Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel has Died, R.I.P.

Studs Terkel, the author, radio host, and symbol of the city of Chicago, died today at age 96.

The Chicago Tribune has a very nice tribute to the man the city loved. It's at

I was in my first job out of grad school, working at the Upper Arlington Public Library in Ohio, when I was asked to do a book talk for a group. For my first talk, I used Studs Terkel's book, Working, interviews with people about their working lives. No one did interviews in the way Terkel did, and wrote them up so they were fascinating. I made a very successful presentation that day.

According to The Chicago Tribune, "At his bedside was a copy of his latest book, P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening, scheduled for a November release." At 96, with his last book by his bedside. A perfect way for this storyteller, actor, activist, radio host, author, to go. Studs Terkel will be missed.

Winners and Lost and Found Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Paul of Dune will go to Richard D. from La Mirada, CA. The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer goes to Louise H. in Yuma, CO. I'll mail them out today.

Thanks to Hatchette Book Group for this week's giveaway. They'll be sending five lucky winners a copy of Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst. Parkhurst, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Dogs of Babel, tells the story of seven unlikely couples who scour the globe searching for love, treasure, fame, family--and themselves.

Seven oddly matched pairs--a mother and daughter, two business partners, two flight attendants, a born-again Christian couple, two former child stars, and other unlikely couples--are thrown together to compete in a high-stakes, televised contest. It is the new reality show, Lost and Found, a global scavenger hunt whose initial purpose is entertainment, but with each challenge, the drama builds as the number of players is whittled down.

This contest has a few rules. Hatchette Book Group restricts winners to the U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. Boxes. (Sorry!) One entry per person, please.

To enter the contest, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read, Win "Lost and Found". Your message should include your name and mailing address.

This contest will run until Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. PT. Jim will draw the winners at that time, and the books will be sent from the publisher.

Thank you to Hatchette! Their website is

Payson Public Library

I did two Readers' Advisory workshops at the Payson Public Library. This picture doesn't do justice to this beautiful library. It's a warm, welcoming library, and the staff is so friendly. The citizens of Payson are very fortunate in the building and staff they have at their library.

It's a charming building, that welcomes visitors. Here's the desk as you enter the building.

And, the children's department! The artwork was commissioned, and the Library Director, Terry Morris, told the artist she wanted a garden, as a child would view it. What do you think?

And, there are two doors into the Children's Department, one adult-size, and one small one for children.

My photos didn't turn out well enough to show you the Teen Room, but the teens designed a special room for themselves. Everything in this library, from the Director's office with glass windows so she can see the floor, to the display cases at the ends of the shelves is carefully planned, and perfect, from an outsider's viewpoint. I'm sure the staff has their own little complaints, because we all do when we know our buildings.

But, from my viewpoint, they have a beautiful facility. Thank you to Terry Morris, and the Payson Library Staff for welcoming Jim and me, and sharing your library with us.

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Elena Santangelo Ghostly Connection

There's no better mystery author to discuss on Halloween for Friday's "Forgotten" books than Elena Santangelo. Santangelo does a wonderful job combining mystery, history, and ghosts in her Pat Montella series.

The first book in the series, By Blood Possessed, introduced Pat Montella, who received a letter saying she could be the heir to the historic Bell Run estate in Fredricksburg, Virginia. She jumps at the chance to stay at the Civil War estate, and meet the owner, 91-year-old Miss Magnolia Shelby. As Miss Maggie shows Pat around the estate she might inherit, Pat experiences blackouts, and "sees" events in May 1864, when the Confederate army was preparing for battle on the land. Pat's connection with the estate, and the past, are fascinating.

By Blood Possessed was originally published in 1999, and was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel that year. However, it was two years until the next one in the series, Hang My Head and Cry came out. Pat thought her visions had ended, but, in this second book, she begins to "see" Reconstruction-era Virginia through the eyes of the ten-year-old son of a slave. Soon, the past and present events are linked in a dangerous mystery.

But, it was five more years until the last book, Poison to Purge Melancholy. It's an intriguing family mystery, in which Pat encounters ghosts at Christmastime in historic Williamsburg.

I do think the time between books in this ghostly historic mystery series does make a difference. It might be part of the reason that Elena Santangelo and her Pat Montella books are not as well-known as they should be. They're all still in print, though, so you still have time to discover these "Forgotten" books.

Elena Santangelo's website is

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghosts of the White House

I love stumbling across the perfect book in the library. Cheryl Harness' Ghosts of the White House was actually on display because of the Presidential election, but it fits the Halloween season perfectly as well.

This children's nonfiction book relates information about the Presidents in an interesting, if slightly confusing, format. Sara, the narrator, is a student at George Washington Elementary School, whose class tours the White House. She's fascinated by the stories of the residents, and George Washington reaches out from his portrait when Sara says, "I wish - ". The ghost of Washington guides her through various rooms of the White House, as each of the Presidential ghosts shows up in appropriate rooms. They are grouped into rooms, but most young people will find it slightly confusing to meet them out of order. For instance, the President's Bedroom holds the ghosts of the men who died there. The China Room holds Millard Fillmore and Richard Nixon, men who dealt with the Far East.

The pages and illustrations in this book are quite busy, but the short facts and bubble comments are very interesting, as each man tells about his life. The book does include a section for the living Presidents, although two of them, Reagan and Ford, have died since the book was published.

As a history of the Presidency, the book is a little confusing. As a history of the White House, and a ghostly history, it's a refreshing way of looking at the Presidential home.

Ghosts of the White House by Cheryl Harness. Aladdin Paperbacks, reprinted 2002. ISBN 9780689848926 (paperback), 48p.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hex Appeal

OK, I'll admit it. There are piles of books in my closet, but I couldn't resist returning to Jazz' world after reading 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover. Linda Wisdom's Hex Appeal doesn't haven't the same suspense, but the characters are just as much fun as in the first book, and the few sex scenes are just as steamy.

Wisdom thrusts the reader right into the middle of Jazz' problems in the opening scene. The witch is in the middle of passionate lovemaking with her vampire lover, Nick, when he unexpectedly bites her. Or does he? It seems that Jazz is having strange dreams lately. The dreams grow increasingly worse, and Nick, and, even Jazz' landlord, Krebs, has strange nightmarish dreams. To make matters worse, Fluff and Puff, Jazz' beloved bunny slippers, are under suspicion for having killed and eaten a Were, a carny who works on the nearby boardwalk. Jazz is so exhausted from her troubled sleep, it's hard to keep her mind on the investigation into the Were's death. And, what could possibly get worse for poor Jazz? What happens when a curse-breaking witch loses her witchy powers?

The trouble with Jazz' dreams isn't quite as enthralling as the storyline in 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover. However, it's worth reading Hex Appeal for the characters alone. Jazz, her fellow witches, Nick, Krebs, and Irma the ghost are terrific characters. However, this time, Wisdom adds some fun scenes with rubber duckies in the bathtub. And, Fluff and Puff have some stiff competition in the form of crocodile shoes, Croc and Delilah, who are man-crazy. Jazz, herself, is such a fascinating character, with her temper, her talents, and her love of all things feminine. It's even hard to resist the corny rhymes Jazz uses when she casts a spell.

I'm sure there will be another book for those of us who have fallen in love with Jazz and Nick. Linda Wisdom leaves the villains out there with hints of worse things to come. But, for now, fans will have to settle for the two enjoyable books in this series, Hex Appeal, and 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover.

