Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not a Thing

I have nothing to post for today. Wait until tomorrow, though, because I'll have at least the start of the June Treasures in My Closet.

I was up too late on Thursday night with the Edgar Awards, and posting. Friday, I had friends over. We had Staff Institute at work, half day on Thursday, and a longer session on Friday. So, no reading time, and tiring days.

It's going to be a rainy weekend here, perfect for books, and cats. So, are you home reading something good, or is your weather perfect for spring?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Winners and An Amish Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Barbara W. of Auburn, WA will receive Here Comes the Bribe. Debbie GS won Terror in Taffeta. The books will go out in the mail on Saturday.

This week, I have two mysteries set in the world of the Amish, two very different mysteries, but two of my favorite series. A Churn for the Worse by Laura Bradford features shop owner Claire Weatherly and Detective Jakob Fisher. While the story begins with the death of an Amish farmer, it takes time for anyone to realize the death is connected to a series of robberies in the Amish community.

Bradford's series is on the cozier size of the mystery genre. Linda Castillo's mysteries are not. In After the Storm, Painters Mill Police Chief Kate Burkholder and her team are caught up in the aftermath of a tornado that tore through the town. When human remains were uncovered by the storm, it's up to Burkholder to identify the bones and notify the family. But, when evidence emerges that the death was not an accident, Kate find herself looking into a thirty-year-old case that takes her deep in the Ohio Amish community.

You have two terrific mysteries to pick from, but you can enter to win both. I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win A Churn for the Worse" or "Win After the Storm." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 5 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Edgar Award Winners 2016

Congratulations to the winners of this year's Edgar Awards, presented by Mystery Writers of America.

Mary Higgins Clark Award – Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day
Robert L. Fish Award - Russell W. Johnson for "Ching Ling Soo's Greatest Tricks"
2016 Best TV Episode - Peter Flannery for "Gently With the Women", George Gently, Acorn TV
Best Juvenile Book – Foster Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught
Best Young Adult – A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Best Critical/Biographical – A Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
Best Fact Crime – Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil
Best Short Story – “Obits” by Stephen King in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Best Paperback Original – The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
Best First Novel by an American Author – The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Best Mystery Novel – Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
Walter Mosley is this year’s Grand Master.
Janet Rudolph won the Ellery Queen Award.
Raven Awards went to Margaret Kinsman and SINCnational.

Extreme Prey by John Sandford

I was late coming to John Sandford's Prey books, but I'm totally hooked. I'm not going back in this series since I know what happened with Lucas Davenport's career, but I've enjoyed the ones I've read. And, Sandford's latest, Extreme Prey, is perfect for an election year.

Lucas Davenport is no longer a cop. He resigned from Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. But, when the governor, Elmer Henderson, calls, Lucas is quick to answer. His wife knows he's going stir-crazy. And, he can see himself coming back to a job with a badge under the right circumstances. This time, he doesn't have a badge, but Henderson needs his help. The governor wants to be vice-president, but he's running for president in order to get his name in front of the presidential candidate. Michaela Bowden is the leading candidate on the Democratic side. But, Henderson is a little uneasy. He's had contact with a couple people who worry him, people who seem to be threatening Bowden. She won't take it seriously, but Davenport does.

Lucas Davenport crisscrosses Iowa, and discovers there are a lot of political nuts out there. And, someone is killing them off, targeting the ones that seem willing to talk. With each death, Lucas grows a little more worried. And, the Iowa State Fair is getting closer with a presidential candidate determined to acknowledge the voters by showing up where it's harder to protect her.

Sandford's latest book is timely, and fascinating. While Davenport fumbles for answers, the reader knows who the killers are. For much of the book, Lucas suspects one political group, but misses the real culprits. As he gets closer, he becomes a target, a big target who has exposed himself to all the suspects. But, Davenport has more than his intelligence and experience going for him. He has friends he can count on.

Extreme Prey is witty, fast-paced, and timely. It's a riveting story, just perfect for this election year.

John Sandford's website is

Extreme Prey by John Sandford. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2016. ISBN 9780399176050 (hardcover), 406p.

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Are You Reading?

Well, it was a little nerve wracking for a while last night, with my cell phone, the TV, the tornado sirens, everything going off with a tornado warning here. I should have known I was OK. None of the cats panicked, and Josh just sat and tried to figure out why I was gathering things to go sit in the only inner room I have, the guest bathroom.

So, who could read last night? Not me. I am reading John Sandford's Extreme Prey, the perfect book for a Presidential election year. Lucas Davenport is no longer a cop, but that doesn't mean the governor of Minnesota doesn't call on him when he suspects there's someone threatening a candidate.

What are you reading?

(And, Jeff, did you finish your book?)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

I read some of the comments about Kemper Donovan's debut novel, The Decent Proposal. While the premise is interesting, and the contrast between the characters is certainly written effectively, somehow I missed what everyone seems to find delightful. Other reviewers have pointed out the humor, and that the book is a "romantic comedy". Missed that totally.

Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, sculptured and good-looking, a partier who drinks too much, co-owner of a production company in L.A. that isn't doing well. He loves L.A., and he's broke. Elizabeth Santiago is a Latina lawyer who works so hard she's called La Maquina, The Machine. She's a voluptuous woman who loves New York, and leads a quiet, orderly life. And, some anonymous benefactor decides to offer them each a half million dollars if they'll spend two continuous hours a week for a year, talking to each other. They're not to search for the benefactor, and neither of them can figure out what they have in common or why someone selected them.

Would you do it, talk to someone for two hours a week? Richard desperately needs the money. Elizabeth has a pet project she would help with the money. While the first meetings couldn't have been any more awkward, the two finally stumble on discussions of books and movies. They're willing to give it a chance, but Richard's best friend, Michaela "Mike" Kim, isn't happy at all. Although she threw Richard over, now she's secretly in love with him, and she fears she'll lose him to Elizabeth.

Don't get me wrong. The Decent Proposal is an enjoyable debut novel with an intriguing premise. But sometimes I think I'm the wrong generation for novels that others find amusing. I fail to see the humor in sarcastic lines that cut other people down, or more than one character drinking until they pass out.

I can appreciate a premise that brings two unlikely people together for conversations about books and movies, conversations that force them to look at each other with fresh eyes. In fact, the plot seems to deal with the recent experiments with people who ask each other questions, and find they fall in love. Given two hours a week for a year, time spent in conversation, will two people fall in love? Kemper Donovan poses that interesting question in The Decent Proposal.

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan. HarperCollins. 2016. ISBN 9780062391629 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Come Dark by Steven F. Havill

Every time I read one of Steven F. Havill's Posadas County mysteries, I urge readers to try one. Come Dark may be my favorite in the series, an excellent example of a small-town sheriff's department working together in a community where they know the people and the usual suspects.

NightZone is the name of the astronomy theme park that has been a dream in several of the books. It's not yet open, but it's attracting attention from the media, bringing in workers and gawkers, adding to the economy in Posadas, New Mexico.  The other attraction for the local media is the girls' high school volleyball team with their sixty-fifth consecutive win. But, when a railroad car at NightZone is tagged, and the volleyball coach is shot dead at the school, the sheriff's department can only hope the media doesn't catch wind of the latest problems in Posadas.

With a small department, it takes everyone to deal with the unusual events in one week, including the murder. There's the mother who left her child in a locked car in a parking lot, and disappeared. There's the teenage artist in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after hitting a deer and a pole. People in town, from second graders to the volleyball team, are affected by the coach's death. And, everyone from Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman to Sheriff Robert Torrez to the retired sheriff, Bill Gastner, is pulled in to help with the cases. And, they're a little shorthanded with one staff member out, nine months pregnant, and the office manager home with her baby.

