Thursday, March 31, 2016

Winner & The Beverage Connection Giveaway

Congratulations to Penny T. from Klamath Falls, OR. She won the copy of Furious by T.R. Ragan.

This week, the giveaway will be a short one since I'll be leaving for the Public Library Association conference next week. So, this giveaway will end Monday, April 4 at 6 PM CT. I have two cozy mysteries to give away, ones centering around beverages.

Laura Childs' Ming Tea Murder takes Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning to a black-tie affair which she attends only because her boyfriend has organized an amazing gala for the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. Max has even set up a photo booth, but that's where Theodosia discovers the body of a museum donor. Now, Max is a suspect, and Theodosia has to find the true killer.






Maybe you would prefer a mystery involving a winery? Carlene O'Neil's Ripe for Murder features Penny Lively who is running her family's winery, but she wants more guests. So, she and her winery manager, Connor, go to a lavish resort to hear a pitch for a new train line to run through wine county. But, her neighbor's daughter, Chantal is also there, flirting with the married investors. When one of the investors' wives is murdered, Chantal is the prime suspect. Now, Penny goes sniffing for the real killer.

You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Tea" or "Win Wine." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. As I said, this giveaway will end Monday, April 4 at 6 PM CT.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

From Here to Home by Marie Bostwick

Three years ago, in Between Heaven and Texas, Marie Bostwick told Mary Dell Templeton's story. Now, she moves that storyline forward thirty years in From Here to Home.

Mary Dell was one of a long line of strong women from Too Much, Texas. When her son, Howard, was born with Down syndrome, her husband, Donny, couldn't handle it, and disappeared. Mary Dell and her twin sister, Lydia Dale, found a way to keep their ranch going while Mary Dell started a quilting shop. That quilting shop, fueled by Mary Dell's passion, to teach others to quilt, led to the TV show, Quintessential Quilting, that she co-hosted with Howard.

Now that Mary Dell is sixty, she's finding she's needed more at home in Too Much than in Dallas, where the TV show is filmed. Her mother is aging. Her widowed niece is having a hard time juggling the quilt shop, the ranch, and taking care of family. Lydia Dale's son, Rob Lee, is a veteran of Afghanistan, suffering from PTSD, and failing at his ranch duties. But, just as Mary Dell decides she needs to ask to film at home, the indomitable woman is shaken to her core. The network's new executive, hoping the show will fail, wants to hire a young, pretty co-host, while letting Howard go. Howard wants to stay in Dallas so he can attend college and spend time with his girlfriend. It's just not the best time for Mary Dell's friend, Hub-Jay, to propose. And, Mary Dell never did divorce the man who walked out on her thirty years earlier.

Bostwick's latest book, like her earlier ones, is about a strong woman, triumphing, with the help of family and friends. Mary Dell Templeton might not be quite as sassy as in earlier books, but she's just as determined to make life right for her family. From Here to Home is a story about a supportive group of family and friends, rallying around issues caused by loss, illness, PTSD. When Mary Dell says, "We're family. We rise and fall and get back up together.", she summarizes this book. And, if she includes close, supportive friends as "family", she summarizes many of her books.

Mary Dell Templeton is the linchpin of a strong, hospitable Texas family. Read of her early years in Between Heaven and Texas. If you like her then, you'll appreciate the woman she becomes in From Here to Home.

Marie Bostwick's website is www.mariebostwick.com

From Here to Home by Marie Bostwick. Kensington Books. 2016. ISBN 9781617736575 (paperback), 360p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book to review it for a journal.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of five previous novels, including Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Next to Love. Now, she takes on the story of Margaret Sanger, the woman who fought so hard for birth control for all classes of women, and was the founder of Planned Parenthood. Terrible Virtue is a disturbing novel no matter how you feel about Sanger's actions.