Hex Appeal by Linda Wisdom. Sourcebooks, Inc., ©2008. ISBN 9781402214004 (paperback), 368p.

Queen Vernita's Visitors

Queen Vernita's Visitors is a children's picture book designed to teach children about the calendar by counting down the months of the years and days of the week. However, author Dawn Menge and illustrator Bobbi Switzer managed to come up with a dull book, both in the storyline and the pictures.

Queen Vernita is lonely in her majestic world of Oceaneer, so she invites twelve friends to visit for a month at a time. Each month, with a new friend, the events they share are listed day by day. When Debbie visited, "On Mondays, they played jolly jump rope. On Tuesdays, they played juggling jacks." In March, when Dana came to visit, "On Mondays, they played Monster Bash. On Tuesdays, they played twisted Twistee." It's quite boring to read the events, day after day, month after month. I do understand that children like repetition, but there is so much repetition that the author has to make up games no one will understand. What is "cosmic bowling", ""Sink the Ball" or "Freeze Machine"? And, I think the author ran out of ideas because she repeated sleeping on the lawn and watching the stars.

The ilustrator did nothing to make the book more appealing. The colors used are muddy and dark, while the characters are positively ugly and unappealing. Queen Vernita could be quite frightening, since she's so ugly, and there's one page with her friend Ashlie in which both characters look like caricatures.

The concept of Queen Vernita's Visitors was to teach children about the calendar, the months of the year, and days of the week. I can't recommend this book, despite its admirable purpose. The boring repetition and the dull illustrations will not appeal to children.

Dawn Menge's website is

Queen Vernita's Visitors by Dawn Menge. Outskirts Press, Inc., ©2008. ISBN 978-1-59800-714-5 (paperback), 36p.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elaine Flinn, RIP

This was not a good weekend for those of us who love mysteries, and mystery writers. Not only did we lose Tony Hillerman on Sunday, but Elaine Flinn died on Saturday. Elaine may have died of pneumonia, but she was weakened by cancer.

Elaine wrote the Molly Doyle series, starting with Dealing in Murder. That mystery was nominated for the 2003 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Here's the information about her series.

Molly Doyle, an antiques dealer in Carmel, California:

Dealing in Murder (2003)
Finalist 2003 Agatha Award for Best First Novel

Tagged for Murder (2004)

Deadly Collection (2005)

Deadly Vintage (2007)

I met Elaine Flinn at the first Thrillerfest held at the Biltmore here in Phoenix. Louise Ure offered to take me to lunch, and we met up with Elaine, and two other friends of Louise's. Thank you to Louise for giving me the opportunity to meet this woman, known as Evil E in the mystery world. She blogged about the mystery community with a great deal of humor.

The mystery world will miss Elaine Flinn.

Elaine Flinn and Louise Ure

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman, Dead at 83

Yesterday, the mystery community lost one of the great ones when Tony Hillerman died. I can't do any better than to link to two obituaries. I know what a loss this is to the world of crime fiction.

First, The LA Times.

Then, The New York Times.

I'm sorry. He'll be missed.

Rough Weather

Rough Weather is the 36th Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker. I've read all thirty-six, plus eight of his other books. I have to admit I read the Spenser novels for the characters. However, Rough Weather has a more complicated plot than the last few books in the series. Even so, for those of us who like Spenser, it's still the detective and his friends that bring us back.

Spenser's latest client is Heidi Bradshaw, a woman who is famous for being famous. She's been married three times, each time to a wealthy man, and the most recent husband owns Tashtego Island. Heidi hires Spenser to attend her daughter's wedding. Although Spenser can't figure out his actual job, he and Susan Silverman attend. Before the wedding, they run into an old enemy, the Gray Man, who once tried to kill Spenser. They're both a little uneasy, not knowing why he's there, but neither of them expected gunmen to show up during the wedding, shooting the minister and the groom, kidnapping the bride in the middle of a storm with hurricane-like winds.

Rugar, the Gray Man, should have known better than to leave Spenser as a witness. Now, Spenser won't quit until he finds the truth behind the shootings and the kidnappings. And, no one should want Spenser and Hawk probing for the truth.

Rough Weather is one of the better Spenser novels in recent years. Spenser and Hawk are just as witty as always. It's a pleasure to read their conversations. And, even after thirty-six books, it's a pleasure to return to Spenser's world. Rough Weather is a treat for Robert B. Parker's fans.

Robert B. Parker's website is

Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2008. ISBN 9780399155192 (hardcover), 304p.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Winners of Hatchette's Spooktacular Book Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of Hatchette's Spooktacular Book Giveaway. These five lucky people will receive copies of all ten of these books from Hatchette.

Tamara L. from Sioux Falls, SD

Diana G. from Elizabeth, CO

Kimberly C. from Lemmon, SD

Greg K. from Glendale, AZ

Elli T. from Seattle, WA

I've already sent your names and address to Hatchette. So, watch for your books. They'll be coming directly from the publisher. Thank you to all 425 people who entered the contest. Don't forget to return, and enter the other contests on the blog.

Sunday Salon - 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover

A gorgeous witch with a sense of humor. Her sexy vampire lover who she hasn't seen in thirty years. A ghost who haunts a 1956 Thunderbird convertible. Two man-eating bunny slippers. A wicked humor. A cruel villain. Hot sex. Linda Wisdom's 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover is the perfect book for an October Sunday.

In 1313, Jazz Tremaine was thrown out of the The Academy of Witches, along with a group of friends. Seven hundred years later, she has a curse-removing business, and drives limos for a business that caters to creatures. She loves her Thunderbird, even though it's haunted by Irma, a ghost that died in the car. She's content spending time with her landlord, who she calls Krebs, and her bunny slippers, Fluff and Puff. She isn't happy when her vampire lover, Nick Gregory, shows up asking for help. Why should she help the vampire who had her thrown in jail thirty years earlier?

Nikolai Gregorivich (Nick Gregory)is an investigator and enforcer for a vampire security agency. And, vampires are vanishing. Rumors abound, even in the California human community, that some of them have returned to mortal status. Nick has his doubts, and he's convinced that Clive Reeves, a former Hollywood movie star, is behind the disappearances. But, Jazz thought she killed the man in self-defense years earlier. Now, he might have returned to use the black arts to try to live forever.

Linda Wisdom has created two sexy, fascinating characters in Jazz and Nick. She skillfully wove in their backstory, but leaves much to be discovered in the story of these lovers. Although these are well-developed main characters, Wisdom's secondary characters are just as compelling, Clive Reeves, Irma, Krebs, and, of course, Fluff and Puff. It's a sexy book, tempered with terrific humor. What kind of witch has a cell phone with a ringtone of "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead"? It's hard to finish a book such as 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover, with its suspense, great characters, steamy sex, and fun story. Fortunately, Linda Wisdom's Hex Appeal is waiting on the pile. Enjoy an October treat, and try one of Wisdom's "hexy" books.

