Monday, December 31, 2007

A Toast to 2007!

Here's to 2007, a good year. Thank you to all of the authors who sent books for review and book contests, and all of the authors who wrote the books I enjoyed. My biggest regret of 2007? I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to read every book that I was sent. I'm sorry.

Here's to all of the authors I had a chance to meet - Ann Brashares, Brenda Rickman Vantrease, Alafair Burke, Deborah Atkinson, Zoё Sharp, Margaret Coel, Bud Krogh, Donis Casey, Troy Cook, Mark Coggins, and Tim Maleeny. To Lee Child and Mary Anna Evans. It was good to see you again. Thank you to Brenda, Zoё, and Donis for appearing at the library. I wish all of you continued good luck with your books.

Here's to the readers of this blog. Thank you for reading it, commenting on the entries, and entering the contests. There will be more contests in 2008, and more books given away.

This was the year I turned 50. Thank you, Jim, for arranging a wonderful birthday, and keeping the surprise.

Here's a salute to my Mom, my sisters, Linda and Christie, and my college roommate, Jamie. They all flew in for my birthday party as a surprise. It was a wonderful birthday weekend. Thank you!

On another personal note, Linda's son, Thomas graduated from Indiana in 2007, and starts his new life as a police officer in Bloomington in 2008. Congratulations, Thomas, and good luck!

I enjoyed 2007, with family, friends, good books, authors and readers. My new year's resolution for 2008? I read 164 books in 2007. I'd like to read 165 in 2008. Here's to 2007, and welcome to 2008!

Books Read in December

I read a smaller number of books in December, due to Christmas and lots and lots of baking. However, I read a total of 164 books in 2007, the most in the last five years. My goal for 2008? To read 165 books!

Here are the books read in December.

Hell for the Holidays - Chris Grabenstein - FBI agent Chris Miller is torn between taking time for his traumatized daughter, or dealing with a group of homegrown terrorists who are targeting New York City at Thanksgiving.

Pictures of Hollis Woods - Patricia Reilly Giff - A juvenile fiction about a troubled young girl, who has run away from foster homes, but longs for a family, one she might find through her art.

Creation in Death - J.D. Robb - Police procedural set in 2060, in which Lt. Eve Dallas goes after a serial killer she failed to catch years earlier. Now, he is targeting women that resemble Eve, and work in his husband's companies.

George's Secret Key to the Universe - Lucy & Stephen Hawking - Juvenile Fiction about a boy whose neighbor has a computer that sends them into space, although an evil teacher is trying to steal it.

Fifty-Seven Heaven - Lonnie Cruse - Kitty Bloodworth and her husband, Jack, find her dislikable cousin's body in the trunk of Jack's '57 Chevy.

On Strike for Christmas - Sheila Roberts - A group of women feel their efforts at Christmas aren't appreciated, so they turn responsibility for all preparations over to their husbands.

Notorious - Michele Martinez - Federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas is trying a rap star for murder when his lawyer is blown up after speaking to her. Who is the actual target?

Cotillion - Georgette Heyer - Regency romance in which a young heiress begs a so-called "cousin" to take her to London, using a sham betrothal as an excuse.

Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan - Peter Schifando & J. Jonathan Joseph - Entertaining, protocol and history of both in the White House.

Everything But a Groom - Holly Jacobs - Vancy Salo cursed her fiance, when he didn't show up for their wedding, and now that curse has reached down to her granddaughter, Vancy, who has to deal with a groom that fails to show. Vancy runs away to hide out with a man who just found his brother's twin sons on his doorstep.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List - Shelley Mosley, et al. Reading lists in genres and subject matters.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Ultimate Reading List

Shelley Mosley, John Charles, Joanne Hamilton-Selway, and Sandra Van Winkle, four authors from Glendale and Scottsdale, Arizona, brought their broad knowledge of books, over 75 years of combined experience, to the fascinating collection, The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Ultimate Reading List.

Before going further in my comments, let me just say that I know Shelley. She was the library manager at the branch I now manage, before she went to Glendale Community College. And, she acknowledges three of the librarians from that branch, as well as other librarians from our system. Saying that, I am still in awe at the vast knowledge these four authors bring to this book.

They have collected almost 1,000 books in a work that lists "good reads" in categories such as historical fiction, popular fiction, literary fiction, and all of the various genres such as romances, mysteries, and science fiction. They also include readable, popular biographies, travel books, true crime, and other nonfiction titles. Each book is given a short summary that is very helpful to readers. And, each category has a short list of "classics" or must-reads that set the bar for other books.

This is one of the most practical collections for readers and librarians alike. It contains more popular titles, and less literary titles than many books of this type. So, it's a book for readers and librarians.

I caught one major flaw, and I know other readers will catch it quickly. When discussing Jan Karon's bestselling, well-loved Mitford series, the authors make the mistake of referring to it as "Medford." They make the mistake once in the book title, At Home in Medford (sic), in the summary, and even in a sidebar. One of the authors, or the editor, should have caught this mistake.

Even so, I'd certainly recommend The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Ultimate Reading List. I'll be buying my own copy, so I can mark it up, and catch up on some interesting books.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Ultimate Reading List by Shelley Mosley, John Charles, Joanne Hamilton-Selway, and Sandra Van Winkle. Alpha, ©2007. ISBN 978-1592576456 (paperback), 320p.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Everything But a Groom

Cursed! Yancy Bashalde didn't mean to curse her children and grandchildren. When she cursed the man who didn't show up to marry her in Hungary, she meant to curse his children and grandchildren, so they would never enjoy a beautiful wedding. Unfortunately, she later married that same man, and suddenly, their descendants shared that curse. Holly Jacobs' latest novel, Everything But a Groom, is a fun romance showing two people what it takes to make a marriage of love.

