Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests

No, I didn't read this entire reference book. Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests, Seventh Edition, edited by Cynthia Orr and Diana Tixier Herald, was just released. My copy arrived today.

I contributed the chapter on Mysteries. I started that chapter three years ago, and then had to do some major rewriting because publication was delayed.

So, it was fun to finally see it in print; see the chapter I wrote, and see the bio at the end. And, it's weird. It's a little bittersweet. My grandfather would have been proud. He was a journalist, the farm editor for a newspaper. My father would have been proud. And, Jim would have been proud. He died the month before I started to work on that chapter.

All those mysteries I read? It's all there in that chapter. Genreflecting is a reference book. Most individuals won't own it. But, ask your local public library if they're buying it, and if you can see it afterwards. I wrote Chapter 8. And, here's what's funny. Shelley Mosley was my predecessor at Velma Teague as Library Manager. Shelley is an expert on romances, and she and John Charles from the Scottsdale Public Library co-authored the chapter on romances. Out of all the librarians that contributed to this latest edition, two of us were once managers at Velma Teague. Small world, isn't it?

So, no review today, unless you want to pick up a terrific reference book that discusses popular reading interests, including recommended titles in various genres. (It always was one of my favorite reference tools, even before I was asked to write that chapter.)

Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests. Seventh edition. Cynthia Orr and Diana Tixier Herald, editors. Libraries Unlimited. 2013. ISBN 9781598848403 (hardcover), 622p.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Murder Doubles Back by Evelyn David

It's been four years since Evelyn David's last book in the Sullivan Investigations series, although in the books themselves, it's only been a few months. David brings back the familiar cast of retired cop turned private investigator Mac Sullivan, his office staff, JJ and Edgar Freed, his friends from O'Herlihy Funeral Home, including Mac's girlfriend, Rachel Brenner, and of course, Mac's true partner, his Irish Wolfhound, Whiskey. Murder Doubles Back is my favorite type of mystery, a cold case. In this story, it's a ten-year-old cold case with one of the most surprising turns I've seen in recent mysteries.

For the past ten years, Mac Sullivan has been receiving postcards every year with just one line, "Where's Amanda Norman?" Now that he's retired with his own PI agency, he's surprised the postcards followed him to his new address. Ten years earlier, Sullivan investigated a missing person's case. Amanda Norman, a fourteen-year-old, disappeared on a class trip to the Smithsonian. She was a foster child, in a new school, and no one, from foster parents to schoolmates, knew much about the girl. Now that Mac had his own business, he decided to try to find the answer to that question, "Where's Amanda Norman?"

One simple question about a cold case, and it would turn Sullivan's life upside down. It asks a question that had haunted him for ten years. Now, everyone in Mac's life would be drawn into the search, in unexpected ways. Twice, Sullivan himself is the victim in incidents as he searches for answers. Sullivan's investigation turns deadly as bodies pile up, people who were related to that original search for a missing girl.

David's story involves the search for answers, and some of those answers involve relationships. Mac asks Rachel, "What do you get out of this relationship? You cook, and I hobble around trying to recover from some injury." Jeff O'Herlihy, Mac's best friend, finds himself baffled by the recent behavior of his wife, Kathleen. And, JJ and Edgar, who work for Mac, bicker constantly. It takes a deft hand to introduce that many people, and bring all the people and their issues together in a complex story.  Evelyn David manages it perfectly while including a touch of humor in the form of Edgar, a  man approaching eighty who is shrewd and forward-thinking.

When authors can manage to juggle large casts, complicated stories, a fascinating dog, and traces of humor, they shouldn't wait years between books. Evelyn David's entertaining Murder Doubles Back will make readers regret four lost years.

Evelyn David's website is www.EvelynDavid.com

Murder Doubles Back by Evelyn David. Trace Evidence Press. 2013. ISBN 9780615804842 (paperback), 262p.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Cozy Beat Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contests. Elliot B. of Albuquerque, NM. won Romeo and Juliet. Juanita F. of Sandusky, OH won Stake & Eggs, and Judith K. of Arlington, VA won A Broth of Betrayal. They'll all go out in the mail this week, a little late due to my trip to Louisville.

And, this posting is a little late due to the same trip. This week, I'm giving away two cozy mysteries pertaining to the music world, hence the title "The Cozy Beat Giveaway."

You could win a copy of Ella Barrick's The Homicide Hustle. The series features dance studio owner Stacy Grayson, who's partnering with her teen idol when the touring TV dance show, "Ballroom with the B-Listers" comes to Washington, D.C. When the show's co-producer is murdered, Stacy hustles to find a killer before the show is ruined.

Joelle Charbonneau brings us End Me a Tenor. As the holidays approach, high school show choir coach Paige Marshall is juggling her choir's role in a competition, and her own role singing  in a production of the Messiah. When a world-renowned tenor drops dead during rehearsal for the Messiah, Paige composes herself to turn sleuth to find a killer.

