Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker

First, I need to tell you the short comments in Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker are not really sad.
They're unusual notes, with charming drawings by the author. But, you won't find yourself crying over these facts. Instead, you'll probably find yourself turning to the appendix that has a little more detail about each animal profiled.

Well, there are a few sad facts, but the quirkiness of the anecdotes makes up for it. Did you know "An alligator's brain weighs less than an Oreo?" The extended information says that a Double Stuff Oreo weighs as much as three alligator brains. "Adelie penguins push each other off ledges to see if the water's safe." I love the commentary that accompanies "Tigers don't make eye contact while they hunt." The author says, "Some people suggest making eye contact with a tiger if it's trying to attack you, but none of those people have been attacked by tigers so it's hard to say for sure it it's good advice."

Barker says she has been obsessed with animals since she was a child. Her stint as a reference librarian, in a slow job, only added to her interest. She passed the time by drawing animals on the backs of old card catalog slips at the request of co-workers who would try to stump her. Her obsession and her cute cartoons come together in this delightful book.

Sad Animal Facts may be catalogued in the library as adult nonfiction, but the third graders I read to are going to love it. What third grader can resist this one? "The ring-tailed lemur that smells the worst is in charge of the entire group." Just perfect for kids who enjoy odd facts. Just like Brooke Barker did as a child.

You can find information about the book at

Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker. Flatiron Books. 2016. ISBN 9781250095084 (hardcover), 213p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Book Chat - Berkley October Paperbacks

Well, Jinx wasn't much help this month. I guess working on the book chat in the afternoon isn't his time of day. He does have a cameo at the end, but you can tell he's not as interested in the books this month as he usually is. He's missing a good selection.

Here are the October paperback releases.

Behind Chocolate Bars - Kathy Aarons - 3rd Chocolate Covered Mystery
The Hammett Hex - Victoria Abbott - 5th Book Collector Mystery
The Witch and the Dead - Heather Blake - 7th Wishcraft Mystery
Killing Thyme - Leslie Budewitz - 3rd Spice Shop Mystery
Seeds of Deception - Sheila Connolly - 10th Orchard Mystery
Paws and Effect - Sofie Kelly - 8th Magical Cat Mystery
Putting on the Witch - Joyce & Jim Lavene - 3rd Retired Witches Mystery
Tangled Up in Brew - Joyce Tremel - 2nd Brewing Trouble Mystery
Masking for Trouble - Diane Vallere - 2nd Costume Shop Mystery

Friday, September 23, 2016

Winner and Bouchercon Author Giveaway

Because I was at Bouchercon last Friday, I only gave away a book that the publisher would send, Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay by Reed Farrel Coleman. It's going to Kevin T. from Plano, Texas.

This week, I'm giving away two books by authors I ran into at Bouchercon. The first is Rhys Bowen's Crowned and Dangerous, the latest Royal Spyness mystery. Lady Georgiana was hoping to elope with her beau, Darcy O'Mara. Instead, they end up heading to Ireland to investigate when Darcy's father is arrested for murder.

We were all happy to see Bill Crider at Bouchercon. I have an ARC of the latest Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Survivors Will Be Shot Again. This time, Rhodes is dealing with murders, thefts, marijuana, and alligators in a small Texas town.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Crowned and Dangerous" or "Win Survivors Will Be Shot Again." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan - blog tour

Well, we all know I jumped the gun when I reviewed Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner. I fell in love with this book. I've already shared my own copy with two friends. Since I enjoyed it so much, and was already committed to the blog tour, I'm running the review again on the proper day.

Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner is an enchanting eulogy for, and tribute to, librarians who once shared the love of books with readers. It's entertaining, beginning with the author's message to readers discussing favorite places to read. And, then Colgan invites readers into the book with the phrase, "Now, come and meet Nina..."

Nina Redmond is the last of a dying breed in England, a librarian who loves to talk books. But, cutbacks in Birmingham means the district can't afford to keep all the libraries open. Instead, they're centralizing services. Librarians are unemployed everywhere, and Nina doesn't fit in with the new plans for librarians as social workers and computer trainers. She's too shy, and only wants to live in the world of books. But, on a whim, she tells friends she wants to buy a van and sell books from it. She has the start of a collection because she's buying all the books they're discarding from the libraries as they close. And, when she brings home too many books, and the books start to collapse around her and her friend, Surinder, it might be time to do something with that collection.