Yancy Salo ignored all of her grandmother's stories, and had plans and counter plans for her beautiful wedding. What she didn't plan on was her fiancé running off with a waitress. Suddenly Yancy is pursued by the media who smells a story about the bride who was cursed by her own grandmother. Her escape from the reporters led her straight to Matt Wilde, who has his own problems.

Wilde was quite happy building up his landscape business. He never expected to open his front door to find five-year-old twins, his brother's sons, left on his doorstep. Yancy's appearance in his life was a godsend since she seemed perfectly confident in handling two small boys.

Holly Jacobs has a knack for creating likable characters, from Yancy Salo and Matt Wilde to Yancy's grandmother, Nana Salo and Matt's surprising stepmother. Fortunately for the reader, there are plans for two more books featuring Nana Salo's descendants. Maybe there won't be a big wedding in Nana's future, but there's bound to be romance. If Everything But a Groom is an example, it will be a fun, romantic story of two people who discover they need each other.

Holly Jacobs' website is www.HollyJacobs.com

Everything But a Groom by Holly Jacobs. Avalon, ©2007. ISBN 978-0803498648 (hardcover), 186p.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan


Peter Schifando and J. Jonathan Joseph have captured the style and elegance of the Reagan White House in a gorgeous book, Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan. The two interior designers had access to Mrs. Reagan's White House scrapbooks to collect the details of those years in "the President's House." They were also fortunate enough to have Mrs. Reagan's cooperation, and that of former members of the Reagan White House staff.

The book puts White House entertaining in historical context, beginning with the earliest dinners and receptions, under President John Adams. The First Ladies began to put a stamp on entertaining under Dolley Madison, and the changes and influences are shown up until the Reagan years.

The pictures in this book illustrate the fact that the dinners, parties, and entertaining are as much a part of American history as anything else in the government. During the Reagan years, they hosted 55 state dinners, and numerous private events. However, it's the pictures, menus, and invitations to those state dinners that show how important they were to international relations.

As in some other recent books, my biggest complaint with Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan is the use of white print on tan pages at times. This is not always easy to read, and publishers should consider their readers when publishing books. Black print on white pages, or the white print on black pages, is still the most effective print for a reader.

Except for this small complaint, the is an intriguing look behind the scenes at the White House. The attention to detail is wonderful in the book that captures the history, etiquette and protocol of White House entertaining. No matter what your political beliefs, the Reagans were experts at elegant entertaining. Schifando and Joseph used their access skillfully to portray the style of Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan.

Entertaining at the White House with Nancy Reagan by Peter Schifando and J. Jonathan Joseph. William Morrow, ©2007. ISBN 0061350125 (hardcover), 240p.

Christmas Wishes



I wanted to wish all of the readers and authors a Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful holiday, filled with love, family and friends.

Jim and I are sending a prayer of thanks for those men and women serving in the military. We pray for their safety, and that next year at Christmas, they'll be home safely with their families. We pray for world peace. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cotillion


It's been years since I read one of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, but when I read Cotillion, I remembered why she was considered the Queen of the Regencies. Cotillion is a fun, romantic novel, filled with wit, humor and style.

Regency romances are traditionally set between 1811 and 1820. They emphasize manners and style, as well as the difference between classes. Cotillion is a perfect example of this type of novel.

Kitty Charing is the nineteen-year-old ward and adopted daughter of Matthew Penicuik, a penny-pinching wealthy man who determines to leave his money to Kitty, with the understanding she's to marry one of his great-nephews. To bring that about, he calls his nephews to his estate, but allows Kitty to pick the man she will marry. One nephew, the dashing Jack, fails to show up, but fools his cousin, Freddy, into making an appearance. Freddy, who has no interest in marriage, acknowledges Kitty's longing to see London and enjoy society, agrees to a sham betrothal, and sweeps her off to his mother's, to everyone's surprise.

Freddy, the Honourable Frederick Standen, is a gentleman and member of the ton , fashionable society. As Jack tries to work his way back into Kitty's good graces, Freddy quietly observes. Freddy is kind-hearted, and agrees to Kitty's plans, only to find her schemes falling short of their intentions. Although he never considered himself the brightest member of the family, he has enough common sense to help her out of her scrapes. None of Kitty's good intentions go exactly right, and Freddy always seems to be there to pick up the pieces.

Georgette Heyer cleverly mixes the classes in an entertaining plot. Kitty herself only has any place in society because she's an heiress. If she doesn't inherit, she could find herself working as a governess or companion. She's in contrast with Olivia, a beautiful young woman, who must marry or become a mistress. There's also Miss Plymstock, determined to marry another of Kitty's cousins. Marriage is shown as the only way for women to achieve status, unless they have it by birth or inheritance.

Many of Georgette Heyer's novels have not been available for years, but Sourcebooks, Inc. has started to republish them, beginning with Cotillion, and An Infamous Army: A Novel of Love, War, Wellington and Waterloo. It's time someone brought these outstanding books back for a new audience. Cotillion, with its excellent cast of characters, enjoyable storyline, and subtle romance, is a perfect place to start.

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. Sourcebooks, Inc., ©2007, ISBN 978-1-4022-1125-6 (paperback), 482p.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Personal Opinion

A regular reader of my blog asked me a few thoughtful questions today, and I thought maybe other readers might want to know the answers. She's a very perceptive reader, who has seen enough of my reviews to notice a pattern.

