardsville, IL won What Goes Around Comes Around. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm offering two mysteries set in New York. Notorious is an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of Michele Martinez' latest novel of suspense. It marks the return of federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas, who becomes the only witness when a car bomb kills the defense attorney for a famous rapper.

Or, you could win an autographed copy of Death at the Old Hotel, the most recent Bartender Brian McNulty mystery by Con Lehane. Con was nice enough to donate the books given to this week's winners, as well as this copy of his latest book. When McNulty joins forces with a motley crew from the old Savoy Hotel, not only do bodies start to fall, but McNulty stirs up some gangsters, who decide he just might be a problem.

So, do you want Notorious or Death at the Old Hotel? If you'd like to enter for both books, please send two emails. Email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win Notorious or Old Hotel. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, April 17 at 6 p.m. 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, April 09, 2008

Antiques to Die For

In her third Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery, Antiques to Die For, author Jane K. Cleland has topped the success of her first book, Consigned to Death. Josie, a troubled woman in the first book, is now a successful businesswoman who is learning to look beyond her own problems, and care deeply for others.

Josie Prescott is an antiques appraiser in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, whose business is flourishing. While installing pictures for a business, she became friends with Rosalie Chaffee, a Ph.D. candidate. After going to lunch with Rosalie, she's horrified to hear about her friend's death. She's even more horrified when she realizes Rosalie left behind a twelve-year-old sister, Paige, who reminds Josie of herself. Josie lost her parents, her only family members, and she still feels the pain. As an antiques appraiser, Josie is the local person to help Paige find an unknown treasure her sister left behind. When Josie becomes the target of a stalker, who bothered Rosalie before her death, she's even more determined to help the police find Rosalie's killer.

I guessed the killer early in the book, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of this story. I was impressed with Josie's character, a woman who knew enough to call the police for help. It took a suspension of disbelief to accept the amount of police coverage that Josie received, but she is the police chief's girlfriend.

As always, Cleland includes intriguing stories about antiques, as part of the story of Prescott's Antiques and Auction. There's a side story about Whistler's palette that adds interest to Josie's business. The employees of the auction house are also an enjoyable element in Cleland's books.

Josie has grown in the course of the books, and Jane K. Cleland has grown as an author. Josie's fear was palpable in Antiques to Die For. Cleland made the reader feel that fear with sentences such as, "And always one thought, terrifying in its intensity and impossible to dispel - there was a killer on the loose."

Jane K. Cleland's website is, and it includes antiques information as well as a trailer for Antiques to Die For.

Antiques to Die For by Jane K. Cleland. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-312-36827-2 (hardcover), 320p.

Reading by the Numbers

Do you need a book display idea? Two of the reference librarians at the Velma Teague Library, Bonnie Moon and Julie Havir, picked Reading by the Numbers, and then decorated our display stand. It's an easy display to fill, any books, fiction or nonfiction with numbers or dates in the title. All of Janet Evanovich's books fit, beginning with One for the Money. How about David McCullough's 1776? Lots of ideas for this book display.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Infinity & Zebra Stripes: Life with Gifted Children

Infinity & Zebra Stripes is Wendy Skinner's absorbing story of raising and educating two gifted children. It's a fascinating account, for anyone who knows gifted children. It's actually just as relevant for anyone who cares deeply about their children's education.

Skinner relates the joys and problems of raising children with I.Q.'s around 170. She and her husband originally placed her son, Ben, in a Spanish immersion school. However, when they discovered he was actually performing below grade level in first grade, they searched for other options. Their best option turned out to be the public school system, where they learned to work within the education system to keep Ben interested in school. Her daughter's experiences were slightly different, since they placed her in the public school system immediately. Jillian was quite different, with her own interests, but equally as gifted as Ben.

Wendy Skinner acknowledges that she and her husband spend quite a bit of time working with the schools, which helps when they want to discuss their children's best interests. However, I found this book to have an important message for all parents who want to work effectively with the schools, and want their children to do well in school. Every child might not have an I.Q. of 170. However, every child should have their own chances to find, and benefit from their giftedness. Every child should find joy in Infinity & Zebra Stripes.

Infinity & Zebra Stripes: Life with Gifted Children by Wendy Skinner. Great Potential Press, copyright 2007. ISBN 9780910707817 (paperback), 169p.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Stingray Bit My Nipple!

Erik Torkells, editor of Budget Travel magazine, compiled submissions from travelers for the anecdotes that make up this fun little travel book. People who were willing to laugh at themselves and their fellow travelers sent their photographs and stories to the True Stories section of the magazine. They comprise an enjoyable collection.

The stories of exotic travel take the reader from Tibet to New Guinea to Zimbabwe, and back to North Fort Myers, FL. The storytellers encounter all kinds of animals, from monkeys to stingrays. Their tales tell of odd food, unusual photographs, and welcoming people throughout the world.

