So, today, I'm introducing a new feature on my blog, Sandie's Corner.In November, she sent me a book review that proved to be popular. Sandie's health doesn't allow her to publish regularly. And, this is still my blog, and I will continue to write most of the content. But, she and I discovered, as much as we both love mysteries, we really read different authors. Sandie's occasional reviews will offer you comments that you wouldn't normally see on my blog, reviews of books by other authors. In fact, Sandie will sometimes review older books by authors you might not have read, or books you might have missed.
Sandie has an interesting background in writing, too. She wrote a tribute about David Thompson for the 2010 NoirCon program. And, she wrote two essays for the multiple-award winning book, THEY DIED IN VAIN: Overlooked, Underappreciated and Forgotten Mystery novels edited by Jim Huang. It was a follow up to 100 FAVORITE MYSTERIES OF CENTURY. The driving question was "If characters die in a mystery novel, and no one reads their story, have they died in vain? Sandy said, " I was fortunate to write an essay on Phil Reed's BIRD DOG and William Kent Krueger's IRON LAKE (both first mysteries). The book won many awards, the Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity Awards for Best Non-Fiction of 2002. I was so ecstatic when we won them, too."
So, I'm turning this blog over to Sandie for today. She can introduce herself, and I'll publish a set of her retrospective reviews. Don't worry. You'll still see all of my regular features from Treasures in My Closet to recaps of events. But, I hope you welcome Sandie Herron, and enjoy the comments from someone else who loves crime fiction.
I couldn't decide what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” I think I had too many strong interests. After enjoying music and conducting most in high school, I started college majoring in biochemistry to become a medical assistant while continuing music informally. I especially enjoyed studying genetics. Squeezing five years of courses into four actual years seemed daunting. My biochemistry lab teacher about broke into tears when I told her I quit the course, and she spurted out, “But you’re the only one who got the test right!” I didn’t want to stumble my way from course to course and not be sure of a trajectory, so I left the umbrella of Rutgers University and continued on to night school for my associate’s degree.
I decided secretarial work would get me a good job to support myself and enable me to try different fields while searching for one that would fit me best. I worked at AT&T headquarters, in probate, in a company sponsoring investment seminars, managed a physical therapy practice, managed my husband's CPA firm, and ran my own bookstore, A Novel Idea.
Several autoimmune diseases ganged up on me at once, so I had to give up many of the jobs I loved, but I refused to give up completely. Even tho more related illnesses have popped up since, I have not given up managing Bill’s office, and I do that now on a part time basis and off site to avoid stress. However, I did close A Novel Idea totally, which took months and generated many tears. I loved A Novel Idea, but the workload was large, the hours long, and the pay very, very small.
As they say, once a window closes, a door opens, and an opportunity to review books was offered to me, and I grabbed it with both hands. It gave me the time to actually read the books I loved and still enjoy the many book related friendships I had made. Taking care of me has become much more of a full time job these days because illness has put limitations on what I can do. I look at it as a an opportunity to read more.
It is with great joy to reconnect with Lesa after networking with each other while I ran A Novel Idea and Lesa ran the Lee County Reading Festival's Authors' Committee. We complement each other in many ways.
A little background on Sandie -
Favorite quote: Nothing is ever final, and nothing is ever finished. Every ending is always a new beginning. We are safe; it's only change." Louise Hayes
Favorite Music: almost anything as long as it’s well written, the Dixie Chicks, Renaissance, Spyrogyra, Dan Fogelberg, the Eagles, Liquid Mind, Pachebel
Favorite Books: Way too many to name, but the same holds as for music – almost anything as long as it’s well written, the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries by Charlaine Harris, Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series, Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey and Dulcie series and that should give you a broad idea of my interests.
Favorite Movies: As above, including Dave, Independence Day, While You Were Sleeping, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Medicine Man, the Die Hard series.