Which musical mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win The Homicide Hustle" or "Win End Me a Tenor." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

The contest will end Friday night, May 3 at 6 PM CT.

Louisville, Kentucky

Friday I headed for Louisville for a Saturday conference. What a beautiful drive! After eight years in Arizona, it was a joy to see so much green, particularly on the drive through the Hoosier National Forest.

The conference was at the Galt House. It's the city's only hotel on the Ohio River.

Here's the walkway between the two buildings that make up The Galt House.

Check out the view from my balcony.

I walked down to Fourth Street, the restaurant district, and had an excellent dinner at Eddie Merlot's. Pricey, but it was "Friday Night on Fourth Street".

Always good to arrive home to a welcome from the family, though.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde

I'm a big fan of Katie Fforde's romantic comedies. I've said before they all feature strong, independent women trying to find their own way in the world. As romances, there's always a happy ending. Sometimes, that's just what you need in life. A Perfect Proposal, her latest book, was a light, fluffy story, just perfect this week. And, it really reminded me of one of my favorite fluffy movies, Letters to Juliet.

At twenty-two, Sophie Appleby was the youngest in her family. She wasn't an academic like the rest of the family, so she wasn't considered the "brainy" one. In fact, her family tended to take it for granted that she would always be there to cook, clean, and take care of everything around the house. Since her family always needed money, though, they sent her to spent a couple weeks with "Evil-Uncle-Eric", hoping he might give her money. Instead, she found he wasn't so evil, and found a taste of independence. Determined to get a little time away from her family, she leaves England for New York City to visit a friend and make some money with a temporary job as a nanny.

When the nanny job fell through, Sophie stayed a little longer with her friend, ending up at an art show that changed her life. It was there she met Matilda Winchester. Sophie and Matilda immediately bonded, but Matilda's grandson, Luke, was suspicious. He thought Sophie was out to take advantage of his grandmother. And, when Matilda invites Sophie to their Connecticut home for Thanksgiving, he's still suspicious and protective of his grandmother.

After Sophie returned to England with plans for her future, she was surprised when Luke showed up there, needing her help. The preppy, good-looking attorney, one of New York City's most eligible bachelors, actually needed Sophie's help. And, her work on a family search could use a lawyer's touch. She just feared that he'd think she was as mercenary as the rest of her family.

As usual, Fforde offers a fun romance. Sophie is much stronger, and more independent than she gives herself credit for, since her family has put her down for so long. And, it's time someone appreciated her gifts. First it was "Evil-Uncle-Eric", then Matilda Winchester. But, just as in the movie, Letters to Juliet, there's a very protective grandson looking out for his grandmother. And, just as in the movie, Luke and Sophie end up on a quest on behalf of his grandmother.

If you're a fan of romantic comedies, take a chance on Katie Fforde's delightful romantic comedies. A Perfect Proposal is the latest in a string of warm, charming stories.

Katie Fforde's website is www.katiefforde.com

A Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde. St. Martin's Press. 2013. ISBN 9781250024299 (hardcover), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I'd review it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

What are you reading?

You'd think I would have had time to finish a book since I sat in a garage for a couple hours today, but
I never find it easy to read there with trashy TV on in the lounge, and people in and out. But, Friday is always a good time to talk about what we're reading since #FridayReads is a topic on Twitter and Facebook.

I'm reading Katie Fforde's latest romantic comedy, A Perfect Proposal. It's fluff, and, in some ways reminds me of one of my favorite fluffy movies, Letters to Juliet. And, I'll save more details for later since I'll be reviewing it here.

What are you reading today? Or, are you listening to something? I always enjoy your comments, and I think other readers add some of the books to their TBR (To Be Read) lists. We'd love to know!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Deadly Virtues by Jo Bannister

I usually review debut mysteries or a mystery in a series. So it will come as no surprise when I discuss a standalone mystery, and say I wish it was the kickoff to a series. Jo Bannister's Deadly Virtues introduces two remarkable characters who could easily carry a series set in a small British town.

Norbold was a small town, and, thanks to one man, Chief Superintendent John Fountain, its crime rate was regularly below the national average. Rookie Hazel Best was proud to join that team. Despite its reputation, though, one night went horribly wrong. Gideon Ash was brutally beaten by a group of teenagers, but refused to go to the hospital because he couldn't leave his dog, Patience. Hazel offered him a cell in the jail as a place to rest for the night, so someone could keep an eye on him. How would she ever guess that a terrified young black man would leave a strange message with the semi-conscious Ash? And, how would she ever guess that Barking Mad Barclay would get thrown into the same cell as the young man and beat him to death?

Gideon Ash had a past, so one one was likely to believe him when he reported his conversation with the dead man. But, Hazel learns enough to realize she and Ash are both in danger for reporting their suspicions. And, when another death occurs, she isn't sure who she can trust, other than the man everyone else considers to be a nut.

