Saturday, May 31, 2014

LIVE...from New York

Just a note to say I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. But, I'm here in New York, and I'm on the go from 7:15 a.m. to 11 p.m., and haven't had time to blog. But, Treasures in My Closet for June will be up tomorrow. I'm writing a book review now of a terrific book, and I'm reading a fun one that will be up on Tuesday. Later in the week, I'll post BEA and New York pictures. I ran into friends, met longtime online friends for the first time, and heard some authors I've never heard before. And, I've seen some terrific plays, with one more to go to tonight. So, there will be regular posts again beginning on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New York Bound, and What Are You Reading?

I intended to have a book review here today, but I just didn't have time yesterday. I had to finish a book for Library Journal, and I wrote the Treasures in My Closet post for June 1. Those activities really did take most of the day, along with laundry and packing for Book Expo America.

I'm New York bound today. Looking forward to books, authors, publishers, Broadway, and all the excitement that means New York. I'll catch you up when I can. In the meantime, I should have time today to check back. So, what are you reading today? I'd love to know!

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Tiger's Tale by Laura Morrigan

I can give Laura Morrigan's character, Grace Wilde, a pass I don't normally give to amateur sleuths. The animal behaviorist takes risks and goes out on her own, behavior I normally refer to as "Too Stupid to Live". However, Grace herself comes across as an injured animal, unused to trusting others. A Tiger's Tale is worth reading for the fascinating character of Grace. The mystery is an added bonus.

When Grace rushes to rescue a friend, a vet that has been treed by a Siberian tiger, she knows something caused Boris' behavior to change. The gentle giant is upset, and when Grace calms him enough to understand him, she learns he witnessed the kidnapping of a teenage girl, one of the attendants at Happy Asses Donkey and Big Cat Rescue. However, the girl's parents won't report her missing because she's been known to run away. Crime scene investigator Kai Duncan believes her because he's one of the small number of people Grace has trusted with her secret. She's telepathic, and can communicate with animals. But, how can she call the police and tell them a tiger told her a girl named Brooke was kidnapped?

Grace works on her own trying to learn why Brooke disappeared. She knows how wrong it appears, because Kai even becomes the target of an internal investigation after he helps her. And, it isn't easy. "So far, I'd slogged through the muddy woods, streaked through the mall in pursuit of a juvenile delinquent, struck a deal with the mob, staked out a misogynist, and questioned a cougar, a tiger, a tabby cat, and a donkey." And, it's a lot easier for Grace to question those animals than the people involved in the case.

Grace Wilde is an intriguing character, in tune with animals' emotions and behavior. Her sister, Emma, has to coax her to do anything resembling normal behavior; date, shop, attend a party. And, she doesn't know how to conduct conversations and interviews with humans as she does with animals. She makes progress in slow increments. But, in A Tiger's Tale, she's forced to trust a couple more people, revealing her gifts. The contrast between Grace and her sister, an event planner, is amazing. However, Grace and Emma are as loyal to each other as animals are.

Looking for an amateur sleuth that isn't spending time cooking or baking? Grace Wilde is fascinating in Morrigan's A Tiger's Tale.

Laura Morrigan's website is

A Tiger's Tale by Laura Morrigan. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425257203 (paperback), 328p.

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nashville Trip

Nashville is just over two hours from Evansville, so a friend, Donna, and I made a quick trip with the intention to going to Parnassus Books. We left at noon on Friday, and had a nice stop for lunch on the way. Donna was smart and asked at the hotel about a local restaurant, not a chain. We ended up with a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called Darfons, family owned and operated.

Saturday was book day for us. We started out at Parnassus Books. Author Ann Patchett opened Parnassus a year after Nashville lost its last independent bookstore, Davis-Kidd.

We arrived about a half an hour after they opened on Saturday morning. It was already bustling, filled with children there for storytime, kids picking up their summer reading books, and adults browsing and buying. It was great to see a bookstore so busy!

And, Bear, the bookstore dog, is a friendly greeter.

Here is the bookstore, and the small entrance to the children's department.

And, my souvenirs from Parnassus Books.

When I told the clerk at Parnassus that we were heading to the Nashville Public Library, he recommended Provence Breads & Cafe for lunch, a little cafe in the library. We did have a nice lunch there, eating outside.

And, from there, we checked out a number of displays in the library. The Vintage Book Covers display seemed to go perfectly with my matchbox.

And, after we talked to one of the librarians, he took us into the closed off Reading Room so we could see it. It's closed for restoration of the artwork, but he took us behind the closed area. It's beautiful now, but the reading room is going to be stunning when it's finished.

And, the garden with the fountain is beautiful. That was our last stop before heading home.

Great trip. And, we're going back in October for The Southern Festival of Books. Nashville, just over two hours away, is an easy trip.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

I'm not the best reviewer of Midnight Crossroad, the first book in Charlaine Harris' new series.
After starting the first Sookie Stackhouse novel, I never read more in that series. So, I can't tell other readers if any of the characters from that series reappear here. However, I did read every book about Lily Bard, so I recognized her when a character referred to her. But, if you're looking for a comparison to the Sookie books, it won't come from me. I can say I really appreciated the unusual denizens of Midnight, Texas. And, the new resident fits in perfectly.

Manfred Bernardo likes the isolation of the small West Texas town of Midnight. At twenty-two, he's a psychic who spends his time on computers, telling people what they want to hear. He's a little bit charlatan, but he has a gift. And, it seems a few of the other residents have secrets and gifts as well. There are reasons people in Midnight, a town at the crossroads of Witch Light Road and the Davy Highway, don't ask many questions. They don't want to answer them.

The boarded up town does have a pawnshop. Bobo, Manfred's landlord, owns it. He's still in mourning for Aubrey Hamilton, the woman who walked out of the shop one day, and just disappeared. Fiji, the witch down the road, runs a little witchcraft shop. There's a diner and a gas station. Two gay men, Joe and Chuy, run an antiques store and a nail salon. Lemuel is a vampire who runs the pawnshop at night, and has unusual visitors. Who knows what the mysterious Olivia does for a living? The Rev runs a little one-room wedding chapel and a pet cemetery. And, all of them are a little uneasy when two strange men show up in town. When those two men disappear, and others appear to ask questions, the residents of Midnight learn how much they care about each other. And, they learn how far they'll go to protect each other.

Midnight Crossroad is a fascinating novel with unusual characters. It's a book that will challenge readers. What is evil? How can good people do horrible deeds and live with themselves? And, is killing ever justified? And, will a reader feel a little creepy to realize there is something likable about the residents of Midnight, Texas?

Charlaine Harris' new book is a little bit mystery, a little bit horror novel, a little bit paranormal. And, it's a terrific story.

Charlaine Harris' website is

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris. Ace. 2014. ISBN 9780425263150 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Winners and What's Happening

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Sue Ann Jaffarian's Ghost of a Gamble will go to Dotty K. of Weymouth, MA. Rose M. from Juneau, WI won Heather Blake's The Goodbye Witch. The books are going out in the mail today. And, thank you to all the new readers who entered the contest. Welcome to Lesa's Book Critiques!

