Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Salon - Books Read During August

I always use the last day of the month to summarize the books I've read. I don't know about everyone else, but I was so caught up in the Olympics and politics that I didn't get as much read as usual. I only read thirteen books. I know I'm probably falling behind my niece in our reading challenge for the year. I'm up to 108 books so far.

My list is topped this month by an older book, My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes. It's historical fiction about Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII. And, it's a beautiful story. Anne of Cleves remains my favorite of Henry Tudor's wives.

Here are the rest of the books I read during August.

Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke - Crime fiction in which NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher isn't so sure they caught the real killer of a blonde co-ed.

Dead in Red by L.L. Bartlett - After his mugging, Jeff Resnick "senses" images about murders. When he investigates the killing of a bartender, he "sees" bloody hands, and worries about involving his brother.

Women in Hats by Judy Sheehan - A woman produces a play her husband wrote, and her mother wants to star in, although she dislikes the play as written, and doesn't get along with her mother.

One Bad Apple by Sheila Connolly - When Meg Corey moves into her mother's house to restore it, she didn't expect to be a murder suspect, or to have her ex-boyfriend turn up dead in her septic tank.

Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood - Cookbook.

Killer's View by Ridley Pearson - When Walt Fleming, Sheriff of Blaine County, Idaho, loses one friend to murder, and one to kidnapping, he doesn't realize he's investigating survivalists.

Farworld, Book 1: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage - Young adult fantasy about two thirteen-year-old kids destined to save their worlds. First in a proposed series of five books.

The Mercedes Coffin by Faye Kellerman - Lt. Peter Decker reopens the cold case of a man killed execution style, and stuffed in the trunk of his Mercedes.

Six Good Innings by Mark Kreidler - How Toms River, New Jersey became a Little League giant, and the story of one team from the town.

The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli - Juvenile collection of four intertwined stories in which four needy twelve-year-old kids find a blue library card, a card that offers opportunities.

The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters - Vicky Bliss, her lover, John, and other friends, try to find the stolen King Tut mummy before John is accused of stealing it.

Same Time Next Summer by Holly Jacobs - Carolyn and Stephen were summer best friends at their Ohio cottages. As adults they grew apart, but they're drawn together again when Carolyn's daughter suffers a brain injury in a car accident, and Stephen wants to be there for both of them.

I hope you had a wonderful reading month in August. I'm looking forward to September!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Farworld Contest winner

I'm writing to J. Scott Savage this morning to give him the name and address of the winner of the autographed copy of Farworld, Book 1: Water Keep.

I couldn't be any happier to announce the winner because Curtis G. of Columbus, OH was entered by his grandmother. Her comment? "He's an avid reader - just like his Mom." I think it's just great when a family shares a love of reading. Congratulations, Curtis! I'll let Scott know where to send your book.

J. Scott Savage's blog is at

Farworld, Book 1: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage. Shadow Mountain, ©2008. ISBN 9781590389621 (hardcover), 384p.

Celebrate Blogger Appreciation Week (Sept. 15-19)

Amy, of MyFriendAmy, is proposing to celebrate Blogger Appreciation Week from Sept. 15-19. But, you can start planning for it now. Here are the details from her blog.

Book Bloggers: You work hard. You read books, you write reviews, you maintain relationships with your readers, publicists, and authors. You are constantly running to the post office to mail your giveaways and participating in carnivals to help boost traffic. You sometimes want to faint when you see the size of your TBR pile, but faithfully you read. And you do it because you love it. Book blogging is for most a hobby. But it's a hobby that takes a lot of work and time. It's a labor of love.

I've been blogging for three years but only really got into book blogging in the last year. I have found, without a doubt, that book bloggers are the kindest, most open minded, and supportive group of bloggers on the internet. With book blogging, it's about community and a love for the written word.

The Readers: We love you! You don't have a blog, but you read our reviews and share your thoughts with us. You enter our giveaways and click on our Amazon associates link. We do this for you and appreciate your readership. We hope you'll join in the fun and festivities of BBAW! (we'll have a special contest just for you!)

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Register: In order to experience the maximum impact of the week, I invite you to register your participation (just like a retreat)!

To register, just send an email to bookbloggerappreciationweekATgmailDOTcom with your blog url and what you consider your niche...i.e, general book blog, classics blog, personal blog with a healthy dose of books, YA books blog, etc. Then, add one of the two buttons at the bottom of this post to your sidebar. If you are a reader (no blog) just send an email announcing your plans to follow along.

Why bother? If you register, you will be added to a book blog directory which will exist long after this week is over. Additionally, you will receive one raffle entry into the daily giveaways during BBAW here at My Friend Amy.

Awards: Oh yes, there will be awards. The Oscars of Book Blogging. :) Nominations start next week.

Spread the Word: If you are excited about this idea like I am and the other book bloggers who are helping, please consider writing a post on your blog announcing this event and inviting other book bloggers and readers to join.

It's time to open nominations for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008!

Listed below are the categories of awards. There are many. You may not have a nomination for each award. It doesn't matter. Nominate up to two blogs per category and send an email to BbawawardsATgmailDOTcom with your choices. You DO NOT have to have a blog to make nominations. Comments left on this post will NOT be accepted as nominations. Each category will be narrowed to the top five blogs by number of nominations received, so don't be shy!!! Support your favorite blogs and bloggers! Nominations will close on August 31st.

And the categories for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008 are:

Best General Book Blog
Best Kidlit Blog
Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best Book Club Blog
Best Romance Blog
Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
Best Non-fiction Blog
Best Young Adult Lit Blog
Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
Best Challenge Host
Best Community Builder
Best Cookbook Blog
Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
Best Design
Most Chatty
Most Concise
Most Eclectic Taste
Best Name for a Blog
Best Published Author Blog
Best Book published in 2008
Best Meme/Carnival/Event
Most Extravagant Giveaways
Best Book Community site

Write In--think we missed something? Write in your category and nomination and if there are enough other write-ins of the same category it will be added!

I know I'm running a little late, but I'm registering now.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - The Night She Died

I worry about Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet series. Since she's not writing them anymore, and it has been over eight years since the last one, are readers going to remember her books? Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet series, beginning with the first one, The Night She Died, should be remembered. I'm picking her British police procedural series for my Friday's "Forgotten" books.

The jacket information for the introductory book says, "Detective Inspector Luke Thanet likes everything about his job - except for looking at the body. And tonight, the body he's faced with is particularly upsetting, for it's that of a pretty, young woman, lying by her front door with a kitchen knife stuck in her chest." Thanet's cases are never as straightforward as they seem. He takes his time at a crime scene, since he likes to feel his way into a case, and not rush into them. The reader knows that Thanet cares about every victim. We can tell how much he cares.

And, Luke Thanet cares about his family, as much as he does his cases. The Luke Thanet books have a special touch that readers cherish, and, when the series ended, we missed following his wife, Joan, and his children, Bridget and Ben, as much as we did the mysteries themselves. In the course of the series, Joan changes, and the children grow up. Many readers missed this family, and feel as if we never found out how their lives turned out.

Simpson's mysteries are complicated stories about relationships. As Thanet unravels the puzzles, he also reveals more about his own life. Anyone who enjoys the traditional British mystery, and hasn't read Dorothy Simpson's books, has missed a wonderful series. Luke Thanet is not a simple policeman. Readers appreciate his work alongside Detective Sergeant Mike Lineham, as the two solve complex murder cases. We also appreciate the complications of daily life in Dorothy Simpson's books.

Start with Simpson's The Night She Died. Don't let Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet series become another forgotten series.

The Night She Died by Dorothy Simpson. Poisoned Pen Press, reprinted 1998. ISBN 978-1890208066 (paperback), 206p.