She noticed that most of my reviews are positive ones, and I seldom have negative reviews. She's right, but it's not because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Most of the time, I'm reading books for my own enjoyment. If I'm not enjoying a book, I'm not going to finish it. And, I don't review books I don't finish. So, most reviews you read here will be positive.

I do review books that are sent to me, though, from Library Journal, LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, and BlogCritics.org.
When I review for one of those sources, I feel obligated to finish the book, whether or not I enjoy it. Those are books that might get a negative review.

She also asked about my friendship with authors. I do know a number of authors, but I wouldn't consider it a close friendship with any of them. I respect them very much, but I hope they know that if I read and review their books, I will give an honest opinion. Keep in mind, even then, that if I don't finish the book because I couldn't get into it, a review won't appear here.

I hope this answers the questions about the many positive reviews that appear on this blog. I agree. No one can like everything they read. And, I don't. I just don't bother finishing a book if I don't like it.

Too many good books out there, not enough time!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Notorious

I received a copy of Michele Martinez' forthcoming book, Notorious, as part of the Early Reviewer program for LibraryThing. Normally, I don't review a book that's due out in a few months, but the purpose of the Early Reviewer program is to generate buzz.

Martinez brings back federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas in the fourth novel in the series. Vargas is trying a rap star for murder when his attorney is blown up by a car bomb. However, Melanie has just been discussing a deal with him, and she was the only witness. When Melanie has to work with the new attorney, he proves to be an untrustworthy man, known for his shady dealings. Suddenly, her case starts to fall apart as witnesses are intimidated by violence.

Notorious is a fascinating page-turner, with one major problem. Melanie Vargas is a weak character to hold a series together. She's too quick to react, instead of thinking. At times, she appears too naive and trusting for her job. She seems to just go with the flow of the case, and everything seems to fall into place for her.

However, this is an intriguing story with an unexpected twist at the end that brings the overall plot to a perfect conclusion. Notorious is a fun, quick read concerning timely topics. If Melanie Vargas had more backbone, this book would be even better.

Michele Martinez' website is www.michelemartinez.com

Notorious by Michele Martinez. William Morrow, ©2008. ISBN 978-0-06-089902-8 (hardcover), 352p.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sidetracked by Christmas

Christmas cookies. I made spritz cookies, two types of snowballs, chocolate chip cookies. Christie's molasses cookies, twice. Christmas candy in our household was buckeyes, made twice. Then there's the Chocolate-Cherry Truffle Cake I made for today's Christmas luncheon at work. I love the holidays, and I love to bake for them. My sister, Christie, was making at least ten types of cookies with the help of her kids. I know my sister, Linda, is baking because she asked for Christie's recipe for molasses cookies. And, it's not truly Christmas until my Mother's gumdrop bars arrive in the mail. That's the scent of Christmas. My grandmother baked for Christmas, and it's been passed on in our family.

So, my reading has been sidetracked. I haven't finished a book in a week and a half. Too much fun in the kitchen. So, here are the books that I'm partway through. Maybe I'll get a chance to finish them soon.

I'm reading Georgette Heyer's Cotillion, a Regency romance. It's a wonderful book. Heyer was the master at Regency romances, and it's a fun book. Her books are just starting to be reprinted. I'm enjoying it, and I should have time to finish it soon.

Notorious is Michele Martinez' forthcoming suspense novel. It's due out in February, and I was lucky enough to receive an ARC through LibraryThing. This one is a book you'll want to order at the library or your local bookstore. It marks the return of federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas, who witnesses the car bombing of her opposing counsel.

And, I can't believe I haven't even had a chance to open T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton. I'm getting to that as soon as I can.

So, do you have books that have been sidetracked by your holidays? If so, what books are waiting for you?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moments in Crime

I haven't had much time to read, let alone blog, in the last week or so. Too much baking of Christmas cookies. I do have time to read St. Martin's Minotaur's new blog, though, Moments in Crime. The publishing house's authors have been blogging for a week at a time.

It's a new blog, so it's easy to catch up. Thomas Lakeman and Theresa Schwegel have already blogged. This week, it's Louise Ure's turn. And, if you check it out, you have a chance to find out more about the author of The Fault Tree, , one of the promising crime novels of January, 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Congratulations to Cornelia Read

And, more congratulations. This time, to Cornelia Read, who has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in the amount of $25,000.

Cornelia submitted the first thirty pages of her forthcoming book, The Crazy School, as her writing sample. The Crazy School is her second crime novel to feature Madeline Dare. Her first book was the critically acclaimed A Field of Darkness, which is now available in paperback.

Release date for The Crazy School is January 10th. This will be a book to watch, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

Congratulations, Cornelia! Well-deserved.

Cornelia Read's website is www.corneliaread.com

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baby Shark Optioned for Film

Congratulations to Robert Fate, whose debut crime novel, Baby Shark, has been optioned for a film.

Hollywood producer Brad Wyman, best known for producing Monster, starring Oscar-winner Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci, has optioned the film rights to the book.

This is the first step on the road from the book to the screen, and one that Bob Fate is happy about. "Junction Films is the right company and Brad Wyman is the perfect producer for this project," Bob Fate said.

Robert Fate is the author of Baby Shark and Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues. A third Baby Shark book is in the works.

Congratulations, Bob!

Robert Fate's website is www.robertfate.com

Murder on the Mind

I normally don't discuss a book much before I've finished it, but I don't want you to miss the chance to pick up L.L. Bartlett's Murder on the Mind while you have the chance.

