Monday, June 30, 2014

First Half Favorites

It's hard to believe 2014 is half over. That means it's time to think about the top ten books for the first half of the year. When I went back over my log, it's an interesting list. There are only a couple mysteries on it. But, that may change with the second half since some of my favorite mystery authors have books coming out: Louise Penny, Linda Castillo, Kelli Stanley, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger. I'm sure some of the books on this first half list will be knocked off by forthcoming books. In fact, I'll be a little disappointed if they're not. That would mean the second half of the year didn't measure up to expectations.

Did you read any of these books? Did they become favorites of the first half of the year? The books are in the order I read them, not in a #1 through #10 format.

Playing with Fire by J.J. Cook is the second mystery featuring Fire Chief Stella Griffin who lives in the cabin in Sweet Pepper, Tennessee that was built by a former chief who died in a fire, Eric Gamlyn. Stella took the job temporarily to train the Sweet Pepper Volunteer Fire Department. But, she's dragging her feet about returning home to Chicago. She feels connected to the community, and she has one more mystery to solve involving the sexy former chief who haunts the cabin. Terrific characters, a little romance, the ongoing excitement of fire runs, and, of course, mystery.



Sarah Addison Allen brings a maturity and her magical realism to her latest novel, Lost Lake. Eby Pym and her beloved husband, George, escaped her family history by building a resort at Lost Lake, Georgia. Two generations later, Kate, desperate to escape after her husband's death, brings her daughter home to the place where she knew her greatest happiness, her great-aunt's resort, only to find it on its last legs, and up for sale. Allen's books blend exquisite phrasing, a touch of magic, and a glimpse into souls.





I would say that Teri Wilson's Unleashing Mr. Darcy is my guilty pleasure on the list. But, since I wholeheartedly agree that you should "Never apologize for your reading taste", I won't say that. Wilson's homage to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice puts the story in the middle of the world of dog shows, first in the U.S. where Elizabeth Scott and Donovan Darcy meet, and then in England. She's showing her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and he's the judge. Unleashing Mr. Darcy is respectful, humorous, and sexy, a perfect addition to the tributes to Pride and Prejudice. (And, it includes wonderful dogs.)


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. 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. I won't even spoil the story by summarizing it much, but it's the story of an eccentric bookstore owner and the people who change his life. 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.

Natalie Lloyd's debut juvenile novel is the only juvenile book on my list, and it's there because it makes my heart sing. A Snicker of Magic is just "splendiferous". Once upon a time, Midnight Gulch, Tennessee was a place where magic lived. "The people who lived there had magic in their veins." But, by the time Felicity Pickle moved there with her mother and sister, the magic had drained, almost disappeared because of a duel between brothers. The sixth grader, though, was desperate to find a place to feel at home, and a boy with "know-how" who knew what people needed, became her friend. Felicity uses her gift of words, a love of the magic of words, to bring magic back to the town, so her family, and those of Midnight Gulch, can once again be content with their homes. This is 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.

Barbara O'Neil introduces women I want to know in The All You Can Dream Buffet. Four bloggers find strength through the friendship they've developed online. At eighty-five, Lavender Wills is concerned about the farm she owns and grew, Lavender Honey Farms in Oregon. Who will take it over and care for it? So she asks her three online friends to join her, hoping she'll find the right heir. 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.

Any Other Name, Craig Johnson's latest Walt Longmire mystery, is a riveting story. The Wyoming sheriff should be in Philadelphia, awaiting the birth of his first grandchild. Instead, he's investigating a case in a neighboring county, asked by his former boss, Lucian Connally, who owes 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? And, once Longmire is on a case, he won't give up. Johnson's books always have memorable characters, dry cop humor, and beautiful writing.  Any Other Name is a gripping story, with hints of future trouble. I have the feeling this mystery will still be on my favorites list at the end of the year.

Athough I read, and loved, Susan Wiggs' The Beekeeper's Ball, I urge others to first read the previous book in The Bella Vista Chronicles, The Apple Orchard. This second book combines family drama, romance, and a story of the Danish Resistance during World War II. It's so much more than the story of a woman opening a cooking school on the family property in Sonoma County, California. As her grandparents' accounts of their lives in the Danish Resistance against the Nazis alternate with Isabel Johansen's story, a family story unfolds, one that will undoubtedly continue in the next in the series. It's that family history, with its tragedy and drama that makes the romance all the more beautiful in Wiggs' successful novel, The Beekeeper's Ball.

It must be something about bookstores with me. Goodnight June by Sarah Jio is the second bookstore novel on my list. When June Andersen, a driven New York City banker, inherits Bluebird Books, a children's bookstore in Seattle, she knows she'll sell it. But, she didn't count on discovering the letters between her great-aunt, Ruby, and children's author Margaret Wise Brown. She also didn't count on her remembered love for that bookstore, and memories of her childhood. June's own life unfolds, and Margaret Wise Brown and Ruby reveal their lives in enchanting letters in this wonderful book. It's a novel filled with passion for books, for children's books. It's filled with secrets about love, friendship, sisters, and what is important in life.  Goodnight June, in the end, is as comforting for a book lover as Brown's own classic, Goodnight Moon.

The last novel on my list, Linda Francis Lee's The Glass Kitchen, lured me in with its gorgeous cover. But, it swept me up in Portia Cuthcart's world, a world defined by her gift, "the knowing", a gift she rejected following loss. Portia knew what food she should make for people, but her grandmother's death forced her to reject her gift. Even her two sisters knew Portia's world went haywire following that rejection. When the three sisters end up in New York City, Portia finds it's her gift that can help a young girl who lost her mother. And, in the end, it's that gift that will restore Portia life, and bring her love. It's a book with beautiful descriptions, a novel for all of us who love stories of magical realism, family, food, and love.

Let's face it. I read for entertainment. These books may not make a "Best of..." list, but I've read ninety books so far, and these are my favorites of 2014.








Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell

I'm always a proponent of reading a series in order if you can. But, if you can't pick up earlier books in Juliet Blackwell's Witchcraft mystery series, start with  A Vision in Velvet. If you don't fall in love with Oscar, the gargoyle/potbellied pig, I'll be surprised. And, I suspect you'll be just as anxious as Lily Ivory when he goes missing.

Lily, the witch who owns Aunt Cora's Closet, a vintage clothing store in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury neighborhood, didn't really want the old trunk she purchased from Sebastian's Antiques. She could feel a strange energy coming from the gold velvet cape in the bottom of the trunk. But, the cape sent her into another time when she put it on, a time where she had a vision of a woman burned at the stake. Oscar, Lily's familiar, recognized it as a travel cloak, one able to take the wearer back in time. But, Lily only had a feeling of danger until she found Sebastian Crowley from Sebastian's Antiques, shot to death at the foot of a dying tree in Golden Gate Park. It was only when she went to investigate, and Oscar disappeared into the depths of the tree, that Lily realized the murder, the cloak, and the tree were all connected in some evil way.