50 Ways to Hex Your Lover by Linda Wisdom. Sourcebooks, Inc., ©2008. ISBN 9781402210853 (paperback), 374p.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Deborah Shelley Appears for Authors @ The Teague

(Shelley Mosley and Deborah Mazoyer, writing team of Deborah Shelley)

Romance writer, Deborah Shelley, appeared Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Velma Teague Library, as part of The Authors @ The Teague series. Actually, Deborah Shelley is two people, Shelley Mosley, former Manager of the Velma Teague Library, and Deborah Mazoyer, Director of Building Safety for the City of Glendale. The two started writing together ten years ago when they worked together on a project, benchmarking other cities' building projects. After they wrote a 96 page report about building and zoing departments, Shelley asked Deborah if she'd like to write a book with her. They enjoyed writing together, and they've been writing romantic comedies together ever since.

Their first romance published, Talk About Love, had a print run of 35,000 with Precious Gems Romances. It's been published in six languages besides English, and has had several print runs in France. It was a Holt Medallion finalist, a Love & Laughter Award finalist, and won the 1st Golden Synopsis Award. However, soon after, the short romance market folded, except for Harlequin. Deborah Shelley wrote small-town books, which was not what Harlequin wanted. The authors like to write about communities, but their books don't have enough sex for some markets.

Marriage 101 is the authors' most recent romance. Although it was a BookPage Notable Title, it is already out of print. It sold out fast since it had a smaller print run. Shelley Mosley said she saw it on the Internet for $65.

They also talked about Romancing the Holidays, a collection that includes a chapter for each month, and the romance is about a holiday. Deborah Shelley wrote March, about Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates Esther. They picked a Jewish holiday because Shelley Mosley taught in a synagogue school for three years. Their first book, Talk About Love, had a Cherokee hero. They like to work diversity into their stories. Romancing the Holidays was a Finalist for the Eppie Award, and was featured in Booklist's Spotlight on Multicultural Romance.

Marriage 101 took the writing team years to write because of Deborah's work schedule. In recent years, there was a construction and building boom in Glendale, leading up to the Super Bowl. They spent five years writing this one. The novel has a high school setting, with teachers, the town, and secondary characters.

In response to a question as to their writing techniques, they said they don't each take a section. Unlike many other teams, Deborah and Shelley write side by side, going through the entire manuscript. They talk it through. They don't plot it ahead of time, saying they're terrible plotters. Instead, they write and see how it goes. Their characters develop as people as they go. In fact, the characters start talking to them.

The first rule of writing says, "Write what you know." Since Shelley Mosley was a librarian from a small town in Kansas, their first book, Talk About Love, was about a librarian, Stephanie. Stephanie has four Phoenix cops as brothers, who dog her, and check out her dates, so she moves to a small town where she falls in love with the police chief.

Deborah Shelley's second book capitalized on Deborah Mazoyer's knowledge. It's in His Kiss is set in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, in the construction industry. They have one book called My Favorite Flavor in which an ice cream taster and a personal chef lock horns. They said it was fun to work on that one, tasting ice cream, and inventing flavors.

The story for One Starry Night came about because Shelley Mosley's husband, David, has two Master's degrees, one in Computer Science and one in Astronomy. He hates it when people say he's an astrologer. There is supposed to be conflict in the book, so Shelley thought it would be fun if an astronomer and astrologer fell for each other. Shelley said she had written a nice dedication to him, but after he said no way would an astronomer fall for an astrologer, she made the dedication to their editor.

Marriage 101 features a teacher of a relationships class, who has never had a relationship. Her students rebel, and dare the coach, Danny, to have a relationship with the teacher.

Right now, they're working on a romance called A Taste of Decadence, set in an Alabama town named Decadence. It features former peanut butter beauty queen and a big burly construction manager who is visiting Decadence to help his sister out while she's in the hospital. He has to take over her beauty parlor, and he's the only one there when the heroine comes in for a haircut.

The two authors said they learned a lesson at a Romance Writer's conference in Vegas, when they pitched a story they hadn't written, and someone bought it. They were then on a tight schedule to deliver. They said with a pitch you have eight minutes. It's like a job interview, but worse, because the book is your baby. You have to present the story idea, and a hook. It's almost like speed dating. And, some of the editors are really young, so authors have to gear their pitch to the editors' perspectives.

They said there are three secrets to writing romances.

1. Having cats
2. Eating chocolate
3. Drinking Diet Coke

There is conflict in their romances, but all romances have happily-ever-after endings. Shelley said she reads a lot of everything. Deborah's favorite books re mysteries and historicals. She doesn't read the contemporary romances like they write.

When someone asked if any of their books would be made into TV shows or movies, they said the stories play in their minds as movies. They both visualize them that way. They said they know 200 romance writers, and they know of only one who has been approached for TV. Judy McCoy will have a TV series about a dogwalker.

Shelley Mosley said she wrote several children's books, but none have been accepted. That's the hardest market to break into. When asked if they considered Christian fiction, they said they do have a manuscript called A Bride for Pastor Tim. The ladies of the church think their pastor has been single too long, and they drag women to church. But, it's too secular for the religious market and too religious for the secular market.

They said the market is closing for short romances. There's a huge market for inspirational romances, and the other extreme, erotica. Avalon is a publisher that still does sweet romances with humor and conflict. When asked about self-publication, they said it's too dicey. Distribution is too hard. Few self-published books actually make it. The Christmas Box and The Celestine Prophecy are two of the exceptions.

When asked if about their humor, they said it does come natural. It's not hard to be witty. But, it can't be mean because they have to have likable heroines. The secret to dialogue is to read it aloud so it sounds natural.

Deborah Mazoyer and Shelley Mosley work together, side by side on Monday or Thursday night, and Saturdays. When Shelley worked for the City of Glendale, they wrote for 45 minutes at lunchtime. Now, they're the successful writing team of Deborah Shelley.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Winners and First Name B Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the three copies of The Girl With Braided Hair by Margaret Coel. They'll go out today to Raquel R. of Yorba Linda, CA, Christy H. from Tremonton, UT, and Jeff G. from Columbus, OH.

I have two books to give away this week, with authors whose first name begins with B. One is a little different for me. I have a copy of Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. It's the first book in the Heroes of Dune Series. This latest Dune novel, by Frank Herbert's son, Brian, and noted science ficiton author, Kevin J. Anderson, is the direct sequel to Dune, filling in the missing years of empire building and looks into the formative years of Paul's childhood as well as the histories of those closest to him.

Or you could win an ARC of Brad Meltzer's latest bestseller, The Book of Lies. What does Cain, history's greatest villain, have to do with Superman, the world's greatest hero? And what do two murders, committed thousands of years apart, have in common?

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

The contest will end Friday, Oct. 31 at 6 a.m. PT. Please notice the changed time, because I'll be in Payson teaching two workshops on Thursday. 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!

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn Crime Novels

Patrica Cornwell's first Kay Scarpetta crime novel, Postmortem, was published in 1990. But, two years earlier, D.J. Donaldson, a Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, introduced his detective team of Chief Medical Examiner Andy Broussard and psychologist Kit Franklyn. Cajun Nights was the first in the series, a novel that capitalized on the folklore and black magic of the Cajun culture in Louisiana.

Andy Broussard was the Chief Medical Examiner for Orleans Parish, and Kit Franklyn was his suicide investigator, who also did psychological profiling for the New Orleans Police Department. Broussard was a little eccentric, with the lemon drops in his pockets, and his six 1957 T-birds.