I have some extensive travel coming up in the next couple weeks. Don't worry! The cat sitters love the cats, so they'll have good company. But, saying that, my blog might be a little irregular. One trip is a short road trip to Ann Patchett's bookstore, Parnassus Books in Nashville. A couple of us just want to check out this independent bookstore.

And, then I'm leaving for New York City for Book Expo America, BEA. Full days at the publishing world's trade show, and nights at book events or theater. I have tickets to three Broadway shows. It's a busy schedule with sometimes not a lot of reading or blogging time.

I'm just telling you this now so you know not to expect my daily blogs. Contests will resume when I come back from BEA, and I'll do reviews or updates when I can. So, check back regularly. You never know when I'll have a post. And, of course, the June 1 post will be the regular Treasures in My Closet, July's forthcoming books.

I'm not leaving yet, so stop back tomorrow. I just wanted to let you in on what's happening.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Death at the Door by Carolyn Hart

Last month, when Carolyn Hart was honored as a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, they were honoring one of the best authors of traditional mysteries. Her latest Death of Demand Bookstore mystery, Death at the Door, is just one more piece of evidence that she knows how to write a puzzle to keep readers guessing. In a small, closed community, there should be a death that tears at the community. Add in a likely suspect, a doubting amateur sleuth, a cast of interesting characters, a dangerous scene, and a resolution with a surprising killer. There should be a satisfying ending in which justice is served. The sign of a true Grand Master? She can take the formula for a traditional mystery, make it original, and surprise the reader. That's Carolyn Hart with her latest Annie and Max Darling mystery.

When Paul Martin, a well-respected doctor in the island community of Broward's Rock, South Carolina, is found dead, everyone is shocked that he killed himself. And, just a few days later, his death is followed by the brutal killing of one of the wealthiest women on the island. It takes Paul's sister to say that the two deaths are connected, insisting her brother did not commit suicide. Although Lucy can't convince Police Chief Billy Cameron that her brother's death wasn't a suicide, she can convince Annie Darling, owner of Death on Demand Bookstore. And, Annie has allies. Her husband, Max, owner of Confidential Commissions, will help, along with the Intrepid Trio, made up of Max' mother, a mystery author, and a mystery authority. These five bring a knowledge of the island community, and a determination to find a killer. When a reporter's story leads to arson, they know they're on the right track.

What does Carolyn Hart do well? Everything. She gives us a likely suspect, and a surprising killer. There are twists and turns to the case. There's a group of amateur sleuths who are not "Too Stupid To Live". Although the police chief may not believe them, they continue to turn all their information and clues over to him. They don't hide information from the police. And, they keep each other informed as to their whereabouts. And, Annie Darling truly cares about the victims. The victims are never forgotten in the search for a killer. Hart brings a satisfying conclusion to the case, for the reader, and the community.

Fans of traditional mysteries will have to appreciate the two cats, Agatha and DorothyL. And, of course, there's that wonderful bookstore, Death on Demand, with the fun picture puzzles, and the discussions of contemporary and classic mysteries. Death at the Door is one more reason why Carolyn Hart is a Grand Master for all of us who love traditional mysteries.

Note: At the Edgars dinner honoring the Grand Masters, they played this video trailer, the official MWA trailer.

Carolyn Hart's website is

Death at the Door by Carolyn Hart. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425266175 (hardcover), 264p.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

The cover of Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner says, "The authors of Freakonomics offer to retrain your brain." I failed a test online as to whether or not I was a freak. I tend to think like too many other people. Maybe that's why I'm in a traditional profession. (And, the one time a couple of us thought outside the box last week, our library patrons complained so much, we had to change it back. Oh, well, maybe we were just ahead of our time.)

Once again, the authors offer a fascinating book by following one of their own principals; they are good storytellers. Their books would just gather dust if they were filled with statistics and data to prove their points. But, Levitt and Dubner tell about the Japanese student who devised a way to eat more hot dogs, the businessman who found a new way to ask for money for a charity. And, they say freaks don't try to solve the world's big problems. They look for the underlying root of a problem. What is the original cause? They suggest problem solvers think small, not big. "Every big problem has been thought about endlessly by people much smarter than we are. The fact that it remains a problem means it is too damned hard to be cracked in full."

The authors suggest that problem solvers should think like a child. "Freaks like to have fun." They tell a number of stories to illustrate their points of thinking differently in order to solve solutions. They suggest people should, "Have fun, think small, don't fear the obvious." And, don't be afraid to quit. They actually suggested they would make decisions for people by flipping a coin. Would you have thought of that?

As always, Levitt and Dubner offer problems that challenge readers, and solutions that might challenge them even more. As they said, don't read the story of ulcers on an empty stomach. If you've read their previous books, you already know they suggest the crime rate has gone down in recent years because the number of abortions went up. Did you know that school children often do bad in school because they can't see? Sometimes, they just need glasses. The statistics are amazing for this account.

If nothing else, Think Like a Freak might challenge readers to look at the world and work a little differently. If it does, I'm sure the authors will have succeeded.

Check out the publisher's video for Think Like a Freak.

The website is

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner. William Morrow. 2014. ISBN 9780062218339 (hardcover), 268p.

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

June Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

It might seem a little early for the book chat, but between next Monday's holiday, and two trips out of town, I thought I'd talk now about the new releases. This month, Jinx wanted a close-up. He's getting a little camera happy.

Here are the ten June releases, cozy mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian.

Murder, Simply Stitched by Isabella Alan - 2nd Amish Quilt Shop mystery
Night of the Living Thread by Janet Bolin - 4th Threadville mystery
Razing the Dead by Sheila Connolly - 5th Museum mystery
Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper - 1st Teapot Collector mystery
The Diva Wraps It Up by Krista Davis - 8th Domestic Diva mystery
Hot Fudge Frame-Up by Christine DeSmet - 2nd Fudge Shop mystery
Independence Slay by Shelley Freydont - 3rd Celebration Bay mystery
Deadly Forecast by Victoria Laurie - 11th Psychic Eye mystery
Thread End by Amanda Lee - 7th Embroidery mystery
Engaged in Murder by Nancy J. Parra - 1st Perfect Proposals mystery

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Doing It at the Dixie Dew by Ruth Moose

Check out these names: Julia Spencer-Fleming, Elizabeth J. Duncan, Linda Rodriguez, Donna Andrews, Susan Shaber, Gerrie Ferris Finger. These are just some of the winners of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. As a fan of traditional mysteries, I've read books by all of these authors. Now, add Ruth Moose to the list with her debut mystery, Doing It at the Dixie Dew.

