Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Salon - December Holiday Giveaway

Once again, Hatchette Book Group is providing me with the opportunity to run a very special contest. Five lucky winners will get their pick of a holiday package; 5 books celebrating Christmas, 5 for Hanukkah, or 5 for Kwanzaa. You pick!

These are the prize packages -

We Wish You a Merry Christmas Book Giveaway:

Engaging Father Christmas By Robin Gunn ISBN: 0446179469 $13.99
The Paper Bag Christmas By Kevin Milne ISBN: 1599950731 $14.99
Christmas Around the World By Chuck Fischer ISBN: 9780316117951 $30.00
The Physics of Christmas By Roger Highfield ISBN: 0316366951 $16.99
The Christmas Train By David Baldacci ISBN: 0446615757 $5.99

Happy Hanukkah Book Giveaway:

In the Beginning By Chuck Fischer ISBN: 9780316118422 $35.00
Jewtopia By Bryan Fogel, Sam Wolfson ISBN: 9780446579544 $24.99
Be Still and Get Going By Alan Lew ISBN: 9780316739108 $14.95
Life Is a Test By Esther Jungreis ISBN: 9781600244568 (Audio) $34.98
To Life! by Harold Kushner ISBN: 9780446670029 $14.99

Happy Kwanzaa Book Giveaway:

The American Journey of Barack Obama by The Editors of LIFE Magazine ISBN 9780316045605 $24.99
How Strong Women Pray By Bonnie St. John ISBN: 0446579262 $16.99
Not Easily Broken By T. D. Jakes $14.99
Stand the Storm By Breena Clarke ISBN: 0316007048 $24.99
Claim Your Victory Today by Creflo Dollar ISBN: 9780446178174 $12.99

So, there will be five lucky winners. This contest will run from Nov. 30 to Thursday, December 11, ending at 6 PM MT. No entries will be valid after 6 PM on Dec. 11, so I can provide Hatchette with the list of winners on Dec. 12, and they can get the books in the mail.

This special December Holiday Giveaway has a few rules. Hatchette Book Group restricts winners to the U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. Boxes. (Sorry!) You can enter once for each holiday, if you so choose.

To enter the contest, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Pick the holiday books you'd like to receive. Your subject line should read, either, Win "Christmas" or Win "Hanukkah" or Win "Kwanzaa". Your message should include your name and mailing address.

The contest will close at Dec. 11 at 6 PM MT when Jim draws five names. Hatchette will then send the set of books to the five winners.

Thank you to Hatchette! Their website is

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pony Express Christmas

I asked my family when they wanted to see the Christmas books reviewed, and they wanted me to wait until after Thanksgiving. Lorna Landvik's 'Tis the Season had an early review, only because it wasn't all about the Christmas season. So, scattered throughout the other books reviewed between now and Christmas, you'll find some holiday books.

Sigmund Brouwer's Pony Express Christmas is an older title, published in 2000. But, it captures the feeling of so many of the seasonal books, with its message, "Never let it be said...that the Lord did not know how to time events properly."

Why did the Grady, the pony express rider, turn back at the last minute, missing the two gunmen who waited for him above the cliffs? Why did Jeremiah's wagon break an axle, spooking the horse, just at a place where Grady could see the man and his son stranded before a snowstorm? Was it just chance that led Jeremiah's wife, Grace, to tell her children stories that Jeremiah had once told, stories that reminded her how much she loved him, despite his inadequacies as a prairie rancher?

In many Christmas stories, chance is another word for the hand of God, working miracles at Christmastime. Brouwer's story is a Christian fiction novel for the holidays. Pony Express Christmas, with the historical background of prairie life and the Pony Express in 1860, vividly captures the desperation of life on the desolate prairie, a life that can easily lead people to give up, or find the courage, and the faith, to continue on.

Pony Express Christmas by Sigmund Brouwer. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., ©2000. ISBN 0-8423-4018-1 (hardcover), 146p.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Hugh Pentecost

Hugh Pentecost's name came up as a question to librarians the other day, and I remembered how much I used to love the Pierre Chambrun mysteries. Pentecost was a pseudonym for Judson Philips, who wrote other series under the Pentecost name, including the Uncle George mysteries, the John Jericho ones, and the Julian Quest books. But, my favorites were the Pierre Chambrun books, set in one of New York's finest hotels.

Chambrun was a resistance fighter during World War II, and that experience is helpful with some of the problems that occur in a luxury hotel. He's now the suave hotel manager of the Hotel Beaumont. The hotel has permanent residents and a nightclub, and those elements are sometimes important in the course of the series. When hotel security encounters problems, everything from murder to theft to espionage, Chambrun steps in with the help of Mark Haskell, the hotel's public relations director, and the narrator of the stories.

By situating the stories in a luxury hotel, Pentecost was able to deal with the worlds of the rich and famous. Race car drivers, tycoons, wealthy widows, writers, politicians and celebrities visit the hotel, and often die there, or cause other problems for the staff.

The Pierre Chambrun mysteries were written between 1962 and 1988. I know I read them in the same period I read Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. These were books that, like Stout's, had a witty, single narrator, who reported cases involving his boss. I'm sorry they are not as well known as the Nero Wolfe books, because I remember enjoying Pierre Chambrun's world.

Some of Hugh Pentecost's books are still in print. If you're a fan of Nero Wolfe, these are worth trying to find. Or, if you just want a good traditional mystery, set in New York City, check these out.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Winners and Sunday's Contest

Congratulations to the winners of Brent Ghelfi's books. Volk's Game is going to Michel B in Auburn, WA. Volk's Shadow will go to Kim M. from Gulf Breeze, FL. I'll put them in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm saving the contest for Sunday. Check back for Sunday Salon, and a special, large, Holiday contest. I'll offer another contest for mysteries a week from today, but I know there won't be too many readers stopping by tonight.

Instead, I hope you're enjoying family, friends, and togetherness for this Thanksgiving. I'll see you back here tomorrow with Friday's "Forgotten" Books. And, don't forget to check out Sunday's new holiday contest!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I know, if you're reading this blog, that you're just as grateful for books as I am. I've read 152 books so far this year, and I'm glad that every one of them came to my attention. But, I'm particularly pleased that I had the opportunity to read some special ones. At the end of the year, not all of these will make my top ten, but they'd make a list of some of the most enjoyable books I read during the year. This also isn't my list of favorite mysteries. It's just an eclectic list that jumps out at me today, as I write this.

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs, which seems like a perfect book to mention on Thanksgiving.

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Small Favor by Jim Butcher

When We Get to Surf City by Bob Greene, because Jim and I share a love of Bob Greene's writing. For us, all of his work is nostalgic and reminds us of home.

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein

Rubicon by Lawrence Alexander, because everyone I recommended this novel to still talked about it weeks later.

Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein

King of the Holly Hop by Les Roberts, a book that brought back one of my favorite characters, after a long absence.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, still my pick for book of the year.

My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes - The book that stood the test of time.

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner - Book that needs to be read, and isn't well-known.

War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest by Michael Rosenberg - Most unusual sports book, and the one I get the most thanks for recommending.

This isn't to say I didn't love a number of other books that I read, but these jump out at me when I go back over the year's list.