Sanger was the daughter of a hard-drinking free thinker, and a mother who was worn down by giving birth to thirteen children. Margaret Sanger's entire life was affected by her youth. She took after her father in her political stances, and fought so that women would not have the same life as her mother did, dying at fifty. The Higgins sisters agreed they wouldn't marry and turn into their mother. Margaret and her sister, Edith, went to nursing school.  But, Margaret ended up quitting school after marrying Bill Sanger and getting pregnant. Her comment about her marriage. "His love filled the hole my childhood had carved out of me."

Feldman's entire novel is about Sanger fighting the opposing forces within her. Although Sanger tells her story of her fight for all women to have access to affordable contraception, her fight against the Comstack laws, and the U.S. government, their are other voices represented in the story. Her husbands, the men who loved her, the children who were desperate for her attention, the sister who lived in Margaret's shadow, all voiced their opinion of Margaret, and it's those voices who paint a picture of a woman who was not a saint. She was single-minded when it came to fighting for women's rights for birth control, and she used all of her wiles and skills, fighting in court, fighting with publicity, to gain those rights. At the same time, she left behind the people who loved her, and her affairs were  frequent and short-lived. And, one of her sons, in his letter, said, "People got hurt, Mother."

While Feldman shows Margaret Sanger as a woman whose personality was a dichotomy, the book will leave readers feeling of two minds about her as well. On one hand, she was a woman who spent her entire life fighting for access to birth control for all women. On the other hand, history shows that she supported eugenics. And, the novel shows her as a woman who talked about love of her children, and left them behind in her campaign. Feldman also shows her as someone who had sex with any man at the drop of a hat.

Terrible Virtue was an educational, informative novel. But, it was also a sad story of a woman who achieved her goals, achieved success for all women. But, at what cost to her own family and those who loved her?

Ellen Feldman's website is www.ellenfeldman.com

Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman. HarperCollins. 2016. ISBN 9780062407559 (hardcover), 272p.

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








Monday, March 28, 2016

The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

When Delaney Nichols lost her job at a small museum in Kansas, she had no idea she would end up in Edinburgh, Scotland in the middle of a murder mystery. But, then, she had answered an ad for "a bold adventurer". Paige Shelton introduces the intrepid amateur sleuth in the first Scottish Bookshop mystery, The Cracked Spine. And, it's obvious from the first chapter that "We're not in Kansas anymore."

Delaney's degrees in literature and history, and the way "things", particularly bookish voices, speak to her, makes her the perfect candidate for a position at The Cracked Spine, a book and manuscript shop in Old Town Edinburgh. Her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, might not have been at the shop to greet her, but the rest of the work family, Hamlet and Rosie, welcomed "the American" eagerly. And, the people of Edinburgh were definitely welcoming, if the cab driver, Elias, and the sexy kilt-wearing pub owner, Tom, were examples.

Delaney doesn't even have a chance to settle in, though, before she's thrust into the middle of a couple adventures. First, there's a secret auction with a close group of Edwin's friends. The auction only leads to stories of unusual items, including one valuable treasure that was entrusted to Edwin's sister. But, when Edwin's sister is murdered, and her fellow staff members close ranks to keep a secret from the police, Delaney is intrigued enough to search for answers. With the avuncular cab driver, Elias, as an escort and protector, Delaney ventures into dangerous situations and dark corners of Edinburgh searching for a missing artifact and a killer.

Delaney Nichols is an engaging, thoughtful character. She's a candid narrator, with an appealing, conversational style of storytelling. Shelton has collected an intriguing supporting cast, leaving room for development and future adventures involving unusual treasures, and equally fascinating characters.

The atmospheric setting of Edinburgh, with the castle, the tours of historic sites, the stories of ghosts, the pubs and bookstores, is perfect for a mystery series. Shelton introduces the city through the eyes of a newcomer, as well as the eyes of a cab driver.

Welcome to The Cracked Spine, the Edinburgh home of adventure and a charming new sleuth, Delaney Nichols. Delaney and author Paige Shelton know what they're talking about when they say, "Adventure goes well with Scotland, but so does a little bit of wicked."

