Sunday, February 28, 2010

April Hot Titles

This is only my list of forthcoming April titles that I think might be hot, possibilities for the bestseller lists. Do you have suggestions that didn't make my Treasures in the Closet list or the Hot Titles? I'd love to know your picks.

Meanwhile, here are ones you might want to order at your local bookstore or reserve at your public library.

Shaw, the shadowy operative from David Baldacci's The Whole Truth, returns in Deliver Us from Evil. A photojournalist, kidnapped and put on a plane, will come together with Shaw, as they face a surprising enemy.

Nowhere to Run is C.J. Box' latest Joe Pickett novel. Pickett is in his last week as the temporary game warden in Baggs, Wyoming. But, it's a strange week, with investigations of reports of looting, tent slashing, elk butchering, and a missing Olympic runner. If Pickett isn't careful, it might be not only his last week as a game warden, but also his last week of life.

Jim Butcher's Changes is the book I'm most excited about reading. I'm a big Harry Dresden fan. In Changes, Harry's former lover, Susan, is featured. She fled to South America to escape the vampires of the Red Court, but a duchess of the Red Court has discovered Susan's secret, and plans to use it against Harry.

Ty Hauck is a former police officer, now working for a global security firm. When there's a shocking triple murder in Greenwich, Connecticut, Ty is drawn into the case, since he knew the wife years earlier. His investigation brings up a number of uncomfortable questions for the dead man's firm, as well as Ty's security company, and the local police force. It's Reckless by Andrew Gross.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest completes the late Stieg Larsson's trilogy. Lisbeth Salander "lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders." However, there are people working behind the scenes to prove her innocence.

There's an inviting cover for Debbie Macomber's latest book, Hannah's List. On the anniversary of his wife, Hannah's death, Dr. Michael Everett receives an unexpected letter from her. She wants him to marry again, and gives him the choice of three women she considers perfect for him.

The Women's Murder Club returns in The 9th Judgment by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. A deranged killer is targeting women and children. And, Lindsay will be forced to put her life on the line before the investigation is over.

Douglas J. Preston and Lincoln Child team up again for Fever Dream. While sorting possessions following his wife's death, Special Agent Pendergast learns she was murdered, and uncovers secrets from her past.

Savor the Moment, the third book in Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet series, features Laurel McBane, the wedding baker. She's had a long infatuation with her best friend's brother, but the lawyer only views her as another sister.

John Sandford's latest, Storm Prey, finds Lucas Davenport's wife in danger. She drove into a parking garage, just as robbers fled, after robbing the hospital pharmacy and leaving a worker dead. The robbers don't know how much Weather Karkinnen saw, so they have to find and eliminate her.

Here's another of my "must-read" books, the new Monkeewrench novel by P.J. Tracy, Shoot to Thrill. Homicide cops respond to a call about the body of woman in a bridal gown found in the Mississippi River. But, it's only after the Monkeewrench crew is asked by the FBI to look at some murder videos on the web, that there's a connection between the video and the floating bride. Now, it's a race against time in an Internet search.

Jacqueline Winspear returns for Authors @ The Teague on April 7. She'll be discussing the latest Maisie Dobbs novel, The Mapping of Love and Death. Michael Clifton was mapping the land he has just purchased in California when war was declared in 1914, and the cartographer went to serve in the British army. He was declared missing in 1917, and now his parents ask Maisie to find the mysterious nurse who wrote love letters to Michael. When it becomes an investigation into Michael's murder, Maisie finds herself in danger.

Now, I know there's something here to entice you! What else are you waiting for in April?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

April Treasures in My Closet

March looked like a crime fiction month, with a number of interesting titles. The April pile in my closet is once again dominated by crime fiction. Hopefully, you'll find a book or two to entice you. Place your holds now at your public library, or preorder the books from your favorite bookstore.

Within the Hollow Crown is actually a rerelease of an older title by Margaret Campbell Barnes. It's the story of "a much-maligned king," Richard II. The back of the book says, "A reluctant king, a desperate nation, and the most misunderstood reign in history." I always loved Barnes' historical novels. I never read this one, so it should be a treat.

A couple books actually have March 30 release dates, and Glazed Murder is one of them. Close enough to April for me, since I hadn't mentioned the book before. Jessica Beck's debut Donut Shop mystery includes over a dozen donut recipes in the story of a woman whose dream of a cozy little donut shop becomes a nightmare when a body is dumped on her doorstep, and the shop becomes a crime scene. There's been a number of guesses on the Internet as to who Jessica Beck really is. (Tim Myers, anyone?)

Strange Images of Death is Barbara Cleverly's latest mystery, set in Provence in 1926. Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands is only there on leave, dropping his niece off at an ancient chateau. But, he agrees to stay and search for the guilty party. Despite his watchfulness, there are two more incidents, including a murder that recreated a 600-year-old crime of passion.

Paul Doiron debuts with The Poacher's Son. When game warden Mike Bowditch finds a message on his answering machine from the father he hasn't heard from in two years, he doesn't expect to receive a call from the police the next day. A local cop was killed, and Mike's father is the prime suspect. Mike has to find the real killer before he himself becomes a victim.

Larry Karp takes readers back to 1951 and Sedalia, Missouri, in The Ragtime Fool. It's a time of ragtime, a celebration of Scott Joplin, and racial hatred, which could explode during a ceremony to honor the musician. Larry Karp will appear for Authors @ The Teague on June 17, when he can discuss ragtime and this era.

Who wants Dr. Cathy Sewell dead? It's someone in her hometown. Local doctors resent her as a newcomer and a woman. The results of one of her prescriptions may mean the end of her practice. And, it might be Code Blue for her in Richard Mabry's book.

Jassy Mackenzie's debut crime novel is Random Violence, the first in the Jade de Jong Investigation series. Jade de Jong fled South Africa when her policeman father was killed. Now, she's back in Johannesburg, as a private investigator who offers to help her father's former assistant with a car-jacking case. The pattern that emerges could lead back to her father's murder.

When seven lifelong friends and racing fans strike it lucky, they use their winnings to buy a horse. But, seven years later, they're dying one by one. Jack Doyle, investigating criminals fixing races, starts poking around, trying to find answers to the races, and the deaths of The Significant Seven in John McEvoy's mystery by that title.

It's another numbered title, Eight for Eternity, a John the Chamberlain mystery by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer. In January 532, John, Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian must untangle a web of intrigue in Constantinople, a city ruled by mobs. The fate of the empire might be at stake.

Murder comes a little too close to home for military wife Ellie Avery in Sara Rosett's Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder. Her husband Mitch's family reunion is disrupted by news that his squadron commander is dead, and his wife is the prime suspect in his murder. A close call in a shooting incident leaves Ellie suspicious, and soon she's worried that her husband might be the next victim, if she doesn't find a killer.

Simon Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien's grandson) writes thrillers, and his latest one is The Inheritance, a story set in England in 1959. Blending history, courtroom drama, and psychological suspense, it's the story of a man on trial for the premeditated murder of his father. Even though Stephen Cade was charged, the policeman who investigated begins to suspect he might be innocent.

Did you find a title to grab your interest? I hope you'll add one of these treasures to your pile. If not, watch for tomorrow's coverage of April hot titles. I know I'll be able to tempt you with one book at least!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Memorials and Awards

This is an odd combination for a blog, but I have something else planned for Sunday, so this won't go under Sunday Tidbits. But, I did want to acknowledge some memorials in honor of Jim, and also some awards I received. Since Jim would be equally pleased with both, I'm combining them in this blog.

You don't know how humbled I've been by the number of comments, notes and memorials, from around the world in honor of Jim. There are books being given to libraries from Anchorage, Alaska to Great Britain, and, possibly, Ireland. One of his online friends, who I didn't know, ran an eBay auction to raise money for the Library for the Blind in the U.K. Libraries in a number of small towns in Ohio have received donations, money for books, or books on the U.S. Presidency. One friend in Lee County gave in his memory to the Reading Festival. One of my friends gave to the Velma Teague Library, where I work, and to the library where she lives as well. Thank you to all of my friends in the Glendale Library System, and the Lee County Library System in Florida. And, I've read beautiful comments from Jim's friends on RootZoo and FanIQ, as well as his friends from Ohio, Florida and Arizona. Thank you to every one of you for your kindness.

