Sunday, April 30, 2006

Books read in April

Terrific month for books. I finished eighteen books, including two of the best of the year - George D. Shuman's 18 Seconds and The Saddlemaker's Wife by Earlene Fowler. Here's the list of books I read during April.

The Dead Beat by Marilyn Johnson - An examination of the golden age of obituary writing, the people who do it, and the newspapers who carry unusual obits.

Why My Wife Thinks I'm An Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad by Mike Greenberg. Journals of a few years by Mike, from Mike & Mike in the Morning, sports radio show, with a focus on his family life.

The Ribbon Murders by Sharon Ervin - First mystery introducing cub reporter Jancy Dewhurst & Agent Jim Willis from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation as they team up to find the killer who targets men and ties blue ribbons to their penises.

18 Seconds by George D. Shuman - First mystery featuring a blind woman who sees dead people's last eighteen seconds of thoughts.

Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer - A film director & a Green Beret fight mutual attraction whle teaming up when everything goes wrong on a movie shoot.

Working with You is Killing Me by Katherine Crowley & Kathie Elster - Freeing yourself from emotional traps at work.

All in One Piece by Cecelia Tishy - When psychic Reggie Cutter's tenant is murdered & she's a target, she takes matters into her own hands.

Moving is Murder by Sara rosett - First mystery introducing Ellie Avery, an Air Force wife who stumbles upon murder in the squadron's neighborhood.

My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman - Fredericka Hatch looks back to the eyar she was sixteen, and the disruption to her family when her father's ex-wife moves onto the same college campus.

The Alpine Recluse by Mary Daheim - The latest Emma Lord mysery in which the newspaper publisher hunts a hermit who might be a witness to arson and murder.

Destroying Angels by Gail Lukasik - First mystery in which a cancer survivor hiding out as a reporter suspects local deaths are murders in Egg Harbor, WI.

The Ride of Our Lives: Roadside Lessons of an American Family by Mike Leonard - The NBC reporter packs up his aging parents and a couple grown children for a month-long RV trip.

Madame Mirabou's School of Love by Barbara Samuel - A divorcee learns to live with herself & plans a future life with the perfume shop she always wanted.

A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation by Catherine Allgor - Biography of the President's wife who created the position of First Lady, and helped to unite the country.

If You LIved Here, I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende - The newspaper columnist in Haines, Alaska reports on life and death in her small town.

PostSecret by Frank Warren - Secrets sent on postcards to the author.

Murder Most Crafty ed. by Maggie Bruce - Mystery story collection featuring crafts, written by Jan Burke, Margaret Maron, and others.

The Saddlemaker's Wife by Earlene Fowler - When Ruby McGavin lost her husband, she discovered a family he lied about, and the secrets they keep hidden.

The Saddlemaker's Wife

I'd love to get to Poisoned Pen Central Tuesday to tell Earlene Fowler how much I enjoyed this book. I'll only get there if Dept. Heads meeting is cancelled though.

Fowler is the author of the Benni Harper series of mysteries with quilt patterns as titles. The Saddlemaker's Wife is a mainstream novel, which I would compare favorably to Barbara Samuel's books. It was one of the two best books I read in April.

When Ruby McGavin's husband of six months died, she's shocked to discover he never told her the truth about his family. He leaves her 1/4 of a ranch, and an apology for telling her they had all died years earlier. When she travels to Tokopah County, California, she finds a family already torn apart by secrets including more secrets about her husband. Her search for the truth could bring her additional heartbreak, or finally bring her home.

Ruby is a fascinating character struggling to find her own place in the world. She thought she finally found love and contentment until her husband's death tore her apart. Fowler's ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel. Ruby is a character who should be brought back so the reader knows if she found happiness.

Fowler's website address is: www.earlenefowler.com

Friday, April 28, 2006

PostSecret

Frank Warren started the PostSecret project by printing 3000 postcards asking people to send him a secret. A year and a half later, he is still receiving submissions. People are taking the opportunity to seek relief, heal themselves, share their painful experiences. These are comments that Dr. Anne Fisher made in the foreward to the book. Warren dedicates the book to "every person who faced their secret on a postcard, released it into a mailbox, and bravely shared it with me, the world, and themselves." I felt like a voyeur as a read ones that troubled me or bothered me. I felt so sorry for a few of the writers. This is a wonderful compilation of moving secrets. Warren and Fisher both see the postcards as healing through art.

Warren updates his blog every Sunday at www.postsecret.blogspot.com, if you want to see new postcards.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name

I first read about Heather Lende's book about small-town Alaska in Marilyn Johnson's book, The Dead Beat. Heather Lende is a newspaper columnist who writes the social column and obituaries for the Chikkat Valley News, a weekly newspaper. Lende is also a resident of Haines, Alaska, a town of 2,400 people, where she lives with her husband and five kids. Lende writes with her heart about the people she celebrates in her columns. She shares the family's grief when a young fisherman is lost at sea. She celebrates that same family when the mother rises over grief and makes a quilt in tribute to the fishing disaster. She says as an obituary writer, she writes about loss, but more about love. She also said writing them helps her celebrate the living. Lende's book celebrates a place, Haines, Alaska, and the people that make it special.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Madame Mirabou's School of Love

What can I say about Barbara Samuel's books? She speaks to my heart, and I've enjoyed every one of her books. She caught me with the first sentence of her latest book. "I told the insurance company I was sleeping when the house blew up." Nicole Bridges was already struggling with her divorce and the loss of her fifteen year old daughter. And then her furnace blew up, and she lost the house.

