Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Thanks - Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is my day to give thanks for family and friends. And, I'll start with you, the blog readers who return time after time to read the book reviews or pieces about my travels, and, best of all, to comment and sometimes share what you're reading. So many of you have become friends. I'm grateful that you share my interest in books. Thank you!

I'm so grateful for the gift of my wonderful family, my Mom, my sisters, Linda and Christie, and their families. I'm thankful that we all share a love of laughter, and we enjoy spending time together. I'm glad my mom and my sisters and I plan trips so we can spend a weekend or a few days together. My family means laughter and love to me. I'm so lucky to have them.

I'm thankful for the friends who adopted me, Donna and Terry Seaton. Donna and I could talk books forever. We go to movies and plays together, and analyze them afterwards. After I introduced Donna to Celtic Thunder, she shares my love of them, and of two of the performers, Byrne and Kelly. (Thank you for sharing my addiction, Donna.) And, Terry shares his extraordinary cooking gift, and all that wonderful food, including a week's worth of leftovers. And, today, I'm spending Thanksgiving with Donna, Terry, and some of their family.

I have two friends I talk with almost every day. We talk about books, politics, travel, family, pets. There isn't much I haven't talked about with Kaye Wilkinson Barley and David Chaudoir. I'm so thankful they're in my life. And, I'm grateful we can laugh together, and talk through the rough times.

I have so much to be thankful for - friends, my cats, the opportunity to travel to Paris and New York City, Phoenix and Tucson this year.

And, it wouldn't be my blog if I didn't say how much I love and appreciate books and authors. To the authors - I'm in awe of your creativity and the gifts of your books. Thank you.

I'm guessing if I went back and read all my Thanksgiving posts, they would sound quite similar - family, friends, books, cats, travel, laughter, love. What a wonderful life, wonderful gifts.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. And, for those who are having a rough time this year, I hope you find moments of peace.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Are You Reading?

It's a day early for "What Are You Reading?", but people are more likely to stop in today than tomorrow. And, I'll direct people to today's post if they do come looking for it on Thanksgiving.

I'm really between right now. I just finished two books for review, but they're January releases, and I'll review them here at that time. I actually have a book I need to find, one that I want to read by the end of the month. So, I really don't have a book to talk about today.

What about you?  Are you reading something, or did you just finish a book? What are you reading or listening to right now? We'd love to know.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Have You Heard? - Charlaine Harris' Dead as a Doornail

I always appreciate it when Sandie Herron allows me to run one of her reviews of an audio book. Since I don't listen to them, it's an added feature for those of you who might be interested in listening rather than, or along with, reading a book. Thanks, Sandie, for the latest "Have You Heard?",204,203,200_.jpgDead as a Doornail
Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Book 5
Written by Charlaine Harris
Narrated by Johanna Parker
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Time:  10 hours, 2 minutes
Publisher:  Recorded Books (May 6, 2005)

Sookie Stackhouse works at Merlotte’s Bar & Grill in Bon Temps, Louisiana.  She doesn’t have too many friends, since her ability to read minds tends to keep people away, until she meets vampire Bill Compton, his boss Eric Northman, and their undead community.  Sookie cannot read vampires and her ability to read other “supes” is limited.  

Sookie is leaving work late one evening when a shot rings out and shape-shifter Sam Merlotte falls to the ground.  Since Sam knew of no one who wanted him dead, Sookie begins to wonder if the shooting might be related to shape-shifters.  After all, a were-fox had recently been shot and killed.  Sookie’s suspicions carry more credibility when were-panther Calvin Norris is shot leaving for work.  She is compelled to visit him in the hospital to help pave the way to better relations with those were-panthers who live in neighboring Hotshot.  Sookie’s brother Jason was recently kidnapped and bitten repeatedly by a were-panther jealous of his dating Crystal Norris, which means he may change into a panther at the next full moon.  When Sookie sees Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’ll change this full moon and begins to worry that the shooter might go after him.  Calvin has even suggested Jason might be the sniper, since Jason might be bitter over being bitten.

With Sam hobbling on his wounded leg, he asks Sookie to find him help bartending at Merlotte’s.  It wouldn’t hurt if this person could also act as bouncer if things get dicey as they had recently when a very uncouth vampire showed up with Sookie’s friend Tara Thornton.  She turns to Eric, the vampire who runs Fangtasia in Shreveport, and not the werewolves, since they are part of the shape-shifting community.  Eric sends his newest employee, Charles Twining, to help Sam in exchange for room and board and a future favor.  With no place to spend the day, Charles becomes Sookie’s house guest so he can reside in the private space vampire Bill hollowed out beneath her house.  It’s fortunate that Charles is there when Sookie’s home catches fire.  .  