Beth McKenzie Henry felt like the prodigal daughter when she returned home to Littleboro, North Carolina after her grandmother, Mama Alice, fell down the stairs and ended up in the hospital. She'd been gone too long from the little town. Once her grandmother died, Beth decides to stay and open a bed-and-breakfast, the Dixie Dew. The family home needs a lot of work, but Beth has help from Ida Plum Duckett and all-around handyman Scott Smith. She's determined to succeed in Littleboro, "A quiet town where everybody knew everybody's troubles and failings and forgave them."

But, someone might not be so forgiving. When Beth finds Miss Lavinia Lovingood dead in one of the bedrooms on the first morning, she thinks the wealthy woman died of old age. But, when she finds another body in town, she's on the top of the police chief's suspect list. She's only been in town a short time, and two people have been murdered. In a town filled with eccentric suspects, "a dying, decayed little town", Beth doesn't know who to trust, especially after receiving notes that could be seen as threats.

Ruth Moose's debut mystery introduces a town where everything isn't quite what it seems. There's the little old lady who lives with Robert Redford, a rabbit. One elderly resident scared children to death with a ruler while the resident crazy lady sleeps outside draped in jewels. Doing It at the Dixie Dew is a traditional mystery in which everyone in town is a suspect. Fortunately, Beth learns she can trust a few people.

Welcome to Littleboro, North Carolina, a town for those who enjoy their mysteries Southern with a trace of eccentricity. And, Beth Henry's original thoughts about her little town? Before she's through dealing with murder, she'll see it differently. "This town reeked of evil as if it sat under a poison cloud and the creeks and streams ran with it."

Ruth Moose's website is

Doing It at the Dixie Dew by Ruth Moose. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250046383 (hardcover), 246p.

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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay

I'm just mad for Jenn McKinlay's Hat Shop mysteries. Her latest, Death of a Mad Hatter, has a wonderfully odd cast of characters, lots of humor, as much sexual tension as Moonlighting, and an Alice in Wonderland tea party. Add in the London setting, and it doesn't get any better. It's just fun.

When the Grisby family shows up at Mim's Whims, the hat shop that cousins Scarlett Parker and Vivian Tremont inherited from their grandmother, it's obvious it won't be easy to accommodate them. Dotty Grisby lives in her own world, where her late husband didn't leave her for another woman thirty years earlier, and where Viv is her grandmother, Ginny. The cousins can work with that because Dotty wants to raise money for a hospital wing by hosting an Alice in Wonderland charity tea, and she wants all of her large family to wear themed hats. Dotty's grown children aren't as easy to deal with, as one daughter complains about her brother inheriting everything, and Geoffrey, the heir, is a germaphobe.

The hats are much more successful than the tea party because the Mad Hatter ends up dead. And the first place the police look is at Mim's Whims because there was poison on the hat that Viv made. Harrison Wentworth, the shop's business manager, does everything he can to keep Scarlett and Viv out of the investigation. But, Scarlett is deliberately obstreperous when Harrison tries to tell her what to do. She admits she has a hot temper to go with her red hair. She's stubborn, tenacious, and determined to ignore the good-looking man who tempts her to break her vow not to date for a year. It isn't long before Scarlett falls down a rabbit hole of trouble.

McKinlay's latest mystery is as delicious as afternoon tea at the Savoy. Can I tempt with a fun mystery with humor and wonderful characters? Hats off to Jenn McKinlay for Death of a Mad Hatter.

Jenn McKinlay's website is

Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425258903 (paperback), 290p.

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Winners and a Paranormal Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Reine C. of Tucson, AZ won Ann Cleeves' Dead Water. Bonnie P. of Palo Alto, CA will receive Elizabeth J. Duncan's Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By. I'm mailing the books today.

This week, I'm giving away two paranormal cozy mysteries. Sue Ann Jaffarian's Ghost of a Gamble combines a cold case with a contemporary one, one of my favorite types of mysteries. Spiritual medium Emma Whitecastle and her family ghost, Granny Apples, investigate when a former showgirl gets caught up in Las Vegas secrets involving the ghost of mobster, and live kidnappers.

Or, maybe you'd prefer a witch. Heather Blake's latest Wishcraft mystery is The Goodbye Witch. "As the Enchanted Village's resident Wishcrafter, Darcy Merriweather has the power to make other people's wishes come true, but what she really wishes is that she had the power to uncloak the invisible man who's stalking her best friend", fellow witch, Starla Sullivan. If the police can't see him, they can't arrest the fugitive, Starla's ex-husband. But, Darcy will try to uncover him before he takes a dangerous step.

Which paranormal mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Ghost of a Gamble" or "Win the Goodbye Witch." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. This contest will end a day early because I have other book plans at the end of the week. The contest will end on Wednesday, May 21 at 6 PM.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ashton Lee at the Red Bank Branch Library

Ashton Lee, author of The Cherry Cola Book Club and The Reading Circle, appeared at the Red Bank Branch Library last night. He told an appreciative audience that he has two more books in the series coming out next year, in April and October.

Lee has been a published writer for twenty-one years. His father, who was an editor and writer, was his role model. After watching his father, Lee knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer, too. He wrote one series under the name Robert Dalby, and then after that series ended, Kensington Books was interested in a series. They wanted a Southern series that would appeal to women. As a Southern boy who grew up with twenty-one cousins in small towns in the South, he thought he could do that. And, he was reminded that he had a day job as a book vendor selling to libraries. Maybe he knew enough about public libraries to write about them.

From his years visiting libraries, Ashton Lee knows that public libraries are often underfunded, suffering from budget and staffing cuts. He thought he could write an entertaining series about libraries and their problems.

In The Cherry Cola Book Club, Lee introduces Maura Beth Mayhew, a young woman who
accepted a job right out of library school as library director in a small town. Cherico, Mississippi is a small town of 5,000 in the northeastern corner of the state, a town that Lee created. Maura Beth entire budget is $80,000, and she has to pay salaries out of that, buy books, and pay utilities. And, even that small budget is threatened by the three good old boys who run the town. In this first book, they give Maura Beth five months to prove the library is worth saving. Maura Beth forms a book club that will also have potlucks so she can bring the community together. But, the villain of the piece is Councilman Sparks, given his name because he's a fiery figure with a hidden agenda.

Lee said you can't underestimate the power of good old boys who control towns in the South. Some readers have called Maura Beth too weak. But, Lee wants to show her growing up, becoming a stronger woman in the course of the series.

In The Reading Circle, the second book, Maura Beth has been given a one year reprieve, but she's still under scrutiny. There are going to be little victories in the books, little bumps in the plot. But, there are some romances in the books, as well as discussions in the book club. At the end of the first book, Maura Beth met a high school English teacher who loves the classics. It seems Maura Beth and Jeremy have that in common, but the choice of Forrest Gump as a book for discussion causes trouble. Some of the husbands in the group pushed for a book for men, and then wanted the women to cook shrimp and tailgate food.

