Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Family Affair by Fern Michaels

I had never read a Fern Michaels novel until I received A Family Affair from a journal for review. And, if this one is any example, I won't be reading another one.

Trisha Holiday, a dancer at a Las Vegas casino, collapses in the parking lot just after a man offered her $1000 to have a drink with him, and she turned him down. But that man was Prince Malik Mohammed, a student in the U.S., and it's his staff that nurses her back to health since she has the flu. The perpetual student, with two Master's degrees and a Ph.D., had fallen for her, the first woman he thought he could like in seven years. But, his father in Dubai had already chosen his wife, and Malik knows he can't defy his father. However, his father's death turns Malik into Sheik Malik bin Al Mohammed, and gives him he opportunity to marry for love if Trisha will have him.

Since Trisha hasn't seen much of her only sister after her sister's divorce, she has few connections to the U.S., and she's willing to sign agreements to marry the Sheik. While the contract means she must have children, or leave Dubai forever after five years, she's too much in love to care. It's only years later that she has to take that seriously. Even when her own future is threatened, Trisha hopes to find a way to help her sister avenge herself against her creepy ex-husband.

I found A Family Affair to be a juvenile romance with unrealistic characters out of the past. Although this is a contemporary romance, the adult heroine smokes and giggles. The hero, a highly educated wealthy man, uses phrases such as "Oh golly, Miss Molly". These comments and characteristics were jarring. It was a sappy romance which felt as if it was written for a teenage audience.

Fern Michaels' website is www.fernmichaels.com

A Family Affair by Fern Michaels. Kensington Publishing Corp. 2014. ISBN 9780758284945 (hardcover), 272p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent the book for review.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal

I'm going to have to backtrack and find Barbara O'Neal's The Garden of Happy Endings. Over the years, I've liked some of the novels she's written as Barbara Samuel or Barbara O'Neal, and loved some of them. But, none of them hit home as much as  The All You Can Dream Buffet. O'Neal always writes about women finding themselves, and finding the strength within themselves. This time, she writes about four bloggers who find friendship and courage through that friendship. These are women I want to know.

Lavender Wills is almost eighty-five, a woman who lived life fully, and, late in life took over Lavender Honey Farms in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. But, she's worried about the farm and what will happen to it. Who will take over the farm, and care for it as she does? So, the popular blogger and foodie emails a command invitation to her three friends, fellow bloggers. Come to Lavender Honey Farms for my birthday. One of those women might be the rightful heir.

Ruby of The Flavor of a Blue Moon blog, is young, pregnant, and passionate about the organic movement. Ruby is a earth goddess, but one with a broken heart. And, she's looking for a place to call home. Valerie, once a prima ballerina, had a wine blog until tragedy shattered her life. She's spent two years trying to help her teenage daughter heal. And, then there's Ginny. Ginny was once a cake decorator in a small Kansas town until she found herself famous because of her photographs on her Cake of Dreams blog. But, fame came with a bitter pill. Her family and friends turned on her. And, Ginny, who was scared to leave Kansas by herself, was prepared to drive to Oregon with her small camper and her dog. It's time for the FoodieFour to finally meet.

I can't really tell you more about the book because I don't want to spoil the joy and tears. But, O'Neal brings out the strength in women, testing them. Each of these women find it's time for a major change in their life, and their friendship gives them the courage to reverse directions. Ruby and Ginny are both looking for lives that will fulfill them. And, all four need other women to lean on. And, if it takes ghosts and memories to help women, they find a way to lean on the past as well.

O'Neal captures women's spirits, and the strength women need to build successful lives, whether those lives are with family, with friends that become family, or by themselves. The All You Can Dream Buffet is a sensual novel of flowers, and honey, and food, longing, and memories, and lust. It's a story that celebrates the possibilities in a woman's life, and the courage and friendship needed to turn possibilities into reality. O'Neal mixes ghosts of the past with present needs in a beautiful book.

Barbara O'Neal's website is www.barbaraoneal.com

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal. Bantam Books. 2014. ISBN 9780345536860 (paperback), 383p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested this book in order to review it.



Monday, April 28, 2014

The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan

As much as I love cats, I'm a little leery of cutesy cat mysteries. I like my cats to be cats, even if they do help to solve cases. I don't want talking cats. Sofie Ryan avoids that situation with the first in a new series, The Whole Cat and Caboodle. Elvis, the cat, doesn't talk, but he certainly communicates. Just like Diesel in Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mysteries, this is a cat to fall for. There are also many other reasons to read this book.

Sarah Grayson returned to North Harbor, Maine, where she spent her happiest summers at her grandmother's. Now, she owns Second Chance, a shop where she sells used items that have been refurbished and repurposed. And, Elvis, a used cat, somehow acquired her. Elvis also acquired a whole slew of admirers who recognize a loving, intelligent cat.

Sarah also has a slew of admirers, the women who are her grandmother's best friends. When Sarah teaches a class, and one of those friends, Maddie, doesn't show up, everyone says it's because of the new man in her life. But, it's not like Maddie to fail to call. Sarah and Charlotte head over to check on her, and find Maddie sitting in her garden, next to the man she's been seeing. But, Maddie is in shock, and Arthur Fenety is dead.

Two of Sarah's old friends are on the case. Charlotte's son, Nick, is now working for the State Medical Examiner's Office. And, her former best friend, Michelle, is the investigating officer. That doesn't mean Maddie has it easy. All clues point to her as the main suspect. Sarah quickly calls another friend, now an attorney, and leaves the case in his hands. But, her grandmother's friends, Charlotte, Rose, and Liz, have something else in mind. The three are determined to turn "Charlie's Angels", and find a better suspect. Elvis is on their side, while Sarah reluctantly agrees to keep the women out of trouble.

My sister, Christie, actually sent me an excellent summary before I read this book. She said she liked Sarah and Elvis. No one was "Too Stupid To Live", trying to hide information from the police. And, she told me I would love Elvis. She even liked the size of the print, a little larger than normal for a paperback. Christie summed it up perfectly. This first book in the Second Chance Cat mystery series does have an enormous cast of characters, but it's an introductory book to the series. Ryan is introducing them, providing backstory, and preparing for future books. It's just hard to sort out the three "Charlie's Angels" sometimes.

But, I suspect readers will enjoy meeting Sarah and all her friends. The Whole Cat and Caboodle is an intelligent mystery set in a small town filled with people who care about each other. And, they all seem to care about Elvis. It's a mystery filled with food, music, friends, and one streetwise intelligent cat. What more do you want?

Sofie Ryan's website is www.sofieryan.com

The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan. Obsidian, 2014. ISBN 9780451419941 (paperback), 323p.

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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Southern Kentucky Book Fest

I picked up a friend yesterday, and we headed to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. We made it just in time for Charlaine Harris' keynote address.

Harris said she'd talk just a little, and then take questions. She was born in Mississippi, a daughter of the South who has always lived in the South except for one year she spent in St. Louis. And, she said those people who think St. Louis is the South are just wrong.