It appears that Nina has an impossible task ahead of her when she sees the oversized van in a Scottish village. But, she knows the library world is no longer for her, and with the help of a few previously unknown friends, she buys the van, fits it for a bookshop, and, even finds a place to live. Her farmer landlord may be a little grumpy, but she'll find friends in the neighboring villages. And, Nina discovers that books have given her wings, in more ways than one. She can share her passion for books and reading with so many people.

Colgan's atmospheric book is so beautiful the reader wants to set out for Scotland. The Bookshop on the Corner is a romantic story filled with awkward characters to fall in love with. It's heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time, filled with nostalgia for something lost that will never come again. The writing is engaging as Colgan captures the feeling of the small community, the dances, the people, the books. It's a lyrical book expressing a love of books and nature. And, it's the story of one woman's growth as changes in her life truly allow her to fly.

Welcome to Jenny Colgan's beautiful novel, The Bookshop on the Corner. "Now, come and meet Nina..."

Jenny Colgan's website is

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. William Morrow. 2016. ISBN 9780062467256 (paperback), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Have You Heard? - A Cast-Off Coven

A Cast-Off Coven series #2
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 8 hours and 41 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio, Release Date: November 19, 2012

A CAST-OFF COVEN is a fabulous second entry into the Witchcraft series by Juliet Blackwell featuring Lily Ivory, owner of the vintage clothing store Aunt Cora's Closet, located in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Oscar, Lily’s "familiar" given to her by a powerful male witch, is turning into an asset even if he does push the boundaries of being a goblin/gargoyle mix in private and a miniature pot-bellied pig everyone loves in public.

The School of Fine Arts in San Francisco has discovered a previously sealed off room on the second floor of the tower building, but all the students will not go there, swearing they hear noises and voices. An argument between Aidan, who gave Oscar to Lily, ensues in the cafeteria which is buzzing with activity on a Friday evening. Lily agrees to meet a friend employee named Andromeda at the school where she will help find the chest full of women’s unmentionables discovered when the closet was unsealed. Instead they find her wealthy father at the bottom of a set of stairs in a pool of his own blood.

Did he fall down the stairs? Was he pushed?  Did a spirit from the closet do him harm?  The possibilities are too great and information too slim. Lily wants to get her hands on those clothes and see what sort of spirits she's dealing with. When she gets to the closet, it is locked, by the spirits within. They try to scare Lily away with a windstorm, rain, heat, etc., none of which work. Lily finally leaves out of impatience, and the closet door pops open yet no one is there.

Another murder at the school occurs, and Lily goes to check it out. Plus, she figures she'll give that closet another try. Finding the closet unsealed means that one, some, or all those spirits might have gotten out of the closet, possibly to murder (again?) She enters the closet, and there is a mirror hung on the wall which Lily quickly avoids, since strange things happen to spirits in mirrors (there is a fuller explanation about mirrors in Blackwell’s next book).

Lily finds the trunk of undergarments which supposedly belonged to some French women, possibly nuns since they came to America with a group of nuns. Their behavior got them sealed into the closet, not opened until present day.

Ownership of the trunk, the identity of the owners of the garments, identities of who was murdered and their connection to the trunk, all must be sorted out to solve this conundrum. Lily brings the trunk's contents back to Cora's Closet, and staff and customers all began looking through them before Lily can do her usual clean, mend, wash routine on them.

What has happened to the spirits? What is the relationship between the murder victims and the victims to the spirits? Were the women nuns?

I love how Juliet Blackwell weaves in the history of the School of Fine Arts and the buildings it occupies and information about ghosts and spirits. Facts are woven through fiction so easily that I began to wonder what was true. Quite a tangled web was woven by the end of this wonderful book. Xe Sands’ narration brought it all to life with her voice, subtle nuances, and genuine sounding curiosity.  Well worth reading.               
Sandie Herron

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dr. Michael Whitehead, R.I.P.

Those of us in the mystery community know of Michael Whitehead as Louise Penny's husband, and the role model for her police inspector, Armand Gamache. But, in Canada, he's remembered for other reasons as well. Here's the link to the announcement on CBC News.

Here's how Louise announced his death. "Michael passed away last night, at home, at peace, with love. "It's not so much that his heart stopped, as that he'd finally given it all away." Surprised by joy...."

And, here's the way I will remember Michael.

