Saturday, September 20, 2014

K.B. Laugheed, Author Appearance

When K.B. Laugheed spoke at the library the other night she talked about her novel, The Spirit Keeper, and how it got caught in the current state of the publishing world. The Spirit Keeper was Laugheed's thirteenth book, but her first one published. It was originally 750 pages. Penguin loved it, but they wanted it cut in half so it could be published in two parts. Laugheed's editor wanted her to edit it in November. With Thanksgiving holidays, Laugheed was given eighteen days to make all the changes they wanted in the 750 pages. Her editor was twenty-four-years-old, and didn't understand Indian captivity novels. She almost wanted to change the Indians into vampires. She did want to include a magic amulet. Laugheed had to convince her there shouldn't be a magic amulet.

The Spirit Keeper is historically accurate. It's not a teen novel, although some bookstores and libraries have categorized it that way only because Katie O'Toole was seventeen when savages removed her from her family.  It's not a romance. It's authentic and real, not a fantasy.

Laugheed's young editor left Penguin in March. The Spirit Keeper was released in September 2013,
but with no editor, it fell through the cracks. It wasn't submitted to any of the journals for reviews. Now, the publisher doesn't want to release part two of the book. Laugheed said there are really only five major publishers, but there are lots of ways to publish books now. She said she'd rather go with a small press than self-publish. And, she really does want to publish part two because the Katie O'Toole's story isn't complete without it. She said it might be tough, but it's her life mission to get the whole book out there.

The Spirit Keeper is the first book that K.B. Laugheed sold. It's an Indian captivity narrative. In 1747, Katie, a seventeen-year-old girl, was removed from her Lancaster County, Pennsylvania home by Indians. But, the book is about the differences in perspective. Everyone has a different take on the book.

Katie's narrative starts by saying she was the thirteenth child her mother conceived. At that time, only one fifth of all children conceived lived. Women were pregnant twenty-five to thirty-five times in their life. If a child made it to age ten, they usually lived because they had survived a number of diseases. Pregnancy and children shaped every aspect of women's lives. The view of children was different then. Women didn't get attached to children because they often lost them.

The Spirit Keeper is not a true story, but it is historically accurate. It's Katie O'Toole's account. K.B. Laugheed said she was captivated by native culture when she was seventeen. She lived in that world, and was compelled to write about it. She said maybe it was ancestral guilt since her great-grandparents were the first people in the part of Indiana she's from. They moved people out.

K.B. Laugheed concluded by reminding us that she wrote twelve books before this one was published. It takes time to learn the craft of writing.

*****
If you would like to win an autographed copy of The Spirit Keeper, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win The Spirit Keeper." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Sept. 25 t 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

*****
K.B. Laugheed's website is www.kblaugheed.com

The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed. Plume. 2013. ISBN 9780142180334 (paperback), 341p.

Friday, September 19, 2014

G.M. Malliet's A Demon Summer - Review & Giveaway

I mentioned in the October Treasures in My Closet post that there are numerous mysteries coming out Oct. 7. In fact, one person asked me what makes Oct. 7 so special. I have no idea. But, Minotaur Books is getting a jump on the date with a "Win It Before You Can Buy It" giveaway. I have five galleys of G.M. Malliet's new Max Tudor mystery, A Demon Summer, to give away. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win A Demon Summer." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. and Canada only, please. The contest will end next Thursday, Sept. 25 at 6 PM CT. The publisher will send the galleys. (I told you I had some terrific October giveaways planned.)


*****
Saying that, A Demon Summer is not an easy book to review. I'm a big fan of G.M. Malliet's traditional mysteries. And, I love Max Tudor, the MI5 agent turned Anglican vicar. The villagers in the small English village of Nether Monkslip are charming, hardworking, idiosyncratic characters. Max's ongoing relationship with Awena Owen, the owner of Goddessspell, is fun to watch. And, it's now gone too far for Max to keep it a secret from the bishop. "Max's bishop had so far been spared the news that his most charismatic priest was in a now permanent relationship with the village's only neo-pagan."