Thanks to all of the bloggers who share their love of books. And, here's a shout out to all my friends from Lee County, Florida, who keep in touch, and still talk about books with me. Some of you are now elsewhere, particularly Texas. I love you, and miss you.

I'm grateful for parents who read to me, taught me to read, and shared their love of reading and books, taking me to the library, and encouraging me to be a librarian. I have two wonderful sisters who still get excited when we talk books. I love you. And, I have nieces and nephews who love to read, but I particularly want to mention Elizabeth, who is keeping me on my toes with her book challenge this year. And, Thanksgiving is the perfect time for family memories. My mother's parents, Otto and Hildegard Smith, were readers. Grandpa was a journalist, a farm editor for a newspaper, and I think of him every time I write. I shared my love of books with Grandma, and I treasure her book journal.

And, last. What would Thanksgiving be if I didn't thank Jim? We've shared books since we first met at the Huron Public Library in Ohio. We talked books, married at the library, and had paperbacks tied to the bumper of our car. He still says, "We only go married to read." Jim, thank you for allowing me to share my passion for books, for this blog, and patiently putting up with all of my talk of books and the library. Thanks for picking winners for all of the contests. I'm grateful for all your support as I teach Readers' Advisory workshops, and spend time blogging instead of talking (or listening!) to you. I'm grateful, and happy, to share my life with you, and our reading world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

I'm guessing that many readers will be too busy with family, friends and food on Thanksgiving to spend much time reading blogs, so I'm going to express my thanks today. This is my thank you for my book related world. Tomorrow, I'll talk about my family and books.

Thank you to all the readers who have visited Lesa's Book Critiques close to 100,000 times (counter was reset). I appreciate your comments, suggestions, and the entries to the book giveaways.

Speaking of book giveaways, I'm grateful to Talia Sherer at Macmillan and Bobby Brinson at HarperCollins for speaking at Back to the Beach, and keeping me in the loop with the ARCs that I read, along with the ones I pass on to other librarians and readers. Talia, thanks for everything from pictures to conversations about cats. And, thanks to Valerie Russo for the books for the Hatchette Book Giveaways. I appreciate all the books from authors and publicists. I've read them, used them for contests, or stored them in my closet for future use. Thank you!

I've really enjoyed co-hosting the Authors @ The Teague series at the Velma Teague Library this year. We've been very fortunate to have visits from Leighton Gage, Louise Ure, Rhys Bowen, Betty Webb, Deborah Crombie, Shelley Mosley and Deborah Shelley, Jennifer Lee Carrell, Elizabeth Gunn, Susan Cummins Miller, J.M. Hayes, Stella Pope Duarte, Kerrie Droban, Rolling Darkness Revue, Larry Karp, Michael Bowen, Brent Ghelfi, and Jana Bommersbach. We're very grateful to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale for providing some of the authors, and furnishing the books for the sales. Thank you!

And, I'm very excited about the authors we've already booked, or tentatively scheduled for 2009. I'm looking forward to hosting Judge Lynn Toler, Louise Penny, Betty Webb, Rosemary Harris, Cara Black, Vicki Delaney, Deborah Turrell Atkinson, and Laura Lippman. That's just through April! A big thank you to Bette Sharpe, Programming Librarian at Velma Teague.

I want to thank my wonderful staff at the Velma Teague Library, and all of the Glendale Library System staff for your support and encouragement. And, I'll end today with a thank you to the Glendale Library Director, Sue Komernicky, for all of her support for my activities and the Authors @ The Teague series.

Tomorrow, books and family.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harbor Nights

Big families, lots of kids, pets, Maine, humor and romance means a Marcia Evanick romance. And, Harbor Nights doesn't disappoint.

Norah Stevens finds a job with the local newspaper when she and her divorced mother, Joanne, escape to Misty Harbor, Maine. Norah is still shell-shocked that her mother lived with her drunken, abusive husband for twenty-five years, and she only found out when her father hit her when she stopped in for a visit. Together, the women found a refuge. Joanne is willing to move on, find a job, and, maybe date. But, Norah is afraid, and Ned Porter, the gentle giant who encounters her in his parents' backyard, is big and imposing. Norah wants to believe he's as gentle as he appears, but she's afraid to trust her heart.

Once again, Evanick intertwines two romances in an enjoyable story featuring characters a reader would like as neighbors. Harbor Nights welcomes readers back to Misty Harbor, Maine, a perfect setting for romance.

Harbor Nights by Marica Evanick. Kensington Publishing Corp., ©9780821777084 (paperback), 304p.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme

Holidays sometimes bring out the worst in families. But Krista Davis gives her amateur sleuth, Sophie Winston, one of the worst Thanksgiving experiences I've ever read about. The Diva Runs Out of Thyme is a terrific debut mystery, perfect for the holiday season. Sophie's family holiday will make everyone else's holiday look delightful in comparison.

Sophie Winston is 44, happily divorced, and living in Old Town Alexandria in Virginia. She's participating in the Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown just before Thanksgiving, competing against Natasha, her lifelong rival, a Martha Stewart-type who now lives with Sophie's ex-husband, Mars. Can she handle the competition while hosting her parents, her sister and her sister's fiancé for the holiday? Sophie thinks she can easily juggle everything, until a trip to the grocery store leaves her with a kitten and a dead detective who had her picture in his truck. If she's unlucky, Sophie could be cooking her special stuffing recipe in the prison kitchen.

Davis' debut mystery in the Domestic Diva series is a perfect cozy with a likable sleuth, her sidekick friend, and a cast of a dozen suspects who are friends or family. There are pets to add to the cozy atmosphere, along with a couple men competing for the heroine's attention. And the Thanksgiving recipes included look wonderful, especially Crusty Country Bread, Bacon, and Herb Stuffing, and Cranberry Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing. Did I mention that I didn't guess who the killer is? That's always a plus for avid mystery readers.

Here's hoping Krista Davis' The Diva Runs Out of Thyme is the beginning of a successful series. It would be a perfect holiday gift, Thanksgiving or Christmas, since it's an affordable paperback, and the start of a series. Cozy mystery readers will always be content to receive the first book in a series.

Krista Davis' website is

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2008. ISBN 9780425224267 (paperback), 304p.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Josh & I made Patti's Blog!

I'm not showing you the picture. You'll have to check out Patti Abbott's blog at, but Josh and I made her blog today. And, that's Louise Penny's forthcoming book, A Rule Against Murder, that I'm reading.

Sunday Salon - Books for Holiday Gifts!

The book world, from authors to bookstores to websites and bloggers, is recommending that people give books for the holidays this year. It's going to be a tough year for bookstores, as sales fall, and the economy is lousy. Publishing companies and bookstores are going to be laying people off after the holidays. And, libraries aren't helping as our book budgets are slashed. One of the libraries here in Arizona just cut their book budget by 80%. I don't know of any libraries who are not suffering. When libraries can't support the book budget, times are hard.

So, those of us who are part of the book world are suggesting books as gifts. I know I'm doing my part. I can't say anymore because my husband might read this posting. But, has some great holiday suggestions if you need them. Here's their publicity release about their holiday suggestions.'s Books as the Perfect Gifts Countdown

There's one gift that's perfect for everyone on your holiday list --- a book! Yes, everyone has people who are readers on their lists, which makes shopping for them easy. But beyond these kindred spirits, there's a book that can match just about any recipient's interests, even if reading is not their true passion. That is why is sharing 45 reasons why a book makes a perfect gift, counting down until Christmas Day, December 25th. Check out the countdown and see why we think this is the gift you want to give --- and, oh yes, receive!