Sookie learns of the death of the werewolf packmaster.  Alcide, the werewolf who had escorted Sookie around Jackson, Mississippi not too long ago, calls her to let her know and to ask her to attend the funeral with him.  Since the funeral is also the beginning of the campaign to choose a new packmaster, Alcide hopes to make a statement by escorting Sookie.  

Things go from bad to worse when the sniper sets his sights on Sookie.  It’s time to stake out parking lots all over town to catch this determined shooter.  By book’s end, Sookie is overwhelmed with requests of and favors owed to so many supernatural beings.  Thankfully, author Charlaine Harris has expertly laid a clear path for Sookie.  The story certainly twisted around many issues and people and many of the communities to which Sookie has become part.  Narrator Johanna Parker lends yet another voice to the many in her repertoire living in and around Bon Temps, Louisiana.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane

Con Lehane brings back two of my favorite characters in his latest mystery, Murder in the Manuscript Room. Of course, I appreciate Raymond Ambler, the troubled librarian at the iconic 42nd Street Library. But, Brian McNulty, the shrewd bartender at the Library Tavern, is also a favorite. And, Ambler needs McNulty's assistance is this tangled investigation.

Raymond Ambler's life is messy. He has an alcoholic ex-wife. His son is in prison for murder. He's fighting for custody of his grandson. And, the court time for the custody battle has delayed his work on a new exhibit at the library, "A Century-and-a-Half of Murder and Mystery in New York City". But, Ray, the library's curator of crime fiction, has counted on his coworker and close friend, Adele Morgan, for assistance. Right now, though, Adele seems to be spending time with a research assistant that Ray doesn't trust, Leila Stone. Leila is abrupt and discourteous when Ray has guests at the library. Mike Cosgrove, a friend, and a NYPD homicide detective, introduces an author who wants to donate his collection of papers. Ray isn't too interested until he learns Higgins is a retired cop who was with the NYPD intelligence forcers for years. But, the collection, and the strings attached, stir up all kinds of trouble.

Leila Stone also stirs up trouble. When an Arab scholar claims Leila was spying on him, Ambler is forced to question Adele's friend. And, then Leila is killed and dumped in Ambler's reading room. Her murder, the intelligence team checking on the Arab scholar, and a story from a childhood friend about a cold case, the murder of a union leader, are all clues for the intelligent librarian. He can't bounce his theories off of Adele because she's on her own quest to help the mysterious scholar. But, McNulty, at Ambler's hangout, the Library Tavern, has time to listen, and has some connections.

This is a weighty story, a complicated one. But, at least for librarians, it has it's lighter moments. I have two favorite quotes in the book. "Most people don't appreciate librarians as much as they should." Then, there's this one. "You've been kidnapped, your apartment broken into, and now shot at. You thought about looking for a less dangerous job than being a librarian?"

Murder in the Manuscript Room is a complex mystery that forces people to ponder their responsibility for others. Ambler, Leila, and Mike Cosgrove, the homicide detective, all have weighty decisions to make. It's pointed out to Raymond, "One is responsible to act when one knows something is wrong, even when it requires courage. You are in the unfortunate position of seeing a wrong others don't see." It's a timely message in a thoughtful book.

Con Lehane's website is

Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250069993 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

Cancer is such a pernicious disease. There isn't one of us who hasn't been touched by it, or knows someone who has. Joe Biden's book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, is the story of the year the Biden family stood with Beau Biden as he fought for his life, battling cancer. But, it's also the story of a year as Vice-President as Joe Biden pushed his schedule to be so full that he could forget for short periods of time what his son was going through.

Beau Biden, Joe's oldest son, survived the car crash that killed his mother and little sister. He survived his service in Iraq. He was in his second term as attorney general for Delaware with ambitious plans to run for governor, and, maybe someday president. In 2014, he and the family learned he had a brain tumor. And, it was glioblastoma, Stage IV, and not curable. But, if anyone was going to fight cancer and win, it was going to be Beau, with his family, especially his brother, Hunter, by his side.

Biden himself juggled his time between trips to various hospitals to be with Beau, and the business of being vice-president. During this period, that meant dealing with problems in the Ukraine, Iraq, and negotiating with Central America. It also meant eulogies at funerals, and visits to troubled cities. Biden admitted he needed to keep busy. And, in this same period of time, he had to weigh his options. Was he going to run for president? If Beau and Hunter had been by his side, the answer would have been yes. When Beau Biden knew he wasn't going to make it, he pulled his father aside. He knew Joe had the ability to sink into darkness. He knew his father needed a purpose in life. "Give me your word, Dad, that you're going to be all right. Promise me, Dad."