The murder of the coach is a complicated, intriguing case. But, much of the pleasure in this book, and Havill's other mysteries, comes from watching the careful, step-by-step investigation of the case, with every member of the department filling their role. Over the course of the series, Gastner, and then Reyes-Guzman have been featured, but the stories wouldn't be as interesting if we didn't see the changes in the department as it truly became a diverse department reflecting the population in Posadas. And, there's the added pleasure of watching Reyes-Guzman's family grow and change.

Bill Gastner sums up this book, and so many police procedurals. "People make mistakes, you know. It all starts with some little thing, something that by itself seems of little consequence. And then, the big slide down that long, slippery slope. Sometimes we catch 'em before they hit bottom, and sometimes we don't."

If you like police procedurals, you need to read Steven F. Havill. And, Come Dark may be my favorite.

Come Dark by Steven F. Havill. Poisoned Pen Press. 2016. ISBN 9781464205255 (hardcover), 298p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Chat - May's Cozy Mysteries from Penguin Random House

Before the book chat, I owe Claire Donally an apology. She's the author of Catch as Cat Can, and somewhere on the paperwork, I had Dawn Eastman as the author. The video gives the wrong author. The listing below has it right.

Here's May's book chat, with a cameo by Jinx.

Here are the books featured this month.

A Fatal Chapter - Lorna Barrett (9th Booktown Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Gone with the Witch - Heather Blake (6th Wishcraft Mystery)
Hearse and Gardens - Kathleen Bridge (2nd Hampton Home & Garden Mystery)
Ripped from the Pages - Kate Carlisle (9th Bibliophile Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Berry the Hatchet - Peg Cochran (2nd Cranberry Cove Mystery)
Catch as Cat Can - Claire Donally (5th Sunny & Shadow Mystery)
A Finely Knit Murder - Sally Goldenbaum (9th Seaside Knitters Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Murder at Lambswool Farm - Sally Goldenbaum (11th Seaside Knitters Mystery, hardcover)
Don't Go Home - Carolyn Hart (25th Death on Demand Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Seams Like Murder - Betty Hechtman (10th Crochet Mystery)
Mrs. Malory and Death is a Word - Hazel Holt (19th and final Sheila Malory Mystery)
Irish Stewed - Kylie Logan (1st Ethnic Eats Mystery)
Newlywed Dead - Nancy J. Parra (3rd Perfect Proposals Mystery)
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue - Victoria Thompson (17th Gaslight Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Murder in Morningside Heights - Victoria Thompson (19th Gaslight Mystery, hardcover)
Checked Out - Elaine Viets  (14th Dead-End Job Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
The Art of Murder - Elaine Viets (15th Dead-End Job Mystery, hardcover)
A Useful Woman - Darcie Wilde (1st Rosalind Thorne Mystery)

And, here's Jinx, preparing for his role. He really would like a speaking part. You can tell since he's sitting on the script.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

Mary Margaret Miller. Mimi. Meem. Even Babe. Whatever name she goes by, Mary Margaret is one of the most memorable narrators I've met in a long time. She's matter-of-fact as she tells the bittersweet story of the home she loved her entire life in Anna Quindlen's latest novel,  Miller's Valley.

Mimi's mother became important when she married a Miller, and moved to his farm in Miller's Valley. And, she was a nurse, a self-assured woman. So, everyone in town waited for Miriam to speak up, to fight for Miller's Valley when the government announced their plan to resettle everyone and drown the town. But, Miriam saw change coming long before everyone, even her daughter. And, Mary Margaret never did understand her mother and why her mother seemed so ready to let everything disappear.

Mimi, a quiet girl, watches her parents as her father farms and works as a fix-it man for the entire community. Her mother is a nurse, working long shifts at the hospital. Mimi's Aunt Ruth lives in a small house on the back of the family farm, and refuses to leave the house, even when the valley floods. Mimi's brothers are much older. Ed is already gone, in college, and then working as an engineer. Tommy. Tommy, the light of his mother's eyes, is idolized in town, but once he enlists during Vietnam, he'll never be the same. And, of course, there's Miller's Valley, the town Mimi loves, threatened for years by floods, and by government plans to flood the town.

The line I see quoted from this book is "But no one ever leaves the town where they grew up, not really, even if they go." It's a line that summarizes the book better than any book review does. How do you sum up a book that covers years in a family and a community? This is Mary Margaret's story to tell, and she tells is better than any reviewer. She's reflective, serious as she tells the story of her life and her family's lives. It's an unpretentious story that tells the truth, the good and the bad. But, it's told from Mimi's viewpoint, and she doesn't always understand her parents or her brother, Tommy. They're real people, leading ordinary lives, sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful.

As Mary Margaret looks back at Miller's Valley, back at the people she loved, she's matter-of-fact, telling the story as it was, from her standpoint. It's a bittersweet story. But, Mary Margaret Miller, with her candid conversation about the town and her family, brings them to life in Anna Quindlen's quietly powerful, unforgettable, Miller's Valley.

Anna Quindlen's website is

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen. Random House. 2016. ISBN 9780812996081 (hardcover), 259p.

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Winner and A Bridal Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to Daniel M. of Weymouth, Massachusetts, winner of The Semper Sonnet by Seth Margolis.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries dealing with brides. Marla Cooper's Terror in Taffeta introduces wedding planner Kelsey McKenna, who specializes in destination weddings. But, Mexico doesn't turn out to be a paradise for Kelsey when a bridesmaid dies during a wedding, and the demanding mother-of-the-bride informs Kelsey it's her job to take care of everything, even a murder investigation.

In Here Comes the Bribe by Mary Daheim, Innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn welcomes her latest guests who say they're in town for their daughter's wedding. But, she's shocked when the man tells her he's eager to see his long-lost mother, and he claims it's Judith. Now, Judith has her hands full with the unexpected family ties and a dead body in the backyard.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Terror in Taffeta" or "Win Here Comes the Bribe." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 28 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

Con Lehane's intricately plotted mystery, Murder at the 42nd Street Library, is filled with complex, dysfunctional characters with twisted lives. At the same time, it's a love letter to New York City, an atmospheric story that begins and ends with tragedy at the building we all think of as THE New York Public Library, the Main Branch of the system.

Dr. James Donnelly was shot and killed right in front of the director of the Special Collections Division of the New York Public Library, but, for some reason Harry Larkin never admitted to seeing the killer. However, Raymond Ambler, curator of the crime fiction collection, had a "proclivity to take on quixotic battles for truth and justice that no one else cared about". When he learned Donnelly's interests were entwined with an author researching the newly acquired Nelson Yates collection of papers, Raymond became interested. In fact, he tried to follow up by talking with Yates, a crime writer who hadn't wanted the collection donated to the library. By the time Ray and his colleague, Adele Morgan, talked to Yates, it was too late. The author suffered from dementia, and couldn't always concentrate. Of Donnelly's death, Yates said the chickens are coming home to roost. But, that was before Yates himself was killed.

Ray's friend Adele seems to have the same inclinations he does. As she becomes interested in the large cast of characters surrounding Nelson Yates, she's drawn to a young shoeshine boy. Her interest in the boy leads her into surprising, sometimes frightening, situations. And, it isn't long before Ray and his bartender friend, Brian McNulty, are as caught up in Adele's search for answers as she is.

In fact, in this story, the good guys, Ray, Adele, McNulty, and Ray's cop friend, NYPD homicide detective Mike Cosgrove, are sometimes just as tormented and troubled as the bad guys. Sometimes, as they struggle to find answers, their misguided bumbling leads to worse problems.