Harris wrote mystery series for a few years that were marginally successful. In her mid to late 40s, she decided she wanted a change in her carer. Laurell K. Hamilton was successful with Anita Blake, and Harris wanted to do something different with vampires. So,she wrote the first Sookie Stackhouse, but it took her two years to sell it. It was turned down over and over. Then, it went on to win the Anthony for Best Paperback Mystery. She looked out at the audience of people who had turned her down, and she could have talked about that, or she could take the high road. And, her mother's spirit put her hand on her shoulder, and Charlaine took the high road. But, she was traveling with her assistant, and all the way home she sang a very simple song, "I won! I won!" It was an exciting time because she felt it validated her new career.

The TV show, True Blood, came about when she writing the fifth or sixth book. There had been an option on the book. It's not hard to get options. When one option is up, you can sell or "rent" it again. Harris had three offers when the first option ended. Alan Ball was a Southern guy who understood humor and horror. Harris knew that from Six Feet Under. Then the writers' strike happened. Soon after, though, HBO bought the series. Charlaine appeared in the second season. They're filming the final season right now. She's hoping to be in the last episode.

The TV show has provided a few other opportunities. She served as a judge on Halloween Wars on the Food Network. Although being an author hardly qualifies her to judge a pumpkin carving contest. The studio always had to be really cold for the pumpkins. She's also had the opportunity to get to know the cast of True Blood.

Harris has written her last Sookie because she wanted to, and she's queen of this world. She's started a new series. Midnight Crossroads will be out May 6. It's the first in a trilogy, although the series might be longer. She doesn't want to commit to anything longer. She's also doing the Cemetery Girl graphic novels with Christopher Golden.

Asked how she came to write, she said she had a long answer. The only thing Charlaine Harris wanted to be was a writer. Now, she makes money at it. Her parents were great readers. There were books around the house. They took her to the library, and they bought books. Books were her best friend.

Harris had a bad first marriage that was blessedly short. Then she married her second husband. They've been married for thirty-six years. He gave her the opportunity to stay home and write. He bought her an electric typewriter as a wedding present, and back then an electric typewriter was wonderful. She took a writing class, and her instructor, who had worked for Houghton Mifflin, recommended her, and her writing from class sold to them. She had a second book with them, and then she took a hiatus to have her kids. When she was ready to write again, Houghton Mifflin was no longer interested. But, she had become friends with author Barbara Paul who recommended her to her agent. He's been her agent ever since.

In answer to another question, Harris was emphatic in saying publishing is an industry. It's about the bottom line, not about love. Her career has been about hard work, good luck, and being in the right place at the right time with the right attitude. She writes every day. That's her job. And, asked about self-publishing, she said there are different routes to publishing but Harris was insistent that writers need a professional editor. Whatever you're writing, you need to have a good product to attract attention.

Asked about deviations from her books for the TV show, she said she has no problem with it. The money actually came from the increased sales of her books. All of them appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List. But, TV and the bestsellers went hand-in-hand.

Charlaine Harris said you should keep trying new stuff in order to move forward.

*****
I spent part of the day attending a couple panels, and part of it in the book room. The Thriller panel had six authors on it; David Bell, JT Ellison, Geoffrey Girard, Holly Goddard Jones, Carla Norton, and Tom Wood. I actually went to it to hear JT Ellison because she and I have been on lists together for years, but never met. She said she's currently writing three series. She was inspired by John Sandford's Prey books. She moved to Nashville, and her husband had a job, but she was having a hard time getting one. She went to work for a vet, and hurt her back, and had to have surgery. Ellison went to the library to get reading material, and ended up with Sandford's books.

There were groans when Ellison said she's put a hold on her Taylor Jackson books. How many serial killers could Nashville have? It was starting to freak her out. She told the audience it's also a little weird when an actual event mirrors one of her stories. A while ago, she did a short story collection with Alex Kava. There was a story about a serial killer killing homeless men. A week later, someone in LA was using the same method. Asked about writing advice, JT Ellison recommended Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey.

*****
The final panel of the day was Southern Fiction with Jennie L.Brown, Ashton Lee, and Lisa Patton. Lee was a gentleman and let both of the women go first. Brown read from her novel, Nothing's Ever Right or Wrong. Lisa Patton, author of Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter, read from her latest novel, Southern as a Second Language.

I have to say, Lisa was such a great reader that I wish she could have read the entire book. I'm hoping she'll appear at the library for us sometime in the future.

Ashton Lee is the author of The Cherry Cola Book Club and The Reading Circle. After a wonderful, impassioned speech about libraries that helped to introduce his character, Library Director Maura Beth Mayhew, Ashton read from The Reading Circle. It's always a pleasure to see Lee. Since we're hosting Ashton at the Red Bank Branch Library on May 14, I'll have a program recap in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, he was doing a wonderful job in the book room, and The Cherry Cola Book Club was sold out before the end of the day.

I always enjoy a book festival. We both had fun hearing and meeting some of the authors, and running into old friends. We'll probably return next year. (Now that we know the wrong turn, we probably won't make it again.)





Saturday, April 26, 2014

Graduation Books

Every year, there's a new book or two featuring graduation speeches, a famous person's advice to college graduates. I doubt, though, that any of them will ever be as popular as Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go. That doesn't stop authors from trying.

This week, I have two small books of advice taken from graduation speeches. George Saunders gave his convocation address at Syracuse University. It became the book Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness. The opening is funny as Saunders admits he's going to follow the tradition of giving advice to bright young people. His advice? Be kind. His biggest regrets in life come from the times he wasn't kind. And, he suggests they learn to be kind now.

Interestingly enough, when Cassandra King provides a six-point list for graduates at the University of Montevallo, she leads off with "Be Sweet", meaning be nice to people, whether you mean it or not. And, she starts that point by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson. "You can never do a kindness too soon because you will never know when it will be too late."

King's book is The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life: Advice from a Failed Southern Belle. With
an introduction by Rick Bragg, this is a book that uses humor to point out the lessons of life. As I said, King lists six essential things she learned about life. But, my favorite was actually the seventh one, a lesson she added for the book, "Become a lifelong reader." She says, "Cultivate an appreciation and passion for books." And, then she talks about her own passion. "For me, reading has always been a sensual experience. I lust after books. I love everything about them: how they look, how they feel, and how they smell. If I really like a book, I've been known to embrace it and stroke its cover reverently." That one paragraph made me revere Cassandra King's advice. And, her book, with its gorgeous illustrations, is worth embracing.

Most of us don't need graduation advice telling us how to live life. However, it doesn't hurt to be reminded once in a while that we should be kind and grateful. Cassandra King and George Saunders just remind us that graduation advice is almost always practical for the living of day to day life.

Cassandra King's website is www.cassandrakingconroy.com

Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders. Random House, 2014. ISBN 9780812996272 (hardcover).