Since a number of donations were given to the Velma Teague Library, I wanted to mention some of the books I'm purchasing, keeping Jim's interests in mind. A friend gave The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction. One friend gave money specifically for thrillers and mysteries. I hope she'll be pleased to know I've ordered books by some of Jim's favorite authors, such as Lee Child, John Grisham, and Erica Spindler, among others. It was a pleasure to order Lee Child's 61 Hours and Cornelia Read's Invisible Boy, since we were at the Poisoned Pen when Lee introduced a new author, Cornelia.

I've ordered books on the Kennedys, one of Jim's passions. And, of course, I ordered a number of baseball books. He loved baseball history, the Tigers, the Dodgers, and I'm getting books on all of those subjects. But, I can't wait to read the book that seems the most appropriate, The Baseball Fan's Bucket List by Robert Santelli. Jim would like that one, particularly since we started our married life by honeymooning in Cooperstown and visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame. Do you think a honeymoon in Cooperstown is on that bucket list?

I still have a number of books to order, but I have to share one more title with you. If you knew Jim well, you know he thought he was the original hippie. So, I'm getting an appropriate book, Orange Sunshine by Nicholas Schour. Jim, who referred
to himself as Hippie Dippie Jim when he dressed the part, would appreciate the book. Probably his biggest regret was that he missed Woodstock, but he never missed a chance to watch or read about it.

I spent the afternoon working on a book list. It gave me a chance to remember Jim, and his interests, with pleasure. Thank you to everyone who has shared his life, his memories, and his passions.

I was off-track for most of February, so I haven't had a chance to acknowledge some honors and awards. I was so pleased to receive a notification from Judy Starbuck from the Desert Sleuths, the Arizona Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Judy said, "The Desert Sleuths chapter has selected you to be our very first Guest of Honor for Write Now V! The conference...will be held on August 14 at the Stonecreek Country Club. We have a fabulous group of speakers and each year the conference seems to get bigger and more exciting. We would like to acknowledge your contributions to the book community, both local and national. Your website allow us to attend author talks through your thorough descriptions on Lesa's Book Critiques. You also introduce new books and authors on DorothyL and support the community with signings at Velma Teague." I'm looking forward to the conference. Thank you to all of those wonderful members of Desert Sleuths!

Just a couple days ago, Lesa's Book Critiques was named by the Court Reporter blog as one of the 50 Best Blogs for Crime & Mystery Book Lovers. Thank you!

And, a final honor. Love this one! GalleyCat Reviews named me one of the Best Book Reviewers on Twitter! They said, "Twitter has become a new home for book reviewers, as they share recommendations, spread links, and review books in 140-character bursts. To celebrate this new kind of criticism, GalleyCat Reviews is building a directory of the best book review content on Twitter.

We've collected these writers in a handy Twitter list, but after the jump, you can explore our growing collection of reviewers--they are listed alphabetically with links to each feed."

Jim and I shared a passion for books and authors. He pushed me to continue to do better with my blog, and with Twitter. Thank you to everyone who has acknowledged that shared love of books, with your gifts, your awards, and your honors. I'm very grateful.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winners and the Lighter Side

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Sheila C. of Columbia, MD won the ARC of Lisa Jackson's Chosen to Die. Timothy Hallinan's Breathing Water goes to Gaye M. from Saint Peters, MO. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

After a thriller contest, it's time to offer books from the lighter side of the crime fiction genre. Donna Andrews' Swan for the Money is a nominee for is a finalist for the 2009 Agatha Award for Best Novel, and a finalist for the 2010 Lefty Award. The eleventh Meg Langslow mystery finds Meg's parents in the highly competitive world of rose growing and showing. Meg thought it was a nice, safe hobby for her parents, but it's a cutthroat world, and everyone in that world is a suspect when Meg uncovers a body.

Robert Randisi brings back the Rat Pack in You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Kills You. Sands Casino pit boss Eddie Gianelli is recruited to help Marilyn Monroe, who thinks she's being followed. When a buddy has to help with the case, the private investigator goes missing. The series that brings readers Frank, Dean, and the rest of the Rat Pack, combines entertainment, nostalgia, and mystery.

You can win Swan for the Money or You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Kills You. You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries for each. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either, Win "Swan" or Win "Somebody Kills You." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, March 4 at 6 p.m. MT. The winners will be drawn by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Shield of Duty by Scarlett Dean

If you like your police procedurals with a paranormal element, check out the Frost Sisters mysteries by Scarlett Dean. The sisters were introduced in Invisible Shield, the story of the murder of homicide detective Lindsay Frost. With the help of her sister, Kate, she solved that murder. But, Lindsay can't move on. Both sisters have a Shield of Duty, as shown in the second book.

Kate's now a homicide detective in the same police force in Southfield Heights, Indiana. She's dating her partner, but takes a skiing vacation with friends one weekend. The return home is disrupted by a blizzard, and a murder. And, Kate has to show she's a detective first, not a vacationing friend. Fortunately, she has Lindsay to help.

Logically, Lindsay should have been able to move on after solving her own murder, since a spirit moves on when unresolved issues are resolved. But, Lindsay still has her detective badge as a death tag. Now, she finds she wants to help her sister, but she's also able to help other spirits with their own cases. Once a detective, always a detective, even in the afterlife.

There's a minor problem with repetition at the beginning of the book, but my copy was an advanced reader's copy, and that might have been resolved in the final edition. However, that's a minor flaw in an otherwise intriguing mystery. It's interesting to watch both sisters grow in their own confidence in their abilities, no matter what world they're in. There's humor, as well as the relationship between sisters. But, don't think sisters, a spirit, and humor equal a cute mystery. Scarlett Dean has written another gritty mystery, a police procedural with characters that can solve crimes in any world, this life, or the next. Shield of Duty shows that the Frost sisters are never off duty.

Scarlett Dean's website is

Shield of Duty by Scarlett Dean. Five Star, ©2010. ISBN 978-1594148552 (hardcover), 278p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me this review copy, hoping I would review it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Award this year for When You Reach Me, a book that serves as a mystery, an historical novel, and the story of a lost young girl.

In 1978, Miranda lives with her mother in New York City. She relates the story of four letters that changed her life. They were letters that scared her, indicating that someone was watching her, someone who could predict the future, although the events followed closely enough on the heels of the notes that Miranda remembered the predictions.

At twelve, Miranda's life is changing. She lost her best friend, Sal, on a day when he was punched in the stomach as they walked home from school together. Sal turned his back on her, spending his time playing basketball with other boys. So, Miranda picked up a new friend, Annemarie, when Annemarie had a fight with her friend, Julia. At the same time, Miranda gets to know Marcus, the boy who hit Sal. Her mother, a paralegal, is practicing for her chance on a game show, The 20,000 Pyramid. And, Richard, her mother's boyfriend for two years, would like to move in, but her mother is stalling.

Miranda is a lost soul, hanging on to the story of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, as one friend she can count on. She's not prepared for that book to be the favorite of her enemy. And, she's not prepared for the tragic accident that will hint at the answers to her questions about the four notes, left anonymously.

Rebecca Stead's book, designed for readers from nine to twelve, holds secrets. And, the secret of the strange "laughing man" on the corner was a surprise. However, despite the unusual mystery and the time travel element introduced by the inclusion of A Wrinkle in Time, somehow I missed the quality that made this book a Newbery winner. Or, perhaps it's just me. I enjoyed the book and the mysterious element, but I'm afraid this book didn't excite me as much as I had hoped it would. Even so, When You Reach Me is a book that will last in bookstores and libraries, due to the Newbery Award.