Research and listening. In this book, Lehane brings together characters from two different series. Brian McNulty is his bartender from an earlier series, a man who listens, and knows you shouldn't dig too far into people's pasts. In the new series, it's Cosgrove's job to do that, while Ambler also wants answers.

The author answers one question. What does an amateur sleuth get out of snooping? Ambler isn't really interested in whodunnit. "What interested him was why; the level of desperation that makes someone murder and the missteps and misfortunes that make someone else a killer's victim, the twists and turns of life's paths that bring them together."

Twists and turns. Complex characters with twisted histories. Together Ray and Adele uncover shattered lives and lies that are sadly mirrored in present lives. Con Lehane launches a new series with Murder at the 42nd Street Library, as he cleverly starts and ends the tragic story in a place filled with stories and secrets, a library.

Con Lehane's website is

Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane. Minotaur Books. 2016. ISBN 9781250009966 (hardcover), 307p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Although I am acknowledged in this book, in my professional capacity, I received this book from the publisher, with no promises or expectations for a good review.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is an Australian author, so many of us may not have heard of her or her books. But, The Railwayman's Wife was published in Australia and the UK, and went on to win or be a finalist for prestigious awards in Australia. Now, we're lucky enough to have this quiet, moving novel available in the U.S.

The story is set in the Australian coastal town of Thirroul in 1948,  in the aftermath of World War II. People are still broken, the war widows, the veterans drifting home even a couple years after the war. Anikka Lachlan feels fortunate. Her husband, Mac, works for the railway so he was needed at home. The couple lead a quiet life, celebrating birthdays and special days with their daughter, Isabel, who is about to turn ten. In fact, they're getting ready to make a special occasion of Isabel's birthday when Mac is killed in a railway accident.

The representative from the railway promises Anikka she'll be compensated, and offers her the job at the Railway Institute library where the present librarian is retiring. Although it means changes to the family schedule, Ani accepts, because she doesn't know how she was going to fill her days with Mac. But, she's now a celebrity of sorts, the newest widow in town. "She had never appreciated before the lovely anonymity of an unremarkable life."

Ani isn't as anonymous as she would like to be. Roy McKinnon, a poet returned from the war, unable to write, is fascinated by the woman who seems to shine with an inner light. She, unknowingly, becomes his inspiration.

Can a novel be said to be graceful? Hay introduces a small community of people still suffering from the aftershocks of war, and, in Ani's case, death. Roy is unable to write, or to sleep. His friend, Dr. Frank Draper, once dated Roy's sister, and went to war to see the world. He saw death, and now he's returned, knowing "Nothing will ever be all right." The book is told in present tense, as Ani and Roy, and even Mac, experience the events in their quiet lives. But, in a novel that's intense in it's philosophical wonderings, Hay explores the pain and loneliness and loss in quiet lives.

Quiet. Ashley Hay's The Railwayman's Wife is a quiet novel of desperation. It's beautiful, a story that seems simple but is as complicated and painful as life itself. Just beautiful.

Ashley Hay's website is

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay. Atria Books. 2013/2016. ISBN 9781501112171 (hardcover), 269p.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Let's talk about libraries. For some reason, three of the books I'm reading involve libraries in one way or another (and one involves books and teenagers, while the final one has nothing to do with the subject). Let's talk as Seth Margolis did, about your childhood library, or your child's public library, or the one you love the most.

And, I'm going to tell you about the libraries in the three books I'm reading since I'm not ready to review any of them.

The next book I review will be Ashley Hay's The Railwayman's Wife, a book set post-World War II in Australia. Anikka Lachlan becomes the librarian at the Railway Institute's library. But, even before she does, she and her family use the local library. "Such fascinating things, libraries. She closes her eyes. She could walk inside and step into a murder, a love story, a complete account of somebody else's life, or mutiny on the high seas. Such potential; such adventure-there's a shimmer of malfeasance in trying other ways of being."

I'm reading Con Lehane's Murder at the 42nd Street Library, set at the building we all think of as THE New York Public Library. And, although he's added a room or a collection here or there, anyone who has been there will recognize the lions, the reading room, even the doors by the children's department. And, I had two Advanced Reader's Copies here, but it wasn't until I opened an actual hardcover of the book that I saw Con dedicated it, "For Librarians Everywhere", and acknowledged some of us. I have to thank him for the lengthy acknowledgement, although I can't even remember what I told him about libraries.

The third book I'm reading is not totally about libraries. It's an ARC, 502 pages, that isn't due out until the end of May, but I started it now to slowly read and appreciate the essays in it. The View from the Cheap Seats is Neil Gaiman's collection of over sixty nonfiction essays. Gaiman loves libraries, supports libraries, and speaks often of books and libraries and his childhood spent in libraries. Gaiman's first essay in the book is "Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming," which was a speech. His second one was also a speech, his Newbery acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book. It includes the story of his childhood in the public library.

That first speech, made in England in support of libraries, is eloquent in its passion. "We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future."

Three totally different books that, by serendipity, happened to end up next on my TBR pile all at the same time.

Now, if you're so inclined, you can discuss your favorite library, your childhood library, or any of the quotes or comments about these books. I can't wait to read your notes.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Flawless by Heather Graham

Sometimes, there's just nothing like the romantic suspense writers who know how to write strong female characters, sexy men, and interesting settings. Heather Graham and Nora Roberts immediately come to mind. This time, it's Heather Graham with a novel set in an Irish pub in the heart of New York City, Finnegan's. And, everyone who loves a good Irish pub knows Finnegan's. Unfortunately, everyone knows Finnegan's, as Graham writes in Flawless.

Sometimes best friends and younger brothers can be trouble, as Kieran Finnegan knows. Here she is, working as a psychologist for a firm that consults with the police, spending her off-hours working in the family pub, and her best friend, Julie, and brother, Danny, hatch some stupid scheme to get back at Julie's slimy almost ex-husband, Gary. Now, it's up to Kieran to try to fix it, but her return to Gary's place of employment, a jewelry store, lands her in the middle of a robbery. It also lands her on the floor of a van beneath the FBI agent who jumps in to try to save her. Craig Frasier has been working a series of robberies. The crew they catch, with Kieran's help, seem to be harmless. But, someone with the same methods is killing witnesses at those jewelry store robberies.

While Craig Frasier fights his attraction to Kieran because she's a witness, Kieran worries the robberies have some connection with her brothers or Finnegan's, and she certainly doesn't want Craig to find out why she was at the jewelry store the day of the robbery. She's afraid to learn what her youngest brother might know. Both Craig and Kieran think the robberies have some connection to the  family pub. Now, they have to find those robbers because someone thinks Kieran knows too much.

Flawless is Graham's typical fast-paced romantic suspense novel with attractive, interesting characters. However, not all the characters are flawless. Julie may have been a childhood friend of all the Finnegans, but she comes across as a ditz who doesn't understand how her scheme threatens all of Kieran's family. But, the Finnegans are a caring, charming family, and it's a treat to read about their family relationship.

Kieran is in a difficult situation, falling for an FBI agent while trying to keep secrets to protect her family and her own actions. But, she's a caring, hardworking woman, who deserves the romance that comes her way.

It is a treat to read about New York City. Between Kieran's travels for work, and Danny's passion for his job as a tour guide, there are snippets of history and tourist information in the story. The city comes to life in the book.

Excitement, suspense, romance, family, and, all surrounding an Irish pub in New York City. Heather Graham's Flawless, except for a few characters, is almost flawless romantic suspense.

Heather Graham's website is

Flawless by Heather Graham. MIRA. 2016. ISBN 9780778318811 (hardcover), 299p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What Are You Reading?

