Thursday, September 30, 2010

Winners and an Art Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the latest winners.  Theresa dV of Point Richmond, CA won Chevy Stevens' Still Missing, and Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere will go to Kathy D. of New York, NY.  I'll put them in the mail tomorrow.

This week I'm giving away two mysteries set in the art world of San Francisco, with very different amateur sleuths.  Arsenic and Old Paint is the latest book in Hailey Lind's Art Lover's Mystery series.  Annie Kincaid is a former art forger, now operating a legitimate decorative painting business.  But, her partner, a former art thief, and her propensity for stumbling on murder scenes, continue to get her in trouble.  This time, when she finds a body in a bathtub, his pose resembles David's Death of Marat.  Only Annie.

Then there's Dani O'Rourke, who raises funds for the Devor Museum in San Francisco.  She was in the restroom when a body plummeted from her office window.  Too bad it was in the middle of a gala evening, an event that could spoil her job.  Her insider's understanding of the art world, and the world of money, takes her from San Francisco to Santa Fe in Murder in the Abstract by Susan C. Shea.

So, do you want to read Arsenic and Old Paint or Murder in the Abstract?  You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Arsenic" or "Win Abstract." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Oct. 7th at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. I'll notify the winners and mail the books the next day. Good luck!

Hilary Davidson - Guest Blogger

There's been a lot of talk in the mystery world the last couple months about Hilary Davidson's debut as a crime novelist.  I'm reading her book right now, The Damage Done.  I'm so pleased that Hilary was willing to take time to introduce herself and her book.  Thank you, Hilary.

I’m grateful to Lesa for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself to you. My name is Hilary Davidson and I am a crime writer. Making that admission makes me sound like I’m addressing a support group. In a way, I am, because since I started to explore the mystery reading and writing community, I’ve discovered a tightly knit group of people who are still, somehow, incredibly welcoming to newcomers.

My debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, is being published this week by Forge. I’m both thrilled about that fact, and still slightly in disbelief about it. The book is about a travel writer named Lily Moore who is called home to New York when she’s told that her sister, Claudia, has died under suspicious circumstances. But Lily quickly discovers that the dead body belongs to a woman who had stolen Claudia’s identity, and that her sister is missing. When a neighbor reports having seen the real Claudia in the building the day her imposter died, the police begin to hunt for her as a suspect. In spite of the fact that Claudia is a drug addict and something of a con artist, Lily is certain that her sister isn’t capable of murder, and she becomes determined to find Claudia.

One of the questions that people have been asking about the book is what my sister thinks of it. The truth is that I don’t have a sister, though I do have two brothers who I used to think about trading in for a sister. One thing that I do have in common with Lily is that we share a day job — we’re both travel writers. Lily’s life is far more glamorous than mine: she lives in Spain and travels around the world constantly, writing about exotic places. I know travel writers who do that, but I’ve never been one of them. Oh, I’ve taken some truly incredible trips to places such as Peru, Easter Island, and Turkey, but most of my travel writing has been about my hometown, Toronto, and my adopted home, New York, which I moved to in 2001.

While THE DAMAGE DONE is my first novel, it’s not my first foray into fiction. I’ve been writing short stories for several years. Getting them published seemed like an agonizingly slow process, but it was incredibly valuable in terms of both playing with voice and style and narrative, and in terms of getting to know the mystery community.

Ironically, I didn’t know for a long time that there was such a community. Over the past couple of years, groups such as Sisters in Crime, MWA, and ITW — and social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook — have connected me with mystery authors and readers, many of whom have become friends, even though we haven’t met in person. This spring, I realized how much I’ve come to count on them. A doctor removed a mole from my arm, and the biopsy found melanoma cells. Sharing that with friends all over the country — some on other continents — seemed strange, but the messages of support I got back helped me through an anxious time. After I had some minor surgery to see how far the cells had spread — the answer was, luckily, not far — some of my crime-writing friends created a flash-fiction challenge called “How Hilary Really Got That Scar.” The results — which portrayed me as everything from a serial killer to a hired gun — are some of the best get-well gifts I’ve ever received.

I’m going to be traveling extensively this fall to promote THE DAMAGE DONE. As I go from city to city, and to my first Bouchercon, I’m looking forward to meeting this amazing crime community that I’ve gotten to know online. That includes Lesa herself, whom I’ll be seeing when I visit Scottsdale. In the meantime, please come visit me at my website, my crime blog, or at my gluten-free travel blog.

My crime blog =

My gluten-free travel blog =

Thank you, Hilary.  And, in fact, I'll get to meet Hilary even before she appears at the Poisoned Pen.  She'll be appearing at the Velma Teague Library for Authors @ The Teague on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 11 a.m.  And, good luck, Hilary!

The Damage Done by Hilary Davidson.  Forge, ©2010. ISBN 9780765326973 (hardcover), 352p.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reed Farrel Coleman, Guest Blogger

Reed Farrel Coleman's latest Moe Prager crime novel, Innocent Monster, is due out next week.  It's the perfect time to have him write a guest blog.  According to his website,  Coleman "Has published twelve novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and one stand-alone with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. His books have been translated into seven languages."

"Reed is a three-time winner of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year. He has also received the Barry and Anthony Awards, and has been twice nominated for the Edgar® Award. He was the editor of the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn, and his short fiction and essays have appeared in Wall Street Noir, The Darker Mask, These Guns For Hire, Brooklyn Noir 3, Damn Near Dead, and other publications."  It's my pleasure to welcome Reed Farrel Coleman.

Moe Prager: Nobody’s Hero

In the first book in the Moe Prager series, Walking the Perfect Square, Moe describes himself as nobody’s hero. Of course, that’s not quite true, but it is very revealing about Moe’s character. It is, in fact, the echo and sway between how Moe sees himself and how other characters perceive him that gives the series some of its subtle, underlying tension. There is no drama without tension and to keep a series engaging, you must keep threads of tension running through the books. There’s obvious tension in mystery/PI novels that revolves around the central crime or crimes: Who was murdered or kidnapped or blackmailed? Who is the victim? Why was it done? What obstacles stand in the way of the PI, the cops, or the amateur sleuth? But it is the tension that exists between regular characters in a series that gives a series continuity.