Visions, poisons, nightmares, a travel cloak and Oscar's disappearance are all connected. Fortunately, the lone witch, once kicked out of her hometown in Texas, now has a network of friends to help her. When they rally to look for the missing pig, Lily realizes how far she has come. In her old life, she didn't have to worry about anyone else. "That was back before I had roots and a community. Back before I was embroiled so deeply that I'd do just about anything to keep my loved ones safe."

Why read Juliet Blackwell's Witchcraft mysteries, and A Vision in Velvet in particular? These are intriguing mysteries, naturally. However, it's fascinating to see where Lily Ivory was, and how far she's come. Blackwell's witch has shown enormous growth over the course of this series, from a lonely woman, unsure of her powers, to a strong woman, bolstered by love and friendship, who is determined to save those most important to her. Blackwell blends vintage clothing, humor, an interesting corner of San Francisco life, a touch of romance, some powerful magic, and a history of witchcraft and women. A Vision in Velvet is just the latest captivating story in a bewitching series.

Juliet Blackwell's website is www.julietblackwell.net

A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell. Obsidian. 2014. ISBN 9780451240903 (paperback), 325p.

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




Saturday, June 28, 2014

What are you reading?

We haven't done this for a while, so let's talk about what you're reading. I could talk about Juliet Blackwell's A Vision in Velvet, her latest Witchcraft mystery. But, I'm saving it for the review. Instead, I'll mention a book I bought that just arrived today and looks fun. FaceOff is edited by David Baldacci. It's the latest book by International Thriller Writers. "For the first time ever the world's greatest thriller characters meet head-to-head in 11 electrifying stories." Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie and Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch. Steve Martini's Paul Madriani and Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper. How about Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme and John Sandford's Lucas Davenport? Or Lee Child's Jack Reacher and Joseph Finder's Nick Heller? Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

FaceOff is one of the books I'm reading this weekend. What are you reading?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Winners, Kate White, and a Kate White Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of Beth Hoffman's Looking for Me. I'm sending copies to Valeria R. in Durham, NC and Kay M. in Fort Worth, TX. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two copies of Kate White's brand new novel of suspense, Eyes On You. After
two years, Robin Trainer has finally regained her career in TV. She's now the popular co-host of a nightly entertainment show, and the author of a hot new bestseller. But, someone wants to shake her up. Small, but nasty incidents are happening. Someone is watching, an adversary with a dark agenda who wants to hurt her and see her fall, and the clues point to someone she works with every day. Set in the cutthroat world of entertainment TV, White ratchets up the suspense with one twist after another.

Kate White discussed Eyes on You  on an appearance on The Today Show the other day: http://www.today.com/klgandhoda/kate-white-i-was-inspired-girl-nancy-drew-1D79842097

Would you like to know more? Here's a Q&A with Kate White.



Q&A with Kate White, author of EYES ON YOU


What is you new stand alone novel, EYES ON YOU, about?
A: It’s a psychological suspense about a successful TV host, Robin Trainer, who suddenly realizes that someone close to her is trying to sabotage her career--and possibly harm her physically--but she has no clue who it is.

At the beginning, Robin keeps the threats she is receiving secret from all but a few confidantes. Why is she afraid to go public?
A: Robin’s boss has mistakenly assumed she’s been stepping on the toes of another TV anchor at the network and has told her to keep her ambition in check for the moment and just focus on the job. Ouch. She’s afraid that if she brings the problem to light, she’ll look like she’s making things all about her, just what she’s but warned not to do. Bosses sometimes put us in that kind of double bind: They want us to be aggressive when it comes to business, but they don’t want to deal with any drama.

Is any part of Robin Trainer’s life drawn from you own career experiences?
A: Yes, I definitely borrowed certain aspects—like the pressure and stress work can often generate, as well as some of the ugly office politics. I relished so many aspects of running a magazine but there were times when I definitely felt under the gun. As far as I know, however, a co-worker never plotted to murder me--though they may have briefly entertained the fantasy.

There is an undercurrent of friction between women in power rippling beneath the surface of this novel—do you think this unhealthy competition still exists? Have things changed since you’ve worked in the media?
A: There will always be women who have it out for other women at work. But in my experience, there were just as many guys who I needed to watch out for. Sometimes co-workers do bad things simply out of desperation—they need an idea and since they don’t have one, they steal yours. But once in a while you come across a true nut case, someone sociopathic. Your best bet with that type is to have as little contact as possible and talk mostly by email so you have a paper trail. On the flip side of all of this: 98 percent of my friends are people I used to work with. My career spawned many wonderful friendships.

The media world has changed since you started in the business, with the explosion of the Internet, social media, etc. Has this made the job of journalists and writers easier or harder?
A: Both. It’s so much easier to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world thanks to the Internet (and as an author I love the ability to check out a fact easily as I’m writing). But tough as it is for me to admit, I think the future for many magazines is dim. Newsstand sales are plummeting month by month. Gen Y and Gen Z get their info elsewhere. That’s a big part of why I wanted to leave that business. I no longer felt like I was at the center of what was happening.

Robin Trainer is a print journalist who has turned to television and found it more validating. You’ve worked largely in print, as editor in chief at Cosmopolitan and other major magazines, but also have a TV presence. Do you share Robin’s feelings?
A: From the time I was little and put out The Orville Street News, I’ve just always loved being a content provider with words. But at the same time, I understand how seductive TV is. When I was running different magazines and would go back to my hometown, the comment I heard most often was, “Hey, I saw you on the Today Show.” That kind of thing dazzled people. Though in the Cosmo years people did like to comment on the coverlines, too. I line like “Your Va-jay-jay: Fascinating New Facts about Your Lovely Lady Parts” seemed to grab their attention as much as the fact that I’d been on the tube.

You write both the Bailey Weggins mystery series and stand alone novels of suspense. Do you prefer working on one to the other? Do you approach them differently?
A: I love doing both. Bailey is very irreverent, more so than my other characters, so I really have to switch gears with her. As in any field, it’s nice to find ways to mix it up.

Many thrillers and suspense novels are written in the third person, but you chose to give EYES ON YOU a first person narration. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this choice?
A: My first two stand-alones were third person but I was anxious to do one in first person, which I do with the Bailey Weggins books. Both styles present challenges but I think I prefer first person.  It  takes me weeks and weeks to get the voice down but once I do, it makes it easier to inhabit the character.