There were only six books in the series that ended in 1997 with Sleeping with the Crawfish. And, it's difficult to come up with pictures of the book jackets. However, each book combined the forensic investigation with the steamy New Orleans atmosphere. Blood on the Bayou, the second book was about a series of ghastly killings causing terror in the Big Easy. The police are baffled by the brutality of the mutilations, but the elders of the city say someone has fallen under spell of the loup garou - the werewolf. Parts of that book are based on actual cases of a rare medical disorder known as "lycanthropy," or werewolfism.

I think D. J. Donaldson was a little ahead of his time with his Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn crime novels. A couple years later, and he might have been the bestselling author of a series featuring a medical examiner. And, his atmospheric novels about New Orleans, folklore and black magic would be hits today. D. J. Donaldson's Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn mysteries were precursers of others' crime novels.

These were the books in this "forgotten" series.

Cajun Nights (1988)

Blood on the Bayou (1991)

No Mardi Gras for the Dead (1992)

New Orleans Requiem (1994)

Louisiana Fever (1996)

Sleeping with the Crawfish (1997)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Interview with Michael Rosenberg, Author of War As They Knew It

Michael Rosenberg is the author of War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest, a must read for fans of Ohio State and Michigan football. Anyone who remembers the storied rivalry will find this book fascinating. Today, Michael Rosenberg took time to answer some questions for readers.

Lesa: Michael, thank you for taking time from a busy schedule for an interview. Would you start by telling my readers a little about your background, so they know why you're qualified to write War As They Knew It?

Michael: I am a sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press, where I have worked since 1999. Before I became a columnist I was the University of Michigan beat writer. I previously worked at the Washington Post and had internships at the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Sacramento Bee.

I attended the University of Michigan, and I understand that merely stating that fact will cause some Buckeye fans (and perhaps some Wolverine fans) to think the book is somehow slanted. It is not - as you know, since you're a Buckeye fan who read the book. I approached this as a journalist writing narrative nonfiction.

Lesa: I'm going to ask you to summarize War As They Knew It. It's a meaty book, with several dimensions. What would you like readers to know about the book?

Michael: I tried to provide the most complete and vivid portrait of Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. I also wanted to capture the era in which they faced each other, from 1969 to 1978.

Yet my overriding goal was to tell a story that will stay with readers long after the book is finished. It is written to read like a novel - in my mind, it's a novel consisting entirely of facts.

The spine of the story is how Hayes and Schembechler tried to maintain control of their programs amid all the chaos around them - from Vietnam protests to campus riots and strikes to the rise of college sports as a big business. Hayes was an outspoken conservative, a friend of President Nixon's and a staunch supporter of the war in Vietnam. Schembechler ran a militaristic program but was not politically active; he is sort of a mainstream counter to Woody. Columbus, meanwhile, is a mainstream counter to Ann Arbor - Columbus was a pretty conservative town and Ann Arbor was full of hippies and activists.

Like a novelist, I have great affection for the characters in the book - not just Hayes and Schembechler but secondary characters like Bill Ayers and Pun Plamondon, who were accused of bombing buildings, and Rod Gerald and Art Schlicter, two Ohio State quarterbacks wrestling with addictions. I don't judge any of these people in the book; I don't think that is my role. I tried to take the reader inside each of their heads. I want you to understand why they did the things they did. And I want you to be invested in what they might do next.

Lesa: This is a complex book, more than a sports book, more than a biography. It's even a social history of the late 60s and 70s. How did you decide to put all of that together in this book?

Michael: Well, I had no interest in simply rehashing 10 football games. I have always enjoyed sports books that incorporate some social history - two of my favorites are Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and David Remnick's King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero. Both books give you a real sense of time and place, and the authors had the advantage of hindsight - enough time had passed since the events in those books that the authors could put the eras in proper perspective.

Something about Hayes and Schembechler stuck with me. I knew Woody had visited the troops in Vietnam four times and spoken to protesters on the campus Oval. I knew he had walked to work, to help reduce America's reliance of foreign oil, and had turned down pay raises when he was making less than $40,000 per year. I knew Ann Arbor was not a football town when Bo showed up in 1969. These were just tidbits, but they gave me the idea there might be a story worth telling.

I did a year of research before the book really took shape in my head, and it constantly evolved until I finished it. The social history is never just a tangent -it is integral to the story. These players and coaches did not spend 24 hours a day in a bubble. I needed to write about the world in which they lived.

The book opens in December 1968. (The first passage actually takes place in 1967, but then we quickly move on to 1968.) Consider: Woody Hayes has just won a national championship, his friend Richard Nixon has just been elected President, and Hayes absolutely believes the U.S. will prevail in Vietnam. Bo Schembechler has just taken the Michigan job, and he thinks he is going to beat his mentor, Woody Hayes. And radicals Bill Ayers and John Sinclair and Pun Plamondon are all literally trying to start an American revolution. And they all think they are going to win.

As an author, I know what is going to happen to all of them. But they don't know. And I thought it would be fun if the reader didn't know, either. That's why I tried to write it like a novel, where you wonder what happens to the characters.

Lesa: It was interesting to read about the social unrest, particularly at Michigan during this Presidential campaign when bill Ayers' name came up. What do you see as the changes in the football programs, and the universities, in recent years?

Michael: The country has become so much more homogenized. People around the country all eat at the same chain restaurants and watch the same cable TV channels and read the same websites. Ann Arbor and Columbus are far more alike now than they were in the 1970s.

The University of Michigan is still considered a liberal institution, but it is liberal from the inside out - it starts with the administration. In 1970, it was liberal from the outside in - students shut down the campus to change school policy. Ohio State University is a more international institution now, and the students, by and large, are more worldly. (I'm generalizing here - please bear with me.)

In 1969, football was seen as a militaristic, Establishment enterprise. Now it is just entertainment and big business. It is far more popular than it was then, but it is not the same kind of cultural touchstone. I don't know that Ohio State fans see the Michigan game as a class struggle in quite the same way anymore. It's hard to see yourself as the scrappy underdog, clawing for respect, when you have a $119 million athletic budget.

Lesa: I know you did a great deal of research. What was the most enjoyable part of researching this book?

For the first six months, I was literally up at night wondering if I would find anything new. It scared the heck out of me. So every time I heard a new story of found a long-forgotten detail in a newspaper story from years ago, I got excited. I started a Microsoft Word file called "Timeline" that had every nugget in there, just so I wouldn't forget anything - each detail or story was one line, just to remind me. By the end of the project, the Timeline file was 28 single-spaced pages. Every time I added something, I felt like I was making progress.

I interviewed almost 200 people for the book, some several times. I can never repay them for their generosity in sharing their anecdotes and insights. Often, somebody would start telling a story and then say, "but that has nothing to do with your book." I always asked them to tell me anyway. My feeling is that I'm the writer - I'll figure out how it all fits together. That's my job.

Lesa: It's a minor question, Michael, but fans will want to know the answer to this. Did you know Bo Schembechler or Woody Hayes? Do you have any personal stories about them?

Michael: I knew Bo and interviewed him three times for the book. I did not expect to get a ton of information from him - Bo had been telling Woody stories for 40 years, and I thought it was unlikely that he'd saved a few just in case I showed up in his office one day. I mostly bounced things off him.

When I first explained the concept - that I wanted to capture the era, not just the rivalry - Bo said he thought the real story of his rivalry with Woody was what was going on around them, and that had never really been told. That was a huge boon to my spirits early in the process; it made me believe there was a story worth writing.

Woody died long before I began my research.