And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Winners and a Chris Grabenstein contest

Congratulations to the winners in the Winning Color Contest. Steve Hockensmith's The Black Dove will go to Gary O. in Goleta, CA. And, Dead in Red by L.L. Bartlett will go to Jackie H. in Omaha, NE. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Last Thursday, I had to change the ending time of the contest because I went to hear Chris Grabenstein at The Poisoned Pen. I bought this week's prizes, and had them autographed. Eventually, these could be collector's items, so you might want to win them.

Tilt-A-Whirl is the first book in the Ceepak series. It introduces John Ceepak and Danny Boyle, the Sea Haven, New Jersey cops. This book is already hard to come by, even as a paperback. And, wouldn't you like a signed copy of the paperback with its original pink cover?

Or, you could win Hell for the Holidays, a first Carroll & Graf edition of this Christopher Miller Holiday Thriller. Since Carroll & Graf are no longer in existence, it's a chance to scoop up an autographed copy of the book that takes "St. Christopher", the FBI agent, into a Thanksgiving nightmare.

So, which Chris Grabenstein book would you like to read? You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Tilt-A-Whirl" or Win "Hell". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, September 4 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 on Friday. Good luck!

The Laughter of Dead Kings

Elizabeth Peters' fans have waited fourteen years for the concluding volume in the Vicky Bliss series. The Laughter of Dead Kings is the book readers hoped would link Peters' two popular series, the Amelia Peabody books, and the Vicky Bliss mysteries. Was Vicky Bliss' lover, the notorious thief, "Sir John Smythe", related to the Peabody-Emerson family? The book answers the question, but readers are tortured for over three hundred pages before the family mystery is solved.

While Vicky Bliss works in Munich as an art historian, her lover, John Tregarth, has given up his former life as a thief of antiquities. He's now an antiques dealer in London. However, when a revered Egyptian treasure disappears, John is the natural suspect for the daring theft. Even a friend, Feisal, the "Inspector of Antiquities for all Upper Egypt", suspects John. And, Vicky's boss, Herr Doktor Anton Z. Schmidt, has his doubts. Everyone thinks John is once again the mastermind behind a bold theft. Suddenly Vicky, John, and the motley crew are in a mad dash to find the treasure and the actual thief.

The problem is, the mad dash goes on, and on, and on. This story is so drawn out that it gets boring. It's a romantic caper, with little romance. Peters herself says, "Ashraf is being followed by John who is being followed by Suzi who is being follwed by Feisal and us? This is ludicrous." Yes, it is. The mountain of material readers have to plow through to get to the conclusion is ludicrous.

Some readers will be satisfied with The Laughter of Dead Kings. I've read and admired Peters' books under this name, and Barbara Michaels. This one let me down. The answer is there, telling everyone if John is connected to the Peabody-Emerson family. It's just too bad the answer wasn't at least 100 pages earlier in this unsatisfactory series conclusion.

Elizabeth Peters' website is

The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2008. ISBN 9780061246241 (hardcover), 336p.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Library Card

Once in a while, while pulling books to fill holds at the library, I stumble across a book I need to read. Jerry Spinelli's juvenile paperback, The Library Card, was one of those books.

There are four stories in this book, and the only thing that ties them together is a blue library card. Well, there is one other thing. Each story features a twelve-year-old who is lost in their own world. Mongoose and his friend Weasel are running the streets, stealing sweets, selling them for paint to spray graffiti. When Mongoose finds a library card, he's haunted by it until it leads him to a book called I Wonder. And, in wondering, Mongoose's whole world changes.

There's Brenda, who finds out she doesn't have an identity during the week of The Great TV Turn-Off. And, Sonseray, whose mother died three years earlier. He's an angry young man, searching for a mother. April Mendez misses her refuge, the public library, when she moves to the country, and a mushroom farm.

Spinelli's book is a powerful one, portraying lost children who need hope, and help, so much. Each of these stories starts as a tragedy, and ends in hope. To many people, it might seem strange that a little blue library card has the power to bring hope. Those of us who work in libraries know it's possible.

Jerry Spinelli's website is

The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli. Scholastic, Inc. Reprinted 1998. ISBN 9780590386333 (paperback), 148p.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

For Buckeye Fans Only!

The college football season starts this week, and for those of us from Ohio, no matter where we live in the country, that means Ohio State football. In my family, you're born a Buckeye, an Ohio State fan, whether or not you ever grow up to go there. My grandfather, an aunt and uncle, my sister and brother-in-law, and cousins all went to Ohio State. Every member of my family flies an OSU flag made by my mother. Rich Wolfe's For Buckeye Fans Only! was so popular in my hometown of Huron, Ohio, that my mother had to go to a neighboring town to buy more copies for presents. My husband and I both appreciated the copy she gave him.

It's a chatty book, with everything a Buckeye would love. There are chapters featuring famous Buckeye fans, such as Jack Nicklaus and R.L. Stine. Coaches talk about Woody Hayes and Ohio State football. Former football players talk about their years at the school. It includes jokes about Michigan and Ohio State. One section is made up of the every Sports Illustrated cover devoted totally to Ohio State, in color. The sidebars with trivia are fascinating.

Some of the stories are truly inspiring, such as the one told by a former OSU player and state senator, Dick Schafrath, who went back to finish college and got his degree at seventy. Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel might not seem to be similar, but the stories told by their fans show them as more than coaches. They were men who gave their time and talents to those that needed them, the charities, the children's hospitals, the community.

There are even articles by the not-so-ordinary fans. Larry Lokai has only been Buckeyeman for nine years. But, in that time, the man who dresses in the long, ugly red wig has given away hundreds of buckeye necklaces to other fans. He's a regular on television shots at the games. And, I can attest to the fact that he carries those necklaces with him since I received one from him when he stopped in at my library in Florida.

For Buckeye Fans Only! is a collection of memories. It truly is a collection for fans because others won't always appreciate the stories and jokes. But, it's a book that brings together readers and Buckeyes who support the team, no matter where they live in the country. Rich Wolfe specializes in this type of book, articles and collected memories. I'm a Buckeye, born and bred, but I'm still tempted to look for his book, For Notre Dame Fans Only - The New Saturday Bible. That one has to have wonderful memories. But, for any Buckeye, this is the book to own.

For Buckeye Fans Only! by Rich Wolfe. Lone Wolfe Press, ©2007. ISBN 978-0972924986 (hardcover), 262p.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Six Good Innings: How One Small Town Became a Little League Giant

Anyone who was fascinated with those twelve and thirteen-year-old kids during the Little League World Series will be equally fascinated with Mark Kreidler's book, Six Good Innings: How One Small Town Became a Little League Giant. The book puts a spotlight on Toms River, New Jersey, in the same way that Friday Night Lights focused on high school football in Odessa, Texas.

Kreidler tells the compelling story of the town and its love affair with baseball. Baseball became the town's passion, first, because of successful high school teams during the 1980s. Then, in 1995, Mike Gaynor took his first Toms River East Little League team to Williamsport, PA, to the Little League World Series. And, Gaynor's teams were successful enough to go three teams in five years, winning it all in 1998. Suddenly, the world knew the New Jersey town as a "Little League Giant". According to Kreidler, Toms River, New Jersey became "A place where athletic excellence by sixth grade wasn't so much demanded as simply assumed, and both baseball smarts and outsized ambitions were a given."

In this book, Kreidler focuses on John Puleo's 2006 and 2007 teams, the coach himself, his family, and the boys and their families. The success of the boys and the team in 2006, when they sent to the State tournament, meant they were targets in 2007, the year they hoped to win and go to Williamsport. From the first day, when Puleo pulled out a picture of Williamsport, the team and families had their sights set on winning it all.

