Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Influence of a Teacher, Larry Zimmer

This Easter, I'm celebrating the life of a man who changed the lives of so many people, Larry Zimmer. Larry Zimmer was my high school English teacher my junior and senior year in high school. My sisters and I agree he was the best teacher any of us every had. Larry Zimmer died on Thursday, and the world is a little less kind because of his loss.

HURON – Larry J. “Mr. Z” Zimmer, 73, of Huron, died unexpectedly at his residence, Thursday, March 28, 2013, of natural causes.   He was born September 4, 1939 in Tiffin where he was raised.   He graduated from Tiffin Calvert High School and Bowling Green State University.   He was a teacher for Norwalk Schools in 1963 and 64 where he began his teaching career and then moved to Huron and taught American and World Literature retiring in 1988.  He was the Junior Class Advisor for many years; organized the Great Books Forum; was instrumental with starting the community ecumenical teen prayer services throughout Huron; and was a basketball scorekeeper for many years for the Huron Tiger Basketball team.  He was generous to all in need, but especially quietly helping to support students in their higher education.   He was active for many years with the Huron Education Association committee and was a member of the Erie County Retired Teachers Association.  He was a founding member of a teacher investment education group called the MIC, and was a member of St. Peter Catholic Church, Huron.     He traveled extensively throughout the world, especially to Hawaii and Mexico and loved to travel with his parents.   Larry is survived by his sister, Martha (Richard) Gase of Tiffin and numerous nieces and nephews.   He is preceded in death by his parents, Charles and rose (Lehner) Zimmer; sisters, Catherine Schorger and Dorothy Hess; and brother, Raymond Zimmer.   Friends may call Tuesday, April 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Foster Funeral Home & Crematory, 410 Main Street, Huron.  Funeral mass will be Wednesday, April 3, at 10 a.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church, 430 Main Street, Huron, with Rev. Jeffery Sikorski, officiating.   Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Tiffin.   Contributions may be made to the Salvation Army, 3333 Columbus Ave, Sandusky, 44870 or to the Donor’s Choice.  

Six years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Wave. It was a tribute to Larry Zimmer, although I had written him a letter at one time to thank him for being a great teacher. When Jim died, Larry sent a beautiful card, but it was the masses that were to be said for Jim that made me cry. We exchanged Christmas cards, and it always made me feel good that he still cared enough about a former student to drop a note, and have some masses said for me.

Larry Zimmer changed my life, and I can think of no better tribute than to re-run the piece I wrote in 2007. It's a thank you to a great teacher.


A Wave

In Robert Fulghum's latest book, What on Earth Have I Done?, he lists questions he calls Conversation Lifeboats. It's an intriguing list that helps to make strangers no longer strangers. His first question is, "Did you ever have a great teacher - in school or out? Tell me."

This blog entry is a departure. It doesn't relate to a book or libraries. It does relate to me, and what helped to make me the person I am today. I already loved books. His class gave me an exposure to literature that is necessary for cultural literacy, for life. This note is about that great teacher in my life.

My sisters would probably say Larry Zimmer was their greatest teacher as well, but I can only speak from my experience. Larry Zimmer was my English teacher in my junior and senior years in High School. He challenged us, taught us more than any other teacher, brought the experiences of our first two years of high school English together. I had outstanding English teachers in those first two years, but it's the lessons I learned in Mr. Zimmer's classes that I remember.

We studied poetry - Frost and Sandburg. We wrote our own poetry, and many of us had it published. In those classes, I first read Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner. I read my first Eudora Welty short story, and, when I had the chance to meet her when I was in college, I knew who I was meeting. We worked in small groups, and did group presentations. We also had to research and do an individual presentation to the entire class. I pinpoint my love of Readers' Theatre to the day I appeared in front of the class to present the theory that Nero Wolfe was Sherlock Holmes' son. I had been captivated by a book that said that, and, wearing my father's bathrobe, and carrying a pipe, I portrayed the detectives. Mr. Zimmer gave me the confidence to get up in front of the class, and, completely out of character, make that presentation. We read Greek drama, Sophocles and Aristophanes. How many high school students still read Greek drama? Then, we took that drama, researched, and wrote Greek Reviews, major papers that were larger than any paper I ever wrote in college. He took us to Cleveland, to see a professional performance of Hamlet. He gave us phrases, and we had to write creative stories. I still remember one, "She met him over a strawberry ice cube."

