Saturday, November 01, 2014

December Treasures in My Closet

Maybe the publishers realize I won't have a lot of reading time in December. The pile for December releases is one of the smallest I've ever seen. (On the other hand, February's stack is already enormous!) Here are the few books I already have with December release dates.

Meet Your Baker is the first in Ellie Alexander's Bakeshop mystery series. After graduating from culinary school, Juliet Capshaw returns to her quaint hometown of Ashland, Oregon to help her mom at the family bakery. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is bringing in lots of tourists. But with the death of one of Torte's customers, there's much ado about murder. (Release date is Dec. 30.)

Every corpse is a clue in Ursula Archer's psychological thriller Five. A woman is found murdered and there are strange tattoos on her feet. Detective Beatrice Kaspary identifies the digits as map coordinates, and embarks on a bloody trail through the world of geocaching. As the riddles become more complex, Kaspary becomes a pawn in the perpetrator's game. (Release date is Dec. 9.)

I suspect Jane K. Cleland's new mystery, Blood Rubies, will be a gem. Amateur sleuth/antiques appraiser Josie Prescott teams up with her reporter friend, Wes, to investigate a murder. Ana Yartsin is about to launch a reality TV show showcasing her new bakery. She bakes cakes inspired by her family's Faberge Spring Egg snow globe. When Josie arrives at Ana's to appraise the egg, she finds a dead man and the smashed snow globe. (Release date is Dec. 2.)

Jane Green brings us a novel about one woman's search to find herself, and another woman's obsession to make her disappear. In Saving Grace, Ted and Grace Chapman seem to have it all. They're a literary power couple, the envy of everyone who knows them. But beneath the surface lies Ted's temper and the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When they hire a new assistant, things begin to crumble, sending Grace on a dark journey that could cost her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity. (Release date is Dec. 30.)

In James W. Hall's The Big Finish, Thorn heads to a tiny North Carolina town, intending to take revenge on the person who killed his son, Flynn. Flynn disappeared a year earlier into the eco-underground. When an FBI agent tells Thorn that Flynn is dead, he agrees to act as bait. But, he soon finds that everything he's been told is a lie. Thorn uncovers a conspiracy that stretches far beyond the small Carolina town. (Release date is Dec. 2.)

Mette Ivie Harrison's novel, The Bishop's Wife, is inspired by an actual crime and written by a practicing Mormon. Linda Wallheim is the wife of a Mormon bishop, the ward's designated spiritual father. But, Linda is increasingly troubled by the church's patriarchal structure and secrecy. When a neighbor shows up with his daughter, claiming his wife has disappeared in the night, leaving everything behind, Linda becomes suspicious. Her husband asks her not to get involved, but Linda can't let the matter rest until she finds out the truth. (Release date is Dec. 30.)

Thief and international agent Robin Monarch returns in Mark Sullivan's Thief. Monarch steals to order, and this time he has plans to take illicit profits from a shady investor, and turn them over to take care of orphans and street kids. He uses a Christmas party as a cover, but takes way two unexpected things. One is a bullet - he gets shot. The second is a lead on an exploit that will take all his skills, keeping the secret of eternal life from falling into the wrong hands. (Release date is Dec. 16.)

Which books will distract you from the holidays? Or, maybe you're going to ask for them for yourself?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Coffee with Authors in Nashville

Thanks to a friend we made while standing in line on Saturday morning, we were able to get into a packed event, Coffee with Authors at the Nashville Main Library. They did have a few slots for people without tickets. And, because it was listed as part of the Southern Festival of Books, we didn't even know we were supposed to have tickets.

Coffee with Authors was the National Reading Group Month Signature Event sponsored by WNBA (Women's National Books Association), Nashville Chapter. It was four authors in conversation with the moderator. The authors were: Nadia Hashimi (The Pearl That Broke Its Shell), Lily King (Euphoria), Ann Weisgarber (The Promise), and Gabrielle Zevin (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry). Mary Laura Philpott, author, editor, and freelance writer was the moderator.

Left to right - Hashimi, Zevin, Weisgarber, King

Philpott started by asking the authors about the seed of their books. Nadia Hashimi said The Pearl
That Broke Its Shell begins with Afghanistan. That's her family background, and she has cousins there. Families who only have girls do sometimes transform a daughter into a boy. She wanted to look at gender, and what it means to be a girl in Afghanistan.

Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry actually has overtones of George Eliot's Silas Marner, and the toddler he takes in. It's about a persnickety bookseller who finds a toddler who has been left in his bookstore.

The Promise by Ann Weisgarber is set in 1900, and involves the Galveston Island hurricane. The
island is twenty-seven miles long, and it was the worst U.S. natural disaster. But, no one has told about the rural end of the island. Weisgarber was haunted by the lost voices, the people whose stories were never told.