The Same Sweet Girls' Guide to Life: Advice from a Failed Southern Belle by Cassandra King. Maiden Lane Press, 2014. ISBN 9781940210032 (hardcover), 95p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Saunders' was a library book, and King's was sent by the publicist, hoping I would review it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Winners and Women of Crime Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Karen R. of Katy, TX won Michael Robertson's Moriarty Returns a Letter. Karen E. from Montgomery, AL won The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away crime novels by two well-known authors. Alafair Burke's If You Were Here is a standalone about a NYC couple whose marriage is rocked by the sudden reappearance of a friend who disappeared a decade earlier. Journalist McKenna Jordan thinks she can identify a woman who heroically pulled a teenage boy from the subway tracks and then vanished. She thinks it's a good friend who disappeared ten years earlier. But McKenna's husband thinks she's wrong, heading down a path that led to her downfall years earlier. McKenna ends up on a dangerous search.



Maggie Barbieri turns to a darker side of crime fiction with Once Upon a Lie. Maeve Conlon's life is coming apart at the seams. Her new business is barely making it; her aging police cop father is succumbing to Alzheimer's; her ex-husband has moved along with his life. When her cousin Sean is found dead, she's not devastated. But, when the police start poking around asking the family questions, she realizes her father is a suspect. She's determined to clear his name in a thriller about family, justice, and the choices we make.

Which crime novel 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 If You Were Here" or "Win Once Upon a Lie." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, May 1 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

If the publicist for Mary Rickert's blog tour for her debut novel, The Memory Garden, hadn't
already enticed me into reviewing the book, one line of the author's biography in the book might have drawn me in. It reads, "There are, of course, mysterious gaps in this account of her life, and that is where the truly interesting stuff happened." How can you resist that line?

Or what about this line from the book? "How do the girls with dreams as big as the world end up old women with regrets?" The Memory Garden is a story of regrets, and forgiveness, friendship lost, ghosts, witches, and memories. It's a story of the secrets women once knew, secrets that made them appear to be witches to some. Those were secrets of flowers and herbs, what to do to save a life or change a life.

Each chapter of The Memory Garden includes information about the uses of flowers. And, women who knew those uses, women who lived in strange houses, and had cats, were often considered women with strange powers, witches to some. The actual opening of the story reads, "Over the years, shoes were often thrown at the old house brooding atop its slope on Muir Glenn Road." Over the years, Nan added those shoes to her garden, and grew plants in them, just one more reason townspeople considered her odd. But, at 78, Nan is worried about the daughter she adopted. Bay is only fifteen, a typical moody teen, but one who lacks friends and is called names by kids at school because of where she lives and the woman she calls mother. It's time for Nan to tell her the truth about "everything", what happened in the past, and what powers Bay may have. It's time for Nan to call on friends she hasn't seen in over fifty years.

Nan and Mavis and Ruthie had once shared a secret, but their friendship had not survived the loss of a fourth friend, Eve. So, Nan calls them home, inviting them so she can reveal her secrets to Bay. But, Mavis and Ruthie have secrets they haven't told Nan. Their arrival seems to stir up unusual events and fears. Bay, a teen confused about her life and her future, is equally confused as to why these women show up. And, why does Eve's great-niece show up, saying she's writing a book? And, who are the ghosts who appear to Bay?

Rickert's debut novel is an unusual story of aging and fear and loss. At the same time, it has powerful messages of hope. Just as flowers can have good and bad usages and messages, people can take different paths. And, sometimes it takes an entire lifetime to understand the direction taken.

The publicist enticed me saying some have compared Rickert's book to Sarah Addison Allen. I don't think so. This is a book with a darker, more haunting side. I'm much more inclined to agree with author Joshilyn Jackson who said of The Memory Garden, "An atmospheric, eerie, and utterly beautiful debut."

Each blogger who participated in the blog tour was sent a flower card. Mine, Honeysuckle, reads,
"Sometimes referred to as 'Love Bind,' the honeysuckle's flowers look like intertwined lovers. Its heady fragrance induces dreams of love and passion. Honeysuckle protects the garden from evil and is considered one of the most important herbs for releasing poisons from the body."






Here are the other bloggers on the blog tour:

Blog Name
Blog Link
Linus' Blanket
Royal Reviews
Book Bag Lady
Lesa's Book Critiques
The Bibliotaphe Closet


Bookalicious Babe
Mirabile Dictu
Story Matters



Mary Rickert's website is www.maryrickert.net

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert. Sourcebooks Landmark. 2014. ISBN 9781402297120 (paperback), 295p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent the book in order to participate in the blog tour.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Before I Die by Candy Chang

How do you review wishes and dreams? It's impossible to do that, so I can only share Candy Chang's  Before I Die. The author gave a gift to the world, and her idea continues to spread.

Following the death of a woman who had been a mother to her, Chang stenciled a wall in New Orleans. It said, "Before I Die I want to...", and that wall took on a life of its own. Anyone walking by could write on it. The neighbors wrote their dreams and wishes in chalk, and when the wall filled up, it was erased, and people continued. In that neighborhood, someone even stole the chalk, but the theft brought the neighborhood together as people bought more chalk, and watched over the wall. In every neighborhood where walls were erected, they brought people together.

Over four hundred walls have been built around the world, in Argentina, Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., Madrid, Australia, Berlin, China. Deserted buildings, walls, art centers have all become centers for expression.

Before I Die I want to..."not be forgotten", "see my parents again", "have a student come back and tell me it mattered", "drive Route 66", "let my walls come down". People said well-being, love, family, and travel were important to them. For some, the answer came quickly. Others had to think about what to write.

Chang's book is fascinating, and thought-provoking. I was lucky enough to see one of the walls in Indianaspolis at PLA. The walls are often temporary structures such as the one there. They will always make you think. What would I write? Or, most of all, what is important to me before I die?

Candy Chang's website is www.candychang.com

Before I Die by Candy Chang. St. Martin's Griffin. 2013. ISBN 9781250020840 (hardcover), 304p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran

Eleanor Moran's novel, The Last Time I Saw You, is a compelling story of obsession, poisonous
friendship, and betrayal. There's even some suspense in the story. Did anyone really know who Sally was?

Olivia Berrington and Sally Atkins had been best friends in university. Olivia, and others, were drawn to Sally's mercurial personality. When Livvy was in her good graces, she glowed. When Sally turned on someone, the person felt destroyed, determined to get back in her favor. After three years of up-and-down emotions, watching Sally cut one person and then allow them back in, after one final betrayal and a bitter fight, Olivia couldn't take it anyone. She found herself permanently cut from Sally's circle.

So, when Olivia was thirty-five and heard of Sally's death in a tragic car crash, she was shocked to realize her friend still had the power to hurt her. And, Livvy was stunned to learn that Sally had named her daughter after her. Drawn to William, Sally's widower, Olivia finds herself searching for answers. Despite his love for his wife, William also seemed to be a victim. And, Olivia finds secrets that she never knew, buried truths that influenced everyone that was drawn into Sally's seductive world.