This really isn't a book of what if. Joe Biden knew he didn't have the heart to run in 2016 after Beau's death. It isn't a "what if Joe Biden had run for president book". It is a thoughtful, moving book about a year of fighting for survival, physically and emotionally. It was a tearjerker. I started the book with tissues in my pocket, and I needed them.

For some of us readers, it is a book of regret. Joe Biden says, "I have come to believe that the first duty of a public servant is to help bring people together, especially in crisis, especially across different divides to show respect for everybody at the table, and to help find a safe way forward." It's hard to not wish things had been different, for Beau Biden, for the family, for the country.

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden. Flatiron Books, 2017. ISBN  9781250171672 (hardcover), 260p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Picturing Christmas by Jason F. Wright and Sterling Wright

I'll admit most Christmas books are sweet, perhaps too sweet for many readers. Almost all Christmas novels have happy, satisfying endings. Picturing Christmas by Jason F. Wright and Sterling Wright is no exception. However, this is a book I would only recommend to new adults. The main character, Aubrey, and her preoccupation with her own problems was a little too much for me.

The prologue actually spoils any possible suspense in the novel, showing everything will be just fine, and indicating what's happening with Aubrey. I won't do the same. Instead, I'll start with Aubrey's graduation from college. She's twenty-two, ready to start her new life in New York City as she hopes to eventually work in photography there. But, before she graduated, her parents told her they were getting a divorce.

It's a stubborn, upset Aubrey who heads to New York City where she actually has an unpaid internship, and she's never told her parents she's not getting paid. But, she manages to make it until she's sent to Rockefeller Center to take pictures of the lighting of the tree. Then, she's accosted, and robbed of the company's photography equipment. A kind man finds her and asks to give him $50 for the one lens he was able to buy back. That's her first meeting with the extraordinary "Joel Miller" who has an unusual eye for moments and people who are different in New York.

Despite her new friendship, Aubrey's holiday season isn't what she expected, even when her parents show up. But, New York really hasn't changed Aubrey's cold heart, and she reacts with anger, turning away both her parents. Instead of moving ahead with her life, she lets bitterness and anger cloud her judgment, and spoil her first Christmas in New York.

Picturing Christmas is a Christmas story, though. Despite Aubrey's spoiled, angry attitude, there will be a happy ending. But, this time, Jason F. Wright, author of Christmas Jars, doesn't have the right main character to carry off that happy ending. That's why I'd suggest Picturing Christmas for young adults, struggling with their own first apartments, first job, first time on their own. Most of the rest of us will find Aubrey immature and ungrateful. At least she gains a little wisdom at the end.

Note: I was intrigued, though, by the description of the New York Botanical Gardens' Train Show. I think I'm going to have to make a holiday visit there next year.

Picturing Christmas by Jason F. Wright and Sterling Wright. Sweetwater Books, 2017. ISBN 9781462128617 (paperback), 183p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, November 17, 2017

Winners and More Christmas Mysteries Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. The Usual Santas will go to Rob R. of San Antonio, TX. Martha C. of Scottsdale, AZ will receive How the Finch Stole Christmas. The books are going out in the mail today.

But, wait! I have more Christmas mysteries to give away. Mrs. Jeffries, the quick-witted housemaid of a bumbling British inspector, returns for the holidays in Emily Brightwell's latest Victorian mystery, Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women. Cantankerous Christopher Gilhaney manages to insult every guest at a Bonfire Night dinner party. When he's shot dead under the cover of nighttime fireworks, it seems to be a robbery gone wrong, and everyone begins to deck the halls for the holiday season. Six weeks later, the case isn't solved yet, and a motley crew of servants-turned-detectives set out to solve the mystery and save Christmas.

The cover of The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt is still one of the cutest book covers I've ever seen. Defense Lawyer Andy Carpenter has a friend, Martha "Pups" Boyer, who takes in stray puppies and raises them until they're old enough to adopt. With Christmas just around the corner, one of Pups' neighbors turns her into the city for having more pets than she should. Andy's eager to defend her. And, then that neighbor ends up dead after Pups threatened him, and even found the body. Now, just before the holidays, Andy has a murder case on his hands.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at To make it easy, your subject heading should read either "Win Brightwell" or "Win Rosenfelt." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, Nov. 23 at 5 PM CT so someone can give thanks that they won.