Lesa: You had a difficult subject since Ohio State and Michigan are such rivals. How are people reacting to the book?

Michael: I am happy to say I have not had a single person complain that the book is biased in favor of Michigan or Ohio State, just as I haven't had anybody complain there is a political bias in the book. Some of Woody's players and coaches were a little wary of talking to me at first - not just because I work in Detroit, but because they have seen his image distorted over the years. I explained that the bulk of my portrait of Woody would be formed by my interviews, and they just had to trust that their feelings about him would come through. After that almost everybody was generous with their time.

The most rewarding reaction has been from opposite ends of the spectrum. People who lived through the era and knew Woody or Bo have contacted me to say I got it right, and people who have no interest in football have said they really enjoyed it.

Lesa: Are you working on another book?

Michael: Not yet. I will definitely write another one, because this was the most rewarding project of my life. But I want to make sure I have the right concept before I dive in.

Lesa: And, my final question, Michael. I'm a public librarian. Do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?

Michael: I received so much help from people at The Ohio State University Archives, the Bentley Historical Library and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor and from the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives. The librarians at all those places were just wonderful.

I spent many hours at the Graduate Library at U-M, poring through microfilm. (I had a researcher, Kevin Bruffy, do the same in Columbus, and another, Matthew Hogan, plow through Nixon research.) I just loved reading those old newspapers - it was a slow process, because I was looking for such a variety of stories, but it was so much fun, too. At times I really felt like I was on campus in 1972. I hope it feels that way for readers, too.

Lesa: Michael, thank you so much for taking time to discuss War As They Knew It. Like Seabiscuit, I think this is a book that can be read and enjoyed by anyone.

War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest by Michael Rosenberg. Grand Central Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-446-58013-7 (hardcover), 384p.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interview with Gail Konop Baker, Author of Cancer Is a Bitch

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the perfect time to interview the author of a recent memoir about her own breast cancer. Gail Konop Baker is the author of Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis). She took time to answer some questions about her life, her writing, and her book.

Lesa: Gail, thank you for doing an interview about your book, Cancer Is a Bitch. I read it, and I know it's a memoir, with names changed. Would you start by telling my readers about your life before you were diagnosed with breast cancer?

Gail: I have always been a writer, and had just completed my second novel (the first one was on submission) about a woman who finds a lump in her breast and thinks she might have breast cancer and wonders if she has lived a meaningful life. I sent it to my (then) agent and a week or two later went in for my annual mammogram and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lesa: Why did you write Cancer Is a Bitch?

Gail: I didn't mean to write it. Really. But after my diagnosis, I couldn't think or write. I was stunned. Panicked and paralyzed. I spent most of my time staring out the window and Googling health sites and calculating my risk of recurrence and mixing up batches of organic facial cram. Then one day, my husband pressed a journal into my hand said, you have to write this. I didn't want to, but somehow the pen found its way into my hands and next thing I knew I wrote, "I'm sitting topless in the oncologist's office on Valentine's Day, cancer is a bitch." I filled the whole journal, my hand shaking as the words poured out. But also thinking, I will NEVER EVER show this to anyone since these were my deepest, darkest, rawest most intimate thoughts. And they might have remained that way, if I hadn't read that Literary Mama was looking for columnists. On a whim, I pitched the idea of a column about a Mama baring her soul about breast cancer called "Bare-breasted Mama." The response from readers was immediate and amazing and mostly from women who hadn't actually had cancer but were connecting with my honesty about my marriage and motherhood and other midlife issues. And that's made me think I'd tapped into something more universal.

Lesa: I always like to ask the author to tell us about the book, because you may reveal things I missed when I read it. Would you summarize Cancer Is a Bitch for readers?

Gail: It is about my brush with non-invasive breast cancer and how that served as a catalyst for me to re-examine the entire trajectory of my life including old business from my childhood, my marriage, my motherhood, my life and career choices. And in the process of writing it, I ended up re-negotiating my relationship with myself. I stopped hesitating. I went from why to why not. I decided now would be the time to be the person I always meant to be, to do the things I forgot to do, to be my most amazing self, to live life as if it matters. All of it. Right now. And I hope that readers will vicariously experience my ups and downs and ups again and be inspired to do the same.

Lesa: What has been the reaction of family members to the honesty in this book?

Gail: My husband and children are my biggest fans. Followed by my mother. And all my close friends. But they're all used to my honesty. My in-laws are the only family members who had any reaction which is pretty strange considering I hardly mentioned them at all, and also softened anything I thought might be too revealing. Being compassionate was a very high priority for me. That's the tricky dance with memoir. Writing it openly and honestly without exposing too much.

Lesa: What are you enjoying most about life right now?

Gail: Watching my three kids blossom into the most amazing people. It still feels like a miracle to me that they sprung from my loins. Honestly.

I'm also enjoying finally launching my career in my forties! I have discovered that I LOVE reading and speaking in front of audiences. I find it energizing! One person telling me I touched or inspired them can keep me going for a long time.

Lesa: Are you writing anything else?

Gail: Of course! I'm writing a book about marriage tentatively titled Anatomy of Marriage. As I wrote Cancer Is a Bitch, I realized questions about my marriage and marriage in general kept haunting me. I want to write the real deal about marriage. I think we talk a lot about weddings and divorces but not so much about the complicated, messy, ebb and flowing day to day of marriage. A lot of people who read Cancer Is a Bitch and interviewed me for radio and TV and also many readers, say they found the marriage part of the book fascinating. And want more...

Lesa: I usually save this question for last, but I have one more for you. I'm a public librarian. Do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?

Gail: Like many writers, I was a very early book lover and some of my fondest memories involve walking to my local public library. The moment I walked in, I'd inhale that old book smell and feel instantly comforted. I had a favorite corner in the back that had a bank of benches against a long window where I'd sit cross-legged with a stack of books and lose track of time...ahh the days before Facebook! Oddly, I also loved watching the librarian scan and stamp my books when I checked them out. The sound of the worn page turning, the little flash of light from the machine, the thump of the stamp.

Lesa: And, Gail, is there an interview question you wish someone would ask? What is it, and what's your answer?

Gail: No, I think you did a marvelous job! Thank you!

And, thank you, Gail, for taking time to talk about your book and your life.

Gail Konop Baker's website is

Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis) by Gail Konop Baker. Perseus Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 9780738211626 (hardcover), 272p.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Girl of My Dreams

Who doesn't love a Cinderella story in which the orphaned girl is made over, goes to the ball, finds Prince Charming, and lives happily ever after? Morgan Mandel's Girl of My Dreams takes the Cinderella archetype, and brings it up-to-date, as a reality show.

Jillian Baker was quite happy with her temp job as assistant to Blake Caldwell, producer of the reality show, Girl of My Dreams. When trouble hit the show, in the form of food poisoning, she only wanted to help him out. Knowing she couldn't find a substitute contestant at the last minute, she signed the contract under her full name, Veronica Jillian Baker, and agreed to participate in the show. Twenty-five women would have the chance to meet a millionaire, who would narrow down the selections to his dream girl. Jillian just wanted to make it through the first show, get eliminated, and move on with her life, knowing she'd never get to work with Blake again. It wasn't her fault that millionaire Troy Langley seemed to like her spunk.

And Blake? He was betrayed by Jillian, his competent assistant, just as his actress mother always betrayed his father. Why didn't he notice how attractive she was until Troy Langley, and the television audience, found Jillian fascinating?