In the first book, Lee introduces a large cast of characters. He provides more of their backstory in this second book. His father once told him a writer should know ten times as much about each character's backstory as you ever reveal. He also told him to plot each book as if it was a mystery even if it's not. Each chapter should encourage readers to move on to the next one.

Both books include Southern recipes. Lee has made some, and tasted all of them. His aunt rounded them up for him.

Book three, The Wedding Circle, is due out in April. Two couples get married, but both have problems with their families. There are objections to both marriages. One of the storylines deals with the dynamics of mother/daughter disagreements about wedding arrangements. When I asked what books are discussed in the book club for this one, Lee answered Eudora Welty's The Robber Bridegroom and Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding. Then, in October 2015, the fourth book will be out, The Holiday Circle. And, then, hopefully, Ashton Lee will be back in Evansville at the end of 2015 to talk about his next two books.

Ashton Lee can be found on Facebook at

The Reading Circle by Ashton Lee. 2014. Kensington Books.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Invisible City by Julia Dahl

Julia Dahl's debut novel takes readers into one Invisible City, and her protagonist Rebekah Roberts, into two. While Rebekah and readers discover the Hasidic community of Borough Park in New York, she also discovers the hidden truths in her own life, her own  Invisible City.

Rebekah Roberts is a few years out of a college, working in the city of every journalist's dream, New York. She's a stringer for the New York Tribune, taking any job the newspaper gives her, a different assignment every day. But, the day she ends up at a scrap yard in Brooklyn is the day that takes her into an unfamiliar world. There's a woman's body in the hook of a crane, a body that turns out to be the wife of the owner of the scrap yard. That's not so odd. The husband is always the first suspect, right? In this case, the police don't push to take over the investigation. Rivka Mendelssohn's husband, Aron, owns the scrap yard. And, Aron is an Orthodox Jew. Rivka was to be buried as soon as possible, and the police had little interest in the death. The Borough Park Jews took care of their own situations, using a "neighborhood watch" group called Shomran. And, the police usually turned a blind eye, and let the Jews handle problems.

Rebekah is drawn to this story as she's never been drawn to another. In Hebrew, Rivka means Rebekah. Rebekah's own mother was from that area of New York City, a Jewish girl who fell in love with Rebekah's father, secretly meeting him, and running away together. And, six months after her daughter was born, Aviva Kagan disappeared back into her Jewish community in New York. Rebekah is an angry young woman, who grew from an angry girl. And, when a cop on the scene tells her he knew her mother and father, it throws her for a loop. The journalist is drawn to the Invisible City, the Orthodox Jewish world, as she searches for answers, not only to write a newspaper story, but to uncover her own family history. How did her mother live? What was her life like? "The hole my mother left in me never healed."

Julia Dahl's debut is an intriguing story in so many ways, not just as a mystery. The exploration of the hidden world of the Orthodox Jewish community and life is fascinating. Rebekah Roberts is an interesting character, not necessarily one easy to like. She is an angry, anxious young woman who doesn't take rejection well, but also doesn't deal well with affection or attention. However, she's a determined journalist who might make some dangerous mistakes as she looks for answers that too many people want to hide. And, Rivka Mendelssohn's death is just one secret in the community. As Rebekah realizes, when she says she's Jewish, in the end, she really didn't understand what that meant. To her, her mother's life, and the life of Rivka Mendelssohn, the murder victim, will continue to be hidden in an Invisible City.

Julia Dahl's website is

Invisible City by Julia Dahl. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250043399 (hardcover), 298p.

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Will Thomas, Guest Blogger

I'm not going to ruin Will Thomas' guest post by talking about his "day job". Instead, I'll just mention that today's guest is the author of  Fatal Enquiry, the book that features the latest adventures of private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewellyn. Will Thomas sets the series in the atmospheric world of Victorian London. And, today, Thomas will reveal some of his secrets.

Living La Vida Victorian
by Will Thomas

     The joke on my Facebook page (Barker and Llewelyn Novels by Will Thomas) and in my speeches is that I somehow have one foot in the present and the other in 1885.  You know, my cell phone is a telegraph key, and I was a Luddite when Luddite wasn’t cool.  Of course, that’s not strictly true.  I wouldn’t have written six books without modern technology, and my first novel, Some Danger Involved, was written concurrently with the rise of the internet.  It would be nice to jump into a time machine and to find out if April 21st, 1885 was a Tuesday, which it was, but like the rest of you, I can find the answer on Google.
     The fact is, it’s necessary that I do a good deal of research for my novels, which combine elements of historical, mystery, thriller and literary fiction.  I believe that many of our current society’s ills began or were first recorded in the Victorian Era, and we are doomed to repeat them, from organized crime to terrorism, anti-Semitism to White Slavery.  It’s all been done before, or as my character, Cyrus Barker, would quote: “There is nothing new under the sun.”  If my Windows 2010 suddenly disappears off my hard drive, I blame Charles Babbage, who first invented the Difference Engine in 1848.
     I do have a secret that allows me to write my novels with something approaching accuracy: I am also a librarian.  I know how to do deep research, track down interlibrary loans for obscure references, troll through databases, and scroll through microfiche.  I’ve earned my elbow patches.  I’m also on the front lines, covering the desk, running a teen anime club, and helping people with the plethora of services at the modern public library.  We have a symbiotic relationship.  I feed off it daily.  By the end of the day, there are a stack of books on my desk to take home which will spur my writing that evening.  There are plot ideas, biographies of famous Victorians, films to watch for research, and even a graphic novel or two.
     I’m also affected by the patrons.  After the hundredth patron came up to me and complained about the sex and language in modern fiction, I felt good about not having them in my novels.  After all, Doyle, Dickens, Hardy and Stevenson didn’t need them to tell a thrilling tale.  Day in and day out, I’m confronted by customers telling me how they felt about the latest bestseller and why.  A writer can’t get that kind of feedback hiding in his ivory tower; neither can he get the exquisite pleasure of putting his own book on the shelf for the first time, or checking it out to a patron without telling them he wrote it.
     The teens in my anime club don’t understand that I don’t live in the library, but not all research can be done there.  I check on my daughter’s horse at the stables nearby, or go home and sit with my pack of Pekingese.  My narrator, Thomas Llewelyn, keeps a horse, and his employer, Barker, shares his home with Harm, the Pekingese given him by the Dowager Empress of China.  I also study Victorian Era martial arts and am partially responsible for the current worldwide interest in Bartitsu, the art of Sherlock Holmes.  No fighting or self-defense technique is used in my books that hasn’t been tested in the dojo. 
     To relax in my all-too-abundant free time, I like watching Doctor Who, my favorite time traveler, and putting in my backyard, using hickory clubs, of course.  On weekends, my wife and I scour flea markets for English china and antique books, both of which threaten to take over the house.  We spend hours discussing plot twists, literary quotes, who to kill and when.  Then on Monday morning, it is back to the library again.