While Moe is less than accurate about being a hero, he is spot on about something else. He calls himself a stumbler. As a cop, he never made detective—this fact is central to the early books in the series—and having spent his ten years on the job in uniform, Moe received no training in how to actually solve crimes. Uniformed cops do the grunt work. Detectives solve crimes. So Moe doesn’t quite know what he’s doing. He’s quirky and unconventional not out of a sense of whimsy, but because he doesn’t have the skills to do it any other way. That’s the thing about Moe, he does it his way and it works. He’s lucky in his work and that’s why people come to him. In the Moe books, he’s almost always the client’s last choice. They’re desperate. A typical Moe client might say, “We’ve tried good. Now we are trying lucky.”

Another thread that runs through the series is the tension between Moe’s belief that he is an open, forthright kind of guy and his being forced to keep terrible secrets. As Moe might say, you build walls around secrets to protect them and eventually all you become are the walls. But in the fifth Moe book, Empty Ever After, Moe vows to give up secrets because, as he sees it, those secrets have destroyed the people closest to him. It doesn’t last. It can’t. In the new Moe book, Innocent Monster, he’s back to his old tricks. But he’s less angst-ridden about it because he’s older now and has come to accept himself for who and what he is. One of the really important threads of tension that runs through the books is the conflict between Moe’s day job—he and his brother Aaron own a chain of high-end wine stores—and his love of working cases. This thread is so important because it is something every reader can relate to, the tension between what we wanted to be and what we are.

So the next time you pick up a book in your favorite series, think about how the author has sewn the threads of underlying tension.

* * *
Innocent Monster (Tyrus Books, Oct. 5, 2010) is the sixth Moe Prager novel. Reed Farrel Coleman has been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Press. He’s published eleven novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and the stand-alone Tower co-written with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. Reed has won the Shamus Award for Best Novel of the Year three times, won the Barry and Anthony, and twice been nominated for the Edgar. He is a co-editor of The Lineup and was the editor of the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn. The former executive VP of Mystery Writers of America, Reed is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University. You can reach Reed on his website,, Facebook, or Twitter.

Thank you, Reed.                 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To Fetch a Thief by Spencer Quinn

I just love Chet.  If you can accept a dog as narrator of a mystery, and partner in a detective business, you'll want to check out Spencer Quinn's latest Chet and Bernie book, To Fetch a Thief.

Bernie Little owns Little Detective Agency.  His ex-wife might own part of the business, but his business partner is actually his dog, Chet.  And, the humor in the book comes from Chet's dog-like behavior.  Everyone who likes this series says the same thing, "He's such a dog!"  He might be working a case with Bernie, but he's easily distracted by Slim Jims or short ribs.  Actually, Chet is distracted by female dogs, his own barking, and any kind of food.  But, he's still the perfect partner for Bernie.

When one of Bernie's clients gives him tickets to the circus, he takes his son, Charlie, only to arrive the day after the elephant and her handler disappeared.  Although the circus owner tries to convince Bernie the handler kidnapped her, Charlie wants his father to look for Peanut, the elephant.  And, Popo, the clown wants Bernie and Chet to look for him.  Although the local police are convinced the handler ran off, Bernie is a little suspicious of the guard at the gate.  And, when a witness changes his story, Bernie knows he's on to something. 

Poor Bernie.  He has personal problems, with his ex-wife's future husband, and the woman he likes, financial problems, and, now a missing elephant.  If he can count on anyone, though, he can count on Chet.

As I said, I love Chet.  But, this third book in the series fell a little flat to me.  It seemed drawn out, and lacked some of the spark.  Perhaps it was the lengthy search for the elephant, leading to Mexico.  I'm a big fan of Chet and Bernie. To Fetch a Thief just didn't fetch my fancy.

You can visit Chet online at

To Fetch a Thief by Spencer Quinn.  Simon & Schuster, ©2010. ISBN 9781439157077 (hardcover), 309p.

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

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries have dominated the traditional mystery awards this decade.  But, none have been as magnificent, as haunting, as this sixth book in the series, Bury Your Dead.  In some ways, it's a quiet, introspective story, but that makes it all the more powerful.  I can't use enough superlatives to describe a story that brilliantly intertwines two murder investigations, a police case that went tragically wrong, and the history of Québec.

It might be Carnival time in Québec City, by Armand Gamache is not there for the entertainment, but to find a quiet place for contemplation, and recovery from an investigation that ended in tragedy.  His time is spent with his retired mentor, walking the streets with his dog, Henri, and researching in the quiet Literary and Historical Society. Few people venture into the library at this last bastion of Anglo Québec, but Gamache appreciates the opportunity to delve into the past, and the history of a battle that changed the complexion of the province.  And, he appreciated the quiet atmosphere until an historian is found dead in the basement of the building.  For the members of the Lit and His, the death couldn't have stirred up more attention.  Augustin Renaul had been obsessed about one thing - searching for the missing body of Samuel de Champlain, the founder and father of Québec.  Now, his murder in the basement would only stir up publicity and resentment.

But, why would Renaul have been digging for Champlain's remains there, anyways?  Asked to work unofficially on the case, Gamache is intrigued with the great man's history, and his missing body.  The opportunity to investigate here allows him time to recover emotionally from a case that haunts him, as he replays the past over and over in his head.  At the same time, he has started to doubt his findings in another case, one related to Three Pines, when he arrested a man for murder.  Since he doesn't have time to look into that, he asks Jean Guy Beauvoir to work on the supposition that the man in prison might be innocent, and visit Three Pines.  Once again, readers are allowed into the small world where Gamache  found a second home, and comfort, while Beauvoir only feels uncomfortable returning there.

Over and over, I've used the word tragedy when referring to this story.  Bury Your Dead is about people who are unable to bury the past.  That inability to let go haunts so many of the characters, including Armand Gamache, a man who can't forgive himself, and shoulders the responsibility for death.  And, that inability to let go causes otherwise sane people to kill, and an entire province to share an obsession with their past.

Although that theme dominates the story, winter, and the weather, are crucial elements as well.  In Three Pines, the residents fantasize over tropical vacations.  It might have something to do with their setting, boarding on the forest.  "And, when the winter sun set on a Québec forest, monsters crawled out of the shadows.  Not the B-grade movie monsters, not zombies or mummies or space aliens.  But older, subtler wraiths.  Invisible creatures that rode in on plunging temperatures.  Death by freezing, death by exposure, death by gong even a foot off the path, and getting lost.  Death, ancient and patient, waited in Québec forests for the sun to set."

In some ways, Bury Your Dead reminds me of Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time, the classic story of a recuperating detective investigating one of history's great mysteries.  Penny has given Armand Gamache a contemporary case, but he's just as fascinated by the mystery of Champlain's whereabouts.  And, he needs to take his mind off of his own story.