The paperback edition of Bartlett's Jeff Resnick paranormal mystery is available for a limited time from Harlequin's Worldwide Mystery imprint. Check out the website if you're interested.

Jeff Resnick was down-and-out, but once he was mugged, and ended up with a broken arm, and fractured skull, he was forced to move in with his half-brother in Buffalo. It was there that he discovered his weird dreams and hallucinations were psychic visions of a murder.

Check out Harlequin's site if you're interested. Or check out L.L. Bartlett's website at www.llbartlett.com.

Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett. Worldwide Mystery, ©2005. ISBN 978-0-373-26615-9 (paperback), 251p.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On Strike for Christmas

If most of the Christmas books are too saccharine for your taste, try On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts. Roberts' holiday story is more fun than anything else I've read this season.

Although the story involves a whole group of women, the Stitch 'N Bitch knitting club, it focuses on two couples, Bob and Joy Robertson, and Glen and Laura Fredericks. The women have opposite problems at holiday time. Joy adores the holidays, but her husband, Bob, lacks the Christmas spirit. He's a mystery writer who was an only child, and he'd rather just be left alone with Joy. In the Fredericks household, Glen is a big, kindhearted teddy bear who invites everyone and his brother over to party, with little thought of all of the work his wife has to do. It's Joy's disappointment with her husband that sets off an interesting chain of events in the small town of Holly. One comment that she should go on strike for Christmas, and let Bob do everything, sets the Stitch 'N Bitch group in motion. Suddenly, the strike's on, and Joy can't back down.

What happens in a small town when the men are in control of Christmas? Can they handle the Christmas cookies, shopping, pageants, and cards? On Strike for Christmas shows how events can snowball. Suddenly, the newspaper is covering the events, and townspeople are pitted against each other.

Roberts creates an interesting contrast in the Fredericks and Robertson households. She doesn't succeed quite as well with two other members of the knitting group, Carol, a widow who yearns to have the Christmas the other women are giving up, and Jerri, who has cancer. They were necessary as contrast, but their roles weren't as important to the story. They seemed to be used to show the more serious side of the holidays, when this wasn't a serious book. Even so, the minor characters all serve to show the involvement of the community in the women's Christmas strike.

Roberts adds the characters' holiday recipes for a festive note. They're appetizing recipes that entice the reader to try a few.

If John Grisham's Skipping Christmas was your favorite holiday book one year, Sheila Roberts' novel is even better. Only people who love each other could have managed to survive that holiday in Holly. This fun book is filled with holiday spirit and warmth. On Strike for Christmas will leave you smiling for the holidays.

On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts. St. Martin's Griffin, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-312-37022-0 (paperback), 339p.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fifty-Seven Heaven

Lonnie Cruse didn't leave Metropolis, Illinois behind when she started a new mystery series. She just added a new family to Sheriff Joe Dalton's community, with Kitty and Jack Bloodworth, featured in Fifty-Seven Heaven.

Sheriff Joe Dalton and his family have developed in time, in the Metropolis mysteries. Now, Cruse has introduced the Bloodworths in an enjoyable, traditional mystery. Kitty and Jack Bloodworth were high school sweethearts. Now they're recapturing their youth as members of the Metropolis Super Cruisers, parents of two grown daughters, and two grandchildren. They just need to live long enough to enjoy their classic car, and their retirement.

Kitty's cousin, Will Ann Lloyd, was able to spoil any gathering with her poisonous comments. Now, she's managed to spoil a classic car contest by ending up dead in Jack's restored '57 Chevy. There were a great number of people who might have wanted Will Ann dead, including her family, but Kitty was convinced none of them could have done it. They all had alibis. And, who would have been able to sneak into Jack's locked barn and put the body in the trunk?

Someone in the family is keeping secrets. But, once Kitty is run off the road, and spends the night in the car, she can't remember the past couple weeks. She doesn't remember Will Ann's death, the accident, or anything relating to it. But, someone thinks Kitty knows more than she's telling.

Jack & Kitty Bloodworth are interesting new characters in a fun story. Looking for a satisfying, traditional mystery, featuring a loving, retired couple? Try Cruse's Fifty-Seven Heaven, the first Kitty Bloodworth, '57 Mystery.

Lonnie Cruse's website is www.lonniecruse.com

Fifty-Seven Heaven by Lonnie Cruse. Five Star, ©2007. ISBN 978-1-59414-600-8 (hardcover), 239p.

Monday, December 10, 2007

George's Secret Key to the Universe

Lucy Hawking, and her father, scientist Stephen Hawking, are the authors of this intriguing juvenile science fiction novel. This is the perfect book for boys ages ten to fourteen, particularly when they have to read a book for a book report. The book has gorgeous colored photographs from space, as well as numerous scientific facts as sidebars, covering everything from black holes to the planets. It's a combination of adventure, science, and science fiction, with a creepy villain boys will enjoy, Dr. Reeper, known as Greeper.

George's parents want to live a pure, simple life, with a house lit by candles, and no car. George is bullied at school because of his lifestyle, and he's lonely. He is allowed to have a pet, a pig named Freddy who escaped into the house next door, where George has been forbidden to go. When he follows, he finds new neighbors, a physicist named Eric, and his daughter, Annie. Eric's computer, Cosmos, is a powerful computer with a secret key that unlocks the Universe, a portal into space.