Gideon Ash is a tragic figure, a man who has suffered, but the reader only learns about his past after a third of the book. And, Helen Best is a woman with the courage and strength to stand up for what she believes. Together, these two loners are determined to find out the truth. They know they'll never bring back Jerome Cardy, the young man who died in jail, but they're determined to find justice for him.

My favorite mysteries include fascinating characters and the search for justice. Jo Bannister's Deadly Virtues is a perfect fit with Ash and Best, two complex characters caught up in an investigation that would have been dropped early by anyone less determined to find a killer. They make a deadly team.

(Oh, and a note for any who worry - Patience, the dog, survives.)

Deadly Virtues by Jo Bannister. Minotaur. 2013. ISBN 9781250023445 (hardcover), 296p.

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stormy Roy Ann Weatherly - RIP

Sometimes life interferes with reading. I had to put Stormy Roy Ann Weatherly to sleep yesterday. She was seventeen, my oldest cat. And, now there's a little less soul in my home, and a little piece of my heart broken. Feel free not to read this, but it helps me to write about her.

Stormy was one of my Florida cats. She showed up in the middle of a storm when she was about two. We brought her in, and when she immediately made herself at home, forcing her way in with our first cat, Marmalade, she made a place in our hearts.Jim threw out the name Stormy. My father-in-law, Harry, said there was a ballplayer named Roy "Stormy" Weatherly. I said I'd be darned if I'd name a girl Roy, so she became Stormy Roy Ann Weatherly.

Stormy was my cat who could fly. For years, she could go from the floor to the top of any cabinet or dresser. She was the first to figure out how to jump from the top of the cat condo, around the corner, and up to the entertainment center. Until the younger boys figured out how to follow her, it was her shelter from them.

She was also the one who wanted to be an indoor cat, but couldn't give up the outdoors. She used to rip out the bottom of the screen in our Florida lanai so she could get out. And, after she ripped it out one day, an opossum came in that hole. I found that possum in my dressing area eating cat food.

Stormy knew she looked good on red, and she loved to pose at Christmas time. The decorations were
just made to show her off.

Stormy only weighed six pounds yesterday, and she was never much bigger. But, she was the cat with an appetite. She'd eat any cat food, and, if you gave her the chance, any meat. She was definitely a carnivore. My cat sitter in Arizona, who adored Stormy, let her get away with stealing food right off of her plate.

But my favorite memory of Stormy will always be from Arizona. Cats always know when you're coming home. Maybe it was because Stormy was always hungry, but she was always waiting for me to get home from work. She used to sit at the window, and, when she saw me coming up the walk from the garage, she'd raise her paw at me, just as if she was greeting me.

Stormy was one of the cats who made two trips across country. She traveled from Florida to Arizona, and then from Arizona to Indiana. She was independent, a loner, who only became affectionate in the last year when she had no more meat on her bones, and was cold all the time. That meant she sat on my lap whenever I sat down to read.

Mark Twain loved cats, and had so many comments to make about them. And, I have other cats to love. But, this quote is still perfect. "A home without a cat -- and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat -- may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?"
- Pudd'nhead Wilson

Stormy Roy Ann Watherly was defintely well-fed, well-petted and properly revered. And, she's going to be missed so much.

Rest in Peace, Stormy Roy Ann Weatherly. (April 23, 2013)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shakespeare's Birthday Celebration & A Present

April 23rd is commonly celebrated as William Shakespeare's birthday. We know he was baptized on April 26, 1564, and he died on April 23, 1616. The date of April 23rd for his birthday is just a guess. That's no reason we can't celebrate today, though!

Sterling Publishing has a beautiful collection of books in their Sterling Signature Shakespeare. I have copies of Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Much Ado About Nothing. Although each book has a separate editor who wrote the introduction to the play, they do have several things in common. Each volume contains the same commentary, "Shakespeare and His England" by Series Editor David Scott Kastan, one of the world's leading experts on Shakespeare. There is a chronology, a section about the words in the play, a key to the text, notes, and, along with the play itself, sections that discuss significant performances, and further reading.

However, I'm going to admit I'm shallow. I've already read three of these four plays. What attracted me to this series was the stunning physical make-up of the books. They are each hardcover books, at least 340 pages, and they include black-and-white illustrations from various editions. However, it's Kevin Stanton's illustrations that make each book physically memorable. Stanton specializes in hand-cut paper artwork. You can see a sample on the cover of Macbeth. But, you really can't appreciate the beauty of his work unless you see the paper-cut illustrations inside. Stanton's work makes each of these volumes stunning.

So, to celebrate William Shakespeare's birthday, Sterling Publishing will send one lucky winner a copy of their selected title. If you love one of those four plays, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, or Much Ado About Nothing, you might want to enter to win one of these gorgeous books.