I was in the accelerated English classes, but I took a reading class for independent study. Mr. Zimmer brought his class into the reading lab at the time, and, in working with the boys in that class who were not outstanding students, I had the chance to discover how much smarter they were than I was, in some of the more practical aspects of life. I couldn't read a map to save my life, and they could easily pick up that skill. It was a lesson just watching Mr. Zimmer work with them.

I went back to my hometown as library director, and Mr. Zimmer brought his classes to the library, and treated me as a peer. He told me to call him Larry, and we discussed his class assignments.

I never think of Larry Zimmer as Larry. I still admire the teacher I had, who helped me develop writing and reading skills. He expanded my reading world. He was one person who helped me become the person I am today.

I did write Larry Zimmer once, and thank him. I told him he was a wonderful teacher.

So, Robert Fulghum, Larry Zimmer was the great teacher I once had. And, this is a wave of thanks to Robert Fulghum for asking the question, and to Larry Zimmer, for all of the questions.

RIP, Larry Zimmer, and thank you, from me, and from my sisters.

The Child in You Giveaway

I just couldn't think of a better name for this week's book giveaway. One mystery features a young girl. The other features a woman who refuses to give up her childish behavior. I'm giving away a couple fun mysteries this week.

I have an ARC (Advanced Readers' Copy) of Alan Bradley's latest Flavia de Luce mystery. Speaking from Among the Bones introduces some new characters into the series. Before the tomb of St. Tancred is even opened at the village church in Bishop's Lacey,.Flavia finds the body of a missing person. Now, it's up to the young scientist with a keen interest in poisons to learn which of the people involved with the church might be a killer. And, once again, Flavia learns a little more about her missing mother.

Or, you could win Kris Neri's new madcap caper, Revenge on Route 66. Tracy finds she must take on
a few responsibilities because it doesn't appear as if her father or husband are going to deal with the murder of a young man in New Mexico. They all may be suspects, but it's Tracy who is forced to go on the lam when the FBI announce they're looking for her.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Please email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Route 66" or "Win Among the Bones." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

I'm giving a little more time this week, because of plans for Friday night. You have until 7 a.m. CT on Saturday, April 6. I'll announce the winners that day, and mail out the books.

Good luck!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton

Victoria Hamilton won me over with her first Vintage Kitchen mystery, A Deadly Grind. She's done nothing to change my opinion with the second book, Bowled Over. Jaymie Hamilton is an inquisitive, compassionate sleuth whose passion for vintage kitchen collectibles continues to land her in hot water. This time, she fears she might be number one on a suspect list.

Years earlier, Jaymie was best friends with Kathy Cooper. For some unexplained reason, Kathy blamed Jaymie for years for causing the end of their friendship, but a bewildered Jaymie never understood what happened. It all comes to a head during the week of the Fourth of July celebration in the charming town of Queensville, Michigan. When Kathy yelled at a woman in a wheelchair, and Jaymie jumped in to defend her, Kathy turned on her. And, it only escalated at the holiday picnic. Kathy seemed to argue with everyone that day, but it was Jaymie's Depression glass bowl that was broken over Kathy's skull.

If the handsome Detective Zachary Christian sees Jaymie as a suspect, he couldn't make her feel any worse than she already does. She takes Kathy's death personally. It was her bowl used as a weapon. And, why didn't she try earlier to find out what ruined their friendship? Maybe Kathy wouldn't have turned out to be such an angry person if she'd had a lifelong friend. Jaymie is determined to find out who killed her old friend turned enemy.