     That’s my life.  If I somehow actually acquired a WABAC Machine, I’d only use it to add more hours to my day.  After all, while it might be tempting to walk the streets of Victorian London subduing criminals with traditional martial arts, I’d miss the pulse and hum of modern day living.  When it comes right down to it, I think I already have the best of both worlds.  

Will Thomas' website is

Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas. Minotaur. 2014. ISBN 9781250041043 (hardcover), 304p.

Monday, May 12, 2014

One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

I remember when I read Cecelia Ahern's first novel, P.S., I Love You, in 2004. She was only twenty-one, and gossip in the trade publications insinuated it was published because she was the daughter of the former Prime Minister of Ireland. After reading that first book, I was impressed with her storytelling. Now, with her eighth novel, One Hundred Names, I can tell you she's a storyteller who can bring a reader to tears. Ahern's characters find hope and the will to go on after hitting bottom.

At thirty-two, Kitty Logan can't imagine that her life can get any worse. She's a reporter in Ireland where she's in disgrace, fired from a TV job, and facing censure in the courts. She got lost in the glamour of TV, and ruined a man's life. Her best friend is there for her while her apartment door is smeared with manure, but he's ashamed of what she has become. Her mentor, Constance, is dying. Kitty knows she's still working for Etcetera magazine because Constance and her husband, Bob, are the owners. But, even on her deathbed, Constance has faith in Kitty. Although Kitty feels she hasn't had an original idea in months, she asks the right question of her teacher. "Is there any story you wish you'd written but for whatever reason never wrote?" That question leads Kitty to a file with one hundred names on a list.

Kitty's life is a mess, but she can't stop her curiosity. When Constance is no longer there, Kitty only has a list of one hundred names to write the story of her career, one that will honor Constance and possibly save Logan's journalism career. As she starts to look for one hundred people with no apparent connection, Kitty Logan is on a desperate hunt to find a story. She doesn't realize this is a search that might change her life, and her heart, forever.

On a wall in a cafe is a blackboard with the sentence, "Every table has a story to tell". That's Cecelia Ahern's gift, and her gift to the reader. She probes into lives and hearts, going beneath the surface. In One Hundred Names, she asks her character and her readers to do the same. Ahern brings characters to life in this enjoyable, sometimes heartbreaking, story of a woman forced to look for answers beyond her cynicism. Humor, fun characters, and a heroine to root for all come together in this latest success from Cecelia Ahern.

Cecelia Ahern's website is

One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern. William Morrow. 2014. ISBN 9780062248633 (paperback), 480p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book to participate in a blog tour.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Any Other Name by Craig Johnson

If you only know Walt Longmire because of the Longmire series on A&E, you're missing Craig Johnson's beautiful writing.  Any Other Name, the latest mystery in the series featuring the Wyoming sheriff, is a riveting story. And, as always, Johnson has multiple layers and meanings to this story. I know I've missed some, but I wouldn't mind rereading this book. Once I picked it up, I read it straight through. Last year, Johnson's novella, Spirit of Steamboat, was one of my favorite books of the year. I'm sure Any Other Name will make the list this year.

Sheriff Walt Longmire should be in Philadelphia with his daughter, Cady, awaiting the birth of his first grandchild. Instead, he's with Lucian Connally, his old boss and the retired sheriff of Absaroka County, heading to a neighboring county. Technically, Walt's out of his jurisdiction, but friendship with another lawman knows no boundaries. And, Lucian owed a debt to a dead man. Gerald Holman was investigating cold cases for the Campbell County sheriff's department when he committed suicide. But, the man's widow won't accept that, and Lucian drags Longmire into the search for answers. Why would a man who never broke rules kill himself?

Lucian warns Holman's widow that once Longmire starts an investigation, he won't quit, no matter where the search leads. "He's like a gun; once you point him and pull the trigger, it's too late to change your mind." Longmire does uncover something odd; missing women who disappeared from Campbell County. It seems the dead man had three cold cases involving missing women. And, the search leads to the town of Arrosa, a run-down town with a bar, a post office, strip tease joint, and a school. It's definitely on the wrong side of the tracks, as Walt has to wait time and again to get there while coal cars pass.

Craig Johnson's latest mystery is filled with all the elements that makes his stories so memorable, beginning with the characters. Walt Longmire is surrounded by strong individuals. Any lawman would welcome the assistance of Vic Moretti, Henry Standing Bear, and Lucian Connally. It's a formidable team. Other cops recognize that Longmire is tough. "As soon as a cop gets killed in this state all the old-timers say we need to bring in Walt Longmire." But, they don't see the more human side of him, as he tries to avoid calls from his pregnant daughter. There is a humorous side to this mystery series. Cady and Dog make Walt human. And, the dry cop humor is wonderful.

Walt Longmire is one of the best heroes in contemporary mysteries. His tenacity, his friends, his unusual visions, and his self-deprecating humor set him apart from other investigators. Once you've met Walt Longmire, you won't forget him. Any Other Name is a gripping story, with hints of future trouble for Longmire. By Any Other Name, it can be called one of the best mysteries of the year.

Craig Johnson's website is

Any Other Name by Craig Johnson. Viking. 2014. ISBN 9780670026463 (hardcover), 319p.

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

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What Are You Reading?

I meant to have a book review for you today, but circumstances at work dictated otherwise. In
other words, when buildings lose power, some have leaks, and a woman in a wheelchair is stuck on the second floor of the building since the elevators aren't working, it's a little too exciting to leave for home on time. And, with power out in half the city and people jamming the roads, I took the slower, back way home. So, I didn't finish my book.

That means I moved to the book that's on my calendar for Sunday. I'm reading Craig Johnson's new Longmire mystery, Any Other Name. Walt is supposed to be in Philadelphia visiting with his daughter just before the birth of her baby. Instead, he's still in Wyoming, not even in his own jurisdiction. But, Lucian Connally, Walt's old boss and the former sheriff of Absaroka County, asked him to look into the death of a friend, a former lawman. Lucian's convinced he didn't commit suicide, no matter what the reports say.

So, what are you reading this weekend? Tell us about it, please!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Winners and a British Isles Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Gwen B. from Chesapeake, Virginia won the Mary Kay Andrews' Ladies' Night gift bag. Both copies of Cassandra King's The Same Sweet Girl's Guide to Life are going to Georgia; one to Trish R. in Decatur, and the other to Karen K. in Marietta.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries set in the British Isles. I recently reviewed Ann Cleeves' Dead Water set in the Shetland Islands. She told me this is the first in a new trilogy set there. Detective Inspector Willow Reeves arrives to handle a murder case since Inspector Jimmy Perez is still in mourning, coming back to work slowly. But, Jimmy's local knowledge is needed to question the residents about the death of a journalist, a man with a past and a reputation as the spoiled son of wealthy parents.

Or, you could win a book set in Wales, Elizabeth J. Duncan's Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By. When a clerical conference at Gladstone's Library leads to the murder of the bishop's secretary, DCI Gareth Davies, there to give a talk, ends up leading the investigation. When another body is found, spa owner and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan, Davies' girlfriend, is drawn into the search for a killer.