I'm going to make it easy for you. Please comment on the blog. Tell me which play you would like to win, and include your email address. I'll select the winner Thursday evening, April 25, and email you so I can get your mailing address. You must live in the U.S. to win.

I'll admit, this giveaway is a little unusual for my blog, so there might not be too many entries. You have a good chance to win, as long as you follow the directions. Good luck!

And, here's the link to see all four of Sterling Publishing's Sterling Signature Shakespeare volumes -

Monday, April 22, 2013

Let the Dead Sleep by Heather Graham

If I say paranormal, romance, suspense and New Orleans, you should say Heather Graham. In Let the Dead Sleep, the first in the new Cafferty & Quinn series, Graham combines all those elements beautifully for an atmospheric story of good vs.evil.

Danni Cafferty could have sworn her father was still alive when he sat up in his hospital bed and made her promise she would never sell his antiques shop, and she must read the book and follow it in all things. The thirty-year-old couldn't understand why he insisted he was too late, and had let her lead a normal life too long. But, she also couldn't understand why the doctor insisted Angus Cafferty had been dead for at least a half an hour at that point.

Former cop turned P.I. Michael Quinn wasn't very happy when he called on Danni for help, only to discover that Angus hadn't told her a thing about the jobs the two of them had been doing together for a few years. After Quinn died and was resuscitated, he changed his life and found himself fighting evil with the help of Angus Cafferty. Now, Angus had left his business and his work with Quinn in the hands of a young woman who had no idea what was involved in the fight of good vs. evil. When a desperate woman shows up at the antiques shop, demanding that Danni take it off her hands, Quinn was quick to jump in and agree with her. But, it was too late. That bust brought death to its owners, and it had for centuries.

A skeptical Danni finds herself teamed up with Quinn, a dog named Wolf, and Quinn's allies as they scour the cemeteries and streets of New Orleans looking for a marble bust from the Italian Renaissance. And, everywhere they search, they follow a trail of death.

Graham brings the city of New Orleans to life in all its vivid color in Let the Dead Sleep. It's a fast-paced, gripping story that never lets up. Danni Cafferty, Michael Quinn and Wolf are three captivating characters caught up in a fight that has been going on for centuries. Fortunately, Heather Graham has brought them together, launching a terrific new series that will bring together interesting characters and fascinating crimes.

Heather Graham's website is www.theoriginalheathergraham.com

Let the Dead Sleep by Heather Graham. Harlequin. 2013. ISBN 9780778315056 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, April 21, 2013

May Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian

I'm sorry. Not one cat showed up for filming this month. I hope you enjoy the mystery book chat without the cats.

Winners and a Cozy Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Sue F. of Crosslake, MN won Carolyn Hart's The Devereaux Legacy and Wendy A. from Ferndale, WA won Joseph Olshan's Cloudland. I mailed the books yesterday.

Since I'm doing the book chat today, featuring cozy mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian, it's the perfect week to offer two cozy mysteries. Both books feature restaurants.

If you're looking for murder and soup recipes, try to win Connie Archer's A Broth of Betrayal. In summer, Lucky Jamieson serves chilled soup at By the Spoonful in Snowflake, Vermont. It's also the gathering place where the locals talk about murder. First, it's a Revolutionary war skeleton that's dug up, but then a local man is found dead in his shop. Top that off with a disappearance, and Lucky is once again in the soup with the police chief while she investigates.

If you prefer breakfast and tea with your murder, try the Cackleberry Club mystery by Laura Childs, Stake & Eggs. When the town's most hated banker dies on his snowmobile, the three women who own the Cackleberry Club find some of their best customers are prime suspects in his death. Suzanne Dietz is going to need some help in cracking this case.

Which cozy mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Please email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win A Broth of Betrayal" or "Win Stake & Eggs." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Due to my schedule this week, this contest will end Thursday evening, April 25 at 6 PM MT. I'll draw the winners that night, notify them, and get the books in the mail as soon as I can.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech's latest novel for young people is The Great Unexpected. Magical realism? Fairy tale? Mystery? It's an unusual story aimed at the eight to twelve-year-old market, but it's an intriguing story with no real answers. Creech's turn of phrase is magic itself.

Twelve-year-old orphan Naomi Dean lived with Joe and Nula in the small town of Blackbird Tree, an unusual town that seemed to have a large share of orphans and "unfortunates". Naomi's best friend, Lizzie Scatterding, was also an orphan, living with two people while hoping they would someday adopt her. While Lizzie was optimistic, a singer who dreamt of possibilities, Naomi was down-to-earth, and a little fearful. With her withered arm from a dog attack, she sometimes feared she brought bad luck to those around her.

So, it was no surprise that Naomi would think she was responsible when a boy fell out of a tree, knocked her on the head, and then appeared to be dead. And, when the boy claimed to be named Finn, and told Lizzie and Naomi odd stories, Naomi became fascinated with him. But, Nula, who had come from Ireland, warned Lizzie about boys named Finn because she had known one in Ireland.