I finally finished Eric Grode's The Book of Broadway, but you already heard about it when I bought that book. And, I was reading Shakespeare's Richard III last evening, since I'm going to see it today. I would never feel as if I could review Shakespeare. Maybe a play I went to see, not the play that I'm reading. I also have a pile of books I'm reading. And, let's face it. It was just a gorgeous weekend here, in the 70s. So, between plays and weather, we'll see what I finish by Monday.

So, what are you reading this weekend? Or, are you out enjoying the weather, too?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell

Edith Maxwell launches a new historical mystery series with an outstanding, character-driven book. Set in 1888, in the author's hometown of Amesbury, Massachusetts, it's a wonderful introduction to a lifestyle, religion, and profession most of us are unfamiliar with. Delivering the Truth introduces Rose Carroll, a Quaker midwife. Who better to know the family secrets that the police are not privy to than a midwife?

At twenty-six, Rose has a reputation as the best midwife in town. She tends to women at all levels of society, and, when she has a difficult delivery, she calls on Doctor David Dodge for assistance. She and David have just started seeing each other, but the couple will have to deal with class and religious differences. But, first, Rose will have to deal with murder.

From birth scenes to family scenes, the reader gets to know Rose and Amesbury. Rose moved in with her brother-in-law's family after her sister's death, and she accompanies her oldest niece, Faith, to the Parry Carriage Factory where Faith hopes to get a glimpse of one of the workers, Zeb, at shift change. Faith herself is a mill girl, working ten hours a day. They miss seeing him, but, fortunately, he's not at the factory that night when fire destroys it, and the lives of some of the men inside. The fire spread, destroying other buildings, and threatening homes. And, the news only gets worse when rumors spread that it was arson. When police detective Kevin Donovan asks Rose to keep her eyes and ears open, he's asking what she's heard about the fire that destroyed the Carriage Hill factories. He doesn't want her asking questions, though, when a young man is killed, a young man well known in town.

Rose Carroll is the perfect sleuth, a woman who has dealt with life and death, a woman supported by her faith and her faith community. She admits, though, that she has a hard time waiting for guidance. Patience is not one of her virtues. However, she has friends, including the poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who are part of the Friends meeting, people she trusts who will listen.

Maxwell skillfully introduces readers to the setting, Amesbury, and the mills and workers. Delivering the Truth is an atmospheric, character-driven mystery. Rose Carroll is a believable, reflective sleuth, a strong engaging character. Maxwell delves into the life of a Quaker midwife, the homes she's welcomed into, and the homes where she is not so welcome.  The author successfully blends mystery and history in a fascinating complex story of lies and family and society. Best of all, she introduces readers to Rose Carroll, a thoughtful woman determined to find justice.

Edith Maxwell's website is

Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell. Midnight Ink. 2016. ISBN 9780738747521 (paperback), 312p.

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

Friday, April 15, 2016

Seth Margolis, Guest Author, and Giveaway

I always feel fortunate when a guest author wants to write about libraries. Of course, I'm prejudiced,
but these posts often touch my heart.

If you're not familiar with Seth Margolis' books, he writes page-turners. His latest, The Semper Sonnet, is a thriller in the tradition of Dan Brown and Steve Berry. Watch for more about his book, and a giveaway, at the end of the post.

Thank you, Seth, for taking time to write this about libraries.

Do you remember Supermarket Sweep? It was a television game show that began in 1965 and has been revived several times since.  On the show, contestants raced through an empty supermarket frantically tossing items into their cart. Whoever had amassed the most value during the designated time was the winner.
That was my experience, as a kid, when I entered my town’s public library. I would race up and down the long aisles of bookshelves, overwhelmed by the abundance of choices and (just like on Supermarket Sweep) amazed that it was all free for the taking. Like the show, the town library seemed to exist in a parallel universe in which the normal rules of adulthood didn’t apply. You could take whatever you wanted. As much as you wanted. And it cost you nothing.
I grew up in a suburb of New York City, one of five kids. Each Thursday after school, my mother would pile us into our station wagon and drive us to the library. Back in the 1960s it was housed in the town’s “rec” center – there wasn’t a dedicated library building. I recall that it was dimly lit and very cramped, with shelves that went up to the ceiling to compensate for the limited space available in a building otherwise dedicated to basketball, billiards and ping pong. I think the tight quarters and labyrinthine setup was part of the magic for me, getting lost in a maze of giant shelves crammed with books. In my memories of those afternoons, I didn’t see my mother or my siblings – or anyone else, for that matter – until I lugged my stack of books to the front desk for checkout. This may not have been the case, but it’s how I remember it: a heady sense of freedom and solitude, rare in a family of seven, somehow heightened by the tight, murky quarters.
Like the Supermarket Sweeps contestants, who invariably made a beeline for the meat section to load up on pricey steaks, I tended to reach for the higher shelves, where the books were written at too advanced a grade level, and I grabbed way too many to finish before the next library excursion a week later. But that was part of the joy of our weekly visits: there just didn’t seem to be any negative consequences to reaching too high or taking too much. You just brought them all back the next week and started over.
Eventually the library moved into a purpose-built building, which was subsequently expanded. My mother became a library trustee, no doubt at least in part because she and her five kids were such voracious borrowers. It was (and is) a spacious, light-filled building, and I never stopped borrowing books there until I moved away. But my earliest, most enduring association with books, with reading in general, always takes me back to the dark, cramped temporary library in the rec center. It was mysterious and private and unexpectedly captivating, exactly like the experience of reading itself.

Thank you so much, Seth, for taking us into your memories of your childhood library. I'm sure it brings back memories for so many of us.
Seth's publicist is giving away one copy of The Semper Sonnet. Here's the description.

In this stunning thrill ride, perfect for fans of Steve Berry, a poem holds the key to unlocking the past― and to eliminating the future.

Lee Nicholson takes the academic world by storm, seemingly unearthing a never-before published sonnet by William Shakespeare. When she reads the poem on the air, her words are ignored by all but a small group of people. There are the English and literature buffs. There are the curious and those who seek out hoaxes.

And there are men who will kill to keep the sonnet from every being read again.

Buried in the language of the sonnet, in its allusions and wordplay, secrets have been hidden dating back to Elizabethan times, shared by the queen and her doctor, by men who seek the crown and men who seek the world. If the riddles are solved, it could explode what the world knows of the monarchy. Or, it could release a pandemic more deadly than the world has ever seen.

Lee’s quest keeps her one step ahead of an international hunt―from the police who want her for murder, to a group of men who will stop at nothing to end her quest, to a mad man who pursues the answers for destructive reasons of his own. Globetrotting as she pieces together what Shakespeare meant, and what he meant to leave unsaid, Lee carries this intelligent thriller through to its gasp-out-loud conclusion.

If you would like to enter the giveaway of The Semper Sonnet, email me at Your subject line should read, "Win The Semper Sonnet." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway ends Thursday, April 21 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Winners and Next Giveaway

The next giveaway is on Friday, but, since it includes a guest post, I wanted to announce the winners now. Trish R. from Decatur, GA won Miranda James' No Cats Allowed. Pauline B. won Between a Book and a Hard Place by Denise Swanson. The books will go out in the mail on Friday.

Now Go Out There (and Get Curious) by Mary Karr

Mary Karr's small book seems to be a collection of sound bites. However, isn't that what graduation speeches usually are? A speaker may talk for twenty minutes or longer, and somewhere in there may be a gem or two that a graduate remembers on the day they're celebrating the conclusion of a high school or college career. In this case, Karr's speech for the 2015 graduation class at Syracuse University became the book Now Go Out There (and Get Curious).