The Countdown can be read at:

The feature is also running on,, and's Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest's popular annual contest spotlights a different title or collection of titles every week from November 7th to December 12th. Readers can enter to win a basket that includes two copies of the book (one to keep and one to give), wrapping paper and a bow, and holiday-themed items such as Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix, gourmet vanilla marshmallows, Chewy Peps candy, an Illuminations cinnamon spice-scented candle, and more.

The Holiday Basket of Cheer feature can be found at:

Launched November 21st:'s Authors on the Holidays

More than 25 authors share their favorite memories of giving or receiving a book at the holidays, including Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark, Kristin Hannah, Garth Stein, M.J. Rose, Adriana Trigiani, Mary Kay Andrews, and more.

Launched November 14th:'s What to Give/What to Get Guide

Gift giving is made easy with “reader perfect” suggestions in categories like Eat, Drink & Be Merry (cookbooks and culinary tales), Faces & Places (history, biography and memoir), and Healthy, Wealthy & Wise (advice and how-to).


So, would you think about buying books for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa gifts? There are lots of suggestions out there. And, if you're reading this, you're a reader who wants to keep bookstores and publishers, and, most of all, our beloved authors, in business. And, if you don't know anyone who wants a book (which I doubt!), offer your local public library a gift. That's the gift that continues to give.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brown Bag Luncheon Books

Once a quarter, I hold a brown bag luncheon in my office so the public can come and listen to me talk about fifteen books. They bring lunch; I supply the water, coffee and cookies. This time we had a full house! I follow that luncheon a week later with one for the library staff. This quarter's list included some new titles, some older ones, and a few Christmas books since we won't meet again until February.

Here's the list of books I discussed.

Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews. Why does Santa Claus end up murdered when Meg Langslow is Mistress of Revels for the Christmas parade? Another zany mystery.

Firestorm by Nevada Barr. The most interesting book in the series for Arizona residents since it deals with wildfires. Anna Pigeon, as medical and security officer for a California wildfire, battles fire and a murderer.

Pony Express Christmas by Sigmund Brouwer. A Christmas story of a prairie family, a Pony Express rider, two gunmen, and faith.

White Nights by Ann Cleeves. It's midsummer in the Shetland Islands, and Jimmy Perez has to find a connection to a murder victim in a small community, where everyone claims the victim is a stranger.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. A novel, in poetry, about Jack's refusal to write poetry, the teacher who exposes him to it, and his dog.

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie. Nell Dysart accepts a job as a secretary in a shabby little detective agency, but she doesn't count on her run-ins with her boss or the strong attraction between them.

Blueberry Hill by Marica Evanick. Jocelyn Fletcher wasn't cut out to be a D.A., but was she ready to be the housekeeper to a widowed sheriff with three little children?

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. Lost River, Alabama is the perfect place for Oswald T. Campbell to spend his last winter on earth. He's a man who gave up hope until he met the people of the small town, and a redbird named Jack.

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner. Outstanding historical novel of the life of Juana la Loca, the last Queen of Spain.

Ghost at Work by Carolyn Hart. Bailey Ruth Raeburn is sent back as a ghost to help Kathleen, the pastor's wife, who just found a man's body on the rectory porch.

Bitter Recoil by Steven F. Havill. While visiting his former deputy, Posadas County Undersheriff Bill Gastner assists her with a murder investigation.

'Tis the Season by Lorna Landvik. The story of a poor little rich girl, trashed in the tabloids, but remembered by two old friends.

Savvy by Ingrid Law. Mibs Beaumont's thirteenth birthday isn't the gift she hoped for, with her father in the hospital in a coma.

Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien. The nineteen year love story of an owl and his girl.

Every Crooked Nanny by Kathy Hogan Trocheck. Introduces Callahan Garrity and her House Mouse cleaning team as they investigate a missing nanny, who disappeared along with jewelry, silver and real estate documents.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - The Dead Cat Bounce

Nothing like following up a blog posting called Hate That Cat with The Dead Cat Bounce. Honest, I have nothing against cats; I have four of them. And, The Dead Cat Bounce isn't even about cats; it's a financial term.

The Dead Cat Bounce was the first book in Sarah Graves' Home Repair is Homicide mystery series. The twelfth book in this series, A Face at the Window, is due out in December, but how many people remember the introductory volume in the series?

Mary Kittredge, writing under the pseudonym Sarah Graves, introduced Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree, a former financial advisor to the Mob, in The Dead Cat Bounce. Jake left her Wall Street money manager's position, and her cheating ex-husband, who is a successful brain surgeon, and moved with her son, Sam, to Eastport, Maine. She was trying to save her son from the bad influence of his city friends, who skipped school and used drugs. She sank her money into a 200-year-old house, and, through the course of the series, will continue to sink money into the house in order to remodel it. In this first book, when a body is discovered in Jake's house, her new neighbor and friend, Ellie White, confesses she killed him. Jake thinks Ellie is covering up for someone else, and begins to poke around into the background of the victim, a ruthless corporate raider. The Dead Cat Bounce gives Jake the chance to use her financial background, and introduces readers to Jake, her family, and people who will continue to be her friends in future books.

An Amazon reviewer referred to this book as "This Old House meets Murder, She Wrote," and, at some time or another in the course of this series, probably everyone in Eastport becomes either a victim or a suspect. But, it's fascinating to follow Jake through the years as her life with Sam changes.

Kittredge herself moved to Eastport, Maine, and began a remodeling project on a house built in 1823, the inspiration for this series. Eleven books later, the remodeling hints continue, Jake is still sinking money into the house, and readers are still following this intriguing series.

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

Sarah Graves' website is

The Dead Cat Bounce by Sarah Graves. Bantam Books, ©1998. ISBN 9780553578577 (paperback), 336p.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seven Winners and a Brent Ghelfi Contest

Congratulations to the seven winners this week. Linda E of Canyon Lake, TX won Michael Bowen's Putting Lipstick on a Pig and Shauna O. from Oklahoma City, OK won Larry Karp's The Ragtime Kid. These five winners will receive Hatchette's Holiday Entertaining books: Maxine H. from Windermere, FL, Christopher H. from Elk Grove, CA, Carrie B. from Royal Oak, MI, Trisha A. from Philadelphia, PA and Marsha G. from Pasadena, CA. I'll be mailing the Bowen and Karp books tomorrow. Hatchette will be sending their five books to the Holiday Entertaining winners.

This week, I'm offering two autographed books by Brent Ghelfi. If you haven't met Ghelfi's complicated character, Alexei Volkovoy, "Volk," start with the introductory thriller, Volk's Game. This one is an autographed paperback.

Or, you could win an autographed ARC of Ghelfi's second book, Volk's Shadow. Oil and terrorism is a subject right out of the headlines.

So, Volk's Game, or Volk's Shadow? You can enter to win both, but you need to send two entries. 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, either Win "Game" or Win "Shadow". Your message should include your name and mailing address. Entries in the U.S. only, please.