Naomi tells her own story, while there are alternating chapters that tell of a mysterious woman "Across the Ocean," Mrs. Kavanagh, who lives with a companion. Mrs. Kavanagh loves a good mystery, and is plotting a secretive revenge with the assistance of a lawyer named Mr. Dingle. Creech then mixes together these stories, sometimes stories of tragedy and death, with unusual accounts of magic and a series of boys named Finn.

Friendship, family, loss, unexpected futures. They're all part of Creech's The Great Unexpected. It's an unusual story with no real answers. But, it doesn't really matter in a book with poetic phrases and magic. Naomi's guardian once said of Lizzie, "That girl could talk the ears off a cornfield." Lizzie talked about "standing on the moon". Standing on the moon in your imagination meant "Your worries would seem so small, maybe invisible." Maybe so for Lizzie, who seemed to find it calming. Naomi found it "A scary trip to the moon."

It's an unusual trip filled with insecurity, loss, and magic. Take a trip into The Great Unexpected with Sharon Creech.

Sharon Creech's website is www.sharoncreech.com

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. HarperCollins. 2012. ISBN 9780061892332 (hardcover), 226p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, April 19, 2013

Between Heaven and Texas by Marie Bostwick

Marie Bostwick's Between Heaven and Texas, part of her Cobbled Court Quilts series, is due out on April 30. I reviewed if for Library Journal's April 15 issue.  First a note. Library Journal reviews have a few more plot spoilers than my normal reviews. Libraries are the primary market for these reviews, so there are usually more plot description than I normally have in my reviews. However, Between Heaven and Texas was a terrific book, and I wanted to share the review. Readers might be interested even if they haven't read the other books in the series.

Here's the review as it was submitted, reprinted here with permission.

Even when they were young girls in the town of Too Much, Texas, Mary Dell Templeton’s tendency to speak her mind set her apart from her twin sister, Lydia Dale. After both young women succumb to the family’s “fatal flaw” (falling for “a certain sort of man”), it is sisterhood that gets them through rough times—everything from Lydia's divorce to the birth of Mary Dell’s beloved son, who has Down syndrome, to the subsequent disappearance of Mary Dell's husband. The sisters, inspired by a long line of determined Texas women, set about running a ranch on their own and launching Mary Dell on the path to becoming a quilting legend.

VERDICT Fans of Bostwick’s five Cobbled Court Quilt novels will relish this prequel for the opportunity to see high-spirited Mary Dell Templeton in her younger years. It’s a book for those who enjoy novels featuring sassy, independent women, Southern novels with witty dialogue, or stories featuring quilting. Readers looking for stories of families dealing with children with special needs may also appreciate the realistic handling of the issues involving the birth of a child with Down syndrome.

Marie Bostwick's website is www.mariebostwick.com

Between Heaven and Texas by Marie Bostwick. Kensington. 2013. ISBN 9780758269294 (paperback), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library Journal sent the book so I could review it for them

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Starting Now by Debbie Macomber

Starting Now is the ninth book in Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street series. Some of the books have been more interesting than others, but with the return of familiar characters and the introduction of new ones, this series of comfort reads could go on for quite a while.

Libby Morgan's determination to make partner in the law firm she works for cost her everything, her marriage, friends. So, the day she's called into her boss' office, her life is turned upside down when she learns she's being let go. What does she have in life? And, as time goes on and she can't find another job, she realizes she doesn't really have anything. In desperation, she joins a gym, begs a friend to go with her, and then accompanies that friend to A Good Yarn, the shop on Blossom Street that will change her life.

Her trip to A Good Yarn introduced her to Lydia, the shop owner, Lydia's daughter, Casey, and Casey's best friend, Ava. When Libby takes the two young teens to the hospital to drop off knitted caps for preemies, she's shocked at the rude treatment she receives from a surgeon there, Phillip Stone. But, something about the babies draws her back to the hospital where the former workaholic finds pleasure in volunteering to rock the newborns. Returning to the hospital, though, puts her in frequent contact with Dr. "Heart of Stone".  He's another workaholic already trying to make some changes in his life.

Libby Morgan isn't prepared for any changes in her life, a romantic interest, a change in her professional plans, or a needy teenager who sees Libby as a friend. If she's going to find happiness in life, though, she needs to make some changes, "Starting Now".

There are few surprises in this latest Blossom Street book, however readers of this series are not really looking for surprises. Starting Now means a return to familiar territory with new problems for new characters.and, there's nothing wrong with comfort reads. Once again, Debbie Macomber succeeds with a comfortable formula of problems, friendship, and romance with a happy ending.

Debbie Macomber's website is www.debbiemacomber.com

Starting Now by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books. 2013. ISBN 9780345533531 (hardcover), 340p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

National LIbrary Week - Library Stories

If you've ever read any of the author interviews I do here, you know I end them with, "Tell me a story about libraries." I've been working in public libraries for 40 years now. I started at my hometown library in Huron, Ohio, working as a page when I was sixteen. And, that quote about doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life? Most of the time, it's true. I've loved my chosen career for most of those forty years.

So, I'll tell you some of my library stories, in honor of National Library Week. And, then, I'd love to hear some of yours. It's your turn to tell me library stories. Sort of, I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.

My favorite memory of the Huron Public Library before I worked there? One summer, my parents house- and babysat for a family with boys much younger than me. And, they lived in a big old house down the street from the library. Every day, I walked to the library, checked out a stack of books, and went back to the house, laid on a hammock on the screened-in porch and read the afternoon away. Heaven!

If you came to Lesa's Book Critiques within the last three years, you might not know that I met and
married my late husband at the Huron Public Library. I had returned to my hometown as Library Director, and Jim was a patron, introduced to me by my children's librarian, Millie Schilman,  as "Jim Holstine, one of our most prolific readers." The staff tied paperback books to the bumper of our car. Jim later had a tee shirt that said, "I like libraries so much I married a librarian."

We were living in Glendale, Arizona, and Jim's beloved cat, Lammie, had recently died. One day, a litter of kittens was dropped off at our Main Library, wrapped in a Christmas box. Our director, Rodeane Widom, found the box. Those kittens were only five weeks old, too young to leave their mother. But, Rodeane and the library staff found homes for all of them except one. She was a feisty little thing that hollered all day. When Jim arrived, she clung to him, and from the moment he picked her up, Nikki was his. Nikki was our library cat. She's always been comfortable around books.

My library story wouldn't be complete without a thank you to all the staff members I worked with at the Huron Public Library, the Upper Arlington Public Library in Upper Arlington, Ohio, the Charlotte-Glades Library System in Port Charlotte, Florida, the Lee County Library System in Lee County, Florida, particularly at Captiva Memorial Library and the wonderful Rutenberg Branch Library, the Glendale Library System in Glendale, Arizona, especially my beloved Velma Teague Library staff, and the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library in Evansville, Indiana. It's been a pleasure to work with all of you, and I hope I have another ten years or so working in libraries. Thank you. And, a thank you to every author who appeared at a library for me. It's been a pleasure to host you there.

I could tell you all kinds of stories about the library, but, now, it's your turn. It's National Library Week. Do you have a library story to tell?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Going, Going, Ganache by Jenn McKinlay

Now that I'm no longer in Arizona, Jenn McKinlay's Cupcake Bakery mysteries have become comfort reads. Familiar cities, familiar characters, cupcakes and recipes. Some would say it doesn't get any better than this. But, it does. In her latest book, Going, Going, Ganache, Jenn takes a new direction with the relationships for her characters. It takes a talented writer to keep readers on their toes so the series doesn't get stale. McKinlay is one of the best writing cozy mysteries right now.

It isn't business as usual at Fairy Tale Cupcakes in Scottsdale's Old Town when Southwest Style magazine is shooting in the bakery. Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura feel out of sync in the outfits they're wearing for the photo shoot. But an appearance by their arch rival, Olivia Puckett,  turns the whole shooting into a shooting match. And, in order to repair the damage, the magazine staff becomes part of the bakery's staff for an entire week while they make 1000 cupcakes for a gala.

In the close quarters of the bakery, Mel understands what Ian Hannigan, owner of SWS, meant when he said the staff needed to learn to work as a team. The pettiness and backstabbing between them is tough to deal with, but it's even worse when Mel finds the body of a staffer outside the bakery one morning. Now, she doesn't know if there's a killer lurking in her bakery. And, it doesn't help when her Uncle Stan, a Scottsdale police detective, shows up with a new partner. The newly engaged Mel shouldn't feel quite so attracted to Detective Martinez, who seems particularly interested in the woman who found the body.

The Cupcake Bakery mysteries always start with a bang, one that leaves readers laughing. This time, McKinlay adds some twists to the plot. New directions for series characters, an unexpected twist at the end, even gluten-free cupcakes. It's no surprise to see Going, Going Ganache on the New York Times bestseller list. Jenn McKinlay knows how to punch up a plot so it doesn't become stale, adding new flavors and surprises to an excellent cozy mystery series. Going, Going, Ganache should be going on every cozy reader's shelf.

Jenn McKinlay's website is www.jennmckinlay.com

Going, Gong, Ganache by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425252079 (paperback), 294p.

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Interview with Kaye Wilkinson Barley

I can't  tell you how long Kaye Wilkinson Barley and I have been online friends. We've never met, but I know that if we finally do, we'll meet with a hug. So, there's no FTC warning about this interview. I've appreciated Kaye's opinions on DorothyL. And, I love to see the pictures of her beloved corgi, Harley. He's the most photogenic dog I've ever seen.  I've done a couple guest blogs at Meanderings and Muses, her blog. Now that Kaye is a published author, it's time to turn the tables, and ask her a few questions. When she self-published Whimsey, I was upset that my family couldn't read the book because they don't use e-readers. Now, Whimsey is available through traditional sources for those who want to read an actual paper book. So, thank you, Kaye, for the book, the interview, and your friendship.