But, Louise Penny has given us her own masterpiece.  The Brutal Telling led up to this book, but it could only begin the powerful story told in Bury Your Dead.

I seldom add a note to my reviews, but, as a librarian, I had to include the following short section.  I started to say it doesn't have a lot to do with the story, but it does.  Penny didn't put a word wrong in this book, and the comments about information, knowledge and power is actually an important element in the make-up of Armand Gamache.  So, my favorite passages are thoughts of Inspector Langlois, of the Québec City homicide squad as he sits in the library of the Literary and Historical Society.

'It smelled of the past, of a time before computers, before information was "Googled" and "blogged."  Before laptops and Blackberries and all the other tools that mistook information for knowledge...'

"He remembered how it felt to find himself in the library, away from possible attack but surrounded by things far more dangerous than what roamed the school corridors.

"For here thoughts were housed."

"Young Langlois had sat down and gathered that power to him.. The power that came from having information, knowledge, thoughts, and a calm place to collect them."

Those quotes are a librarian's dream.  Thank you, Louise.

Louise Penny's website is

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny.  St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312377045 (hardcover), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I'm giving a different type of disclosure with this book.  The publisher did send me an ARC of the book, hoping I would read and review it.  But, anyone who knows me, knows that Louise Penny has become a friend of mine since the publication of her first book.  Even so, she knows, as do other authors, that I never give good reviews just because I'm a friend of an author.  In this case, Bury Your Dead is just as good as I said, and friendship has nothing to do with my opinion of this book.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Desert Sleuths - How Not to Survive a Vacation

What a pleasure to welcome Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime back to Velma Teague.  Nine of the authors whose work appears in the mystery anthology, How NOT to Survive a Vacation, appeared at the library to discuss and sign the book.  These authors are members of the only Arizona Chapter of Sisters in Crime, an organization that promotes the work of women mystery writers, although the group also has male members.

Roni Olson (R.K. Olson) is the President of Desert Sleuths, and she moderated the panel, introducing each author, while giving a little background about their story.

She began by introducing Howard "Doc" Carron, whose story, "The Old Miner" 
takes readers on a trip to an Arizona mining town, a trip back in time.  Howard said this is two stories in one.  It started as an exercise for a writing group, and it just laid there.  Then, when he heard that the new anthology's theme dealt with vacations, he used that exercise, and built his story around the original one.  So, it's two stories in one.  Roni mentioned that Howard is a librarian at the Queen Creek Library.  He said they've been so busy lately, that at his medium-sized library, they had 10,000 books on hold last month.  Roni pointed out that Howard is an example of a Brother in Crime.  When it was mentioned that he was sitting on the end, by himself, she responded there still is a glass ceiling, so they put him there.

Lori Hines and Deborah Ledford were the next authors to discuss their contributions.  Hines' story is "Tragedy in the Pines."  She said she's always been attracted to the paranormal genre, and an incident she had in Sedona provided the material for her story.  She was a paranormal investigator for a few years, and that's how her story came about.

Deb Ledford's story, "Loose End," takes place in North Carolina.  Ledford is also the author of the thriller, Staccato.  Deb said she writes in a variety of genres.  Most of her stories are thrillers or literary short stories.  When she writes crime fiction, she sees the stories visually.  She saw a mesh-covered bag of stones for this one, and that's how her stories come about.  It started as a story with a male lead, and she switched it to a female.

Before discussing the background of her own story, Roni introduced Diana Manley, author of "Checkmate."  Manley's story is set in Hawaii, and it features a bored trophy wife.  It's a May/December romance.  Diana said she was visiting her son in Hawaii, and they were walking a winding path, with large rocks below.  She commented that you could kill someone here easily.  So, when the theme was picked for the book, it was natural for her to think of Hawaii.  The young trophy wife knows her husband's family lives long lives, and she decides she can't put up with her husband any longer.  Her mistake?  She doesn't realize her husband knows a lot more than she does.

Roni said mystery writers can find good places to kill someone anyplace they go.  Her story, "A Real Hula-Dunit," is also set in Hawaii.  Olson said her stories are usually more character-driven, but in this one, the setting took over.  She had been in this place in Maui just before her divorce, a perfect place for murder.

"Wish You Weren't Here" is by Chantelle Aimee Osman.  It's set in Santa Monica, California when a fan is killed at a mystery authors' conference.  Osman said the story was originally supposed to be set in Costa Rica.  She had gone on vacation with friends, and had jewelry stolen from her room.  She was going to use that scenario.  But, a bunch of the Desert Sleuths went to Left Coast Crime last year, a mystery conference, and all of that stuff about the mystery conference just came pouring out in this story.  Situations just came to her, and Chantelle had never written funny stories before.

Nancy Redd said before she discussed the setting of her story, she just wanted to mention that it sounded as if being an ex-husband was dangerous.  Redd found the setting very important for "The Haunted Hogan."  Landscape is always important to her, so much so, that it's almost a character.  This story, with the Lake Powell and Navajo reservation settings is based on her own experience.  She lived there for thirty years, and ran a trading post on the reservation.  The man she murdered in the story was one they had been in business with, and in some ways, he deserved to die.

Judy Starbuck's "Cowgirls Don't Cry" is set in Prescott.  Judy said she likes to write landscapes she knows nothing about.  The world of the cowgirl was unfamiliar to her, and she found it intriguing.  So, she researched the wisdom and quotes of cowgirls.  She found all sorts of interesting quotes, and mentioned a couple.  One fit her Annie O'Dell character, "Full of sass, strong as a bull, and proud as a peacock."  While trying to give a name to this cowgirl wisdom, and audience member suggested, "Buckle Bunny Wisdom."  Starbuck said she wished she'd had some of that wisdom when she taught for thirty years.

Although JoAnne Zeterberg was the last on the panel to be introduced, her story, "Death on the Intergalactic Seas," leads off the collection.  It features a fantasy cruise, and an alien is found dead on the cruise ship.  JoAnne reminded us that if you know a writer, everything is fodder for stories.  She picked up her idea from a co-worker who attends fantasy fan conventions, and comes back talking about all the costumes.  Zeterberg thought a fan convention would be a fun place to kill someone, since everyone was in costume.  So that no one could escape, she set her story on a cruise ship.

As moderator, Roni asked the panel if living in Arizona influenced their writing.  Lori answered absolutely.  She said boulders up by I-10 were used in the setting of her first novel, along with tunnels and caves.  She likes to write about places she's familiar with.