Paige Shelton's website is www.paigeshelton.com

The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton. Minotaur Books. 2016. ISBN 978125007488 (hardcover), 294p.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber

Sometimes, a Debbie Macomber book has just the right amount of tears, along with the happy ending. Her latest, A Girl's Guide to Moving On, is one of those novels.

With dual narrators, Macomber allows her characters to tell the story of turning points in their lives. Nichole thought she had the perfect marriage, a son she adored, Owen, and a loving husband. But, it was her mother-in-law, Leanne, who told her that her husband, Jake, was cheating on her. Leanne had lived through that for over thirty-four years with her husband, Sean, and saw no reason Nichole should live the kind of life she did. It took courage, but the two women supported each other in filing for divorces. Leanne's went through quickly. Almost two years later, Jake was still fighting Nichole over every little detail.

Together, the women form a support group of two. They even come up with rules to guide their changing lives. The first rule was to volunteer, so Leanne teaches night school classes for adults learning English as a second language. Nichole helps at a dress shop where they help women who are going into the workplace for the first time. They also agree to form new friendships; let go in order to receive; and love yourself.

That "love yourself" is difficult. On the day Jake calls and says he finally signed the divorce paperwork, Nichole backs her car into a ditch. A half an hour later, Rocco Nyquist, a tow truck driver, pulls her car out. But, the handsome driver is willing to bargain. The single father needs advice with his fifteen-year-old daughter, and Nichole seems just the person to help.

Leanne seems to have moved on beautifully, but, inside she's still insecure, feeling "unloved and unloveable" after the remarks Sean made to her. It takes a Ukrainian student in her classes, Nikolai Janchanko, who makes her laugh and bakes her bread, to help her see herself differently.

As much as Nichole and Leanne want to move on, though, they still have unbreakable bonds with the men they divorced. Will those bonds threaten future happiness?

This time, Debbie Macomber has written a novel about women's relationships, with men, with each other, with their sons. It's an inspiring story, showing women rising over their problems, as they struggle to move on. Perhaps it's the point of view of the two narrators, though, Nichole and Leanne, that adds the one disturbing note. As much as I enjoyed the story, I never felt as if I truly knew the women. For some reason, their characters were just not as developed as I would have liked. But, the two men, Rocco and Nikolai, seemed to jump from the pages.

Saying that, I'll still highly recommend A Girl's Guide to Moving On. It may be fiction, but those rules themselves are excellent points for any woman moving on with her life. And, as I said, there are those tearjerker moments in a positive story. Again, excellent reasons to pick up the latest novel from Debbie Macomber.

Debbie Macomber's website is www.debbiemacomber.com

A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books. 2016. ISBN 9780553391923 (hardcover), 339p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Springtime in St. Charles, Missouri

This is a personal travel post, so if you're not interested, you can skip it. My friend, Donna and I went to St. Charles, Missouri on Thursday. Our main reason for going there was to see Byrne & Kelly, Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly, appearing at the Foundry Art Centre.



They were talking about their new album, Echoes, telling us the story of each song, and then performing. They started with a Q&A, and ended with a few Celtic Thunder songs. It was a fascinating, unique performance. I had never heard artists talk about an entire album, how they wrote the songs. And, they performed every song on the album.








Of course, they also had a Meet & Greet afterward. And, they were as funny and kind as they always are. When I thanked them for the show, saying how much I appreciated the stories, Ryan answered, "That's what it's all about, Lesa." Neil quickly responded, "Did you say it's all about Lesa? That would make a great song title." I told them to make sure they spelled it Lesa. Just two very kind men. We could certainly tell, watching them with the fans.
Ryan Kelly, me, Neil Byrne

We stayed at a delightful bed and breakfast, Boone's Lick Trail Inn. Comfortable room, terrific breakfast, and within walking distance of the charming river town of St. Charles.