Is writing fiction different from writing nonfiction for a woman’s magazine? Did you acquire any skills as a journalist that you apply to your fiction?
A: The two types of writing are so different. Just as you’ve heard people say, journalism is about telling and fiction writing is—ideally, at least--about showing. Years ago I read a novel by a popular columnist and as I struggled to get through the pages, I realized that there was just way too much telling I realized at that moment that if I ever tried to become a novelist, I’d have to really be careful of this. That said, I learned some great skills in my magazine career. The best was how to avoid writer’s block. When you are writing and editing for a weekly or monthly deadline, there’s no tolerance for being blocked. So you just push through and tell yourself that even if it’s not great, you go can back and polish it later.

You seem to have had it all—a great career in magazines, bestselling books, marriage, children. Is there anything you still hope to achieve?
A: That’s so nice of you to say, but any life is filled with sad things and turmoil at times. One of the lessons I’ve learned from my yoga teacher of many years is how important it is to try to stay in the present and not ruminate too much. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’d like to work on for the future. And to write a play one day!

What one thing might your readers be surprised to learn about you?
A: I watch scary movies with a sweater over my head and just peer at the screen through the weave. Pathetic for someone who writes crime novels!

What’s your next project?
A: I’m just finishing another stand-alone suspense novel, which will come out in 2015.

Whitethe former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, is the New York Times bestselling author of the stand-alone novels Hush and The Sixes and the Bailey Weggins mystery series. White is also the author of popular career books for women including I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve. Her website is www.katewhite.com.


If you would like to win a copy of Eyes on You, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read, "Win Eyes on You." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. and Canada only, please. The contest will end Thursday, July 3 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

If you've never read Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, you're in for a treat. This is one of the Golden Age mysteries with a most unusual ending. Christie violated the tenets of the genre by surprising the reader with quite a twist. If you've read the book or seen any version of the movie, it's still a treat to follow along with the great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Poirot has just wrapped up a case when he's called from Istanbul to London. M. Bouc, a director of the train line, offers his friend a first class compartment on the Orient Express, knowing it is seldom full in the winter. To his surprise, all the first class compartments are full, but M. Bouc insists Poirot be given a compartment to share until a first class compartment opens. And, it's M. Bouc who points out the romance of the train and its passengers. "All around us are people, of all classes, of all nationalities, of all ages. For three days, these people, these strangers to one another, are brought together. They sleep and eat under one roof, they cannot get away from each other. At the end of three days, they part, they go their several ways, never, perhaps, to see each other again."

On the train, Poirot observes his fellow passengers, including a man, an American named Ratchett, who tries to hire Poirot to protect him. Poirot turns him down, telling him he doesn't like his face. And, evidently someone else doesn't like Ratchett. Along with other disturbances during the night, Poirot hears a cry from Ratchett's compartment. All the passengers awake in the morning to learn that the train is stuck on the tracks, due to snow. But, their fellow passenger, Ratchett, doesn't awake. Instead, he's found dead in his locked compartment, stabbed a dozen times.

M. Bouc quickly enlists the services of Hercule Poirot to solve the crime since the train is stuck in Yugoslavia. Poirot sees only two solutions. Either the criminal left the train in the middle of the night, or he is still on the train, stuck with all the other passengers. It's Hercule Poirot's job to find the truth.

Because I'm leading the book discussion of Murder on the Orient Express in a couple weeks, I read the book, and watched two versions of the movie. I have additional reading to do about Agatha Christie herself. I do know, though, that I can't reveal more about the book without spoiling the ending. Looking at the characters now, they seem to be stereotypes representing different classes and nationalities. But, the story was written in 1934. According to her grandson, Christie's books were written as entertainment. Murder on the Orient Express succeeds as a brilliant solution to a fascinating crime. And, Christie based part of her story on the headlines of an American crime.  Again, I won't spoil the story.

What I can say is that the 1974 film starring Albert Finney is brilliant, and Christie herself liked it. It's pure entertainment with a stellar cast including Ingrid Bergman, Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, and Michael York. It's faithful to the book, with a few name changes, and an unusual final scene. I was disappointed in the 2010 film starring David Suchet. It lacked the entertainment element, and went with strong religious elements that were definitely not part of Agatha Christie's story. Read the book. Murder on the Orient Express is a true classic of the mystery genre. Watch the 1974 movie, and the extra features afterward. Ignore the 2010 Masterpiece Mystery with David Suchet

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. 1934. (This edition - HarperCollins, 2011. paperback)

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Chat - July Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian



Only snippets of cats, but at least there are twelve mysteries for July! Here are the featured books.

Not the Killing Type by Lorna Barrett (7th Booktown mystery, 1st time in paperback. Released 2013 in hardcover)
A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell (6th Witchcraft Mystery)
Crime Rib by Leslie Budewitz (2nd Food Lovers' Village Mystery)
Tailing a Tabby by Laurie Cass (2nd Bookmobile Cat Mystery)
Some Enchanted Eclair by Bailey Cates (4th Magical Bakery Mystery)
Maple Mayhem by Jessie Crockett (2nd Sugar Grove Mystery)
Be Careful What You Witch For by Dawn Eastman (2nd Family Fortune Mystery)
Silence of the Lamb's Wool by Betty Hechtman (2nd Yarn Retreat Mystery)
Grace Against the Clock by Julie Hyzy (5th Manor House Mystery)
Cookies and Scream by Virginia Lowell (5th Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery)
Ill-Gotten Panes by Jennifer McAndews (1st Stained-Glass Mystery)
From Fear to Eternity by Michelle Rowen (3rd Immortality Bites Mystery)



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs

Because I received The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs for review, I never read the first book in The Bella Vista Chronicles, The Apple Orchard. Don't make the same mistake. If you want to read a dramatic, well-written family story, try the first in the series, and then move on. The Beekeeper's Ball combines family drama, romance, and a story of the Danish Resistance during World War II.

After her parents' tragic deaths, Isabel Johansen was sheltered and raised by her grandparents in beautiful Sonoma County, California. She left for cooking school as a naive young woman, but when her venture into the world ended in violence, she fled home. Now, at thirty, thanks to her sister, she has the money to transform the family home into a destination cooking school. She's pouring all of her energies into work on the Bella Vista Cooking School and her sister's wedding. She's determined to teach cooking with local sources, including honey. But, her plans are disrupted when Cormac O'Neill shows up, and she mistakes the journalist for the beekeeper. His allergic reaction when he's stung sends them to the clinic for help. She had no idea Mac was there to write her grandfather's biography.

Mac's interviews with Magnus Johansen reveals a dramatic story that his granddaughters never knew. His account of his life in Denmark, his family's sheltering of Jewish friends, and his part in the Danish Resistance is a story of courage and survival. As family secrets are revealed, Isabel realizes her own secrets have kept her from living.

The story of the Danish Resistance against the Nazis stands in sharp contrast to the beauty of Bella Vista. As her grandparents' accounts alternate with Isabel's story, a family story unfolds, one that will undoubtedly continue in the next in the series. It's that family history, with its tragedy and drama that makes the romance all the more beautiful in Wiggs' successful novel, The Beekeeper's Ball.

