Sunday, May 31, 2015

New York, New York Reprise - Day 1

I just returned from New York City where I attended book events, both the Library Journal Day of Dialog and Book Expo America. It's my opportunity to catch up with friends, meet a few new ones, and hear about books coming out. It's fun and exciting. And, of course, I hit Broadway at night.

This year, the Day of Dialog, "A conversation among publishers, authors, and librarians", moved to the NYU Kimmel Center. Wonderful location. And, I'd never been to Chelsea, so it was fun to see a new section of the city. I met up with friends from different publishing companies (thanks for the cookies, Anne & Talia), met my editor from Library Journal, and spent the day talking with a woman from NoveList. And, then there were the books! Giveaways! I've learned to restrain myself, though, because all those books need to be shipped home, and I like to make it back with just one box to send.

Since Day of Dialog is for librarians, I'll give you a quick summary, so you know what it is. (Oh, and there is a registration fee for the all-day program, but it's worth every penny. Library Journal presents a fantastic slate of authors, editors, and books.) The first panel of the day was Editors' Picks, in which five editors discussed their top titles of the fall season. During the short break, we had the time to visit tables and pick up books. That was followed by Book Trip, in which we followed the story of one book, Bill Clegg's novel, Did You Ever Have a Family. He talked about it, along with the publicist, the editor, and the marketer for Simon & Schuster.

First Novels introduced us to six authors and their five books. We heard from Ron Childress (And West is West), Sloane Crosley (The Clasp), Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranoir (Welcome to Night Vale), Paige McKenzie (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One, and Claire Vaye Watkins (Gold Fame Citrus).

For lunch, we went to the tenth floor. Check out the view from there.





Our lunch speaker was Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Or, you may recognize her earlier bestseller, The Happiness Project.

Gretchen Rubin
Lunch was followed by a Town Hall Meeting led by Robin Nesbitt from Columbus Metropolitan Library (OH). It was a discussion of marketing the library, and reaching out to customers. Once Robin started calling on people by name, the discussion flowed.

The Immigrant Experience consisted of two authors who had previous books, and two debut authors. Vanessa Diffenbaugh (We Never Asked for Wings), Nadia Hashimi (When the Moon is Low), Dan-El Padilla Peralta (Undocumented: A Dominican Boy's Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League), and Patricia Park (Re Jane) were the panelists.









My favorite panel of the day was Historical Fiction, quite lively. Barbara Hoffert from Library Journal admitted some of the books weren't exactly historical fiction, but books she wanted to talk about. Geraldine Books (The Secret Chord), Gregory Maguire (After Alice), Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Balm), Adriana Trigiani (All the Stars in the Heavens), and Charles Belfoure (House of Thieves) spoke. When Trigiani referred to writing as a divine enterprise, saying "Writing is an expression of a soul", Belfoure commented that as a lifelong Republican he didn't even understand that.

Perkins-Valdez, Maguire, Brooks, Trigiani, Belfoure

The final panel was Top Thrills. Again, six authors and five books: Jennifer McMahon (The Night Sister), Lori Roy (Let Me Die in His Footsteps), Charles Todd (mother and son, A Pattern of Lies: A Bess Crawford Mystery), Kathy Reichs (Speaking in Bones), and Kate White (The Wrong Man).

There was a reception afterward, but I skipped out. Instead, I headed to my second show of the week, Les Miserables.

The night I arrived, I went to On the 20th Century. Kristin Chenoweth was excellent. The sets were gorgeous, and it is up for a Tony for Best Scenic Design in a Musical. Chenoweth is also up for a Tony. Unfortunately, I agree with the woman I sat next to on the plane returning to Nashville. Chenoweth was good; the set was gorgeous. I wasn't excited about the show itself.



It's different going to see Les Miserables, my favorite show. From BEA, I left to see Les Miserables with Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean. My favorite play, with my favorite Jean Valjean before he leaves at the end of August. I sat by a young man from Taiwan, and we talked at intermission. His English was a little clunky. He asked me why I've seen Les Miz four times on Broadway, two other times elsewhere and watched the dvd multiple times. When I answered that it was the first show I ever saw on Broadway, I loved the story, and some of the songs move me, this young man, who understood better than he spoke said, "Oh, the show is in your heart."



Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean

Friday, May 29, 2015

Giveaway - Judith Fertig's The Cake Therapist

I've been commenting for a couple months that I love the cover of Judith Fertig's debut novel, The Cake Therapist. Fertig is an award-winning cookbook author who teaches cooking classes across the country. Now, her first novel combines her knowledge of baking with her passion for storytelling.

When Claire "Neely" O'Neil returns to her Ohio hometown, she opens a bakery in a town that has made itself a bridal destination. The bakery, Rainbow Cake, is just what she always dreamed of. But, Neely has a special gift. She can "taste" feelings and customize her creations to help that person celebrate love or mourn a loss. That doesn't mean she can find answers in her own life.

While The Cake Therapist is Neely's story, there's also a mystery involved, the story of two sisters once known as Pickle and Olive. It's a story that carries throughout the book, just as Neely's cakes do.

So, this week, the publisher is giving away two copies of The Cake Therapist. (If it's not a mystery, my favorite novels are food-related.) If you'd like a chance to win this book, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Please include your name and mailing address. Your subject line should read "Win The Cake Therapist." Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end when I get home Sunday, June 7.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

It was the cover of Judith Fertig's novel, The Cake Therapist, that first attracted me. When I found out it was a debut by an author who writes cookbooks, I was hooked. And, I wasn't disappointed. Fertig not only writes cookbooks, she creates memorable characters.

Claire "Neely" O'Neil left her marriage and New York City behind to return to Millcreek Valley, a town that made itself a bridal destination. Neely's dream was to open her own bakery, Rainbow Cake. She bought her grandmother's house, opened a bakery with the help of friends, and set out to make her dream come true. And, Neely has something extra to help her with that dream, a gift. She can taste feelings, telling what people need, whether it's a celebration of love, or the opportunity to mourn a loss. She just can't heal herself, and she can't get rid of the bad taste that lingers in her mouth. That's a taste that puzzles her.

While telling Neely's story, Fertig mixes in the story of two sisters, Edie and Olive, called Pickle and Olive, a story from the late thirties and forties. It's an unusual story of the unexpected disappearance of one of the sisters, and a bitter old woman who survives. And, Neely's gift may be part of a healing process.