Think Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. Jillian is all good intentions, with lots of heart, and too many mishaps. Exotic settings, interesting characters, and a reality show. Morgan Mandel's Girl of My Dreams is a search for happily-ever-after.

Morgan Mandel's website is

Girl of My Dreams by Morgan Mandel. Hard Shell Word Factory, ©2008. ISBN 9780759947016 (paperback), 156p.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis)

I lost three aunts to breast cancer. I have a cousin undergoing treatment right now. It's been a year since one of our library managers died of cancer. And, it takes more than one hand to count friends and acquaintances who have had breast cancer. Yes, Gail Konop Baker's memoir is right, Cancer Is a Bitch.

Baker is at times angry, melodramatic, triumphant, and funny. She deserves to be all of those things. She's sharing her story, and emotions, with other women who could go in for a mammogram, and discover there's a problem. She's one of us, married for over 19 years, mother of three, living in Wisconsin, with a husband who is a radiologist. Gail Konop Baker's memoir is messy and complicated. Which of us doesn't have a messy, complicated life?

Baker wanted to write novels, but, instead, found her voice to talk about her cancer. The book not only talks about her messy family life, but also her attempt to find her voice. The two elements are intertwined. Baker's parents were divorced; her brother committed suicide; she and her sister don't get together. She's had problems in her own marriage because she's never been comfortable in the role of doctor's wife. But what is her role in life? For years, it was mother. As her children grew, she hoped it would be writer. But, her novel about a woman with breast cancer was rejected at about the same time she discovered she, herself, had breast cancer.

Cancer Is a Bitch will not be a book for everyone. The title itself reveals that. The book stems from Baker's column called "Bare-Breasted Mama" where she "wrote about her fears, her pain, and her shock at being diagnosed with cancer." If nothing else, Baker gives women a voice that says, you can be angry, cry, hold your loved ones close, reject people who love you. Cancer is a messy disease that tears apart the victim, the victim's family, and loved ones. Cancer Is a Bitch.

Gail Konop Baker's website is

Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis) by Gail Konop Baker. Perseus Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 9780738211626 (hardcover), 272p.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Salon - Spooktacular Hachette Book Group Giveaway

What better way to celebrate October than with a "Spooktacular" Book Giveaway? Hatchette Book Group is offering five readers of my blog a special treat, a book package with ten of their books.

So, you could win ALL ten of these books!

THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER By Kathleen Kent $24.99, 0316024481

ISOLATION By Travis Thrasher $13.99, 0446505544

THE 13 BEST HORROR STORIES OF ALL TIME By Leslie Pockell $21.99, 9780446679503

THE MONSTERS: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein By Dorothy Hoobler , Thomas Hoobler $14.99, 9780316066402

THE MYRTLES PLANTATION: The True Story of America's Most Haunted House By Frances Kermeen $7.99, 9780446614153

GHOSTLY ENCOUNTERS: True Stories of America's Haunted Inns and Hotels By Frances Kermeen $7.99, 9780446611459

THE TERROR By Dan Simmons $14.99, 9780316017459

DRACULA By Bram Stoker $10.99, 0316014818

WHEN GHOSTS SPEAK: Understanding the World of Earthbound Spirits By Mary Ann Winkowski $24.99, 9780446581189

THE HISTORIAN By Elizabeth Kostova $9.99, 9780316067942

This contest has a few rules. Hatchette Book Group restricts winners to the U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. Boxes. (Sorry!) One entry per person, please.

To enter the contest, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read, Win "Spooktacular Books". Your message should include your name and mailing address.

This Spooktacular Contest will run until Sunday, October 26 at 6 a.m. PT. No entries accepted after that time. The winners will be drawn on Sunday morning, posted on the blog, and forwarded to Hatchette Book Groups.

Thank you to Hatchette! Their website is

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stella Pope Duarte at The Velma Teague Library

Stella Pope Duarte appeared as part of the Authors @ The Teague series at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona to discuss her latest novel, If I Die in Juárez. Stella teaches Creative Writing at Arizona State University West. She also leads workshops and seminars on workshops and seminars related to educational and counseling issues, women's rights, writing, literacy, culture, Chicano/Chicana history, and storytelling.

Duarte first started writing in 1995 when her deceased father appeared to her in a dream. Since then, she's written a collection of short stories, Fragile Night, a novel called Let Their Spirits Dance, and, now, If I Die in Juárez, a powerful novel about the murders and disappearances of young women in Juárez, Mexico.

Why would Duarte write about such a tragic story? She's always been attracted to helplessness. She said we are always loved, and the families of the murdered and disappeared girls taught her that love doesn't end at the grave. Love is the greatest passion on earth. These young women and their families taught her that.

If I Die in Juárez has pink crosses on the cover. Those pink crosses are in Mexico at sites where bodies of the young women have been found. The book is dedicated to the hundreds of young women who have disappeared, las desaparecidas, brutally murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Juárez is right across the border from El Paso, Texas, its sister city. Although most of the women have disappeared from Juárez, some have also disappeared from El Paso. There are over 5,000 women who have disappeared from both sides of the border, and their bodies have never been found.

Family love gives Stella the strength to investigate these murders, and write her novel. Her parents were Francisco Moreno Duarte and Rosanna Pope Duarte. Stella said she was afraid when she read about the murders and mutilations, and didn't want to write the book. She got on her knees and prayed. The Spirit told her to go back there and finish the book. She understood that the people doing the murders should be afraid, not Stella.

Duarte went on to talk about archetypes and dreams. She said dreams have a lot of meaning. The dreamer can interpret their own dreams. She went back to the dream when her father appeared to her. She was a college professor, raising kids, and when her father appeared to her, it was right in front of her what she needed to do next. Her father came to her, and took her by the hand up a spiral staircase.

Stella came from a little barrio, la Sonorita Barrio in South Phoenix. She was a Chicana, born in the United States, with relatives in Mexico, and became a successful writer with a book published by HarperCollins. Duarte said we're all mestizos, of mixed race. Her Grandfather Pope was white. She said she found wisdom in her mother who said, "Every mind is its own world;" that we need to find a purpose on earth.

Stella Pope Duarte is a storyteller who mixes English and Spanish fluently in her presentations. She is such an outstanding storyteller that audiences can tell her meaning, even when they don't speak Spanish. She told stories from Mexican culture, and ended that part of her talk by saying, "In the end, all you take with you in love." What should you leave your children? Leave them your story. She said what attracts your attention is your passion, and you should follow it.

Stella followed her attraction, and passion, to the story of the young women of Juárez. She originally read about three young women, ages 16, 17, and 18 who were found naked, raped, tortured and killed. They were employed in an American owned factory in Juárez. Their murderers have never been found.

Duarte started this book in 2003. She had thought about it, after reading the story, but she mentioned in a class that she was going to write a story about the women in Juárez. When you say it aloud, it puts a thought on another level. It becomes a commitment.

Stella said readers shouldn't be afraid of the book, although the subject sounds gruesome. She said we would walk in the shoes of the girls, but would also triumph with the girls.