Karr looks back at her own life, and uses that as a basis for her speech, telling students the low points in their lives may become the moments that benefit them the most. As a poet, essayist and memoir writer who has lived a fascinating life, she is qualified to talk about the low moments. In discussing college, she says, "If you're really lucky, you had your heart broken, because that made you a deeper person and maybe forced you to find friends to learn from."

She talks about fear, fear of the future, fear of success and failure. "That's how fear works, isn't it? Getting what you want often scares you more than not getting it." But, it was her comment about the hard times that resonated with me, since I'm the kind of person who believes things happen for a reason. When I didn't get a job, I always said, "Well, it wasn't meant to be. It must not have been the right job for me." Karr suggests we talk to ourselves, saying, "This hard spell might be the start of something truly great I can't foresee right now because I'm scared shitless."

Mary Karr concludes her speech by encouraging students to get out there, to be curious, and compassionate, and they'll find their way in the world. Now Go Out There (and Get Curious) is a small book, appropriate for a graduate speech, appropriate for a graduation gift. It's a book of pithy comments about life, and learning to live it.

Mary Karr's website is

Now Go Out There (and Get Curious) by Mary Karr. HarperCollins. 2016. ISBN 9780062442093 (hardcover), 112p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper & Gloria Vanderbilt

After hearing Anderson Cooper at PLA, talking about his conversation with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, I picked up the book about that conversation. The Rainbow Comes and Goes is the story of their life, told through a year-long conversation after Vanderbilt turned ninety-one. Cooper challenged us at the conference to have a meaningful conversation with members of our family.

Vanderbilt and Cooper are the last survivors in their immediate family. When his mother was hospitalized at ninety-one, Cooper realized there were questions about her life that he had never asked. He didn't know about her relationship with her mother, and the "trial of the century" that awarded Gloria's custody to an aunt she didn't know. He didn't know about his mother's numerous lovers (and was a little squeamish when it came to knowing about his mother's love life). And, the two of them never really talked about the death of Cooper's beloved father, his brother's suicide, or the fact that Anderson Cooper is gay. But, a year-long email correspondence brought them much closer, and revealed emotions and feelings neither knew the other had.

At ninety-one, Gloria Vanderbilt had rich stories to tell her son. But so many of them stemmed from the loss of her father when she was a toddler, and the loss of a mother she never really knew. Vanderbilt developed "a rage to live" as she called it. Her restlessness, her searches for love, stemmed from the lack of a home, stability and love as a child. Even so, she's the optimist in the family, the one who still believes in fairy tales, and, as her son says, that there is a the right man in a yacht in the Mediterranean, just waiting for her.

Cooper, too, feels he is fueled by rage, but it's the rage of losing his father and brother. Both mother and son feel as if they need to keep moving forward, not becoming "too self-reflective or too mired in the pain of the past".  Cooper sees himself as a catastrophist, just waiting for the next catastrophe. Because his mother never had a plan, from the time he was ten and lost his father, Anderson Cooper has felt he needed to be the one in the family with a plan. He is always searching for security.

When Gloria Vanderbilt quotes writer Mary Gordon, "A fatherless girl thinks all things possible and nothing safe," her son agrees. He said when he lost his father at the age of ten, he lost the fantasy of childhood. He knew bad things happen to people, and nothing was safe. He says he is not the person he would have been if his father had lived.

With the name Vanderbilt, most people immediately think of money. The Rainbow Comes and Goes is not a book about money. It's a book about two lonely, lost souls, both of whom suffered great losses in their lives. It's actually a very sad book despite the connection Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt still have.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. HarperCollins. 2016. ISBN 9780062454942 (hardcover), 290p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mystery Authors Revealed

The Association of American Publishers and LibraryReads sponsored a wonderful program at the
Talia Sherer
Public Library Association's recent conference. Called "Mystery Authors Revealed", it featured five mystery authors, and a wonderful moderator, my friend, Talia Sherer, who is the Director of Library Marketing for Macmillan.

Talia welcomed the audience of librarians, saying she was first going to introduce her crush, C.J. Box.  Box mentioned his new Joe Pickett mystery, Off the Grid, but then he proceeded to talk about books and libraries. He said he loved libraries and librarians. Librarians introduced him to mysteries. He read all the Encyclopedia Brown books, and if his library didn't have them, they borrowed them for him. Then, when he finished that series, they challenged him to read other books.

Some authors have a goal of seeing their book on the shelf at the library. He always wanted to see someone reading his book on a plane. It happened with his third book. He asked the man if he wanted him to sign it, and he said, "No!" Then, when he was in the Paris airport with his wife, he told a man that was his book, and he said, "No, I bought that in Denver."

Box tries to make his novels as accurate to the real contemporary West as he can, the West as he knows it, coming from Cheyenne, Wyoming. His first Joe Pickett mystery, Open Season, was published when he was forty. He's had twenty-two books since. His latest Joe Pickett, Off the Grid, came out in March.

C.J. Box told the audience he likes to do library events. He said most authors appreciate libraries, but he's heard some authors say they don't like people borrowing their books from the library. His response? How dumb are those authors who disparage their sales force - libraries? He said men and boys check out his books at the library, and continue to read them, sometimes buying them. He said a number of his readers tell him they first checked their books out at the library.

Talia introduced Stephanie Barron next. Barron, who also writes as Francine Matthews, is a former CIA analyst. As Barron, she writes mysteries featuring Jane Austen. The latest is Jane and the Waterloo Map. Barron also talked about her childhood library experiences, walking to the library to check out her favorite picture books such as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel or Make Way for Ducklings. As the youngest of six girls, she enjoyed taking the cards out of the pockets of the library books to see her older sisters' names on the cards. Barron's oldest sister is now on the library board at that library.

Stephanie Barron
Barron has written thirteen novels about Jane Austen as a detective. However, at the time when Jane and the Waterloo Map is set, 1815, Austen didn't know it, but she had only eighteen more months to live. Barron doesn't know if she can bear to write about that time. This one might be the last in the series. She hasn't decided yet.

When Talia introduced former grade school teacher, Heather Gudenkauf, she said the author has three tips for writers. 1. Read. 2. Set up a writing routine. 3. Write what you know.  Gudenkauf, author of Missing Pieces, also wanted to talk about her childhood, and a toy box. But, she began by talking about "The Music Man". That musical was set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa, and it had a foot bridge and a library. It was based on Mason City, Iowa where Heather grew up. That town really had a foot bridge, and you crossed over it to go to the public library.

Heather Gudenkauf was born with a hearing loss in her left ear. School was very difficult for her. She could hear about every third word. But, once a month, when she was in third grade, the teacher would give the students their library cards, and walk them across that bridge to the library. There, a librarian would read them a story, and release them to pick out books. They could each have two or three books. She never understood why they were limited to just two or three books. Then, they would walk back across that bridge to school.

Heather Gudenkauf
She told us that school was a challenge, and she hated wearing her hearing aids, so she often left them on the bus. Then, her father would take her back to school to search the bus until they found the hearing aids. And, they always found them. But, even with the hearing aids, it was exhausting to try to listen. At home she had five brothers and sisters and a number of animals. She wanted to get away from it all. So, she would go to this large wooden homemade toy box, pull out the toys, and climb in with her flashlight and a blanket. Heather would close the lid and read mysteries such as Nancy Drew.

When Gudenkauf returned to that same school as a fourth grade teacher, she, too, would pass out the library cards, and walk her students across that same bridge to the library. Now, she understood why they were limited to two or three books because fourth grade boys, a bridge, water, and books don't necessarily mix.