Fertig's novel isn't the magical story associated with Sarah Addison Allen or Ellery Adams. However, I appreciated Neely, her gift, and her character. She's a woman searching for answers in her own life, but she's kind while she helps others find answers in their own. And, if readers like Neely, they'll appreciate her relationship with her friends and her co-workers. She reaches out to others.

 It's hard to let Neely go on with her life without the reader. I want to know what she's doing with her life, her friends, and her brides. The Cake Therapist is just as satisfying, just as comforting as one of Neely's cakes.

Judith Fertig's website is www.judithfertig.com

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig. Berkley Books. 2015. ISBN 9780425277324 (paperback), 304p.
*****

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy of the book from the publisher.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Off to New York City



I'm off today for two weeks in New York City, or, I should say, for the first of two trips there in two weeks. I'm leaving today for Book Expo America, the publishers' showcase of books and authors. I attend the Library Journal Library Day of Dialog, listen to editors and library marketing representatives talk about their favorite forthcoming books, and, of course, go through exhibits to see those books. And, there are breakfasts and lunches featuring authors, along with the chance to catch up with friends who are authors, publishers' reps, and librarians. I love BEA.

I also love Broadway. I'm going to see Les Miserables one more time while Ramin Karimloo plays Jean Valjean. Everyone who knows me well knows that I go to shows every night I can while I'm in New York.

Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean


And, then next week, my family heads to New York. We're doing fun tourist stuff. And, we're going to three shows while we're there.

I'm telling you all this to say my blog will be very sporadic while I'm gone. For the first time in ages, I'm not taking my laptop. I'll have a post or two up while I'm gone, a review on Thursday, a giveaway on Friday, but I won't be posting regularly. Instead, I'm going to enjoy every minute of these trips. I'll share when I come home!

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord's juvenile novel, A Handful of Stars, is a warm, touching story about loneliness and the
gift of friendship. It's a story about opening your eyes to change and differences and imagination. It's a lovely, thoughtful book.

Lily lives in a small town in Maine with her grandparents, living in an apartment above their general store. And, she never would have met Salma Santiago if her dog, Lucky, hadn't run away one day. Lily was scared because Lucky was a "blind, old, black Labrador", but she refused to back down, ignoring the signs saying don't go through the blueberry barrens in order to catch Lucky. But, it was Salma, a migrant worker from Florida who caught Lucky, attracting him with her bag of chips. And, it was Lily's grandmother who pushed Lily back to the migrant camp to give a gift of thanks.

Twelve-year-old Lily seemed to have lost her best friend to a boy, so she was grateful when Salma showed up at the store where Lily was working. Every day, she painted and tried to sell houses for mason bees so she could get an operation for Lucky. But, Salma saw the houses differently, and created imaginative houses of bright colors that sold quickly. Salma saw art as creative, and a talent, and when she decided to run for Downeast Blueberry Queen, that was the talent she picked. But, all along, Lily worried for her friend. Would anyone want a migrant worker for queen?

Cynthia Lord is not heavy-handed with the story. It deals with prejudice, and perception, and people who only see the world one way until someone shows them the world can be different. Lily and Salma and Lucky are all lonely characters. It takes Salma and Lily's grandfather to show Lily and Lily's grandmother another way of looking at the world. But, it's done carefully, as part of the story, and not as part of a pointed lesson.

A Handful of Stars targets the eight to twelve-year-old audience. However, Cynthia Lord's latest book  is a warm, enjoyable story with a message for all of us.

Cynthia Lord's website is www.cynthialord.com

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. Scholastic Press. 2015. ISBN 9780545700276 (hardcover), 192p.

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

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Carry Her Heart by Holly Jacobs

I don't usually start a review out by addressing the author, but I'm making an exception here. Darn you, Holly Jacobs. I cried throughout the last quarter of Carry Her Heart. Cats climbed into my lap because I was crying. It's all your fault.

Author Piper George lives across the street from an elementary school in Erie, Pennsylvania. Those children are the inspiration for her books, the books she writes for pre-teens and her young adult novels. She reads to the children in kindergarten and first grade, and, eventually helps the older students with writing. And, every child reminds her of the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was a young teen mother. It's the daughter she can't forget, the one she dedicates every book to, and all of her charitable activities.

When Ned Chesterfield moves in next door, she recognizes him immediately as the next character in a book. She doesn't recognize him as a friend who could come to mean more to her. But, Piper has never given away her heart since the day she gave away her daughter.

Holly Jacobs' latest novel is a love story on so many levels. It's a story of a woman learning about love as she learns about herself. It's the story of a the love necessary to be a mother, and what it takes to love a child and be a mother. It's also a story about children who are hungry and needy. Piper George, through her charities, puts a face on all of those children so donors can understand that their gifts do change lives.

I don't mean to make it sound as if Carry Her Heart is a sad story. It isn't. In fact, it's funny at times. Readers of Jacobs' earlier books will recognize Mrs. Salo at the Everything But a Dog adoption event. It's a perfect scene. And, there are often funny exchanges between Ned and Piper, who are drawn together despite Ned's jealous girlfriend and the man Piper dates.

However, Carry Her Heart is a beautiful story of love and friendship. And, Holly Jacobs' message of love is strong and touching. Darn you, Holly.

Holly Jacobs' website is www.hollyjacobs.com

Carry Her Heart by Holly Jacobs. Montlake Romance. 2015. ISBN 9781477829288 (paperback), 209p.

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


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mystery Writers of America Presents Manhattan Mayhem

I'm not going to wait until this book comes out in early June to discuss it. Mary Higgins Clark edited a collection of stories written to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Mystery Writers of America. And, the stories, set all over Manhattan, are intriguing and interesting. But, it's the book itself that is impressive. If you love the part of the city that we tourists think of as New York City, you should pick up a copy of Manhattan Mayhem.

The publishers, Quirk Books, have put together a beautiful book physically. Because each author set their story in a different neighborhood, the covers are maps showing the author's name, and where their story takes place. There's even a legend for this street and transportation map of Manhattan and the Bronx. And, the inside of the book is eye-catching. Each story is labeled with the street map showing where it's set, and set off by the appropriate black-and-white photo. Those photos illustrate the stories perfectly. They're amazing. And, the pages and print match the overall format.

Oh, yes. The stories themselves. Julie Hyzy's "White Rabbit" is set in Central Park, and it's introduced with a photo of the Alice in Wonderland statue. In fact, that's exactly where this story is set, at that statue. It's a story with an unforeseen ending. Jack Reacher faces a surprising Manhattan when he reaches his subway stop at the iconic Flatiron Building in Lee Child's "The Picture of the Lonely Diner." Clark introduces the stories, the background, and the book itself, but she also kicks off the book with a new story set in Union Square.