Lily King's Euphoria began in a bookstore. Her favorite bookstore in Portland, Maine, was closing, and having a close-out sale. She felt shell-shocked that it was closing, and felt she had to buy a book. So, she grabbed a biography of Margaret Mead. She was sucked in by the first ten pages. In 1933, Mead was in New Guinea with her second husband, and they weren't getting along. Then they met cultural anthropologist Gregory Bateson. It was love at first sight for all three. They spent five months together in an intense love triangle. They were open and honest about it.

The next question was about book clubs. What gets a conversation going? King said with Euphoria, members have had different feelings about the characters. There have been fights over the the behavior of the characters. What's right and wrong? There have been discussions about Western greed and the ideas of of science and expansion, Western contact with "the primitive".

Weisgarber said she only wrote the books. Readers have their own interpretation, and they side with one narrator or the other. She's seen some of the discussions become a little too personal, and she's seen them evolve into discussions of the readers' own wedding nights.

Zevin agreed, saying when book groups select a book, it allows them to put on masks, and they can discuss themselves while wearing masks.

Hishimi said her readers look at the relationships of the women in the book, and they're surprised that the women are not as supportive of each other as you would think in difficult situations. But, each situation is different for each person, and they're looking at their own life rather than how they could make a difference in the world.

What is their writing process? Zevin's first book came out ten years ago. She always pictured the process as an author on a divan, with candles all around, seducing herself into writing. Her actual process evolves with each book. She doesn't need to fall in love with things in order to write. She does extended dossiers on each character so she knows them, and it frees up the process.

Ann Weisgarber said she finds writing a pain, and will sometimes do everything she can to avoid writing, going so far as to mop the floor. When she's stuck, she goes to the library, and looks at all the books. Then she thinks, if those people can do it, so can I. She'll read the first pages of books. And, she'll often begin with "Once upon a time..." to get started.

Nadia Hashimi said she has to get away from home and distractions. So, this is the point when she says this book is brought to you by my good friends at Panera. She knows where all the outlets are there. She really makes writing a priority, and has to make it important.

Lily King's writing process was fascinating. She actually brought along her notebooks to show the audience. She gets up at 5:30 or 6 to get writing. That's the ideal time for her. She writes exactly as she did in high school when she took creative writing. She uses a spiral lined notebook, and writes by hand. She uses empty pages at the end for notes. She makes a timeline, and showed the timeline. She even keeps a wiring log, showing how much she wrote each day.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? For Nadia, it was recently, 2009-2010, when she was 31 or 32, and her husband said, "Why don't you just write a book?"

Gabrielle knew it when she was a toddler. Her grandmother gave her an IBM typewriter, and she liked to type. She came from a family of angry letter writers. She got her first job at fourteen thanks to a Guns'n'Roses concert. She dated a kid because he could take her to the concert, and then she broke up with him the next day. The newspaper panned the concert, and she wrote an angry letter is response. A couple weeks later, they contacted her to see if she wanted to write music reviews. She became the teen music critic. No one knows who is on the other side of a letter or a book.

Ann thought writers were born with a glow around them. As a child, she visited Paul Laurence Dunbar's home in Dayton, Ohio, and it did seem to glow. But, once on a trip to the Badlands, she came across a picture set in the 1940s, and it wanted to give her a story. She wrote three pages about that photo. Her husband read it. It's a bad sign when a reader can't make eye contact. He said something was missing. She worked on that story for four years. She continued her education taking creative writing classes. She was teaching sociology at the time, and grew bored with it. She spent seven years on one manuscript. It's liberating to not worry about it, but to write the best possible story. It was published first in the U.K. It's important to care about the story, and something glorious will happen.

Lily said she read July Blume as a child. Her best friend, Amy, told her she was writing a novel. And, Lily wanted to write a novel, too. So, she wrote twenty-four pages. She took creative writing in high school. And, then, one day, she was catching up with her old friend, Amy, and said, remember when you wrote that novel when we were in grade school? And, Amy didn't remember it at all.

Somewhere out there is a lovely woman from Nashville who said to us, just stick with me, and you'll get in. As I said, it turned out they were letting a limited number of people in without tickets, so we would have made it. But, I'm grateful for that momentary friendship that comes from standing in line together talking about life, that friendship that says, just stick with me, and you'll get in.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winners & Elizabeth's Cozy Mysteries

Congratulations of the winners of the last contest. Ann P. of Bolivar, MO won M.C. Beaton's The Blood of an Englishman. Laura B. will receive D.E. Ireland's Wouldn't It Be Deadly. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I have two cozy mysteries by authors whose names are Elizabeth. Taken In is the latest Southern Sewing Circle mystery by Elizabeth Lynn Casey. Librarian Tori Sinclair and the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Circle head to the Big Apple to appear on a morning show. But, fellow member Dixie Dunn's rendezvous with a man she met online ends with her arrest for his murder. Now, the sewing circle must unravel tangled secrets and alibis to catch a killer.