The contest will close on Thursday, Nov. 27 at 6 PM MT when Jim draws the names. The books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Hate That Cat

It's been seven years since Sharon Creech's book, Love That Dog, but I just discovered it a week ago. The sequel, Hate That Cat, just came out this year, and it didn't disappoint me.

Jack is a year older, but considers himself lucky to have Miss Stretchberry as his teacher for a second year. She's still making the class study poetry, pushing Jack to stretch himself. As the class reads poems by William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, and others, Jack reveals more about himself, and his life through his own poems.

Jack still mourns his dog, and professes to hate cats. Readers need to read the book to discover why Jack hates a stray black cat, and his feelings about kittens. But, the most touching part of the book is Jack's explorations of his feelings about his mother as he slowly reveals that his mother is deaf. It's hard for a boy who is learning to love poetry to realize his mother will never hear it.

Creech's books may have been written for middle school readers, but adults will appreciate the poetry, the humor, and the poignancy of these two books. If you've read Love That Dog, you have to check out Hate That Cat. If you haven't read either book, there's a treat waiting for you.

Sharon Creech's website is

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech. HarperCollins Pubishers, ©2008. ISBN 9780061430923 (hardcover), 160p.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Book of Nonsense

David Michael Slater's The Book of Nonsense is the first book in his Sacred Books Series, a projected series of five books designed for Middle School readers. I hope the next books in the series are a little more exciting, because, for me, this one dragged.

When Daphna and Dexter Wax' father, Milton, returns home for his job as a book scout, just before their thirteenth birthday, Daphna is excited to show him the new bookshop in the village, The Antiquarian Book Center. Daphna loves it, considering it the ABC, holding everything about magic. She's just a little leery of Emmet, the monstrous boy who works there. Dex wants nothing to do with the store, or Emmet, who has beaten him up.

But, there's worse things in the bookstore than Emmet. When Milton tries to sell a special book there, Asterious Rash, a mysterious old man, somehow gains control over Milton and the book. When Daphna explains the problem to Dex, they unite to find out the secret behind the book. Soon, it looks as if Rash might also control Daphna in his search for power.

Most readers in the eleven to thirteen year range will find this book too obsessed with an old book, with little action. The adults in the book are not well-developed, and the twins don't know each other well. The books seem to be designed for readers passionate about literature, and there won't be too many readers who appreciate this kind of literature at that age.

As a librarian, I did appreciate one section, describing Daphna's passion. "But of course it wasn't smells that made Daphna love books. No, it was the words themselves. It was mind-blowing to think that you could learn absolutely anything in the world if you just had the right words in the right order."

I just don't think middle school readers will be passionate about The Book of Nonsense. But, it's just my opinion. The book is a finalist for the Assoc. of Booksellers for Children's Best Books 2008 & Cybil Award nominee.

David Michael Slater's website is

The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater. Blooming Tree Press, ©2008. ISBN 9781933767000 (hardcover), 256p.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Bookworm's Award

Luanne, at A Bookworm's World just awarded me The Bookworm's Award. Thank you!

Along with the award, there are a few rules. Open the closest book to you—not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment—to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence as well as the next two to five sentences. Pass this on to five blogging friends.

I'm reading Camp Follower, the third book in Suzanne Adair's fascinating
historical fiction series about the American Revolution. Adair has written a series, beginning with Paper Woman, and then The Blacksmith's Daughter, featuring strong loyalist women, caught up in the Revolutionary War in the South, a little-known theater of the war.

Here's the quote from page 56. "Enid's face blotched while she grappled with what Helen was sure was the need to protect her mistress and the desire to prove her intentions honorable. Helen's heart ached. If only she hadn't had to accept that assignment with the Legion." Helen, an impoverished widow, has accepted an assignment from a loyalist magazine to travel to the encampment of the British Legion, and write a feature on LtCol. Tarleton.

So, I'm passing on the award to five people. Tag, you're it! And, if you're not into memes, here's my apology. Remember, you never have to pass one on, if you don't want to play.

Jen at Jen's Book Thoughts

Wisteria at Bookworm's Dinner

Amy at My Friend Amy

Patti at Patti's Pen and Picks

and, Caite at A Lovely Shore Breeze


I'm participating in National Blog Posting Month. It's an easy activity for me to participate in, because I try to blog daily anyways. I'm always interested, though, in how people are networking, through blogs, twitter, or other social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook. I enjoy discovering other blogs, and bloggers, who might share my interest in books. It's one more way to connect!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blueberry Hill

Marcia Evanick's Blueberry Hill is just what I like in a romance. It had interesting characters, strong families, a little sex that didn't overpower the story, and lots of humor. Romances lose me if the humor is lacking.

Jocelyn Fletcher is afraid she's not cut out for a career in the D.A.'s office, when she has to watch criminals walk away on technicalities. In order to clear her head, she asks her sisters in Misty Harbor, Maine, to look out for a job for her, and a place to live. There isn't much available in the small town, but they do set up an interview for her as housekeeper and nanny to the local sheriff, whose ex-wife died, leaving him with their three young children.

There's an immediate attraction between Jocelyn and Sheriff Quinn Larson, but it's his children, five-year-old Ben, and the younger twins, Issy and Tori, who win her heart first. Quinn fights the attraction, while Jocelyn deals with all the eligible men of Misty Harbor, who show up bearing gifts. In the meantime, Quinn's sister, Phoebe, a glass worker, watches it all with amusement because she coped with the bachelors when she moved home. However, Phoebe's heart remains with her high school sweetheart, a man who dumped her when she left for college.

Evanick skillfully handles two romances, along with the family life. It's an enjoyable romance with terrific people, and a lovely setting. Blueberry Hill was such a fun romance that I've already started one of Evanick's Christmas romances, A Berry Merry Christmas.

Blueberry Hill by Marcia Evanick. Zebra Books, ©2003. ISBN 0-8217-7425-5 (paperback), 304p.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Salon - Brent Ghelfi for Authors @ The Teague

It's hard to believe that Brent Ghelfi writes dark thrillers set in Russia. He is one of the nicest authors to appear at the Velma Teague Library for the Authors @ The Teague series.

Ghelfi grew up in Phoenix and went to college at Arizona State University, majoring in business. He went to Law School in Tucson, and now lives in Phoenix with his wife, Lisa, and their two children. And, he answered a question librarians always want to know, about his library experience. Brent said he grew up using the Yucca Branch of the Phoenix Public Library regularly. He said he's always been a reader.

So, how did a Phoenix resident become the writer of thrillers set in Russia? As a student, he went to the U.S.S.R., and it was a gray, drab country. The people were rigid, and didn't want to talk to foreigners. Of course, the tour guides were monitored by the KGB. They couldn't stray off script, and they had to file reports. If they strayed or submitted an erroneous report, they were reported by their monitors. The U.S.S.R. was such a drab, gray country that Ghelfi never thought of it as fascinating.

In the 1990s, he went back to Moscow on business. It was as if someone had turned on a light. The country had been dark and foreboding, but now Red Square was brightly lit. There was American-style consumerism. Now, he regularly goes back to Russia, but if you stray outside the big cities, it's still desolate and poverty-stricken, not that different from life there in the Middle Ages.