George and Annie are almost lost when they travel on a comet through space, and their angry parents forbid them to see each other. However, Eric has piqued George's interest in space, and he signs up for a presentation about space. He's sidetracked when Dr. Reeper uses the school bullies to send Eric on a chase that could be dangerous. It's up to George to find a way to save Eric and Cosmos from Greeper's evil plans.

A teacher as creepy villain, two children as heroes, and numerous scientific facts and photos. George's Secret Key to the Universe is a great book to pass on to someone who hates fiction, or loves science.

The website for this book is www.SecretKeyToTheUniverse.com

George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ©2007. ISBN 978-1-4169-5462-0 (hardcover), 297p.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Creation in Death

It's been a few years since I read one of J.D. Robb's Eve Dallas suspense novels. After reading Creation in Death, I don't think it will be that long before I pick up the next one. This is a solid police procedural, although it's set in 2060.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas is not only the lead investigator in the latest case for the New York City Police Dept., but also the lynchpin for the whole case. When she's called to the scene where a murder victim has been dumped, she recognizes the signature of the killer. Nine years earlier, she worked cases involving the same killer, a murderer that the media tagged as "The Groom." He tortured his female victims, then left the bodies with a ring on their finger, and the length of time they lasted carved into their bodies. Now, he's returned, and Eve is back on the case.

Eve's wealthy husband, Roark, acts as a civilian consultant on this fascinating case. There were twenty-three known victims. When the investigatory team realize that Roark employed the last two victims in his businesses, they take a closer look. When they realize that all of the brunette victims resemble Eve, they have a target, and a better chance of tracking down the killer.

Creation in Death, J.D. Robb's latest bestseller, offers a fascinating serial killer, a man with a ritual, a vicious killer who tortures his victims over a period of hours and days. He's a worthy opponent for Eve Dallas.

J.D. Robb's website is www.noraroberts.com/jdrobb

Creation in Death by J.D. Robb. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-399-15436-2 (hardcover), 337p.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Pictures of Hollis Woods

Pictures of Hollis Woods was a Hallmark Hall of Fame special last Sunday night, but it couldn't have been as beautiful as Patricia Reilly Giff's book. The juvenile book just breaks your heart.

Hollis Woods has a reputation for trouble with all of the foster families that have taken her in. She never stayed anywhere long before she ran away. When she was sent to Josie Cahill, a retired art teacher, she found someone who understood, and needed her. Josie spoke the same language as the eleven-year-old girl, who poured her heart, and her history, into her drawings. But, as much as she's growing to love Josie, she still has regrets about the Regans, the family she almost joined.

Hollis put on a good face, and tried to be tough. No one longed to belong to a family any more than she did, though. Before she met Josie, Hollis spent the summer in the mountains with the Regans, John, who she called "The Old Man," his wife, Izzy, and their son, Steven. This was a family that welcomed her. She became a new person with them, until she was forced to run away again.

When Josie starts to lose her memory, Hollis runs one more time. This time, she can't escape her own drawings, what she sees of the world.

Pictures of Hollis Woods is the story of a girl who needs love. Only her art can show her the way to the family she longs for. This Newbery Honor book is a treasure.

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. Random House, ©2002, ISBN 0-385-32655-6 (hardcover), 166p.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Christmas Meme

I try to read Kay's blog, My Random Acts of Reading, regularly, and today she had A Christmas Meme. She said, if you haven't done it, consider yourself tagged. So, I'm going to answer her questions.


What is your most enduring Christmas memory?

I had a wonderful childhood of Christmases. Christmas Eve was spent at my Grandma & Grandpa Smith's, and we watched in the dark sky for Rudolph's nose when we were on the way home. My sister, Christie, was born two days before Christmas, so that Christmas, my sister, Linda and I stayed at Grandma's. I remember staying up with my cousin, Joe, while everyone else went to Midnight Mass. I remember the year my mother made dresses for dolls for us, and we had those dolls, and a kitchen set in the living room Christmas morning. But, one of my best memories is from the time I was an adult. I was always the first one up on Christmas morning as a child, and that year, I had an apartment, and didn't think I should be at my parents' too early. So, I didn't show up until 7 or 7:30, and my father was waiting in the driveway for me. He told me he'd been waiting hours for me. That was when I realized my father loved Christmas as much as I did, and he shared my excitement.


Do you have a favourite piece of Christmas music?
I love White Christmas, and I'll Be Home for Christmas. Both songs take me home.


Do you stick to the old family traditions?
Oh, yes. But, our most important one is when Jim & I read to each other. Every Christmas Eve, we read before we open presents. He reads Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, and the Bible story from Luke. I read O. Henry's Gift of the Magi, and sit there and cry.


What makes your mouth water at Christmas time?
My mother's gumdrop bars. When I open them, I close my eyes, and I smell Christmas.


How soon do you put the Christmas tree up and when do you take it down?
We put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and take it down New Year's weekend.

Would you like to play? Answer the questions in the Christmas Meme.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Winners and Looking Forward to 2008

Congratulations to the last winners of 2007. Henry F. in Fort Myers, FL will receive an ARC of Hell for the Holidays by Chris Grabenstein, and Cindy M. in Eden, UT will receive the autographed copy.

I also want to congratulate Janet F. in Fort Lee, NJ. Janet was the 30,000th visitor to the blog, so I've offered her the choice of five books from my closet.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contests in 2007. I'll be kicking 2008 off with some exciting contests, including autographed copies of two books by Donis Casey, autographed books by Con Lehane, and, maybe some other surprises. I hope you continue to read the blog this year, even though there won't be any contests for the next couple weeks. In the past couple weeks, there have been over 350 entries in every contest. Don't be discouraged! Keep reading the blog, and entering the contests.