Some of the biggest names in the mystery field contributed stories; Jeffery Deaver, Margaret Maron, S.J. Rozan. It's an entertaining collection, an excellent tribute to the mystery field, and the organization of writers that started in 1945. And, it's a beautiful tribute to an ever-changing city. Readers will pick up Manhattan Mayhem because of the authors. But, I showed it to a friend who normally doesn't read mysteries. And, I predict some readers, like my friend, will pick it up because Quirk Books did such an amazing job compiling this beautiful book.

Mystery Writers of America Presents Manhattan Mayhem. Quirk Books. 2015. ISBN 9781594747618 (hardcover), 321p.

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Where Are You Today?

I've started a fascinating book. It's Mystery Writers of America Presents Manhattan Mayhem. It's
edited by Mary Higgins Clark, and it celebrates the seventieth anniversary of the founding of MWA. There are stories by Lee Child, Margaret Maron, Jeffery Deaver, and others. The stories take place all over Manhattan in all kinds of time periods. And, the best part so far? The gorgeous black and white photographs that illustrate the stories. I've seen so many of these landmarks! And, I'm heading to New York next week, so I'll have to watch for others. More about the story collection when I finish it. (Let me just say, though, that I loved Julie Hyzy's "White Rabbit" set in Central Park.)

So, I'm in Manhattan today. Where are you? Where has your book taken you? What book are you reading? Is it giving you the same sense of place that I'm discovering in Manhattan Mayhem? I have all kinds of questions, but they actually come back to one. Where has your book taken you today? I'd love to know!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Winners and a Break

Congratulations to the winners of the last contests. Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews will go to Bonnie K. from Sacramento, CA. And, I always wonder about serendipity when both books set in New York City are heading to residents of New York state. Margaret Grace's Manhattan in Miniature is going to Judy V. from Orchard Park, NY. Cleo Coyle's Once Upon a Grind will head to Gina B. from Queensbury, NY.

Don't forget there will be a one week break for giveaways while I'm at Book Expo America. However, I have a special one that will kick off next Friday, May 29. Check back then.

When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

There is no good answer to that question, which is why the subtitle makes a lot of sense. The authors of Freakonomics collected pieces from their blog in the book When to Rob a Bank...and 131 more warped suggestions and well-intended rants. In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Freakonomics,  Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner gathered articles from their blog, a blog they started even though Levitt didn't know what a blog was.

I'm going to admit that some of the articles on economics were beyond me. Even though I play backgammon, I found the piece about the statistics of backgammon to be boring. However, I was intrigued by "If Public Libraries Didn't Exist, Could You Start one Today?" Neither author insists their ideas are correct. They wrote them to be thought-provoking.

There are funny articles that point out how ridiculous our ideas are. One showed a padlock on a diaper-changing station. Then there was the "lie of reputation", used, for instance, when a person says they've read a book when they haven't. They don't want people to think less of them. There's an entire chapter about gambling, and a chapter exploring crime and guns. But, there's one article that will probably hit close to home with a number of readers. It's called "Dental Wisdom", wisdom from Dubner's dentist, Dr. Reiss. I had heard this from a dentist once, and even mentioned it recently in conversation. Dr. Reiss said dental decay is getting worse and worse for people in middle age and above because of the medication we're taking for heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. Because many of these medications produce dry mouth, meaning less saliva which kills bacteria, and that leads to tooth decay.

The saddest article was the one by Levitt's father, a doctor, who watched his daughter die of cancer. Oh, and that article about robbing a bank? The take is the U.S. usually isn't worth it. And, one woman who embezzled money from a family bank was caught because she was afraid to leave work for fear someone would catch what she was doing with the books, so she never took a vacation.

When to Rob a Bank is thought-provoking, funny at times, and even sad. And, there's probably an article or two that readers will find warped. Sometimes, it's too complicated. But, Levitt and Dubner have once again managed to bring economics to the ordinary person.

The website is www.freakonomics.com

When to Rob a Bank...and 131 more warped suggestions and well-intended rants by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062385321 (hardcover), 387p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman

Anne Hillerman has a gift for descriptive writing about the Southwest. She may have inherited her father's characters, Leaphorn and Chee, but she took that inheritance and made it her own. She puts her own spin on the descriptions, the characters, and the crimes. Then, she turns Rock with Wings into "A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel."

Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, finally have the chance to take a vacation together, and Chee is taking her to see Monument Valley while helping a cousin get his tourism business off the ground. But, it doesn't work out quite as they intended. Bernie's sister disappears, leaving her Mama alone, so she heads home while Chee agrees to help the local police who are shorthanded.

When a woman disappears, part of a film crew filming in Monument Valley, Chee is asked to look for her. She's found, enjoying the scenery as much as he does, but the two stumble upon a newly dug grave. And, that grave, illegal on Navajo land, just digs Chee in further with the local police and the film team. It isn't long before he's not only investigating the grave, but looking for a missing girl. And, once he finds a body in a hotel room, it becomes an FBI matter.

Back in Shiprock, Bernie is involved with the FBI, too. Just before vacation, she stopped a driver while working a drug intercept operation. Although she knew something was wrong with him, the FBI wouldn't clue her in. So she kept digging. And, that man seemed to be all over the area, involved with a plan for solar development, and even an unexplained car fire. Eventually, both Chee and Bernie turn to their former boss, Leaphorn, for assistance.

Hillerman skillfully combines the movie business, the solar power industry, and Navajo tradition and life into an intriguing story. The ending may be a slight letdown, but there's still a hint of mystery left.   Rock with Wings is a solid police procedural as both officers follow their cases, step by step, no matter where they go. The author's strength lies in her ability to beautifully describe the Navajo land, and allow the reader to see it through the eyes of two people who love it, Chee and Bernie. Don't expect Tony Hillerman's writing when you read this novel. Anne Hillerman has made the characters and the landscape her own in Rock with Wings.

Anne Hillerman's website is www.annehillerman.com

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman. HarperCollins. 2015. ISBN 9780062270511 (hardcover), 322p.

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


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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



Sorry that there are no cats this month. Jinx was napping. However, here's the list of titles from the book chat.