St. Charles has so much history, and we just didn't have the time to see all of the historic buildings. But, it was considered the last "civilized" stop by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804.
Lewis and Clark Boat & Nature Center

Clark, Lewis' Newfoundland dog, Seaman, and Lewis



Now, just pictures of a spring day in the historic area of St. Charles, Missouri.



























Lots of shops, restaurants, galleries. Beautiful buildings, as you can tell since I took so many pictures. Best of all, a fun trip with a great friend.




Friday, March 25, 2016

T.R. Ragan's Furious, Excerpt & Giveaway

This week, I'm lucky enough to be able to share an excerpt of T.R. Ragan's new thriller, Furious. After the excerpt, there is information about the giveaway.

T.R. Ragan (Theresa Ragan) is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. Her exciting Lizzy Gardner series (AbductedDead WeightA Dark MindObsessedAlmost Dead, and Evil Never Dies) has received tremendous praise. In August 2015 Evil Never Dies hit #7 on the Wall Street Journal Bestselling List. Since publishing in 2011, she has sold two million books and has been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. TimesPC Magazine, Huffington Post, and Publishers Weekly

Theresa grew up in a family of five girls in Lafayette, California. An avid traveler, her wanderings have carried her to Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, China, Thailand, and Nepal, where she narrowly survived being chased by a killer elephant. Before devoting herself to writing fiction, she worked as a legal secretary for a large corporation. Theresa and her husband Joe have four children and live in Sacramento, California.

Furious, the first book in her most recent Faith McMann series was just released, and it will be followed by Outrage and Wrath.

Now, for the excerpt -


The kids unlatched their seatbelts, jumped out of the car, and ran through the garage and into the house before the song ended. Faith sang along until the last verse, then sat there for a moment and soaked in a little peace and quiet. Working full-time and raising two young kids tended to make moments like this rare.

Her cell phone buzzed. It was her sister.

“Hey, what’sup?” Faith asked.

“I’ll tell you what’s up,” Jana said. “Steve is driving me nuts! I quit drinking, I stopped devouring cake and cookies, but now he won’t let me lift anything heavier than a milk carton. This baby is going to be born stressed out if he doesn’t chill.”

Faith smiled. Her sister was a drama queen.

“What time will you be coming tomorrow?”

“Oh, my God, I forgot about the party.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Faith said.

“You were supposed to make six dozen cupcakes. Do you know how much I still have to do before—”

Her sister’s laughter cut her off midsentence.

Faith sighed when she realized Jana had been joking about not making the cupcakes.

“That’s not funny, Jana.”

“You’re such a dweeb. How could I possibly forget to make six dozen cupcakes when you’ve reminded me every single day for the past two weeks?”

“I don’t know, but I have to go.”

“Wait—Have you told Craig the news?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“He’s been busy with work—and, you know, bills stacking up, new tires for the car, busted water heater last month. I haven’t found the right moment to tell him about baby number three.”

“He’ll be thrilled. Don’t wait too long, OK?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” Faith disconnected the call and was about to head off for the store when she remembered the grocery list hanging on the refrigerator. She left her purse in the car and climbed out. Weaving around toys and bikes, she headed through the garage door into the kitchen, where it looked as if a tornado had swept through the house. Kitchen drawers had been left open. Papers and broken dishes were scattered across the floor.

Her heart raced. What is going on?

Just as she was about to call out her husband’s name, she stepped into the family room and saw Craig on the floor, bound and gagged.

A man she didn’t recognize hovered over him.

The scene before her made no sense.

Her heart pounded in her chest, making it difficult to breathe as her gaze darted around the room.

And then she spotted them.

Lara and Hudson sat together on the couch. Their hands had been duct-taped behind their backs. More duct tape covered their mouths. Another man stood close by, watching over them.

Time stopped as she tried to figure out what to do.

Craig always said they should buy a gun, but she didn’t want to keep one in the house.

Eyes wide, she looked at the knife drawer. Grab a knife? Or run and alert the neighbors?