And, one last thank you. I want to thank my husband, Jim. Jim picks all of the winners every week. Thanks, Jim, for your interest in my blog, your help with the pictures, and all of your support.

Read, Remember, Recommend

Are you the kind of reader who loves lists of books? Do you read literary fiction? Oprah's book selections? Read, Remember, Recommend: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers was created by Rachelle Rogers Knight just for you. Or, since we're all looking for the perfect gift this time of year, this might be the present for the book lover you know.

This is a useful tool for any book fanatic who loves literary fiction. It not only provides a place for them to keep track of their books, but it offers all kinds of suggestions for future reading. The format is very attractive. For each title listed, there is a place for the reader to check if they own the book, would recommend it, want to read it, or want to buy it or check it out from the library.

There are great lists. It lists the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, winners of the Book Sense Book of the Year Award, and numerous other fiction award winners. There are lists of notable books, such as Oprah Winfrey's book selections, and The Modern Library's list of 100 Best Books of the last century. There are enough book titles here to keep a reader happy for life. There are even a couple pages of website listings for future reference.

And, of course, there are the blank pages to journal thoughts about books, comments, and lists. At $14.95, this is a priceless gift for the avid book lover who enjoys literary fiction. I have a family member in mind.

As for me? I'm eagerly awaiting the reading journal for mystery readers. I know I'm not the target market for a literary journal. But, I'm coveting those mystery lists.

Rachelle Rogers Knight's website is www.bibliopages.com

Read, Remember, Recommend, A Reading Journal for Book Lovers by Rachelle Rogers Knight. Bibliopages, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-9800174-0-3 (paperback), $14.95.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Brutus' Journey Through the Buckeye State

Brutus' Journey Through The Buckeye State by Aimee Aryal is the perfect gift for those Ohio State fans who have everything. Now's the time to buy it, with Ohio State number one in the rankings, and heading off to the BCS game. At $14.95, it's priced right for a present. You could also pick up Hello, Brutus, in which the Ohio State mascot, Brutus Buckeye, tours the campus. It's the same price.

The book is part of a series of books, commercially produced by Mascot Books. Other books feature pro football teams, Major League baseball teams, and other college mascots. Some of the book packages even include stuffed mascots. These are great stocking stuffer gifts for the team fanatics.

Justin Hilton illustrated Brutus' Journey Through The Buckeye State, and he portrays Brutus Buckeye at sites throughout Ohio. There's a very slight storyline. Aryal just takes Brutus throughout the state to major sites, such as Fountain Square in Cincinnati and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Along the way, Brutus meets Ohio State fans everywhere.

Brutus' Journey Through The Buckeye State doesn't pretend to be anything more than a commercial venture to publicize Ohio State football, and relate a little about the state itself. However, it's a fun book. Ohio State fans throughout the country will appreciate it. Enough families are fans that Mascot Books even sells four packs of it on the website at www.mascotbooks.com. Considering that members of my family are already fighting over it, that's probably a good solution.

Shhh. Don't tell my family, but I've solved the problem.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hell for the Holidays

Chris Grabenstein's Hell for the Holidays is an entertaining, page turner. If you want to take a chance on winning one of the two copies, you need to enter the contest within the next two days. It's a great kickoff to the holiday season. Grabenstein may have scared readers away from Santa Claus. Now, no one will want to travel on Thanksgiving.

Chris Miller, the FBI agent from Grabenstein's Slay Ride, returns in this new holiday thriller. He's still dealing with his daughter Angela's nightmares after facing Santa. Now, the holidays are rolling around again. When images of Santa terrorize her, he promises to take her to New York City for the Macy's Parade. He doesn't realize a group of terrorists are heading in the same direction.

It's a nightmare the FBI and the United States isn't prepared to face. A group of homegrown terrorists, White Supremacists, are planning to wake up the country on Thanksgiving weekend. Dr. John Tilley, a leader in the Hate business, has a large following. And, he's selected one of them, an ex-military expert marksman, to act as his secret weapon. That man, and a couple of stinger missiles should do a little damage.

Grabenstein puts Miller and the terrorists on a collision course, culminating on a holiday weekend. It's a fast-paced novel that shows the power of a network that can stretch from Wyoming to Tennessee, and Wisconsin to New York. Only Grabenstein can add humor to such a scary concept. It's another topnotch thriller.

Grab your chance now to win a copy of Hell for the Holidays.

Chris Grabenstein's website is www.chrisgrabenstein.com

Hell for the Holidays by Chris Grabenstein. Carroll & Graf Publishers, ©2007, ISBN 978-0786720606 (hardback), 400p.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Treasures in My Closet

There aren't a lot of January treasures in my closet, but the ones that are there are perfect for kicking off 2008. Watch for these titles. Order them from your favorite bookstore, or place them on hold at the library. They'll be worth waiting for!

I already mentioned Louise Ure's new book, The Fault Tree. I've heard great things about this mystery, featuring blind auto mechanic Cadence Moran. It's on the top of my January pile.

Blaize Clement's Dixie Hemingway returns in Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues. This terrific series is set in Florida, where Dixie is a pet-sitter who stumbles across a body now and then. This is a great choice for animal lovers or anyone familiar with the Sarasota area. In fact, Clement's mysteries are just great choices.