Have you read When You Reach Me? Does Stead's new book belong with the other Newbery winners? And, as I said, it could just be that it didn't excite me as much as A Wrinkle in Time.

Rebecca Stead's website is

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Random House Children's Books, ©2009. ISBN 9780385737425 (hardcover), 199p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shot to Death by Stephen D. Rogers

There are some times in life when a collection of short stories is perfect. Stephen D. Rogers' Shot to Death is an unusual crime fiction collection, so it was just what I needed this week, something intriguing enough to capture my attention, but a book I could pick up and put down.

In fact, Rogers, himself, recommends that readers read Shot to Death in bits and pieces. In his introduction, he says, "If you can, try not to read this book all in one sitting. I don't want to leave you riddled by riddles and murder and mayhem. Instead, pause at the given breaks and reflect on the implications of what happened."

Shot to Death is a collection of "31 Stories of Nefarious New England." Even better, it's a collection of stories with a twist. These are unusual stories that remind me of O. Henry's tales. There are private eyes, criminals, and hitmen. There's a five-page story in which a woman shops for a hitman at the grocery store. There are nice guy detectives, and some who are not exactly on-the-level.

If you enjoy crime short stories with a twist, try Stephen D. Rogers' Shot to Death, an escape from reality, into the "back alleys and back yards of New England."

Stephen D. Rogers' website is

Shot to Death by Stephen D. Rogers. Mainly Murder Press, ©2010. ISBN 9780982589908 (paperback), 270p.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from the author, in hopes I would review it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Agatha Award Nominees

I don't expect that I'll actually be back to posting regularly until Tuesday, after my family leaves, and I'm back to work. But, I wanted to post the Agatha Award nominees. I always enjoy knowing what authors are nominated for the various mystery awards, but these awards are ones I really appreciate. I've read many of these books, unlike the nominees for other awards. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Malice Domestic® was established in 1989. It's an annual convention held in the Washington, D.C. area, honoring the traditional mystery, which Malice describes as, "books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie." This year, it's 22nd year, it's being held April 30-May 2, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia.

A ballot listing each category's nominees is given to all attendees at the convention. Attendees vote by secret ballot; the ballots are tabulated and the winners announced at the Agatha Awards banquet, which will be held this year on Saturday, May 1, 2010.

Here are this year's Agatha Award nominees:

Best Novel:

Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett (Berkley Prime Crime)
Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime)
A Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Air Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan (MIRA)

Best First Novel:

For Better For Murder by Lisa Bork (Midnight Ink)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press)
Posed for Murder by Meredith Cole (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth Duncan (St. Martin’s Press)
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)

Best Non-fiction:

Duchess of Death by Richard Hack (Phoenix Books)
Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Knopf)
Blood on the Stage by 1925-1950 by Amnon Kabatchnik (Scarecrow Press)
Dame Agatha’s Shorts by Elena Santangelo (Bella Rosa Books)
The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar (St. Martin’s Press)

Best Short Story:

“Femme Sole” by Dana Cameron, Boston Noir (Akashic Books)
“Handbaskets, Drawers and a Killer Cold” by Kaye George, Crooked ezine
“The Worst Noel” by Barb Goffman, The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)
“On the House” by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Quarry (Level Best Books)
“Death Will Trim Your Tree” by Elizabeth Zelvin, The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)

Best Children's/Young Adult:

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Viking Juvenile)
The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)
The Case of the Poisoned Pig by Lewis B. Montgomery (Kane Press)
The Other Side of Blue by Valerie O. Patterson (Clarion Books)
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer (Philomel)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winners and a Thriller Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Blaize Clement's Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof will go to Charlotte W. of Covington, GA. Mary M. of Louisville, KY will receive Mary Logue's Point No Point.

This week, in honor of my husband, Jim, I'm giving away two thrillers. Timothy
Hallinan takes readers back to Bangkok in his latest Rafferty thriller, Breathing Water. American travel writer Poke Rafferty lives in Bangkok with his Thai wife, Rose, and their adopted daughter. Hallinan puts Rafferty in a very precarious position in this latest thriller, as he's caught between powerful men. His problems only get worse when a young friend of his daughter's needs Rafferty's help to protect an innocent village girl trapped in a baby-selling ring.

Or you could win an ARC of Lisa Jackson's Chosen to Die. Detective Regan Pescoli into the clutches of the "Star Crossed Killer", the man she's been hunting for months. Once Regan goes missing, the police and her boyfriend frantically try to find her before she becomes the madman's next victim.

So, do you want Breathing Water or Chosen to Die? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries for each. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either, Win "Breathing Water" or Win "Chosen to Die." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. MT. The winners will be drawn by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thank you

Thank you. I read every message of love and support that you sent, honoring Jim. Over 900 people stopped by yesterday to read about Jim, and his life with books. That doesn't even include the people who commented on Facebook, or sent emails directly. To me, it proves the importance of friendship, and the ability of the Internet to link us.

Jim spent a great deal of time online, not only emailing friends, but playing games such as Ogames. But, he was an active participant in sports sites, such as RootZoo and FanIQ. His love of trivia and sports, his willingness to joke and poke fun at people, including himself, and his love of a good political discussion, all came through on those sites, and so many friends have acknowledged that. Jim found friends from Berlin Heights, from over forty years ago, and they formed a community to remember their youth, and their hometown. But, they also laughed and shared life. Jim was always good at remembering the past, while acknowledging birthdays, and anniversaries, and just dropping a note when anyone needed one.

I heard from his friends. And, I heard from my friends, my coworkers from three different libraries and states. I heard from family, even when it was most difficult (thank you, Linda). There were beautiful notes from people I hadn't heard from in over twenty-five years, and it's so wonderful to make that connection again. And, I heard from authors, and librarians, and people I have met online or in person in the book community, people who are always generous in their expressions of kindness.

Thank you to everyone. Your messages made me laugh, and cry. I've read every one of them, and I'm sure I'll go back and reread them, and treasure them for your kindness. And, thank you for your generosity in giving to your public libraries, or my library, in memory of Jim.

Jim was a very humble man, who really didn't think he had made a difference in life. Those caring people who reached out, people I never knew, show how many people can be touched by one person. He had a whole separate life, apart from me, at Starbucks, as so many people know. Jim spent three hours there, every afternoon, reading his books, and making friends. Yesterday, I stood there and cried with one of their managers. I don't know what his friends there will do, but she wants to honor him with something for children and books. Even there, Jim was known as "Our Jim, the reader." It's amazing how sitting for three hours, with a book, will create friends.

So, thank you. Thank you for your gifts of friendship, for Jim, and for me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

James Arden Holstine - 1949-2010

Jim died today, at 12:30 a.m., on Presidents' Day, the perfect day for a man who loved history, particularly of the Presidency. Since I prepared this epitaph ahead of time, at his request, I'm able to make this announcement.

Jim didn't want a newspaper obituary. Instead, he asked that I write an epitaph about his love of books. Jim's parents, Harry and Joanne Holstine, were both readers, and Jim learned to read at any early age, reading the sports pages in the newspaper, sharing that love with Harry. He was always so proud that he read the greatest number of books one year for the summer reading program at the Berlin Heights (Ohio) Public Library. And, I always laughed when he told about getting in trouble for an overdue book because he loved it so much, he hid it under his bed.

Jim and I met at the Huron Public Library in 1981, soon after I returned home to be Director of my hometown library. Jim's mother sent him in, saying there was a cute new librarian at the library. And, my children's librarian, Millie Schilman, formally introduced us, saying, "This is Jim Holstine. He's one of our most prolific readers."

Over the next couple years, we talked about books, and when he went to Florida in the winter, I told Millie I missed Jim Holstine because he was the only person who got as excited about the boxes of new books as I did. We went on our first date on May 1, 1983, and married on October 1. Since we met at the Huron Library, we married in the meeting room there, and Jim even played the piano beforehand. My staff tied paperback books to the bumper of the car.