But, Kreidler does an excellent job pointing out that no one can count on success. After all, Little League is played by twelve and thirteen-year-olds. And, they have the pressure of an almost unreachable goal, one that Gaynor knew was a fluke when he made it to Williamsport with three teams. Kreidler brings the coach and the boys to life in Six Good Innings. He tells the story of their dreams, their successes, and the heartbreak. His book is the story of a town that pins its hopes on youngsters. At the same time, he shows that the parents care about their children. They aren't just pushing them toward an unreachable pinnacle. There is pressure on the town of Toms River, New Jersey. They surprised the world in the 1990s. Now, the sports world expects the teams from Toms River to routinely have that same success.

Six Good Innings is a book for everyone who understands the passion for sports, or wants to understand why an entire community supports a Little League Team. This isn't a book that tears down Toms River, New Jersey. It's a suspenseful book that explains how the Toms River passion came about, and how one coach and his team spent two years hoping to get to Williamsport. It's a big with heart, hope, and heartbreak. Six Good Innings demands to be read by anyone who wants to understand sports and the passion for winning.

Six Good Innings: How One Small Town Became a Little League Giant by Mark Kreidler. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2008. ISBN 9780061473579 (hardcover), 304p.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Salon - Interview with J. Scott Savage

What could be better for a Sunday Salon that spending time with an author, and then offering a contest for a free book? Today, I have an interview with J. Scott Savage, author of the young adult novel, Farworld: Water Keep, the first book in a projected five volume fantasy series. I hope readers enjoy meeting him. And, when the interview is over, I'll tell you about the contest for an autographed copy of the book.

Lesa - Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to do an interview. I know you're a little rushed right now. You're the first fantasy author to ever visit my blog. Before we get too far into the interview, would you tell us a little about yourself?

Scott - Let's see. I'm 28, 6'5", 210, single, incredibly handsome. Oh wait, that really is a fantasy. I'm actually 45 and the father of four children ages 8 to 20. I'e always been a big reader - to the point that I actually used to cut school to go to the library. (Which was great for my reading but didn't do much for my grades.) I've published four other regional books, but this is my first fantasy, young adult, and national novel. So, I'm pretty excited.

Lesa - What led you to writing, and, particularly fantasies?

Scott - I've always been a storyteller, but unlike a lot of other authors, I never dreamed of being a writer. I honestly never thought it was even possible. Authors aren't normal people. They were...authors. But once I wrote my first book, I realized it was something I'd always wanted to do. Fantasy came later. Again, I'd read it forever, but I didn't think I could write it. If the story hadn't pretty much forced its way onto paper, I never would have tried.

Lesa - Do you have favorite fantasy authors or books that influenced you?

Scott - Well, I grew up reading Tolkien, Brooks, and Donaldson. But even now, I find myself inspired by other authors I read, whether fantasy or other. I just finished reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and his imagination can't help but inspire. I also recently read the Percy Jackson series (Rick Riordan), and I love how Rick uses humor.

Lesa - Would you give us a summary of the book, Water Keep?

Scott - Well there is the back liner, but in my mind, Water Keep is the story of two kids finding the magic inside them. Marcus lives on Earth where he uses a wheelchair because of a severely crippled arm and leg. Kyja lives in a place called Farworld, where magic is everything. But she is immune to all kinds of magic. When the two of them finally meet each other, they discover a link that has been hidden for thirteen years. Together they must go in search of four groups of elementals that have the ability to create a door between their two worlds. This is the story of a couple of kids who discover who they are, but don't end up being the most powerful wizard or warrior. They don't magically overcome the trials they've lived with all their lives.

Lesa - Scott, since I live in Arizona, I was curious. Why did you use Arizona as the setting for Marcus' school?

Scott - Three of my favorite tools in writing a suspenseful novel are isolation, disorientation, and misdirection. Take a character from a familiar setting and move them to something unfamiliar. Since the part of Farworld we begin with is so lush and green, I liked the idea of beginning in a desert region. Also, Arizona works very well geographically as the story progresses.

Lesa - Water Keep is the first in a projected series of five in the Farworld series. What kind of hints can you give us for future books?

Scott - I've already heard some people saying that since clearly the first four books deal with finding each of the elementals, it loses some of the mystery of what will happen. But I think readers will be quite surprised by what happens. I especially like readers to go, "Wow, I never saw that coming." It doesn't happen as much in book one as it will in future books because you have to create the pillars of belief before you can yank them out.

Lesa - What do you enjoy most about your writing life?

Scott - I think the best part is writing something that affects a reader enough that even months or years after reading it, they still say, "That scene where x,y,z happens was so..." It might be a scene that scared them or made them laugh, or a character that they loved or were inspired by. But the fact that words on paper moved them as much as anything in real life is a thrill to any writer.

Lesa - And, Scott, this last question is one I always ask. I'm a public librarian. do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?

Scott - I was planning my release party. I knew it had to be in front of my little home town library. If there are superheroes in the world, they have to be librarians. And the children's librarians may be the most powerful of all.

Lesa - Thank you, Scott. It was nice of you to spend time answering the questions. And, thank you for offering an autographed copy of Farworld: Water Keep. I'll let you know the winner next Saturday so you can send their book.

Now, here are the details about the contest for Farworld: Water Keep. Unfortunately, you do have to be in the U.S. to win. J. Scott Savage will send an autographed book to one lucky winner. You get to pick the dedication.

If you'd like to win, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read, Win Farworld. Your message should include your mailing address, and who you would like it dedicated to, if you're planning to keep it, or give it to another reader.

My husband, Jim, will pick the winner on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 6 a.m. PT, and I'll pass the information on to Scott. Don't forget - mailing address, and who the dedication is written to.

Good luck! And, thanks for spending a Sunday Salon with J. Scott Savage and me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chris Grabenstein at The Poisoned Pen

Improvisational comedy. Ad writer. Successful author of mysteries and young adult ghost stories. Chris Grabenstein is the creative artist who combines all of these skills. Thursday night, he spoke at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale.

It felt as if it was a gathering of friends. Chris' appearance was so casual that Lorri Amsden, the moderator for the evening, actually joined the group after Chris had already started a conversation. Grabenstein, who won the Anthony Award for Best First Mystery for Tilt-A-Whirl, was there to promote the latest in his Ceepak/Boyle series, Hell Hole, and his young adult book, The Crossroads.

Chris said that Danny Boyle is John Ceepak's Watson. Ceepak, who lives by the West Point Honor Code, "will not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do." He needed someone to soften him, and make him likable. That's Danny. In the first book, Tilt-A Whirl, Danny was a part-time summer cop in Sea Haven, New Jersey, a resort town. Ceepak, a veteran of the Iraq war, had such a terrible experience there that he won't even drive so he needed a driver. That's how Danny was partnered with him. Someone told Grabenstein that "Danny's learning how to be a man, and Ceepak's learning to be a friend." Danny's parents live in Arizona in a gated community.

Now, Grabenstein has a technical advisor, the Chief of Police of Long Beach Island, who drives him around and talks about the job in a resort community. His nightmare? What if he was called to a house with a number of troopers who were partying, and were armed?

Grabenstein borrowed that idea for Hell Hole. There are a bunch of soldiers back from Iraq who are partying in a rented house, and there's a noise complaint. Danny responds. While he's there, they receive a phone call that another soldier supposedly committed suicide at a rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike. Chris calls it the first "locked toilet stall mystery." The book brings up a lot in Ceepak's past. Ceepak's characteristics are based on someone Grabenstein knew whose father was a raging alcoholic, and he grew up to be a fireman.