In the 2000s, Ghelfi was in Moscow, writing other books. He stayed at the National Hotel, which had a beautiful view over Red Square. During the Communist years, the CIA used to get rooms in the National Hotel, and monitor the May Day parades from there, watching to see where the leaders stood in relationship to each other to determine the power structure. Ghelfi had one of those rooms overlooking the Square. One night, he saw a man walking on the wall, who cut through security with no one stopping him. Then he disappeared. Ghelfi wondered about the man. Who was he?

Ghelfi then came up with the sentence that introduced Alexei Volkovoy, known as Volk. In Volk's Game, he describes himself. "Dead mother, disappeared father, late-era Soveit poverty, and five years of killing and worse in Chechnya." Volk is a metaphor for modern-day Russia. He's part of the modern military, and the illegal gangsterism that has spread throughout the world in the form of the Russian Mafia. These strains both course through Volk, a dark conflicted character who is broken in many ways. Ghelfi uses his books to loke at modern-day Russia, with a character that represents Russia.

Volk's Game, the first book in the series, was about the theft of a picture from the Hermitage. It's a self-examination of Volk and the country, how they treat people, the country, and art. The book was well-received. It was a finalist for the 2008 Barry Award for best thriller, and it received excellent reviews. It's set in today's world, a violent world that has extremes of very wealthy people and very poor people. The poor were devastated when the U.S.S.R. fell. Pensioners who could live on 300 rubles a month paid at the old rate, couldn't buy a loaf of bread a month later. This is the setting of the book, and the person of Volk.

Ghelfi said he continues to go back to Russia. It has similar problems to the U.S. His current book, Volk's Shadow, is a distorted look at us. Russia has a terrible terrorism problem. During the 1990s, and the Chechen Wars, there were apartment blasts, subway blasts, and people killed. In 1995, Russia sent tanks into Chechnya and obliterated it. It made the problem worse. Volk's Shadow deals with terrorism, and an oil company that is blown up. Volk has to discover who did it.

Brent Ghelfi went on to say that Putin discovered that the person who controls the pipelines controls everything. Russia has been aggressive in Chechnya because there's a major pipeline there. They want to control the distribution of oil.

One other theme of the book is based on the Rostov Ripper, who brutally murdered 52 people in a ten to fifteen year spree. The authorities turned a blind eye to the similarities of the crimes, denying there was a serial killer operating in Russia. The police in Russia were political enforcers rather than criminal investigators. Finally, they caught someone, and executed him, but they had put someone else to death for the crimes earlier, and the murders continued. So, they actually put two people to death for the killings. In Volk's Shadow, Volk has to deal with similar murders. He explores all those old issues, since he was a Communist and a member of the Secret Service. He's questioning what's happening, and his role.

Ghelfi said the Volk series is not published in Russia. It is published in countries all along the border, but not in Russia itself. Volk's Game was optioned six months ago for a movie. But, lots of books are optioned, and the movies are never made. He does think the Volk movies might succeed right now because of the darkness of the character. Dark movies are popular lately, and the grainy, fast pace would work. Ghelfi's agent said they should have a script by the end of the year. Volk is a terrific character, but the hesitation might come because Hollywood is ethnocentric. They like American settings and characters.

He was asked if the thriller genre was appropriate for the current times. Brent said in the early to mid-80's, with MTV, television went from leisurely to fast-paced. Readers expect what they read to mirror that. Even literary authors, such as Cormac McCarthy, have gone to faster paced books. His book, The Road was an Oprah selection, so it's accessible. Ghelfi said the best thrillers are literary, and have subtext.

Ghelfi said he couldn't write about Russia without writing about violence. The most ruthless, brutal men took over companies after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many were ex-KGB. Members of the First Chief Directorate were sophisticated men who spoke multiple languages, and, since they were responsible for foreign operations and intelligence, they had contacts in other countries. Many became billionaires from oil. Kidnapping is common in Russia. Criminals learned on the ground that often a dead body is worth more than a live one after a kidnapping because the burial rituals are important, and they can ask more money. Rape, murder and theft were common in Chechnya. We like to think it happened years ago with the Nazis or Stalin, but this is still happening in our time. Putin's response to Georgia was to roll tanks into the country. That's the same response Hitler had to Czechoslovakia, and Putin used the same excuse, Russians in Georgia were not being treated well.

How did Ghelfi get into writing? He was always a huge reader. He read all his life, since he was a kid. He had a break after selling a company. He wrote a medical thriller that never sold, although Hollywood is looking at it now.

Brent Ghelfi has a contract for two more Volk books. The next one, called The VENONA Cable, has been sent to his editor. It arises out of World War II, and cables that went to New York and Moscow. The Americans broke the code, and continued the program working with code until 1980. Ghelfi referred us to the National Security Agency's website for information about the actual VENONA story. That site says, "On 1 February 1943 the U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service, a forerunner of the National Security Agency, began a small, very secret program, later codenamed VENONA. The original object of the VENONA program was to examine, and possibly exploit, encrypted Soviet diplomatic communications. These messages had been accumulated by the Signal Intelligence Service (later renamed the U.S. Army Signal Security Agency and commonly called "Arlington Hall" after the Virginia location of its headquarters) since 1939 but had not been studied previously. American analysts discovered that these Soviet communications dealt with not only diplomatic subjects but also espionage matters." The next Volk book is about a dead body found on Volk's property, with a cable.

He went on to discuss the codebreakers and spies. Julius Rosenberg was definitely guilty of the crimes he was executed for, spying and sending information to Russia. He discussed Churchill's visit to the U.S. to discuss a second front in Europe, and Stalin knew the answer because officer sent the information from New York. The codebreakers in Arlington Hall in Virginia dealth with 3000 cables.

The fourth Volk book will deal with college age students murdered in Russia. Ghelfi has that one outlined.

In response to a question, he said he doesn't speak Russian, but he fell in love with the Russian authors, and read them. He said he receives comments sent from his publishers blogs, but he can't read German or other languages, so he can't send those readers appropriate answers.

There's a lot going on in the Volk thrillers, and they're fast-paced. Readers can read them for the action and the pace. Or they can read them on a deeper level, for the history, culture and information about modern day Russia. Brent Ghelfi said Volk is very good and very evil, trying to navigate his own life, and reconcile his sides, trying to learn who he is.

Brent Ghelfi? He's an outstanding speaker, and talented thriller writer. We're lucky to have the author of Volk's Game and Volk's Shadow here in the Valley. We're very lucky he was willing to speak for Authors @ The Teague.

Brent Ghelfi's website is

Volk's Shadow by Brent Ghelfi. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., ©2008. ISBN 9780805082555 (hardcover), 320p.

Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., ©2007. ISBN 9780805082548 (hardcover), 320p.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Love That Dog

I consider myself so lucky that I have the chance to pull books for displays and holds at the library. I stumble across some of the most interesting books. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech counts as one of those fascinating books. I found it on the shelves in our juvenile department, and it's probably designed for ages 11 and up.

Jack's a student in Miss Stretchberry's class, where they're studying poetry. He doesn't want to write poetry, because boys don't write poetry; girls do. And, throughout the book, Jack writes to his teacher, telling her about his attempts to write, attempts that improve over the course of the book, and become enjoyable attempts at poems. Each of Jack's notes is in the form of a poem, and the poems change depending on the current lessons. The reader can follow Jack's progress, and the lessons, while only seeing Jack's comments. To older readers, it's obvious the class has studied poems by Robert Frost, William Blake. And, finally, they study Walter Dean Myers, an author Jack loves enough to write to, following the urging of Miss Stretchberry.