Susan Wiggs' website is www.susanwiggs.com

The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs. Harlequin MIRA. 2014. ISBN 9780778314486 (hardcover), 352p.

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Diva Wraps It Up by Krista Davis

Krista Davis' atmospheric mysteries wrap the reader in the holiday, no matter what time of year it actually is. The Diva Haunts the House was one of the best Halloween mysteries I ever read. Now, she succeeds equally well with The Diva Wraps It Up. With a full cast of suspects, Davis leaves readers and her amateur sleuth, Sophie Winston, guessing until the very end.

It's time to prepare for the Christmas holidays in Old Town Alexandria. And, the season always kicks off at Horace Scroggins' party. This time, he isn't feeling well during the party, and when he leans on the railing of his balcony to watch the carolers, the railing gives way. Sophie has been around too many deaths, and she's suspicious, especially when Harold whispers to her, and then Edith Scroggins throws everyone out of the house and doesn't follow her husband to the hospital. But, Horace's accident is just the first in the neighborhood.

No one will believe Sophie when she claims another accident was caused by a ladder rung that was cut. However, everyone trusts her instincts when a new neighbor's cookie swap ends in disaster, followed by murder. But, what kind of killer wraps the victim in Christmas paper, and puts a bow on top? As Sophie and her best friend, Nina, look for likely suspects, they realize there are a number of people who might have wanted the victim dead. And, topping the list is Natasha, the woman who has been Sophie's competition since they were girls.

Krista Davis excels at combining well-drawn characters with murder, humor, and entertaining. Only a domestic diva can make everyone feel at home in her kitchen while they discuss murder. Davis creates a charming neighborhood, welcomes everyone into Sophie's home, and then deliberately destroys the peace with a murder. It's a recipe for a successful mystery. If that isn't enough to tempt you to try the book, Davis' latest includes a collection of Christmas cookie recipes. This time, The Diva Wraps It Up in a pretty package of mystery.

Krista Davis' website is www.kristadavis.com

The Diva Wraps It Up by Krista Davis. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425258149 (paperback), 289p.

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle

"Be careful what you wish for." Brooklyn Wainwright's mother had warned her, but that didn't stop the bookbinder for wishing for more work. And, her latest job puts her in so much danger that Brooklyn's security expert boyfriend has to turn bodyguard. The Book Stops Here is the latest intriguing mystery in Kate Carlisle's fascinating Bibliophile mystery series.

Brooklyn Wainwright specializes in rare-book restoration and conservation. With her passion and enthusiasm for books, she's the perfect expert appraiser for the TV show "This Old Attic". Then, the first book she is asked to appraise, a first edition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, hits the news. Vera Stoddard claimed to have found the book at a garage sale, and paid three dollars, so when Brooklyn informs her it's worth around twenty-five thousand dollars, it causes a stir. It's just not the right kind of attention. Instead, Brooklyn is accosted by a man on the studio lot, a violent man who assures her he'll get that book, and kill both her and Vera. Brooklyn and a studio guard are battered enough that Derek Stone, Brooklyn's boyfriend, decides to guard her at the studio.

It's too bad the studio itself is so unsafe. The show's host claims to be the victim of a stalker who leaves him threatening symbols of dead animals and dead flowers. Then Brooklyn is almost killed in the backstage area. She knows she can trust Derek and her new next door neighbor, but she doesn't feel safe on her own. How did one TV show put her in so much danger? And, who would kill to get that copy of The Secret Garden?

Kate Carlisle's books contain a wonderful blend of book knowledge, romance, and terrific characters. It's always been fun to catch up with Brooklyn, Derek, and Brooklyn's eccentric family. Now, add Alex Monroe, a high-powered cupcake-baking woman with a few secrets, to the cast. She's a welcome addition. Brooklyn's archenemy, Minka, even returns with her usual outrageous behavior.

A bookbinder as a sleuth? The guru for Brooklyn's family has a theory that she stumbles across dead bodies because she's a soul that cares, and will help find justice for the dead. Time and again, Brooklyn teams up with Derek to find answers. "He and I were partners. We worked well together especially when it came to deciphering the puzzle, fleshing out the motives, and getting to the truth of why someone had been killed. It wasn't like we were trying to play detective, but it was a horrible thing to have one's life touched by violent crime and even worse to be considered a suspect by the police." Brooklyn's detective skills in working with old books serves her well when she's involved in a murder. And, it doesn't hurt to have a security expert at her side. In fact, that sets this series apart because Brooklyn may end up in trouble, but it's not because she takes needless risks. She just has a "penchant for finding dead bodies and facing down their craven killers".

For book lovers, Brooklyn Wainwright is a hero who saves books, preserves their history, and faces down craven killers. If you haven't yet met Brooklyn and Derek, it's time, in The Book Stops Here.

Kate Carlisle's website is www.katecarlisle.com

The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle. Obsidian. 2014. ISBN 9780451415981 (hardcover), 323p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Terminal City by Linda Fairstein

Linda Fairstein's latest novel Terminal City, combines a riveting police procedural with an homage to Grand Central Terminal. As DA Alexandra Cooper accompanies the police on the search for a killer, the team finds themselves with a time crunch. They have forty-eight hours to find a killer who seems to know his ways through all the secret tunnels and walkways of the enormous landmark.

As the attorney heading the Special Victims Unit for the DA's office in Manhattan, Alex had other cases, but someone from her office shows up 24/7 in partnership with the NYPD. She's the one who catches the case when a young woman is found raped and murdered in the Waldorf Astoria. She always works closely with Mercer Wallace, a Special Victims detective, but she's surprised when her other friend, Mike Chapman, a homicide detective, show up. The trio understands they have to move quickly. The President of the U.S. will be moving into the hotel in less than a week, in town for a special session of the U.N. However, the hotel is the least of their worries. When another murder occurs, and then a third, they realize the killer is leading them into Grand Central Terminal.

Fairstein leads her characters into a mysterious city within a city, taking readers with them as they discover the secrets and history of the terminal. It's a fascinating journey, but it's made all the more terrifying for Alex Cooper when a stalker and killer with the words "Kill Coop" on his knuckles seems to be able to find her in the massive underground world. As Mercer, Chapman, and all the security available converge on Grand Central Terminal, looking for answers, Alex has to cope with claustrophobia, her suspicions of Mike's stories, and a case at trial involving a cannibal cop. If she appears a little whiny at times, and not as confident as usual, she has good reasons.

Once again, Fairstein successfully introduces a New York City landmark as a major element in one of these intriguing stories. In fact, Grand Central Terminal becomes a critical player in Terminal City, a player that seems to team up with the killer at times. It's an exciting race to find a killer, as the click ticks down the hours. Most of all, it's the story of a remarkable world, above and underground, "One hundred years old and full of secrets." And, this time, some of the secrets hidden in Terminal City could be deadly.