But, Max's bishop has a job for him that takes him away from Awena and Nether Monkslip. The 15th Earl of Lislelvet was poisoned when he ate a fruitcake. He survived, but now he's pointing his finger at the nuns at Monkbury Abbey where someone gave him a gift of the homemade fruitcake. Bishop St. Stephen sends Max to investigate the nunnery for two reasons. Find out who tried to poison the Earl of Lislelvet, and investigate the financial shenanigans. There is money missing, and the Earl along with some wealthy Americans are complaining. When Max arrives, he finds an unusual group of people in retreat at the Abbey. And, a murder within a few days of Max's arrival leaves everyone as suspects, including the nuns. It's up to Max, along with his friend DCI Cotton, to find a killer, and, hopefully, save the reputation of Monkbury Abbey.

It's my commentary that gets complicated about this book, so I hope fans of the series pick up the book when it's available, or enter the giveaway, and let me know what you think. The final scene in the book was splendid, with Max back in the village. But, the first half of A Demon Summer dragged for me. Max was stuck in the Abbey, learning what each nun did. Even after finishing the book, I felt that information was unnecessary, to the extent it was written. And, unfortunately, I felt as if the book was too reminiscent of Louise Penny's story of a cloistered monastery, The Beautiful Mystery. Malliet even quotes the same poet/songwriter, Leonard Cohen, along with some of the same verses Penny uses. "Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering", and talks about "how the light gets in". She does mention that Max thought there was a book by that name. This bothers me, perhaps more than it should. But, I recently led the online discussion for How the Light Gets In, and I've read, and sometimes reread all of Penny's books.

And, I do hope everyone reads G.M. Malliet's comment on this blog. I totally understand what she is saying. I know how authors can seem to write similar books because an idea strikes them at the same time. I've written back, and told her she's welcome to do a guest post at any time. She may be too busy right now, with the release of A Demon Summer coming up. But, she's always welcome.

Malliet's Max Tudor unravels the mystery in a brilliant fashion. It's the second half of the book that is interesting, but the relationships are convoluted, to say the least. And, as I said, the final scene in the book was beautiful.

So, my recommendation for A Demon Summer? Read the book, and tell me what you thought.

G.M. Malliet's website is GMMalliet.com

A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250021410 (hardcover), 320p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book so I could review it, and host a giveaway.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Winners

Congratulations to the winners of this week's contests. Three people won autographed ARCs of Carolyn Hart's Ghost Wanted. It was unusual. Over sixty people entered, and two of the winners were from the same city. The books will be going to Trude V. of Kennewick, WA, Carole O. from Sun City West, AZ, and Susan M. from Sun City West, AZ.

Kathleen M. from Fall River, MA won the finished copy of M.C. Beaton's Blood of an Englishman. The publisher will send that copy. I'll send ARCs to Mildred B. from Great Neck, NY and Lisa B. from Camino, CA. The ARCs will all go out in the mail tomorrow.

Watch for another terrific giveaway and review tomorrow.

Lucky Catch by Deborah Coonts

It's always fun to catch up with Lucky O'Toole, troubleshooter at the Babylon casino/resort hotel in Las Vegas. There will always be hijinks, troubles with Lucky's mother, Mona, a little romance, great recurring characters, and, of course, a murder or two. That's true in Deborah Coonts' latest mystery, Lucky Catch.

At the same time, so much has changed. Mona is pregnant, and running for political office. Lucky's best friend and former lover, Teddie, has returned, breaking her heart again, just when she thought she'd found peace with a new man, Jean-Charles Bouclet, a world-renowned chef. And, all of this has caused Lucky to lose her grip. Even her mother has noticed. So, when there are troubles with the Last Chef Standing competition, such as a missing truffle, Lucky doesn't take it seriously enough. But, when a food supplier is found dead in Jean-Charles' food truck, and he disappears, she starts to worry. Chefs seem to be in the line of fire for a killer, and, while the police see Jean-Charles as a suspect, Lucky sees him as a target.