Truffled to Death - Kathy Aarons (2nd Chocolate Covered Mystery)
A Fatal Chapter - Lorna Barrett (9th Booktown Mystery, hardcover)
Fat Cat Spreads Out - Janet Cantrell (2nd Fat Cat Mystery)
Ripped from the Pages - Kate Carlisle (9th Bibliophile Mystery, hardcover)
Privy to the Dead - Sheila Connolly (6th Museum Mystery)
Tying the Knot - Elizabeth Craig (5th Southern Quilting Mystery)
The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss - Krista Davis (9th Domestic Diva Mystery)
Collared for Murder - Annie Knox (2nd Pet Boutique Mystery)
Fatal Fortune - Victoria Laurie (12th Psychic Eye Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Bodice of Evidence - Nancy J. Parra (2nd Perfect Proposals Mystery)
Death of a Chocolate Cheater - Penny Pike (2nd Food Festival Mystery)
Yarn Over Murder - Maggie Sefton (12th Knitting Mystery, 1st time in Paperback)
Purl Up and Die - Maggie Sefton (13th Knitting Mystery, hardcover)
Bushel Full of Murder - Paige Shelton (6th Farmers' Market Mystery)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

I've been a Mary Kay Andrews fan since the early '90s when she was writing mysteries under the name Kathy Hogan Trocheck. And, as much as I liked those books, and have enjoyed some of her standalones written under Andrews, she's moved up a notch with Beach Town. It's already on lists of the hottest summer reads for 2015, and it deserves to be. The engrossing story has drama, humor, romance, and an explosive ending. In other words, Beach Town is a captivating story with a charming setting and the type of delightful characters Andrews writes so well.

After the fire on her last job, movie location scout Greer Hennessy has one last chance to get it right, or she'll be blacklisted in Hollywood. Director Bryce Levy is looking for the perfect Florida location for his movie, Beach Town. He wants an old time, sleepy Florida town, the kind that's hard to find anymore. But, when Greer arrives in Cypress Key to discover small motels, closed-down shops, and a deserted casino, she knows she's found her movie location. And, she might even have an ally in the casino's owner, Vanessa Littrell. But, she'll have to make peace with the mayor first, Eben Thibadeaux. And, Eb isn't about to turn the town over to outsiders without a fight.

Beach Town. It appears to be just another summer read with a film crew arriving in a small Florida town, doesn't it? But, Andrews succeeds beautifully in writing an entertaining story with depth. She juggles the film business with stories of dysfunctional families, and a realistic story of a town destroyed by industry, first polluted, and then left behind to die economically. And, it's the story of one man fighting for the town he loves. But, most of all, Beach Town is a story of relationships, unhealthy ones, family ones, and romantic ones.

If you're looking for an engaging romance, a big novel for your summer vacation, you might want to start your escape with Mary Kay Andrews' Beach Town.

Note: And, the publicist will give one lucky reader the chance to enjoy that summer escape. I'm giving away one copy of Beach Town. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Beach Town." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway ends Thursday, May 21 at 6 PM CT.

Mary Kay Andrews' website is www.marykayandrews.com, and she's on Facebook at Facebook.com/marykayandrewsauthor.

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews. St. Martin's Press. 2015. ISBN 9781250065933 (hardcover), 448p.

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fillet of Murder by Linda Reilly

Something's fishy in the Wrensdale Arcade, a group of shops in the Berkshires designed as an old English village. And, Talia Marby is just the person to discover why so many people disliked Phil Turnbull, and which of them hated him enough to kill him. Fillet of Murder is the perfect book to launch Linda Reilly's new Deep Fried mystery series.

Talia worked for Bea and Howie Lambert in Lambert's Fish & Chips when she was in high school. Now that she's broken up with her boyfriend, left her job, and moved into her grandmother's house, she's back to help them out while Howie's in the hospital. And, Bea can certainly use the support. She appears to be the only shop owner who won't sign Turnbull's petition to keep a comic book shop out of the arcade. Turnbull harasses her so much that she finally threatens to boil him in oil. Unfortunately, when Talia and Bea try to meet him at his lighting shop the next day, they discover his body. Between the threat and the weapon, Bea is number one on the suspect list.

At times, Bea is too upset to work, and the shop's part-time assistant, Whitnee, seems to have her own problems with her boyfriend, school, and her family life. So, Talia steps up to keep the shop running smoothly while also asking questions of the other shop owners. And, everyone seems to have secrets involving Turnbull. Talia finds herself dealing with a fine kettle of fish.

Reilly's main ingredient is an engaging amateur sleuth in the perfect set-up to a series. There's the attractive little tourist area, a quirky set of characters, the introduction of a future love interest. And, of course, there's all that talk of wonderful fish and chips (with malt vinegar), and recipes for fried food. She blends all those ingredients into a charming mystery with a few red herrings along the way. Fillet of Murder may surprise even the most astute mystery reader.

Linda Reilly's website is www.lindasreilly.com

Fillet of Murder by Linda Reilly. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425274132 (paperback), 295p.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely

A toast to Tracy Kiely for her wonderful, entertaining homage to The Thin Man. From the opening  scene when Nicole (Nic) watches her husband, Nigel Martini, dragged into the bar by an enormous Bullmastiff named Skippy, the reader knows Murder with a Twist is going to be delightful.

It always starts with a blonde, doesn't it? Nic Martini left the New York City police force after she was shot in the leg. The former detective now lives in L.A. with her well-to-do husband who owns his own company that does film restoration. But, they've returned to Manhattan for Christmas just in time to deal with a Martini family crisis. One of the family heiresses, Audrey, is about to turn twenty-five, celebrating with a gala party. But, Leo, her louse of a husband, has disappeared. So, Nigel's Aunt Olive asks Nic to find the man, although no one but Audrey really wants him back.

In the course of her investigation, Nic discovers Leo has gambling debts, and is known to disappear with other women. With Nigel and Skippy faithfully at her side, she reacquaints herself with the sleazier side of the city. And, it isn't long before the the case of the disappearing husband becomes a full-blown case of murder.

Kiely's first Nic & Nigel Martini mystery has all of the humorous elements that made The Thin Man so engaging, beginning with the captivating detecting duo and their dog. At the same time, she turns the characters upside down, making Nic the one with detective experience, married to the partner with money. There's that enormous dog instead of Asta. Nigel has the repartee down pat. And, there's plenty of alcohol consumed, enough for any Dashiell Hammett novel.

If you're a fan of witty mysteries, mix yourself a drink and settle in for an enjoyable evening with Murder with a Twist.

Tracy Kiely's website is www.tracykielymysteries.com

Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely. Midnight Ink. 2015. ISBN 9780738743721 (paperback), 249p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, May 15, 2015

Winners and a New York City Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contests. Judith L. of Claremont, CA won the copy of Craig Johnson's Any Other Name. Carola Dunn's Heirs of the Body will go to Barbara L. from Redding, CA. And, The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is going to Anita Y. from Burnsville, GA.

I'm going to be heading to New York City in a week and a half, my favorite city. In fact, I'll be making two trips there in two weeks, one for work and one with family. So, this week, I'm giving a chance to share my experiences, at least through books. I'm giving away two mysteries set in New York.

Once Upon a Grind is Cleo Coyle's most recent Coffeehouse mystery. Don't worry. You can pick up this book even if you haven't read earlier books. Step into the fairy tale world as Clare Cosi and her coffeehouse staff participate in Fairy Tale Week. The city has gone crazy with fairy tales, but the death of a Sleeping Beauty leads Clare into a search for Big Bad Wolves and wicked witches, and an investigation that leads to a Prince Charming Club. Fairy tales, recipes, and a strong heroine with her own cast of supporting characters, all set in New York's magical world. It's one of Coyle's best mysteries.




Or you could explore New York with Gerry Porter and her granddaughter in Margaret Grace's Manhattan in Miniature. They're in New York with a friend, demonstrating their use of miniatures at a craft show. That doesn't mean they don't have time to explore Manhattan, and look into a couple mysteries. It's always wonderful to see the relationship between Gerry and Maddie. And, you'll appreciate their adventures in New York.

Which New York City 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 line should read either "Win Once Upon a Grind" or "Win Manhattan in Miniature." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end May 21 at 6 PM CT.

*****
NOTE: This is the last giveaway for a few weeks while I'm out of town. Check back on June 12 for the next contest.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What Are You Reading?

If you know how long The Shell Seekers is, you know why I haven't finished another book yet. In fact, I just started a mystery, the first in a new series. I think that's the cutest cover on Linda Reilly's Fillet of Murder.

So, I think it's been a few weeks since we talked about what you're reading. I know my Mom has been enjoying the beautiful weather, sitting on her front porch to read. Have you been finding time to read? I certainly hope you're enjoying something good. Please let us know what you're reading!

And, as long as you stopped by, have you entered this week's contests yet? Today's the last day to enter to win The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle, Carola Dunn's Heirs of the Body, or Craig Johnson's Any Other Name. Check last Thursday and Friday's posts for details.

No matter what, I hope you're enjoying a good book!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Where were you in 1987? I was in Florida, starting a new job in Lee County, and certainly not reading the number of books that I now read each year. Of course, as a librarian, I was aware of Rosamunde Pilcher's #1 bestseller,The Shell Seekers. But, I was too busy to spend time with a book over 600 pages long. And, I really think I appreciate the book now that I'm in my fifties much more than I would have at thirty. After all that time, The Shell Seekers is out in trade paperback for the first time, with a note from Thomas Dunne, the publisher for Pilcher's book, and Pilcher's introduction to the twenty-fifth anniversary edition. Both notes are as warm and welcoming as the book itself.

The Shell Seekers is Penelope Keeling's story, from the time she was a child, appearing in a picture of that title by her artist father, Lawrence Stern. The picture has been her refuge and comfort throughout her life, but when her adult children discover Lawrence Stern's paintings have increased in value, they have plans for the money if she'd only sell her paintings. But, except for one major mistake in her life when she was a young woman, Penelope Keeling has always known her own mind. And, she's not going to allow her children to push her around. Instead, she handles her affairs, and decides to make a long-overdue trip to Cornwall where she grew up and spent the years during World War II.

In the course of the story, we get to know Penelope and all three of her children. In her introduction, Pilcher calls them "The tiresome Nancy, the cool-headed Olivia, the materialistic Noel". But, it's Penelope who will claim your heart, and make you cry. She's strong, independent, and full of love. Her life may not have turned out as she would have liked it, but she enjoyed it, and led a gracious, Bohemian existence as befitted the daughter of an elderly artist and a young French woman. And, it's that simple joy in life that two of her children couldn't appreciate.

If you've already read The Shell Seekers, do you remember it? Is it one of those books that lingers in your memory? As a reader who loves wonderful characters, I was drawn to Penelope, moved by her courage, her will to live and enjoy life on her terms. The book is the story of one woman's life, her mistakes, the love of her life, loss, and the strength to go on. It's a story that has been written before and since 1987. But, Rosamunde Pilcher's The Shell Seekers is beautiful and moving, a story that's timeless. Don't wait twenty-eight years to try it.

*****
Here's the note the publicist sent, information about The Shell Seekers.

Book Synopsis: An instant bestseller when it was first published in 1987, The Shell Seekers is an enduring classic which has touched the hearts of millions of readers worldwide.  A novel of connection, it is the story of one family, and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. It is filled with real people--mothers and daughters, husband and lovers--and inspired with real values.  Now for the first time in trade paperback, this magical novel—the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while—is the perfect summer read, whether you are returning to it again, or opening the cover for the first time.

At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling's prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather's work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer...and it lies in her heart.

Author Info: ROSAMUNDE PILCHER has had a long and distinguished career as a novelist and short-story writer, but it was her phenomenally successful novel The Shell Seekers that captured the hearts of all who read it and won her international recognition as one of the most-loved storytellers of our time.  The Shell Seekers was followed by September and then by Coming Home and Winter Solstice, which also became worldwide bestsellers.  She lives in Perthshire, Scotland.

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. St. Martin's Griffin. 1987. 632p.







Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

Moonlight on Butternut Lake is Mary McNear's third novel set in the northern Minnesota community, but each one stands alone. Main characters appear in minor roles in subsequent novels, but the leads change. And, Mila Jones, the lead in this story, appears for the first time in a story that focuses on abusers and the power they have over their victims. It's also a story of two lonely, needy people.

When Mila Jones accepts a summer job as home health aide for Reid Ford, she's warned that she's the third aide in a short period of time. Reid is a difficult, uncooperative patient. But, Mila's desperate to escape her abusive husband, and she can't think of anyplace better to run to than an isolated lake in northern Minnesota. She wasn't prepared, though, to feel so "alone, afraid, exhausted, overwhelmed, and lonely".

Reid wants nothing to do with anyone, and just sits in his room and broods. But, when night comes, he relives his car accident, one that left him trapped in the car for three days waiting for rescue. Even before the accident, though, Reid was an angry man, a workaholic desperate to prove something to the father that deserted him and his younger brother years earlier. Now, while he's temporarily in a wheelchair over the summer, he ponders his past. He also watches the young woman assigned to care for him, a young woman who appears wounded and frightened.

McNear portrays her two damaged and broken people with gentleness. She shows the childhood and marriage that led Mila to Butternut Lake; the troubled childhood, and the manipulative, abusive husband she married. And, she allows Reid to reveal himself to his brother, to tell the secrets that haunt him in his dreams. Mila sees her job as "the blind leading the blind". But, these two troubled souls may eventually find a way to help each other heal.

Moonlight on Butternut Lake may anger you at times. Mila works so hard to move past her upbringing that her relationship and subsequent marriage are troubling. And, it's difficult to watch her husband manipulate her. But, it's a novel that will catch your attention. It's a quiet story of two people reaching beyond their past histories, trying to find something better.

Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062283184 (paperback), 384p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book to review for a journal, and reviewed it here as part of a TLC Book Tour.




Monday, May 11, 2015

Last One Home by Debbie Macomber

I'm a little late reading this book, but it's really never too late to read a book about a woman who finds the inner courage to move ahead, protecting herself and her daughter, after an abusive marriage. But, this is Debbie Macomber's Last One Home, so it's not a story of violence. It's a story about growth and courage.

Cassie Carter was the middle of three sisters, secure in her father's love, and the strong family life they all shared. But, it all changed when she was eighteen, and fell in love with Duke. Pregnant, she ran away to Florida with him, as far as he could take her from her family in Seattle. And, despite the fact that she eventually took her daughter, and escaped to a shelter, Cassie never had the money to return to her family, or the courage to tell them she had been in an abusive marriage. Both of her parents died, not knowing what happened to her. When Cassie didn't show up at her parents' funerals, her sisters, Karen and Nichole, cut her out of their lives.

But, this is actually Cassie's story about her life after Duke. She and her daughter, Amiee, don't have a lot of money or a decent apartment, but Cassie went to school to do hair, and she's now saving money in order to qualify for a house with Habit for Humanity. When she learns she qualified, she's thrilled to start work on someone's house, to put in her sweat equity. But, Steve Brody, Cassie's supervisor on the job, is a bad-tempered man who doesn't seem to like her on sight. And, she's learned to stand up for herself, and Cassie can give as good as she can take.

As she struggles to juggle work, her work on the Habitat house, and her time with her daughter, Cassie hears from Karen, who she hasn't seen in thirteen years. She has furniture stored for her, and Cassie just has a short time to come from her present home in Spokane to pick it up. Cassie's so grateful that her sister can't understand. They only begrudgingly contacted her, not really caring if they ever saw her again.

Macomber has brought the threads of Cassie's past and present together in a touching story. And, she skillfully, in the course of the story, points out what everyone lost, without being preachy. Cassie knew what she lost. "She'd lost her self-respect. She'd lost all contact with her family. She'd lost all self-esteem and pride." She calls it "her stupid tax". But, she wasn't there to witness the nightmare her disappearance caused for the entire family. And, Macomber is careful to point out the wide-spread ripples when one family member ends up in an abusive situation.

Last One Home is not a depressing story. It's a story of hope and compassion. Debbie Macomber introduces a character, Cassie Carter, who has learned to stand on her own, and has climbed from nothing. But, it's always better when there are people to cheer you on, and that's what Cassie finally finds in a story with heart, courage, and love.

Debbie Macomber's website is www.debbiemacomber.com

Last One Home by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books. 2015. ISBN 9780553391886 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bye, Bye Love by K.J. Larsen

It's been two years since the last Cat DeLuca mystery, way too long in my opinion. I always feel as if I need to remind readers what they're missing if they haven't discovered K.J. Larsen's funny series. It doesn't get much better than a large Italian family of cops, a Mama demanding that her thirty-year-old daughter get married, and a hot FBI agent. In this case, throw in a family wedding to make it even funnier. And, I didn't even mention that Cat owns Pants on Fire Detective Agency. The new Cat DeLuca, Bye, Bye Love, is a treat.

Cat DeLuca disappointed her mother by not marrying a cop. Her father, uncle, and brothers are cops. Her sister is rapidly producing an entire generation of DeLucas. And, Cat quickly divorced her cheating husband, and now works as a private investigator investigating cheating spouses, following couples into sleazy hotels. But, this time, it's a body that trips Cat up, literally. She's out running with her beagle when she trips over a body in the park. By the time she discovers who the victim was, the  killer comes back, overpowers her, and swipes the body. Even though she calls the police, no one believes that she ever saw a body, and her father's ex-partner, Captain Bob, denigrates her skills and the Pants on Fire Detective Agency. So, even though her brother, Rocco, believes her and agrees to investigate, Cat goes rogue..With the aide of her assistant, Cleo, two dogs, and assorted men, Cat sets out to track down a murderer. And, Cat knows the man who kidnapped the body will have her dog's bite mark on his leg (just like Ted Bundy).

I once referred to Cat DeLuca as Stephanie Plum with brains. Bye, Bye Love, with its twists and turns, wacky characters, hot men, and outrageous confrontations, is an entertaining mystery. There's wonderful Italian food and absurd family situations. And, the culminating wedding scene is priceless.

Looking for a witty mystery with a sassy detective, oddball characters, lovable dogs and good food? It doesn't get much more fun than K.J. Larsen's Bye, Bye Love.

K.J. Larsen's website is http://kjlarsenauthor.com

Bye, Bye Love by K.J. Larsen. Poisoned Pen Press. 2015. ISBN 9781464203831 (hardcover), 218p.

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

Saturday, May 09, 2015

A Ghostly Grave by Tonya Kappes

Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky is the home of Emma Lee Raines, undertaker and "Betweener", someone who sees the ghosts of murder victims, and pushes the investigation in the right direction so the ghost can cross over. Tonya Kappes has a great deal of fun with Emma Lee, southern humor and the southern lifestyle in her Ghostly Southern mysteries. And, her latest mystery, Ghostly Grave, asks a serious question. Why would anyone want to kill a chicken farmer?

Only the Sleepy Hollow sheriff and Emma Lee's boyfriend, Jack Henry Ross, believes her that she sees ghosts. So, when she convinces him that Chicken Teater was murdered, Jack Henry orders the body exhumed. But, Jack Henry plans his own investigation while Chicken pushes Emma Lee into all kinds of situations. And, he's more concerned about the hen, Lady Cluckington,  he wanted his wife to enter in a show than he is about his widow, Marla Maria. He thinks she killed him because she was jealous of Lady Cluckington. Emma Lee ends up in a bar across the county line, and even enters a beauty contest, all while wondering why Marla Maria has Jack Henry out at her doublewide.