Judy Starbuck set her story in Prescott, a setting that reminds her of her midwestern upbringing, but the culture is not familiar.  She's been inspired by the Spirit Ranch, where she's stayed with friends who own a ranch in Skull Valley, outside Prescott.  She's used her friends' names, the cabin she stayed in, and the terrain.  Prescott is even one of the places that claims to have the "World's Oldest Rodeo," although other places make the same claim.

Howard Carron said he left the U.S. in 1969, and came back in '93, so most of his stories are set overseas.  He likes to use settings and customs that people aren't familiar with.  He likes playing with those settings.

Olson put Deb Ledford on the spot, asking her the difference between writing a short story and a novel.  Ledford answered "Time."  Short stories are more encapsulated, and you have to tell a whole story, bringing if full circle.  Novels can leave some elements open-ended, particularly if you want to write a series.  There can be unanswered questions.  Short stories should be complete, with compelling endings.

Olson quoted another author,  and member of Desert Sleuths, Kris Neri, as saying a short story is more about the destination, and a novel is more about the journey.  Chantelle said she had never written short stories until last year's anthology.  She said you needed to parse the story down to what the point is.  Roni said she had written short stories, but last year was the first time she wrote a mystery short story.  She saw it as an exercise in discipline.  She found herself, with only between 2500 and 5000 words to write, telling a story, and then abruptly, and then he died.  In a short story, the story has to be reined in.  Osman agreed, saying like homework, a short story has to have parameters.  There has to be some sort of mystery, and there's the arc of beginning, middle, and denouement.  And, there are "So many places to write about, and people we want to kill." 

JoAnne also said last year's story was her first short story.  She said you have to get characters readers care about, mystery and tension, all in 5000 words.  But, the short story form is a good way to try new characters, and see if you want to expand the story or characters into a novel.  Ledford agreed, saying she's writing a novel now with a lead character from a short story she wrote five years ago.  The character never left her.

Carron said everyone thinks librarians only read all day, but you're lucky if you ever get a chance to read.  He never has much time to sit down and write for a straight period of time.  Short stories are the perfect medium for him, forcing him to edit.

Roni wanted to mention that Chantelle Osman and Deb Leford were the editors of How NOT to Survive a Vacation.  She said that's a challenge because the stories always need another look.  Nancy Redd also wanted to compliment the editors.  She said just when she thinks she's distilled the story to its essence, they prove her wrong.  They have wonderful suggestions.  Judy Starbuck added that the formatting was first class, and she's proud to be a part of the anthology. 

Asked if it had been a blind submission process, Chantelle said yes.  She said it's a small community of authors, and it's important to make sure they don't know who submitted the stories.  She said just when you think you can guess who wrote a story, you're wrong.  The stories have totally different voices.  There is so much freedom to play with the parameters.  They used Sue Flagg's story, "The Place I Was Before," as an example.  Sue wasn't at this program, but she based her story on a song, "Hotel California."  It's a three-page story, very different from what she normally writes, and very well done.  Chantelle said a short story allows you to explore.  Her story was unusual for her, silly, and a cozy.  There are cozies, thrillers, and paranormal stories in this collection.

They did ask the audience for suggestions as to topics for the next anthology.  They've now used holidays and vacations.  Roni said they should use "How Not to Survive a Trip to the Library."  Someone mentioned April 15.  Reunions were mentioned, with all the different types of reunions.

Roni said authors are always asked, "Where do you get your ideas?"  She said, that's why you write.  You write because you have so many ideas.  Everything is fodder for a story.  Asked if friends recognize themselves, Olson told a story about the author Louise Penny.  She said her friends are in her books, but none of the recognize themselves.

Picking up on the theme that everything is fodder, Chantelle said she's just back from California,a nd she had been staying in an apartment there.  Right across from the apartment were community dumpsters.  And, every day, a well-dressed woman would go out to the dumpsters, go through them, and then get in her nice car and drive away.  Osman is working on that short story now.

In How NOT to Survive the Holidays, Judy Starbuck wrote about a woman running away from a stalker.  That idea came from two sources.  In Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years,  she wrote about a woman who went on vacation with her demanding husband and three teens.  One day, she went for a walk, and just kept walking.  That story always stayed with Judy because she was the mother of three teens at one time.  Then, she borrowed the movie, "Sleeping with the Enemy," about a woman who disappeared.  Starbuck was envious.  How do you do that?  Things you read provide ideas.  Now, Starbuck has a library of books on how to disappear.

Deb Ledford said sometimes she bases stories on a CNN crawl, because you never know the details, or how a story ends.

One audience member asked if the authors had always written.  Howard drew laughter when he said he'd written so many educational papers, and so many of them were actually fiction.  Most of the panelists had always written.  Olson said, in her opinion, to write well, you must be honest and reveal yourself.  That's what kept her from pursuing her writing for almost fifty years.  Roni said she believes everyone is a writer.  And, we must write because it's good to get that out of our heads and heart.

Chantelle said mystery writers like to see justice done.  There was laughter because she finished that by saying, "We're like superheroes."

At one point, it was mentioned that Chantelle wrote flash fiction, so I asked her to tell us about that.  She said those are stories under 1000 words.  She said you can be given prompts.  Here's your subject.  Write about this; you have ten minutes.  It could be rocks, or various items.  Once, she was given lipstick, and knitting needles, so she wrote a piece, "The Case for Killing Granny."  When a cop investigated the death of a woman killed with knitting needles, and asked the victim's sister who might have wanted to kill her, the sister said possibly members of the woman's knitting circle, because she was always stealing patterns.  When the cop asked where to find them, the sister replied, "I guess now I'm the only one left."  Osman has a piece in an anthology called, "A Cup of Joe."  It's an anthology of a flash piece a day, with 365 stories.  Flash fiction is a great way to get your name out.  You're put on the clock and have to write.

Going back to Chantelle's earlier comment about superheroes, Diana said, that's why Chantelle is wearing spandex, and is called "The Flash."

Howard mentioned he had once taken a course from a behaviorist, who told them they had to be an inanimate object.  He was told to be a rock.  Or, you could be in the hot seat.  There are two seats.  You sit in one, and ask a question that has been bothering you.  Then, you get up, go to the other chair, and answer it.

Olson's last question was, why write mysteries, in times like now.  Diana Manley said everyone is looking for order.  They want to know that good triumphs.  Judy Starbuck said she writes mysteries because it's fun.  But, she also likes order.  Chantelle agreed that it's fun, and she likes black humor.  She also likes the patterns of mysteries.   Mystery is ill-defined as a genre.  It can be funny, or a thriller like James Bond, or involve cats.  There's not even always a dead body.  Lori said for her, it's an adventure and fascinating.