Olivia's story is revealed in flashbacks to the college years, as she remembers that destructive relationship. The Last Time I Saw You draws readers into Olivia's world and her memories. We observe her change from a woman who is still dominated by powerful women, but finds the strength and power within herself to change. As much as this is Sally's story, it's also a story of a woman who find hidden resources within herself. It's a compulsively readable novel of one woman whose train-wreck of a life drags others into her world, and another woman caught up in that world for years.

Eleanor Moran's website is http://www.eleanormoran.co.uk

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran. Quercus. 2014. ISBN 9781623651336 (paperback), 496p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent this book to review for a journal.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gamache Series - Still Life

St. Martin's launched the site, Gamacheseries.com today, where readers can discuss Louise Penny's books, leading up to the launch of her new book in August, The Long Way Home. Every two weeks, readers will analyze and discuss each of the books. I was honored to be asked to kick off the series by talking about Still Life.


I hope you join us at the site, http://gamacheseries.com/still-life-part-1/











May Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian



It's time for this month's book chat, featuring the May mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian. And, perfect for the day after Easter, a ham. Some of the word fumbling is due to trying to cope with a cat in the way while I'm trying to work. Oh, Jinx!

Here are this month's books.

The Goodbye Witch by Heather Blake (4th Wishcraft Mystery)
A Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle (7th Bibliophile Mystery)
Mr. Monk Gets on Board by Hy Conrad (17th Monk Mystery)
Last Licks by Claire Donally (3rd Sunny & Shadow Mystery)
Dead, White, and Blue by Carolyn Hart (23rd Death on Demand Mystery)
The Pickled Piper by Mary Ellen Hughes (1st Pickled and Preserved Mystery)
Death of  Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay (2nd Hat Shop Mystery)
A Tiger's Tale by Laura Morrigan (2nd Call of the Wilde Mystery)
Murder Gone A-Rye by Nancy J. Parra (2nd Baker's Treat Mystery)
A Dollhouse to Die For by Cate Price (2nd Deadly Notions Mystery)
Board Stiff by Elaine Viets (12th Dead-End Job Mystery)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Natalie Lloyd's debut juvenile novel makes my heart sing. In fact, A Snicker of Magic is just "splendiferous". So, thank you to friend and author Kaye Wilkinson Barley for recommending this magical novel. For those of us who love Sarah Addison Allen, Ellery Adams, and, yes, Kaye Wilson Barley as authors, this is an exciting, enchanting debut.

Once upon a time, Midnight Gulch, Tennessee was a place where magic lived. "The people who lived there had magic in their veins." There used to be magic in the secret place, sheltered and hidden by the mountains. But, a duel between brothers was just the start of the drain of magic.

When Felicity Pickle arrived in Midnight Gulch with her mother and younger sister, Frannie Jo, most of the magic was gone. Her mother grew up there, but her wandering heart led her elsewhere. But, Felicity, now in sixth grade, and Frannie Jo, longed to have a place to call home instead of too many "first days" of school, first days in six different states. Those are days that make Felicity nervous, but when Jonah Pickett saw her, he wanted to be a friend. No one had ever reached out to her like that, but Jonah has a gift of know-how. He knows how to fix what's ailing people.

Felicity's gift is words. She's a word collector. Words hang in the air for her, drip and dance with meaning. She writes poems for her sister, but freezes up when she has to talk. Something, though, in Midnight Gulch calls to Felicity. She hangs on every word of the town's magical past. Two brothers had a gift of music that made people dance in the streets. There were people who could call up thunderstorms, and people who could disappear. But, the duel, and loss, ended most of the magic in town. However, Felicity suspects there is still a trace, "a snicker of magic", and she hopes that there's enough to help her conquer her own fears, and enough to settle her mother's restless spirit. Felicity wants Midnight Gulch to have enough magic to become home.

A Snicker of Magic may be a juvenile novel, but the author is wise in the way of human needs and longings. Debut novelist Natalie Lloyd brings Felicity Pickle to life, a wonderful twelve-year-old with a gift that anyone who loves books and words will appreciate. But, Lloyd has her own gift, an ability to bring life to other characters. Felicity's friend, Jonah, is a wonderful character. In fact, all the unusual residents of Midnight Gulch spring to life on the page.

Looking for the next Sarah Addison Allen? Don't overlook A Snicker of Magic because it's a juvenile novel. It's a story in the best tradition of our magical storytellers. It's filled with magic and music, love and loss, loneliness and friendship, and stories. It's just perfect.

Natalie Lloyd's website is www.natalielloyd.blogspot.com

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. Scholastic Press. 2014. ISBN 9780545552707 (hardcover), 314p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

American Elizabeth Bard had lunch with a Frenchman in a Paris cafe, and never went home.Whether it was Gwendal's charm, or the steak, Elizabeth was in love. Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes is her story of romance, food, and trying to find a place for herself in an unexpected life. The book has recipes throughout, but it also has the thoughtful yearning of an American with feet in two worlds.


Bard first met Gwendal at a conference in London. He was finishing a PhD in Computer Science, and she was starting a Master's in Art History. And, after she met him for lunch in Paris, went to his apartment for tea, and then dinner, she ended up staying. "I had no way of knowing, that first damp evening in Paris, how much this man, and his non-recipes, would change my life." Something about Gwendal and the romance of Paris and food drew in this woman who longed for beauty and romance in her life. And, having escaped from a port city, Gwendal himself was still discovering Paris. "He was still open to the magic of this place. I didn't know a lot of people that were open to magic at all."

Bard's description of her life, the markets, the food, and the recipes, will leave foodies drooling, and armchair travelers ready to set off for Paris. At the same time, life wasn't always easy for her. She was twenty-five when she first went there, with ambitious plans herself. Once she stayed, she couldn't work, didn't know what to do, and, at times she was lonely.

Bard's memoir is the story of a woman who finally realized she could put together her love of French food, her love of the man who became her husband, and her knowledge. Once she combined all those elements, she had the book that became Lunch in Paris. It went on to become a New York Times and international bestseller, a Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" pick, and the recipient of the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best First Cookbook (USA).

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes is fun, just the book to take you away for a day. You might want to spend your own April day in Paris with Elizabeth Bard.

Although Elizabeth Bard's website is www.elizabethbard.com, you're better off following her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ScaramoucheArtisanGlacier.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. Little, Brown & Company. 2010. ISBN 9780316042796 (hardcover), 324p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, April 18, 2014

Winners and a Sherlock Holmes Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Teacup Turbulence will go to Glen D. in Yuba City, CA, and Gloria D. of Oswego, IL will receive How to Paint a Cat. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I have two books with traces of Sherlock Holmes in them. Michael Robertson's Moriarty Returns a Letter is a Baker Street mystery. Brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath have a hard time dealing with all the mail they receive at their London law firm. It's not their business that's booming, but that of a previous occupant. Their address is 221B Baker Street, and mail comes addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Now, someone from their past, someone they thought had disappeared, reappears causing all kinds of problems for the brothers.


