Friday, September 30, 2016

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

I know nothing about motorcycles, and I usually wouldn't read a book that deals with all the motorcycle riders heading to Sturgis, South Dakota for the annual motorcycle rally. But, An Obvious Fact is written by Craig Johnson. And, from the moment I read the Acknowledgements about Johnson's father and an Indian Scout motorcycle, I was hooked.

It doesn't hurt that one of my favorite characters in the Longmire mysteries is Henry Standing Bear, Walt Longmire's best friend, sometimes referred to as the Cheyenne Nation. While Walt and Henry are supposedly on vacation, they're actually headed to Hulett, Wyoming, just across the border from Sturgis. Hulett is holding its own motorcycle event, the Jackpine Gypsies Hill Climb, an event Henry won in 1974. He's been competing in it every year since, hoping to win again. That's Henry's motivation for going to Hulett.

Walt is helping an old friend. A young man was the victim of a hit-and-run motorcycle accident. He's now in a coma, and a deputy sheriff thinks it might not have been accident. Walt's always willing to help a friend and fellow lawman. He's also a sucker for a victim who can't help himself. And, this time, Walt is a sucker for a woman, the young man's mother, otherwise known as Lola Wojciechowski. That's "The Lola", the woman Henry Standing Bear named his '59 Thunderbird after.

It isn't long before Walt and Henry are caught up in all kinds of trouble, from hassles and fights with bikers to a challenging rich man to Lola herself. Henry finds wisdom in the three volume The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories by Leslie Klinger. "'There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.'" Walt finds assistance from friends such as Henry, Vic, and various lawmen.

I know I miss some of the literary allusions in Craig Johnson's books. And, the motorcycle language is right over my head. But, this is an intriguing story with captivating characters. Walt is a white knight with a western flare. The women in the book are not the only ones half in love with Henry, the quiet, stoic figure. But, it's always the humor in Johnson's books that draws me in. The conversations between Walt and Henry are always worth reading. This time, I uncovered a hidden gem, an address I recognized in the book. It made me wonder how many hidden inside jokes Johnson includes in his stories. The quiet humor is always worth searching for.

Walt Longmire's search for answers leads to a complex scheme. And, the climatic scene as Walt, Henry and Vic go into battle is wonderful. You'll want to appreciate all the humorous moments, including the Sherlock Holmes moments, in the action-packed, character-driven story, An Obvious Fact.

Craig Johnson's website is

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson. Viking. 2016. ISBN 9780525426943 (hardcover), 317p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Winners & No Immediate Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Bill Crider's Survivors Will Be Shot Again will go to John S. from Iowa City, IA. Martha C. from Scottsdale, AZ won Crowned and Dangerous. I'm sending the books out today.

I'm not going to be available to run the contest for a couple weeks. Check back on Friday, October 14 for the next giveaway.

Thanks for reading with me!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

George Takei in Evansville - Recap

As promised, I have a lengthy recap of George Takei's appearance at The Victory Theatre in Evansville. It's long, but the presentation was lengthy, and well-worth the time.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke thanked Evansville's Diversity Committee for bringing in George Takei as part of the Diversity Lecture Series. He said it's a thought-provoking series that tries to discuss diversity and inclusion in respectful, candid conversation. He introduced Takei as a social activist and a leading fighter for the LGBTQ community. He's the #1 most influential person on Facebook, with over 9.8 million followers.

Photo by Lynn Miller Pease
George Takei entered the stage with the familiar Vulcan salute. He said he was happy to be at the historic Victory Theatre. He loves theaters, and this was a historic movie house. He then said September was a wonderful time to be in Indiana because he understood the state was celebrating its Bicentennial. And, he said it was another anniversary in September. It was fifty years since Star Trek went on the air.

Star Trek has lived long and prospered, and Takei was happy to celebrate its anniversary. He loved the show, and is proud of it.

Fifty years ago, the cast gathered at the Desilu Theater. At the head of the table was Gene Roddenberry. He introduced everyone to the concept of Star Trek. The story takes place on the Starship Enterprise with one thousand people in the crew. It's a metaphor for Starship Earth, and its strength comes from its diversity, people coming together and working as a team.

Captain James T. Kirk, representing North America, was played by a Canadian. To represent Europe, they had a Scottish engineer, also played by a Canadian. Africa was represented by an African- American woman from Illinois, who was also French and Cheyenne. She was probably the most American member of the cast. A Californian, Takei, represented all of Asia. This was at the time of the Cold War between two powers, and a Russian was a trusted member of the crew. He was played by a man from Brooklyn, New York. Then, there was a member of another species entirely. The first officer, Spock, was played by Leonard Nimoy, a Bostonian. It was "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations". Star Trek represented a utopian view of the future in 1966 when the country was in turbulence.

George Takei said this wasn't the first time he lived through a period of turbulence. He lived through a little known episode. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. For Japanese-Americans, this represented a catastrophic change. Suddenly, they were viewed with suspicion, fear and hatred, just because they looked like the people who had bombed the country.

