Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust

In a twist for a cozy mystery, the police chief is the primary suspect who has been suspended, so he needs help from the amateur sleuth. Gail Oust's fifth Spice Shop Mystery,Ginger Snapped, is an entertaining story with Southern charm, small town gossip, a touch of romance, and, of course, the mystery itself.

Piper Prescott, owner of Spice It Up!, feels a pang whenever she sees Police Chief Wyatt McBride with realtor Shirley Randolph. Yes, the two make an attractive couple, but Piper was just starting to get over her initial reaction to McBride. A year earlier, he suspected her of murder, but they've moved past that. Everyone in Brandywine Creek has McBride and Randolph pegged as a couple.

When McBride finds Shirley's body on his property, it doesn't take long for the gossip mill to start grinding again. With the mayor hightailing it to Florida, the acting mayor, Piper's ex-husband, suspends McBride. Because he had a couple dinners with his realtor, everyone sees him as the primary suspect. Everyone sees him that way, except Piper and her best friend, Reba Mae. They're afraid he's being railroaded, and he'll need some help to prove his innocence. With Piper's growing reputation as an amateur sleuth, and her attraction to McBride, she's just the one to tackle the case.

Piper capitalizes on all the small town gossip in Ginger Snapped. The enjoyable story features mature  characters with a sense of responsibility, to the town, to family, to the truth. Oust's inclusion of facts about spices is worked naturally into the book. This one is a treat for any cozy mystery reader.

Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust. St. Martin's Minotaur, 2017. ISBN 9781250081261 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! by Ree Drummond

Actually, Ree Drummond's latest cookbook has one more subtitle. It's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives. And, even if you seldom cook, this is a scrumptious cookbook to browse.

Ree Drummond, blogger turned cookbook author and television celebrity, begins this latest cookbook with a collection of her favorite things. It includes her "20 Favorite Pantry Items", favorite freezer staples, refrigerator staples, and favorite cuts of beef. Then, as in most cookbooks, it's broken down by breakfast, lunches, appetizers, suppers. But, she also categorizes recipes by the length of time it takes to cook them. There are beautifully photographed step-by-step directions, along with options for changing up the recipes.

I don't cook much. However, just as I watch her television show, "The Pioneer Woman",  for the glimpses of ranch life, I read the cookbook and appreciated the glimpses of her family, ranch life, and the animals on the farm. She has photographs sprinkled throughout the book. Fans of the show will appreciate photos of The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, "The Merc", the new store and restaurant that she and her husband, Ladd, renovated and opened. There are photos of the dogs, cattle, and even a ranch cat. There are also family stories, including one about her father-in-law, Chuck. And, if you've been watching the show as long as I have, her poem may bring a sniffle or two. It's "Ode to Charlie", the Basset hound that was always around, until he died.

Most of the recipes are not too complicated. As she says, they're intended for people with busy lives. The cookbook is beautiful, filled with photos of all that comfort food. It might be a perfect gift for someone who enjoys home cooking.

Ree Drummond's website is www.thepioneerwoman.com

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives by Ree Drummond. William Morrow, 2017. ISBN 9780062225269 (hardcover), 382p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, December 08, 2017

I'd Rather Be Reading by Guinevere De La Mare

I'm a sucker for books about books or reading. Guinevere De La Mare's little book is really just a gift item, but it has a few charming pieces in it. I'd Rather Be Reading is subtitled "A library of art for book lovers."

Guinevere De La Mare opens the book with an essay that is touching at times. She led a rebellion in kindergarten because she didn't want to learn to read. She enjoyed having family members read to her. When she decided to learn, she said she owed her love of reading to her grandmother, who was the director of her preschool. But, school almost destroyed her love of reading. In high school when she had to analyze the texts of books, it killed her love of reading. I could understand her comments. "What happened to willingly suspending our disbelief?" She said it was her first breakup with books because the magic was destroyed.