From the very beginning, books were an important part of our lives. Jim often said he didn't think we would have gotten together if we hadn't both been fond of Leo Buscaglia's books, Love and Living, Loving and Learning. When I invited him to speak at the library, Buscaglia sent me the most gracious rejection letter, which is still framed on our wall. We had no idea he had heart problems, and would die soon after writing that note.

I made Jim read Jeffrey Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, his favorite book. I never told him Archer was British, and Jim wouldn't read British authors. Ironic that Lee Child became one of his favorite authors years later, but when he first went to see him at the Poisoned Pen, he turned to me and said, "You never told me he was British." And, I said, "You never read the back flap of the book."

Jim loved Florida, and we moved there with my job, first at the Charlotte-Glades Library System, and then the Lee County Library System. He enthusiastically participated in my work there, acting as a volunteer for the Lee County Reading Festival. He was thrilled when he escorted Douglas Brinkley during the festival, and we had the chance to have lunch with Brinkley and Rick Bragg. We picked Sue Grafton up at the airport. And, he had a lengthy conversation with David Morrell, "Rambo's Father."

It was Jim who pushed me to apply for jobs, and spent a great deal of time talking on the phone with my new boss in Glendale, AZ. I think she hired me because she liked him so much. And, he encouraged me every time I worked on my blog, buying me the camera to take pictures of authors, and then a minicam. He always challenged me to be better

I took Jim to meet Brad Meltzer on his birthday. He loved meeting Lee Child, and sharing a cigarette break outside the Poisoned Pen. He met Jeffery Deaver for the first time in the restroom (they didn't shake hands - grin). We even went to see Barack Obama when he was on his book tour, and we had the chance to shake hands, and urge him to run for President. But, it was always books that brought us these opportunities.

Jim never had the chance to read Lee Child's 61 Hours. His illness was so quick that, even though Maggie Griffin, Child's webmaven, graciously sent me an ARC so Jim could get the chance to read one more book, he was never able to read it. Jim loved thrillers, books by Lee Child, James Patterson, Alex Kava, Brad Meltzer. He loved American history and big biographies, and anything about the Kennedys. Now, he'll know the answer to his favorite joke. It's about a man who dies, goes to heaven, and is told by God that he can ask him anything. The man says, "I want to know who really killed President Kennedy," and God answered, "Well, I have a theory about that." Jim's favorite joke, his favorite subject for nonfiction, and his favorite topic for theories. Now, he'll know.

Jim always loved the people I worked with, at Huron, Lee County (particularly at Rutenberg), and, here in Glendale. Someone made the comment that if you knew Lesa, you knew Jim, and, at least in the library, that was usually right. He threw my
50th birthday party with the help of the library staff.

There's one part of Jim's life I wanted to mention, unrelated to books. Jim and I shared a love of sports, and together, we enjoyed them on TV and in person. He loved Duke basketball, baseball, in recent years, the Detroit Tigers, NASCAR, thanks to a dear friend. But, we were both passionate about Ohio State football. My family always knew they could buy Jim gifts that related to Ohio State.

Jim always told people we only got married to read. And, when his father lived with us, he would walk out of his room, find us both reading, and say, "It sure is quiet out here."

Jim, you left it very quiet out here. I'm going to miss sharing books, authors, my blog, and our life. Rest in peace. I love you.

If you want to remember Jim, please donate to your local public library. And, tell them it's in memory of a man who loved books, libraries, and one librarian.

Avenging Angels by Mary Stanton

I haven't read the first two books in Mary Stanton's Beaufort & Company mystery series, but the third book, Avenging Angels, was a wonderful introduction to this original series. Anyone who enjoys the paranormal aspect to a mystery should appreciate this outstanding book.

It hasn't been long since lawyer Brianna Winston-Beaufort inherited her uncle's law practice in Savannah, a very unusual business. Bree has a staff of angels, and three unusual guard dogs to assist her in the practice. She handles appeal cases for the dead, but their murderers are very much alive, and very dangerous.

When Bree attends an auction with her actress-wannabe sister, Antonia, she touches the desk of a man who committed suicide, and hears a demand, "I want to go home." Her sister's interest in the Savannah Shakespeare Players dovetails nicely with Bree's interest in the dead man's widow, the wealthy investor in the theater group. But, Bree isn't the only one with an interest in Tully O'Rourke. A NYPD officer has followed Tully to Savannah, convinced she killed her husband. Bree's investigation leads her into danger that even her guard dogs don't suspect.

What a wonderful concept for a series! This is a solid mystery, with an investigating lawyer, and her staff. That staff just has one goal in mind, to find killers, and plead for the souls of the dead. But, Bree's new career, as a lawyer for dead souls, may have an impact on her own life. It will be fascinating to watch the development of Stanton's series.

Mary Stanton also creates wonderful characters. Bree is a wonderful protagonist, who dotes on her flaky sister, who would drive me nuts. She even drives Bree nuts at times. All of the characters, from Bree to her family, to the angels, suspects, and the needy dead man are brought vividly to life. It takes a talented writer to make readers love some characters, such as Bree and her new secretary, and contrast them with Bree's sister. Throw in Savannah as a setting, and Mary Stanton's Beaufort & Company series, and this latest book, Avenging Angels, are fascinating stories. I'll be waiting for the next one.

Avenging Angels by Mary Stanton. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2010. ISBN 9780425233092, 293p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me this book, in hopes I would review it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Salon - He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back by Mark Bechtel

If you love NASCAR, you know the names - Petty, Allison, Yarborough, Bill France, Darryl Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, and, of course, the Daytona 500. It's the perfect Sunday to discuss 1979, the year that brought NASCAR to the attention of the entire nation, not just the south. It's the Sunday of the Daytona 500, the race featured in Mark Bechtel's He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back.

Bechtel recounts the story of 1979, a memorable year for NASCAR. Kyle Petty made his debut in racing. But, it was another rookie who would go on to have a memorable career, a driver by the name of Dale Earnhardt. He introduces all of the personalities who were involved in racing that year, from the man who organized NASCAR, Bill France, to two drivers who captured the country's attention with their race, and the fight at Daytona, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. It's a history of the popular sport, told from it's early days, in a style that captures the spirit and personalities.

Why did that 1979 Daytona 500 change the sport? It was a freak of nature, a blizzard that snowed in the east coast, and a choice of three television networks. Ten million people saw a race, a wreck, and a fight, and were caught up in the excitement. Suddenly, the sport was making news outside of its southern roots.

He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back is a definitive account of the 1979 year, the drivers, NASCAR, and the Daytona 500. As a fan, I found it fascinating. I have one quibble with Bechtel's commentary though. His comment that "Harlequin has a line of NASCAR-themed bodice rippers" shows he has as little understanding of romance novels as he thinks others have of NASCAR. Despite the insult to romance readers, Mark Bechtel has brilliantly captured a moment in NASCAR history.

He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back by Mark Bechtel. Little, Brown & Company, ©2010
ISBN 9780316034029 (hardcover), 308p.

FTC Full Disclosure: Review copy received from the publisher, in hopes I would review it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Diva Paints the Town by Krista Davis

Sometimes it seems as if Sophie Winston is the only sane person in Krista Davis' The Diva Paints the Town. Thank heavens someone keeps their head during the renovation of a house, coordination of a home show, and the investigation of a couple murders.

Sophie Winston already had enough on her plate with the coordination of Rooms and Blooms, the home show in Alexandria. Then Natasha, her nemesis, ropes her into decorating a room at the late neighbor's house. Mordecai seldom had visitors, and local designers are dying to see it. That doesn't mean a designer has to die there. When Sophie's best friend, Nina, wakes her in the middle of the night, saying she killed someone, Sophie is dragged into a weird case. She finds the body, but it disappears before a suspicious police officer can see it. Who knew the world of interior design could be so deadly?

You have to admire Sophie. She copes with Natasha, a television diva that she's been competing with for years. Natasha is even living with Sophie's ex, and has her own TV show, but she suspects that Sophie is more popular and smarter than she is. And, she's right. It takes a strong woman to deal, not only with Natasha, but also with a friend who confesses to murder, and suspicions of one policeman that Sophie is responsible for the murders.