As with other young Americans, young Japanese-Americans quickly rushed to volunteer. But, they received a slap in the face, and were termed "enemy aliens". Some protested that term because they were Americans, and they were then called "enemy non-aliens". The government took away the word citizen. All Japanese-Americans had to be in their homes between 6 PM and 6 AM. Bank accounts were frozen, and they had no access to them. Then, on Feb. 19, 1942, the hysteria reached the White House. FDR signed a document saying all Japanese-Americans on the west coast, 120,000 of them, were to be rounded up, and imprisoned behind barbed wire in prison camps in some of the most desolate places in the United States.

On April 20, George celebrated his fifth birthday. Soon after, one day, his parents dressed the kids, and packed. George and his brother were sent to wait. They saw two soldiers, carrying rifles with bayonets come up the walk, and they banged on the door. The family was ordered out of their home at gunpoint. He said he'll never forget seeing his mother, with the baby in one arm, and a heavy suitcase in the other, standing there crying. The family was put on a truck, taken to the railway, and transported to the swamps of Arkansas.

The internment camp was surrounded by barbed wire. There were search lights, and guns pointed down at them. The search lights followed them the five-year-old George when he went to the latrine at night. As a five-year-old, he was happy that his way was lit to the latrine. His parents found it an embarrassing intrusion. He was too young to understand what was wrong when he learned to say "With liberty and justice for all".

Years later, the government needed to tap more manpower for the war. So, they devised a series of questions. Everyone over the age of seventeen had to answer the questionnaire. But, they found one question offensive. "Will you swear loyalty to the U.S. and forswear loyalty to the Emperor of Japan?" They said, we're Americans, and we've never even thought of the Emperor as our leader. It was a conflicting statement. If they said no, because of the last part, it meant they were not loyal to the U.S. They found it outrageous and enraging to say yes, that they had been loyal to the Emperor. Many remained bitter.

The young people left their families to fight for the U.S. Women became WACs. The young men were sent to a segregated, all Japanese-American unit, the 442nd, and sent to Europe. Their motto was "Go for Broke", and they were given the most dangerous missions and used as cannon fodder. They had the highest combat casualties. That unit was the single most decorated unit of the war, and it still stands as a record. When they returned, Harry Truman welcomed them back at the White House. But, those who insisted they wanted to fight as Americans, not as Japanese, were tried for draft evasion, found guilty, and sent to Leavenworth where they did hard labor. They were proud Americans, and Takei said he honors them.

When Takei's parents were given the questionnaire, they said the government had taken their business, their home, and their freedom. Now, they want their dignity as well. They answered no, and were sent to a segregation camp. There were 18,000 people sent to that camp at the Oregon border.

When the war was over, the gates were opened. The people had been impoverished. They were given a one-way ticket to wherever they wanted to go, and $25. Takei's family went back to L.A., where they ended up living on Skid Row downtown. Even then, it was sometimes a hostile environment. After five years, they saved enough to buy a home again.

As a teenager, George Takei read a lot, and he read a great deal of history. There's that statement, "All men are endowed with certain inalienable rights". He had long arguments with his father. There's no one more arrogant than an idealistic young teenager. He learned to understand American democracy from his father. Even after what he went through, he said American democracy is the people's democracy. It's created by fallible human beings who make mistakes. We're dependent on those who cherish ideas of democracy and ideals of democracy.

When Adlai Stevenson was running for President, Takei's father took him to his local headquarters to volunteer. There were passionate, idealistic people dedicated to getting him elected to the presidency. Then, Takei became active in other political races. He went on to be involved with the Civil Rights Movement. He march with Martin Luther King, Jr. He met him, shook his hand, and didn't wash that hand for four days. When Vietnam came along, he was involved with the peace movement. The entertainment industry had a movement for peace and justice. He testified at the Congressional Commission hearings about his family's internment. In 1988, Reagan, on behalf of the U.S. government, apologized for their actions. It was a poignant moment because Takei's father had died in 1979, not knowing the government would apologize.

George Takei said he was active in the social justice movement, but silent on what meant the most to him. From about the age of ten, he knew he was different. While other boys were commenting about Sally and Monica being hot, he thought they were nice, but not hot. He felt more isolated and alone. But, he started dating his female friends. If he went on a double date, he would often be more interested in his buddy than his date. But, he was acting like part of the gang. In fact, he was popular enough to be elected student body president. But, his other side felt alone. Then, he discovered there were others like him.

If Takei was true to his other side, it would ruin his acting career. He maintained a double life. When he discovered gay bars, he found they were warm and friendly. He found a camaraderie there. But, an older man warned him than the gay bars were sometimes raided by the police. They would fingerprint and photograph the men they arrested, and put names on a list. The gay men were criminalized. It was no different than his childhood. People were just gathering in a bar, and were criminalized. So, when he went to the bars, he would look for the exit, and hang out near it so he could get out.

Then, in 1969, there was news from New York. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village had been raided, but people stood their ground, throwing bottles and chairs at the police. The fiercest resisters were the drag queens who threw high-heeled shoes. The police retreated. They called for reinforcements. But, the people in the bar also called their friends. They threw everything at the police, and there were riots for five days straight. That was the beginning of the gay movement. And, George remained silent.