So, the Shetland Islands or Wales? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Dead Water" or "Win Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, May 15 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Every Hidden Fear by Linda Rodriguez

Linda Rodriguez' Skeet Bannion mysteries have become "must-reads". The Kansas City cop turned head of campus police is a fascinating character, somewhat troubled, trying to put her life back together after a divorce and a rocky relationship with her father. The addition of a teen boy to her household brings love as well as tumultuous teen emotions. Then, in Every Hidden Fear, the entire town of Brewster, Missouri seems to fall apart. But, Skeet has unexpected help in coping this time. She has her strong-willed grandmother on her side.

Skeet's glad the eighty-year-old Cherokee elder is with her when the entire town seems to grow crazy. As part of a plan to bring a mall to town, Ash Mowbray, has returned. He was once a young stud there from a poor, trashy family. Now, he's come back, supposedly to be the face of the mall project, already controversial when the small shop owners are afraid of losing their businesses. But, Ash has plans to get revenge on so many people, calling them out in public. When Mowbray is murdered, it's a teenage boy who's the prime suspect. Just as in an Agatha Christie story, Skeet sees that so many people in town have reasons to want Ash Mowbray dead. So, why is the local police chief, a friend of Skeet's, trying to ram through the murder charge for the teen?

Brewster, Missouri is filled with characters who have hidden secrets, and someone is trying to capitalize on those secrets. Rodriguez presents a clever story with a small town full of suspects. And, she does an excellent job bringing all of those characters to life. Skeet is a strong woman, with her own weaknesses, and she's forced to confront them in the course of the book. At the same time, she has admirable qualities. One man who wishes to be closer says, "Skeet, you are the person they invented the word honor for." But, Skeet isn't the only strong woman in this book. I would have liked to see more of Gran, a wise, no-nonsense woman. Rodriguez excels at developing characters that stand out.

As Skeet hunts for a Ash Mowbray's killer, she watches her town torn apart. "That death was like a tornado sucking everything and everyone into it and carrying them off to somewhere strange." Finally Skeet is forced to track a surprising killer through a blizzard that only Gran predicted. The search-and-rescue mission is a powerful scene, but no more powerful than Rodriguez' concluding scenes in this compelling mystery.

Linda Rodriguez' website is

Every Hidden Fear by Linda Rodriguez. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250049155 (hardcover), 292p.

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

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Zealot by Reza Aslan

I've said before, I'm glad I'm in a book club so I'll read books I normally wouldn't have picked up.
In fact, sometimes the book completely escaped my attention when it was released. Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is one of those books. Written by a scholar of religion, it reexamines what we actually know about Jesus, based on writings and the history of his times.

Aslan depicts Jesus as a Jewish peasant and revolutionary itinerant preacher. He says we actually only know two hard historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth. "Jesus was a Jew who led a popular Jewish movement in Palestine at the beginning of the first century C.E." And, Rome crucified him for doing so. He describes "The Jesus that emerges from this historical exercise - a zealous revolutionary swept up, as all Jews of that era were in the religious and political turmoil of first century Palestine."

Zealot is a fascinating book. It places Jesus' life in context. What was happening in Jerusalem and Palestine at the time he lived? What brought the Jews to the point of revolution against the Romans and against the priesthood? How many self-proclaimed messiahs were crucified or killed for their revolutionary movements during that same time period? What would have Jesus' life been like as a Jew from Nazareth? He was probably from the lowest class of peasants, and 97% of Jewish peasants at the time were illiterate, so much of what is commonly believed about him reading from scripture is undoubtedly false.

I'm not about to discuss religion and faith with anyone, and, I'm sure we won't next Monday night at the book discussion. We'll examine the facts that Aslan presents, with an entire section of notes explaining where his viewpoint comes from. His discussion of Paul's view of Jesus, a man who never knew him, in contrast to that of the people who knew him, his apostles, is intriguing. And, he says it was Paul's philosophy, in opposition to that of the Jews who knew Jesus, that carried the day. "The memory of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history."

Reza Aslan's website is

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Random House. 2013. ISBN 9781400069224 (hardcover), 297p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

I mentioned a few days ago that Kristin Kimball's A Dirty Life is one of our featured books for this
summer's reading program. It's a story that's timely for the organic and eat local movement, but it's also a testimony to the difficult life that brings those foods to the table. Subtitled "A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love", it could also include the phrase "and hard work" in that list.

Kristin Kimball met her husband-to-be, Mark, when she drove six hours from Manhattan to interview him on a Pennsylvania farm about the farmers who were growing the local organic food that was becoming so popular. And, that defines the difference between Kristin and Mark right there. She was a city woman with a degree from Harvard, a woman who loved the bars and night life of New York City. He was a farmer to his soul, yearning for his own land, and a place where he didn't even care if there was electricity. But, his passion for farming kindled a flame in her.

It wasn't long before the two of them were on a five hundred acre piece of property in upstate New York, with only a promise of one year rent free. They couldn't even move into the farmhouse until the tenant's lease was up. So, they planned the farm, and then tested each other and their love in a year of creating a farm. They planned to farm with horses as much as they could, and make a living through Community Supported Agriculture, a CSA. People would buy shares in the produce. In return for the money up-front, they would get weekly produce. And, Mark's vision was that they could produce everything on the farm, grains and flour, dairy products, eggs, and meat.

And, it all started with one cow. Kimball's account is a riveting story of hard work, struggle, and eventual success. But, success is fleeting on a farm when the next day may bring bad weather, the death of livestock, any kind of disaster. This is the story of one couple trying to live their life as they dream it, producing what they need, and sharing it with neighbors. It's fascinating, a story that forces you to look at farming and farmers in a different light. The Dirty Life takes courage and stamina, and Kristin Kimball tells about it in this absorbing memoir.

Kristin Kimball's website is

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. Simon & Schuster. 2010. ISBN 9781416551614 (paperback), 291p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, May 05, 2014

Dead Water by Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves' Shetland Island series was originally intended to be four books, and, in fact, it's called The Shetland Quartet. However, she must have found it as hard to leave behind Inspector Jimmy Perez and the Shetlands as her readers did. Fortunately, for us, she brought both back in Dead Water.

Jimmy Perez is still in mourning and on leave, so when Rhona Laing found a body in the yoal, the boat she and other women used for rowing, Jimmy wasn't interested in the case. As Procurator Fiscal, it was Rhona's job to supervise the murder investigation. But, soon after she met Detective Inspector Willow Reeves, Rhona decided to take a leave. She suspected Reeves might see too much.

Sergeant Sandy Wilson and Inspector Reeves find there are rumors as to why Jerry Markham was on the island, but no one really knew why the journalist was there, or why he would have been killed. The man had been a spoiled child there, an only child who never grew up. He wasn't popular, but he'd been away for years until he returned, supposedly to write a story about the islands and energy. There were opposing sides in the fight to bring wind and tidal energy to the islands. But, did anyone care enough to kill?