Are you a fan of short stories? Lee Child has edited a collection called Killer Year: Stories To Die For, from the hottest new crime writers. The thirteen authors debuted in 2007 with their first crime novels. Now, their mentors, authors such as Child, Tess Gerritsen, and Jeffrey Deaver, introduce them and their short stories.

Blue Heaven is an unusual thriller by C.J. Box. When two children witness a brutal murder, and go on the run, their mother has no one to turn to but the police. Can the police be trusted in the northern Idaho community?

These books, along with Ariana Franklin's The Serpent's Tale, and The Crazy School by Cornelia Read, make January an exciting month for new books.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cook, Maleeny & Coggins at the Poisoned Pen


Well, this isn't how I normally start out my comments about authors who appear at the Poisoned Pen, but Maddee James, owner of Xuni.com, is Tim Maleeny's webmaster, and she asked me if I had the nerve to give Tim a kiss on the cheek and tell him Maddee said hi. So, Maddee, here's the proof, courtesy of Troy Cook, the photographer.

I planned to go to the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale today to meet Troy Cook, author of the award-winning caper novel, 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers, , and the recent book, The One Minute Assassin, which I enjoyed even more than his first book. Our weather was terrible this weekend. We seldom have such hard rain. I kidded Troy that I told my husband if Troy could come all the way from California to meet me, I certainly could drive from Glendale to meet him.

It was a great chance to meet and hear two other authors as well, Tim Maleeny and Mark Coggins. In the picture, left to right, Troy Cook, Tim Maleeny, Mark Coggins.

Tim Maleeny is the award-winning author of Stealing the Dragon, a mystery that introduces San Francisco detective Cape Weathers and a female assassin, Sally. The sequel is his current book, Beating the Babushka.

Mark Coggins is the author of the August Riordan mysteries, also set in the Bay Area. His latest book, Runoff, is perfectly timed for an election year.

It was a small group, due to the weather. Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen, moderated the discussion. She asked them what expectations do people have for them. Troy said people think authors will be introverted people, who just sit behind desks and write. He likes to talk to people, and tell stories. That's what he does in his books, tells stories. Tim's response? People expect him to be taller and good-looking. Coggins said people expect him to be more hard-boiled, since his character, August Riordan, is.

In talking about their writing, Barbara said that Cook writes capers. He said he developed his sense of pace by being a screenwriter. Maleeny said he grew up reading pulp novels of the 30's and 40's, that had a sense of adventure. Then he came to novels after writing short stories. Coggins said he sometimes uses opening scenes that don't seem to have anything to do with the plot, and the connection comes later. He likes to drop into the action right away. One of his books starts with a backhoe used to steal an ATM.

Mark said he finds it hard to reinstroduce sidekicks in each book. He doesn't find it hard to reintroduce Riordan, but it's hard to do with the sidekicks. Tim said he subscribes to the Lee Child school, standalones with recurring characters. Troy said his first two books were standalones, and so is his third. But, he enjoys his characters so much that he can't let go of them. The third book has a character from an earlier book. He said in standalones, there's a key event that changes the life of a character. That's harder to do in a series. Cook's future books might include previous characters. Barbara Peters said that in Sue Grafton's forthcoming book, T is for Trespass, she doesn't give all the details of Kinsey's life as she does in previous books.

In discussing settings, Coggins said his first story featuring August Riordan was set in Phoenix, and then he moved to the Bay Area. Maleeny said his are set all over, but based in San Francisco. His comment about his latest book, with its Russian Mob and Hollywood moguls, led to a new topic. He said he had to pull back because no one would have believed it. They said the stuff that actually appears in newspapers is too unbelievable to go in a book.

They said there's a responsibility to find justice in books because people have no confidence in actual justice. Characters must make sure justice is done. Troy said there has to be a sense that justice has been served. In response to a comment, Tim said there has to be some sort of identification or empathy with the characters. He went on to say that crime fiction focuses on right and wrong, justice, or what normal people do in extraordinary circumstances. Crime fiction is less political than other books. Thrillers have more social commentary.

Troy said politics, such as he used in his book, The One-Minute Assassin, can be entertaining. He uses the humorous side, but doesn't slant his politics to the left or right. Barbara Peters said Sara Paretsky and Douglas Preston's most recent books look at the religious right from a leftist view, but they're thrillers, not mysteries. Mysteries don't lend themselves to politics. An audience member commented that books can be dated by politics. Peters said that 80% of thrillers today have the enemy as some form of government. She said to Coggins that a private eye should have loyalty only to his client. Coggins said his latest novel, Runoff, is not partisan, although it is about an election. The message is e-voting is not a good thing, but that's not a partisan issue.

Each of the men are published by small presses? Someone asked if they have a goal to get to publisher who would pay them more money. Tim said he's heard horror stories from friends with big houses. There's an appeal of a bigger publisher. An author gets more exposure and more readers. That's fine if you can do it without selling your soul and compromising. He was approached by an agent who told him the kind of book he should write to get to a big publisher, and what he'd have to do. He doesn't want to do that, or be James Patterson's next ghostwriter.

In talking about editing today, Mark Coggins said he's in a writing group. He works with his former literary agent, who is a writing instructor, and edits him. He had a good editor at Bleak House, and they were bought by a larger publisher. Editors tend to be younger than you expect. His editor is good at figuring out continuity and loose ends. He has a line editor as well. It's been a positive experience.

Troy Cook said it's been fun working with a small house. He's received personal attention, and they care. He's had lots of visibility and promotion. He wouldn't have received movie deals, awards and nominations, if he hadn't been at a small press. He's had plenty of editing.