Eventually, Gudenkauf married and moved to Dubuque, Iowa. Her parents painted the toy box cream colored, and filled it with linens, and gave it to her. Now, when she and her brothers and sisters get together and reminisce, and she doesn't remember some of the events, her brother reminds her she was in the toy box when they happened.

It was years later that Heather Gudenkauf decided she wanted to write, and she wanted to write mysteries.

Talia began her introduction to William Kent Krueger by reading the opening of Ordinary Grace, then saying it won the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Barry Award. It actually won others as well. And, although Krueger showed us the cover of his latest Cork O'Connor novel, Manitou Canyon, he quickly moved on to a different topic. And, I don't know how good my summary of his talk is because he made me cry.

He said we're here because we all love books, so he wanted to talk about books and reading. He began by quoting Christopher Morley, author of The Haunted Bookshop and Parnassus on Wheels. He said he likes to quote smart people because it makes him look smart.

William Kent Krueger
Then, Krueger said his favorite book as a child, the first book that stands out in his memory, was a Little Golden Book. It was called A Happy Family, and, actually, very little happens in the book. The family goes to the beach to have a picnic. The only excitement occurs when ants tried to get at the food at the picnic. But, they all clamored for their father to read that book. That was because their father read the first lines, and then took off. Those ants? They might become giant ants. Or, because they were at the beach, a tidal wave might come and almost drown the family. It was never the same story twice. Krueger said, "A story once begun can go anywhere."

William Kent Krueger grew up in Ohio. When he was a boy scout, you could get a badge for books, so he volunteered at the local public library. And, his first task was to stamp the date due cards for the pockets of the books. After he had done that for quite a while, a librarian asked him the dreaded question. "What do you like to read?" At the time, he only liked to read comic books, so he thought about lying. But, he eventually told her the truth. And, she gave him The Count of Monte Cristo. And, then he read The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask, and more. And, he kept reading.

William Kent Krueger called libraries the archives of our culture, and librarians are the archivists. Libraries point the direction as to where we are going. He wanted to thank librarians. He said our future is gone when librarians are gone. He quoted recent reports that people are losing the ability to read and comprehend. Krueger challenged everyone to put down their devices, turn off the TV, and read for an hour every night. "Books help us find what's best in all of us."

Alison Gaylin, author of What Remains of Me, had a tough act to follow. She said unlike the other authors, she was an only child who was often bored. So she was dropped off at the library. That's where she discovered Nancy Drew and Judy Blume. Nancy was a little too perfect for her. She preferred George and Bess. But, she did escape into crime books and Hollywood books.

Alison Gaylin
Gaylin grew up in California. She read Helter-Skelter at the age of ten, her introduction to true crime. She's had a lifelong interest in Hollywood crime. She became an entertainment reporter for The Star, which was not the glossy magazine you see now. She went to movie sets, was thrown out of David Hasselhoff's wedding, crashed Fred Savage's Bar Mitzvah. But, stories such as In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's Executioner's Song fascinated her. The person who commits the crime becomes a character in a larger story. That's how an entertainment reporter tells the story. Gaylin knows the coverage of a case can affect the people involved, and used Marcia Clark as an example.

Alison Gaylin's What Remains of Me is set in Hollywood. A young girl goes to prison for killing a director. She's released twenty-five years later, and five years after that, a similar murder occurs, and she's suspected of that crime.

Mystery Authors Revealed. A perfect title for a panel that allowed the authors to discuss libraries, books, and the story of their love for both.

Alison Gaylin and William Kent Krueger

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie

If you've been watching Grantchester on PBS, or if you're fond of thoughtful clerical mysteries featuring priests such as Max Tudor or Father Brown, the short stories in James Runcie's first Grantchester mystery, Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death, might prove enjoyable. Here's a warning, though. Most of the stories in this volume have already appeared on PBS in slightly altered forms. If you think you remember whodunnit, you might be right.

It's 1953, and Sidney Chambers has returned from the war, where he fought with the Scots Guards. He's in his early 30s, loves warm beer and hot jazz. He plays cricket and loves to read. He was appointed vicar of Grantchester in 1952, and it's there he met Inspector George Keating, who goes by Geordie. The two get together for backgammon and beer on a weekly basis, unless there is a murder. If it's a complex or touchy case, either may call the other for help. Why is Sidney Chambers involved? "It was none of his business; but then he remembered that, as a priest, everything was his business."

In this first volume, readers meet the characters that have ongoing roles in the books and the TV series; Sidney, Geordie, the two women that Sidney is attracted to, the wealthy Amanda Kendall and the widow Hildegard Staunton, as well as Sidney's sister, Jenny, and her friends. And, Sidney and Geordie find themselves involved in cases dealing with the murder of a young woman, not yet eighteen, at a jazz club, a forged painting, the theft of an engagement ring, the murder of a wealthy patron of the arts. In all the cases, Geordie represents the legal aspect of the investigation while Sidney tends to look at every investigation as a story about people with human failings. He looks at the moral aspects of the mysteries.

The Grantchester mysteries are stories featuring mystery, poetry, thoughtful discussions of the state of the world in 1953 in England. The stories are observations as to the lifestyles and opinions in England at that period of time. There are observations about classes, race, homosexuality. The discussions and observations are part of the appeal of these quiet mysteries.

But, it's hard to have an appealing mystery series without an interesting sleuth. The Grantchester mysteries combine the skills of an amateur and a police detective, but Sidney Chambers is obviously the one who depends on his knowledge, understanding and sympathy for his fellow human beings, with all their failings and weaknesses. Runcie's mysteries may seem simple, but, like Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Sidney understands his neighbors. Often he struggles to find that understanding, but Sidney's struggles add to the pleasure of the book.

Even if you've seen the episodes on PBS, it's worth picking up Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death to hear the musings about morals and poetry, and life.

James Runcie's website is

Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie. Bloomsbury. 2012. 9781632862891 (paperback), 392p.

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

Friday, April 08, 2016

Conference Time

I'm at a conference until late Saturday, and this time, it's work-related. That means I won't have pictures of authors, although I do hope to get a couple pictures of The Tattered Cover Bookstore. And, the meetings and programs go all day, with dinners in the evening. I'm afraid I probably won't have much time to spend on the blog.

Feel free to talk amongst yourselves. Discuss books you're reading, or just come back next week. Sorry for the inactivity. I'll miss talking with all of you!

In the meantime, happy reading!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Margaret the First was not a queen, but an original at a time when women usually were not recognized. Danielle Dutton writes experimental historical fiction to dramatize the life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle.

Born Margaret Lucas, she was the youngest of eight children, a girl who loved books, and celebrated her own fantasy world. And, she found her own way in life, asking to join the Queen's court. However, as a Royalist, that meant she spent years in exile in France and then Antwerp when Cromwell took power. The quiet young woman spent time reading and thinking, but was not appreciated at court until William Cavendish showed up there, a marquess thirty years her senior. Her marriage to him meant she had someone to talk to, to write with, someone who was a patron of the arts and sciences, and had salons wherever he lived. Those salons and the men they attracted allowed Margaret's thoughts to run wild as she listened to, and occasionally, took part in intellectual conversations.

Dutton incorporates Margaret's own writing to experiment with the style of this novel. At times it's rambling as Margaret sorts out her poems and her thoughts. While on the continent, she did something almost unheard of for a woman. She published a book, followed by a second one. But, once she and William moved back to England following the Restoration, her writing and her unusual outfits caused her to be called "Mad Madge" in the streets. However, she wrote poems, plays, science fiction, and was invited to a meeting of the Royal Society, the last woman to be invited for two hundred years.