Note: PBS recently rebroadcast "American Experience: Grand Central", perfect viewing in conjunction with this book. It is available as a streaming video as well.

Linda Fairstein's website is www.lindafairstein.com

Terminal City by Linda Fairstein. Dutton. 2014. ISBN 9780525953883 (hardcover), 379p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, June 20, 2014

Winners and a Beth Hoffman Autographed Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contests. Kate Carlisle's A Cookbook Conspiracy will go to Patricia T. of Henrico, VA. Tracey P. from Westerville, OH won Victoria Abbott's The Sayers Swindle. And, Jaime Lee Moyer's Barricade in Hell will go to Sue F. from Crosslake, MN. I'll be sending a couple of those tomorrow, and the publicist has been notified to send the third.

I have a special giveaway this week. As you know, we hosted Beth Hoffman at the library on Sunday. She was there to discuss both her books as part of our Summer Reading Program, particularly Looking for Me. This New York Times bestseller is the story of a young woman who builds a life for herself, but can't forget her brother's mysterious disappearance. When there are signs he might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky. It's a story about nature, family love, finding yourself, finding your truth. It's a beautiful, haunting novel.

I bought two hardcover copies of Looking for Me, and had Beth autograph them. So, if you would like to win one, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Looking for Me." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, June 26 at 6 PM CT. Good luck!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Recap - Beth Hoffman at EVPL

Sunday, as part of our Summer Reading Program, we hosted Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Me and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt at our Central Library. American Airlines might not have made it easy to get her in and out, but we greeted her in style. My mother and my sister, Christie, and I, were waiting when she came through the gate, holding copies of her books, as if we were author escorts she didn't know. Of course, she knows me, and recognized my mother, but it was part of the welcome. The other part couldn't have been scripted better. As we left the terminal, six planes from Sunday's air show swooped around, welcoming Beth, before they landed. Or, at least we were all convinced they were welcoming her.

A large audience of receptive fans showed up to listen to Beth talk about her books. She said she had been a farm child. She had a much older brother who didn't want to play with her. But, she did have a chicken. And, she'd even put a scarf on that chicken, her only friend. However, when that chicken took a shine to her only brother, she was friendless. So, she did what so many other lonely children do; she created imaginary friends. She drew them, making shoe box homes for them, and wrote stories about them. And, she loved animals. She drew, read, and loved animals.

Beth's mother wanted her to be a nurse or secretary, something practical. But, at fourteen, Hoffman sold a painting. She took that as a message, and decided she was going to go to art school. Her parents were horrified. She did study art, but that segued into interior design.

Hoffman was willful, and didn't want to work for anyone. She wanted to open her own interior design business with another woman. But, the bank wanted a business plan. That was the sign there that she should have gone into writing. She wrote ten pages full of bologna, and the bank bought it. It was only later that reality hit, and she realized she'd have to pay the loan back. She felt that responsibility, and worked forty-five to sixty hours a week. And, then it became seventy-two hours a week. She had a hard time saying no.

By the time Hoffman started to feel tired, she had thirteen employees. She went home sick one day, and couldn't get up the stairs. She thought she might have been poisoned. But, here's how she was thinking. She didn't want to call 911. She had two older rescue cats, William and Pringle. If she called 911, she worried the cats might get out. Instead, she was on the floor, and called her secretary. She was in bad shape. And, neither she nor her secretary thought to get her downstairs, and have the ambulance pick her up there. Instead, her secretary took her to the hospital. She almost lost her life to the same disease that killed Jim Henson. She had sepsis, and it went into renal and congestive heart failure. (Her cats made it. Her secretary's daughter took care of them.)

Beth was so bad she was quarantined at the hospital, and her hair started to fall out. When she was released, she had to stay in her apartment. She felt blessed to be alive, but she was angry. She had to go to work.

While she was laid up in her apartment, her shoe box people spoke to her. What she really wanted to do was write. So, she poured her creative energies into story ads. Those ads were such a big hit that a One Chicago ad company even called wanting to know who wrote them. But, the ads were only appearing in newspapers or Cincinnati Magazine.

One day, it was snowing, and Beth was in the showroom. She was told there was a call for her on line 1. It was a man calling because his wife was too shy to call and say how much she loved those story ads. She cut them out and put them on the refrigerator. He asked if she ever thought of writing a novel. He said you write story ads we care about; you should be writing.

Beth never thought she'd walk away from something she built. The business loan had just been
paid off. She went to her partner and said she wanted out. "Buy me out." Three months later, she started writing Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. She wrote it for four years.

Beth said, "I'm just a farm girl." She never expected that CeeCee wold become a New York Times bestseller. She's been all over the place talking about the book. She's not necessarily comfortable with that. Then, she went home, and everyone wanted to know, "What are you writing next?" But she was paralyzed. People would say, you better write a sequel. She didn't want to repeat the book. Rather than write the same book again, she would quit writing. Nothing is more magical than a child telling a story. Hoffman didn't want to be pigeonholed.

Beth needed time to decompress. Her father had died. And, one day, she opened an envelope full of family photographs. There were her great-grandparents. There were the workhorses, Tony and Dolly. There were pictures of her aunts and uncles. Her chicken. There was a picture of her younger brother.

Beth's brother was much younger than she was. She loved him so much she took him on dates. It made her very popular. She took him to the woods. The woods became his play station. She wanted him to see the magic of all this. He didn't love it like she did. Then, she went off to study art. She was in her early twenties when he was thirteen. She came home, and saw that it wasn't good. He has an edge. His eyes didn't look good. He said he was fine. She tried talking to him. Hoffman wanted to make it very clear that she didn't blame her parents for what happened. But, something was wrong. The next year when she came home, it was really wrong.

One weekend, she came home and her handbag with her keys and money were in her bedroom. When the police came to the door, they said her little brother and a friend snuck into her bedroom while she was sleeping and took her money and keys, and stole her car. They ended up in a police chase for almost an hour. The car was totaled. There was all kinds of property damage. While they were being told about it, their mother had a heart attack. So, their mother is in the hospital, and her brother is in jail. She's wondering, how did I fail him? Wasn't I a good enough big sister?

When she laid down the photo of her brother, she saw a red-tailed hawk in the tulip tree outside her office. Little brother, red-tailed hawk, life on the farm. It all came together. Beth says Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is the novel of her heart. Looking for Me is the novel of her soul. It also became a New York Times bestseller. Hoffman could write about Josh in the book. It was a spiritual journey for her. She could give her little brother a different life. He's brain-damaged and violent. He lives like a hermit, a street person. It all started with alcohol, then marijuana, then other drugs. Beth could change reality for the art of the story. She could highlight what she loves, and change his reality.