Lesa - Kaye, for those readers who don’t know you, tell us about yourself. Please tell us where you blog as well.

  Kaye - Hmm - that's really not as easy to do as it sounds! Okay.

I  ive in the North Carolina mountains with my husband Donald, and our corgi Harley.

I’m retired and I am loving it.

I’m not blogging as much as I once did, but my Meanderings and Muses - http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/ - is still a spot for guests to come hang their hats once in a while, and a place for me to post photos (mine and Donald’s) for the daily challenges in my photo group (which I dearly love!).  I do still blog there, but it’s on a very loose schedule, i.e., when the mood (or a rant) hits.  I intend to get back into it though – it’s not going to die.  Not ever.  It evolves, but it’ll never die.  There’s a lot of my heart at Meanderings and Muses.

Right now, I’m concentrating more on my new webpage for Whimsey - http://www.kayewilkinsonbarley.com  – I’m doing a little blogging there.  Mostly in the way of promotion, but also I’ve posted a couple pieces I hope will be helpful to other writers considering self-publishing and all the promoting as a self-published author.  What I really, REALLY, wish is that I could afford a professional webpage designer to do the Whimsey page.  It deserves better than my mediocre efforts.

I’m trying to remember to post, both at the Whimsey site and at Meanderings and Muses, where I’ll be blogging while I’m promoting Whimsey.  A lot of my blogger friends have been great about letting me stop by.  Seems a little strange though with me being the guest now instead of the host.  I’ve hosted just about every mystery writer you can think of at Meanderings and Muses over the years – along with other bloggers, reviewers and readers,  and I’m  quite proud of that.

AND – I get to play with the very cool, very gracious, very talented Jungle Red Writers - http://www.jungleredwriters.com/ -  on the first Sunday of each month.

Lesa - What made you decide to start writing, and what led to Whimsey?

Kaye - My very first forays into writing were in the form of blogs.  I quickly fell in love with it.  Having my own place to write about anything I wanted to write about was a lovely feeling.  I had no idea if anyone would be interested, but I fell in love with narrative non-fiction.  And I still love it.  
I had two of these pieces published in regional anthologies, and I will be as proud of those anthologies as anything in my life for as long as I live. Editors Celia Miles and Nan Dillingham took a chance on me and published the first piece, and then invited me to submit to the second anthology.  I was grateful, humbled and tickled pink to have those pieces accepted.  There’s a huge amount of talent gracing those pages.  

That, along with some encouragement from Celia, from Earl Staggs and Judith Greber and some others, got me thinking about trying my hand at fiction.  I decided I would like to write a book I would love to read – which is, I think, the perfect reason to write.  I am proud beyond measure of the final result.  I would not have been, however, without the guidance of Earl Staggs who spent two years coaching me, teaching me, guiding me and editing my words.  He was always ready for an encouraging word, and also always ready to shake his head when necessary and say,  “no, no, this just won’t do.”    I’ll be forever grateful.  I adore Earl Staggs.  And I adore Whimsey.

 Lesa - Tell us about the book, Whimsey, please. 

 Kaye - WHIMSEY is a novel of southern fiction with a splash of magic and a touch of fantasy, topped with a sprinkling of humor.

The magic was already there when cigar-smoking matriarch Elizabeth Calhoun established an artist’s colony on an island off the coast of Georgia and named it Whimsey.

Elizabeth’s ghost still drops in from time to time to make sure things are going as she planned.

There’s also a wicked pixie named Earlene who fancies tight-fitting designer clothes and Louboutin stilettos.

Elizabeth’s grandniece, Emma Hamilton Foley, a once-promising jewelry designer who moved away from the island, now fears her talent has deserted her.

Along with her four best childhood friends, she has been invited to be a resident artist at Whimsey’s new upscale gallery, Les étoiles. To join them, she’ll need to regain her talent, face the demons from her past and her feelings about Eli Tatnall, whom she loved as a girl.

Will moving back to the Island of Whimsey bring the magic back?

WHIMSEY is a story of hope and affirmation, about families and best girlfriends, connections and feelings. It’s about the things in life that make us happy and the things that scare us to death.  And the people who walk through life with us.

 Lesa- How much of you is in this story?

Kaye - I think there’s a lot of me in the story, Lesa.  But not as one particular character.  I’ve had people ask if I’m Emma.  I’ve had a couple people assume that I’m Madeline.  And only one person asking if I might be Zoe.  I think there’s a little bit of me in each of The Wicked Women of Whimsey, and in Zoe and Zelda and Earleen.  Even, I think, in Reese (but not much!).