Nancy Redd said she's always loved mysteries, and the changing times won't change that.  She started reading mysteries with Nancy Drew.  Osman said, "Mystery writers aren't made.  They're born."  Olson said mysteries come to a conclusion, and there's usually justice.  Deb Ledford said there's nothing more thrilling than creating a puzzle.  We watch the news, and feel powerless.  With mysteries, readers and writers feel empowered.  (Superheroes?)

And, I don't know which author summed it up.  Why short stories?  "They're short."  Roni Olson, President of Desert Sleuths, said, "There's something to be said for that."

The Desert Sleuths' website is

How Not to Survive a Vacation by Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime.  DS Publishing, ©2010. ISBN 9780982877401 (paperback), 206p.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Huck by Janet Elder

Isn't that one of the most adorable faces you've ever seen? It was that face that originally attracted me to Janet Elder's book, Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family - and a Whole Town - About Hope and Happy Endings.  To be honest, the town actually understood hope.  It was Janet Elder, after a bout with cancer, who had to learn to hope again.

Janet Elder and her husband were in their late thirties when their only son, Michael, was born.  From the time he was a baby, Michael loved dogs, and for years, he asked for one for Christmas, to no avail.  Janet and Rick always had an excuse.  They lived in an apartmetn in Manhattan.  She worked for the New York Times; Rich travelled a lot.  With two full-time working parents, the answer to Michael was always no.  But, when Janet was diagnosed with breast cancer at 48, Michael was only eleven.  Once she learned it was going to be a lengthy treatment, she convinced her husband that they needed to get Michael a dog, one to hug and be there for him.  It would be symbol of hope to hold out for him once her treatment was done.  And, she even said, "It was going to be good for all of us to have a puppy, a new life at the center of our lives, a declaration of faith in the future."

For Michael, it was love at first site when a reddish brown toy poodle puppy arrived.  He called him Huck, and the two were just meant for each other.   And, when the family left for a much-needed trip to Florida, it was difficult to leave Huck with Janet's sister in Ramsey, New Jersey.  Perhaps Janet had a premonition.  "I started wondering if it was a mistake to leave Huck in a place so unfamiliar to him."  BIG mistake.  Within twenty-four hours, Huck was gone, and the family had to rush back to try to find him.  How do you find a puppy that has run away?

It might take a village to raise a child, but it took four towns, and a number of people to find a runaway.  Two thirds of the book is about those people who helped in the search.  Rich led the search, never giving up in the attempt to find Huck.  And, Elder chronicles the prayers, posters, and people who assisted in the search for Huck. 

Huck is the story of a dog, and community.  However, as a book, it is padded.  It's not easy to put together three hundred pages about a puppy, and a search for it.   Elder, naturally, has to include the events that led up to it, beginning with Michael's passion for dogs, and culminating in her cancer.  But, details about New Jersey and Tampa could have been edited.  We really didn't need to know all the details about Tampa, and shopping there.  However, I have to admit, without padding there really isn't much of a story here.  Bought a dog, loved a dog, lost if for a few days, hunted for it, and brought it home.   I'm glad Huck was found.  He is an adorable dog.  And, I know Elder's story is how the community helped them find Huck.   But, I think I wasted a little too much time reading a three hundred page book in which one drama happens, and we know the outcome from the cover of the book.

Huck by Janet Elder.  Crown, ©2010. ISBN 9780767931342 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy of this book, in order to read and review it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Betty Webb for Authors @ The Teague

Arizona author Betty Webb is always a favorite to welcome back for Authors @ The Teague.  Although she was here to publicize her latest Zoo mystery, The Koala of Death, she also discussed her other books.

Betty said she is probably best known for her Lena Jones mysteries, series books set in Arizona.  But, one of them, Desert Run, even has a section set in Glendale.  She thinks she put her favorite German restaurant, Haus Murphy's, in that book.  Her books, Desert Wives and Desert Lost, deal with polygamy.  Those books were instrumental in getting laws against polygamy put in place in Arizona.

Then, Webb packed up to tell us about her background.  She was a reporter for twenty years for The Tribune.  She was hired as a music critic, for no good reason.  Maybe it was because she could tell the difference between Bach and Mozart, and Metallica and other bands.  After a while, she realized there was no book reviewer, and asked if she could review books.  She was told no, because they already used the syndicated reviews from the New York Times.  But, Betty covered all the bands and symphonies that came to Arizona.  So, she said, why can't we treat authors in the same way?  If an author is coming to Arizona, let me interview them.  After a while, those articles started to be picked up by the New York Times.

Webb said she was nosy, born nosy.  She always asked unacceptable questions.  When she noticed the oddities about Arizona living, she started doing articles about odd things.  From there, she started covering everything from domestic abuse to polygamy to child abuse.  She made her career up as she went along.

Betty Webb's Lena Jones mysteries are based on real crimes and problems in Arizona.  Desert Noir, the first book, came from the abuse of eminent domain.  When they wanted to build the stadiums in downtown Phoenix, they used eminent domain to take a neighborhood of old adobes.  Webb said most people sold for $25,000, but there was a grandmother who held out, saying she was born in that house, the one her own grandfather built.  She'd never known another house.  The publicity favored her, and finally she was given a much larger amount, enough to buy a decent house.  She sold, reluctantly, the same year she died.  A subplot of Desert Noir is eminent domain.

The second book, Desert Wives, dealt with polygamy.   Webb wanted to cover it for the newspaper, but was told it wasn't about their service area.  So, she went to Colorado City on her own, the largest polygamy compound in Arizona.  She found a slum there, because as long as a home is not finished, the owner doesn't have to pay taxes.  Then there was the major financial reason for polygamy in Arizona.  Since a man can have only one legal wife, all of the sister wives, the concubines, are not legal.  So, their children are illegitimate, and eligible for welfare.  Many of the sister wives are "married" at thirteen, and have twenty or more kids.  There are welfare checks for each of those children.  Then, many of those children are disabled because intermarriage has been common for one hundred years.  According to Webb, 65% of the children are born with genetic defects.  Those children receive SSDI and SSI for their entire lives.  Warren Jeffs, the prophet in Colorado City, was getting all of those checks, since the members were required to turn them over to him.  It made him a multimillionaire.  Although Desert Wives was a novel, Webb put her research in the back of the book.  When the book came out, there was a national explosion.  And, Arizona was forced to address the issue.  Janet Napolitano was the Attorney General at the time. 