Despite himself, Jimmy was interested in the case, and agrees to help, interviewing some of the people involved. As Reeves investigates the business and politics of energy, Perez turns to the local people he knows. "He always believed more in the personal than the political." And, he thought the truth was somewhere in Markham's change from the man everyone knew to the rumors of a conversion. Jimmy Perez sees that betrayal and transformation might be a key, particularly after a second victim is found.

Ann Cleeves continues to write mysteries that emphasize the dark and lonely side of life, using the isolated, hard-to-reach Shetland Islands as the perfect setting. And, time after time, she surprises with the ending and the killer, although the answers are perfectly logical when they're explained. Dead Water is another excellent book in the Shetland series. Welcome back, Jimmy Perez.

(Cleeves' TV series, Shetland, debuted on the BBC in 2013. Hopefully, someday it will come to PBS.)

Ann Cleeves website is

Dead Water by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250036605 (hardcover), 400p.

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

Sunday, May 04, 2014

What Are You Reading?

It's a lazy Sunday here. I love the days when I can just cuddle with cats and enjoy books. What about you? What are you reading this weekend?  I have a whole pile of books beside me, but I'm focused on three right now.

I'm finishing up Ann Cleeves' Dead Water. I really haven't had the time to give it the attention it deserves until now. I've always liked her Inspector Jimmy Perez. While he's in mourning, he's joined in this investigation in the Shetland Islands by Detective Inspector Willow Reeves. More in the next couple days.

My book club is reading a book I'm finding fascinating, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. I've said before, it's one reason to be in a book club, to read books I wouldn't normally select. It's due back at the library on Monday, and others are waiting, so I have to finish it today.

I'm also reading Kristin Kimball's The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love. This is the first of four books we're featuring this summer at the library as part of our Summer Reading Program. And, our Central Library is planning a terrific program of music, sustainable living booths, and farm animals, for four hours on a Sunday in June to celebrate this book. I have to say, since I lived on a farm until I was five, and my grandfather farmed, it always surprises me when I hear that people are bringing their children so they can see a cow. Some city children have never seen a cow. I'm enjoying the book, and can't wait to attend the program on June 8th.

So, what are you reading this weekend? Is it for fun, or a combination of reasons? And, are you a multiple book at one time reader, as I am?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Agatha Award Winners

The Agatha Awards were presented tonight at Malice Domestic. Congratulations to all the winners!

And, a big hug along with those congratulations to Chris Grabenstein, winner of the Agatha for Best Children's/YA mystery for Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (Random House Books).

Best Short Story went to "The Care and Feeding of House Plants" by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine).

Best Nonfiction went to The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books). Good weekend for that book, and Edgar and an Agatha!

Best First Novel went to Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz (Berkley Prime Crime).

Best Historical Novel went to A Question of Honor by Charles Todd (William Morrow).

And, another big hug to one of the nicest people out there, Hank Phillippi Ryan, winner of the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel for The Wrong Girl (Forge Books). This was a tough category for me. Glad I didn't vote. Too many friends in this one!

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees! And, thank you to Julia Spencer-Fleming who tweeted from the banquet.

Ghost Seer by Robin D. Owens

The library classified Robin D. Owens' Ghost Seer as a romance. And, I'm not crazy about the cover of the book. I know the author is a RITA Award -winning author, so I'm sure she doesn't need my review. But, I think our classification and the cover will cause the book to miss an audience. I loved the book, but I'd call it urban fantasy with sex. I'd recommend it to fans of Kat Richardson's Greywalker series. Even the readers of Paige Shelton's Country Cooking School mysteries and Alice Kimberly's Haunted Bookshop series who long for relationships with the hot ghost might appreciate this book.

Clare Cermak inherits more than a fortune from her eccentric Aunt Sandra. When her aunt died, the by-the-book accountant inherited "a gift", the ability to communicate with ghosts, and a ghostly dog, Enzo. Enzo knows the rules, and Clare has to get over her disbelief or she'll die. She has to use her gift to help ghosts transition to the next world. She's convinced she's either crazy or has a disease, and she doesn't want to admit she sees the ghost of Jack Slade, a legendary bad guy who had been involved with the Pony Express. It seems Clare is sensitive to ghosts of the Old West, about 1850 to 1900.

Zack Slade's career as a cop is over. The Montana deputy sheriff was injured on the job. He knows he'll never work again in his field, and he's angry. Originally from Colorado, he ends up back in Denver with a job offer from Tony Rickman of Rickman Security and Investigations. He just never saw himself as a private eye. But, he can see himself teamed up with the gorgeous woman he sees at the restaurant when he mistakenly thinks she says "Zack" instead of "Jack".

Robin D. Owens brings together two damaged people, struggling to make sense of their new lives, in a hot relationship. At the same time, they're both struggling with the knowledge they have "the sight". It takes an understanding wealthy woman to push Zach in that direction, and Enzo to convince Clare. Enzo tells her "If you don't accept our gift that you can see ghosts then you will die. And if you accept that you can see them but don't help them, you can go crazy."

Ghost Seer is a terrific first book in a new series. Owens mixes legends of the Old West, ghosts, mystery, sexual attraction, and intriguing characters. I can't wait for the next in the series, Ghost Layer.

Robin D. Owens' is at

Ghost Seer by Robin D. Owens. Berkley Sensation. 2014. ISBN 9780425268902 (paperback), 312p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, May 02, 2014

Winners and a Southern Women Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Eileen K. of Island Lake, IL won Alafair Burke's If You Were Here. Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri will go to Karen D. of Hyannis, MA. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

If you like Southern women authors, I have a fun giveaway this week. I recently reviewed a charming little book, Cassandra King's  The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life: Advice From a Failed Southern Belle. King's book would be a perfect gift for a graduate. It's also a perfect gift for yourself. King has presented variations of the six life lessons as commencement addresses. However, for the book, she added a seventh life lesson, "Become a lifelong readers." It's my favorite chapter in the book. The publicist will give away two copies of this, and the contest is open to anyone in the U.S. or Canada.

Or, you could win a Ladies' Night package. This is a terrific giveaway for one lucky winner in the U.S. Mary Kay Andrews' Ladies' Night has just been released in paperback. Because I read, and loved it, I jumped at the chance to offer this. Quick summary of the book, from the press release.

Take a splash of betrayal, add a few drops of outrage, give a good shake to proper behavior and take a big sip of a cocktail called...Ladies' Night!

Grace Stanton's life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool. Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style. Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal. So is attending court-mandated weekly "divorce recovery" therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality. When their "divorce coach" starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday "Ladies' Night" sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined. Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there?

Heartache, humor, and a little bit of mystery come together in a story about life's unpredictable twists and turns. Mary Kay AndrewsLadies' Night will have you raising a glass and cheering these characters on."