Jaymie's personal interest in this case is understandable. However, time and again it struck me funny that Jaymie's attempts to make up to Kathy reminded me of Jaymie's dog, Hoppy. The neighbor's poodle, "Dipsy, was the bane of Hoppy's existence, but he just couldn't leave her alone. She snapped at him, growled, barked through the fence, and then ignored him when they were in company together." Jaymie, like Hoppy, just couldn't leave her enemy alone, alive or dead. But, as Jaymie persists in looking for a killer, it's even easier to feel for her as a character.

If you're looking for a compassionate, interesting character with an unusual livelihood, and a charming town that just happens to have an occasional murder, you won't go wrong with Victoria Hamilton's mysteries. Bowled Over is another treat for those of us who enjoy cozy mysteries with a strong community cast.

Victoria Hamilton's website is

Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425251928 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library Book

Friday, March 29, 2013


Congratulations to the thriller winners. Lisa Gardner's Touch & Go will go to Cheryl K. of Gilberts, IL. Mildred B. of Great Neck, NY won Gone Missing by Linda Castillo.

You might not have a chance to check back on Sunday morning. The next contest will launch then, but don't worry. It will run until Friday night, so you can check anytime during the week.

An Interview with Lisa Black

It's my pleasure today to welcome Lisa Black whose new book, Blunt Impact, is due out April 1. Thank you, Lisa, for taking time to answer questions.

Me - Lisa, I’m certainly familiar with the places you’ve lived, Cleveland, OH and Cape Coral, FL since I’m from northern Ohio and spent 18 years in Ft. Myers. But, I certainly don’t have your background. Would you tell my readers about your life of crime?

Lisa -I spent the first ten years of my professional existence as a secretary, then went back to school for a degree in Biology, specifically to go into forensic science. First I visited all the crime labs in the area, and then I just kept showing up at the Coroner’s Office in Cleveland until they gave me an internship. I was still working full time and using vacation time to go there three mornings a week (I had a very understanding boss at the day job!) and working for them for free for almost a year until a position opened up. I worked in the Trace Evidence department, which pretty much handled everything except drug analysis.  I analyzed DNA, blood, fibers, hairs, paint, clothing and gunshot residue. I loved it; pretty much every case was a homicide--if they weren’t dead, they didn’t come to us. From there I came to the police department in Florida, and about 95% of my job is sitting in front of a computer looking at fingerprints.

Me -   What made you decide to write crime novels?

Lisa - I always wrote crime novels, starting in grade school, putting my friends and myself into some intrigue I saw on Batman or Star Trek. They just got longer and longer over the years.

 Me - Would you tell us about Theresa MacLean, the protagonist in that series?

Lisa - She’s just like me, only stronger, faster, smarter and divorced. She works in the trace evidence department at the coroner’s office, has a cousin who is a homicide detective, and (unlike me) has a college-age daughter. 

Me - What’s happening with Theresa in Blunt Impact?

Lisa - In Blunt Impact Theresa is caught in the controversy surrounding a new county jail under construction. OSHA whistleblowers and missing money, criminal elements using the site for their own purposes and a homely but smart district attorney who becomes more interested in Theresa than the intrigue surround the forensic scientist and her new friend, a tough but endangered little girl named Anna—better known as Ghost.
                Ghost has a unique lifestyle, loved by her construction worker mother and disabled grandmother but constantly slipping out of her home to roam the back alleys of the large city, looking for the father whose identity has always been kept secret from her. Nothing all that bad ever happens—until she witnesses her mother’s murder, the beautiful young woman thrown from the 23rd floor. Ghost will not rest until she learns the truth, which means that Theresa cannot rest until Ghost is safe. 

Me - Authors are usually a year ahead of their publishing schedule. What are you working on now?