Davis' latest is an enjoyable mystery that includes decorating tips, a few pets, a unusual bequest, and recipes. And, the book has one of the wonderful covers, this one by Teresa Fasolino, that Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime is known for. Once again, Krista Davis brings us interesting, fun characters, including the man whose death kicked off all of the action in The Diva Paints the Town, the mysterious Mordecai.

Krista Davis' website is, and she blogs at

The Diva Paints the Town by Krista Davis. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2010. ISBN 9780425233443 (paperback), 293p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received my copy from the publisher, in hopes I would review the book.

Friday, February 12, 2010

February Brown Bag Luncheon

I love the brown bag luncheons when I get a chance to share some of my favorite books from the last three months. Library patrons can bring lunch, and I'll supply cookies, coffee and water, and then I talk about books! This month, for Valentine's Day, I brought cookies, and one of the patrons brought cupcakes for everyone. What a treat!

I hope they found the book discussion a treat as well. Here are the books I discussed.

Berney, Lou – Gutshot Straight (Adult Fiction) – Recommended on the Today Show, it’s a caper novel, a love story between two cons, and just a fun novel.

Brande, Robin – Fat Cat (Teen Fiction) – Cat Locke’s science fair project involves using herself as a guinea pig.

Confections of a Closet Master Baker – Gesine Bullock-Prado (92 Bullock-Prado, Gesine) – Journey from unhappy Hollywood executive to contented Vermont baker.

Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon – Mark Di Vincenzo (640 D618b) – Consumer advise at to best times to buy things and travel.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt – Beth Hoffman (Adult Fiction) The story of a young girl whose troubled life is changed one summer by a group of steel magnolias.

Roses – Leila Meacham (Adult Fiction) – One of those blockbuster family sagas that hasn’t existed in years – the story of the powerful families of Howbutker, Texas, and star-crossed love.

Baja Florida – Bob Morris (Adult Fiction) – When Zack Chasteen’s dying friend, Mickey Ryser, asks Zack to find his missing daughter, he’s sending Zack into danger in the Bahamas.

Hasta la Vista, Lola! – Misa Ramirez (Adult Fiction) – When Lola Cruz, a private investigator, learns she’s supposed to be dead, she has to find why anyone would want to steal her identity.

Bed of Roses – Nora Roberts (LP Fiction, also Adult Fiction) – Emma, the florist for Vows, finds love.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (151.1 R896h) – Why one woman spent a year trying to change her life so she was happier.

Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline (814.54 S431w) – The mystery author’s newspaper columns about her life, her mother, and her daughter.

Brava, Valentine – Adriana Trigiani (Adult Fiction) – The second book in Trigiani’s trilogy about a woman who makes exquisite shoes in NYC, and her family.

Post Secret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God – Frank Warren (177.3 W288d) – Postcards about life, death, and faith.

As you can see, it didn't quite total my normal fifteen books, so I swiped a couple of my recent hot titles lists, and talked about forthcoming books as well. All in all, a fun hour.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winners and A Hot Weather Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Kari L. of Sewickley, PA will receive the autographed copy of Lou Berney's Gutshot Straight. Lenny Bartulin's Death By the Book will go to Kim C. from Lemmon, SD. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Are you a little tired of your weather this month? Ready to read a mystery set in hot, steamy weather? You could win Mary Logue's Point No Point, , set in Wisconsin "in the sultry, rainless days of late August." Deputy Sheriff Claire Watkins takes on two cases that tangle together when a body is found floating in the lake, and a woman is shot to death.

Or, you could head to Siesta Key in Florida, meeting up with pet sitter Dixie Hemingway in Blaize Clement's Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof. Nothing will make you forget those winter blues like Dixie's experiences with her new friend.

Do you want to win Point No Point or Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries for each. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either, Win "Point No Point" or Win "Cat Sitter." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. MT. The winners will be drawn by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Hasta la Vista, Lola! by Misa Ramirez

Lola Cruz is "A driven, independent woman walking a tightrope between modern American culture and my parents' old-fashioned, male-oriented Spanish culture." But, even Lola is at a loss when it's announced that she's dead in Misa Ramirez' Hasta la Vista, Lola!

Lola didn't hear the announcement of her death on TV, but her entire family did. When she received a strange phone call from her parents' number, she rushed over to find the entire family in mourning because Dolores Cruz, a private investigator who worked for Camacho and Associates, was found dead in an alley. Well, that's Lola's name, description and job, but she's standing right there in front of her family, including her grandmother, who insists she's now la fatasma, a ghost.

Someone stole Lola's identity. Now, she's obsessed with finding out who the other "Dolores Cruz" was. Which one of the two was the actual target of a killer? Should Lola worry about her life? It's bad enough that she has to worry about her love life, as she hungers for reporter Jack Callaghan, a childhood friend who still lights her fire. And, the feeling is mutual, but Lola doesn't know if she can trust Jack.

Lola has a lot on her plate. When needed, she waitresses at the family restaurant, Abuelita's. Her grandfather asked her to do a little snooping for him. She has to find out who the other Dolores Cruz was, and uncover the mysteries of interoffice politics at Camacho and Associates. Oh, and there's that little matter of Jack.

Misa Ramirez' second Lola Cruz mystery, following Living the Vida Lola, is intricate, involving a hot news topic, identity theft. Lola Cruz is an intelligent, willful character, fun to get to know. And, Hasta La Vista, Lola! is filled with a great deal of sexual tension. What's not to love in this fun mystery?

Misa Ramirez' website is

Hasta la Vista, Lola! by Misa Ramirez. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312384036 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - library book

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Husband, Jim

I'm interrupting the regular publication of my blog to say that there may be times in the next couple months when I don't get a book review published. I'm going to continue to do my best, though.

My husband, Jim, has been diagnosed with metastic cancer. It is located in at least four parts of the body, and it's rapidly progressing. We'll meet this afternoon with our family doctor to discuss hospice.

Jim told me he doesn't want an obituary when the time comes. What he does want is a book-related blog telling about his life as it relates to books. And, he asked that I write it so he can read it before he dies, and save it for that time. So, this is also the appropriate place to mention that I'll be here every day, at least with a note, but for a short time, the blog might not be as fine-tuned as it has been.

Thank you! Books are going to help get both of us through, and I'm doing a brown bag luncheon today. So, books are still the main focus of the blog. Consider this an interruption to mention that many thriller writers are about to lose one of their biggest fans.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Over the Top Award

Ingrid King from The Conscious Cat awarded me the Over The Top Award. Thank you, Ingrid! It's another fun blog award with a few stipulations.

The award comes with several conditions: Answer the following questions with one-word answers, pass the award on to five other bloggers and leave a comment on their blogs about the award.

Here are the questions:
Your Hair? – Brown
Your Favorite Food? – Ice cream
Your Hobby? – Reading
Your Fear? – Fire
Something You Aren’t? - Athletic
Where Did You Grow Up? – Ohio
Your Life? – Interesting
Your Mood? – Accepting
Your Favorite Color? – Black

I've received a number of blog awards lately, and passed them on to friends, so I'll forego doing that this time. But, thank you, Ingrid for the Over the Top award!

Monday, February 08, 2010

If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle

Doesn't bookbinder and book restoration expert sound like a peaceful, maybe, even boring, job? Brooklyn Wainwright's life isn't exactly boring in Kate Carlisle's If Books Could Kill.

Brooklyn narrates the story of her trip to the Edinburgh Book Fair. She's a little down because it's the first conference she's attended since the death of her mentor a month earlier. But, at least she enjoyed flying first class accompanied by the handsome Derek Stone, a former British Royal Navy commander who now owns his own security firm. And, then she saw him kiss the woman who picked him up at the airport. Maybe she should be concentrating on her business, and not the hunky Derek.