Now, I know you want to know what you could win. The prize package consists of a fun goodie
  • Signed copy of LADIES' NIGHT in paperback
  • Set of 3 LADIES' NIGHT recipe cards
  • LADIES' NIGHT drink coasters
  • Cocktail umbrellas
  • LADIES' NIGHT drink cup
  • Three different Mary Kay Andrews bookmarks
  • SAVE THE DATE magnet
  • Set of 3 SAVE THE DATE recipe cards
  • News about a special SAVE THE DATE pre-order gift
(Mary Kay Andrews' next book, Save the Date, will be out in June.)

So, which giveaway appeals to you? You can enter to win the giveaway from either of these fun Southern authors, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Cassandra King" or "Win Ladies' Night." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, May 8 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Edgar Award Winners

Congratulations to the Edgar Award winners, presented with their awards tonight.

The TV episode teleplay went to "Episode 1" – The Fall, Teleplay by Allan Cubitt (Netflix)

The Best Young Adult Novel was Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher.

Best Juvenile Mystery went to One Came Home by Amy Timberlake.

The Best Fact Crime was The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower.

Best Short Story went to "The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository" – Bibliomysteries by John Connolly.

Best Paperback Original went to The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood.

Best First Novel went to Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews.

And, the Edgar Award for Best Novel went to Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger.

And, last night, the Mary Higgins Clark Award was presented to Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman.

Congratulations to all the winners!

June Treasures in My Closet

Once a month, I get to share forthcoming books, treasures in my closet. It's always fun to discover new books. Here are the June titles in my TBR pile.

New York taxi driver Ranjit Sinon returns in A.X. Ahmad's The Last Taxi Ride. He has ten days to prove his innocence when a Bollywood film icon is found murdered. Her body was found in the apartment where Ranjit ate dinner just hours earlier, with his fingerprints all over the murder weapon. Ranjit has an alibi, but the man has disappeared. He has just ten days before the Grand Jury arraignment, and he can only rely on his army training, his taxi-driver knowledge of the city, and his cabbie friends. (Release date is June 24.)

After a three year hiatus, Detective Inspector Sloan and Detective Constable Crosby return in the latest British procedural from Catherine Aird, Dead Heading. Pressured by his boss, Sloan investigates a break-in at a greenhouse. Other than the destruction of some expensive orchids, no damage has been done. But, then a woman goes missing, and is absent from her planned orchid demonstration. Sloan and Crosby must try to find the missing woman, and learn how she connects to the greenhouse burglary before it's too late. (Release date is June 17.)

Annamaria Alfieri takes readers to early 20th century British East Africa, a place with rules for the British and rules for the Africans. Strange Gods tells of Vera McIntosh, the daughter of Scottish missionaries, who feels as if she doesn't belong. She dreams of seeing the handsome police officer she's danced with, but it's grisly circumstances that bring him to her door. Justin Tolliver is assigned the case when Vera's uncle is found with a tribesman's spear in his back. Although Tolliver's boss wants a fast arrest, he discovers there are a number of people who hated Dr. Josiah Pennyman. (Release date is June 24.)

In A Dark and Twisted Tide, Sharon Bolton's latest Lacey Flint book, Lacey is living in London's riverboat community when she finds a shrouded body in the River Thames. Flint assumes it was chance since she only recently joined the marine policing unit, but soon her team suspects the body was deliberately left for her to find. Although she is no longer a detective, she's soon drawn into the investigation. (Release date is June 3.)

Allison Brennan takes FBI agent Lucy Kincaid and her boyfriend Sean Rogan into a dangerous world in Dead Heat. When her team buts two brothers for jumping bail, she walks into a hotbed of pure evil. They're charged with murder, drug trafficking, and worse. Lucy risks her career and her life to bring down a crime lord's empire. (Release date is June 3.)

NYPd Detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner, JJ Rogan are assigned to reexamine an investigation that led to a murder conviction in Alafair Burke's All Day and a Night. When a psychotherapist is murdered, a celebrity trial lawyer offers lawyer Carrie Blank an offer she can't refuse. A serial killer blamed for the murder of Carrie's older sister has new evidence related to the psychotherapist's death. While Carrie takes on Amaro's wrongful conviction claim, Ellie and Rogan's search take them back to Carrie's hometown. And, when she falls victim to a brutal attack it becomes clear she got too close to the truth. (Release date is June 10.)

Looking for a historical mystery? Eleanor Kuhns takes us back to 1797 in her latest Will Rees mystery, Cradle to Grave. Rees and Lydia travel to the Shaker community in Mount Unity, New York, where a friend, Mouse, is in trouble for kidnapping five children, claiming their mother is unfit to care for them. Although they can't help her, they agree the children are better off away from their mother. But, when the mother ends up dead, Mouse is the prime suspect. (Release date is June 17.)

I love the cover of Linda Francis Lee's The Glass Kitchen. "With echoes of The Tempest, comes an honest, funny, and heartfelt novel of a Texas woman washed up on the shores of New York City with little more than her cookbooks in hand. Forced to reimagine herself in the wake of a broken marriage, her decision to be honest - with her own talents, her sisters, the man who lives upstairs, his twelve-year-old daughter - shapes a page-turning story about the complications and delights of family and love." (Release date is June 17.)

Everything I Never Told You is Celeste Ng's debut novel. It's the story of a mixed-race family, Chincse American, living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. And, it's the youngest daughter of the family, much more observant than anyone thinks, who may be the only one who knows the truth. (Release date is June 26.)

There's even a picture book in this collection, Sleep Tight, Anna Banana by Dominique Roques.
Anna Banana won't settle down, even though her stuffed animals are tired. When she finally is sleepy, the stuffed animals get revenge. (Release date is June 17.)

Looking for a legal thriller? Robert Rotstein brings back lawyer Parker Stern in Reckless Disregard. When Stern takes on a case for a video game designer, he ends up with a mess in which nothing is as it appears. At one point his own client threatens to blackmail him. Then witnesses start to die, and survivors are to frightened to talk. Soon Parker feels as if he himself is just a character in a video game fighting bosses trying to destroy him. (Release date is June 3.)

Once again, Jill Paton Walsh brings back Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. In The Late Scholar, Peter is approached by his alma mater to settle a disagreement about selling a rare manuscript to raise funds. But, one of the people involved has disappeared, and when Peter and Harriet return to Oxford, the faculty begin dying mysteriously. (Release date is June 17.)

And, the last treasure is James W. Ziskin's No Stone Unturned. In her second mystery, Ellie Stone, a young reporter in 1960s' upstate New York, plays by her own rules while searching for a killer, putting her own life at risk. Ellie's been battling her own losses and demons, and is ready to pack it up and return to New York as a failure. Then, she's the first on the scene when a body is found in the woods. When all leads seem to die, she takes a risk that unleashes chaos. (Release date is June 10.)

Have I tempted you with anything? Which books do you want to read?