Beth ended the program by reading her favorite passage, and then took questions. It was a wonderful program. We were very fortunate that Beth was able to speak as part of this year's Summer Reading Program.

And, I was very fortunate that Mom and Christie were able to come for the program. They drove eight hours from northern Ohio to meet and listen to an author who we all admire, and who I'm lucky enough to call a friend.

Me, Beth, Mom, Christie


Beth Hoffman's website is www.bethhoffman.net

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman. Viking Penguin. 2014 (paperback), 368p. (now available in paperback)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

We're almost halfway through the year, and I just discovered one of the books that will probably go on my best of 2014 list. Linda Francis Lee drew me in, first with the beautiful cover of the book, and then with the first sentence of  The Glass Kitchen. She never lost my attention. With that sentence, she wraps a reader into Portia Cuthcart's world.

"On the morning her sister went missing, Portia Cuthcart woke up to thoughts of blueberries and peaches." Portia was only seven, but she had inherited her Gram's gift, "the knowing". She knew just what foods to make to make people feel better, what foods they needed, although she didn't always know why she prepared the food, or who was intended to receive it. Portia's gift showed her two older sisters, Cordelia and Olivia, leaving her for New York City, brought a man into Portia's life, and showed her Gram when her time was up. But, Portia turned her back on The Glass Kitchen, the family restaurant. She didn't remember that her life there saved her after her parents' death. She saw "the knowing" only as an indication of tragedy, and she turns her back on her gift. She could try to shut it out, but a gift doesn't go away.

When Portia finally flees to New York, escaping her life in west Texas, her sisters point out her problem. She never should have turned her back on "the knowing". Even when she moves into the apartment her aunt left her, she fights against it. But, a twelve-year-old girl upstairs needed Portia's gift. Ariel, daughter of Gabriel Kane, felt as if she was disappearing after her mother's death. Her older sister, Miranda, was angry that their father moved them to the city, and she acted out. And, Gabriel, a powerful businessman, was drowning in his lack of knowledge of his daughters. Portia might have wanted to fight the gift, but it's hard to back away when people need what you can offer. And, everyone seems to need Portia, from her sisters to the Kane family.

Linda Francis Lee's novel is for all of us who love magical realism novels about food and family. Her book is beautiful in its descriptions. "If Olivia was like a decadent chocolate-covered strawberry, and Portia a pineapple-and-spice hummingbird cupcake, then Cordelia was peanut brittle, still sweet, though with something more substantial added by way of peanuts, but unbendable." It's a story of love of family, of food. It's the story of a passionate woman who has long denied herself, her passion, and her gift for life and sharing it with others. The Glass Kitchen is a novel about lost people finding hope and a future.

I was lured into Linda Francis Lee's novel by a stunning cover. But, I was swept up into a magical story that stimulated the senses, and enticed me to turn pages. You'll want to linger in Portia Cuthcart's world, The Glass Kitchen, for a luscious six-course meal of longing and love.

Linda Francis Lee's website is www.LindaFrancisLee.com

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee. St. Martin's Press. 2014. ISBN 9781466850613 (hardcover), 384p.

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




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Name is Harley and This is My Story by Harley Doodle Barley

I am a cat person. But, there's one dog I adore, and it's Harley Doodle Barley, the Corgi who makes his home with Donald and Kaye Barley. Anyone who follows Kaye Wilkinson Barley's blog at http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com knows Harley. And, now Harley reveals the story of his life in a series of pictures in My Name is Harley and This is My Story.

Harley was born on the 4th of July, and the pictures of him as a puppy are adorable. From a puppy with scared eyes, he grew into a confident dog with a big smile, a dog who romps with his parents on beaches, through the snow, and through the garden. And, he's a very patient dog, who handles bow ties and hats with aplomb.

If you're a cat person, there may be one dog in your life as well. Because I've seen pictures of Harley for years, and enjoyed watching his adventures, I looked forward to reading his book. My Name is Harley and This is My Story is just as amusing and charming as I expected. Now, he just needs a paw print stamp to use while autographing the book. (And, good luck, Harley! I hope you have a bestseller on your paws.)

Harley's mom's website is http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com. Kaye also blogs on the first Sunday of the month at http://www.jungleredwriters.com.

My Name is Harley and This is My Story (ISBN 9781499741179) is available on Amazon and Kindle.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book as a gift.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jaime Lee Moyer, Guest Blogger

Some of my favorite posts come from authors who talk about libraries. When you read the post
today by Jaime Lee Moyer, I hope you think about it. What book or library or person made you a lifelong reader? (I know you are a lifelong reader, or you wouldn't be reading this blog.)

Jamie Lee Moyer’s Delia’s Shadow won the 2009 Columbus Literary Award for Fiction. She is the author of A Barricade in Hell (summarized below).  Moyer has sold short fiction to Lone Star Stories, Daily Science Fiction, and to the Triangulations: End of the Rainbow, and Triangulations: Last Contact anthologies, and edited the 2010 Rhysling Award Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Moyer lives in San Antonio with writer Marshall Payne, three cats, three guitars, and a growing collection of books and music.  Thank you, Jamie Lee.

*****

I don't remember owning a book of my own until high school. I was the oldest of four, money was beyond tight, and what money my parents had went to other things—like food and clothing. Raising four kids on a pressman's salary was tough.

That doesn't mean there weren't any books in my life. Far from it. I didn't own any books, but between the books in my grandmother's house and the library I was never short of things to read.

My grandmother never got to go to high school, but she filled her house with books and educated herself. If there was a book club on any subject, Grandma Jackson joined. She had books crammed full of pictures about The Old West, The Seven Wonders of the World, birds, fish, Ancient Egypt—everything.

I devoured those books even before I learned to read. Those were my childhood picture books, and you could say my grandmother's house was my first library. The bright pictures, full of strange sights and things I'd never seen, fed my curiosity and sparked my imagination.

The hours I spent with my grandmother's books are why I have such an intense interest so many subjects. I'm convinced that all those books and pictures helped make me a writer.

Going to school and learning to read meant I graduated to the public library, and new, different kinds of books. I wasn't confined to just looking at pictures and making up my own stories now. I knew what all—or most—of the words meant. I became obsessed with story, with characters, began to crave a sense of wonder and books that took me away from my everyday existence.

This might just be the classic formula for creating a life long reader. It created one in me.

Thus began my love affair with libraries and librarians. I regret that I don't remember names, but I remember faces, and eyes shinning as a librarian handed me a book they were sure I'd love. Librarians were the keepers of the kingdom, the magicians who opened doors and pathways to far off lands. They were my best friends then; they are my best friends now.