By this time, George had a special person in his life. And he remained quiet. He lost friends during the AIDs crisis. And he was silent. He and his partner, Brad, wrote checks to support the movement. Then, in 2003, the judiciary in Massachusetts made marriage equality constitutional, the first state to do so. In 2005, the state legislature voted on marriage equality. It was the first state to try to adopt it because of the people's vote. It needed one more signature, that of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, another movie star who ran as a friend of gays and lesbians. But, he vetoed the bill because of the influence of right-wing Republicans.

Brad and George were at home watching it all on TV when the young people vented their rage. They discussed it. George had had a long career. It was time to be "activist me". He came out. He spoke to the press as a gay American and blasted Arnold Schwarzenegger. From then on he became active. He lobbied in Sacramento and D.C. He spoke at rallies. The world began to change. In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality. A judge, knowing Brad and George had been together for 21 years, said you've reached the age of equality. Let's get you hitched up. They've now been together for 29 years, and just celebrated their eighth marriage anniversary. Takei then introduced Brad, who was in the audience. The highlight came in 2015 when the Supreme Court made marriage equality legal from coast to coast.

People who have ideals should participate actively in the process. That makes democracy work. Takei's father taught him to look back at history. The founders wrote that all men were created equal. But, there were no rights for women. But, women were determined, and they and their male allies fought for equal treatment. Now, there are women CEOs, and a woman astronaut who led a team of astronauts. By November 8, he said he's betting we'll have a woman president.

Our forefathers said nothing about slaves. Now, there are descendants of slaves walking in the halls of Congress, and others are at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The people's democracy is dependent on those who engage in the process. We're in the process of extending justice and equality to more and more people. Now, George Takei is proud to stand and say, "I am an American."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Chris Grabenstein at Bouchercon & News

Author Chris Grabenstein and I met ten years ago when the first Thrillerfest was held in Phoenix. Over the years, I've read his Ceepak mysteries, his Haunted Mystery series (which I love), the Mr. Lemoncello books, and a few of his other ones. So, it was fun to catch up with him at Bouchercon.

But, you don't want to go to the silent auction when Chris and Donna Andrews are the co-auctioneers, and Chris knows you're in the audience. I was the only one personally challenged to bid on an item. (I did not, but we talked about it afterward.)

Chris as auctioneer

He did have news. The Haunted Mystery series is about to be re-issued. And, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is about to be made into a Nickelodeon TV movie, as he says in his newsletter. (Always fun to catch up, Chris!)

Nickelodeon and Mr. Lemoncello

LOS ANGELES—Sept. 19, 2016—Nickelodeon announced today the start of production for a brand-new original TV movie, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, based on author Chris Grabenstein's acclaimed children's book of the same name about a group of friends whose overnight stay in their town's new hi-tech library turns into a daring, dangerous adventure of escape. The 90-minute, live-action TV movie stars Breanna Yde (Nickelodeon's School of Rock), Casey Simpson (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn), Russell Roberts (The Twilight Saga: New Moon) and newcomers AJ Rivera and Klarke Pipkin. Production is underway in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with a premiere set for 2017. The book, originally published in 2013 by Random House Children's Books, boasts a 94-week run on the New York Timesbestseller list.

World-renowned gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello (Russell Roberts) has built his latest creation—a new state-of-the-art library filled with whimsical and eccentric rooms, where hardcover books fly kids to shelves in the sky, and massive doors open into fantastical worlds. 

Kyle Keeley (Casey Simpson), Lemoncello's biggest fan, is chosen to be one of the first to experience the fun, along with his best friend Akimi (Breanna Yde), a bookworm named Sierra (Klarke Pipkin), a goofball named Peckelman (A.J. Luis Rivera Jr.), his rival Chiltington (Ty Nicolas Consiglio), and others. 

The kids must use their minds to complete riddles and collect clues that lead them out of this unique playground of imagination. When excitement turns to jeopardy, this world of wonder begins to spiral out of control as literary characters run amok and chaos ensues. It's up to the kids to make everything right again or else they won't be the only ones escaping. 

Said Grabenstein, "I'm excited to see what Nickelodeon does with Mr. Lemoncello! So many kids, teachers, and librarians have been asking me, 'Where's the Lemoncello movie?' Now I can tell them it will be on Nick!" 

"We cannot wait to bring author Chris Grabenstein's imaginative world to life with kids' favorite Nick stars at the center of all the fun," said Michael Sammaciccia, executive producer for Nickelodeon. "This is an epic, action adventure story that taps into every child's passion for books, games and technology. It's a movie for kids, families and teachers alike." 

Look for the LEMONCELLO movie on Nickelodeon in 2017


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tea with Deborah Crombie & The Todds

I've seen a lot of photos from Bouchercon on Facebook, but I was out of town again this past weekend, so haven't put all of mine together. Many of you haven't seen them, and I'll do a whole compilation. But, first I'm going to do a recap of an event that was by invitation only, so most attendees didn't get to see this one. And, it was my favorite program at Bouchercon. It was quiet and intimate, and nothing else is quiet at the mystery convention.