Desert Shadows came about because, as the newspaper's book reviewer, Webb received all kinds of books.  Self-publishing was starting to boom, and Webb was receiving some whacked-job books.  Two books she received at the same time sent her over the edge.  She received two racist books in one day.  One claimed the people in the Japanese internment camps were happy.  Webb said anyone who publishes with a reputable publisher would have to prove their argument, but with self-publishing, people can publish anything they want.   Desert Shadows deals with self-publishing.

The old German prisoner of war camp in Phoenix in World War II is the subject in Desert Run.  Sailors taken prisoner in the North Atlantic were sent to this camp, because the best place to imprison sailors was considered to be the desert.  Thirty-two hundred German POWs were there, but the security was quite lax.  There are stories of German prisoners who crawled under fences to meet girlfriends, and came back to camp.  They were well-fed, had a softball field.  Many of them did not want to return to Germany after the war, and some came back.  Several live in Glendale, and every few years there is a reunion with the guards and the ex-prisoners. 

But, officers were supposed to attempt to escape.  So, they came up with a plan, and twenty-five people went along with it.  They'd dig a tunnel out, one 176 feet long.  They had a map with squiggly blue lines, and blue lines indicated rivers.   They built a collapsible boat, thinking they'd sail it down the Salt River Canal, and end up sailing to Mexico. 

On December 24, Christmas Even, they took the boat through the tunnel, just to find a dry canal.  So, they carried the boat to the Salt River, only to find it was all sand.  Then, they dropped the boat, and decided to spread out through the desert.  They had no food or water with them.  They were living on roadkill.  Soon, they started to surrender.  They even surrendered to housewives and kids.  The Arizona Republic published their pictures, saying there was a $25 reward.  That was a good amount in 1944, so some of the Pima Indians went back to tracking, and went out in the desert, and brought them back.  They were all caught.  Desert Run is told from two points of view, that of Lena in present day, and, in 1944-45, that of a sailor who escaped.

Desert Lost is Webb's other polygamy book, a story of the lost boys.  In polygamy, if one man has many wives, some men won't have any.  Some boys don't survive, but others, at the age of thirteen or fourteen, are loaded into vans, and dumped in cities such as Phoenix, Flagstaff or Salt Lake City.  They lead terrible lives.

The Lena Jones books are hard to write, with heavy subjects, and a great deal of research.  So, Webb wanted to cheer herself up, and write something funny.  As a volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo, she works in Monkey Village, where zoo guests are allowed in the enclosures where monkeys run free.  There are no barriers.  It's a personnel-heavy exhibit.  They have to make sure no one picks up a monkey, or gets bitten.

By this time, Webb had retired from The Tribune, and her volunteer duties at the zoo got her out of the house.  One day, on her lunch hour, she took the back path, and saw the anteater.  The anteater, Jezebel, had a baby.  An anteater baby crawls up on its mother's back.  It looks just like mom.  Anteaters also have a three-foot long blue tongue.  So, Jezebel and her baby were chasing each other, and then they were laying down boxing with each other.  Webb thought it was so cute, and she should write an article about the anteater.  Then, she decided to try it out as a book.

The Anteater of Death was fun to write, but Betty never thought she'd get it published.  She sent it to her editor, Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen Press.  It usually takes Barbara a couple months to respond because she's so busy.  Poisoned Pen Press is now the second largest mystery publisher in the U.S.   But, by the end of the week, Barbara contacted her, and said we want to do it.  And, it is going to be a series, isn't it?  And, Betty assured her she has several more planned. 

Then, they had to decide if the books were going to be published under Betty Webb or a pen name.  Sometimes there is a reason to use a pen name.  If an author is publishing in a different field or genre, a pen name separates you from your other books.  Webb had a good reputation with her Lena Jones books.  If The Anteater of Death bombed, Webb would have egg on her face.  Fortunately, the book was very popular, and had good reviews. 

Webb said she kills herself to write the Lena Jones books, but the Zoo mysteries are easy, breezy.  But, Betty had to choose another animal.  So, she went to the zoo bookstore, where, as a volunteer, she gets a hefty discount, and bought an $80 book, Encyclopedia of Animals.  And, she saw a koala, and knew she'd have to research it.  The Phoenix Zoo didn't have any koalas, although there are now some coming in October.

The Koala of Death includes some of the other animals in the zoo.  One activity in the book is one Webb's participated in, Bowling for Rhinos.  It's a fundraiser for rhinos, because it's scary for them.  They're killed for their horns, considered an aphrodisiac by some men.  The horns are also used as hilts for swords and daggers.  Betty has participated in Bowling for Rhinos for two years, and it's a fun fundraiser.  She incorporated it in the book.

The Great Flamingo Round-Up is another activity that was included.  How do you give flamingos avian flu shots?  A band of zookeepers use large plastic walls, and move the herd down the enclosure to a V, where vets are waiting to give them shots.  It's not easy to sweep them into that V.  And, the zookeepers have to grab them around the body, while the flamingo is trying to get them with their beak.  That's included in The Koala of Death.

A major part of the book involves a killing near the koala.  Animals are a part of the mystery, indirectly.  Webb thought of these books are funny, written for the sheer pleasure.  The Lena Jones books involve social service, but Betty didn't think of the Zoo mysteries that way.  But, many people have told her they've learned so much about zoos and animals, and they're volunteering at the zoo.

Webb is working on the seventh Lena Jones book, in a series projected to go to ten.  All she would tell us is that it deals with a serious problem in Arizona and elsewhere, but Arizona is ground zero for the problem.  That book will be Desert Wind.

The Zoo mysteries feature Teddy Bentley, a zookeeper at the Gunn Zoo in California.  The town is based on Moss Landing, a town ninety miles south of San Francisco.  Moss Landing has a population of 500, and they all live on boats.  There are only two streets.  One has antique stores, and the other has warehouses.  There is a big natural harbor that's protected.   Everyone has to live on a boat.  Teddy has to live on a houseboat.  This has enabled Webb to take tax-deductible trips to Moss Landing every summer.

Webb said this is the life of a writer.  Life happens, and if you're alert and paying attention, you'll have wacky opportunities.  If Betty hadn't taken a lunch break at the Phoenix Zoo, she wouldn't have written The Anteater of Death

Webb started and ended The Anteater of Death from the anteater's point of view.   But, koalas sleep 75% of the day, so she didn't write The Koala of Death from the koala's point of view.   Critics liked the second book, but someone said they liked Anteater better because they liked the anteater's point of view.  So, never try to write for anyone else. 