The two men exchanged a glance. Their eyes said it all.

She turned and ran.

If she could get inside the car and lock the doors, she could honk the horn or drive the car right through the wall and into the house if she had to. That might get one of the neighbors’ attention.

She flew through the back door leading to the garage and screamed at the top of her lungs before someone grabbed her from behind, twisted her around, and brought her face up close to his.

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said as she struggled to get free.

He sneered. His eyes were bloodshot, filled with desperation.

He smelled of stale tobacco. Strong arms held her in place. She thought of every show she’d ever seen on getting away from an assailant, but fighting him was useless. “Let us go!” she cried.

He shook her hard enough to make her teeth rattle.

“You have five seconds to tell me where it is!”

This time when she screamed, she dug her heel into his foot and tried to twist out of his grasp.

He slammed her to the ground. Her head hit the cement floor, and her world turned black.

Excerpted from FURIOUS © Copyright 2016 by T.R. Ragan. Reprinted with permission by Thomas & Mercer. All rights reserved.

*****
This week, one lucky person will win a copy of T.R. Ragan's Furious. If you would like to win, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Furious." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Because the next Friday falls on April 1, and we all know I do Treasures in My Closet on the first of the month, this giveaway will end Wednesday, March 30 at 6 PM CT. Good luck!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Winners and What Are You Reading?

This week's contest will kick off tomorrow because I have an excerpt from the book and the giveaway ready to go then. But, congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Bonnie P. from Palo Alto, CA won Berried Secrets. Better Homes and Corpses is going to Trish R. from Decatur, GA.

I haven't yet finished my latest book, The Witches of Cambridge by Menna Van Praag. Perhaps it's because I don't have much empathy for any of the characters yet, even with 100 pages read. I like the premise, though, so I'll probably finish it.

Instead of a book review or a giveaway today, let's talk about what you're reading. I hope you have a good book! Do you want to tell us about it?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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



Just a glimpse of Josh this month. Jinx was there for a second, but didn't stay. I hope you enjoy the book chat without cats!

Here are this month's titles.

Breach of Crust - Ellery Adams (5th Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery)
Bittersweet - Susan Wittig Albert (23rd China Bayles Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
A Clue in the Stew - Connie Archer (5th Soup Lover's Mystery)
Braking for Bodies - Duffy Brown (2nd Cycle Path Mystery)
Killer Takeout - Lucy Burdette (7th Key West Food Critic Mystery)
Fat Cat Takes the Cake - Janet Cantrell (3rd Fat Cat Mystery)
Needle and Dread - Elizabeth Lynn Casey (11th Southern Sewing Circle Mystery)
Moss Hysteria - Kate Collins (18th Flower Shop Mystery)
An Unhappy Medium - Dawn Eastman (4th Family Fortune Mystery)
Crime and Poetry - Amanda Flower (1st Magical Bookshop Mystery)
Rest in Peach - Susan Furlong (2nd Georgia Peach Mystery)
Reading Up a Storm - Eva Gates (3rd Lighthouse Library Mystery)
Vanilla Beaned - Jenn McKinlay (8th Cupcake Bakery Mystery)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper

Marla Cooper combines cozy mystery, exotic wedding locations and fun characters in what is undoubtedly the first in a new series, Terror in Taffeta. Wedding planner Kelsey McKenna normally enjoys planning destination weddings. But, the wedding in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, brings together a demanding mother-of-the-bride, a last minute addition to the wedding party, and a death at the end of the ceremony itself. Not quite as Kelsey pictured the newlyweds starting their new life.

Kelsey warned the bridesmaids against drinking too much the night before the wedding, but they ignored her. So, it didn't come as a surprise when they didn't feel good the next day, and one was even sick before walking down the aisle. But, Dana Poole had been trouble from the very beginning when she agreed to be a bridesmaid after turning it down earlier. The last minute addition to the party turned out to be pushy, and it was easy for Kelsey to see that the bride's sister, Zoe, couldn't stand Dana. But, she wasn't the only one. However, Zoe was the only one arrested after Dana died during the wedding ceremony.