Parts of Dutton's book worked for me, and parts didn't. Unfortunately, I'm a philistine, and I appreciated the historical details much more than Margaret's own writing. The details of the everyday life, the medical conditions, the historical aspects were much more interesting. I would have preferred a straight historical novel or biography. The poetry and writing, the experimental angle, was lost on me.

Margaret the First, a fascinating woman in the 17th century, is Danielle Dutton's focus. Those who appreciate experimental literature will appreciate the book more than I did.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton. Catapult. 2016. 9781936787357 (paperback), 163p.

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Winners and Book-Related Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Laura Childs' Ming Tea Murder goes to Libby D. from Boca Raton, FL. Ripe for Murder by Carlene O'Neil was mailed to Shirley M. from Dallas, TX. I mailed the books yesterday.

Since I'm attending a conference, I'm kicking off this week's contest a day early, but it will end on Thursday evening as usual. So, you have a little more than a week to enter.

I'm giving away mysteries involving books this week. Miranda James' No Cats Allowed is the latest Cat in the Stacks Mystery. There's an Acting Library Director at Athena College, and librarian Charlie Harris isn't happy when he's told he can't bring his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, to the library as usual. But, Charlie isn't the only one who doesn't agree with the brash man's decisions. And, it isn't long before someone takes the man out of circulation, permanently. Now, Charlie has to help a friend who seems to top the suspect list.

Denise Swanson's latest Devereaux's Dime Store Mystery is Between a Book and a Hard Place. Shadow Bend's library closed years earlier because of budgetary problems. When a wealthy benefactor offers to reopen it, everyone is thrilled. But, Devereaux (Dev) Sinclair isn't so excited when she realizes her runaway mother's latest husband, Jet, is the donor. She suspects Yvette and Jet have hidden motives, but she still feels obligated to help her mother when Jet is murdered and Yvette seems to be the logical suspect.

Which book-related mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win No Cats Allowed" or "Win Between a Book." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 14 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer

If you're like me, you probably didn't think of a novel about a disastrous earthquake in San Francisco
as a love story. But,, Elizabeth Percer successfully makes that point with a story of love and tragedy, All Stories Are Love Stories. The author deftly brings a small group of characters to life in a beautifully written, moving novel.

It's February 14 in San Francisco. Max Fleurent is thirty-four, not really celebrating his birthday that falls on Valentine's Day. He's busy that day with his job as events director for the Nob Hill Masonic Center and his avocation, conducting a children's choir. But, his mother's rambling phone call ends with a mention that she received a card from his father, the man who left them eighteen years earlier.

Gene Strauss is a senior lecturer at Stanford, a geologist fighting for tenure, competing against a co-worker as they share a study about earthquakes. He's trapped at work while he'd rather be at home sharing his good news with his partner, Franklin. But, when he can't reach Franklin on the phone, he worries about him. Franklin has MS, and his health is failing.

Meet Vashti Shirah, a night baker who left San Francisco, leaving behind the young man she loved, Max. Now, she's back in the city, regretting a promise she makes to her sister. She'll go see Max. And, she picks Max's birthday as the day to find him at work.

When two earthquakes hit San Francisco, these three people, along with thousands of others are caught in the aftermath in a city of rubble, on fire, with little water. It's a city in which the small group of firefighters and emergency workers can't immediately reach people in need. Gene, who studied earthquakes, "Was beginning to guess at a truth most of them would never have imaged; that there might not be any help coming."

Despite the tragedies in this story, this truly is a powerful story of connection, a story of people reaching for the ones they love, physically, mentally, emotionally. Percer writes of lost people, some finding strength and courage to face the truth. She's brilliant in her use of smaller stories in the midst of the big ones. She relieves the focus on Max, Vashti and Gene by telling other stories that are related. There's the story of a small group who were at Max's choir rehearsal. A television reporter gets her big break covering the story of the earthquake, and wisely listens to her mentor. In the end, though, she brings the story back to a few people recovering, as the city recovers.

All Stories Are Love Stories is frightening in its predictions for San Francisco. But, as humans, we, and the author, look to it as a story of courage, a story of encouragement; that life goes on.

Elizabeth Percer's website is

All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer. HarperCollins, 2016. ISBN 9780062275950 (hardcover), 348p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book to participate in the TLC Book Tour.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Springtime by Michelle de Kretser

What an odd little book. Michelle de Kretser's Springtime is called a ghost story. Well, there's a ghost, and the main character sees it, and doesn't realize it's a ghost. And, that's it. This Australian novella just surprised me. Even knowing it was a novella, and was short, I ended up thinking, that's it? Where's the character development? What really happened here?

Twenty-eight-year-old Frances seems haunted by her own actions. Soon after she met Charlie, he left his wife for her. But, Charlie was still connected to his past by his son, and his mother, and the women he had loved before. And, even Frances' thoughts seem haunted. When Charlie's mother dies, "That meant Charlie was free of her, Frances believed."

But, is anyone really free of the past? Although the couple moved from Melbourne to Sidney, friends told them what they'd leave behind. Even Frances' dog, Rod, a rescue, was frightened of other dogs, and Rod weighs sixty-eight pounds. It's on a walk with Rod that Frances sees the woman who seemed to be only on the fringes of her vision, the woman in a wild garden with a bull terrier. And, the only time Frances seems to see her is when no one is around.

Believe it or not, I haven't written a spoiler here. There is a surprise in this ghost story set on sunny Australian days, not bleak ghostly days. But, a ghost story? I'm not so sure I'd call it that, unless the author is thinking of ghosts of the past. If you find that all intriguing, check out Michelle de Kretser's Springtime.

Springtime by Michelle de Kretser. Catapult. 2014. ISBN 9781936787432 (paperback), 85p.

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

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Dimestore: A Writer's Life by Lee Smith

The cadence of the heart is pure poetry when Southern writers such as Rick Bragg and Lee Smith write of home. Lee Smith tells her story, her life story, her writing story, in the beautifully written collection of essays, Dimestore: A Writer's Life.

Born in a town surrounded by mountains in southwest Virginia, Grundy, Lee Smith celebrates the town where her father owned the dimestore, and her mother raised her to leave. While her mother, who was "not from around here", no matter how long she lived there, tried to raise her to be a lady, teaching her proper manners and sending her to relatives in the summer, Smith grew up with a love of mountain music, Appalachian culture, and the town and people who raised her. And, why not? While her parents both suffered from occasional bouts of depression and mental illness, relatives would take her in. And, in the South, it was just accepted that family members would go away for a spell to get better, and someone would handle the dimestore or take care of the child while they were away.

Smith talks about always wanting to be a writer, finding her voice. And, she talks about all the experiences that made her the writer she is today, from living with her parents' illnesses, to dealing with her own son's schizophrenia, and the aftermath of his death. As tragic as those may seem, she also celebrates light and life, nature, and writing, the authors she met and loved, and reading and writing books.

For the reader, there is poetry in Smith's writing. My favorite passage is the opening of "Lightning Storm". "When I was a child, books brought my deepest pleasure, my greatest excitement. Reading, I often felt exactly the way I felt during summer thunderstorms: I just had to run out of the house and up the mountain into the very storm to whirl in the thunder and rain on the rocky top while lightning cracked all around me." Ahhh. But, I also loved what she had to say about community in the short section about Thanksgiving and baseball games. And, what reader can resist an essay called "A Life in Books"?

Lee Smith shares her life in intimate essays, poetry for the soul. There are so few writers whose prose is lyrical and magic. The ones who move me are often essayists, often Southern writers. Lee Smith is one of those magical ones who shares her gift  with her collection, Dimestore: A Writer's Life.