And, Elizabeth Craig's Southern Quilting mystery is Shear Trouble. The Village Quilters of Dappled Hills, North Carolina are desperate to finish their quilts before an upcoming show. But, two members of a rival quilting guild ask to join them. One, Phyllis, is hoping to join them permanently since the other is now dating her ex-boyfriend. But, when he ends up dead with Phyllis' missing shears buried in his unfaithful heart, quilter Beatrice Coleman puts her detective skills to use.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject headings should read either "Win Taken In" or "Win Shear Trouble." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6 PM CT.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gabrielle Zevin at the Southern Festival of Books

Gabrielle Zevin, author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, was the author I was most looking forward to hearing at the Southern Festival of Books. She was funny, and interesting, and I actually ended up hearing her twice.

Zevin was first published when she was fourteen and wrote an angry letter to the editor about a Guns 'n' Roses concert. She was then asked to be the newspaper's teen music critic. She's the author of eight novels for adults and young adults.

It was Zevin's third time at the Southern Festival of Books. This time, she was there to talk about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, a book that celebrates independent bookstores and booksellers. A bookseller finds a toddler in a bookstore in a story that shows how books can make a difference in a life.

In Feb. 2004, Zevin sold her first novel. Her second novel sold in July. Zevin said she has talked to other authors who, like her, have very sad first novel stories. There's a gap between expectations and realities.

Gabrielle Zevin loves bookstores. When she was her child, her parents would go grocery shopping and give her money to go to the bookstore so she could buy anything she wanted. Now, no one would let a child in a bookstore by herself, but at that time her parents thought nothing bad could happen in a bookstore. And nothing ever has.

Zevin asked two questions in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. "Why do bookstores matter?" "How do the stories we read define our lives?"  In the book, Maya's mother left her in a bookstore. Zevin said "Children who read become adults who want to know."

Gabrielle Zevin's parents took her to the library every week like it was church. They went to Burger King, then the library. Her parents were in computers. Her grandfather bought her books. He had been a great old Communist who wrote letters to The New Yorker.  When she was twelve, he gave her a book that he said would change her life. He gave her Satanic Verses. According to Zevin, "Children don't become readers by accident."

To Gabrielle Zevin, bookstores represent good. The French government has classified books as an essential good like food, bread, water, electricity.

Zevin thinks all published authors should belong to at least one book club. There are a number of book clubs in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Booksellers are useful as to choosing books. There's a sales rep in the book. Zevin had never thought about how a book gets from a publisher to a bookstore. A sales rep is really important. There will be between 150,000 and 250,000 books published, and the same number of self-published books next year. How do you choose? Booksellers and librarians are important.

Bookstores are about the future of literary culture. Booksellers are curators of what's good. Zevin said in England there's a program that prescribes books for people who are depressed. That's how important books are seen to be.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is Gabrielle Zevin's eighth novel. She wrote three YA novels in a row that nobody wanted. So, when she wrote Fikry she wrote the best book she could in case she never wrote another one.

Gabrielle Zevin's website is

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Betrayed by Heather Graham

Sleepy Hollow. Heather Graham's latest Krewe of Hunters novel has the perfect setting, as if this series featuring law enforcement and the paranormal needs any more creepy settings. But, I love these books. I need to go back and pick up some that I've missed over the years. But, if you're in the mood for Halloween, fascinating characters, legends and history of New York, along with the paranormal and a touch of romance, you can't go wrong with The Betrayed.

FBI agent Aiden Mahoney has tried to deny his gift, so he's a little uneasy with his new assignment to the Krewe of Hunters, a group of law enforcement people with special psychic gifts who have been handpicked. He doesn't tell anyone when an old friend, politician Richard Highsmith, appears to him and tells him, "They got me, my old friend." But, the next day he's sent to Sleepy Hollow to look for the missing Richard. Aiden knows, though, that his childhood friend is dead.

By the time Richard arrives in Sleepy Hollow, Maureen Deauville and her dog, Rollo, have already found Richard's head on top of an effigy of the headless horseman. But, Mo's job isn't over. The police look to her and Rollo, a search-and-rescue team, to find the missing body as well. But before they can find the politician's body, they find the headless body of a woman. Now, Aiden and Mo have to decide who the target was, and if someone else got in the way. A dangerous killer is taking advantage of the seasonal festivities in Sleepy Hollow, and everyone is scared. It will take research into the past, the help of some ghosts, and sleepless days and nights for the FBI, the police, and Mo to put together all the connections that lead to a cunning killer.

Graham's latest Krewe of Hunters novel introduces a fascinating new team. Aiden's unused skills complement Mo's polished ones, and her work with her dogs. And, there's a strong attraction between the two. Graham's two main characters, along with the dog, are intriguing leads. There's a host of interesting supporting characters as well.