Maleeny said he has a good editor, who is good at continuity. The days of an editor buying a book and working with authors to develop them are gone. Editors are looking for books to be almost ready for publication.

Barbara Peters said at big houses, people work to survive the corporation and stay employed. It's "cover your ass," and do it by committee. The risks for authors at large houses are enormous. If you fail, it's over. Small publishers don't have the muscle to be bestsellers, because they don't publish the quantities of books necessary.

On the literary side of publishing, sometimes the first or second book gets a tremendous push, and then you never see the author again. They used Alice Sebold as an example of an author whose second book didn't live up to her first one, The Lovely Bones. They agreed sometimes an author only has one big in them, and they should stop then. They admired Harper Lee for doing that.

They were all asked what they like to read when they're not writing. Troy said he writes humorous crime novels, so he reads Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen. The Lord of the Rings was what first got him interested in writing, though.

Tim said he read the pulps, comics, historical novels, and then made his way to mysteries. Now, although he reads a little of everything, he reads more mysteries and thrillers. While writing, he reads something else. He includes what he's reading on his blog. He gets recommendations at bookstores. He also reads friends' books or books he hears about at conferences.

Barbara Peters commented that the mystery genre is in the down part of a cycle right now. Science fiction is the genre that's up. Historical mysteries had been completely dead at one time, but not now.

Coggins said the private investigator seems to last, but has had its ups and downs. He read Hammett and Chandler. He can read in his own style, but he's recently read a book about Kit Carson, and then Thunderstruck by Eric Larson. He reads nonfiction and fiction.

It was great to finally meet Troy Cook, after reading his books and corresponding with him. And, thanks to Maddee, it was a pleasure to meet Tim Maleeny. Thanks, Tim!

Thank you to the Poisoned Pen for hosting Troy Cook, Tim Maleeny and Mark Coggins.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Note from Chris Grabenstein




Chris Grabenstein sent a note since I'm giving away Hell for the Holidays in this week's contest. After reading it, you'll want to win even more!

Dear Readers:


How come when everybody else looks at Thanksgiving they see turkey and pumpkin pie while I see the potential for a catastrophic terrorist attack?

Guess that’s why I’m a thriller writer.

Once a year, I change hats – take off the mystery one, put on the thriller. Yes, all my John Ceepak Jersey Shore mysteries are page-turners but with the Christopher Miller Holiday Thrillers, you’ll be flipping pages so fast, you might get a paper cut.

What’s the difference between a mystery and a thriller? I think of mysteries as “whodunit?” puzzles. Thrillers are more “how do we stop the bad guys from doing it again?” And thrillers move at a breakneck speed guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

My brand new thriller is called HELL FOR THE HOLIDAYS. It’s not about my in-laws making an extended trip to New York. Or a visit to the Toys R Us in Times Square on Christmas Eve.

It’s about a big “What If” namely: What if America's most lethal terrorist threat came from a jihad of home-grown American extremists instead of Muslims?

In the explosive sequel to Slay Ride, FBI legend Christopher Miller returns for a page-turning countdown to a Thanksgiving Day attack in New York City. 



A White Supremacist hate group has smuggled in a stinger missile and recruited an army marksman—a nightmare vision of a new and more talented Timothy McVeigh. 



Here’s what some critics have had to say about the story:

"Entertaining as hell. This book will take your mind off the leftovers and erase any thoughts of napping." -- Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

"Grabenstein's gripping second holiday thriller [has] a spectacular finish. This rapid-fire entertainment is sure to please Grabenstein's fans." -- Publisher's Weekly

I’m happy to hear that Lesa is giving away a couple copies. She runs a great blog and incredible contests.

So, Helly Holidays, everybody! I hope you enjoy the read.


Chris Grabenstein
www.ChrisGrabenstein.com

Hell for the Holidays by Chris Grabenstein. Carroll & Graf, ©2007, ISBN 978-0786720613 (paperback), 400p.

January Bestsellers and More

How do you top the big three, Grisham, King, and Evanovich? They all three have books coming out in January, so hurry to get your name on the list at the public library. If you're ordering the book from a favorite bookstore, the rush isn't so great.

So, this month, I'll list those suspected bestsellers, along with possibilities, and a crime fiction high hopes list. That list is for those few books that I'm hopeful for, ones that I hope will make bestseller lists wherever crime novels are sold.

First, the guaranteed bestsellers, mixed with ones that could make the list.

Janet Evanovich - Plum Lucky (A Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novel)

James Grippando - Last Call

John Grisham - The Appeal (It's said to be set in Mississippi, focusing on the election process for state Supreme Court justices.)

Stephen King - Duma Key

Jayne Ann Krentz - Sizzle and Burn

Sara Paretsky - Bleeding Kansas

Stuart Woods - Beverly Hills Dead

Now, anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows I have a preference for crime novels. So, here are three January releases that I have high hopes for.

I am a big fan of Louise Ure's Forcing Amaryllis. How can anyone resist the cover of her latest book, The Fault Tree? Or, the plot about an auto mechanic who is blind? She might just hold the clues to a murder, and the killer thinks she saw the getaway car.

If you like your crime fiction with some history background, check out The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin. She brings back Henry II and Adela Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, from the book of that name.

Or, you can move to the Berkshires with Madeline Dare, in Cornelia Read's The Crazy School. Madeline takes a job as a teacher at a borading school for emotionally disturbed children, only to find herself trapped, cut off from the outside world, and allied with a group of students.

Good luck to Louise Ure, Ariana Franklin, and Cornelia Read. On my list, you'd top Grisham, Evanovich, and King.