Grabenstein read a very funny scene from Hell Hole, an early scene in the book that shows how honest Ceepak is, because it's always better to show a character than to tell about one. Chris said he sometimes writes himself into a corner since Ceepak won't lie. That's sometimes hard to write.

In answer to a question, Chris talked about his creative career. He said he wrote in junior high and high school. He liked MAD magazine. He moved to New York where he did improvisational comedy in a group called First Amendment, that performed at the Greenwich Village Theater. He performed with that group, for five years. Bruce Willis was a part of it as well. He learned the structure behind improv.

He went on to talk about James Patterson, who orchestrates books, and runs them like an ad agency. He's the creative director who gives out ideas to his co-authors. Then he reads what they write, gives them notes, and then he does the final draft. He said when he was ready to move on from improv, Patterson ran an ad for the ad agency he worked for. It said, "Write if you want work," and he gave applicants an aptitude test. They tested skills for writing advertising to see if they could come up with ideas quickly. Grabenstein was the first person hired because his improv skills helped him write when they were given scenarios such as, write a dialogue in a dark alley.

He said every ad writer was also working on a book. Patterson was known to come in at 6:30 in the morning, and work on a book for a few hours before meeting with the staff. Tilt-A-Whirl was Chris' first book, but his fourth manuscript.

Since there were no kids in the audience, Grabenstein didn't talk much about The Crossroads, his ghost story. He said he can probably write kids' books because he
can remember what it was like to be a kid because he doesn't have any. Friends say they couldn't write them because they'd want to write from the parent's point of view. Zak gets beat up in the same way that Chris did. Chris took revenge on the kid who regularly beat him up by writing a scene in the book. He said his humor helped him when he got picked on. It's why he developed his sense of humor. MAD Magazine saved his life.

When I said that the stepmother in The Crossroads was wonderful, Chris was pleased because she is based on his wife, J.J. She's an actress who read The Crossroads for The next book in that series is The Hanging Hill. It will take Zak and his stepmother to a haunted theater. My nephew and I both enjoyed The Crossroads.

When asked about his writing day, Chris said he's a Virgo, who has a routine. He takes Fred, his dog, for a walk or run. He takes notecards with him. He has notecards and Sharpies all around the house so he doesn't lose ideas. Grabenstein tries to write 2,000 new words a day. The next day, he tightens up the previous day's work a little, and writes the next 2,000. He normally writes 90,000 words for a Ceepak novel, then cuts it to 75,000. Chris doesn't outline. He tries to find true life crimes similar to his book's in order to study the psychological angle because he wants to get it right. Usually, he knows who did the murder. But, characters take on a life of their own. And, he always likes an extra twist at the end. Grabenstein normally writes five days a week, and takes weekends off. Throughout the process, he keeps tightening it up. His wife is his first reader and editor, then he has six readers or so, then it goes to his agent and then his editor.

I mentioned how terrific the book trailer on his website is, and he said he filmed it himself with a handheld video camera. He also did the one for The Crossroads. The Hell Hole trailer is fantastic, and the music and cadence are perfect.

Mad Mouse, the second book in the Ceepak series, is not easily available because Grabenstein's first publisher, Carroll & Graf, went out of business. There were taken over by Perseus, who only publishes nonfiction. He's now published by St. Martin's Minotaur for the Ceepak series.

He was asked why he chose amusement park rides for the titles. He said he analyzed James Patterson. Patterson wrote two books, and then his books took off when he wrote the Alex Cross series, a series with continuing characters, and branded them with nursery rhyme titles. Chris made a list of amusement park rides. People ride them, and they "survived that, and it wasn't so bad." And, he liked a Bruce Springsteen song about "Tilt-A-Whirl". A tourist town would be a nice setting, and he was trying to avoid the Jessica Fletcher syndrome - everyone in a small town is killed off. His agent gave him the title for the fourth book, Hell Hole. The Hell Hole is a ride that spins around, and the floor drops out. Then Chris heard that someone knows New Jersey when they know about the Hell Hole in Wildwood, New Jersey. People are frozen against the wall, and they can only see straight ahead. He said in this book, everything Ceepak believes in drops out, and he and Danny can only see what the killer wants them to see. The next book is Mind Scrambler, set in Atlantic City, and he messes with Danny's mind.

Spend a couple hours with Chris Grabenstein at a bookstore, if you get the chance. It will feel like an evening with a friend. It's just that the friend is a creative writer, with a terrific imagination.

Chris Grabenstein's website is

Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 978-0312382308 (hardcover), 304p.

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein. Random House Books for Young Readers, ©2008. ISBN 978-0375846977 (hardcover), 336p.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - The Merchant's House

Once again, for Friday's "Forgotten" books, I'm going to mention an author, Kate Ellis, along with her first book, The Merchant's House. Ellis' books aren't as popular in this country as they deserve to be. In fact, her latest Wesley Peterson mysteries are not even easy to find in this country. Check with your favorite independent bookstore to get a copy. I bought my last Kate Ellis book from Poisoned Pen Bookstore. I'm sure they can get these books, if your bookstore can't get them.

Why Kate Ellis' The Merchant's House? If you're a fan of cold case mysteries, and history, this series, and this introductory book, is perfect. Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson transferred from London to the river port of Tradmouth, hoping for a positive change for his personal and professional lives. However, some of the other officers look a little askance at the black officer. Even so, he's immediately thrown into the murder investigation of an unidentified young woman whose face has been brutally disfigured. At the same time, he's able to indulge his interest in archaeology when a college friend working on a nearby dig uncovers bodies in a situation strangely parallel to Peterson's case.

Every Kate Ellis mystery combines archaeology and a current murder case. Over the course of the series, readers get to know Wesley, his wife, Pam, his boss, Gerry Hefferman, and his archaeologist friend, Neil. The mysteries are intricate, with fascinating stories.

It's a shame that Kate Ellis' mysteries aren't more popular in the United States. In England, she has twelve books in the Wesley Peterson series, beginning with The Merchant's House. She's even started a new series, beginning with Seeking the Dead. According to her website, "This is the first book in a spooky and mysterious new series set in the ancient city of Eborby in North Yorkshire and featuring DI Joe Plantagenet, a former trainee priest with a dark past." I'm hoping to finish the Wesley Peterson series, and start the new one.

Once you pick up Kate Ellis' books, you might not want to forget them either.

Kate Ellis' website is

The Merchant's House by Kate Ellis. St. Martin's Press, ©1999. ISBN 0312205627 (hardcover), 246p.

And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jennifer Lee Carrell - Authors @ The Teague

Jennifer Lee Carrell, author of Interred with Their Bones, will appear at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ on Wed. Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. as part of the Authors @ The Teague series. Carrell will discuss her book, and sign copies. The book will be for available for purchase.

Interred with Their Bones is described on Carrell's website. "On the eve of the Globe's production of Hamlet, Shakespeare scholar and theater director Kate Stanley's eccentric mentor, Rosalind Howard, gives her a mysterious box, claiming to have made a groundbreaking discovery. But before she can reveal it to Kate, the Globe burns to the ground and Roz is found dead - murdered in the strange manner of Hamlet's father. Inside the box Kate finds the first piece in a Shakespearean puzzle, setting her on a deadly, high-stakes treasure hunt.

From London to Harvard to the American West, Kate races to evade a killer and decipher a tantalizing string of clues, hidden in the words of Shakespeare, that may unlock literary history's greatest secret…."

Carrell, who lives in Tucson, has her Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Harvard University, as well as other degrees in English Literature from Oxford and Stanford Universities. She won three awards for distinction in undergraduate teaching at Harvard, where she taught in the History and Literature Program and directed Shakespeare for the Hyperion Theatre Company. Jennifer is also the author of The Speckled Monster, a work of historical nonfiction about battling smallpox at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The Velma Teague Branch Library is located at 7010 N. 58th Ave., Glendale. Call 623-930-3431 for more details.

Jennifer Lee Carrell's website is

Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell. Penguin Group, ©2007. ISBN 978-0452289895 (paperback), 432p.

Winners and A Winning Color Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest on my blog. Blaize Clement's Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues is going home to Sarasota, FL to Sandie H. Carolyn Haines' Wishbones is going to Angie P. in South Elgin, IL. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week's books have colors in the title. Dead in Red is L.L. Bartlett's latest Mike Resnick mystery. Resnick, who was mugged and beaten over the head, now has a "sixth sense" that enables him to "see" clues as to murders. When a bartender is murdered, and his cousin asks Mike to investigate, Resnick and his brother find themselves in an unfamiliar world of drag clubs.

Steve Hockensmith brings back "Old Red" and "Big Red", cowpokes who admire Sherlock Holmes, in the mystery, The Black Dove. The two brothers really shouldn't have ended up in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1893. Could their luck get any worse?

So, Red or Black? You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Red" or Win "Black". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, August 28 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 on Friday. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Lady of Cleves

Margaret Campbell Barnes' My Lady of Cleves was already thirty years old the first time I read it when I was in high school. Thirty-five years later, the book has been reprinted, and it stands the test of time. It was the historical novel that made Anne of Cleves my favorite of Henry VIII's wives. That hasn't changed.

After the death of Jane Seymour, Henry Tudor, Henry VIII, was urged to take a fourth wife for the sake of diplomacy. Since many of the available women in Europe were not interested in marrying him, Hans Holbein was sent to Cleves, in Flanders, to paint miniatures of the two princesses. Anne was the older sister of the Duke of Cleves, and not considered the beautiful one, but Holbein found depths and hidden beauty in her. In painting that miniature, he sealed her fate. The English negotiated for Anne's marriage to the king.

Anne of Cleves was not prepared for marriage to a middle-aged man, a man who was already forty-eight and fat. Henry was not prepared for marriage to a woman who was large-boned and bigger than his beloved Nan Boleyn. Before she was even married, Anne was thrust into a world of political intrigue. And, Henry, who couldn't see beyond Anne's clumsiness and and lack of skill at English, fell in love with Katherine Howard before the wedding to Anne. The marriage was doomed from the beginning.

However, Barnes portrays Anne as a practical woman, appreciated by the English people, and, eventually even by Henry. It was too late to save their marriage, but Anne saved herself, and, in many ways, saved Henry's children, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward, from their own isolation and neglect. My Lady of Cleves shows a side of Henry VIII that is not ordinarily seen, the man who was aware of his own aging. And, most of all, it introduces the reader to a woman who grew into a strong, formidable figure.

In recent years, historical novels have seen a surge in popularity. Books such as Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, and Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl were popular book club choices. Margaret Campbell Barnes' My Lady of Cleves would make an excellent selection as well. It's a novel that stood the test of time.

My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes. Sourcebooks Landmark, ©1946, 2008. ISBN 9781402214318 (paperback), 400p.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Mercedes Coffin

I didn't read the last couple crime novels by Faye Kellerman, so it was a treat to meet up with her characters again in The Mercedes Coffin. I always enjoyed reading about Lt. Peter Decker, his wife, Rina Lazarus, and his daughters, Cindy and Hannah. It's unfortunate that the family life was the best part of this crime novel. I had high hopes for this book because of the cold case aspect, but the book seemed to drag on and on.

When Genoa Greeves, a billionaire, read about a homicide in Los Angeles, it reminded her of the murder fifteen years earlier of Dr. Ben Little, the only teacher who ever gave her a word of encouragement. He was shot execution-style, and left in the trunk of his Mercedes in a deserted parking lot. No killer was ever found. Now that a record producer was found in the trunk of his Mercedes, it stirred up her memories. She approached the LAPD, offering money for them to reopen the case on Dr. Little.

Peter Decker is assigned the case, and pulls in his old team, Marge Dunn and Scott Oliver, to investigate with him. He even uses his daughter, Cindy, who is now a cop in Hollywood, where the most recent body was found. The case takes them into the world of music and lies.

Decker is getting older, and so is this series. Scenes and conversations were very drawn out. If Kellerman wanted to show that interrogations and hostage situations are lengthy processes, she succeeded. She didn't need to make them quite as tedious as they are in this book.

Peter Decker does make a statement, though, that rings true for readers of cold case books. He says, "It's the ghosts of murder past who stirred things up. I'm just the translator for the dead." It's too bad that the rest of the book wasn't as interesting as this comment. As much as I like Peter Decker, perhaps it's time he, and the series, were retired.

Faye Kellerman's website is

The Mercedes Coffin by Faye Kellerman. William Morrow, ©2008. ISBN 9780061227332 (hardcover), 367p.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Farworld, Book 1: Water Keep

I agreed to be part of J. Scott Savage's blog tour for his YA fantasy book, Farworld, Book 1: Water Keep. However, he hasn't updated his blog lately, and hasn't answered my interview questions, so this won't be a typical stop on a blog tour. It's too bad, because Water Keep is a promising start to this series.

When the Dark Circle sends Bonesplitter to Earth, he's told he can eliminate the boy he's to find. But, they don't know the mental strength of their opposition. Marcus Kanenas might be only a thirteen-year-old boy in a wheelchair. But, he's always had a dream of a world with beautiful trees and magic, a place he calls Farworld. And, he knows there's a girl whose name begins with K.

On Farworld, Kyja, another thirteen-year-old, has struggled with her lack of magic in a world where even babies can work spells. Her lessons with Master Therapass, a wizard, don't go well. Suddenly those lessons aren't important, when she and Master Therapass "see" Bonesplitter catching Marcus. Master Therapass knows the fate of two worlds depends on Marcus and Kyja, so he's desperate to keep them safe.

The legends of Farworld say that Marcus and Kyja must keep the Dark Circle's power from growing. In order to do that, they must find the Elementals - water, land, air, and fire - and unite them in the fight against the Dark Circle. Threatened on all sides, the two teens, accompanied by Kyja's pet, Riph Raph, set out on their quest.

Savage's fantasy is too drawn out, if this is the book about the Water Elementals. Although the journey is fascinating, the Elementals actually seem to be a minor part of the book. Readers will already know that the first four volumes will focus on the search for the Elementals, and the fifth will be a final battle. That's routine for a fantasy series. However, it's a promising start. Marcus and Kyja are heroic characters, with weaknesses in their worlds. It will be interesting to watch Marcus and Kyja develop their talents in the course of the series.

J. Scott Savage's blog is at

Farworld, Book 1: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage. Shadow Mountain, ©2008. ISBN 9781590389621 (hardcover), 384p.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Salon - Reading Questionnaire

Last week, a friend of mine posted a questionnaire about reading and books on her blog, Patti's Pen and Picks, and the questionnaire was too good to pass up. She borrowed the idea from a book and publishing site we both enjoy, Shelf Awareness. A couple times a month on that site, they ask authors a list of questions. Why should authors be the only ones questioned? Here's the list of questions, and my answers. I'd love to read some of your answers, or your comments on my answers. Have fun with it! It's a perfect questionnaire for Sunday Salon.

On your nightstand now: My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes, The Richest Season by Maryann McFadden, Forced Out by Stephen Frey, and Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage.

Book you've "faked" reading: Remembrance of Things Past: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Book you've bought for the cover: Can’t thing of any I bought, but I certainly picked up Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure and Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells because of the covers.

Favorite book when you were a child: Oh, there were so many good ones! But, these were all ones I remember for special reasons. Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan , They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Gypsy Secret by Florence Crane, and To Dance, To Dream by Maxine Drury. I still own my copy of Little Women that my father bought me. I wish I owned copies of the others. Someday.