Betty said she has planned the next Zoo mystery, but she won't tell.  She got the idea when she saw something, and was so tickled it made her laugh. She knew it would be her next book when she saw the person and animal so disgusted with each other. 

The next Lena Jones mystery will probably be out in December 2011, because the research is extensive.

As always, it was a pleasure to host Betty Webb for Authors @ The Teague.

Betty Webb's website is

The Koala of Death by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2010. ISBN 9781590587560 (hardcover), 250p.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Winners & Novels of Kidnapping Giveaway

Congratulations to the recent winners.  Lee Child's Gone Tomorrow will go to Cindi H. from Edwardsville, IL.   I'll be sending Chelsea Cain's Heartsick to Tawnda M. from East Greenville, PA .  And, Ingrid K. won Mariah Stewart's Home Again.   I'll be mailing the Child and Cain books, and Mariah Stewart's publisher will send out that book.

This week, I'm featuring two recent blockbuster novels, with similar themes.  As Laura Lippman's victim said, when asked how she was rescued, she almost answered, "I'm not sure I was."  That could be the answer in both books.  Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere is about a woman who had been kidnapped when she fifteen, and held hostage for six weeks.  When her kidnapper contacts her from death row, she wants to know why he let her live when other girls were killed.  I'd Know You Anywhere is one of the best of Lippman's books.

Or you could win Chevy Stevens' debut novel, Still Missing.  Annie O'Sullivan was abducted when the thirty-two-year-old realtor was working an open house.  Held captive for a year, she relives her experience through sessions with her psychiatrist.  That nightmare is entwined with the nightmare that actually followed her escape, as she tries to put her life back together.

So, which novel would you like to win, I'd Know You Anywhere or Still Missing?  You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win I'd Know You Anywhere" or "Win Still Missing." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. I'll notify the winners and mail the books the next day. Good luck!

What Women Want by Paco Underhill

First, let me tell you that I adore Paco Underhill. Then, I'll add that the entire title of his most recent book is What Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female Friendly. If you don't know Paco Underhill and his books, he's a market research guru, the founder and CEO of Envirosell, Inc., a worldwide company that works with companies such as Target, Trader Joe's Starbucks, Verizon, examining culture, shopping patterns, trends, and showing those companies how to reposition themselves to do better in the marketplace. Underhill's earlier books were Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping and Call of the Mall. These were important books, and businesses took note, and many of them implemented his suggestions. As a woman, I'm hoping they pay attention to his new book.

Underhill covers a great deal of ground in this book, from how hotels should be treating women, the changes in bathrooms and workout spaces to the dominance of women in social networking. He has an easy, accessible writing style. With this book, it's essential to read the introduction, where he explains why he's writing this book. Traveling around the world, he sees "The expanded cultural, social, and economic influence of women." And, in every speech he delivers, he says, "We live in a world that is owned by men, designed by men, and managed by men - and yet we expect women to be active participants in it."

Underhill believes those businesses that flourish will recognize the importance of women in the marketplace. As our recent economic problems have shown, women have kept their jobs, while more men have lost theirs in this recession. According to Underhill, "Approximately 70 percent of all American females work outside the home. Women control not just a percentage of active income in the world - i.e., money they take home from their jobs - but a large percentage of passive income, meaning family money, or money they've inherited." We dominate higher education; we're studying in the sciences. We've changed the way people shop for groceries with the organic movement.

What do women want? Paco Underhill says women want cleanliness, control, safety, and considerateness. And, What Women Want points out that businesses flourish when they recognize that women want different things than men do, from cars to hotels to drugstores. There's a fascinating chapter about hotels, stressing that women travelers want clean rooms, good lighting and safety. Amen!

I've always been fascinated by books about market research when they're readable.  Paco Underhill's are my favorite.  If you're interested in future trends, and where Underhill's customers will probably end up, thanks to him, you'll want to try What Women Want.

What Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female Friendly by Paco Underhill.  Simon & Schuster, ©2010. ISBN 9781416569954 (hardcover), 214p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Home Again by Mariah Stewart

The first book in Mariah Stewart's Chesapeake Diaries series was released in March, Coming Home.  I haven't read that one yet, and you don't need to have read it to enjoy Home Again.  But, let me just tell you, that according to Stewart's website, in the first week it was out, Coming Home was "The #1 bestselling romance in Borders (#3 bestselling mass market overall);

#11 bestselling mass market at Barnes & Noble;

#11 on Publisher’s Weekly bestselling mass market list;

#12 On the New York Times bestselling mass market list ~

AND spent 5 weeks on USAToday and 9 weeks on Bookscan's Romance list!"  And, if Home Again is any example, deservedly so.  I don't read a large number of romances during the year, but this one was wonderful.  If you're willing to try romances, I hope you try Home Again.
Dallas MacGregor was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.  But, she considered herself a mother first and an actress second.  When her six-year-old son, Cody, came home from camp  in tears because the other kids knew his sleazy father was on sex tapes with two women, Dallas, who had already filed for divorce, knew it was time to find a refuge.  And, what better place than St. Dennis, a small town on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland?  The town had been Dallas' own refuge when her father died suddenly when she was eleven.  And, her great aunt, Beryl (Berry) Eberle, retired as an actress herself, took Dallas in then, and is willing to welcome Dallas and her son home now.
Now, back in her summer home, can Dallas rebuild a secure life for her son?  And, what about Grant Wyler, her summer love from the time she was eleven?  The boy that she left when she went for her dream as an actress, is back in St. Dennis with a practice as a veterinarian.  And, Berry is quite skillful at finding a way to bring together a boy and a dog, and a woman with her ex-boyfriend.
This is a romance with strong, interesting characters, and left over stories that will make you eager to read the next book in the series.  The minor characters have their own backstories to be told.  Beryl's story is revealed in this one, but there are other interesting characters, beginning with Grant's sister, Steffie, who runs the local ice cream store.  And, what's the secret behind Dallas' brother?  There are more stories to be told. 
In the meantime, Mariah Stewart's Home Again offers warmth, romance, dogs, and a beautiful setting.  Is there anything else you expect from a romantic novel?

The publisher is offering a copy of Home Again to one winner from each blog on Mariah Stewart's blog tour.  If you'd like to enter to win, just comment below, and include your email address.  Thursday night, after 6 p.m., I'll contact the winner to get the address where you want the book sent.  If you win, you could also give the address of a friend, if you'd like to surprise them with the book.  Good luck!  You have just two days to enter.
Mariah Stewart's website is,  and she can be found on Facebook at
Home Again by Mariah Stewart.  Ballantine Books, ©2010. ISBN 9780345520357 (paperback), 464p.