It's bad enough to lose a bridesmaid. But, then Mrs. Abernathy, the bride's mother, insisted Kelsey's contract meant she had to take care of all problems associated with the wedding. To the mother-of-the-bride, that meant Kelsey was responsible for getting Zoe out of jail and finding Dana's killer. Kelsey felt differently. "Maybe I should have been a funeral planner instead. Your responsibilities are finite, the expectations aren't as high, and no one's going to be happy anyway." But, Kelsey takes her responsibility to Zoe seriously, particularly when the police seem satisfied they've arrested the right person. However, Kelsey has something the police lack, "a guest list with seventy-eight potential suspects."

Terror in Taffeta is a humorous treat, introducing a wonderful crime-fighting duo, Kelsey and her photographer best friend, Brody Marx. I have to say, though, this is another case in which I like the sidekick better than the hero. Kelsey is smart and an ambitious businesswoman with a strong sense of right and wrong. She's an excellent star for the book. But, Brody's personality pushes her to be even better. He's witty, intelligent, and an excellent friend. Kelsey and her business will make for an interesting series. Brody will make readers come back.

Congratulations are in order for Marla Cooper's Terror in Taffeta, with its gorgeous location, well-developed characters, and intriguing mystery. Here's best wishes for a long, prosperous marriage of mystery and humor.

Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper. Minotaur Books. 2016. ISBN 9781250072566 (hardcover), 288p.

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




Monday, March 21, 2016

Disappearing Ink by Travis McDade

"He was quite possibly the least sneaky book thief in the history of the crime, and yet he kept getting away with it." If a fiction writer wrote about David Breithaupt's ten years of theft from Kenyon College's Olive and Chalmers Library, everyone would say a bumbling thief would never get away with it. Travis McDade relates the true story of the horrendous thefts in Disappearing Ink.

Breithaupt was originally from Ohio, and after almost ten years spent working in bookstores in New York City, he returned home. He had trouble finding work there in 1990. "Lack of discernible skills, requisite degrees, or basic qualifications may have all played a role in his frustrations, but so, too, did his personality." Fortunately for him, and, unfortunately for Kenyon College, he was hired for the part-time job of evening supervisor at Kenyon College's Olive and Chalmers Library in Gambier, Ohio. There he had easy access to the Special Collections, and was able to take books as well as complete files of correspondence and manuscripts from authors such as W.H. Auden, Norman Mailer, and Dylan Thomas. Kenyon College's exquisite collections were steadily raped time and time again, until in 2000, a librarian in Georgia reported that someone had tried to sell a letter from Flannery O'Connor. That letter would lead to college, local and federal investigations, and Breithaupt's downfall.

McDade tells the story of Breithaupt's thefts, his flimsy stories, and his sales of books. He and his partner, Christa Hupp, made a business of selling the stolen materials, partially because their sales coincided with the rise of the Internet and online businesses devoted to private sales. The first half of the book is devoted to Breithaupt's thefts and deceptions. The second half deals with the discoveries, investigations, and court trials.

Disappearing Ink is a fascinating and infuriating account. There are a number of people who are culpable in Breithaupt's continuing ability to walk away with valuable books and manuscripts.  Kenyon College acknowledged their mistakes, and took the case to the law and court, which drew further attention to their errors in judgement and behavior. But, the behavior of a man who professed to love books is unbelievable. And, it's astonishing to see that he continued to receive support from authors who didn't seem to think he had done anything wrong in stealing from a library.

Looking for nonfiction that truly reads as if it's an unbelievable fiction story? Try Travis McDade's Disappearing Ink.

Disappearing Ink by Travis McDade. Diversion Books. 2015. ISBN 9781682301487 (paperback), 174p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Author Bill Fitzhugh gave me the copy of the book. (I think he knew I'd be outraged.)