Or, you could win an Advanced Reading Copy of The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. While Carpenter and Quincannon are investigating cases in 1865 San Francisco, one unwelcome figure continues to show up. It's a man who claims he is Sherlock Holmes. To Quincannon's disgust, he always seems to have ingenious ideas about their cases.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Send your entry to me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. The subject line should read either "Win Moriarty Returns a Letter" or "Win The Spook Lights Affair." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, April 24 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I was never interested in reading M.L. Stedman's bestseller The Light Between Oceans when it was
first published. Sometimes, it takes a book club to push you to read a book you wouldn't normally pick up. And, everyone who showed up for the group the other night admitted we were glad we read it.

Tom Sherbourne survived World War I physically, but he had memories of the war that he wanted to push to the back of his mind. When he returned home to Australia, he accepted a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a lonely, quiet post where he could listen to nature, and live an orderly, routine life. But, Isabel Graysmark pushed her way into his life, a sly, laughing young woman who insisted she wanted nothing more than to marry him, and have children.

It was Izzy's longing for children that altered their lives forever. Following her miscarriages, she was lost in grief until the day a boat washed up on Janus Rock. The man in the boat was dead, but a baby girl survived. Despite Tom's insistence they needed to notify the authorities, Izzy claimed the baby was a gift from God. And, Tom's hesitation gave Isabel just the time she needed to form an attachment. While Isabel insisted the baby's mother must have drowned, Tom wonders if there isn't a woman somewhere mourning the loss of her husband and child. Now, the man who forced the memories of the war to the back of his mind forces his legal obligations to the back of his mind for the sake of the woman he loves.

When Tom and Isabel keep the baby, their actions affect a number of people. The Light Between Oceans is a difficult story, a tragedy for everyone involved. We all agreed that we had sympathy for all the characters, and could understand why they acted as they did. That sympathy doesn't mean characters always made the right choice. In fact, it's a story about choices, and the consequences.

If, like me, you haven't picked up The Light Between Oceans, you might want to consider this thoughtful, quiet novel. It's a powerful story of lost people suffering terrible pain.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. Gale. 2013. ISBN 9781410452573 (Large Type), 553p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Library Week

For the last few years, I've celebrated National Library Week here by asking you to share. Do you have a good memory of a library? Is it a public library, a school library, a special library somewhere? Or is there a special memory of a librarian?

I've been working in public libraries for forty-one years. I started as a page (a shelver) when I was sixteen. I've never left the library. It's where I met and married my husband, and where I met most of my friends. My mother worked in a high school library, and both of my sisters and a nephew worked as pages. We love libraries.

What about you? Is there a special library you want to tell us about? Celebrate National Library Week here with other readers.

And, I just can't resist sharing this from Neil Gaiman. (How can any librarian not love Neil Gaiman?)


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recipe Records by Lanea Stagg & Maggie McHugh

Sunday, I hosted an event at the library called "Local Voices: Conversations with Local Authors". It's similar to the events I held in Glendale in which ten local authors get a chance to do an "elevator pitch", speaking about their book for five minutes, taking questions and answers, and then they can sell and sign their books. Lanea Stagg and the late Maggie McHugh had an interesting concept for a book.  Recipe Records, and the sequels, Recipe Records: The 60's Edition, and Recipe Records: A Culinary Tribute to the Beatles, combine recipes, songs and stories. Or, as it says on the cover, "Food for Thought, Food for the Soul, Food for the Love of Rock n Roll".


Lanea is the cook, and Maggie was the D.J. Stagg, a mother of eight, has included recipes that are easy.  Together, they put together recipes with names such as "Take a Little Pizza My Heart" or "Another One Bites the Crust." Clever, fun, and the recipes are enticing as well. They even included a "Suggested Song List" to go with the recipes. There are recipes for appetizers "The Opening Act". "Backstage Passes" are salads and sides while "Headliners" are the entrees. Along with anecdotes, they also include a list of the best-known "Mondegreens", the term for misheard lyrics.

Congratulations to the authors of Recipe Records for an inventive concept. The books work for parties, family meals, and, fortunately for me, library programming.

Lanea Stagg blogs at rockblocks3@blogspot.com. And, she is on Blogtalkradio at blogtalkradio.com - Recipe Records.

Recipe Records by Lanea Stagg & Maggie McHugh. Recipe Records. 2010. ISBN 9780615374826 (paperback), 206p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache Series Re-read


On Friday, Louise Penny made this official announcement on her Facebook page.

"We have some fun news- we're starting a virtual, online club to re-read the Gamache books, starting with Still Life on April 21st. Each book will be discussed for two weeks, then onto the next one, culminating in the publication of The Long Way Home on August 26th.

"This will be like a gathering at Myrna's New and Used bookstore, only from your own home.

"There'll be discussions and special guests and giveaways. (But you'll have to provide your own croissants). Mostly we hope this'll be a chance to re-visit Three Pines with others who've come to know the village, and see how the characters have grown together and evolved. It's also a chance to introduce Gamache, Ruth, Clare, Gabri et al to new readers. New members of the community.

"Please tell friends and other readers, and make sure they know they're welcome to join in.

"Now you'll have to sign up for it, of course. Here's the link:

http://gamacheseries.com/?utm_source=authorownednewsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_term=na&utm_content=-other_signup_newsletter&utm_campaign=9781250022066

"Have fun, and see you at the first meeting. We can go over to the bistro later. (I wish)."

I wish we could go over the bistro or Myrna's as well. I hope you join us, and I do mean us. Louise's publicist at St. Martin's, Sarah Melnyk, asked me to lead the first discussion. I have the honor to introduce Still Life, the book that introduced Inspector Armand Gamache to the world. I'm a little nervous, hoping I can do justice to this book.

If you are a fan of this series, or want to discover the series, I hope you join us. Sign up now, and I'll see you next Monday for the first discussion.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Name is Bob by James Bowen & Garry Jenkins

If you're a cat lover, you probably already know the story of Bob and James as told in A Street Cat
Named Bob
. I reviewed the story of the street musician who adopted a street cat who changed his life. Now, James Bowen and co-author Garry Jenkins, along with illustrator Gerald Kelley, turn the story into a picture book in My Name is Bob. But, the book takes a different slant. What was Bob's life before he and James found each other?

This is a picture book that starts with a happy beginning and has a happy ending. The authors imagine that Bob was once a beloved housecat whose elderly owner was taken away in an ambulance. When Bob tried to follow, he became lost. And, that's where the story becomes a heartbreaker for adults more than children. While children will see a lost cat who eventually finds a home, adults will see a homeless cat, scrambling for shelter, and shooed away. It's easy for adults to compare homeless people and animals. When Bob no longer recognizes himself after time on the streets, it makes you think about all the homeless people on the streets. Do they recognize themselves in the people they now are?