Coonts' latest romp is a convoluted caper with a few too many chefs to keep straight. And, it takes Lucky a little too long to find her footing. She's too unsure of herself, not like Lucky. Mona recognizes it, telling Lucky that she "had guts, a willingness to tackle life", but that she lost it for a while. It's part of the storyline, but it dragged on for too long. Lucky needed to find her stride in this book.

Saying that, my favorite part of the book was still the return to the Babylon with all of Lucky's friends, her assistants Miss P. and Brandy; the private detective, "The Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock"; Romeo, the police detective that works closely with Lucky; Lucky's parents, and, even Teddie. Lucky's life, with all of its ups and downs, all of its adventures, wouldn't be the same without these characters. A caper wouldn't be the same without wonderful, well-drawn characters.

Deborah Coonts' Lucky O'Toole capers offer charming characters in the make-believe world that can only be Las Vegas. Lucky Catch reunites all of them in a mystery involving the killer world of culinary genius and competition.

Deborah Coonts' website is www.deborahcoonts.com

Lucky Catch by Deborah Coonts. Cool Gus Publishing. 2014. ISBN 9781500194529 (paperback), 255p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The author had a copy sent to me, hoping I would review it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shadows on a Maine Christmas by Lea Wait

"Waymouth, Maine. How could anything bad ever happen in a place as beautiful, as perfect, as this one?" With that second sentence, author Lea Wait dooms Waymouth in the intriguing mystery, Shadows on a Maine Christmas. When antiques print dealer Maggie Smith goes to Maine knowing she has decisions to make, she doesn't realize she'll also get caught up in a murder investigation over the Christmas holidays.

Maggie knows she wants to adopt, but the man she loves doesn't want children. And, she's in New Jersey while Will has moved to Maine to take care of his ninety-two-year-old Aunt Nettie. Maggie and Will have to have a discussion, but it can probably wait while they enjoy the Christmas festivities in the picture-perfect town of Waymouth. And, Nettie is excited to host some women who have been part of her life for decades. One of Nettie's friends, Betty, has Alzheimer's though, and reacts to Will with fear at one point. Maybe they can overlook her reaction, but fear rears it's ugly head again when Betty's caregiver is murdered.

Against Will's advice, Aunt Nettie and Maggie team up to ask questions. Aunt Nettie has secrets, and she might be willing to reveal her own, but she isn't willing to tell those that belong to other people in town. And, Waymouth has secrets that go back decades, as well as violent secrets today. This Christmas season, Maggie will uncover unexpected strength and tragedy.

It's difficult to comment on Shadows on a Maine Christmas without giving away too much. Wait touches on social issues and women's history in a compelling mystery. She blends Christmas observations, small town beauty, a little antique background, with personal relationships. It's not easy to combine charm and tragedy, but Lea Wait succeeds beautifully in Shadows on a Maine Christmas.

Lea Wait's website is www.leawait.com

Shadows on a Maine Christmas by Lea Wait. Perseverance Press. 2014. ISBN 9781564745477 (paperback), 224p.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton

I had never read an Agatha Raisin mystery before I agreed to participate in the anniversary celebration for the 25th book in M.C. Beaton's series featuring her. Beaton's The Blood of an Englishman may exemplify the cozy mystery. But, in some ways, she also turns some of the tropes on their head. Agatha Raisin smokes, drinks, hates tea, heads up her own private detective agency (without a license), and is man-crazy. None of those sweet romances in a cozy mystery for Beaton. It's actually a fun, refreshing change.


Agatha Raisin also hates amateur theatrics, but agrees to attend a local production of Babes in the Woods with her friend, Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife. She finds nothing to recommend the play, except the play's producer, Gareth Craven, who is handsome. When the police cars start to gather after the play, though, Agatha realizes there was something to attract her attention. Bert Simple, the local baker who played the ogre, had disappeared down a trapdoor, and never appeared for the ovation. It seems he was murdered in a particularly gruesome fashion as he exited via that trapdoor.