Lisa -  A book called That Darkness, about a vigilante and a missing-persons investigator who is closing in on him without realizing it.
Me -  Are you planning to continue to set your books in Cleveland, or are you joining the ranks of Florida crime writers?

Lisa - I think about it, but the problem is that there are so many books set in Florida already. Hardly any are set in Cleveland. But two of my ebooks are already set in Florida.

Me - What would you like to tell readers that I might have missed asking?

Lisa - That I have a website:, and I’m on Facebook. Not Twitter. I can barely keep up with Facebook, so I don’t attempt Twitter.

Me-I always ask authors this final question since I’m a librarian. Do you have a story you can tell us about a library?

Lisa - The library was my second home when I was a kid. It was right up the street from my grade school, so the big fun thing to do when I was a kid was to walk there after school.  My friend and I would scrape together a dime to call my mother and let her know the plan, then we’d walk to the library after school and hang out there until her mother got off work driving a school bus and parked it at the junior high across the street. Then after college, during the 10 years I spent as a secretary, the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library was a 10 minute walk from my office, and I had an hour commute each way by bus plus an hour for lunch. I decided to catch up on all the classics I hadn’t had to read in school. I read everything from Hawthorne to Phillip Roth. It was fantastic. I love that building so much I used it as part of the setting for Takeover, in which robbers have attacked the historic Federal Reserve, so the cops set up negotiations from the library across the street


Thank you so much, Lisa, for making time for this interview. Lisa has additional information below.

Blunt Impact will be available April 1, featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean and a series of murders surrounding a skyscraper under construction in downtown Cleveland. The first to die is young, sexy concrete worker Samantha, thrown from the 23rd floor. The only witness is her 11 year old daughter Anna, nicknamed Ghost. Ghost will stop at nothing to find her mother’s killer, and Theresa will stop at nothing to keep Ghost safe. 

Also, Kindle owners can find a bargain in my new book The Prague Project, written under the name Beth Cheylan. A death in West Virginia sends FBI agent Ellie Gardner and NYPD Counterterrorism Lieutenant Michael Stewart on a chase across Europe as they track stolen nukes and lost Nazi gold, hoping to avert the death of millions of people.

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department. Her books have been translated into six languages. Evidence of Murder reached the NYT mass market bestseller’s list.
          See her website at:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Revenge on Route 66 by Kris Neri

Nothing reminds me of old "I Love Lucy" episodes more than Kris Neri's latest Tracy Eaton mystery, Revenge of Route 66.. I can just picture the thirty-five-year-old Tracy, daughter of two Hollywood actors, crying "Waaaaahhhh" when things don't go her way. The mystery writer and amateur sleuth admits that childish behavior suits her. That "Waaaaahhhh" would be perfect.

Tracy's latest caper involves her father, actor Alec Grainger, her husband, Drew, and Drew's con artist uncle, Philly. Since Drew is no longer convinced he wants to practice law, he's available for Tracy's latest birthday present, a trip with Dad along Route 66. Maybe it's appropriate that her birthday falls on April 1. This whole trip seems to be one huge prank.

Tracy and her father always started from California, but never went much farther than Tecos, New Mexico on their Route 66 adventures. Alec had a friend there, Lucy, who ran a little restaurant until she ended up in prison for life for shooting her lover. Alec still took a fatherly interest in Lucy's son, Woody, though. This time, when Alec and Philly went to Tecos, everything started to fall apart.

Tracy should have had clues when she started receiving messages to hurry. Route 66 was an honored tradition with her father, and she and Drew took their time. And, soon after they arrived in Tecos, Woody was killed. Naturally, in this "Lucy" episode, everyone scurries around since they suspect each other, since all four were in the restaurant the night Woody was murdered. As blackmail notes start to surface, it turns out Woody wasn't as nice as Alec claimed, something Tracy knew all along. By the time Tracy learns the FBI is searching for her, she's no closer to learning the truth. But, she's delighted with her new notoriety. "Going on the lam has long been one of my greatest fantasies."  And, she starts to put pieces together while on the run.