Love That Dog is a wonderful book, whether or not the reader loves poetry. Creech succeeds on so many levels. Readers find out Jack's story as the book evolves. Jack's teacher is a wise woman, as evidenced by Jack's own writing. And, the book shows the power of poetry to change people.

For those of us who don't recognize all of the poems, Creech includes the poems studied by Jack and his classmates. I loved Jack, his poems, and his wise, unseen teacher. I can't wait to read the other Jack book, Hate That Cat.

Sharon Creech's website is

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. HarperCollins Children's Books, ©200l. ISBN 9780060292874 (hardcover), 112p.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Brent Ghelfi Appearing for Authors @ The Teague

Brent Ghelfi, author of the thrillers, Volk's Shadow and Volk's Game will discuss his books at the Velma Teague Library on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 2 PM in the latest program in the Authors @ The Teague series.

Colonel Alexei Volkovoy, a covert agent of the Russian Army and major player in the Moscow underworld, is the featured character in these timely thrillers.

In the latest book, Volk's Shadow, an international cabal drives Volk back to Chechnya, where he confronts an old enemy and reunites with his lost love.

Brent Ghelfi has served as a clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals, been a partner in a Phoenix-headquartered law firm, and now owns and operates several businesses. He has traveled extensively in Russia, and lives in Phoenix.

Ghelf's books will be available for purchase on Saturday. The Velma Teague Library is at 7010 N. 58th Ave. Call 623-390-3431 for information.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Autographed Mystery Contest

This week, I'm running a contest for two autographed mysteries. When Michael Bowen and Larry Karp appeared at Velma Teague, I bought books and had them autographed. So, you have a chance to win autographed books this week.

If you'd like to read a "plucky couple" mystery, Michael Bowen's Putting Lipstick on a Pig might be just the book for you. No one mourns the death of lawyer Vance Hayes, but Rep and Melissa Pennyworth find the death is connected to Milwaukee's Hmong community.

Or, you could win the first in Larry Karp's Ragtime series, The Ragtime Kid.
The historical mystery introduces Brun Campbell, the boy who ran away to Sedalia, Missouri to study with Scott Joplin, only to find a body his first night in town.

So, Putting Lipstick on a Pig, or The Ragtime Kid? You can enter to win both, but you need to send two entries. 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, either Win "Lipstick" or Win "Ragtime". Your message should include your name and mailing address. Entries in the U.S. only, please.

The contest will close on Thursday, Nov. 20 at 6 PM MT when Jim draws the names. The books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

And, don't forget, you can still enter the contest for five Holiday Entertaining books. Check the blog entry on Nov. 6 for details.

Larry Karp & Michael Bowen for Authors @ The Teague

Mystery authors Larry Karp and Michael Bowen recently appeared for the Authors @ The Teague series at the Velma Teague Library. Larry Karp

kicked off the program.

Karp's recent book is The King of Ragtime. One hundred years ago, Scott Joplin and Irving Berlin both called themselves "The King of Ragtime." Berlin's big hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," was written in 1911. Scott Joplin moved to New York City in 1907, wanting to legitimize ragtime. He wrote an opera, "Treemonisha", and couldn't get it published. He submitted it to Irving Berlin's publishing company, but it was rejected. When Joplin heard "Alexander's Ragtime Band," he said it was his song. The opening of his song, "A Real Slow Drag" sounds like "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Was it plagiarized? Years later, Joplin's widow said he had to rewrite it before publishing so he didn't get accused of plagiarism.

Between 1911 and 1916, Joplin was sick with cerebral syphilis. It was a disease that affected the brain, and people died slowly. Judgement went. There were mood swings, and tremors. Joplin died in 1917.

Karp said he isn't a musician, but he reads ragtime history. He said before he died Joplin was working on a musical drama called "If." Karp questioned what was "If" about. He needed a link for The King of Ragtime. So, he said, what would have happened if Joplin submitted the drama to Irving Berlin. He said it was unlikely that a black man in 1911 would have succeeded in getting an opera or drama published. Joplin was poor, and taught students. So, he created a student for Joplin, Martin Niederhoffer, who was also a bookkeeper at Berlin's company. What would happen if he asked Joplin to submit it, and offered to act as watchdog? It could be an ideal situation for murder. Joplin or Berlin? Who really was The King of Ragtime?

The first book in the series, The Ragtime Kid, came about because Karp was reading history. It's a fact that a white music store owner in Sedalia, Missouri offered to publish "The Maple Street Rag" in 1899. What induced John Stark to offer a royalties contract to a black composer at that time? Nothing in history explains it. Karp said he takes a known history, and where there are holes, fills it with fiction to explain what might have happened. The Ragtime Kid was a real person. In 1899, a fifteen-year-old white boy hopped a freight train because he had to have lessons from Scott Joplin. History leaves us puzzles. This is not history, but historical fiction.

When asked about his background, Larry Karp said as a kid he lived in New York, and liked to write. But, in the 1950s, you didn't tell your parents you wanted to be a writer. They had a family physician who was a friend, and a legendary doctor. He made lifesaving diagnosis, so Karp decided to become a doctor. He did alright, bu he really wanted to write. So, fourteen years ago, he left medical work and began to write. He started a mainstream novel about a music box collector,, but his protagonist kept getting killed early in the book. Finally a friend said, why don't you write it as a mystery. The book became The Music Box Murders. He went on to write a couple more music box books.

Karp wrote a book called First, Do No Harm, with a medical setting. It was about a legendary doctor with a character flaw.

He said he wrote The Ragtime Kid about the birth of ragtime. The King of Ragtime is about the death of ragtime. His third book in the series will be about the beginning of the ragtime revival in 1951.

Karp said characters drive his books, and they won't follow outlines. There was a ceremony in Sedalia in 1951, with a plaque to honor Scott Joplin. There's a kid who wants to learn from the Ragtime Kid, Joplin's student. What if the KKK wanted to blow up the high school during the ceremony? Karp said in doing the research, he was in a restaurant in Canada, and he asked a contractor he was with, how would you blow up this place. So, they discussed the dynamite needed, and the plans. When he got to Customs, he realized he had notes as to how to blow up Hubbard High School. He didn't know if he should rip out the page, and eat his notes. Then he saw the cameras. He said fortunately he and his wife seemed like an innocent older couple, so they just let them through.

Karp said he thinks of the characters first when he writes, then begins to write the story, until he hits a road block. He works through the first draft, trying to get the story down. Then he rewrites, and the story comes through. In the movie, "Finding Forrester", Sean Connery's character tells a student, "Write the first draft with your heart, and then you get your head to work." That's how Karp does it.

Some of his research was done in Sedalia, in local histories and local libraries. He said the Sedalia Carnegie Library has histories of the town and people in a locked cabinet. One was just a three page manuscript, "Sights and Sounds of Sedalia". He uses 1 to 2% of what he finds, just to advance the story, and show the setting better.

When he wrote the first music box book, Karp was lucky enough to sit down with his editor. She told him I'm sure this is fascinating to music box collectors, but it's boring to me. So, he learned to cut scenes when they don't advance the story. He doesn't want to overuse his research. He said the web is terrific for research. They have census figures that can tell him about his characters, and who they lived with. Since he's not a musician, he attended ragtime festivals.