I was lucky enough to have dinner with Louise and Michael and another friend, Patti Cheney Lang.  Check out the bow tie in the picture. Louise and Michael said he wore funny ties when he was Director of Hematology at Montreal Children's Hospital. The children, often scared, needed someone kind and gentle, with a smile and a funny tie. Louise once told me Michael wore bow ties every day, with balloons, or teddy bears or Mickey Mouse. He dealt with children with cancer, and when he leaned over the children they'd see his ties. Michael knew what a gift life is, and Gamache understands that.

We ran a little late getting to the Poisoned Pen after dinner, because we had such a nice time. Michael and I sat in a bench at the back of the store. And, he smiled with pride while Louise talked.

I saw Michael only one other time with Louise, in Monterey at Left Coast Crime several years ago. He was already in the early stages of dementia, but she reminded him who I was. I hugged him, and we talked about the trip he had made that day. The joy was still in his eyes.

When Louise would say Gamache was based on Michael, he would respond, "Remember, Louise writes fiction."

I don't think so. I think she writes about a kind, gentle man who loves his wife. I think she writes about Michael Whitehead. Rest in peace, Michael.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Have You Heard? - What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie

What's a Ghoul to Do?
Ghost Hunter Mystery #1
Written by Victoria Laurie, Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hours 10 mins long
Published January 5th 2010 by Audible Inc (first published April 3rd 2007) 
ASIN: B0032Z3L2Y

Victoria Laurie brings us a fascinating series in this first book featuring MJ Holliday (yes, Doc Holliday was her great, great uncle) and Gilley Gillespie. MJ is a psychic medium who can communicate with the dead; Gilley is a techno geek who helps her with all the machinery that goes with a ghost hunt, the night vision goggles, thermal cameras, walkie talkies for them to stay in touch, etc.  MJ works alone while Gilley usually stays in the van monitoring all those instruments she uses or have been strategically placed ahead of time.

The two have been friends for a long time and consider each other BFFs (best friends forever). Gilley is gay so there’s no possibility of a romantic duo here. Each lives in their own condo in Boston but share an office, where they are sitting doing mostly nothing since they haven’t exactly had loads of jobs lately, when Dr. Steven Sable walks in.

Dr. Sable’s grandfather recently passed away in what most are calling a suicide. He can’t believe his grandfather would jump from the roof of his hunting lodge in upstate Massachusetts that had been owned by the family for quite some time. The doctor needs to know because ownership of the lodge and surrounding land will change depending whether it was a suicide or not. Steven needs MJ’s help in communicating with his grandfather to determine why he fell from the roof and died.

It wasn’t until a blind date set up by the local coffee shop’s owner went completely awry that MJ softened to Dr. Sable, now privately known as Dr. Delicious due to his being very handsome. One of MJ’s hard and fast rules had been that she worked alone. Dr. Sable was insisting on being there when she found his grandfather so he could chat with him. MJ finally agreed when the fee went high enough.

Using all their high tech equipment and MJ’s instincts, they set off on a journey to find one ghost. However, they ended up finding several. In the process, many aspects of ghost busting are explained, such as what the various pieces of equipment did, what MJ did when she’d found a ghost, how she crossed them over when willing and also when not willing.

Without giving you any more plot to spoil this exciting story, I can tell you this mystery really did turn into a mystery, not only a ghost story. The plot took several twists and unexpected turns and brought other characters into the story, both dead and alive. The ghostbusters never expected to need Dr. Sable’s medical help, too! Steven becomes an integral part of solving the many mysteries that they discover trying to solve the first one.

I very much enjoyed the first book in this ghoulish series. It was fascinating to watch and learn how a true medium works. It was extremely funny to listen to Dr. Sable try to use up-to-date slang but not having English as his primary language for such a long time, he tends to botch sentences up. It is almost annoying after a while, but then the author cuts back a bit on the reactions of others listening to him, and the fun and charm return.

MJ and Gilley start as best friends and remain that way at the end. They squabble and disagree but always make up in the end. They know firsthand all the stressors involved in ghost busting and give each other credit for surviving them. Steven fit in nicely with his novice hunting skills, finding himself enjoying the process and grateful for the conclusion.

I am impressed by how much this story grabbed my attention. I found myself reading a lot all of a sudden. I didn’t want the book to end, really, but now I look forward to the remainder of the series. Next up is DEMONS ARE A GHOUL’S BEST FRIEND.