Favorite TV: You can guess by now that would include True Blood, Rizzoli and Isles, HGTV, Bones
Unlike me, Sandie has read almost all of Donna Andrews' Meg Langslow mysteries. She just received a copy of the latest one, The Real Macaw, so she hasn't reviewed it yet. So, while you're waiting for that review, here's a preview of what you will get when Sandie reviews. Here's Sandie's review of an earlier mystery by Donna Andrews.
We’ll Always Have Parrots #5
By Donna Andrews
St. Martin’s Press, February, 2004
Meg Langslow, blacksmith, has accompanied her fiancé Michael, a drama professor, to a convention run by Friends of Amblyopia, fans of the cult TV show "Porfiria, Queen of the Jungle." Michael plays the part of Mephisto, a Machiavellian sorcerer, on the show. His presence at the convention is required by his contract and by Tamerlaine Wynncliffe-Jones, the aging woman who plays Queen Porfiria and owns the production company.
Trouble is brewing right from the start when room service delivers parrots, freed by monkeys from the jungle-like lobby display, along with breakfast trays. The health department insists they remove the live animals yet somehow each time they are captured, they are set free again.
Michael does extremely well during his "spotlight" in front of the fans in costumes from the show. Meg spies a woman holding up a headdress covered with ostrich feathers and wearing a purple brocade dress with a ten-foot train. The man with her is dressed in black velvet robes that mark him as a healing magician. They are Meg’s parents, along with her ten-year-old nephew Eric dressed as an Amblyopian knight.
Meg is attending the convention to be with Michael; however, she also has a booth where her swords are for sale which she shares with Alaric Steele. She’s honored when the show’s blade master, in charge of teaching the cast fencing and stage fighting, asks for her help in a demonstration. Wandering the convention as though lost is Ichabod Dilley. Ichabod Dilley was the artist of the original comic strip that inspired the TV show, but this Ichabod Dilley is not an artist but a motivational speaker. Meg takes him under her wing to escort him to his panel at the convention.
It takes much coaxing to get Porfiria, or the "QB" (Queen Bee) to open her hotel room door, where it is obvious she’s been drinking. She is due on stage for her "spotlight" and to sign autographs afterwards. When Meg’s nephew Eric asks for her signature, QB refuses to sign because another cast member had signed it first. No one really likes Porfiria, and she keeps employees and cast members for only short lengths of time.
Later on, as the charity auction is winding down, there’s no Porfiria there to judge the look-alike contest. Meg trudges up to her room where the door has been opened a crack by security, but only as far as the chain will allow. Meg goes into her room next door and climbs over the balcony to enter the QB’s room. What she finds inside is a grey parrot shrieking "Leave me alone" each time someone knocks on the door and a dead body next to the bed. Queen Porfiria has been bludgeoned with a wine bottle.
It took writer Donna Andrews a bit to hit her witty stride in this fifth installment of the Meg Langslow series after MURDER WITH PEACOCKS, MURDER WITH PUFFINS, REVENGE OF THE WROUGHT-IRON FLAMINGOS, and CROUCHING BUZZARD, LEAPING LOON. Andrews has a way of finding the hilarity in a situation and then exploiting it to make it even more entertaining. As always, Meg’s dad fancies himself a solver of mysteries and has his travel medical bag along just in case. Salome, the tiger, another of the jungle animals on display, has been saved from a life of misery. The fans are getting the police to autograph their programs along with the stars. All sorts of commotion ensues with almost no one feeling any remorse that Porfiria is dead, unless you count all the people who may now have to find new jobs with the continuity of the series in question.
WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARROTS could go over the top in someone else’s hands, but Donna Andrews has a good grip on the wild situations. Ultimately Meg must defend her life against a killer, which nets her far more than she ever imagined. I can’t wait to find out how it all comes together in the next tale.
So, please join me in welcoming Sandie Herron to Lesa's Book Critiques. I hope you'll enjoy Sandie's Corner when it does appear on the blog.