A Stingray Bit My Nipple! is not for younger readers, as indicated even by the title. However, the book is good for some laughs. Armchair travelers will appreciate the stories, and sometimes appreciate the fact that they didn't have the same encounters as the travelers in the book.

A Stingray Bit My Nipple! by Erik Torkells. Andrews McMeel Publishing, copyright 2008. ISBN 9780740771217 (paperback), 224p.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

People of the Book

How can a librarian not like a book that is dedicated simply, "To the librarians"? Geraldine Brooks, the Pulitzer Prize- winning author of March and Year of Wonders, tells the story of a book, the Sarajevo Haggadah, and the people who struggled, lived and died with the book. It's a story of survival, both for the book, and for the people themselves.

Brooks relates the fictionalized story of the actual Sarajevo Haggadah, an illustrated manuscript that tells the story used at the Passover Seder. In her book, an Australian conservator, Hanna Heath, is given the honor of restoring the most famous Haggadah in the world. She's dedicated to the task of restoring the beautiful work, but also longs to know the actual history behind the manuscript. As she carefully examines it, the book begins to reveal its past, through an insect wing, a wine stain, and a white hair. Each clue leads to the story of a person involved in the book. Through the clues, the reader traces the books origins back from Sarajevo, to Vienna, to Venice and the Inquisition, to the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition, and to an African Muslim slave.

People of the Book may be the story of a book, but it's also the story of knowledge, linked through time by artists and intellectuals, according to Brooks. Even more than that, it's the story of the people themselves, linked, not only by the book, but by hatred and discrimination. Brooks' conservator, Dr. Hanna Heath, becomes a symbol of all of the people that struggled in order to preserve, and save, the Sarajevo Haggadah. Her own personal life is as filled with conflict as any of the people that lived before her. Like her predecessors, Hanna rose above her own problems to save the Haggadah. Time after time, people struggled against ignorance, hatred and discrimination. At times, they made silent pacts with their own enemies in order to save the book, and save something within themselves.

Geraldine Brooks tells the simple story of a book's history. However, it's also a powerful story of hope, and man's capacity to rise above the differences between cultures and races, and, somehow, find the humanity in each other, despite hatred, war, and disaster.

Geraldine Brooks' website is

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. Viking, copyright 2008. ISBN 978067001821 (hardcover), 372p.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Winners and a Con Lehane Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the Louise Penny contest. Ellie L. from Albuquerque, NM will receive A Fatal Grace, and Andi D. in Tampa, FL will receive Still Life. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Con Lehane was generous enough to send me autographed books from his Bartender Brian McNulty mystery series for the contests. This week, I'll offer the first two, both of which are autographed first editions. McNulty usually respects the privacy of the clients at Oscar's on the Upper West Side. But when one is murdered, he begins his own investigation in Beware the Solitary Drinker.

In What Goes Around Comes Around, an old acquaintance is found floating in the East River, outside Brian's latest place of employment. His search takes him to Jersey City, and his own past.

So, do you want Beware the Solitary Drinker or What Goes Around Comes Around? If you'd like to enter for both books, please send two emails. Email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win Solitary Drinker or What Goes Around. Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, April 10 at 6 p.m. 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!

May Bestsellers? Maybe

I seldom include nonfiction in my list of possible bestsellers. With the political, religious and financial books on the lists, it's hard to predict the other books that might break through. However, I have great hopes for Rick Bragg's new book, The Prince of Frogtown. This is the final volume in Bragg's trilogy that began with All Over But the Shoutin', and continued with Ava's Man. Now, Bragg reflects on the relationship between fathers and sons, since he himself is a stepfather.

Sara Addison Allen's Garden Spells, a wonderful novel, was a surprise hit last year. She follows that up with The Sugar Queen, the story of Josey Cirrini, who finds herself engulfed in life after allowing an abused woman to move in. As with Bragg's book, I'm hoping for good things with this one.

Charlaine Harris brings back Sookie Stackhouse in From Dead to Worse, a novel that changes Sookie's world.

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz is the fourth adventure for Odd Thomas, one set in a small California coastal town.

Debbie Macomber's Twenty Wishes is a Blossom Street Book. It's the story of a recent widow who compiles a list of twenty things she always wanted to do, but never did.

Will Stephenie Meyer be a success out of the young adult market? The Host is the story of woman whose body is taken over by a species that invades human hosts, but Melanie refuses to relinquish her mind.

Place your requests now for the May publications, either at your local public library, or through your favorite bookstore.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

May Treasures in My Closet

I have so many books in my closet with May publication dates, that I have to separate them from the possible bestsellers. Tomorrow, I'll list the books I'm predicting will be bestsellers that month. In the meantime, there are some very special books in my closet that deserve attention.