Children will love the story of a cat who finds someone to love him, and enjoy knowing that James and Bob perform on the streets. Kelley's illustrations beautifully relate the story of two lonely creatures of the street who find each other. (Check out that lovely cover portrait of Bob.) As an adult, though, My Name is Bob is a beautiful, but heartbreaking story.

James Bowen and Bob can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StreetCatBob.

My Name is Bob by James Bowen & Garry Jenkins. Barron's. 2014. ISBN 9780764767256 (hardcover).

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

If a reader is lucky, once or twice a year a book comes along that truly touches the heart. Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry might be one of those books this year for a number of us. A bookstore, discussion of books, a changed life, a child and romance. It's all wrapped up in a story that, despite tears, has a perfect ending.

Amelia Loman's first visit to Alice Island and Island Books couldn't have been called a success. The publisher's rep had to break the bad news to A.J. Fikry, a very eccentric bookstore owner with unusual taste in books, that the previous publisher's rep had died. But, she did leave behind a book she loved, even though Fikry wasn't interested. He was already on the way to disaster. He was drinking too much, and, one night, lost the most valuable book he possessed. His actions in failing to lock up cost him dearly, but also changed his life. The curmudgeon was forced to call the police, bringing Chief Lambiase into his life. And, then, because he had nothing to lose, he continued to leave the bookstore unlocked, only to find a two-year-old left there one day. Maya had been left by her mother whose note said, "I want her to grow up to be a reader. I want her to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things." With A.J. Fikry?

I can't spoil the book by revealing more. But book lovers will appreciate the discussions of books, including Fikry's idiosyncratic opinions of books which open each chapter. There's humor in the growing popularity of the bookstore and book clubs, almost in spite of A.J. Fikry. The characters are wonderful. As much as I loved Fikry, Maya, and Amelia, it was Lambiase that won my heart. And, the relationships are old-fashioned, and perfect for this book, just as the ending is quiet, and perfect.

Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a love letter to bookstores, a story about possibilities, and a story about being open to life. It might be A.J. Fikry's life story, but it's so much more. If you love books and bookstores, this book just might be one of those treasures that touches you this year.

Gabrielle Zevin's website is www.gabriellezevin.com

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Algonquin Books. 2014. ISBN 9781616203214 (hardcover), 272p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - A friend lent me a copy of the book.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Winners and a Cozy Pet Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Jacki R. of Pflugerville, TX won Brad Parks' The Player. The Spook Lights Affair will go to Carole O. in Sun City West, TX. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two cozy mysteries featuring pets. Teacup Turbulence is a Pet Rescue mystery by Linda O. Johnston. Los Angeles animal shelter manager Lauren Vancouver can easily place toy dogs, so a shelter in the Midwest has a surplus, Lauren arranges for a plane to fly the dogs back to L.A. She just didn't count on the rescue worker who came along for the ride, a rescue worker who was murdered.





Would you rather read about cats? Try to win Rebecca M. Hale's How to Paint a Cat. The narrator, Rebecca, runs the antique shop she inherited from her missing uncle while trying to look for clues to her missing uncle's hidden location. Aided by her two cats, she follows the clues all over San Francisco, hoping her uncle's disappearance is unrelated to a murdered intern at City Hall.

Cats or dogs? 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 How to Paint a Cat" or "Win Teacup Turbulence." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, April 17 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Drowning Barbie by Frederick Ramsay

Frederick Ramsay's Ike Schwartz mysteries are some of my favorite police procedurals. Ike, former CIA
agent turned small-town sheriff, is a shrewd judge of character. And, the books are filled with unusual characters, from all the deputies in the sheriff's department, to Ike and his love, Ruth Harris, who happens to be President of Callend University in Picketsville. In the midst of serious crime, it's Ike and Ruth who provide the comic relief in Ramsay's latest book, Drowning Barbie.

When Ethyl Smut's body was found in the woods, "Too many people believed she deserved it." There wasn't one person in Picketsville that seemed to mourn her, unless it was George LeBrun, a brutal convicted felon and arsonist. Ethyl had a history of drug busts for using and distributing, and LeBrun was the dealer. Everyone hoped the second body found in the woods was George. At the same time, people were worried about Ethyl's daughter, Darla. The teenager was missing, and she had seen too much. There were men around who would want Darla dead, too, so she couldn't talk about her years of sexual abuse. 

Ike returned from Las Vegas to face this mess. Two dead bodies, one identified, and a missing teenage girl who was the victim of sexual and drug abuse. And, if that unidentified body isn't George LeBrun, it might be connected to an old FBI case, a troubling situation that brings an agent and his wife, one of Ike's former staff members, back to town. As Ike and his department search for answers, they find themselves stonewalled by women in town who only want to protect the missing Darla. But, the lies and cover-ups can only lead to more trouble.

Cover-ups can lead to trouble, as Ike and Ruth realize when they have to decide how to reveal the results of their recent trip to Las Vegas. Their own schemes add humor to a story that deals with the tragedies of sexual abuse, drugs, violence, and murder.

Frederick Ramsay's books are solid police procedurals as the department interviews witnesses, follows leads, and works to find answers. But, the books have a philosophical bent as well, as evidenced in Ike's conversations with Reverend Blake Fisher. Add in the family nature of the community and sheriff's department, and the humor provided by relationships and some of the more interesting characters. The mixture of all these elements make up one of my favorite police procedural series. Drowning Barbie is one of the strongest entries in this fascinating series.

Frederick Ramsay's website is www.frederickramsay.com

Drowning Barbie by Frederick Ramsay. 2014. ISBN 97811464202148 (hardcover), 258p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

New Arrivals



My family, and even my boss, thinks I have a few too many books around the house. But, what can you do when twenty-eight books arrive in three days? I celebrate! These are the books from Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.

I don't have time to summarize all of them, but I can tell you what's in those magical arrivals. First, the books that are not crime fiction novels.

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon (debut novel, April)
A Colder War by Charles Cumming (espionage, August)
Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley (teen fiction, April 22)
Just One Thing by Holly Jacobs (romance, June 10)
Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch (science fiction, July 10)


I'll certainly be doing the book chat with the Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian May mysteries later this month, but these are the paperbacks that arrived from them.

A Roux of Revenge by Connie Archer
The Goodbye Witch by Heather Blake
A Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle
Mr. Monk Gets on Board by Hy Conrad
Last Licks by Claire Donally
Dead, White, and Blue by Carolyn Hart
The Pickled Piper by Mary Ellen Hughes
Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay
A Tiger's Tale by Laura Morrigan
Murder Goes A-Rye by Nancy J. Parra
A Dollhouse to Die For by Cate Price
Board Stiff by Elaine Viets

The rest of the books are crime fiction.