Kappes' latest mystery is a fun romp through Sleepy Hollow and the neighboring vicinities. Emma Lee and Jack Henry just can't get together to discuss the case, so she takes some risks. What in most characters would be Too Stupid To Live actions, is just Emma Lee Raines' method of operation. She doesn't always think. In fact, she's more like her eccentric Granny than anyone would like to admit. All of the characters are spritely and fun in these books, but Granny stands out, a redhead running around town on a moped, doing yoga on the front porch of the inn she owns, and running for mayor.

A little mystery, a touch of romance, fun characters, ghosts, and a lot of humor. If you're looking for an enjoyable escape, pick up A Ghostly Grave. Don't you want to know why someone would kill a chicken farmer?

Tonya Kappes' website is www.tonyakappes.com

A Ghostly Grave by Tonya Kappes. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062374813 (paperback), 273p.

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

Friday, May 08, 2015

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson's Dry Bones marks the return of Sheriff Walt Longmire and his team in a mystery with echoes from the past. And, it can't go much further back than the ages of the dinosaurs.

Jennifer Watt's dog actually made the discovery, "one of the greatest paleontological discoveries in modern times". Named for Watt, "Jen", the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, was  uncovered in Absaroka County, Wyoming, causing all sorts of troubles for Longmire.  The High Plains Dinosaur Museum seems to have uncovered a treasure, until Danny Lone Elk, the Cheyenne who owns the land where Jen was discovered, is found dead, and there's no evidence of his agreement with the museum. Instead, his family, the tribe, and the Dept. of Justice all lay claim to Jen. And, the FBI is investigating illegal fossil collection and sales of state property.

Walt really has no patience with the acting deputy U.S. attorney who craves publicity. He's not interested in storing dinosaur bones in his jail. Longmire has a murder to investigate, and he'd like to make some progress before his daughter, Cady, arrives from Philadelphia with his five-month-old granddaughter, Lola. But, Danny's family is uncooperative, while the media attention about Jen continues to grow, becoming a campaign to "Save Jen!"

When Deputy Vic Moretti is injured, Longmire turns to old friends Henry Standing Bear, Lucian Connally, Omar Rhoades, and, of course, Dog, to assist in a massive search in the county, as they look for answers. Sheriff Longmire needs answers to Danny Lone Elk's murder, answers that, hopefully, might help to "Save Jen".

As always, Johnson's writing is beautiful, descriptive of the Wyoming setting. The tone is wry, witty at times, but Longmire always takes his job seriously. The humor covers up the serious aspects of Longmire's job; the danger, the threats, the ghosts that are always there. There's a wonderful conversation between Walt and his dispatcher, Ruby, in which he says, "It just seems like I made this deal with the universe to serve and protect, and in return, little by little, I get everything I care about taken away from me."

Mystery readers have intriguing stories, powerful and mystical novels in the Longmire series. At the same time, these are books that should attract readers of westerns who appreciate the Wyoming setting, the Wyoming tribes, and the hero who stands tall against evil.

I'm never disappointed when I eagerly pick up the latest Longmire mystery. I read them for the suspense, the humor, the history, the ghosts and spirituality. Most of all, I read them for the thoughtfully-developed, wonderful characters, beginning with Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear. Dry Bones is another remarkable mystery in a string of strong, superb books by a master who continues to out-do himself. Craig Johnson doesn't rest on his laurels. As he would write, "Boy howdy!" Dry Bones is terrific.

*****
I'm also giving away a copy of Craig Johnson's previous book, Any Other Name, now available in paperback. Walt is supposed to be heading to Philadelphia where Cady is about to give birth. Instead, he teams up with his old boss, Lucian Connally, to look in to the death of a sheriff in a nearby county.  If you'd like to win this book, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Any Other Name." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 14 at 6 PM CT.

Craig Johnson's website is www.craigallenjohnson.com.

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson. Viking. 2015. ISBN 9780525426936 (hardcover), 306p.

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

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Winners

Congratulations to the winners of last week's books. Carolyn Hart's Death at the Door will go to Nancy B. from Ft. Pierce, FL. Played by the Book by Lucy Arlington will go to Jane W. of Milford, CT. The books will go in the mail tomorrow.

And, check the previous blog for this week's giveaways, two mysteries set in England.

Giveaway - The British Connection

I'm kicking off this week's giveaway this morning instead of on Friday. I have a review scheduled for Friday, a book I loved, so the contest starts one day early. I'll still be ending last week's at 6 PM tonight, so I'll announce the winners this evening.

In the meantime, let's head off to England as the setting for two mysteries. The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle is from "The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle". Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes, and is now one of the most hated men in London. When a medium asks him to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to leave the city. But, Hope Thraxton has foreseen her own death at a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research. Oscar Wilde accompanies his friend, Doyle, as the two participate in seances, and consider the possible motives. And, the time gets closer for Hope Thraxton's murder.



Carola Dunn takes us back to 1920s England in the Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Heirs of the Body. In anticipation of Lord Dalrymple's 50th birthday, he decides to interview four would-be heirs to the viscountcy at Fairacres. Daisy, eager to help her cousin, agrees to act as the family representative at the interviews with the claimants. But, when one of the four potential claimants dies suddenly, murder is on everyone's mind.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I'll need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. I want to make this easy for you, and it wouldn't be easy to type The Revenant of Thraxton Hall. So, your subject heading should read either "Win Entwhistle" or "Win Dunn." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 14 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Vicki Delany and Crime Writers of Canada

Friend and author, Vicki Delany, is the President of Crime Writers of Canada. I'm sure most of you don't know as much about that organization as you do about Mystery Writers of America. So, Vicki agreed to an interview so we could discuss the organization. Thank you, Vicki!

Lesa - Vicki, Even though you and I have known each other for over six years, would you re-introduce yourself to my readers?

Vicki - Thanks, Lesa. As Vicki Delany, I have (to date) 16 published books. I write the Constable Molly Smith series, a police procedural set in small-town British Columbia; standalone novels of psychological suspense; the Klondike Gold Rush books; and novellas for reluctant readers, including Juba Good, shortlisted for a 2015 Arthur Ellis award. As Eva Gates, I have a new focus as a cozy writer, author of the Lighthouse Library Series from NAL/Penguin, the first of which is By Book or By Crook.  Even as Vicki I have gone over to the light side, and am writing the Year-Round Christmas mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen will be out in November.  Molly Smith #8 will be out in February, with the title Unreasonable Doubt.