Stella Pope Duarte spent three and a half years of going back and forth to Juárez. The city, Mexico's fourth largest one, is now known as the "City of Murdered Women." The maquila industry grew after the NAFTA Agreement of 1992. Juárez became a Mecca for rural citizens seeking work in factories because the corn markets collapsed after NAFTA, and the farms failed. There are low wages in maquiladores, and most of factories are owned by Americans. Women earn $4.50 a day. It's a machismo culture, and men can treat women however they want. Now, women are training their boys to respect their sisters and mothers, to try to get past the machismo culture. However, society has given men permission to murder the women of Juárez.

The victims in Juárez are young women, ages 12 to 22. Over 550 women have been murdered, and there have been over 130 actual mutilations. Five thousand women have never been found. Sixty percent of the victims were maquiladores, factory workers, from poor, working families. Their bodies were dumped in the desert and empty lots. The brutality of these crimes are recorded as femicide, hatred against women. We cannot look away. There have been a number of suspects, from an Egyptian, to gangs, to bus drivers, to cartels. Duarte said she implicates the cartels in her books. The cartels are the untouchables, and right now there are cartel wars in Mexico. Diana Washington Valdez, the journalist who has covered the story the best, has a death contract on her from the cartels.

Duarte said her first book, Fragile Night, is about coming to terms with your dark parts, that you must learn to come to terms with yourself, and what's going on in your world.

Let Their Spirits Dance is about a family traveling to the Vietnam Memorial, thirty years after the death of one of the sons of the family. Duarte is meeting with a producer about making that book into a film.

She repeated that she wrote If I Die in Juárez because she can't look away from helplessness. When you cross from El Paso to Juárez, you're greeted by crosses.
The search for bodies is always going on. There are protesters because women are angry. Mothers have been threatened if they ask too many questions. Fathers feel guilt because they couldn't protect their daughters. Investigators on both sides of the border are working on the crimes. They are more organized in forensics now because they're under pressure. And, anything that gives attention to the murders puts the city under pressure. They feel as if the world is watching them.

Sixty percent of the murders are girls from the factories, because they walk home, and they're vulnerable. The murderers prey on young women. They do the most harm they can. They want to inflict pain because they know the women have people who will cry for them.

Stella Pope Duarte is writing Women Who Live in Coffee Shops. It's about the shrine to a ghost that is behind the convention center in Tucson, the Wishing Shrine. The story is that the man was murdered because he fell in love with the wrong woman in the 1870s. And, she just won the Chicano Literary Award from UCLA.

Thank you to Stella Pope Duarte for bringing If I Die in Juárez to Authors @ The Teague.

Stella Pope Duarte's website is

If I Die in Juarez by Stella Pope Duarte. Univ of Arizona Pr., ©2008. ISBN 9780816526673 (paperback), 328p.

Photo: Lesa Holstine, Bette Sharpe(Programming Librarian), and Stella Pope Duarte.

All photos: Ed Sharpe Glendale Daily Planet

Friday, October 17, 2008

Winners and a Margaret Coel Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the Dennis Lehane contest. Cassandra J. from Worth, IL will receive the autographed copy of A Drink Before the War. Mystic River will go to Leona P. of Milo, ME. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away three copies of Margaret Coel's last Wind River Reservation mystery, The Girl With Braided Hair. It's a fascinating look back to the 1970s, as Attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O'Malley investigate when bones are found on the reservation. The history of the bones belongs to a violent time in history, when the militant American Indian Movement was active. The reader will be caught up, not only in a current mystery, but in a period that might not be well-remembered, a fascinating time.

If you'd like to win a copy of Coel's book, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read, Win "Girl with Braided Hair". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Friday, Oct. 24 at 6 a.m. PT. Please notice the changed time, because I'll be attending a program again on Thursday night. 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!

A Single Thread

I reviewed Marie Bostwick's A Single Thread for Library Journal. The review appeared in the October 15 issue, and is reprinted here with permission.

Bostwick, Marie. A Single Thread. Kensington. Nov. 2008. c.288p. ISBN 978-0-7582-2257-2. pap. $14. F

Bostwick succeeds admirably in this departure from historical fiction (e.g., On Wings of the Morning). When divorce forces Evelyn Dixon to leave her Texas home, she impulsively drives to New Bern, CT, where she finds the perfect neglected building to turn into a shop. When her business struggles, a new friend suggests a special event to keep it going. On the day Evelyn holds a Quilt Pink event for cancer, she discovers that she herself has breast cancer. Following the event, she falls apart in front of three women, including the town's wealthiest woman and the woman's troubled niece. Not surprisingly, the three women become Evelyn's friends and assist with the shop while she undergoes treatment, and everyone's lives change. Despite the predictability of the plot, this is a pleasant story of friendship, with a message of starting over despite the odds. It will remind readers of Debbie Macomber's popular The Shop on Blossom Street. The first in Bostwick's "Cobbled Court" series, this comforting book is highly recommended for public libraries.—Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Contest Update - Dennis Lehane Autographed Books

Here I am at work, instead of at home picking the winners of the latest contest. When I set the deadline, I forgot that we had an author appearing at the library for Authors @ The Teague on Thursday evening. So, I'm waiting to hear Stella Pope Duarte talk about her book, If I Die in Juarez.

So, the contest deadline is extended until tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. I'll have Jim pick the winners, and I'll start the new contest then for three copies of Margaret Coel's book, The Girl with Braided Hair.

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman almost swept the awards at the 2008 Bouchercon convention, and WE WILL HAVE HER in 2009! The award-winning author will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library as part of the Authors @ The Teague series, on Monday, April 6 at 2 p.m. at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona.

Lippman won the Macavity, Anthony and Barry Awards for Best Mystery Novel for her book, What the Dead Know. She also won the Anthony for Best Short Story for “Hardly Knew Her.”

The Baltimore author is best known for her mysteries featuring Tess Monaghan, newspaper reporter turned P.I. in Baltimore, Maryland. Lippman won the Edgar and Shamus awards for the second book in that series, Charm City. Lippman was a feature writer at the Baltimore Sun for ten years.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2008. ISBN 9780061128851 (hardcover), 384p.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bookworm's Dinner Children

From time to time, I mention another blog on here. Wisteria, owner of Bookworm's Dinner, has started a blog just for reviews of children's book. Check out Bookworm's Dinner Children.

Wisteria reviewed a book that looks fun, Where's My Mummy? And, if you like my book contests, check out her sites. She also gives away books. On her new site, you could win a three-volume unread paperback set of Anne of Green Gables, updated for the 100th anniversary.

Check out her sites!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

War As They Knew It

I've mentioned before that I'm an Ohio State football fan. However, War As They Knew It will appeal to fans of Ohio State and Michigan. When my husband read the book, he ran into another man reading it at Starbucks. He agreed it was a terrific book, and then they found out one was a Buckeye fan and the other a Wolverine. For those of us of a certain age, from either Ohio or Michigan, there has never been anything like the football rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan, particularly in the years when Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler dominated the Big 10.
It's hard to believe it was really only ten years. Michael Rosenberg puts together the story of the "Ten Year War," but he sets it against the social and political unrest of the late 60s and the 1970s, which makes the book even more fascinating. The subtitle of the book is, appropriately, "Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest."