HarperCollins invited a small group of bloggers, librarians and booksellers to a two-hour tea with Deborah Crombie and mother-son team of Charles and Caroline Todd. While the attendees were at small tables, Charles, Caroline and Deborah talked, and then joined us at the tables.

Caroline Todd led the conversation, asking Deborah Crombie about her next book featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. Garden of Lamentations comes out in February, and Deborah did have the cover art to show us.

And, then Caroline said Duncan and Gemma are the modern equivalent of the Todds' Rutledge and Bess. She said that's one reason they love each other's books, and, they did even before they met or toured together. And, speaking of touring, they told us about the story of a Florida book tour. They were to appear at a library, and they were dropped at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. When they asked about food, they were pointed to a small shack. But, the food was so good. And, people were feeding alligators nearby. There were signs, though, saying do not take the path after dark. The food at the shack was good, but if you took the path at night, you might be eaten on the way.

Caroline asked Deborah about going to England to research the places for her mysteries. Deborah said you have to go. The Sound of Broken Glass takes place at the Crystal Palace in South London. Deborah's guide told her you could get stranded there if the weather is bad, and people had been stranded there for three days by an ice storm. No one could get in or out. She knew she had to use that as part of the story. Charles and Caroline went on to tell their own story about the Crystal Palace. There are trees in it, and it's built of glass. When it was first built, sparrows got in there. They didn't know how to get them out. They couldn't shoot them because of the glass. The Duke of Wellington only said one word. "Sparrowhawks." And, that's what they did. They let sparrowhawks loose to get the sparrows.

The tidbits of conversation from the three authors were so enjoyable to listen to. In comparing characters, they said Crombie's Duncan stands back and analyzes as Rutledge does, and Gemma, like the Todds' Bess Crawford, tackles troubles head-on.

Caroline Todd said they put Inspector Rutledge in Scotland Yard because they could send him to other parts of England. Everyone did London, so they wanted to explore crimes in other parts of the country.

Charles and Caroline Todd

Caroline said they explore villages because there's more opportunity for murder. People in villages know each other. She said the friend who takes them around when they explore will contact them, saying, "I have found the loveliest place of find a body." They said the villages have the same social structure as London, but in the city, the classes may never mix. In the villages, everyone interacts. Charles said he was a corporate troubleshooter, and he knows what it's like to show up and not be welcome in a village, so outsiders may not be welcome, and may be shut out. He said it's important to explore the villages, to see the details. All three authors agreed that pubs are the perfect places for people watching.

Charles described the correct way to draw Guinness in England. He said there's a line on a standard clear glass pint. When it's done right, there's no foam below the line. The foam is all above the line, and they leave room to form the clover leaf.

In The Shattered Tree, the latest Bess Crawford mystery, the Todds deliberately sent her to Paris. They wanted to see how she would deal when she was out of her comfort zone with no support.

In talking about research, they all agreed they do extensive research, but there are stories they couldn't use. They discussed clothing. Women wore military-style gowns during World War I. They couldn't get feathers. The British wore dark styles while in mourning, but Paris refused to do that.

For The Shattered Tree, they had to know that the French lost Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans in the Prussian War. After the war, the official language was German.  And, Bess has a patient who speaks German when he has a shock. Is he a German spy? Or, something else? Then, Charles gave a great deal of information about the Paris gun. It fired from eighty-two miles away. There was a great psychological effect because people couldn't hear it go off. It was a four hundred pound plus bomb, but it only made a four foot wide hole. It was not very accurate, and not highly explosive. But, the people suffered from horrific terror during the summer of 1918 because they never heard the bomb coming.

Asled about outlining, Caroline said she never could outline. Even in college, she would write the paper and then outline it afterward. They let the story tell itself. They know the first scene. She said the characters will tell you what will happen next if you listen to the characters.

Charles said as a mystery author, they need to be one step ahead of the reader. But, they have to play fair. If the reader goes back, they have to be able to make sense of the story. "Readers keep us honest."

Deborah agreed. Garden of Lamentations has multiple viewpoints and storylines. She doesn't like keeping things from the reader. She believes in fair play and the traditional formula. That's what made traditional mysteries popular. Can you catch the killer?

After the talk, Caroline Todd joined our table, and we had a delightful conversation until it was time for the session to be over. I may not always catch the killer in the mysteries, but I was smart enough to wait to thank Deborah and the Todds, and I was able to get final pictures of the authors after the entertaining program. As I said, it was my favorite from Bouchercon.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Poisoned Pen Blog

I'm not being lazy. I was out of town for the weekend. And, whatever I posted would not have been as good as several of the articles I posted lately on The Poisoned Pen's blog. Today, it's photos of Craig Johnson's appearance on his book tour for An Obvious Fact, the latest Longmire mystery. And, there's a link to the Livestream event, which you really should watch if you get time. Last week, I had a fun interview with Karin Slaughter.