One of the attractions of this story is the wealth of material that Graham has to use based on the Sleepy Hollow location. She capitalizes on Washington Irving and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But, there are ghosts from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War periods who are essential to this story. The setting is rich in local color, and it's a bewitching addition to Graham's book.

Graham's Krewe of Hunters series is known for the paranormal elements and the wonderful local color.  I warn you, though. They're addicting. The Betrayed is just the latest of her books that I couldn't put down.

Heather Graham's website is

The Betrayed by Heather Graham. Harlequin MIRA. 2014. ISBN 9780778316565 (paperback), 362p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, October 27, 2014

November Cozies from Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

This month, we have a few holiday mysteries, some favorite authors, and just a short glimpse of Jinx, who was in the living room totally ignoring the filming until just the last minute. I hope you enjoy the books, the book chat, and Jinx.

The November book releases are:

Lethal Letters by Ellery Adams - 6th Books by the Bay mystery
Mrs. Jeffries and the Merry Gentlemen by Emily Brightwell - 32nd Victorian mystery
The Chocolate Book Bandit by JoAnna Carl - 13th Chocoholic mystery
A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle - 1st Fixer-Upper mystery
Snow White Red-Handed by Maia Chance - 1st Fairy Tale Fatal mystery
No Mallets Intended by Victoria Hamilton - 4th Vintage Kitchen mystery
For Better or Worsted by Betty Hechtman - 8th Crochet mystery
Mulled Murder by Kate Kingsbury - 21st Pennyfoot Hotel mystery
On Borrowed Time by Jenn McKinlay - 5th Library Lover's mystery
Plagued by Quilt by Molly MacRae - 4th Haunted Yarn Shop mystery
Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere - 1st Material Witness mystery
A Dog Gone Murder by Elaine Viets - 10th Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mystery

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Haunting is Brewing by Juliet Blackwell

I very seldom review eBooks. I consider myself a librarian first and a blogger/reviewer second, which means I want everyone to have access to the books I review. Once in a while, though, when something that I want to read is only available as an eBook, I'll make an exception. Juliet Blackwell's A Haunting is Brewing was worth that exception. Blackwell's novella brings together the amateur sleuths from both of her series, the Witchcraft mysteries, and the Haunted Home Renovation series. I didn't want to miss the first meeting of Lily Ivory and Mel Turner.

Mel's the general manager for her family business, Turner Construction. She has a hard time saying no when a project involves an historic house and at-risk youth. She's regretting that as she hurries to complete the work on the Spooner House, a run-down Victorian mansion. But, it needs to be up to code in time for the Halloween ball to raise money to continue to maintain the house.

There's one major problem with the Spooner House, though. Mel, who can sense the presence of ghosts, and talk with them, finds the Spooner dolls extremely creepy. Thaddeus Spooner inherited a fortune, and went on to become a famous doll maker. But, he created a life size family of dolls in the likeness of his own family before everyone but his son died. Did they die of the flu or did the son murder them? If one of the student volunteers hadn't been found dead in the house, Mel might not have worried about it. But, now he's one more ghost she can talk to, and she isn't convinced he committed suicide.

When Maya, one of the volunteers, recognizes Mel's frustration that she can't help the deceased man, Maya introduces Mel to her boss at Aunt Cora's Closet. Lily Ivory not only owns the vintage clothing store, she's a witch. She's convinced that she and Mel can restore peace to the house, and, hopefully, find a killer. The skeptical Mel, who only learned recently that she can talk to ghosts, now has to accept the idea of witches, voodoo, and poppets, puppets with a spirit in them.

Juliet Blackwell has always made the paranormal seem acceptable and understandable in both of her series. With two characters with similar interests in the supernatural working in the same neighborhood in San Francisco, it seems logical that Blackwell would take the next step and introduce Lily and Mel. And, it works beautifully. Readers who like either series will welcome the budding friendship between the two characters.

I'm sure the world of historic house renovation and vintage clothing will not collide often. And, the Witchcraft series is often darker than the Haunted Home Renovation one, as Lily struggles with past history, hers and the history of witches. But, every now and then, it would be a treat to see Mel, Lily, and Oscar together. Lily's historical knowledge and Mel's ability to communicate with ghosts makes these stories even more interesting. And, how can anyone resist Oscar's charm?

And, maybe it's appropriate that a friendship between a witch and "an up-and-coming ghost hunter" should begin in the ether. It's just too bad that only eBook readers can appreciate Blackwell's enjoyable story, A Haunting is Brewing.

Juliet Blackwell's website is

A Haunting is Brewing by Juliet Blackwell. InterMix Books (Penguin Group), 2014. ISBN 9780698181922 (eBook).

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy.