Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Macmillan/St. Martin's Thank You

Thanks to Talia Sherer at Macmillan, I had the chance to tour the St. Martin's offices and meet the staff. They regularly send me books to review, but this time, they even allowed me to go through their offices, picking books off the shelves. This video is my thank you. (And, I know I said Christmas in June in the video, but it's appropriate since I won't get into any of them until June.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Winners and The Next Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The autographed copy of Earlene Fowler's Fool's Puzzle will go to Helen W. of Achille, OK. Liz V. from Annapolis, MD will received Miranda James' Classified as Murder. I'll put the books in the mail tomorrow.

As I said, I'm leaving Wednesday morning for Ohio, so the next contest will kick off on Friday, June 10, after I return.

In the meantime, happy reading!

June Mystery Releases from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian

Welcome to this month's book chat featuring the June releases from Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian. This month's chat features a guest appearance by Josh.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Cleveland Creep by Les Roberts

Authors of long-running mystery series have a terrible decision to make when they start writing. Do they age their protagonist in real time, or not? Sue Grafton' s Kinsey Millhone is still stuck in the '80s, without cell phones or laptops. Robert B. Parker's Spencer was once a veteran of the Korean War, until Parker stopped mentioning what war he was in so that Spencer wasn't too old to continue. Les Roberts chose to age his detective, Milan Jacovich. That's one reason The Cleveland Creep was a tough book to read.

Milan knows he's almost sixty.  When a fellow detective urges him to take on an assistant, she tells him, "You're no kid anymore. You get hurt a lot. You've been shot, stabbed, beaten up - last winter you got a concussion and almost died in somebody's basement. You should take things easier." Over the course of his career, Jacovich's best friend was killed trying to protect him, and, due to this case, he loses a couple friends. It's no easier for readers of this series to watch Jacovich age than it is for him to do it.

When Milan agrees to look for a missing man on behalf of the man's mother, he doesn't know what he's getting into. Twenty-eight-year-old Earl Dacey lived at home, didn't have a job, and he turned out to be a pervert. Jacovich's new assistant, a young man nicknamed K.O., learns more about the porn industry in northern Ohio than he really wanted to know. When Earl's body shows up, a friend in the Cleveland police department, and an FBI agent encourage Milan to continue to dig into the porn business, while they look halfheartedly for a killer. But, Milan never was one to listen to authority, and he still owes answers to his client, even if her son was a sleazeball.

I learned way more about the porn film industry than I ever cared to know while reading this book. The Cleveland Creep wasn't really enjoyable, but I read it because Milan Jacovich was always Cleveland's version of Spenser. Spenser's creator died, and Milan's author took him into a gritty investigation in which someone else had to step in to save him. Roberts once said that he didn't want Jacovich to have a Susan Silverman. Instead, Milan has two sons who are grown. He's lost his marriage, his friends, has no close personal relationships, and, now, he's forced to take an assistant because he's getting too old to do what he used to do. The Cleveland Creep? Sad, just sad.

The Cleveland Creep by Les Roberts. Gray & Co. ©2011. ISBN 9781598510713 (hardcover), 264p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book to read and review.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sixkill by Robert B. Parker

Sixkill, the 39th Spenser novel, was also the last book by Robert B. Parker. Ace Atkins will write future books in the series, as agreed by the estate. Other families have tried to continue series with mixed results. Robert Goldsborough wrote seven books about Nero Wolfe after Rex Stout died. After Lawrence Sanders' death, Vincent Lardo wrote six McNally books. I tried both series, and gave up on them. I'll keep my fingers crossed for Atkins. Spenser was my favorite private investigator, and this last book by Parker would have been an appropriate culmination.

Even the opening chapter of Sixkill is filled with the witty conversations Spenser was known for. Quirk, Spenser's police captain friend, shows up to ask for help in a complicated situation. Jumbo Nelson, a well-known actor, is a person of interest in a murder investigation. A twenty-year-old girl is dead following sex with Jumbo. Everyone from the governor to the newspapers likes Jumbo for the death. But, Quirk is a little dubious and doesn't want to see an innocent man railroaded, no matter how sleazy the actor may be. He asks Spenser to investigate, on behalf of Jumbo's attorney, Rita Fiore.

Unfortunately for Jumbo, he doesn't like Spenser's attitude, and wants to fire Spenser and Rita. He also sets his bodyguard, Zebulon Sixkill, on Spenser. When Spenser knocks Sixkill on his ass, Jumbo fires him. With no place to go, the Cree Indian ends up asleep outside Spenser's office. Now, Spenser has an investigation and a protégé. 

I read all 39 Spenser books, so I just might not remember Parker providing background for a character in the way he did for Sixkill. He dribbles out bits and pieces of Sixkill's life in the course of the book. The style works perfectly with Spenser's unquestioning methods of working with Sixkill. With Hawk out of town, Spenser builds Zebulon Sixkill into another man to watch his back when there's serious opposition to Spenser's investigation into Jumbo Nelson's role in the death of Dawn Lopata. Had Parker continued the series, Zebulon Sixkill might have been a fascinating new back-up for Spenser.

For anyone who read, and will miss, the Spenser series, this book actually provides a satisfying finale. Despite the fact that Hawk is missing in action, we get the chance to remember most of Spenser's friends and allies. Most of them are mentioned in the course of the book when Susan Silverman is mentioning back-up for Spenser in his latest quest that alienates dangerous opposition. And, whether or not you're a reader that liked Susan and Pearl, they're present. In fact, it's Susan who actually provides the suitable eulogy for Spenser. "Sometimes I think you are far too kind for your own good." Other times, "I think you are the hardest man I've ever seen."

I'm going to miss Robert B. Parker's literate, wiseass detective with his code of conduct, and his fascinating sidekicks. 

Sixkill by Robert B. Parker. G.P. Putnam's Sons. ©2011. ISBN 9780399157264 (hardcover), 293p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Great Readalike - If You Like This...You'll LOVE That!

I'm ending my BEA coverage with the panel, The Great Readalike: If You Like This...You'll LOVE That! Talia Sherer at Macmillan invited a group of librarians to talk about books and genres we're passionate about.  The panel was presented by the Association of American Publishers and Library Journal. It was such an honor to be on this panel with librarians whose names I recognize from Fiction_L, a Readers' Advisory listserv. Wilda Williams of Library Journal moderated. I was joined on the panel by Stephanie Chase, Multnomah County Library, Kaite M.Stover, Kansas City Public LIbrary, Shayera Tangri, Los Angeles Public Library, and Robin Beerbower, Salem Public Library (Oregon). Truly an honor to be there with all of them.

I discussed traditional mysteries on the panel. I didn't get to talk about all the books, since we only had ten minutes apiece, but the 100 attendees did receive copies of our lists. I waited until after the panel was over to share my list, but I thought some of you might be interested.

Traditional Mysteries (Lesa Holstine)

*If you like –

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (next one – A Trick of the Light, 8/30/11)
ISBN 9780312377045
St. Martin’s Minotaur

Try - One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming
St. Martin’s Minotaur

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (next one – Hell is Empty, 6/2/11)

Among the Departed by Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press

*If you like –

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich (next one – Smokin’ Seventeen, Bantam, 6/21/11)
ISBN 9780312383305
St. Martin’s Press

Try - Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts
Forge Books

Sticky Fingers by Nancy Martin
St. Martin’s Minotaur

Liar, Liar by K.J. Larsen (next one – Sticks and Stones, 8/2/11)
Poisoned Pen Press

*If you like –

Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson
William Morrow

Try - The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames (Latest book – Lost and Fondue, 2011)

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy (Latest book – Buffalo West Wing, 2011)

Devil’s Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

If you like –

Sherlock Holmes/Dr.Watson pairing by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin pairing by Rex Stout

Try - John Ceepak/Danny Boyle pairing by Chris Grabenstein
Tilt-A-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein (Latest – Rolling Thunder, Pegasus, 2010)
Carroll & Graf

Thank you again to Talia and my fellow librarians. It was a terrific experience!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Quick Book Giveaway

This is a quick book contest. I know I just returned from NYC, but I leave again on Wednesday, this time for Ohio to celebrate my mother's birthday. So, I'm holding a quick book giveaway. It starts right now, and I'm ending it Monday night, May 30th at 5 PM PT. Then, I can get the books in the mail before I leave.

I have autographed copies of two traditional mysteries. If you haven't read any of Earlene Fowler's mysteries, you should start with Fool's Puzzle, the first Benni Harper book. After her husband's death, Benni Harper moves to San Celina, California, where she takes a job as director of a folk art museum. Benni stumbles upon the body of a brutally stabbed artist, tries to conduct her own investigation, and meets the local police chief, who likes the short and sassy cowgirl.  This is the first book that brought us the mysteries with intriguing quilt titles that hint at the storyline.

Or, you could win Miranda James' most recent Cat in the Stacks mystery,  Classified as Murder.  I have an autographed ARC of the story that takes librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine coon cat, Diesel, into the library, and the murder, of a book collector.

Which mystery would you like to win, Fool's Puzzle or Classified as Murder? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries.  Email me at lholstine@yahoo.com.  The subject lines should read, either "Win Fool's Puzzle" or "Win Classified as Murder."  Include your name and mailing address in the body of the email.  Entries only from the U.S., please.

The contest will close Monday, May 30 at 5 PM PT when I'll draw the winners using a random number generator.  The books will go out in the mail on Tuesday.  Good luck!

Authors at BEA

Some of these pictures aren't great because of lighting in the halls. I want to thank Talia Sherer at Macmillan for ensuring that I had good seats at both banquets. Even before the banquets though, I attended the Library Day of Dialog at McGraw-Hill.

Along with the panels, there were two authors as speakers that day. Both were excellent. Actor/author John Lithgow was there to talk about his forthcoming book, Drama: An Actor's Education (Sept./Harper/Collins). As you would expect, he was an entertaining and moving speaker as he talked about reading to his father.

John Lithgow

The author, though, that truly inspired all of us was Karin Slaughter who wasn't there to publicize her forthcoming book, Fallen, but to promote her Save The Libraries campaign, stressing the need to support libraries, and the loss of libraries in so many communities. She wasn't the only one to remind us over the course of two days that dictators close libraries first when they take power, and that governments who are closing or curtailing libraries are shutting down opportunities for young people. She inspired all of us with her story of her own youth, saying she wouldn't be a writer if it wasn't for libraries. And, she has said before that the closing of libraries is a matter of national security. Slaughter is putting her time and efforts into a passionate support of libraries.

Monday night was the AAP Librarians Banquet at the Yale Club, hosted by Nancy Pearl. The lighting, unfortunately, wasn't conducive to good photos, even though I was at the table by the podium.

Tuesday morning before my panel, I went to Mystery Writers of America's booth, hoping to find Hilary Davidson. Not only did I run into Hilary, but I also found fellow bloggers Jen Forbus and Erin Faye there.
And, Hilary and Jen were kind enough to come over to The Great Readalike Panel after Hilary's signing was over.

Hilary Davidson and Jen Forbus
Jen Forbus, Hilary Davidson, Me, and Erin Faye

Following the panel, I went to the The Fifth Annual BookExpo Amercia Librarians Lunch, sponsored by The Assocaiton of American Publishers and EarlyWord. I finally met Nora Rawlinson! Nora is the co-founder of EarlyWord, a wonderful site for librarians. Nora was the host for the lunch, introducing the authors.

Nora Rawlinson

 And, what a slate of authors. The men, in particular, were really funny. It was an enjoyable way to end BEA.

Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers (Sept.)

Spencer Quinn, author of To Fetch a Thief
Chuck Palahniuk, author of Damned, Oct.
Julie Kagawa, author of The Iron Queen
Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise

David Baldacci, author One Summer, June

I owe Talia Sherer, Library Marketing Director at Macmillan, a big thanks for giving me the opportunity to attend and participate in this year's BEA. Thank you, Talia.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cathy Holton, Guest Blogger

When Cathy Holton asked if she could do a guest blog, I jumped at the chance to host her. I had read and reviewed her book, Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes. I loved it. So, now, it's my pleasure to introduce you to Cathy's fun guest blog. Thank you, Cathy.

Cathy Holton is the author of Beach Trip, Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes, and Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes, all published through Ballantine/Random House books. Her new novel,  Summer in the South, was just released by Ballantine. As a child Cathy had an active imagination and a tendency to “embellish” the truth, which led eventually to her becoming a writer. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband, three children, and a rescue dog named Yoshi.

No, That Character Is Not You

By Cathy Holton

“Am I in your book?”

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asks me that question. With the launch of a new novel, my phone rings off the hook for a few weeks with people claiming to recognize themselves or family members as characters in the novel.

One woman emailed me from California and said, “I knew Eadie Boone. I grew up with her. But how did you know her? She died in 1962. And by the way, you spelled her name wrong.”

I suppose it’s a compliment that my characters seem like real people. But the reality is, none of them are ever based entirely on people I know. And there’s a reason for that. Most people lead quiet, monotonous lives and in order to come across as three-dimensional on a page, they have to be drawn “larger than life.” They require a touch of imagination, an amalgamation, to become living, breathing characters in a novel.

Writers are like big sponges. We like nothing better than to sit quietly observing a crowd. We soak up mannerisms, bits of dialogue, the way a woman wears her hair, or a man jiggles his knee nervously as he talks on a cell phone. All of this information gets stored in some dark, musty crevice in the brain, and years later, when a character begins forming on a page, comes spilling out. There’s a moment when a character takes on a life of his or her own, when the writer realizes she’s lost control, not of their fate but of their forming, and it’s usually then that these spongy bits spring into consciousness. It’s the mannerisms, observed and then forgotten, that make a character “real.”

I’ll sometimes take a small notebook and jot down snatches of overheard dialogue that is simply too good to pass up. (Remember this if you ever sit next to me in an airport or restaurant.) I once sat next to two elderly Southern ladies in a tea room. They were wearing fur and discussing another woman’s garden.

“How do you think she gets her roses so big?” one asked the other.

“It’s her Cambodian yard boy,” the other answered. “Don’t you think Cambodians make the best yard boys?”

Bingo. I knew instantly who these women were, their backgrounds, their marriages, their archaic view of the world, just by how they were dressed and what they said in a few short sentences. (And yes, I did use this dialogue in a future novel.) If I tried, I could even imagine their childhoods; private schools, a prestigious women’s college, marriage to a boy from the “right family.”

Writers are Dr. Frankensteins. A bit of hair, a stutter, the way a character laughs and hides her eyes when in the presence of another. We painstakingly build our creatures. But it’s those long-forgotten observations that come tumbling out when we least expect them that give our characters life.

So if, by chance, you recognize a physical trait or a name or a snatch of dialogue, don’t assume the character is you. It’s just a phantom using your words to transform itself into flesh and blood.

As my lawyer advises me to say, “It’s all fiction, folks.”

Cathy Holton’s website is http://www.cathyholton.com/

Summer in the South by Cathy Holton. Ballantine ©2011. ISBN-10: 0345506014; Hardcover, 352 pages

Thank you, Cathy. And, here's a brief summary of Summer in the South. SUMMER IN THE SOUTH by Cathy Holton (Random House, ISBN-10: 0345506014 $25, hardcover, May 24, 2011, Fiction.)  A Chicago writer fleeing her troubled past stumbles upon a sixty-year-old murder mystery in a small Southern town.   As a guest of the prominent Woodburn clan, keepers of a violent past, Ava Dabrowski soon finds herself entangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New York City - Day 4 - Sunday

Our tourist time in New York City is running down. Book Expo America starts tomorrow with the Library Day of Dialog. So, we switched hotels today from the Hotel Mela near Times Square to the Hotel Roger Williams on Madison Avenue, a very nice business hotel. I've been really impressed with the service here. We dropped off our luggage, and decided to walk around a little while waiting for an early check-in.

We ended up at the Empire State Building, so we know how close it is if we have time to go up tomorrow night. It was enshrouded in clouds today. The weather probably won't be much better tomorrow, but we'll see.

The Empire State Building

Then, we walked over to Madison Square Garden, so I could see it, and then, of all shopping to do in NYC, I stopped in a K-Mart so I could buy a sweatshirt to wear tonight on the Grey Line Tour. The weather here has been lousy all week, damp and chilly if it isn't raining. (I'm not a shopper, and didn't come to NYC to shop.)

A block from the hotel is a string of one costume jewelry shop after another. A was in her glory, hitting all of them, while I went to the Korean Street Fair to benefit the Korean Catholic Church. I enjoyed two drumming performances and a Tae Kwon Do demonstration. Some of the costumed young people were getting ready for another performance. One of the drummers told me there was no problem with pictures, and she even got a group to perform.

Children from the Tae Kwon Do Team
Drummers Getting Ready
Koren Drummers

On the way back to the hotel, I found a beautiful church, St. Francis of Assisi.
Very comfortable room at the Roger Williams. And, then we walked to dinner at Docks, a seafood restaurant

On our way to Times Square, we came across the Helmsley Building. Very interesting since people could drive through it.

Then walked back to Times Square to catch a bus for the Grey Line tour. It's a tour I'd recommend. The bus goes around the city, and into Brooklyn. Very interesting. It was a two hour sunset tour, and, really, my last chance to see the area on this trip. I love New York, though, and I don't think it will take ten years to get back this time. So, here are the pictures from the tour, beginning with leaving Times Square.

The Flatiron Building - Home of Macmillan & Spiderman's Daily Bugle

Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Skyline

Last tourist bit. Back to work on Monday. That's the Library Journal Day of Dialog at McGraw-Hill, and then dinner at the Yale Club. I'm sure I'll want to talk about that. But, the pictures won't be as attractive.

I hope you enjoyed my tourist visit to New York City.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New York City - Day 3 - Saturday

Busy morning on Saturday. We went to breakfast at Pax so I could finally have a New York bagel. A. already had two. Then when we went to Bryant Park, and I wanted to take some pictures, I found out my camera wasn't working since I didn't charge it last night. Fortunately, A was kind enough to let me use her Samsung to take pictures, and we downloaded them later. This book cart in the park is sponsored by HSBC. Evidently, kids can use the books while they're in the park.

Bryant Park Carousel

Before we went to the NYPL Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, we did get a picture of the building across the street with the circulating collection.

Then, we crossed over to get pictures of the building everyone thinks of as "THE New York Public Library, although there are other buildings. This weekend was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of that building. It opened May 23, 1911.

And, the lions! I love Patience and Fortitude. For the anniversary celebration, LEGO artist Nathan Saways did replicas of the iconic lions.
Me with Patience, one of the Library Lions
Me with one of the LEGO lions

We were lucky enough to get to tour the building, and then we had a rare tour of the closed stacks. It's something they usually do at the holidays for special groups. We went down three floors on back stairs. We were able to see the stacks, and also the dumbwaiter they use to send the books up to the reading rooms. Frankly, as a former page, the pages at the NYPL who work the closed stacks appear to have a boring job. But, people are people, and they also had warnings not to hide the bins of books because it makes more work for other people. I felt very lucky to be in NYC for this celebration, having the chance to take both tours. The building itself is beautiful, but it's fun to know most people never get to see the closed stacks.

We happened to pass a chocolate show, Lily O'Brien's on our way to the library in the morning, so we ended back there this afternoon since they weren't open when we were out walking earlier. MMMMMMMM. Chocolate from County Kildare, Ireland. A bought two boxes of the Sticky Toffee Chocolates, something she usually only gets in England. Very good chocolates.

It was our last night to hit Broadway shows. (sniff) A. went to see comedian Mike Birbiglia, one of her favorites, while I met Talia Sherer to see That Championship Season with Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth, Jason Patric, Jim Gaffigan and Brian Cox. Another magical evening in New York. I don't understand why this play didn't do better because the cast was superb. Reviews said it was dated. OK, it's set in 1972. But, for Pete's sake, if you know it's set in 1972, and, it's played as if it's 1972, why does that date it, anymore than a play set in Victorian England. At least Talia and I really enjoyed it.

Theater posters
Then, I had to take one last spin through Times Square since we switch hotels on Sunday. We're moving to Madison Avenue for our last two nights, away from the Theater District and Times Square.