Book that changed your life: Love by Leo Buscaglia

Favorite line from a book: "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." – Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

Top five favorite authors: On Aug. 17, 2008 (because they change constantly) – Louise Penny, Chris Grabenstein, Patricia Leimbach, Sandra Dallas, and…

Books you recommend as regeneration when people say, "I'm bored by almost all contemporary American writers.": The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas or Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.

Book you can't believe that everyone has not read and loved: The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

Book you are an "evangelist" for: King Con by Stephen Cannell, The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Book you most want to read again for the first time: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Persian Pickle Club, and Gone with the Wind.

So, your answers or comments? Or, if you'd like to answer on your own blog, send us the link in the comments box so we can all read them! Have fun!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wedding Belles

My review of Haywood Smith's Wedding Belles was published in the August 15 issue of Library Journal. The review is reprinted here, with permission.

Smith, Haywood. Wedding Belles. St. Martin's. Sept. 2008. c.352p. ISBN 978-0-312-32973-0. $24.95. F

Smith finishes her "Red Hat Club" trilogy (The Red Hat Club; The Red Hat Club Rides Again), reuniting narrator Georgia Baker with her four best friends, women who meet monthly at Atlanta's Swan Coach House Restaurant to celebrate life. They support one another, cheer for one another, and help each other through the good and bad. This time, Georgia is the one who needs help; her brilliant 28-year-old daughter has announced her intentions of becoming the third wife of her father's best friend from college, "Wild Man" Wade. Georgia, a true drama queen, has a detective investigate her future son-in-law's past. What could go wrong during all the parties, snooping, and a wedding with a groom older than his mother-in-law? Smith's latest, filled with humor, a few tears, and some prayers, will delight her fans. The warm, satisfying story will also find new readers, who can easily catch up with Georgia and her friends. This enjoyable book is recommended for all public libraries. - Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

Copyright © 2008 Cahners Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Les Roberts

In 1988, when Les Roberts introduced Milan Jacovich, a blue-collar Slovenian private eye in Cleveland, I thought of him as the working man's Spenser. Roberts wrote thirteen books about Jacovich, and then there was a gap of six years between books. It was just within the last couple months that he brought Milan back in the book, King of the Holly Hop. It was way too many years since Milan's last case, and I'm afraid many readers may have forgotten Les Roberts and this series. These detective stories are too good to be forgotten.

Over the course of the series, Milan worked cases in Cleveland and many of its suburbs - Pepper Pike, Shaker Heights, Olmsted Falls. He returned to his alma mater, Kent State. And, he remained loyal to his friends such as Marko Meglich, who became a police lieutenant, and even two members of the Cleveland Mafia, Victor Gaimari and his uncle, Giancarlo D'Allessandro. Those friendships are just as important in the latest book as they were in the first one. However, Milan Jacovich is a character who actually ages in the course of the series. Readers watch his sons grow up, his friends change, and he never settles down with another woman after his divorce. Roberts once said that Susan Silverman was so unpopular with many of Robert B. Parker's readers that he didn't give Milan a steady girlfriend.

Over the course of this series, Milan Jacovich grows wiser, and older. Readers should start with Pepper Pike, the first book that introduced Milan. King of the Holly Hop, the latest book, marks a turning point in Jacovich's life and career. Les Roberts isn't going to let us forget Milan Jacovich, Cleveland's private detective.

Les Roberts' website is

And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Winners and The Fairer Sex Contest

Congratulations to the winners of David Rosenfelt's Don't Tell A Soul. One copy will go to Pat J. in San Francisco, CA, and the other will go to Kathleen S. in Anaheim, CA. They'll go out in the mail tomorrow.

The last two contests featured books by men. This week, two ARCs by women are the prizes.

Blaize Clement's Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues is a Dixie Hemingway mystery. If you haven't met the Floridian pet-sitter, now's your chance. She's a complicated character, and, in this book, she's caught up in a complicated case when she discovers the dead body of a mansion gate-keeper.

Or you could win Wishbones, a Sarah Booth Delaney mystery by Carolyn Haines. This fun southern series takes southern gal Sarah Booth Delaney to Hollywood, where she lands the lead in a steamy film alongside an old flame. But, things do go as planned in this hot mystery.

So do you want Wishbones or Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues? You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Cat Sitters" or Win "Wishbones". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

Notice the time change in this contest. Next Thursday night, I'm off to the Poisoned Pen to see Chris Grabenstein. The contest will end Thursday, August 21 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 on Friday. Good luck!

Summer Brown Bag Luncheon

I hosted my summer brown bag luncheon yesterday in which I talk about fifteen books. The summer one is always a difficult one to do, falling so soon after our fiscal year has started. We don't always have the new books in yet that I want to talk about. I had to pick some older books from the shelves, but it's always good to remind readers of older titles.

Here's my list of books -

Rubicon by Lawrence Alexander - A political thriller. What happens when a popular U.S. Senator finds out about a plot to destroy the Presidential election?

How Dolly Parton Saved My Life: A Novel of the Jelly Jar Sisterhood by Charlotte Connors - Four women in Atlanta form a catering business.

Flight Lessons by Patricia Gaffney - For sixteen years, Anna has avoided her aunt Rose. Now, she has nowhere to turn, except to her aunt, and the family owned restaurant.

Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein - The latest Ceepak/Boyle mystery finds the two Sea Haven, NJ cops dealing with the death of a soldier just back from Iraq.

A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall - Introduces Cora Felton, the queen of crosswords, and her niece, Sherry, who investigate when a body in the graveyard is grasping a crossword puzzle clue.

The Last Embrace by Denise Hamilton - Takes the reader back to 1949, when the starlets flocked to L.A., and women, such as Lily Kessler, a former spy, no longer have war jobs. Lily, investigating the death of a starlet, finds the dark side of Hollywood.

The Sour Cherry Surprise by David Handler - Even small towns, such as Dorset, Connecticut, have large crimes, as the trooper Des Mitry discovers on Sour Cherry Lane.

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris - Introduces cleaning lady, Lily Bard, who tries to keep a low profile, but her secrets come out when she finds a body.

Everything But a Bride by Holly Jacobs - The Hungarian grandmother's curse strikes again when Noah Salo's fiancée dumps him before the wedding.

Silent Thunder by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen - Hannah Bryson, a marine architect, finds herself teamed up with a mysterious Russian to find the truth about the submarine, Silent Thunder.

Forward From Here: Leaving Middle Age - And Other Unexpected Adventures by Reeve Lindbergh - Essays about life, including the author's family, Captiva Island, and her brain tumor.

The Seventh Sense by T.J. MacGregor - An FBI agent teams up with a psychic to find the person responsible for the death of her husband and her unborn child.

One Coffin With by Margaret Maron - Introduces Sigrid Harald, a police officer with the NYPD, in the investigation of the death of a professor in an art department.

Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart - Mallory Russo is hired by a reclusive billionaire to find two runaway teens who were present when two other teens were gunned down.

Table for Five by Susan Wiggs - Two unlikely people, a teacher and a maverick, are thrown together as guardians for three orphaned children.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Killer View

It feels like catching up with an old friend when Ridley Pearson brings back Blaine County Idaho Sheriff Walt Fleming. And, he's truly a loyal friend, as Killer View shows. It's also evident that no one should want to be on his enemy list.

In just one short week, Walt has to deal with a murder, two kidnappings, and government interference in his job. He's still dealing with the repercussions of his separation from his wife, and his guilt that he can't spend enough time with his daughters. What else can go wrong? How about an injured deputy, lying ranchers who impede his investigation, and the appearance of the Center for Disease Control in his county. Despite all of his problems, he still tries to help a teen and a local man who have both been in trouble in the past. He valiantly tries to keep everything under control, but it's overwhelming, even for Walt.