While I'm catching up, check out the blog. I write that for The Poisoned Pen. I hope you find the authors, notes, and interviews interesting. It's at

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker

First, I need to tell you the short comments in Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker are not really sad.
They're unusual notes, with charming drawings by the author. But, you won't find yourself crying over these facts. Instead, you'll probably find yourself turning to the appendix that has a little more detail about each animal profiled.

Well, there are a few sad facts, but the quirkiness of the anecdotes makes up for it. Did you know "An alligator's brain weighs less than an Oreo?" The extended information says that a Double Stuff Oreo weighs as much as three alligator brains. "Adelie penguins push each other off ledges to see if the water's safe." I love the commentary that accompanies "Tigers don't make eye contact while they hunt." The author says, "Some people suggest making eye contact with a tiger if it's trying to attack you, but none of those people have been attacked by tigers so it's hard to say for sure it it's good advice."

Barker says she has been obsessed with animals since she was a child. Her stint as a reference librarian, in a slow job, only added to her interest. She passed the time by drawing animals on the backs of old card catalog slips at the request of co-workers who would try to stump her. Her obsession and her cute cartoons come together in this delightful book.

Sad Animal Facts may be catalogued in the library as adult nonfiction, but the third graders I read to are going to love it. What third grader can resist this one? "The ring-tailed lemur that smells the worst is in charge of the entire group." Just perfect for kids who enjoy odd facts. Just like Brooke Barker did as a child.

You can find information about the book at

Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker. Flatiron Books. 2016. ISBN 9781250095084 (hardcover), 213p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Book Chat - Berkley October Paperbacks

Well, Jinx wasn't much help this month. I guess working on the book chat in the afternoon isn't his time of day. He does have a cameo at the end, but you can tell he's not as interested in the books this month as he usually is. He's missing a good selection.

Here are the October paperback releases.

Behind Chocolate Bars - Kathy Aarons - 3rd Chocolate Covered Mystery
The Hammett Hex - Victoria Abbott - 5th Book Collector Mystery
The Witch and the Dead - Heather Blake - 7th Wishcraft Mystery
Killing Thyme - Leslie Budewitz - 3rd Spice Shop Mystery
Seeds of Deception - Sheila Connolly - 10th Orchard Mystery
Paws and Effect - Sofie Kelly - 8th Magical Cat Mystery
Putting on the Witch - Joyce & Jim Lavene - 3rd Retired Witches Mystery
Tangled Up in Brew - Joyce Tremel - 2nd Brewing Trouble Mystery
Masking for Trouble - Diane Vallere - 2nd Costume Shop Mystery

Friday, September 23, 2016

Winner and Bouchercon Author Giveaway

Because I was at Bouchercon last Friday, I only gave away a book that the publisher would send, Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay by Reed Farrel Coleman. It's going to Kevin T. from Plano, Texas.

This week, I'm giving away two books by authors I ran into at Bouchercon. The first is Rhys Bowen's Crowned and Dangerous, the latest Royal Spyness mystery. Lady Georgiana was hoping to elope with her beau, Darcy O'Mara. Instead, they end up heading to Ireland to investigate when Darcy's father is arrested for murder.

We were all happy to see Bill Crider at Bouchercon. I have an ARC of the latest Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Survivors Will Be Shot Again. This time, Rhodes is dealing with murders, thefts, marijuana, and alligators in a small Texas town.

Which book 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 Crowned and Dangerous" or "Win Survivors Will Be Shot Again." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan - blog tour

Well, we all know I jumped the gun when I reviewed Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner. I fell in love with this book. I've already shared my own copy with two friends. Since I enjoyed it so much, and was already committed to the blog tour, I'm running the review again on the proper day.

Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner is an enchanting eulogy for, and tribute to, librarians who once shared the love of books with readers. It's entertaining, beginning with the author's message to readers discussing favorite places to read. And, then Colgan invites readers into the book with the phrase, "Now, come and meet Nina..."

Nina Redmond is the last of a dying breed in England, a librarian who loves to talk books. But, cutbacks in Birmingham means the district can't afford to keep all the libraries open. Instead, they're centralizing services. Librarians are unemployed everywhere, and Nina doesn't fit in with the new plans for librarians as social workers and computer trainers. She's too shy, and only wants to live in the world of books. But, on a whim, she tells friends she wants to buy a van and sell books from it. She has the start of a collection because she's buying all the books they're discarding from the libraries as they close. And, when she brings home too many books, and the books start to collapse around her and her friend, Surinder, it might be time to do something with that collection.

It appears that Nina has an impossible task ahead of her when she sees the oversized van in a Scottish village. But, she knows the library world is no longer for her, and with the help of a few previously unknown friends, she buys the van, fits it for a bookshop, and, even finds a place to live. Her farmer landlord may be a little grumpy, but she'll find friends in the neighboring villages. And, Nina discovers that books have given her wings, in more ways than one. She can share her passion for books and reading with so many people.