She's easily distracted by another handsome man, when her ex-lover, Kyle McVee, from a wealthy book publishing family asks her to examine a book that could be unique. The small book appears to be a book of poetry written by Robert Burns, with an unusual connection to the British royal family. She's pleased to be asked, until that meeting with Kyle makes her the prime suspect when his body is found that night. If Derek hadn't known Detective Inspector Angus MacLeod, Brooklyn could have ended up in an Edinburgh jail. And, there were a few people who might be glad to see Brooklyn in that jail. But, who could hate her enough to frame her for murder? Or, who could hate her enough to target her as a victim?

Brooklyn Wainwright is an intelligent woman, who enjoys sexy men. And, the serious tone of the book, with books and murder, is aleviated with humor by the introduction of fun characters including Brooklyn's parents and her best from from childhood, Robin. Brooklyn's mother, in particular, is a hoot. If Books Could Kill, the second in the Bibliophile Mystery series, provides an enjoyable glimpse of the book world and Edinburgh, while introducing a fascinating mystery.

Kate Carlisle's website is

If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle. Penguin, ©2010. ISBN 9780451228918 (paperback), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book from the publisher, in hopes I would review it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

How does Hank Phillippi Ryan do it? Her crime novels are ripped right from the headlines. Perhaps it's because she is an investigative reporter, with her pulse on the news. But when her investigative reporter, Charlie McNally starts by investigating recalls of cars, and the cars that are not repaired, it seemed so timely with the Toyota recalls. But, Drive Time is about so much more than recalls.

Poor Charlie. If any of the books have left her with her head spinning, it's this one. She's now engaged to Josh Gelston, a professor at the elite Bexter Academy. She's going to be a stepmother. She thinks she has a terrific investigation underway. And, she thinks she can have it all, a marriage, a daughter, and a successful career. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

There's something strange going on at Bexter, phone calls going to staff and wealthy parents. And, as much as Charlie would like to investigate, she has to keep hands off because of her new relationship to the school. It's hard to keep secrets when she suspects murder. And, while she's trying to learn her new role in relationship to the school, she involved with a story about cars that just gets bigger and bigger, beginning with one accident on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Just as she's planning her future, her boss offers her a dream job. It's just too much for Charlie to keep straight, while also planning a wedding.

Hank Phillippi Ryan's Charlie McNally stories are exciting page-turners. Drive Time isn't just about cars. It's about one woman's driven career, and the drive to uncover a shocking story. It's about the passionate drive to know secrets, to have a successful life. It's Hank Phillippi Ryan's latest must-read crime novel, Drive Time.

Hank Phillippi Ryan's website is

Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan. MIRA, ©2010. ISBN 9780778327974 (paperback), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the review copy from the author, in hopes I would review it.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Preview of 212 by Alafair Burke

I had a few personal issues to deal with on Friday, so, instead of my normal blog, here's a preview of Alafair Burke's 212, one of the March books many of us are waiting to read. I'll have a book review tomorrow for Sunday Salon. In the meantime, here's 212.

In Alafair Burke’s upcoming Ellie Hatcher thriller, 212 (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers; $24.99/$32.99 Can.; Hardcover; ISBN 13: 9780061561221; on-sale date: 3/23/2010), seemingly privileged young women live secret lives in the sex industry, aided by the Internet. Burke turned in her manuscript for 212 on March 30, 2009. On April 14, 2009, two weeks later, a New York City woman was killed in a Boston hotel room after posting her services as a “masseuse” on Craig’s List. The media dubbed her alleged murderer “The Craig’s List Killer.”

As 212 opens, NYU student Megan Gunther finds personal threats posted to a campus gossip website. Her daily routine—down to spin class and study breaks—is being detailed but thanks to the anonymity provided by the Internet, the police say there is nothing they can do. When Megan is murdered in a vicious attack in her apartment, NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is convinced that the online threats weren’t just a campus prank. As Ellie and partner J.J. Rogan try to fill in the blanks, they find a link between Megan and a murdered real estate agent named Katie Battle who was living a dangerous double-life. When the Battle case leads them to another young woman in potential jeopardy, Ellie and Rogan realize that such connections are far from haphazard.

212 is a novel steeped in the details of the crossroads between technology and prurience. Add to Craig’s List The Erotic Review, where users can post reviews on their “providers” with explicit details, Campus Juice, a fictional campus gossip site in 212 is based on the now defunct Juicy Campus, which allowed users to post anonymous university rumor and innuendo with instruction on how to cloak their IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to avoid detection. This is the world that we live in. From these realities, Alafair Burke spins 212 into fictional gold.

A former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, and graduate of Stanford Law School, Alafair Burke is a Hofstra criminal law professor, and a full-time writer who writes about law and culture. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post as well as the crime website Murderati, she has been interviewed by CNN and Court TV as a legal expert (see attached). Critics and colleagues from Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben to Laura Lippman and Tami Hoag have long recognized Alafair Burke’s work. The Boston Globe, writing about Dead Connection, hailed Ellie Hatcher “in the tradition of Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski.” With 212, Burke solidifies her reputation and proves that she’s in sync with the collective consciousness. For her website and blog, visit:

I'm looking forward to the next Alafair Burke novel, 212.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Viper's Nest (The 39 Clues #7) by Peter Lerangis

I was disappointed in Peter Lerangis' earlier contribution to The 39 Clues series, but book seven, The Viper's Nest, is an exciting, interesting addition to the bestselling juvenile series.

Fourteen-year-old Amy Cahill, and her brother, eight-year-old Dan, are still on the quest for the 39 Clues. The various branches of the Cahill family have been on the search for the clues for years, and the hunt caused the deaths of Amy and Dan's parents. Now, following the death of their grandmother, Grace, the family is once more on the hunt because the winner will obtain ultimate power. Along with their cat and their au pair, Nellie, the pair have travelled the world, searching for the answers to their family history, and the next clue in the hunt.

In the latest book, they escape the fire in Indonesia that left an ally dead. Heading to South Africa, they find new allies, and family enemies waiting for them. There, they find clues relating to South Africa's history, from stories of Shaka, the man who united the Zulu kingdom, to secret codes left behind by Winston Churchill. And, some friends help them with a few more answers about their grandmother and parents, including the answer to an important question. What is their branch of the Cahill family?

Lerangis does an excellent job discussing South African history, including apartheid, making the story educational and exciting at the same time. And, he continues to show the changes in Amy and Dan. Amy has grown distrustful of everyone, not knowing who might actually betray them. She's even suspicious of Nellie, their au pair. And, at one point, she realizes she had hoped one of the family members died. It takes Dan's reassuring comments to make her realize the quest is forcing her to look at everyone with a suspicious eye. Dan's the one who realizes they also have to consider their hearts.

Zulu kings, explosions, threatened murder and giant snakes are all part of this latest book. Peter Lerangis faced a difficult task of keeping this series interesting and educational. He succeeded in writing another fast-paced, exciting book that will undoubtedly land on the bestseller lists.

Readers can join the hunt at

The Viper's Nest (The 39 Clues Series #7) by Peter Lerangis. Scholastic,Inc., ©2010.
ISBN 9780545060479 (hardcover), 176p.

FTC Full Disclosure: Scholastic sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Winners and Debut Novels

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Jeffrey M. Siger's Murder in Mykonos will go to Diana O. from San Francisco, CA. And, the autographed ARC of Betty Webb's Desert Lost stays right here in Arizona, going to Ann B. in Prescott. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

I recently recommended Gutshot Straight, Lou Berney's terrific debut novel. And, it was recommended on the Today Show last Saturday. I have an autographed copy of this story of two con artists on the run. Do yourself a favor, and take a chance on winning this special debut.

Or you could win an ARC of Lenny Bartuli's Death by the Book. Jack Susko's life is quiet as owner of a secondhand bookstore, until Hammond Kasprowicz, a wealthy businessman, offers him a nice sum to hunt for copies of the works of an obscure poet. Jack doesn't care what he does with them, until he burns the books, and other things disappear. It's a "wisecracking debut."

Do you want to win Gutshot Straight or Death by the Book? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries for each. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either, Win "Gutshot Straight" or Win "Death by the Book." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. MT. 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!