Larry Karp learned to write in the morning, when it seems to flow. His writing is very cinematic. He sees the action as he his the keys. He writes for four hours, has lunch, takes a walk to clear his head, and then will either write more, or work on promotions of work, and research. He writes regularly.

Michael Bowen said he writes what he calls a "Plucky couple series." Plucky couples include Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Nick and Nora Charles, or Jerry and Pam North.

Bowen attended Harvard Law School, and made history when his class elected the first woman as President of the Harvard Law Review. He referred to the recent election, and the so-called Bradley effect, and said with the law school election, they had the choice of voting for a man, or making history by voting for a woman. Bowen is a trial lawyer, but he doesn't put his clients' problems into the books. He writes about the emotional effects. He said he once had a death threat, but his law partners said one death threat in 32 years meant he wasn't working hard enough. At the time, they didn't have separate extensions. The receptionist told him he'd had an interesting message. It said, "Your contract will be terminated in 30 days." As a good lawyer, he contacted the FBI, who listened and said they wouldn't take any action unless something happened. As he was crossing the parking lot that night, he thought, this is what it feels like.

Bowen's characters, Rep and Melissa Pennyworth, are married and deeply in love. Rep went into Trademark & Copyright Law because he wanted a nice, quiet predictable practice. His mother was arrested for murder when he was just fifteen months old. His wife, Melissa, is, by the time of the current book, Shoot the Lawyers Twice, an Assistant Professor of English Lit. When the series began, she was studying. The book is set in Milwaukee because she's now in a tenure track position.

Michael Bowen said his characters are "plucky couples" because, in his opinion, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers is the greatest mystery ever written, and he admires Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. By the time of the Jerry and Pam North mysteries, the female half of the "plucky couples" had become unappealing. In the later incarnations, such as the Norths and Nick and Nora Charles, the female role was to stumble across the corpse and get herself into mortal danger so she could be rescued. And, she often triggers a clue for the male.

In Bowen's books, Melissa is a strong character. He avoids some of the techniques used in writing about women detectives now. Quite often, they have family members who taught them how to shoot, defend themselves, etc. That's not really common. And, Melissa misses when shooting at someone, and makes fun of herself.

Bowen said he had fun with his books. You should have fun writing and reading. He uses banter, wordplay and satire. He has poked fun at academic political correctness, and did a send up of the mystery/thriller genre.

What made Bowen start writing mysteries? He tried his first jury trial in 1978. It was a small case, but the jury took it seriously, and they were out for a day and a half. He couldn't concentrate on anything while waiting for the verdict. Bowen wasn't raised to think much of mysteries. He picked one up, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. When reading a master, you normally don't say, that's a masterpiece. You say, they make it look easy. So, Bowen thought, "I can do this." His first book was very derivative, and no one will ever see it. But, he found his voice, and something to write about. Bowen said the point of his plucky couple mysteries is to have fun.

His next book might be called Standard Duty Blues. It's a military term from the Naval Academy. He's talking to his editor, Barbara Peters, from Poisoned Pen Press, about the book. He's been very happy with Kill the Lawyers Twice. Bowen said Barbara Peters is the most wonderful editor to work with.

Michael Bowen said his first book, Can't Miss, was about the first woman to play Major League Baseball. He said none of his books have been bestsellers, and not even midlist. He writes stuff that critics like, and people buy, but it doesn't make him famous.

Here's what it's like to be in his category. He was sent a slide of the cover art of the middle book in a five book series. And, he told his editor he didn't like the art. The editor said that was too bad, but they weren't changing it because the artist had been paid. He asked why they sent him the cover for approval. She said it wasn't for approval. They were just being polite.

He also had a title he really liked, but the editor said the sales team didn't like it. He said but he wanted the title. And she said when it's sales vs. talent, sales wins.

Michael Bowen said he writes when he can. His partners play golf. He doesn't play golf; he writes while they golf. He found that he has to stop before he wants to stop writing, so the next time he can pick right up. He ended the program appropriately. You'll find time to write if you want to.

Larry Karp and Michael Bowen were the latest authors to appear for Authors @ The Teague.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quotation of the Day

Thanks to for the following quote.

Quotation of the Day

'The Library Has Always Been a Window to a Larger World'
"More than a building that houses books and data, the library has always been a window to a larger world--a place where we've always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward. . . . .

"Libraries remind us that truth isn't about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information. Because even as we're the most religious of people, America's innovative genius has always been preserved because we also have a deep faith in facts.

"And so the moment we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold into a library, we've changed their lives forever, and for the better. This is an enormous force for good."--President-elect Barack Obama in a speech at the American Library Association annual conference in June 2005.

As a librarian, I appreciate his comments about the library. And, as the daughter of parents who shared their love of books, and libraries, I'm glad Barack Obama shares books with his children. Unfortunately, he won't get a chance to share public libraries with them.

This is a family, and a father, that values reading. Michelle Obama told the story of our President-Elect reading all of the Harry Potter books with his daughter. As the daughter of reading parents, I can appreciate how important that is, an example of parents reading, and caring about sharing it.

My parents both read to me, and my sisters. Mom taught us to read, and spent time with flashcards, vocabulary words, and readers. And, although this verse actually reads "mother," I treasure it all the more because my mother made me this pillow, with a picture of my father and me, and changed the verse.

"Richer than me, You will never be. I had a Father who read to me."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wesley the Owl

Stacey O'Brien's beautiful animal story, Wesley the Owl, is subtitled "The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl." And, it truly is a heartbreaking, remarkable story.

Wesley was only four days old, a barn owl with an injured wing with nerve damage, when Stacey O'Brien was urged to adopt him. She was working at Caltech, where there was a great deal of research going on with barn owls in an environment that celebrated the playfulness and inquisitive nature of the birds. O'Brien said there were so many owls on the loose that it was a lot like working at Hogwarts.

She was warned, "To that which you tame, you owe your life," and she took it seriously. For nineteen years, she and Wesley lived together, learning about each other. She studied and loved him, while he communicated with her, adored her, and chose her as his mate.

As a biologist, O'Brien writes detailed stories of owls and other animal studies. Even so, she has a gift for making those stories interesting to the layperson. But, it's her observations of her beloved Wesley that are so enjoyable. How could anyone read his bathtub scenes without smiling?

Readers who love true animal stories of bonding between humans and animals, will appreciate the beauty of the relationship between Wesley and Stacey O'Brien. It's hard not to laugh, and, finally mourn, with this special gift they shared. O'Brien has shared the gift of Wesley's life with readers in this fascinating book, Wesley the Owl.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien. Free Press, ©2008. ISBN 9781416551737 (hardcover), 240p.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Twice Buried

Are you a fan of police procedurals? Or, do you read mystery series for the continuing characters? Do you prefer your mysteries with descriptive settings? You can read Steven F. Havill's third Posadas County mystery, Twice Buried, and it will satisfy all of those requirements.

Undersheriff Bill Gastner is back in Posadas County, a New Mexico border county. Since 86-year-old Anna Hocking was known for crying wolf when she called the sheriff's department, Gastner didn't hurry in response to a late night call. When he did arrive, he found her dead at the foot of the cellar steps. It could have been an accident, but something about the scene bothered Gastner, and he wanted to poke around a little more.