Colgan's atmospheric book is so beautiful the reader wants to set out for Scotland. The Bookshop on the Corner is a romantic story filled with awkward characters to fall in love with. It's heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time, filled with nostalgia for something lost that will never come again. The writing is engaging as Colgan captures the feeling of the small community, the dances, the people, the books. It's a lyrical book expressing a love of books and nature. And, it's the story of one woman's growth as changes in her life truly allow her to fly.

Welcome to Jenny Colgan's beautiful novel, The Bookshop on the Corner. "Now, come and meet Nina..."

Jenny Colgan's website is

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. William Morrow. 2016. ISBN 9780062467256 (paperback), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Have You Heard? - A Cast-Off Coven

A Cast-Off Coven series #2
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 8 hours and 41 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio, Release Date: November 19, 2012

A CAST-OFF COVEN is a fabulous second entry into the Witchcraft series by Juliet Blackwell featuring Lily Ivory, owner of the vintage clothing store Aunt Cora's Closet, located in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Oscar, Lily’s "familiar" given to her by a powerful male witch, is turning into an asset even if he does push the boundaries of being a goblin/gargoyle mix in private and a miniature pot-bellied pig everyone loves in public.

The School of Fine Arts in San Francisco has discovered a previously sealed off room on the second floor of the tower building, but all the students will not go there, swearing they hear noises and voices. An argument between Aidan, who gave Oscar to Lily, ensues in the cafeteria which is buzzing with activity on a Friday evening. Lily agrees to meet a friend employee named Andromeda at the school where she will help find the chest full of women’s unmentionables discovered when the closet was unsealed. Instead they find her wealthy father at the bottom of a set of stairs in a pool of his own blood.

Did he fall down the stairs? Was he pushed?  Did a spirit from the closet do him harm?  The possibilities are too great and information too slim. Lily wants to get her hands on those clothes and see what sort of spirits she's dealing with. When she gets to the closet, it is locked, by the spirits within. They try to scare Lily away with a windstorm, rain, heat, etc., none of which work. Lily finally leaves out of impatience, and the closet door pops open yet no one is there.

Another murder at the school occurs, and Lily goes to check it out. Plus, she figures she'll give that closet another try. Finding the closet unsealed means that one, some, or all those spirits might have gotten out of the closet, possibly to murder (again?) She enters the closet, and there is a mirror hung on the wall which Lily quickly avoids, since strange things happen to spirits in mirrors (there is a fuller explanation about mirrors in Blackwell’s next book).

Lily finds the trunk of undergarments which supposedly belonged to some French women, possibly nuns since they came to America with a group of nuns. Their behavior got them sealed into the closet, not opened until present day.

Ownership of the trunk, the identity of the owners of the garments, identities of who was murdered and their connection to the trunk, all must be sorted out to solve this conundrum. Lily brings the trunk's contents back to Cora's Closet, and staff and customers all began looking through them before Lily can do her usual clean, mend, wash routine on them.

What has happened to the spirits? What is the relationship between the murder victims and the victims to the spirits? Were the women nuns?

I love how Juliet Blackwell weaves in the history of the School of Fine Arts and the buildings it occupies and information about ghosts and spirits. Facts are woven through fiction so easily that I began to wonder what was true. Quite a tangled web was woven by the end of this wonderful book. Xe Sands’ narration brought it all to life with her voice, subtle nuances, and genuine sounding curiosity.  Well worth reading.               
Sandie Herron

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dr. Michael Whitehead, R.I.P.

Those of us in the mystery community know of Michael Whitehead as Louise Penny's husband, and the role model for her police inspector, Armand Gamache. But, in Canada, he's remembered for other reasons as well. Here's the link to the announcement on CBC News.

Here's how Louise announced his death. "Michael passed away last night, at home, at peace, with love. "It's not so much that his heart stopped, as that he'd finally given it all away." Surprised by joy...."

And, here's the way I will remember Michael.

I was lucky enough to have dinner with Louise and Michael and another friend, Patti Cheney Lang.  Check out the bow tie in the picture. Louise and Michael said he wore funny ties when he was Director of Hematology at Montreal Children's Hospital. The children, often scared, needed someone kind and gentle, with a smile and a funny tie. Louise once told me Michael wore bow ties every day, with balloons, or teddy bears or Mickey Mouse. He dealt with children with cancer, and when he leaned over the children they'd see his ties. Michael knew what a gift life is, and Gamache understands that.

We ran a little late getting to the Poisoned Pen after dinner, because we had such a nice time. Michael and I sat in a bench at the back of the store. And, he smiled with pride while Louise talked.

I saw Michael only one other time with Louise, in Monterey at Left Coast Crime several years ago. He was already in the early stages of dementia, but she reminded him who I was. I hugged him, and we talked about the trip he had made that day. The joy was still in his eyes.

When Louise would say Gamache was based on Michael, he would respond, "Remember, Louise writes fiction."