Lee Smith's website is

Dimestore: A Writer's Life by Lee Smith. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 2016. ISBN 9781616205027 (hardcover), 202p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, April 02, 2016

May Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

We have a lot of May book releases to get to, so we'll dive right in.

In John Hart's latest thriller, Redemption Road, North Carolina police detective Elizabeth Black faces possible criminal charges after she gunned down two men who were sexually abusing 18-year-old Channing Shore. Since Elizabeth, a white cop, shot the two men, when were black, 18 times, there's major media attention. But, she doesn't seem to care. She's more concerned than Adrian Wall, a former fellow cop, is being released from prison after 13 years for murdering a woman, a crime she still thinks he didn't commit. And, after almost being gunned down, he's once again a murder suspect. (Release date is May 3.)

Noah Hawley brings us another thriller, Before the Fall. On a foggy summer night, eleven people take off from Martha's Vineyard head for New York. Ten are privileged, one a down-on-his-luck painter. Sixteen minutes later, the plane goes down into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs, the painter, and a four-year-old-boy. Amidst the escalating storm of media outrage and accusations, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy are at the heart of the story. (Release date is May 31.)

Don't You Cry is Mary Kubica's novel of deceit and obsession. A young woman named Esther Vaughn disappears from her Chicago apartment. A haunting letter makes her friend Quinn Collins wonder if she ever knew Esther. In a small town, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where Alex Gallo works. He's drawn to her, but his innocent crush spirals into something dark and sinister. Kubica takes readers on a twisted thrill ride. (Release date is May 17.)

In a translation from the Swedish, David Lagercrantz, author of The Girl in the Spider's Web, now brings us a story set during a witch-hunt in England in 1954. Fall of Man in Wilmslow follows after the death of a mathematician named Alan Turing is found dead. As the witch-hunt for homosexuals rages, it's assumed he committed suicide. But, Detective Sergeant Leonard Corell suspects greater forces are involved. He begins to assemble pieces of a puzzle that leads him to Bletchley Park and the operation to crack the Enigma code. And, he's soon being pursued as a threat to national security. (Release date is May 3.)

Harvard historian Jill Lepore tells the story of her own search for a long-lost book in Joe Gould's Teeth. Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian in the twentieth century, and some of his friends, such as John Dos Passos and Ezra Pound, agreed. He professed to be writing the longest book ever written, The Oral History of Our Time. But when he died in 1957 in a mental hospital, no manuscript was found. Lenore uncovers evidence that the manuscript did once exist. (Release date is May 17.)

Every thriller this month purports to be "the next Gone Girl" or "the next Girl on a Train". An international bestseller, Clare Mackintosh's I Let You Go, is the latest. Jenna Gray's life is shattered when her son slips from her grip and runs into the street. She moves to the remote Welsh coast, trying to leave the tragedy behind. At the same time, a pair of Bristol police investigators chase down one hopeless lead after another in the hit-and-run in a twist-filled case. (Release date is May 3.)

Three people are tied together in a story of wealth and poverty, racism and rage, C.E. Morgan's The Sport of Kings. One of Kentucky's oldest dynasties is headed by Henry Forge, a man who has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, obsessed with breeding the next superiors. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm after a stint in prison, the three tie their dreams of glory to the speed and grace of a horse named Hellsmouth. (Release date is May 3.)

In Lisa Owens' humorous debut novel, Not Working, a twenty-some-year-old tries the patience of everyone around her when she quits her job to search for a job she's more passionate about. (Release date is May 3.)

The Assistants is Camille Perri's debut novel. It's the story of an executive assistant in Manhattan whose embezzlement scam turns her into an unlikely advocate for all the overeducated and underpaid assistants across the city. (Release date is May 3.)

Ashley Ream's novel, The 100 Year Miracle, asks the question, what will people do to save themselves. Once a century, for only six days, the bay around a small Washington island glows like a water-bound aurora. Dr. Rachel Bell, a scientist studying the 100-Year Miracle, knows the rare green water may contain a power that could save Rachel's own life, and change the world. (Release date is May 24.)

Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo returns to North Bath, New York, and the characters from Nobody's Fool in his latest novel, Everybody's Fool. It's filled with humor, heart, hard times, and people you'll love. (Release date is May 3.)

Two US Navy veterans join up to write under the name Alex Ryan. In Beijing Red, an ex-Navy SEAL combine forces with a brilliant, beautiful scientist when a team of charity workers in rural China suddenly succumbs to a mysterious illness. Together they unveil the outbreak's ties to the Chinese government, and a conspiracy greater than either could have imagined. (Release date is May 10.)

Detective Macy Greeley returns in Karin Salvalaggio's Walleye Junction. She investigates the murder of a notorious radio personality who was kidnapped, only to be murdered during his escape attempt. When the two kidnappers are found dead, the authorities hope it's an open and shut case. But, Macy finds too many discrepancies. (Release date is May 10.)

Swedish crime fiction author has five books in her Emma Skold series, but Killer Deal is the first to be published in English. The morning after an open house in a posh neighborhood, a young girl finds her father dead in the villa for sale. With the murder weapon one of the family's own kitchen knives, Detective Emma Skold suspects the wife. But, when another murder occurs, tied to a different open house, Emma has to reexamine her theory. (Release date is May 10.)

Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers, now brings us Modern Lovers. It's the story of three friends and college bandmates who grow up, marry, live in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn. But, one summer as they near fifty, their lives start to unravel, and their secrets and revelations can never be recaptured. (Release date is May 31.)

See Also Deception is Larry D. Sweazy's second mystery to feature Marjorie Trumaine, farm wife and indexer. In October 1964, just months after she helped solve a series of murders in Dickinson, North Dakota, she's faced with another death that pulls her into an investigation when the local librarian is found dead at work. Everyone considers it suicide, except Marjorie. But, no one will believe her, so she sets out to uncover the truth. (Release date is May 10.)

The Bricks That Build the Houses is Kate Tempest's debut novel. Becky, Harry, and Leon are leaving London in a fourth-hand Ford with a suitcase full of stolen money, in a mess of tangled loyalties and impulses. But can they truly leave the city that's in their bones? (Release date is May 3.)

Rising journalism star Kitty Weeks is the featured character in Radha Vatsal's new series, beginning with A Front Page Affair. It's New York City in 1915, with war news and stories of a scandalous shooting. Kitty would love to report on the news, but she's stuck writing about fashion and society gossip on the Ladies' Page, until a man is murdered at a high society picnic on her beat. Determined to prove herself as a real journalist, she finds herself caught up in a wartime conspiracy. (Release date is May 3.)

Dan Vyleta's Smoke has been called a combination of thriller, fantasy, and historical fiction. It's England, about a century ago. People who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. There are warring political factions. A love triangle. A desperate chase. Murder. Rich versus poor. Right versus wrong, though which is which isn't clear. (Release date is May 24.)

Historian Alison Weir introduces the first in a series of six historical novels, each centered on the life of one of Henry VIII's wives. The first book is Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen. (Release date is May 31.)

And, one last book because it was on the wrong pile so I missed it alphabetically. Maggie McConnon introduces Belfast McGrath in Wedding Bel Blues. There's cake, killers, and Celtic culture. Bel lost her job and her reputation as head chef in a famed restaurant, and broke off her engagement. She returns to her hometown and her Irish family just in time for her cousin's wedding. But, when her cousin's former lover ends up dead during the wedding reception, Bel joins forces with her high school sweetheart, now a police detective, to solve the case. (Release date is May 31.)

So, two days of forthcoming books. Lots of titles here. Anything that jumps out at you?