FTC Full Disclosure - As part of the TLC Tour, the publicist sent me a copy of Home Again, so I could read and review it.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Arsenic and Old Paint by Hailey Lind

If you like art history, San Francisco, and a mystery with diverse characters, humor and a little sexual tension, you can't go wrong with Hailey Lind's books.  It's been three years since the last book in the Art Lover's mystery series, but Lind is at the top of her game with Arsenic and Old Paint.

Even when artist and faux finisher Annie Kincaid thinks she's taken a routine job, things can go bad quickly.  Hired to use paint to recreate the appearance of a Victorian wallpaper that had been ruined, Annie and her team hear a woman's scream, and find an unusual murder scene.  There's a man in a bathtub, with a sword in his body, and a woman in a French maid's outfit standing over him.  The murder scene reminded Annie of David's painting, Death of Marat.  But, that murder is just one of the curious activities at the exclusive Fleming-Union men's club on Nob Hill.  Once she's kicked out of the club, and told her services are no longer needed, Annie will do anything to get back in and investigate, even crawl through tunnels. 

How does Annie Kincaid get into these messes?  Before she knows it, her straight-arrow landlord, Frank DeBenton, asks her to look for a bronze sculpture that disappeared.  Her business partner, "reformed" art thief, Michael X. Johnson, gone for a few weeks, appears and disappears at the most inopportune moments.   And, in a family of forgers, it appears that her beloved "Uncle" Anton might have been involved in the forgery of a Gauguin that has disappeared.   Forgeries, stolen art work, and the reappearance of thieves and forgers in her life.  As Annie says, "When there are a lot of coincidences in my life things tend to go bad, fast."

Even Annie's love life is a mess.  She's attracted to both bad boy Michael and straight-laced Frank, who might have a mysterious past himself.  The only solution is to turn to chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate.  And, a complicated investigation doesn't hurt.  Although Annie continuously tells Michael they're not investigators, she continues to delve into the disappearance of art work, and the story of tunnels under Chinatown and Nob Hill.

Hailey Lind successfully intertwines the mystery and history with Annie's amusing life.  Annie's friends are a remarkable, unusual group of people, and some of the pleasure in reading these books is meeting up with Annie, her family and friends again.  Arsenic and Old Paint is the best book of the series, so far, but, if you haven't read any of them, I recommend you go back and start from the beginning.  It's worth reading about Annie and her unusual group of acquaintances.  Nothing is any better than a good mystery with a strong group of characters.  Arsenic and Old Paint, and Hailey Lind's other mysteries, offer a wealth of unusual characters, along with a fascinating look into mysteries in the art world.

Hailey Lind's website is

Arsenic and Old Paint by Hailey Lind.  Perseverance Press, ©2010. ISBN  9781564744906 (paperback), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author asked that the publisher send me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Chat for Penguin's October Releases - Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

My lighting wasn't quite right in this book chat, and I apologize.  But, it takes 3 hours to do each one, and I wasn't able to do a second one.  Plus, most people only want to see the cats anyways.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Salon - The Last Matryoshka by Joyce Yarrow

Joyce Yarrow brings back Jo Epstein, New York City private investigator and performance poet, in the sequel to Ask the DeadThe Last Matryoshka starts out in Brighton Beach, and the Russian community there, but Jo will find she's in the greatest danger when she follows her case to Russia.

Jo's surprised to get a call from her stepfather, Nikolai, since they've never been close.  But, they both love Jo's mother, Ruth.  And, she's suspicious of Nikolai when he tells her some off-the-wall story about a murder in an elevator, and that he was set up so it looks like he killed a man.  He hires Jo to investigate, but the case quickly escalates when he receives a nesting doll, a Matryoshka, with a message inside.  "You ruined my sister.  Now you will suffer."  Jo knows Nikolai knows more than he's telling, but she's forced to work with the man she doesn't trust in a case that leads to undercover cops and fake fashions.  Finally, in order to protect her mother, she follows her stepfather, and the case, to Russia.  Why?  Her mom's husband is "Up to his neck in illegal activities and may or may not have been framed for murder."  But, it's family.

The Last Matryoshka is a multi-layered complicated story, best represented by those nesting dolls with one story inside another.  It's a story of family, Russian criminals known as the vory, and history.  Somewhere in Nikolai's Russian past is a story worth killing for, and Jo Epstein is determined to discover it.  She's an admirable character, an investigator willing to set aside her feelings to protect her mother.  It's not an easy story to read, with a full cast of undercover cops and Russian names.  But, it's a story that explores the past, Russia, and relatiionships.  You'll want to discover the secrets buried in The Last Matryoshka.

Joyce Yarrow's website is

The Last Matryoshka by Joyce Yarrow.  Five Star, ©2010. ISBN 9781594148873 (hardcover), 274p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me an ARC, hoping I would review the book.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stick-To-It-Iveness by Addie Johnson

Addie Johnson's Stick-To-It-Iveness: Inspirations to Get You Where You Want to Go is the third and final inspirational book I had by the author.   It's not the best or worst of the three.  It has more humor than the other books, but like the first one, Lemons to Lemonade, I found an error in it.  A Little Book of Thank Yous was actually the best of the three.  But, this one has something neither of the others do: a few stories of animals, stories that are always popular.

Much of the book is based on a quote from Thomas A. Edison.  "The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-it-iveness; third, common sense."  The author claims there is nothing we can't accomplish if we put these three qualities together.  And, the anecdotes included in the book show the importance of stick-to-it-iveness.  I'm not going to give away the ending of Franesca Faridany's story of "doggedness," but it's an important story with a funny ending.  Johnson quotes people from Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King, Jr. to prove her points, but animal lovers will also like the examples shown by the efforts of dogs, penguins, and butterflies.

Johnson does pick excellent quotes for her books.  My two favorites in this one?  "It may be that those who do most, dream most" is by Stephen Butler Leacock.  Poet E.E. Cummings had my favorite one.  "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

If you're looking for inspiration, combined with humor and anecdotes, Addie Johnson offers Stick-To-It-Iveness: Inspirations to Get You Where You Want to Go.

Stick-To-It-Iveness: Inspirations to Get You Where You Want to Go by Addie Johnson. Conari Press, ©2010. ISBN 9781573244749 (hardcover), 112p.

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