Lesa - I recently interviewed Donna Andrews about Mystery Writers of America. You're currently president of the CWC, Crime Writers of Canada (www.crimewriterscanada.com). What does the CWC do?

Vicki - CWC is the Canadian association for professional crime writers. Our mandate is:

…to promote Canadian crime writing and to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers with readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media. 

We do much the same as the MWA does, promote our members and the genre of crime writing, but we have the added challenge of trying to make Canadian readers, booksellers, and media acknowledge the importance, not to mention the quality, of Canadian crime books. Yes, here in our own country we struggle to get recognition and credit. It has been known more than once for a major media outlet to discuss what’s happening in the world of mysteries or devote space to reviews, without mentioning a single Canadian writer or a book set in Canada.  So we try hard to get them to first notice us, 
second read us.  Librarians, I have to add, have always been keen supporters of Canadian mystery and crime writing.

Lesa - I love your Cool Canadian Crime catalogue, http://www.crimewriterscanada.com/images/stories/PDF-docs/ccc-annual.pdf.Tell us about it, please.

Vicki - Cool Canadian crime fits perfectly into our mandate. It is an up-to-date catalogue of our members' books.  It comes out quarterly, listing all the new books by our members for the current quarter, and annually (in March) with all the year’s books that we are aware of.  The annual is also updated throughout the year as more information comes in.  We’ve found CCC to be hugely popular with readers, libraries, and many bookstores. Anyone can access it from our web page, and those who are so inclined can subscribe to receive the current issue directly into their email inbox when it is ready.

Lesa - Why do you think it's so hard to promote Canadian crime writing?

Vicki - First, let’s distinguish Canadian writing from Canadian-set books.  There are several bestselling Canadian mystery authors who set their books in other countries, and do very well. They seem to have no problem at all achieving success in the local and international market.

But books set in Canada is another story.  Readers of Lesa’s Book Critiques are very well informed I know, but I’d guess that most British or American mystery readers can’t name a Canadian mystery by anyone other than Louise Penny.  It’s been speculated that Canada is considered too boring to have interesting crime (sadly, in real life that’s not true) or that Canada is not considered exotic enough for the reader who likes to travel in their books.  I can’t help but think that the fact that we can’t even get recognition or respect from our own media (see my point above) or our own ‘literary’ community, doesn’t inspire others to respect us either!


Lesa - Many of my readers may know about the Edgar or Agatha awards. Tell us about the Arthur Ellis awards.

Vicki - The Arthurs are our award for excellence in crime writing, given every year by the CWC.  
They are named for Arthur Ellis, which was the nom-de-travaille of Canada’s official hangman. (Back when we had one).  Thus the award is a hanging figure made of wood.  The award is open to Canadian citizens, regardless of where they live, or permanent residents of Canada.  The categories are: Best Crime Novel; Best First Crime Novel; Best Novella; Best Short Story; Best Non-fiction Book, Best French Book, and Best Juvenile Crime Book.  We also award the Unhanged Arthur for best unpublished manuscript. These are juried awards, meaning entries have to be submitted by the publisher or the authors, and three judges in each category select the winners. The awards are presented at our gala dinner at the end of May.  This year, on May 28th in Toronto.  The gala is open to the public and anyone who is interested is more than welcome to attend. To find out more, contact info@crimewriterscanada.com. The current short-list is available on our web page at www.crimewriterscanada.com.

Lesa - Is there a role for readers with the CWC?

Vicki - We love readers! We have a membership category of Associate Members, for industry professionals such as editors, booksellers, libraries, as well as readers. We don’t have programmes for readers apart from what we offer the general public (readings, author events, etc.) but we very much appreciate their support as well as their membership fees. We do things such as place ads in mystery magazines, or have events at conferences in the US to spread the word about all the CWC and its members have to offer. Everything costs money. It costs us even more money right now as the Canadian dollar is quite low.  

The most important role readers have, is to read us! And tell their friends!


CWC Board members, left to right - Vicki Delany, Linda Wiken, and Cathy Ace

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

I loved the unusual characters Charlaine Harris introduced in Midnight Crossroad, the first in her Midnight, Texas series. But, Day Shift is even better. This time, readers really get to know the characters, finding out who most of them really are. The residents of the quiet town include Manfred Bernardo, the psychic, Fiji Cavanaugh, the witch, and Lemuel, a vampire. Lemuel is out of town, though, so he doesn't see the trouble that arrives in town in Day Shift.

It all starts with the remodeling of the defunct Rio Roca Fria Hotel. Why would anyone want to bring a hotel to Midnight? As Manfred remarks, how does anyone stay in business in that town? There isn't enough business for an antiques store, a restaurant, a convenience store. And, now a hotel? The full-time residents are a little uneasy with new people in town. The Rev, of all people, has charge of a small boy. And, then Manfred accidentally calls more attention to Midnight when one of his clients dies.

Occasionally Manfred sees clients in person, and he set up three days for special clients in a Dallas hotel. But, one of his favorites died fifteen minutes after arriving there, and her son accuses Manfred of stealing her jewelry. Of course, the media show up in town, in a town where everyone has secrets. As Manfred bemoans to Fiji, "The boy is growing at twenty times the normal speed. An old hoodlum just popped in to promise us he'd keep silent in return for scones. Mr. Snuggly has uncovered bad doings at the hotel. And I still need to clear my name of the bogus theft charges, which draw attention to Midnight, and therefore to all this other shit that should remain secret."

Secrets. The secrets in Midnight, Texas are intriguing. And, anyone who loves unconventional characters with mysterious gifts will find the town residents captivating. What are a few secrets and odd behaviors between friends? The residents of the town may have little in common other than their preferences for privacy, but they've learned to come together in a crisis. These exceptional people and their secrets make it a pleasure to return to Midnight, Texas. At least, for a reader it's a pleasure. For those with bad intentions, Midnight might not be the best place to face strangers.

Charlaine Harris' gift to her readers is unforgettable characters. Day Shift is a joy, another exceptional novel from a gifted storyteller.

Charlaine Harris' website is www.charlaineharris.com or she can be found at Facebook.com/CharlaineHarris.

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris. Ace Books. 2015. ISBN 9780425263198 (hardcover), 307p.

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