While working that case, he went to the house of another senior, Reuben Fuentes, 94, and the great-uncle of Gastner's former deputy Estelle Reyes-Guzman. Reuben's story of poisoned dogs, and his run-in with a realtor leave Gastner uneasy, but things escalate when Reuben becomes a murder suspect. The only thing Gastner can do is request Estelle's help in dealing with her uncle.

Havill's mysteries capture the importance of relationships and connections in police work in small communities. They vividly portray the harsh living conditions in this desert area. But, Havill's greatest strength is in his characters, particularly Gastner and Reyes-Guzman. If you get caught up in their business, you'll return again and again to this series. Twice Buried is only the third book. There are more exciting Posadas County mysteries to come.

Twice Buried by Steven F. Havill. Poisoned Pen Press, published 2000. ISBN 9781890208462 (paperback), 193p.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

America The Promise Land

I haven't talked politics much on this blog; I reserve that for my personal blog, My Moments in Time. But, this expresses my feelings so well. I know; it's corny. But, I've cried more with happiness and hope during the last couple weeks. I even cried today when Bob Schieffer did his commentary on Face the Nation. No matter how you voted, I wish you hope for the country.

Sunday Salon - New Mystery Discoveries

A friend of mine just had an interesting entry about historical mysteries on her blog, Patti's Pen and Picks. Patti loves historical mysteries. My preference lately has been for police procedurals. Her blog entry made me think about my own reading, and the mystery discoveries I made this year.

I read some outstanding mysteries, and I'm sure I'll finish out the year with some intriguing ones. But, what mystery series did I discover for the first time? Out of all of the books I've read so far, I know I'll be returning to four series.

Leighton Gage introduced readers to Mario Silva in Blood of the Wicked. Silva is Chief Inspector of the Federal Police in Brazil, a position that allows him to travel throughout the country. This series is a little more brutal than many I read, but very realistic as to the political and social conditions in Brazil. I'm looking forward to the next one, due out in January, Buried Strangers.

Julie Hyzy's White House Chef mysteries are certainly appropriate right now, with the Presidential election, and all eyes on Washington. This year, she introduced readers to Ollie Paras, who was an assistant chef in State of the Onion. In December, Ollie returns in Hail to the Chef, another mystery that takes us behind the scenes and inside the White House kitchen.

Set in Vancouver, Sandra Ruttan's What Burns Within was a police procedural that introduced three fascinating officers, with their own baggage. The constables are back in the sequel, The Frailty of Flesh. It's already available, burning a hole in my TBR pile.

And, what can I say about Steven F. Havill? I was lucky enough to discover his Posadas County mystery series this year because I was asked to review the latest book, The Fourth Time Is Murder for Mystery News. Fortunately, that is the fifteenth book in a series set in a New Mexico border county. This is a series with a terrific cast of characters, another police procedural. I've already gone back to read the first three, and I'm waiting for the fourth one now.

It's great to have discovered three new authors, along with a new to me author with a whole set of books. It's almost a gift to myself when I discover a new mystery series.

So, those are my new discoveries; Gage, Hyzy, Ruttan and Havill. Three police procedurals. Books set in Brazil, Washington, D.C., Vancouver, and New Mexico. If you're a mystery reader, have you discovered any new series this year? Pass them on!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

'Tis the Season!

No, I'm not jumpstarting the Christmas season with Lorna Landvik's 'Tis the Season! Although the climax of Landvik's latest novel is in December, it's a story that covers five months, and a lifetime of change.

It's a book that won't suit every reader, since it's told through email. And, for quite a while, the reader isn't even sure who some of the email writers are. But, Landvik brings the writers together, through one character.

Caroline Dixon (Caro) is a poor little rich girl. At twenty-six, she's a wealthy heiress, one of those women famous for having money, and nothing else. She drinks too much, and has been caught in the media drinking and making a mess of her life. She's a favorite target of gossip rags, particularly the "Here's Buzz" column in Star Gazer magazine. When Caro's snarky apology letter is printed in the column, her friends turn on her, and she reaches a new low.

From her past, she has two old friends, Astrid, a former nanny, now living in Norway, and Cyril, the owner of a dude ranch in Arizona, who remember her as a troubled thirteen-year-old. As Caro struggles with her problems, these two reach out, first to Caro, and then to others.

Caro is a pitiful character at the start of 'Tis the Season!, right out of today's tabloids. However, Astrid and Cyril know the pain that brought Caro to her present lifestyle. Landvik slowly unwraps secrets, Caro's, Astrid's, and Cyril's, to reveal three people who have been hurt by life. Beneath those secrets are special people, whose lives are gifts to each other, and to other people.

The ending to Landvik's story might seem a little pat, but 'Tis the Season! for those magical, enjoyable endings.

'Tis the Season! by Lorna Landvik. Ballantine Books, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-345-49975-2 (hardcover), 226p.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Every Crooked Nanny

There was a time in the last century, when Mary Kay Andrews, who is now known for her books featuring two divorced women in Savannah, Georgia, wrote the Callahan Garrity mysteries under the name Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

Every Crooked Nanny was the first mystery featuring the woman who left the Atlanta Police Department to become a private detective, but ended up running House Mouse, a cleaning service. If you love an eccentric cast of characters, or appreciate the humor of Janet Evanovich, try Every Crooked Nanny. Poor Callahan is the straight man (really woman), to her mother, Edna Mae, a three-pack-a-day smoker with blue hair; Neva Jean, an excellent cleaner in a disastrous relationship, and two tiny black women, Sister and Baby Easterbrook. Put this oddball cast together, and they are soon in deep in a case involving a client's nineteen-year-old nanny who disappeared, along with her jewelry, silver, and real estate papers. Love triangles, crooked deals and scams, and dead bodies are par for the course for the House Mouse crew.

There were eight books in the Callahan Garrity series, beginning with Every Crooked Nanny, a mystery that was nominated for the Anthony and Macavity awards. Trocheck, who was a journalist, also wrote two books featuring Truman Kicklighter, a retired reporter, before she "became" Mary Kay Andrews and moved on. Even so, this earlier series featuring the House Mouse staff is worth checking out.

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

Mary Kay Andrews' website is

Every Crooked Nanny by Kathy Hogan Trocheck. Avon Books, ©1992. ISBN 0-06-109170-7 (paperback), 326p.

Larry Karp & Michael Bowen for Authors @ The Teague

The Velma Teague Library will be hosting two crime novelists, Larry Karp and Michael Bowen, on Wed., Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. as part of the Authors @ The Teague series. Both authors have just released novels that they will discuss, and sign.

Larry Karp's latest book is The King of Ragtime. Karp takes the reader back to

Manhattan in 1916, when a dying Scott Joplin wrote his final masterpiece. Joplin gets tangled up in murder, after storming out of a meeting with Irving Berlin.

Michael Bowen will discuss his mysteries, including his latest one, Shoot the Lawyer Twice. It's the latest in his series featuring Rep Pennyworth, a trademark and copyright lawyer, and his English professor wife, Melissa. Spend some time with the
characters known as a current incarnation of Nick and Nora Charles.

Best of all, spend some time at the latest Authors @ The Teague program, at the Velma Teague Library, 7010 N. 58th Avenue. The authors will speak and sign books, beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12. Call 623-939-3431 for more details.