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton (June)
The Last Girl by Jane Casey (April 29)
The Dead Will Tell by Linda Castillo (July 8)
Cradle to Grave by Eleanor Kuhns (June)
Dead People by Ewart Hutton (April 15)
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (August 26)
Still Life by Louise Penny
Without Warning by David Rosenfelt (March)
The Poor Boy's Game by Dennis Tafoya (April 29)
Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson (May 6)
Catnapped by Elaine Viets (May 6)

So, tell me which of these books appeal to you.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen

If you want in at the blossoming of a new series, check out Beverly Allen's first Bridal Bouquet
Shop mystery, Bloom and Doom. Allen sews the seeds for a series that should flourish with its colorful characters and small-town charm.
Audrey Bloom, co-owner of Rose in Bloom, has an unusual gift. She has created 156 bouquets for Ramble, Virginia brides, and none of the couples have split up. Audrey's cousin and business partner, Liv, credits Audrey who tweaks bouquet designs based on the language of flowers. But, Audrey doesn't have a good feeling about the marriage of her former best friend, Jenny Whitney. Jenny is marrying Derek Rawling, the town's resident playboy. While Jenny's mother is ecstatic that her daughter is engaged to the scion of a wealthy family, Jenny doesn't seem happy. With Audrey's kind heart, she offers to teach Jenny to use the tools of the florist's trade. She didn't expect those tools to be used to kill Derek.

Jenny may be on the top of the suspect list, but Audrey can't accept the fact that her former best friend is a killer. And, the police chief seems convinced Jenny is a killer, but Audrey knew Jenny intended to break off her engagement. Audrey's faith in Jenny was just one reason she turned amateur sleuth. She also hated "The idea that someone in Ramble had died at the hands of someone we most likely knew. Everyone in Ramble interacted with everyone else." Audrey feared she would know the killer, but she couldn't let an innocent Jenny suffer.

Allen's first mystery in this series is a well-developed story with interesting twists. And, the colorful cast of characters include a police chief allergic to flowers, a hunky baker, and a flower delivery man with secrets. And, it seems that murder isn't the only crime in Ramble. The police chief has his own reasons for keeping an eye on Rose in Bloom.

Hopefully, Beverly Allen's mysteries will grow successfully, beginning with the enjoyable Bloom and Doom.

Beverly Allen, who also writes as Barbara Early, can be found at www.barbaraearly.com

Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425264973 (paperback), 293p.

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

Monday, April 07, 2014

Ghost of a Gamble by Sue Ann Jaffarian

For some reason, I'm attracted to paranormal cozy mysteries. Maybe it's the link to the past, because I love cold cases. Maybe it's the acceptance of ghosts in our lives. Sue Ann Jaffarian's Ghost of Granny Apples mysteries are satisfying and enjoyable with a mature woman, a medium and TV host, as the amateur sleuth. Ghost of a Gamble takes Emma Whitecastle from her home in California to a setting that is always perfect for crime fiction, Las Vegas.

On a request from Milo Ravenscroft, her mentor, Emma and the ghost of her great-great-great-grandmother, Granny Apples, head to Las Vegas for a visit with Milo's mother, Dolly. Milo's skills are blocked when it comes to his mother. She seems to be haunted by the ghost of a small-time Las Vegas hood named Lenny. But, when Emma is able to communicate with him, she discovers Lenny is worried about Dolly, convinced that "Nemo's boys" are threatening her. Before Emma has time to check into "Nemo's boys", Dolly disappears. While Milo and Emma are worried about her, the Vegas police want to know why Dolly was visiting an elderly man at a retirement home, a man nicknamed "Nemo" who is now dead.

With the police looking for Dolly as a suspect, it's up to Emma to put together a team to look into the past, and connect it with Dolly's disappearance. With Granny Apples as a go-between, Emma finds a story right out of the romanticized history of Las Vegas; showgirls, mobsters, casinos, robbery, and murder. Now, it's up to Emma and her friends to prevent another death; Dolly's.

Ghost of a Gamble is the fourth in the Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series, but if you haven't read the earlier ones, that's fine. Sue Ann Jaffarian neatly summarizes Emma's past, her family connection to ghosts, including Granny Apples, and the connections that brought her to where she is today. And, with a story set in Las Vegas that takes everyone out of the California setting, it's a perfect way to discover the series. It's a series that successfully combines ghosts, the past, and amateur sleuths. It's worth taking a gamble on the series, beginning with Ghost of a Gamble.

Sue Ann Jaffarian's website is www.sueannjaffarian.com

Ghost of a Gamble by Sue Ann Jaffarian. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425262177 (paperback), 296p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested the book to review for another site.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Under Cold Stone by Vicki Delany

For the first time, Vicki Delany moves a Constable Molly Smith mystery outside Trafalgar, and Under Cold Stone works beautifully. Imagine spending the Thanksgiving holidays at the famous Banff Springs Hotel. Now, imagine an idyllic vacation there spoiled by murder.

Lucky Smith and Paul Keller may appear to be an unlikely couple. She's a widow, a passionate environmentalist, and mother of Constable Molly Smith. Paul Keller is Chief Constable of Trafalgar, British Columbia, divorced, and Molly's boss. But, they're finally together, spending the Thanksgiving holidays at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. The holidays are slightly spoiled for Lucky when she has a nasty confrontation with some bullies in a coffee shop. It only gets worse when she discovers one of those bullies is Paul's estranged son, Matt. And, then Matt calls his father in the middle of the night, says he found his roommate dead, and disappears. Paul wants to believe his son is innocent, but, as a police officer, he knows his son is on the top of the suspect list. Lucky reaches out to Trafalgar, calling her daughter, Molly, for moral support. And, Molly joins a growing group of family members who appear in Banff, hoping to track down Matt Keller.

Vicki Delany's Constable Molly Smith books have always been about family. Over the course of the seven books, Molly and Sergeant John Winters have found themselves investigating crimes involving Trafalgar and the surrounding resorts. And, they sometimes have to deal with crimes that threaten their family and friends. These books are solid police procedurals set in small communities that deal with crimes that occur in towns because they are tourist attractions, crimes that sometimes involve outsiders; drugs, violence. Threats to the peace of the town can come from without or within, but it's the ability of the police to put together the facts and track down answers that make these stories intriguing.

In taking Under Cold Stone to Banff, Delany allows new readers to easily pick up the series at this point. However, those of us who eagerly pick up any of these books will not be disappointed that the action has shifted for this one. Molly Smith shows she has grown as an officer, as she skillfully puts together valuable information. And, John Winters, holding down the fort in Trafalgar, remains a valuable asset, and one who finds that crime has long tentacles.

Those who haven't yet picked up one of the Constable Molly Smith novels are missing an excellent police procedural series with solid, interesting characters, and a rich sense of place. Under Cold Stone is an excellent introduction if you've missed these books. And, it's a welcome return to familiar, beautiful territory for those of us who are fans.

Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com

Under Cold Stone by Vicki Delany. Poisoned Pen Press. 2014. ISBN 9781464202339 (hardcover), 306p.

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

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Where are you?

Author Dana Stabenow had an interesting question on Facebook the other day. "You have been
transported to the location in the last book you read. Where are you?" I loved the question, but I'm going to change it around a little.

You have been transported to the location in the book you're reading. Where are you?

Now, we can find out where you are, and what you're reading.

I'm in Banff, Alberta, Canada, and Trafalgar, British Columbia. I'm reading Vicki Delany's latest Constable Molly Smith mystery, Under Cold Stone.

So, where are you?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Left Coast Crime Giveaway

I haven't had book giveaways the last few weeks because I was at conferences, first the Public Library Association, and then Left Coast Crime. So, I thought it was the perfect time to hold a Left Coast Crime giveaway featuring some of the authors who were honored there.

Brad Parks was Toastmaster at this conference. He interviewed Sue Grafton, served on panels, sang at the Awards Banquet, and introduced authors. He even won the Lefty Award for his Carter Ross mystery, The Good Cop. And, release date for the latest Carter Ross book, The Player, was in March. So, I'm giving away an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of The Player. Follow Carter and an intern into a neighborhood where people are getting sick and even dying. Then, Carter gets sick.

Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Both authors were named Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America. They answered questions on the last day of the conference. They have written only a few books together, including the Carpenter and Quincannon mysteries. I'm giving away a copy of The Spook Lights Affair, the latest in that series that features two detectives in 1895 San Francisco. Cases involve a woman who jumps from a parapet in front of Carpenter, a burglary, and a man who claims to be Sherlock Holmes.

Which mystery would you like to win? Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win The Player" or "Win The Spook Lights Affair." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, April 10 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

I don't know what I read that led me to Austin Kleon's book Show Your Work! The bestselling
author of Steal Like an Artist responds to audience queries. "How do I get my stuff out there? How do I get noticed?" Show Your Work is subtitled "10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered." The book has pointers for anyone in creative fields. However, there are valuable points here that can also be put into place in the workplace, particularly for those working in fields where innovation is prized.

Without using the term "makerspaces", Kleon still points out the benefits of working together. He quotes musician Brian Eno as referring to it as "scenius". He says genius does not dwell in a vacuum. "Under this model,great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals - artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers." He points out that throughout history, a whole scene of people would work with each other, be inspired by each other, steal and share ideas, "scenius" instead of genius.

Kleon recommends social media, but stresses to experiment, and find the media that works. And, there you'll find people who appreciate what you do. "Share what you love, and the people who love the same thing will find you." It reminds me of science fiction author John Scalzi. Author of Old Man's War and Redshirts, among other books, Scalzi shares his words on his blog, Whatever, and he has used that blog as source material for other pieces. He built an audience for his books by sharing his writing on his blog. People found him.

Show Your Work! is a small book with ten points of advice and supporting material to encourage people to move out in the world with their work. Share it, and they will come.

Austin Kleon's website is www.austinkleon.com

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. Workman. 2014. ISBN 9780761178972 (paperback), 216p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Sue Ann Jaffarian, Guest Blogger

This week's third guest blogger is Sue Ann Jaffarian. She's the author of the Ghost of Granny Apples Mysteries. As a fan of paranormal cozy mysteries, it's a pleasure to introduce her, and her latest book, Ghost of a Gamble.

Ghost à la Road

When I sat down to write the Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series, I wanted to make sure it was very different from my already established Odelia Grey mystery series. This wasn’t just to avoid reader confusion, but to keep the premises and characters straight in my mind. After all, I write two novels a year, one in each series, one right after the other. It would be so easy for them to lose their individual identities in the process.

I decided to write the Granny Apples books in third person since the Odelia Grey books are written in first person. I made the main protagonists, Odelia Grey and Emma Whitecastle, very different. Odelia is sassy and flawed, married, short, plus size and will brake for Ben and Jerry’s or a good burger. Emma, on the other hand, is tall, slender, wealthy, divorced with a grown child, and a vegetarian. The only similarity is that they are both middle-aged and their series are both humorous.

Another difference is that Odelia remains mostly in Southern California, while Emma and her sidekick, the ghost of Granny Apples, hit the road fairly often.

In Ghost à la Mode, the first book in the Ghost of Granny Apples series, I took Emma and friends to Julian, California, where Granny once lived. The second book, Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini, takes place on Catalina Island in California. All fun places within close proximity of my Los Angeles home. A weekend here and there and the research was complete.

When it came time to develop the story for Gem of a Ghost, the third book in the series, I knew it would be about a haunted gem and had planned for it to be based in Southern California. Then a funny thing happened. I was looking at a map, plotting my drive from Oakmont, Pennsylvania, to my family in Massachusetts where I was going to spend a week after a couple of big book events. I knew the drive would require an overnight and since I’d never been in that area I wanted to plan the stop somewhere nice and interesting. I had pretty much picked my stopping point when my eyes settled on a town called “Jim Thorpe.”

Whoa! Wait a darn minute! Who in the world names a town Jim Thorpe? And, knowing that Thorpe was originally from Oklahoma, why is this place in Pennsylvania? After a bit of internet research, I knew I HAD to change my course to visit this town, and not because it was named after a famous Olympic athlete.

Turns out Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, was originally named Mauch Chunk and was one of the sites of the infamous Molly McGuire trials and executions in the late 1870s. More importantly, it had a haunted prison where the executions took place.

A haunted prison that was now a museum. Sign me (and Granny) up!

I arrived in Jim Thorpe just before Memorial weekend when the museum officially opened for the summer season, but had written to the owner prior to my arrival and arranged for a private tour of the prison. It was great! And I knew that after walking around the town and seeing the prison that Gem of a Ghost had to be set there, at least partially. And it worked beautifully!

For the 4th book in the series, I took Granny on another road trip. This time to Las Vegas. Hey, research is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! I had to make a couple of trips to Vegas to check out places, hotels, surrounding geography, etc. The first time the story sort of presented itself, but it wasn’t until my second trip when I took a tour to the Grand Canyon and spent hours in a small tour van going through the desert that I got inspired for the rest of the story. Between those trips and watching hours of video on the history of Las Vegas, Ghost of a Gamble came alive and found its way to the page. 

Ghost of a Gamble will also be finding its way into readers hands on April 1st!

So what’s next for Granny?

For book five I’m sticking closer to home. It takes place in and around Los Angeles but there will be plenty of historical information. The working title is Ghost in the Guacamole.


After that book, I’m considering another trip east for Emma and Granny, another historical look at Los Angeles, and possibly an adventure in Hawaii, but who knows. Right now those are just possibilities and I haven’t bought any plane tickets yet.



Sue Ann Jaffarian's website is www.sueannjaffarian.com.

Ghost of a Gamble by Sue Ann Jaffarian. Berkley, 2014. 9780425262177 (paperback), 304p.