Now, she's in an apartment complex nicknamed Splitsville for others in her same situation. Despite her depression, she finds a job in a restaurant, makes new friends, and maybe there's a new man in her life. And, best of all, she reaches back into her past to discover she still loves scents and wants to create perfumes. As Nikki tries to move on, she's contrasted with a neighbor, Roxanne, who is still obsessed with her ex-husband and his new wife. Roxanne sinks deeper into trouble while Nikki realizes it could have been her.

Check out Barbara Samuel's web site at www.barbarasamuel.com

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary, who wrote 38 books in 50 years, is 90 today, April 12, 2006. The author of the beloved Ramona books was a children's librarian in Washington and Berkeley, California during World War II.

Her only advice to kids? "Use the library, and if you don't know what to read, ask the librarian!"

Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Moving Is Murder

First-time author Sara Rosett knows of what she writes. She is the wife of an Air Force pilot, and they've moved nine times. So when she writes of Air Force wife Ellie Avery, a new mother and an Air Force wife who has moved four times in five years, she's speaking from experience. Hopefully, her experience doesn't include moving into a neighborhood where squadron wives are being murdered. Ellie happened to find the first body, and when a friend becomes a primary suspect, Ellie feels responsible. She's connected to all the victims, so snooping comes easy.

This is a likeable new character, with a fresh voice. Rosett includes experiences on the base and in the commissary, which I found interesting as a nonmilitary person. And, Ellie had one great strength that I appreciated. Her primary responsibility was to her baby daughter, Livvy. Unlike some amateur detectives who seem to dump their personal life when they on the track of a killer, Ellie takes Livvy with her, and monitors her at all times. Even the neighbor's dog is not forgotten. Characters who have children and animals in mysteries, and take off on their own mission are not believable or likeable. Ellie takes her responsibilies seriously. I hope we'll be seeing more of her.

Sara Rosett's web site is www.sararosett.com

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Don't Look Down

What do you get when you put Jennifer Crusie, a romance writer of fun novels, and Bob Mayer, a former Green Beret together? You get a whirlwind, fun book.

Lucy Armstrong agrees to direct the final four days of a film project, despite the fact that her ex-husband is the stunt coordinator. But her five-year-old niece begs her, and her sister seems to be in trouble. It seems that the entire film is in trouble, but Lucy never relied on anyone to fix her problems. She just might need J.T. Wilder, the Green Beret who showed up as a stunt double for the film's star. Both J.T. and Lucy get in much deeper than they would have liked, when the CIA, a swamp "ghost," and an alligator add to their problems.

Mayer and Crusie make a good writing team. Their novel is fun, adventuresome, and sexy. Should be a hit!

18 Seconds

This is the only book I've mentioned three times on the blog, but George D. Shuman's first novel is worth it. 18 Seconds is the story of an investigative consultant, a blind woman who can touch a corpse, and "see" what they thought in their last 18 seconds of life. It hasn't been an easy life for Sherry Moore, raised in an orphanage, and discovering her ability. And, it becomes even more difficult when she sees one of her own recurring nightmares when she touches a corpse. But Sherry's friend, Detective John Payne asks her to consult when a serial killer strikes in seaside Wildwood, New Jersey, and, against her better judgment, she agrees.

Shuman's use of sound and description is wonderful. His first book is a page-turner that sucks the reader in. And, Sherry Moore is a different type of character, one who intrigues the reader. Shuman writes a compelling story.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dark Light

It's a long story as to why I no longer read Randy Wayne White's books, but I did want to acknowledge the Author's Note in his latest book, Dark Light.

He says, "Much of this book was written in public libraries, and I have become a great fan of library professionals as a result. I am especially grateful to the staff at Pine Island Public Library and also Sanibel Library. They were superb..."

Since I worked with Randy Briggs, Manager of the Pine Island Library, for many years, I wanted to second White's comment. The staff at Pine Island is superb.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Can you hear this now?

Once in a while, a passage just strikes you. This is from 18 Seconds by George D. Shuman.

p. 21 - "The April winds howled through the bastions, slapping snap hooks on flagpoles with a monotonous clanking of steel on steel..."

Can you hear that?

The Ribbon Murders

I love a first mystery. It feels as if it was my discovery then. Sharon Ervin's first mystery, The Ribbon Murders, introduces two likeable characters, Jancy Dewhurst, a crime reporter, and Agent Jim Wills, with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Ervin's strength lies in her character development, and the development of the romantic relationship between Jancy and Wills.

Although Jancy and Wills clash when they meet at a crime scene, they soon discover that they complement each other, in more ways than one. Jancy is very aware of details, and she's the one who makes the first connection between two murder victims discovered with blue ribbons tied to their penises. Wills is doggedly determined to find the killer, and his patient casework is appreciated by the prosecutor's office.

Although it's obvious early on who the killer is, Jancy and Wills are such likeable characters that the reader wants to watch them together as they piece together the case, and their own relationship.

Sharon Ervin's web site is www.sharonervin.com

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Web site for 18 Seconds

I picked up a copy of 18 Seconds by George D. Shuman today, thanks to his book web site. 18 Seconds is about a woman who had the ability to "see" the last eighteen seconds of a deceased person's memory when she touches the corpse. A police lieutenant calls her in to help stop a serial killer. Check out the web site at www.18secondsthebook.com. This is one case when the site sold me on the book.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Dead Beat

Marilyn Johnson's fascinating new book is subtitled Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries. Johnson wrote profile obitiuaries for magazines such as Life. While doing research, she became fascinated with the unusual obituaries now done in newspapers such as The New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily Telegraph of London. Not only does she interview a number of the authors of the obits, but she also attends the Sixth Great Obituary Writers' International Conference which culminated in the announcement of Ronald Reagan's death. Johnson makes obits fascinating, and the journalists who write them equally so. It's a compelling little book.