Gareth Craven, heading the list of suspects, asks Agatha to investigate. To her disgust, she learns that every handsome man involved in the case seems to be infatuated with Gwen Simple, the baker's wife. And, there are times during the lengthy investigation when Agatha just loses interest. "Agatha Raisin, when she was not obsessed with some man or other, became de-energized." It's that predatory interest, though, that leads to a few interesting clues, and a few terrorizing moments for Agatha, before she discovers the unsavory solution.

I've read comments from others who say they tire of Agatha Raisin's obsession with men. I found it funny, and a change from the behavior of sleuths in other cozy mysteries. I appreciated the length of time it took to solve the case. It wasn't wrapped up in a couple days. And, I enjoyed a more mature sleuth, one with a few idiosyncrasies.

If you're like me, and haven't read an Agatha Raisin mystery before, don't hesitate to pick up the twenty-fifth book in the series. There's a reason the series has gone on that long. The latest book is an entertaining mystery. The Blood of an Englishman is a fun introduction to the cranky, lovable, needy Agatha Raisin.

M.C. Beaton's website is www.MCBeaton.com

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9780312616267 (hardcover), 304p.

Note: Don't forget this week's giveaway of three copies of The Blood of an Englishman. Details on Monday's blog.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book so I could participate in the anniversary celebration and giveaway.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Anniversary Giveaway - M.C. Beaton's The Blood of an Englishman



Yes, we're celebrating the publication of M.C. Beaton's 25h Agatha Raisin mystery, The Blood of an Englishman. Thanks to Minotaur Books, I have three copies to give away. They'll send a finished copy to one winner, and I'll send out two ARCs. So, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win The Blood of an Englishman." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6 PM CT.

And, if you're still uncertain, check out my review of this fun mystery tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Steven Marcus, editor of Hammett for The Library of America, said "In a few years of extraordinary creative energy Dashiell Hammett invented the modern crime novel." In referring to The Thin Man "His last novel, The Thin Man, a ruefully comic tip of the hat to the traditional mystery form, introduces Nick and Nora Charles, the sophisticated inebriates who would enjoy a long afterlife in the movies." So, call me a heretic. I didn't find anything particularly appealing about Nick and Nora. I am going to watch the movie since I'm leading a book discussion for "Adapted For the Silver Screen". With the book, I found Nick to be a bored man who married a younger wife. He quit his profession, drinks too much (constantly), and flirts too much. Nora just seems bored with her life, looks for excitement wherever she can find it, and, again, drinks, flirts, and pushes Nick into trouble.

And, trouble, naturally in the crime novels set in the '30s, comes in the form of a dame. In this case, it's a young, totally messed up dame, Dorothy Wynant, who is looking for her father, and wants Nick to help her. Nick once knew her father, but insists he gave up his private investigator status when Nora inherited a fortune. But Dorothy seems infatuated with Nick, and Nora takes the younger woman under her wing. As much as Nick opposes involvement with Dorothy and all of her crazy family, the murder of a secretary drags him into an investigation. Everyone but Nick seems to think Dorothy's father is the culprit. Nick suspects otherwise.

The Thin Man is the story of a world-weary Nick Charles who takes on a case to please his wife, a woman always looking for the next exciting moment. While they're visiting New York, they spend their days and nights drinking, attending shows, going to speakeasies, and to Nora's enchantment, mixing with criminals, cops, and suspects. I found it a sad story of unhappy people. No matter how much money they had, or the state of their marriages, no one in the book seems happy. And, honestly? By the end of the book, I didn't care who killed the secretary or where Dorothy Wynant's father was. I just wanted Nick to solve the case so he could dump those awful Wynants.

After reading the book, I watched the movie. It was much more enjoyable than the book. The relationship between Nick and Nora was better. And, Asta had a much larger role in the movie. The movie was better. As it is, I only found the book to be sad and depressing.

(I read The Thin Man in The Library of America's collection Hammett: Complete Novels.)