The first book is a reprint, but it looks like it will be right up my alley. Doreen Tovey's Cats in May will be back in print. It's the warm and hilarious tales about the antics of her Siamese cats, when her family tries to settle in the country. I can't wait to read this one.

I already read Mary Saums' Mighty Old Bones, thinking it had a March publication date. This treasure marks the return of Thistle and Twigg in another enjoyable mystery set in Alabama.

What Burns Within looks like an intriguing crime novel by Sandra Ruttan. Three cops, burned by an earlier case, went their own ways, until three very different cases seem to have a common link.

The packaging for this one, an interdepartmental envelope, has bloodstains on it. The envelope says, "Ever want to kill your boss? Well guess what, the feeling is mutual." It's clever marketing for the Severance Package, Duane Swierczynski's latest crime novel.

Kathleen Gilles Seidel's novel is in a totally different vein. Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige is a story about the mother of the groom, when her ex-husband's new girlfriend wants in on the wedding planning.

Elmore Leonard's son, Peter, makes his debut with the thriller, Quiver. The tragic bow-hunting accident that killed Kate McCall's husband brings back a killer from Kate's own past.

Joanna Trollope looks at Friday Nights, a ritual for six women, until one woman meets a man who disrupts those special get-togethers.

Anna Blundy tells the story of Faith Zanetti in the thriller, Vodka Neat. Faith is separated from her husband, a Russian black marketer. But, when he confesses to a murder that occurred on a night she was drunk, the police think she was an accomplice.

In their first fourteen months, Capital Crime Press, a small publishing house, has had some very successful crime novels. Will Blood Harvest by Brant Randall be as successful as their other books? Blood Harvest, the first hardcover from the publisher, is the story of a New England town, a town that lynched a successful moonshiner in 1928. But, why is there a second corpse?

Loren Estleman's Frames features Valentino, a UCLA film archivist, in a madcap race to save a valuable film, before the LAPD can use it as evidence in a murder investigation.

There are wonderful treasures in my closet, scheduled for May publication. Reserve them now at your local public library, or place your orders with your favorite bookstore.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Brad Meltzer's Birthday

Today's my 51st birthday. Last year, I celebrated with my Mom, my sisters, my college roommate, and friends from work, since Jim threw a surprise 50th birthday party for me.

Today, I had warm greetings and hugs. And, I checked the newspaper to see who shared my birthday. I recognized Debbie Reynolds' name, and she's 76. Would you believe Ali MacGraw is 70? Country singer Jim Ed Brown is 74. I have no idea who any of the other people are - Gil Scott-Heron (jazz keyboardist), Annette O'Toole (actress), Bijou Phillips (actress). There are a couple other people I didn't recognize, but, then, they wouldn't recognize me either.

I do know who author Brad Meltzer is. The picture above is my husband, Jim, with Brad Meltzer. Brad is 38 today, and he posted on his MySpace page about his readers, the mushy ones. Happy birthday, Brad, from two mushy readers, one of whom shares the day with you.

Books Read in March

March was a good month for mysteries. I read eleven of them, and only one other novel. Here's the list of books from March.

Desert Cut by Betty Webb - Arizona detective Lena Jones investigates the horrifying death of a young girl, and discovers other girls were also killed.

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny - In the third book in the series, Inspector Armand Gamache returns to the Quebec village of Three Pines, when a woman is "scared to death."

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption by Robert Fate - Kristin Van Dijk and her partner, Otis Millett, tangle with an Oklahoma bootlegger.

Mighty Old Bones by Mary Saums - Jane Thistle finds old bones on her land, and she and Phoebe Twigg must protect them. (I read this ARC early, mistakenly thinking it was due out in April. The book is due out in May, so the review will appear later.)

Through a Glass, Deadly by Sarah Atwell - Em Dowell, a Tucson glassblower, takes in a scared woman, only to find the woman's husband dead, and left in Em's furnace.

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy - A White House assistant executive chef is stalked by an assassin, after she witnesses a murder, and has clues to a future assassination attempt.

Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett - Tricia Miles' mystery bookstore in Stoneham, New Hampshire is a target once she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of another bookstore owner.

Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke - The latest Hannah Swensen mystery brings a black sheep back to Lake Eden, Minnesota for a family reunion, a reunion that ends in murder.

The Alpine Traitor by Mary Daheim - Emma Lord confronts her late lover's children, when they show up in Alpine, wanting to buy her newspaper.

Bulls Island by Dorothea Benton Frank - Betts McGee is forced by work to return to Charleston and face her past - the man she loves, his parents, and her family, none of whom know about her teenage son.

Charm City by Laura Lippman - Tess Monaghan deals with a mysterious greyhound dumped on her by her Uncle Spike, while she tries to investigate a newspaper leak.

Getting Away Is Deadly by Sara Rosett - Military wife Ellie Avery, her husband, and her best friend are in Washington, D.C., where Ellie's sister-in-law inadvertently drags her into a murder investigation.