I don't think so. I think she writes about a kind, gentle man who loves his wife. I think she writes about Michael Whitehead. Rest in peace, Michael.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Have You Heard? - What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie

What's a Ghoul to Do?
Ghost Hunter Mystery #1
Written by Victoria Laurie, Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hours 10 mins long
Published January 5th 2010 by Audible Inc (first published April 3rd 2007) 
ASIN: B0032Z3L2Y

Victoria Laurie brings us a fascinating series in this first book featuring MJ Holliday (yes, Doc Holliday was her great, great uncle) and Gilley Gillespie. MJ is a psychic medium who can communicate with the dead; Gilley is a techno geek who helps her with all the machinery that goes with a ghost hunt, the night vision goggles, thermal cameras, walkie talkies for them to stay in touch, etc.  MJ works alone while Gilley usually stays in the van monitoring all those instruments she uses or have been strategically placed ahead of time.

The two have been friends for a long time and consider each other BFFs (best friends forever). Gilley is gay so there’s no possibility of a romantic duo here. Each lives in their own condo in Boston but share an office, where they are sitting doing mostly nothing since they haven’t exactly had loads of jobs lately, when Dr. Steven Sable walks in.

Dr. Sable’s grandfather recently passed away in what most are calling a suicide. He can’t believe his grandfather would jump from the roof of his hunting lodge in upstate Massachusetts that had been owned by the family for quite some time. The doctor needs to know because ownership of the lodge and surrounding land will change depending whether it was a suicide or not. Steven needs MJ’s help in communicating with his grandfather to determine why he fell from the roof and died.

It wasn’t until a blind date set up by the local coffee shop’s owner went completely awry that MJ softened to Dr. Sable, now privately known as Dr. Delicious due to his being very handsome. One of MJ’s hard and fast rules had been that she worked alone. Dr. Sable was insisting on being there when she found his grandfather so he could chat with him. MJ finally agreed when the fee went high enough.

Using all their high tech equipment and MJ’s instincts, they set off on a journey to find one ghost. However, they ended up finding several. In the process, many aspects of ghost busting are explained, such as what the various pieces of equipment did, what MJ did when she’d found a ghost, how she crossed them over when willing and also when not willing.

Without giving you any more plot to spoil this exciting story, I can tell you this mystery really did turn into a mystery, not only a ghost story. The plot took several twists and unexpected turns and brought other characters into the story, both dead and alive. The ghostbusters never expected to need Dr. Sable’s medical help, too! Steven becomes an integral part of solving the many mysteries that they discover trying to solve the first one.

I very much enjoyed the first book in this ghoulish series. It was fascinating to watch and learn how a true medium works. It was extremely funny to listen to Dr. Sable try to use up-to-date slang but not having English as his primary language for such a long time, he tends to botch sentences up. It is almost annoying after a while, but then the author cuts back a bit on the reactions of others listening to him, and the fun and charm return.

MJ and Gilley start as best friends and remain that way at the end. They squabble and disagree but always make up in the end. They know firsthand all the stressors involved in ghost busting and give each other credit for surviving them. Steven fit in nicely with his novice hunting skills, finding himself enjoying the process and grateful for the conclusion.

I am impressed by how much this story grabbed my attention. I found myself reading a lot all of a sudden. I didn’t want the book to end, really, but now I look forward to the remainder of the series. Next up is DEMONS ARE A GHOUL’S BEST FRIEND.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Off to Bouchercon

Do you recognize this photo?

Depending what time of day you read this, I'm driving to Nashville, flying to New Orleans, or I'm already there for Bouchercon. This is the largest mystery convention in the country, for authors and fans. For me, it's a homecoming. Not New Orleans, but the mystery community. So many wonderful friends there. It's time to catch up with them. Beginning with my poor roommate, Kaye Wilkinson Barley, who has a cold. It's not fun being sick at a convention, as I know. And, a cold just means you're miserable longer than I was. I'm sorry, Kaye.

This year's theme is Blood on the Bayou. Some of my friends have so many activities planned, we may never see them at the conference.

I'm on one panel on Thursday, with a whole group of friends. We're talking about what we're looking forward to reading in the mystery field. And, on Friday, I'm working the registration desk for a couple hours. Other than those two responsibilities, I'm looking forward to visiting with friends, some good programs, and some good food.

In the meantime, I told Sandie Herron this was a good time for her to ask about writing some columns. Check in here for "Have You Heard?" And, once I have some pictures at Bouchercon, I'll share!

In the meantime, "Laissez les bon temps roulez!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Giveaway - Hot Off the Presses - The New Jesse Stone

Today is release date for the new Jesse Stone novel, Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay by Reed Farrel
Coleman. And, the publisher is allowing me to give away one copy of the book. First, a little information.