Lesa - You self-published Whimsey. What surprised you about the publishing journey? Is there something you would do differently?
 Kaye  - What’s surprised me most about the journey is who was there for me in support and who wasn’t.   I do not mean this as a criticism – there were reasons and they were valid reasons, but you know, I am the dumbest kid in town sometimes.  I thought everyone would throw their arms wide open and cheer me on.  I didn’t particularly care if they liked Whimsey or not – although, of course, you hope your work is going to be universally loved – but I expected . . .  support.  There are still people who I have conversations with who have yet to even give voice to the fact that I’ve written a novel.  It doesn’t matter in the least if it sells one copy or however many – that fact is, I wrote a novel.  I did it.  It’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s something I’m proud of.  Enormously proud.  To have that accomplishment dismissed and diminished has been hurtful.  Of course, there’s the other side of that coin and those people who have supported me and cheered me on and have been there with advice  when I’ve asked for it, and Lordy – blurbs from Margaret Maron and Hank Phillippi Ryan – how cool is that?!  So, you focus on the good and move on from what’s not so good, and that which might be hurtful.  But if anything, it’s taught me a very valuable lesson about not being too stingy with kind words – they mean more than people realize.
Lesa - What authors inspire you?

Kaye - Oh my.  Now, Lesa, you know this is an almost impossible question!  Writers are my rock stars – I love ‘em!  And I respect them.  Every writer who has written something that has touched me, moved me to tears or laughter, or to think about a subject I might not have otherwise, has been an inspiration.  Some are no longer with us.  But the writers writing right now are many, and too many to name and be fair – and they range across all genres.  


I’m going to grab one name – only one – and you will know why as soon as you see it.  Sarah Addison Allen.  I can’t say enough about how much I love her work.  When I read her books I am just transported to a world of magical realism that is just so lovely, so magical, but so – to me – believable,  because I believe in the kind of magic she writes about so perfectly.   When you, in your review of Whimsey, compared my work to hers, along with Ellery Adams (wow!!!), you had no way of knowing that you had paid me the biggest compliment you could ever pay me.  Another reader made the same comparison and really, that comparison is all I need to help me believe I’ve done something lovely.

Lesa - What are you writing now?

Kaye - I’m trying my hardest to write the second Whimsey novel.  As you know, there are five Wicked Women of Whimsey.  Book #1 focused on Emma.  Book #2 is going to, I think, focus on Olivia.  I’ve written the opening scene (a dozen times), but can’t seem to move forward because I’m spending a lot of time right now trying to get Whimsey: A Novel out there.  I’m happy to say it’s now being picked up by some bookstores and that is such great news!   Yay!!!  

If anyone out there who has read and enjoyed Whimsey would like to ask their local booksellers and libraries to consider ordering it I will be eternally grateful. 

Lesa - And, the question I ask every author. Do you have a story about libraries?

Kaye - Oh, I do.  You know me well (even though we’ve never met face to face – can you believe that??), so you know the home of my heart is where I grew up – Cambridge, MD.  Cambridge had the most wonderful library.  Perfect!  It has a newer library now, but thank goodness, the old one still stands and is being used as county offices.  Anyway (I ramble!).  As I wrote at Jungle Red a while back, it also remains the quintessential library in my mind. When I walk into the brightly lit libraries of today they still surprise me a tad. And if I hear people talking loudly I'm surprised when no one behind the front desk says "Shhh." I'm an old fogey in this regard, I'm afraid, and miss the library of my youth. An old brick building with gothic arched windows, and worn wooden floors, tall dark oak book cases, corner nooks and crannies, and massive oak tables and chairs. I remember many an afternoon spent wandering aimlessly in this quiet place and browsing the shelves. There may have been books on those shelves I never got around to reading, but it's doubtful there were many I didn't at least touch.  And now, my Whimsey is there.  I love that .   

Lesa - Where is Whimsey available?

Kaye - Right now  Whimsey is available at Appalachian State University's Bookstore in Boone, NC,  Black Bear Books in Boone,  Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, MD, Laurel Bookstore in Oakland, CA and Quarter Moon Books at Topsail Island, NC.  And at ArtWalk and Higher Ground Coffee Shop in Boone, NC, along with the Watauga County Library in Boone and the Dorchester County Library in Cambridge, MD.  It’s under consideration at a few other places I know of, and hopefully at a few I don’t even know about.  (If anyone spots it, please let me know!).

I joined SIBA and have sent all 250 bookseller members a sell sheet – some of that is beginning to look like it might happen (see what I mean about being busy doing promotion?).  Cross your fingers!!

It’s also available in Kindle form, and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Lesa -  Kaye, thank you for taking time to answer questions. I know that's a change for you, but now that you have a book out in the world, you better get used to it!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley blogs at http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com.
  Her website is www.kayewilkinsonbarley.com

Whimsey by Kaye Wilkinson Barley. 2013.