J. Sydney Jones, Guest Blogger

I'd like to welcome guest blogger, J. Sydney Jones today. J. Sydney Jones is the author of twelve books, including the first two Viennese Mystery novels, The Empty Mirror and Requiem in Vienna. A long-time resident of Vienna, Austria, he now lives in Santa Cruz, California. Visit him at

Written by an acclaimed expert on Vienna and its history, The Empty Mirror introduces a new series of stunning historical mysteries that reveals the culture and curiosities of this fascinating fin de siècle metropolis. The series begins with artist Gustav Klimt accused of murder.

What the reviewers are saying about The Empty Mirror:
"A colorful story that neatly combines fact and fiction.”
--The Washington Post

"Jones . . . deftly melds fact with fiction in a novel that will appeal to mystery aficionados as well as history buffs.”--Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Jones's absorbing whodunit succeeds both as a mystery and as a fascinating portrait of a traditional society in ferment. ... Jones delivers a meaty historical that bodes well for further adventures.” --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Jones’ novel boasts well-fleshed characters, a good sense of place, and solid plotting—all signs of series potential. This one bears watching.” --Booklist

Set during the peak of Vienna's cultural renaissance and featuring some of the city's most colorful residents, including Gustav Mahler, Requiem in Vienna is perfect historical fiction – rich description, vivid characters, and a mystery that will leave readers guessing till the very last moment.

What the reviewers are saying about Requiem in Vienna:

"A rich, beautifully written historical mystery...first class." --Booklist (starred review)

"Confident prose and mastery of historical detail, woven into a convincing narrative, make this sophisticated entertainment of a very high caliber." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Jones's fine second Viennese mystery ... smoothly blends a compelling period whodunit with bountiful cultural and social details.” -- Publishers Weekly

Welcome, Syd.

I am most pleased to have the opportunity to guest blog for Lesa. The timing is excellent, as Requiem in Vienna, the second novel in my Viennese Mystery series had its launch on February 2.

I am a bit of a hybrid as a writer. I started out in nonfiction though fiction has always been my first love. The game plan at the time was to gain publishing credits through travel writing (I was living in Vienna and other places in Europe), and then build on those to narrative history (including a survey of Vienna 1900), and from there I would move to fiction. Well, duhh. Not being a graduate of a writing program, I really had no idea how the publishing industry works and how easy it is to get pigeonholed.

Anyway, a long explanation to get to the fact that I did eventually make the crossover in genres, but all of my fiction is heavily rooted in history, whether thrillers, young adult titles, or mysteries. I love the resonance you find in historical times with events in contemporary times. My Viennese Mystery series is inspired by the cultural and intellectual renaissance that took place in Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century. As people are increasingly recognizing, that city in the two decades before World War I created our modern sensibility through the works of such seminal artists, writers, and thinkers as Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele, Otto Wagner, Loos, Schnitzler, Mahler, Freud, and Wittgentstein. At the same time, Vienna 1900 was also the breeding ground for such future tyrants as Trotsky, Stalin, and Hitler. I have spent many years researching the time and first used such research in my Hitler in Vienna, 1907-13, which a reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer thought "strikingly re-creates the sights and sounds of life under the dying Austrian monarchy." But it was not until I happened on another historical figure that the idea for a series of mystery/thrillers set in Vienna 1900 came to life.

Before the fictional Sherlock Holmes, there were the real-life exploits of the Austrian father of criminology, Dr. Hanns Gross, pioneer in modern methods of crime detection, including crime-scene preservation, the gathering and examination of footprints and fingerprints, the study of blood traces and weapons, handwriting analysis, and the vetting and interviewing of witnesses and suspects.

Gross is an irascible egoist; I decided to pair him with a younger man in many ways his opposite: the resourceful and wealthy lawyer/writer, Karl Werthen, who is a fictional creation. Werthen is the real protagonist of these novels, but don’t tell Gross that. Each of the episodes in the Viennese Mystery series focuses on one of the luminaries of the period: in the first book, The Empty Mirror, the artist Klimt is accused of murder; in the second, Requiem in Vienna, the composer Mahler finds himself the target of an assassin. Werthen and Gross ultimately team up to investigate such incidents, and their investigations generally take them far beyond where they expect, turning these historical novels into a blend of mystery and thriller. The series begins in 1898 and is planned to take the reader through 1915 and the first year of the Great War, the year in which Gross died.

Rather than cast my characters in stone and have them never age, I make their passage through life part of the novels and part of the series arc. Werthen has another and more loving partner than Gross in these novels, his wife, Berthe. They are both Jewish, but while Werthen’s family is much assimilated, Berthe’s father is a noted Talmudic scholar who sometimes comes to the aid of Werthen and Gross. Berthe, a journalist and social reformer, partners with her husband in his investigations and via her network of friends, including the feminist writer Rosa Mayreder, helps to give a different perspective to incidents. Through the course of this series Werthen and Berthe’s domestic life and their relationships with their often-difficult parents form a steady backdrop.

In addition to Werthen, Berthe, and Gross, Vienna itself is a major character in this series. I went to Vienna initially as a student. It was my first experience of a big city and I fell in love with the place. The city was most definitely Central European with the ambience of a much earlier time. Faded elegance best describes Vienna during that time; for a young man who loved history, Vienna was a living museum. I stayed on for almost two decades after my student year, working and living in other parts of Europe as well, but always coming back to Vienna, my second home. Vienna soon became a theme for my writing; I have written several nonfiction works about the city, and in addition to my Viennese Mystery series, I also set the stand-alone thriller, Time of the Wolf, there during World War II. Thus I deliberately and quite happily blend Viennese history and landmarks into the work, as many reviewers have noted.

These books are intended, first and foremost, as entertainments. Mystery morphs into thriller in each as Werthen and Gross often find themselves over their heads in intrigue and danger. Yet at the same time I want to look at historical issues, such as the development of anti-Semitism in late nineteenth century Europe, or the birth of the feminist movement. Many such issues arise as part of an investigation; sometimes they also come about via domestic concerns of the protagonists. I hope that readers will agree with bestselling author Karen Harper’s assessment of the series: “What Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did for Victorian London and Caleb Carr did for old New York, J. Sydney Jones does for historic Vienna.”

Thank you, Syd. J. Sydney Jones blogs at

Requiem in Vienna by J. Sydney Jones. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312383909 (hardcover), 304p.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Baja Florida by Bob Morris

Zack Chasteen isn't a typical detective in a crime novel. Sure, he's an ex-football player, and an ex-con. But, he's perfectly happy living on his own little patch of Florida with his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Shula, running Chasteen's Palm Tree Nursery. And, he isn't a private detective. But, he's a loyal friend, and that's what sets him on his latest adventure in Bob Morris' Baja Florida.

When his friend, Mickey Ryser shows up, he needs Zack's help. Mickey is dying, and wants Zack to track down his daughter for him. Mickey hasn't seen Jen in years, but he talked to her, and she had been planning to sail her boat down to meet him. Somewhere between Charleston and the Bahamas, Jen and her sailboat disappeared, and the private detective Mickey hired hasn't had answers for him. So, Mickey's dying wish is for Zack to find Jen. And, Zack can't turn down the man who was always a big brother to him.

It isn't as easy to find Jen in the Bahamas as Zack had hoped. He finds that one of her friends jumped ship. There are odd stories about a fire and the crew that never boarded the sailboat. So, Zack and two buddies find themselves looking for her among the islands where other ships have disappeared, and people went missing. There are plenty of places for people to vanish in Zack's Baja Florida.

Bob Morris uses an unusual technique in his books in which readers follow Zack, but we also overhear the villains and their discussions. He doesn't reveal the names of the villains, but we're a little wiser as to their plans than Zack. This technique works, but what really works in these books is the character of Zack Chasteen. As I said before, Zack is a loyal friend, and that loyalty gets him in trouble. But, he's the best friend to have at your back, as Morris proves again in the engrossing novel, Baja Florida.