At least once a week, twice a week in summer, my mother, my sisters and brother, and me, would troop off to the library.  I brought home as many books as I could carry. Most weeks I read through my stack of books twice. Some weeks I started in on my mother's books as well.

Librarians helped, and encouraged, me to read through entire sections of the library.  When I'd gone through all the Nancy Drew books, they showed me the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, and then when my interests changed, helped guide me to Ray Bradbury, Mary Norton, and Andre Norton.  

As an adult, they showed me books on the discovery of Tut's tomb, Jack Horner's books on dinosaurs, and introduced me to books about paleontology and the origins of early humans. A librarian handed me my first book about ghosts and the supernatural.

As far as I'm concerned, book loving grandmothers and librarians will always be my heroes. They opened the world to me. And they helped make me a writer.


Jaime Lee Moyer's website is http://www.jaimeleemoyer.com

Twitter: @jaimeleemoyer

A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer. TOR. 2014. ISBN 9780765331830 (hardcover), 336p.

*****
This week, I have a copy of Jaime Lee Moyer's A Barricade in Hell to give away. Here's a summary of the book:  Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it's 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.

That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war.  But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.

As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?

*****

If you would like to win a copy of the book, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read: "Win A Barricade in Hell." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, June 19 at 6 p.m. CT. I'll notify the publicist, who will send the book to the winner.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Reprise - Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

A year ago, I reviewed Beth Hoffman's second novel, Looking for Me. Today, I'm hosting her at the library, and my mother and sister, Christie, drove eight hours to hear Beth talk about this book and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. It's an honor to once again host Beth, both as an author, and, as a woman who has become a very special friend. Since we're all going to be at the library today, celebrating Beth's books, what better time to rerun my original review of Looking for Me?

*****
Darn that Beth Hoffman. I laughed and cried over her debut novel Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Her second book, Looking for Me, strikes out in a different direction. But, I challenge you to read it all the way through, and not be moved by it. I cried a number of times as I read this deep, thoughtful story of family and loss and trying to find your place in the world. I want to warn readers who loved CeeCee that Looking for Me is totally different. But, Hoffman creates characters who step from the page. I wanted to wrap my arms around them, hug them, and get to know them better. She breathes life into every person and animal in the book.


My review comes with a reminder that Beth Hoffman is a friend, although I've only met her once. And, I didn't know her when I reviewed CeeCee. However, I've reviewed books before by authors who I know, like, and respect, and I've still said a book had weaknesses or didn't hit home for me. Saying that, Looking for Me is a book that I'm eager to share with readers who will appreciate the characters and the beauty of this story.

Teddi Overman is the narrator, a woman of thirty-six as she tells of her family. She's an antiques dealer and faux-finishing specialist in Charleston, South Carolina. But, she's a woman who has lost so much in her life. And, that compelling story of loss and hope runs throughout the story.

Teddi grew up on a large farm in Kentucky where she and her younger brother, Josh, had the run of the farm and the wilderness beyond it. From the moment she saw Josh, she felt he was special, and she taught him what she knew about nature and the wild. He had a special connection to animals and always hoped to be a ranger. Teddi said, "My brother belonged to the forest, its creatures, and all its mysteries. And they belonged to him." And, she reveals his connection in a mystical way, from his passion for raptors, his rescue of an albino red-tailed hawk, to his feeding of a deer. And, it's that connection that leads to his disappearance at eighteen. Years later, Teddi still looks for messages that Josh is alive in the Kentucky wilderness. And, one clue sends her reeling. As she searches for answers, she uncovers truths she never knew about her own family, a family that broke when Josh walked away.

Teddi tells the story as an adult, but she goes back to earlier times throughout the book to tell what led up to the disappearance that haunts her to this day. And, in that telling, she reveals how she became the person she is. She tells about her passion for furniture, beginning with the day she found an old chair in a ditch, and dragged it home. She tells about sharing animals and nature with her brother. At some level, she understands that she and Josh were both "fixers and healers". She fixed and healed furniture. He turned to animals. Their passions were something their scarred mother never understood. She was a woman who was never happy. Teddi once told her, "The world's beautiful, but you're so busy being disappointed in everything that you don't see it." And, it would take years for Teddi to learn how both of her parents were haunted by the past.

Hoffman intricately weaves a love of nature, animals and plants and flowers, into a complex story of family, disappointment and tragedy. Every character, every animal is carefully brought to life with an essential role. There are no unimportant people or animals in this carefully crafted, compelling story. And, the injured animals in the book are treated with as much love as the injured people. Teddi, her brother, Josh, her parents, her Grammy Belle, her friends Olivia and Albert and Inez, and others, all come alive on the page. However, the hawks Ghost and Noah, the raccoon, Ella, and the dogs, Eddie and Buddy are just as essential to this story. Hoffman embodies every person and animal with their own characteristics, their own soul. They are living, breathing characters who could step off the page.

Hoffman brings her own background in interior design into Teddi's life. However, it's the author's deep compassion for animals, and her love of people that make this story so real. There's a depth and emotion to this book that's lacking in many novels. Through Teddi's eyes, we see how people can go through life, missing connections to the people we love, and often not knowing the stories in our own families.And, despite the losses, there are always mentors, people who went out of their way to help Teddie, as she did as well. Beth Hoffman's latest novel is moving, sometimes tragic, sometimes sad, but, there's always a glimpse of hope. It's a beautiful story of people finding connections, their place in life, whether it's with other people, furniture, or animals. Looking for Me sometimes just took my breath away with the compassion and kindness in the book.

Beth Hoffman's website is www.bethhoffman.net

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman. Viking. 2013. ISBN 9780670025831 (hardcover), 354p.

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

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Circles in the Snow by Patrick F. McManus

Sheriff Bo Tully is thinking about retiring in Patrick F. McManus sixth mystery featuring the Idaho lawman, Circles in the Snow. But, the only honest sheriff of Blight County has one more murder to investigate, and a couple more situations to handle before he can settle in his cabin.

Tully and his father, Pap Tully are out observing eagles in December when Bo notices the tip of an arrow sticking out of the snow. And, of course the arrow is in the body of a man buried in that snow. Morgan Fester was a local rancher, and Bo could think of a number of people who might have wanted the man dead. And, the first place he starts is with Fester's ranch. What a surprise to learn that Fester's wife happened to leave for Mexico the very day her husband died. What a surprise to learn that all the ranch hands liked Mrs. Fester, but no one really liked her husband.

Funny how that sort of thing happens in Blight County. When a storekeeper at Clyde's General Store claims some young men robbed him, the local eyewitness sides with the young men. And, when a man is arrested after he shoots up some cars when some wealthy young guys were harassing him, the sheriff finds a way to handle the shooter in "The Blight County Way". While Bo is shrewdly appearing to bumble his way around, the editor and sole reporter of the Silver Tip Miner seems to be one step ahead of him, recording the sheriff's story.