The end of the 1968 college football season saw Bo and his staff settling into new jobs in Ann Arbor, and Woody and Ohio State winning the national championship by beating USC in the Rose Bowl. Then Hayes left for a tour of Vietnam, the other war that hangs over this book. For the politics of the next decade affected both schools. Michigan, though was hit the hardest, as a hotbed of unrest. Rosenberg does an excellent job incorporating the politics, and the protests, into the book, showing how they affected the players, who were, after all, students at the universities. So, all of the unrest, and the changes that came about affected the football programs. Hayes, with his love of Patton and the military, hated the changes in the country, refused to accept the changes in the students and players, and only grew angrier as the decade went on. Hayes, who was a friend of Richard Nixon, ruled his team with an iron fist, and didn't let anyone question his authority. The book pulls no punches as to Woody's problem with his temper, and his refusal to change. Schembechler tended to isolate himself from the main campus, but his players were caught up in the protests. Since football dominated the lives of the two men, they refused to see the changes happening in the American heartland. Schembechler, who worked for "The Old Man" at Ohio State, admired him, but from 1969-1979, both men spent the football season preparing for "The Game", and that rivalry dominated their lives, not the social changes going on in the country.

There's one other person prominent in this book, Don Canham, the Athletic Director at Michigan, who changed the way schools marketed themselves. He shrewdly used Schembechler's success to promote Michigan, taking it from the team that was second in its own state to Michigan State, to one that sold out its stadium and was promoted throughout the country. Canham's story is part of the changes going on in college football in the decade.

Rosenberg acknowledges that to understand Woody Hayes, the reader must understand Hayes' passion for Emerson and Patton, an unusual combination. The reader must also understand the friendship that Woody and Bo shared, despite their rivalry. That's part of the intriguing nature of this book. It's more than a sports book. It's the story of the cultural changes in the 60s and 70s, that changed the country, the universities, and the football programs.

To fans of Ohio State and Michigan, there will never be anyone like Woody and Bo. "To a generation of football fans, their names would be intertwined." Michael Rosenberg has intertwined the legend once again, in a must-read book for fans of either team, War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest.

War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest by Michael Rosenberg. Grand Central Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-446-58013-7 (hardcover), 384p.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Maze of Bones (The 39 Clues Series, #1)

Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson books, is just one of the authors that teamed up with Scholastic, Inc. for a new series, The 39 Clues, aimed at kids ages 9-12, that combines books, clues, and an Internet game. Riordan wrote the first intriguing book, The Maze of Bones.

Just before she died, Grace Cahill changed her will. After her funeral, certain members of the large family were called together, and offered one million dollars, or the chance to surrender the money, and take on a challenge with 39 clues, a dangerous challenge that would leave only one team standing. Amy and Dan Cahill, Grace's orphaned grandchildren, always felt they were special to her. Now, they only feel lost and deserted, so, despite their guardian's wishes, they sign on for the challenge. They had no idea the Cahill family was so powerful in world history. But, it didn't take them long to find out how dangerous the challenge is, as they find themselves targets, escaping from fires and bombs, and racing around the country, and across the world.

The Maze of Bones has everything to capture a reader's attention. Who wouldn't want to read a book with a quest, clues, exotic locations, historical stories and family connections to historical figures? Then there are the explosions, fires, adventure, and the mysterious man in black. Add in the two orphaned children, fourteen-year-old Amy, who is a shy bookworm, and eleven-year-old Dan, who has a mathematical mind, collects everything, and is quick on his feet. And, this is only the first book in the series. Gordon Korman's contribution, the second book, One False Note, is due out on December 2. I can't wait!

The website for the game is

The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan. Scholastic, Inc., ©2008. ISBN 9780545060394 (hardcover), 224p.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Macavity Awards

Somehow, I missed posting the winners of the Macavity Awards, selected by members of Mystery Readers International. Here are this year's winners.

Best Mystery Novel: Laura Lippman: What the Dead Know (Morrow)

Best First Mystery: Tana French: In the Woods (Hodder & Stoughton*/Viking)

Best Mystery Short Story: Rhys Bowen: "Please Watch Your Step" (The Strand Magazine, Spring 2007)

Best Mystery Non-Fiction: Roger Sobin, editor/compiler: The Essential Mystery Lists: For Readers, Collectors, and Librarians (Poisoned Pen Press)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery: Ariana Franklin: Mistress of the Art of Death (Putnam)


Anthony Awards

Bouchercon's last day in Baltimore featured the announcement of the Anthony Awards. And, Baltimore's own Laura Lippman took home two of them.

Best Mystery Novel - What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Best First Mystery - In the Woods by Tana French

Best Paperback Original - A Thousand Bones by P.J. Parrish

Best Short Story - "Hardly Knew Her" by Laura Lippman

Best Website - Stop, You're Killing Me! - Lucinda Surber & Stan Ulrich

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Sunday Salon - The Series

Literary Feline and I had a short conversation yesterday, and it's a perfect topic for Sunday Salon. How do you feel about a series? And, to be more specific, how do you feel when you discover a whole new series, and have all of those books ahead of you?

I just read the fifteenth book in Steven F. Havill's Posadas County mystery series, The Fourth Time is Murder. I normally don't start at the end of a series, but I was reviewing it for Mystery News. I liked it so much that I went back to the beginning, picking up Heartshot. And, I'm going to read the entire series, as soon as I can get my hands on some of the earlier titles. But, this is a manageable series, with only thirteen more books, until Havill writes another one. I'm excited about these books, and looking forward to the other ones.

But, Literary Feline is right. Fifteen books isn't scary. I often thought I'd want to read Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books. Do you know there are are over 55 books in that series? That's a formidable number. I always kidded and said I'm saving them for retirement. I'm one of those readers that likes to start at the beginning and read all of the books, if I like the series.

And, Literary Feline mentioned Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, one that has thirty-six books. I work with a librarian who is one of the biggest fans of the author, and she got me started. I bogged down. She told me I can read the different storylines. She knows I like the Witches, and she even listed all of those for me. How do you start when there are already thirty-six books in a series?

And, then there are the authors you love, and you discover them early in their career, and wait impatiently for the next book. With Robert B. Parker, I started with the early Spenser books, and it hasn't been hard to read one a year, reading all thirty-six or so. I've read every Inspector Armand Gamache mystery by Louise Penny, and every Ceepak/Boyle crime novel by Chris Grabenstein. Look how the whole world waited for the Harry Potter books.

However, when John Jakes started his Americans series with The Bastard, I didn't have the patience to wait for a year for the next book. My sister read all of the books, and loved them.

I love a good series when it gives me interesting characters that return in book after book. I just like to be in on the story early on so I don't find the number of books too challenging. How do you feel about a series?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Barry Award Winners

The Barry Award Winners were announced at Bouchercon. Congratulations to the winners! I'm particularly pleased because Laura Lippman, winner of Best Novel, will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library in April as part of our Authors @ The Teague series.

Best Novel - What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Best First Novel - In the Woods by Tana French

Best British Crime Novel - Damnation Falls by Edward Wright

Best Thriller - The Watchman by Robert Crais

Best Paperback Original - Queenpin by Megan Abbott

Best Short Story - "The Problem of the Summer Snowman" by Edward D. Hoch

Shamus Awards

The Shamus Awards were announced last night at Bouchercon in Baltimore.

Congratulations to all of the winners, but a big congratulations and hug goes to Cornelia Read!

Best P.I. Novel - Soul Patch by Reed Farrell Coleman

Best P.I. Paperback Original - Songs of Innocence by Richard Aleas

Best P.I. First Novel - Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover

Best P.I. Short Story - "Hungry Enough" by Cornelia Read

And, The Eye Award went to Joe Gores