Pearson's technical details as to guns, hunting, and tracking can become a little too much. Those details slowed the story down at times, for me. However, when it comes to the climax of the book, no one writes one any better than Ridley Pearson. Killer View has a killer ending.

Ridley Pearson's website is

Killer View by Ridley Pearson. Penguin Group, ©2008. ISBN 9780399155055 (hardcover), 340p.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Angel's Tip

Alafair Burke brings back NYPD Det. Ellie Hatcher in Angel's Tip, and she's a stronger, more confident character in the second book in the series.

When Ellie and her brother, Jess, come across a body while out jogging, she calls it in as the first officer on the scene. Soon, she and her new partner, J.J. Rogan, are pushed to find the killer of the pretty blonde co-ed from Indiana, whose parents have powerful connections. When they arrest a man from the bar where she was partying, everyone is satisfied, except Ellie. A phone call from the father of a murder victim arouses her interest. How many other blonde girls have been killed in recent years, and left with their hair cut?

Burke's latest book is a top-notch police procedural. She has strong, intriguing characters, such as Ellie, Jess, and Rogan. The villain is the weak link in the story since neither he nor his motivation are well-developed. Burke can be forgiven that flaw because the story itself, the characters, and the red herrings are so interesting. Angel's Tip is one more step on Alafair Burke's sure-footed climb to bestseller status.

Alafair Burke's website is

Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke. HarperCollins, ©2008. ISBN 978-0061561023 (hardcover), 352p.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Rabbit and the Snowman

In a departure from my usual mysteries, I just finished Sally O. Lee's children's picture book, The Rabbit and the Snowman. The illustrations won't be for everyone, but the message of changing friendship is definitely for every reader.

Lee tells the story of a snowman, built by a group of children, and then abandoned as they went about their normal lives. He felt abandoned as well, and wondered what he might have done wrong. Why didn't they like him anymore? When a rabbit showed up, he had someone to talk with. He and the rabbit had lengthy conversations, sometimes including the birds in their friendship. When the snowman melted in spring, the rabbit wondered what he might have done wrong that his friend left him. Why wasn't the snowman there anymore? Spring turns into summer, then fall, and the snowman shows up again. Once again, the two friends are together.

The rabbit and the children are a little stylized for my taste, with pointed noses, and odd shapes. However, the snowman is gorgeous with the shading around his body. And, the frames around some of the words match the other illustrations. There are carrots, sticks, scarves, even pieces of coals. Those frames are one of the most attractive features of the book.

It's August. It might not be the best time of the year to discuss The Rabbit and the Snowman. But, teachers and parents looking for books about friendship might want to pick up the book now, and save it for a wintry day.

Sally O. Lee's website is

The Rabbit and the Snowman by Sally O. Lee. BookSurge Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 978-1419656255 (paperback), 36p.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Salon - Jim Recommends J.D. Rhoades

When you're married to a reader, there's always the opportunity for a salon, the chance to talk about enjoyable books with someone. This week, my husband, Jim, came home from the coffee shop saying he wanted to recommend a book.

Jim recommends J.D. Rhoades' standalone thriller, Breaking Cover. He said, "What happens when an honest undercover FBI agent infiltrates a biker gang, and is forced to become a rogue agent because of an informant in the FBI?"

Breaking Cover is a fast-paced, pageturner. According to Jim, it's hard to put down. It's a must-read for thriller fans.

J.D. Rhoades is the Shamus Award-nominated author of the Jack Keller southern crime series. He blogs regularly at His website is

Rhoades isn't as well known as he should be. Don't take my word for it. Take Jim's.

Breaking Cover by J.D. Rhoades. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 9780312371555 (hardcover), 352p.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen

When I look for a cookbook to read, I'm not looking for ones with fancy ingredients that I can't easily find. I like a cookbook with comfort food, and a few interesting twists and additions. Trisha Yearwood's Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen fits the bill.

If you don't know Trisha Yearwood, she's a country singer from Georgia who married Garth Brooks, and moved to Oklahoma. This book is a family collection, written with her mother, Gwen Yearwood, and her sister, Beth Yearwood Bernard. Garth Brooks did the foreward.

This cookbook is actually better than many of them, because it doesn't assume the reader knows all of the techniques. The recipe for His 'n' Hers Deviled Eggs actually tells how to boil eggs. I love it! My father and I actually undercooked hardboiled eggs years ago, when we were cooking together. Novice cooks could use many of the recipes in this collection.

It's definitely southern cooking. I won't be making the boiled peanuts, but I copied the recipe for biscuits, banana bread, and lemon blueberry bread. There's probably nothing new here, but it's comfort food, and the recipes might be just a little different from ones already used. There were a couple interesting chicken salads, a chicken broccoli casserole, and a broccoli salad I liked.

Family members commented about the recipes in sidebars. Those sidebars are my only complaint about the book. Why do publishers insist in using a different color print for sidebars? Why doesn't a black box work? Maybe they just don't understand that green and orange print is hard to read.

Other than that complaint, I'd recommend Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen to anyone interested in good comfort food.

Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood. Crown Publishing Group, ©2008. ISBN 9780307381378 (hardcover), 224p.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books

Nowadays, Charlaine Harris is probably best known for her Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, books that will be the basis of a new HBO series that premieres on September 7, called True Blood. She's also the author of the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, featuring a librarian, and the Harper Connelly mysteries. But, my favorite Charlaine Harris series is the Lily Bard books, all set in Shakespeare, Arkansas.

Don't forget about these books, beginning with the first one, Shakespeare's Landlord. These books are darker than the Aurora Teagarden stories, and they lack the humor. Lily Bard moved to Shakespeare, a small town that was the perfect place to hide from the violence than nearly destroyed her life years before. She's made herself into a strong woman, an expert in martial arts, but she hides her appearance behind baggy clothes and close cropped hair. She works as a housekeeper, and doesn't call attention to herself. She likes her invisibility. When she witnesses a murder, she's suddenly exposed to the world.

All of the Lily Bard books have a darkness to them. Lily's background is brutal, and Harris doesn't try to make it lighter or humorous. These were fresh, intriguing mysteries when they were introduced. They remain my favorite Charlaine Harris books.

Start with Shakespeare's Landlord. You won't regret it.

Charlaine Harris' website is

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris. Penguin Group. ©1996. ISBN 9780425206867 (paperback), 224p.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Winners and a "Thrilling" Contest

Congratulations to the winners in the Give Me an L contest. Lori T. in Morristown, TN won Jon Loomis' High Season and The Seven Sins will be going to Helen K. in Winchester, VA. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm holding a "thrilling" contest. Don't Tell a Soul is the
first standalone thriller from David Rosenfelt, author of six Andy Carpenter mysteries. Tim Wallace is having a drink at his neighborhood pub on New Year's Eve. His wife died in a boating accident several months earlier, and Tim's suspected of killing her. However, when a drunken stranger asks him, "Can you keep a secret?, he faces a man with a strange link to his wife's death, a man who says, "I murdered someone...a girl...three months ago."

I have two ARCs of Don't Tell a Soul. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read Win "Don't Tell a Soul". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, August 14 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 on Friday. Good luck!

One Bad Apple

Some people snidely refer to a book as a cozy mystery. Sheila Connolly's One Bad Apple is an example of everything that is right with the cozy mystery. Her book has a likable heroine, an attractive small town setting, a slimy victim, and fascinating side elements. I hope Connolly returns readers to Granford, Massachusetts again.