An escaped convict. A fortune teller who predicts danger for the sheriff. A bordello and a jail where two of the best cooks in the county work. Just daily routine for Tully. Sheriff Bo Tully knows when it's time to wrap up a successful career. "Just his luck to be stuck with the stupid murder of someone most sensible people hated anyway." When he felt bad that a good person murdered a bad one, he knew he couldn't be sheriff any longer.

Patrick F. McManus' mysteries always remind me of Bill Crider's. Both authors introduced shrewd country sheriffs who tolerate staff members who boss them around and, essentially, pick on the sheriff. But Crider's books involve more mystery. McManus is actually a humor writer who emphasizes nature; the setting, the snow, eagles, hunting. Pap, and Bo's relationship with people provide much of the humor in McManus' books. If you enjoy humorous nature stories, try McManus. I would suggest though, that you meet Bo and Pap Tully in The Blight Way, and turn to Circles in the Snow when you're ready for Bo's retirement.

Patrick F. McManus' website is www.patrickfmcmanus.com

Circles in the Snow by Patrick F. McManus. Skyhorse Publishing. 2014. ISBN 9781629141701 (hardcover), 231p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, June 13, 2014

Winners and A Book Lover's Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Daryl Wood Gerber's Inherit the Word will go to Lynn D. of St. Clair, MI. Rhonda L. of Riverside, CA won Carolyn Hart's Death at the Door. I'll put the books in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries for book lovers. Victoria Abbott's The Sayers Swindle is "A Book Collector Mystery". Jordan Bingham tracks down rare and valuable mystery novels for her employer. But, when her boss' complete set of Dorothy Sayers is missing, Jordan tracks them down to an elderly man in a nearby town. She thinks she can make a trade, but some of the man's relatives think he should hold out for more. Then, the entire family disappears, and a dead body shows up.




Kate Carlisle writes bestselling "Bibliophile Mysteries" featuring bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright. However, restoring an antique cookbook is a recipe for disaster in A Cookbook Conspiracy. Brooklyn's sister, Savannah, asks her to restore a rare cookbook for an ex-boyfriend who is opening a new restaurant. However, when he's found dead, Savannah becomes the suspect du jour. Brooklyn knows her sister didn't do it, but which member of the old gang might have had a grudge against the dead chef?

Which book lover's mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win The Sayers Swindle" or "Win A Cookbook Conspiracy." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end at 6 PM CT on Thursday, June 19.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jacqueline Winspear and Book Passage's Mystery Writers Conference

In this short Q&A, bestselling novelist Jacqueline Winspear discusses why she enjoys participating in Book Passage's Mystery Writers Conference, which will be held from July 24-27, 2014 in Corte Madera, CA. Winspear is on the faculty this year as a conference chair. She is the author of New York Times bestsellers A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, An Incomplete Revenge, and Leaving Everything Most Loved, as well as four other nationally bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. Her next novel, The Care and Management of Lies, will be published on July 1st. Winspear has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching at the conference?


JW: The most rewarding part of the conference is in seeing the participants bloom over the course of the four days that they are with us - their confidence in themselves as writers increases dramatically, and you can see the content really having an impact on the work, and how they approach issues such as revision, character development, dialogue and the important quality of knowing how to weave their background research into the narrative.

What do you hope aspiring writers will get out of this conference?

JW: One of the points I always make during the opening session, is for participants to have a clear idea of what they want to come away with. I encourage them to take some time alone and write down aspects of their work and life as writers that they would want to see impacted by the conference - this helps them to make choices when there are optional sessions, and it inspires them to ask questions of the faculty that will help them in their work. I hope that each participant leaves with a breadth and depth of knowledge that they did not have at their fingertips before.  But more than anything, I want them to leave fearless and enthused about their work - indeed, with a plan to take the next major step in becoming a published author.  Many come without a clear path - but we do all that we can to ensure they are on track towards publication and success in their writing careers.

About the 21st Annual Book Passage Mystery Writers ConferenceThe Mystery Writers Conference has a strong tradition of great authors and teachers. Mystery writers learn all the clues to a successful writing career. Editors, agents, and publishers share with participants what they need to know to get published. Authors offer classes on setting, dialogue, suspense and point of view. Panels of detectives, forensic experts, and other crime-fighting professionals provide invaluable information that allows writers to put realism into their work. We’re proud of the successful mystery writers who began their careers at this conference. More information: http://bookpassage.com/mystery-writers-conference




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries often deal with the repercussions of The Great War, World War I, on the people of England. But, according to the author's note in The Care and Management of Lies, the seeds for this novel were planted long before she became an author. Here is a powerful story of The Great War, the story of four innocent people from Kent caught up in a nightmare that was unexpected. And, Winspear said this novel began when she found a dogeared copy of The Woman's Book, a book about household management covering topics including cooking, children, business, and dress. Published in 1911, on the eve of the war, Winspear could only imagine the life of the woman that owned it. So, she gave that woman her great-grandmother's name, Kezia, and set out to tell her story.

In June 1914, when Kezia Marchant prepared to marry her best friend's brother, Tom Brissenden, she never dreamt of what was coming. "The country was in the early weeks of a summer that would become memorable for its warmth, and despite worries farther afield, there was a sense of being cocooned in Englishness." But, no one really knew what to expect in the near future. Not, Thea Brissenden, who was passionately supporting women's suffrage, nor Tom, who had taken over the family farm, nor Edmund Hawkes, whose family owned much of the land neighboring the Brissenden farm. All four, in their late twenties, if they even thought of war in June, thought it would be over quickly. They were caught up in their own lives, passions and dreams.

Kezia was a little hurt when Thea gave her a copy of The Woman's Book, insinuating that Kezia was leaving behind her life as an educated woman, a teacher, to become a farm wife. But, Kezia would not be the only one leaving behind the life she knew. In fact, she became the one to keep the farm going, the dreams of home burning, as the other three left for war. And, all four managed to lie about their situations, trying to keep hope alive.

With the anniversary of World War I in August, there will be many books published about the war. But, Jacqueline Winspear has always grasped the brutality of war, and the effect on the people at home in England. Her Maisie Dobbs books never romanticized the aftereffects of war. In The Care and Management of Lies, her characters come to life as they try to put a positive spin on life in order to appear brave. But, it's those very stories that show how tragic and terrible the war was, both on the battlefield and at home. Kezia Brizzenden represents so many women who courageously took on roles they were unprepared for. If you're looking for a novel that tells the truth, the emotional truth of war, reach for The Care and Management of Lies.

Jacqueline Winspear's website is www.jacquelinewinspear.com, and she can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jacquelinewinspear.

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear. HarperCollins. 2014. ISBN 9780062220509 (hardcover), 336p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book in order to participate in a blog tour.