Bob Morris' website is

Baja Florida by Bob Morris. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312377267 (hardcover), 256p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

"In times of trouble, Meredith did chores, Nina took photos, and Mom cooked. The one thing the Whitson women never did was talk." Kristin Hannah's Winter Garden is the story of two daughters, struggling to understand their mother. They may never understand themselves, if they don't understand the woman who never seemed to love them.

Meredith did everything she could to impress her mother, but it took a play when she was twelve to disabuse her of any idea she would ever please her. She wrote a play, and performed it with her sister, Nina, and the neighbor, Jeff, basing it on one of her mother's Russian fairy tales. When her mother angrily interrupted, Meredith was humiliated, and unforgiving. She gave up on trying to win her mother's love. Nina continued to push a little longer, but she finally surrendered to the futility.

Twenty-eight years later, Meredith is married to Jeff, has two adult daughters, runs the family orchard, and lives down the road from her parents. Nina ran as far as she could, and keeps running, as a successful photographer in war zones and scenes of human crisis. And, she finds herself afraid to return the love of a good man, afraid to trust. It takes a family crisis to bring her home, the heart attack of their beloved father. Evan Whitson was the one who held the family together, loving his wife, and acting as the intermediary between Anya and her daughters. Evan was the only one who could actually communicate with his cold, Russian wife. And, despite his death bed request that his daughters try to understand her, and force her to tell that fairy tale of the peasant girl and the prince, Meredith and Nina don't know if they'll ever be a family again. They never understood their mother. When their father died, they realized, "He was home, the very heart of them. How would they stand life without him?"

It appears that Anya never will tell her daughters the truth, turning only to her winter garden, where she sits and mourns the man she loved. As Meredith's whole world falls apart around her, Nina is convinced that fairy tale might be the only thing that can save the family. If she has to push, in her usual style, she will. Neither woman understands the woman who raised them. Are there secrets to her life in that fairy tale, secrets that could save the Whitson women?

The author of Firefly Lane and True Colors has written another powerful story of misunderstanding, family love, and strong women. It's a story of women trying to discover who they are, when they don't know their own family stories. And, it's a fascinating story that weaves fairy tales into reality, fairy tales that don't always have the expected endings.

Kristin Hannah is a master at creating worlds and characters. Anya's winter garden is as cold and unforgiving as the story she eventually tells her family. Hannah prepares readers for it with the opening paragraph. "On the banks of the mighty Columbia River, in this icy season when every breath became visible, the orchard called Belye Nochi was quiet....As temperatures plummeted and color drained from land and sky, the whitened landscape caused a kind of winter blindness, one day became indistinguishable from the next. Everything froze, turned fragile." That paragraph beautifully illustrates the Whitson family story - frozen, fragile, with the color drained. Winter Garden is Kristin Hannah's family fairy tale, a gift to readers.

Kristin Hannah's website is

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. St. Martin's Press, ©2010. ISBN 9780312364120 (hardcover), 400p.

FTC Full Disclosure - My review copy was sent by the publicist in hopes I would review the book.

Monday, February 01, 2010

March's Hot Titles

March is going to be such a terrific month for books that I propose we all take the month off and just read. How can any reader resist a month that includes books by Alafair Burke, Harlan Coben, Linda Fairstein and Alan Bradley? And, wait until you read about the other authors with forthcoming books! March looks terrific for readers.

Let's start with a book that isn't a crime novel. I've been a fan of Sarah Addison Allen's books since Garden Spells came out. The Girl Who Chased the Moon takes a seventeen-year-old, Emily Benedict, to live with her grandfather in an unusual little town, Mullaby, NC. How unusual is it? Wallpaper can change its pattern, the dead left messages, and the legend of a ghostly woman banished from the town lives on. It's sure to be another magical story from Allen.

The Last Illusion is the latest Molly Murphy mystery by Rhys Bowen. Molly is hired as Harry Houdini's bodyguard when another magician accuses him of tampering with his equipment, resulting in a death.

Last year, Alan Bradley's debut novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, introduced Flavia de Luce. The scientific prodigy returns in The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. When a master puppeteer ends up death, Flavia is convinced it was murder, and she's determined to solve the crime. It's no April Fool's joke to say I'm going to host Alan Bradley for Authors @ The Teague on my birthday, April 1.

212 is Alafair Burke's latest novel. The police told college sophomore Megan Gunther not to worry about personal threats appearing on the web site. When she's murdered, NYPD detective Elie Hatcher and her partner take over the case, and discover a connection to a murder and a disappearance. They're going to have to move quickly to prevent more deaths.

Harlan Coben's new book, Caught, features a reporter on a mission. She's tracking down sexual predators and exposing them on TV. Her biggest break, the arrest of a child advocate, may turn out to be a mistake. So what happens if Wendy was manipulated to destroy an innocent man?

I just love the writing team of Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. Their books are sexy, fun, and suspenseful. I hope Wild Ride is no exception. When Mary Alice Brannigan is hired to restore a decaying amusement park, she doesn't expect to find it's a prison for demons she doesn't believe in. But then, she doesn't believe the man she's falling in love with either.

Hell Gate is Linda Fairstein's twelfth novel featuring Alexandra Cooper. She's torn in two directions as she investigates a shipwreck with human contraband cargo, and a political scandal involving a promising New York congressman. When the two cases come together, they could change the political landscape of New York City.

In Lisa Jackson's Without Mercy, Julia Farentino takes a job at an elite boarding school for wayward kids to protect her half-sister. Some of the students went missing six months earlier, and now Julia uncovers disturbing information.

I'd beware of exclusive schools after reading crime novels. Jonathan Kellerman's Deception takes LAPD Detective Milo Sturgis and Alex Delaware into an investigation of perversity and violence when a woman is found dead after disclosing on a DVD that she was subjected to sexual horror at an LA school.

Fans of the Spellmans will appreciate Lisa Lutz' The Spellmans Strike Again as Izzy Spellman solves more cases, no thanks to her lovable but paranoid family.

I've included one nonfiction title in this list, Frances Mayes' Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life. The third volume in Mayes' Tuscany trilogy continues the chronicle of her two decades love affair with Tuscany, its people and culture. She includes more of the pleasures of her life there, favorite recipes, and the delights and challenges of living in Italy.

Denise Mina's Still Midnight features an unusual case for Alex Morrow. When three armed men enter a home in Glasgow, and demand a man who never had been there, the event turns tragic. Now, the kidnappers are demanding an impossible ransom.

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome in Jodi Picoult's latest novel, House Rules. He has a special focus, forensic analysis, and he monitors a police scanner, and shows up at crime scenes. When his tutor is found dead, his behavior makes Jacob a suspect.

Author Cornelia Read's own efforts to clean up a cemetery led to her latest novel, Invisible Boy. Former socialite Madeline Dare is shocked when she discovers the skeleton of a young boy in her unkempt family cemetery across the East River from Manhattan. Her work to find the truth leads to an examination of her own past, and the class and racial warfare that penetrates society in New York City.

Reporter Chris Bergen can never live up to his father's reputation as a legendary investigative reporter. But, one day he's on site when an explosion destroys a building and Chris save five people, becoming a hero. But, one of Chris' sources seems to be creating incidents to make him famous. Now, he wants something in return in David Rosenfelt's Down to the Wire.

Doc Ford faces rough choices in Randy Wayne White's latest book, Deep Shadow. While diving with friends, a cave collapses trapping them. Doc surfaces to get help, but two men there to recover a wreck and its treasure insist he help them, or die himself.

All of the other books mentioned are by established authors. I also see possibilities for a debut novel, The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier. Joy Harkness impulsively accepts a position at Amherst College, leaving her secure life behind. As she restores a tumbledown Victorian house, assisted by a quirky handyman, she discovers second chances can be discovered at any age.

And, terrific books can be discovered any month. I hope there's a treasure or two waiting for you here. Let me know if I missed a March release you're waiting for. We all want to know about the books you anticipate will be hot titles.