Kris Neri's latest Tracy Eaton escapade can best be summed up with a line from the book. "Truly, everyone on Route 66 was putting on a show." If you remember that while reading, and think of this as one giant "I Love Lucy" caper, none of the ridiculous episodes will appear too outrageous. Revenge on Route 66 is a non-stop funny caper, wrapped up in the form of a mystery.

Kris Neri's website is

Revenge on Route 66 by Kris Neri. Cherokee McGhee. 2013. ISBN 9781937556020 (paperback), 258p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What are you reading?

I didn't have enough time to finish Kris Neri's Revenge of Route 66, so I don't have a review for today.
I was feeling coldish the other night, and went to bed early instead of reading. So I'm still reading this book.I've read Kris' other books, and I even took the photo that's on the back of some of her other books (not this one). So, what are you reading today, and why did you pick it up?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr

Once again, Carol K. Carr takes us to Victorian England in the latest Madam of Espionage mystery, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy. And, it's those details of Victorian London that bring this book to life.

It's 1877, and India Black, owner of Locus House brothel, is bored. It's been a while since she's been involved in an investigation for the British government. After being blackmailed by French, a special agent to prime minister Disraeli, India had worked with him as a secret agent. However, as she tells in this latest story, she's soon caught up in a new case. Extremists from France, Russia, Italy and Germany have fled their own countries, ending up in England where they are killing aristocrats in order to attempt to bring down the government. Disraeli asks her to infiltrate one of the anarchist cells that "played with gunpowder and dynamite". It will take all of India's ingenuity to stay undercover, while also managing her own business.

While the story is interesting, it bogs down in details of the anarchists' meetings, getting a little wordy at times. However, Carr excels at the details of ordinary life in Victorian London. Her description of a rainy spring in the city is surprising. "You might think that London could do with a bath and sheets of rain are just the thing to accomplish that task, but you'd be forgetting the voluminous coils of smoke that issue from every hearth and home and the reeking fumes from the factories. When the rain comes down in this city, it comes down as brown sludge, ruining bonnets and cloaks and covering the houses with a layer of silt." Not quite what I expected in a description, but probably right on the mark.

And, Carr succeeds brilliantly in creating her own Artful Dodger in the character of Vincent, a street urchin who runs errands for India, and has his own gang of street-smart kids that he can call on for assistance. Vincent is cunning, courageous, and adds humor to every story. Whenever the story slows down, it only takes an appearance by Vincent to enliven it.

As I said, the story of the anarchists becomes a little tedious, but the descriptions of London and the character of Vincent add life to the latest book in Carr's series, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy.

Carol K. Carr's website is

Indian Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425255957 (paperback), 314p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chrystle Fiedler, author of The Natural Remedies Mysteries

It's a pleasure to have Chrystle Fiedler return to Lesa's Book Critiques. Fiedler is the author of the Natural Remedies Mystery series. Today, she's here to talk about her latest book, Scent to Kill, and how to use natural scents. And, if you read to the end, you'll find information about her contest. Chrystle is giving away a copy of Scent to Kill to one person who comments here.Thank you, Chrystle.

Guest Post from Chrystle Fiedler, author of Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery.

SCENT to KILL, my latest Natural Remedies Mystery, is a fun combination of a cozy story and tips about aromatherapy, which is the practice of using essential oils to improve health and well-being. Aromatherapy can ease stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, aches and pains, and more. Three of my favorite scents are lavender, jasmine and roses, so I thought I’d share a few simple tips on how to use them today.


Not only does Lavender (the Latin verb lavare means “to wash”) smell terrific, it’s calming and soothing and good for cuts and burns, insomnia, diaper rash, tension headache, PMS and cramps (use with clary sage and Roman chamomile). The phytochemicals (plant-based chemicals linalool and linalyl acetate) in lavender are absorbed in the skin and in the membranes inside your nose, slowing nerve impulses, and reducing stress. An easy way to start using lavender is to put five to ten drops of essential oil in your bath. Add the oil after you have filled the tub so you can enjoy the full benefits of this wonderful aroma.
The aroma of jasmine (Jasminum officinale v. grandiflorum) is intoxicatingly sweet, exotic, and floral. It’s also incredibly therapeutic for a variety of conditions. Jasmine essential oil eases mild depression, anxiety, and tension. It also balances energy and helps you feel more optimistic. It calms coughs and laryngitis, soothes sore muscles, stiffness, and sprains. You can apply it topically, use it on a warm or cool compress, put it in the bath, inhale it from your palm, or put it in your diffuser. It will make any room an oasis.

I love the rich, sweet floral bouquet of roses and the approximately 275 compounds have a myriad of therapeutic uses. For example, if you apply it topically, rose oil can help banish eczema, wrinkles, and acne. If you feel blue, rose essential oil will naturally lift your mood. If you have painful periods, it helps to balance hormones (just put the oil on a warm compress and apply to your lower abdomen). Rose oil also eases nervousness, anxiety, anger, sadness, and grief and can be helpful if you have respiratory problems such as allergies and hay fever. You also use rose oil to help you sleep better and feel happier. For all these conditions, simply put some on your palm and inhale it or put rose essential oil into a diffuser. Your bedroom will smell like an English garden.

Here’s the scoop on Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery

“Scent to Kill is a well-crafted mystery…Devotees of natural medicine and aromatherapy will enjoy the tips that appear at the beginning of each chapter and scattered throughout the text.” Publisher’s Weekly   

Willow McQuade, naturopathic doctor, along with her hunky ex-cop boyfriend Jackson Spade, attend a party for a psychic TV show that is filming on Long Island’s idyllic East End. However, Willow is much more interested in visiting the estate’s lavender farm, seeking inspiration for the new aromatherapy workshops she'll be holding at her store, Nature’s Way Market & Café.   

Before the party is over, Roger Bixby one of the producers is dead and the police suspect murder. Roger was working on the show, MJ’s Mind, with Carly Bixby, his ex-wife and the new girlfriend of Willow's ex from L.A., TV writer/producer Simon Lewis.   

After Willow leaves the party, she gets a frantic text from Simon asking for her help. Since Simon had a fight with Roger earlier in the evening, and because of his death is now the primary shareholder in Galaxy films, Willow's ex becomes the prime suspect. Simon begs her to crack the case and clear him of the murder. MJ McClellan, the psychic and star of the show also asks Willow for help. She hires Willow to provide natural remedies, including aromatherapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga to soothe the agitated crew of her show. 

To find the killer, Willow has to deal with ghosts in a haunted mansion, a truly dysfunctional family, death threats and “accidents,” while trying to untangle a homicide identical to one committed during prohibition. Thankfully, Jackson has been hired to provide security and is there to watch her back and help Willow solve this spooky mystery.

As a bonus, you’ll find dozens of natural aromatherapy cures throughout the book that can improve your health. I think you’ll be surprised as how much they can help you feel better in mind, body and spirit!

For a chance to win a copy of Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery just leave a comment here! 


Chrystle Fiedler is the author of SCENT TO KILL, (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster) the second in the NATURAL REMEDIES MYSTERY series, DEATH DROPS: A Natural Remedies Mystery, the non-fiction title THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO NATURAL REMEDIES (Alpha, 2009), co-author of BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! (Fairwinds Press, 2010), currently in its fourth printing, the BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW!COOKBOOK (Fairwinds Press, 2012) and THE COUNTRY ALMANAC OF HOME REMEDIES (Fairwinds, 2011). Chrystle’s magazine articles featuring natural remedies have appeared in many national publications including Natural Health, Vegetarian Times, Better Homes & Gardens and Remedy. Visit