About ROBERT B. PARKER’S DEBT TO PAY: All is quiet in Paradise, except for a spate of innocuous vandalism. Good thing, too, because Jesse Stone is preoccupied with the women in his life, both past and present. As his ex-wife, Jenn, is about to marry a Dallas real-estate tycoon, Jesse isn’t too sure his relationship with former FBI agent Diana Evans is built to last. But those concerns get put on the back burner when a major Boston crime boss is brutally murdered. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Jesse suspects it’s the work of Mr. Peepers, a psychotic assassin who has caused trouble for Jesse in the past. Peepers has long promised revenge against the Mob, Jesse, and Suit for their roles in foiling one of his hits—and against Jenn as well. And though Jesse and Jenn have long parted ways, Jesse still feels responsible for her safety. Jesse and Diana head to Dallas for the wedding and, along with the tycoon’s security team, try to stop Peepers before the bill comes due. With Peepers toying with the authorities as to when and where he’ll strike, Jesse is up against the wall. Still, there’s a debt to pay and blood to be spilled to satisfy it. But whose blood, and just how much?

In Reed’s Own Words: As a veteran author with more than twenty years of published novels under your belt, how did you prepare yourself for the daunting task of taking over the bestselling Jesse Stone series that has been extant since 1997? Fortunately, I had previously read several of the novels in the Jesse Stone series. Then, in preparation for my essay “Go East, Young Man: Robert B. Parker, Jesse Stone, and Spenser” for the Edgar Award-nominated 2012 anthology In Pursuit of Spenser edited by Otto Penzler, I went back and reread the Jesse Stone novels I had read previously and the ones I’d missed. Great characters don’t come along every day, but Bob Parker seemed to have the knack for creating them. When the opportunity to continue the series was offered to me, I went back and reread some more. But the truth is I didn’t know I could do it until I tried to do it. It is one thing to look at a challenge and feel you have the talent and the tools to do it. It is something else to try it. What I found when I sat down to write Jesse for the first time was that Mr. Parker had so thoroughly laid out the groundwork for me, he had so masterfully built Jesse Stone in three dimensions, that I knew or at least felt I knew where to go next without much trepidation. It helped that I had written several of my own series characters and understood the mechanics and the pitfalls of long story arcs. When I approached the writing I thought about how I would feel if someone took over writing one of my series. How I would want him or her to respect what I had done and the characters I had created. But that I wouldn’t want him or her to do imitation or pastiche. So I came to the challenge with great deal of respect for Mr. Parker and a love for the character, Jesse Stone, he had created.             

About the Authors:
Robert B. Parker was the author of seventy books, including the legendary Spenser detective series, the novels featuring Chief Jesse Stone, and the acclaimed Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch Westerns, as well as the Sunny Randall novels. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and long considered the undisputed dean of American crime fiction, he died in January 2010.

Reed Farrel Coleman, author of the New York Times–bestselling Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins, has published twenty-four previous novels, including nine books in the critically acclaimed Moe Prager series, three Jesse Stone novels, and most recently, Where It Hurts featuring Gus Murphy. A three-time winner of the Shamus Award, he has also won the Anthony, Macavity, Barry, and Audie Awards. Coleman lives with his family on Long Island.
If you would like a chance to win, email me at Your subject line should read "Win Debt to Pay." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end next Monday, Sept. 19 at 6 PM CT.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Have You Heard?

Today, Sandie Herron reviews the first audiobook in Juliet Blackwell's Witchcraft series, Secondhand Spirits. Spirits
A Witchcraft Mystery #1
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands as am
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 8 hours and 15 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio Release Date: March 8, 2012

When I finished reading Juliet Blackwell's first Witchcraft series book SECONDHAND SPIRITS, I knew I had found a new author to love.  I started with this book because I wanted to get to know Lily Ivory from the beginning, although I suspect it wasn't really necessary.

Lily is just starting a new phase of her life by moving to San Francisco, my favorite city. Lily runs a vintage clothing store. It comes in handy, then, that her magical powers include being able to read the vibrations from various textiles. She has quite a ritual around preparing the clothes for sale. She must do the obvious cleaning and mending, and then she'll remove any bad vibrations. It makes shopping at Aunt Cora's Closet a pleasant experience with all those bad spirits and vibrations gone.

Life is never dull in the neighborhood of Haight Ashbury. Lily is invited to dinner near her shop by an older woman who lives in a huge, deteriorating, old home. She has a basement full of lovely vintage clothing that she wants to sell to Lily. She also has clothing in the attic, including two wedding gowns. The ladies are joined by the older woman's lawyer for a relatively pleasant evening, but Lily learns that a particularly nasty spirit snatched one of the older woman's daughters many years ago. Unfortunately, the next day reveals the older woman dead, lying in a pentagram drawn in blood on the attic floor. Down the street a young girl is snatched from her doorstep, and Lily and her familiar--a pot-bellied pig named Oscar for his human interactive persona--start work on a plan to find her.

I found Juliet Blackwell's storytelling quite enjoyable. I listened to the audio version, and the narration by Xe Sands really adds a dimension to the entire book. I especially enjoyed how she portrayed Oscar, the familiar given to Lily by a more powerful witch. Oscar is a very old goblin/gargoyle in his normal state, but when Lily takes him out with her, he changes to a miniature pot-bellied pig. The narrator does not overdo the variations in voices, from Oscar to Lily to her friends to the nasty witch.

The ending requires Lily to ask for help, a very difficult thing for her to do. We learn things about witches I never knew, and they save the day, because it's the right thing to do.