Meg Corey lost her banking job in Boston in a downsize. She took on the joint ownership of an old house in Granford, and moved to that small community to get the house ready for sale. She didn't expect to find a two hundred year old house, an apple orchard covering fifteen acres, and major plumbing problems. Before the plumber could show up, Meg's ex-boyfriend landed on her doorstep. Neither expected to find the other there, but Chandler Hale was hoping to bring developers in for a major project in Grandford, and was recruiting votes in his favor. Meg rejected his business proposition, but that's not what it looked like to the police when Chandler ended up dead in her septic tank. The major suspects? Meg, and her new plumber, Seth, two people who might have an interest in the development project.

There's depth to the characters in this book that isn't always found in crime fiction. Meg, Seth, and some of the women in this book are well-developed. Meg's opinion of Granford and her house changes as she learns more about them, and becomes a little more comfortable with small town life. The information about apple orchards is interesting, and the requisite recipes in recent mysteries is an added bonus. No, One Bad Apple won't make the bestseller lists where every other book seems to be a thriller. However, for all of us who like an interesting mystery, nice people, development as a relevant issue, along with a background that's a little different, One Bad Apple is just what we're looking for. Sheila Connolly has written a winner for cozy mystery fans.

Sheila Connolly's website is

One Bad Apple by Sheila Connolly. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2008. ISBN 9780425223048 (paperback), 272p.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Woman in Hats

I just couldn't resist. It took me three months to read Women in Hats by Judy Sheehan. I love hats. I knew there was a play in the book about a woman who owned a hat shop. It was supposed to be a book with humor. It wasn't. So, here's my interpretation of Woman in Hats.

(The over-fifty Red Hat look)

(The just one of the kids look)

(The floppy black Arizona hat)

(The worker's hat, worn when I resigned my job in Florida)

Now, THAT is Woman in Hats.

Women in Hats

I really looked forward to reading Judy Sheehan’s novel, Women in Hats. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described her first book, …And Baby Makes Two, as “A gift from the writing gods.” This book was described as “a story full of humor, heart, and wisdom about the rich often fraught relationship between mothers and daughters.” Somehow, I missed all of that. It took me quite a long time to finish the book that I found depressing.

Bridie Hart never should have had children. She was a starlet who married and drank her way through her career, until she eventually had a smash television show. But, she did have two daughters, Lily and Leigh, with her third husband, Frank Majors, a producer. And, the two girls grew up in a disastrous household where drinking and fights were common.. Eventually, Lily died in a motorcycle accident, and Leigh married a dentist and produced small plays in New York.

It comes as a shock to Leigh when her husband gives her a play called “Women in Hats” for her birthday, one he wrote based on the story of his grandmother. It’s an even bigger shock when Bridie wants to star in it, and brings in a famous backer to raise money. Suddenly, Leigh has to cope with a miscarriage, her husband’s play, and her mother as an even bigger part of her life. Leigh, who has been resentful of her mother for years, isn’t ready to cope with all of the turmoil.

Women in Hats was a sad book about relationships, mother and daughter, husband and wife. Leigh might have been a success as a producer, but she’s a disaster as a person. She and Bridie are both self-centered, selfish women. Leigh is confused, and doesn’t know what or who she wants in life. As a story of a woman who couldn’t communicate with anyone, except through the drama she recognized from her childhood, this works. As a book that was supposed to be “full of humor, heart, and wisdom,” it fails.

Don’t make the same mistake I did in reading Women in Hats. It’s a story of a woman who eventually succeeds, despite her mother and herself. It’s not the story of a rich relationship that I was expecting. If you're not looking for a book with warmth and humor, you won't be disappointed.

Judy Sheehan's website is

Women in Hats by Judy Sheehan. Ballantine Books, ©2008. ISBN 978-0345480088 (paperback), 336p.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dead in Red

L.L. Bartlett introduced the fascinating character of Jeff Resnick in Murder On The Mind. Now, in Dead in Red, he and his brother, Richard, track a killer, because Jeff won't be satisfied "until justice was done."

When Jeff was mugged and hit by a baseball bat, he injured his head. Now, he has flashes of a "sixth sense" that reveals pictures of events that have happened, and will occur in the future, related to violence and murder. When Tom Link hires Jeff to tend bar in his tavern, he also asks him to look into the murder of his cousin, Walt. Tom knows Jeff was an insurance investigator, but he doesn't know about his "sixth sense." Jeff's half brother, Richard, does, and he was shot while helping Jeff before. Nevertheless, he pushes himself into Jeff's latest case.

When Jeff hears about Walt's death, he "sees" a red, high-heeled shoe. Time and again, he sees that, but it's the bloody hands he sees that scare him. Walt didn't lead a pretty life, and someone wants to keep it quiet. Suspicion falls on a woman who now owns the bakery near the site where Walt's body was found. She also went to school with Richard. Jeff might be chased and threatened, but he worries more about Richard.

Bartlett's mystery is gripping, and keeps the reader involved. However, she excels at the relationship between Jeff and Richard, two half brothers who didn't know each other well, resent each other at times, and sometimes even act childish in their sibling rivalry. However, Richard cared enough to be there for Jeff after his mugging, offering him a place to live. Jeff resents Richard's wealth, upbringing, and gifts, but he still worries and cares about his brother.

Readers will continue to return to L.L. Bartlett's Jeff Resnick mysteries because he and his "sixth sense" are fascinating. The relationship between the brothers is an added pleasure. Dead in Red succeeds as both an engrossing crime novel, and a story of a complicated relationship.

L.L. Bartlett's website is

Dead in Red by L.L. Bartlett. Five Star Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 978-1-59414-640-4 (hardcover), 263p.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I love 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. I've read it three or four times, and, when I watched the movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, I was so caught up in it that I burned myself while I was ironing.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is going to be this year's 84, Charing Cross Road. I predict this book will be the most popular book for book groups. Mary Ann Shaffer's book was finished by her niece, Annie Barrows, after her death. It's a shame that Shaffer isn't here to read the reviews. They're glowing.

In London, in 1946, author Juliet Ashton is looking for her next project after the war. Her letters to her publisher and her best friend describe her life, and her search for an idea. When she receives a charming letter from a resident of Guernsey, she's intrigued. Dawsey Adams writes that he owns a book by Charles Lamb that was once Juliet's, but it's his comments about a roast pig bringing about the start of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society that catches her attention. Before long, Juliet is corresponding with the residents of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that was occupied by the Germans for five years during the war.

This marvelous epistolary novel reveals the horrors of the occupation, but also the kindnesses during the war. The shadow of Elizabeth McKenna hangs over the book, the wise young woman who is missing from the island, and whose story haunts the residents and Juliet. Readers will care deeply about the islanders and their stories, just as Juliet does.

Book clubs will snatch up this novel. It's a short, charming book, but it's meaty in discussion material. How many people knew about the German occupation of Guernsey, or, really, anything about the island? The story has history, discussions of books, wit, letters by over twenty characters, and two interesting heroines. There's romance, suspense, tears and laughter.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a gem of a novel, one to treasure right along 84, Charing Cross Road.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Dell Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 9780385340991 (hardcover), 288p.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn died

The best way to describe this is through the press release from the Russian press.

"MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn died late Sunday, the Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing his son Stepan. He was 89.

The Nobel laureate and former dissident died of heart failure at 11:45 pm (1945 GMT), the writer's son said, according to the agency.

Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 after writing harrowing works about the Soviet Union's system of labour camps. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, thereby becoming Cold War icon.

He wrote about life in the Gulag with harrowing detail in his most celebrated works: "One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich", "The First Circle" and "The Gulag Archipelago"."

There was a lengthy article, and I'm sure there will be a great deal in the NY Times and other newspapers tomorrow, but with such a great loss to the world, I wanted to mention it here.