However, her book shows some of the magic, in artist's paintings and in photographs. There are a number of pictures of books. There are also quotes, "Less Selfies. More Shelfies." Interspersed between the artwork and the essays were poems about books and reading.

I wasn't a big fan of Maura Kelly's essay in which she recommended reading more classics. But, Ann Patchett wrote about trying to come up with a list of her favorite books. And, Gretchen Rubin offered "13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done".

I'd Rather Be Reading didn't really offer anything new. As I said, it's really just a little gift book if you're looking for something for the reader in your life.

Guinevere De La Mare's website is http://guineveredelamare.com/about

I'd Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers by Guinevere De La Mare. Chronicle Books, 2017. ISBN 9781452155111 (hardcover), 96p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Bill Crider and What Are You Reading?

This first note is one I hate to share. Bill Crider often posted on Thursday's What Are You Reading blog. Although he had read my blog for years, I didn't meet Bill until Jeffrey Meyerson introduced me to him at Bouchercon in Raleigh. He had already started his cancer treatment when he came to New Orleans Bouchercon, and I know so many of us were glad to see him. Before I ask what you're reading, I'm going to share Bill's message on his blog from Tuesday. I know I spent Tuesday evening and times on Wednesday crying. Here is his message.







Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Update

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog.  I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care.  A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left.  The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I've made a lot of friends here.  My only regret is  that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block' fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins' latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand,  which is a collection of two novellas, "A Bullet for Satisfaction," an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and "The Last Stand," the last thing that Spillane completed.  It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I'll never read.  But I've had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it.  Much love to you all.





























It almost seems meaningless to ask what you're reading after Bill's post. But, considering that his post was about the books he wouldn't get to finish, I think those who want to share should. I've just started Connie Willis' A Lot Like Christmas, an update of her wonderful collection, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. If you don't know Willis, she's a science fiction author who loves Christmas and has written wonderful stories to celebrate the season. They're in a variety of genres.

But, I'm actually on a train right now heading to Chicago. So, I'll read your comments as I can, picking them up on my cell phone.

If you want to share, what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Man Found Dead in Park by Margaret Coel

Margaret Coel wrapped up her Father John/Vicky Holden series with Winter's Child. That doesn't mean she said goodbye to her characters. In her illustrated novella, Man Found Dead in Park, she brings together Vicky Holden and her reporter from Denver, Catherine McLeod. And, in a special treat for mystery fans, Craig Johnson wrote the cover copy; Anne Hillerman did the introduction, and Keith McCafferty penned the Afterword. And Phil Parks' illustrations bring the characters to life.

The story actually begins with autobiographies of Holden and McLeod. While Coel's fans probably know the story of Vicky Holden, the Arapaho attorney who works with clients in Wyoming, many may not realize that Catherine McLeod was adopted when she was five years old. She knows nothing about her mother, except she was an Arapaho. So, when her story takes her to the Wind River Reservation, she's reluctant and eager at the same time.

In Denver, Catherine was called to the scene of a shooting in the Indian neighborhood. No one will talk to the police. No one will talk to McLeod's fellow journalist. But, women will talk reluctantly to Catherine because she is one of them. She uses her anonymous sources to report that one man killed the other, to get the names. She also learns that the Mexican Sinaloa cartel is using tribe members from Denver to introduce them to people on the Wind River Reservation. They are taking meth to the reservation.

In Wyoming, an ex-con, Arch Walksfast, is shot and arrested for killing a Mexican drug dealer in a meth house. His brother asks Vicky Holden to defend him, saying his brother is a user, but not a killer. With the small amount of evidence pointing to Arch, Vicky doesn't have a great deal of hope. Then, Catherine McLeod shows up to meet with Vicky.

Margaret Coel has always used her mysteries to point out issues affecting the Arapahos and the current world. There's just enough character development in this novella to highlight the strong women at the forefront of the fight for answers. It's an unusual format, an unusual book. But, it's a fascinating look at a contemporary crisis.

Note: You're stuck with my photo of the book because I couldn't find a picture of the cover.

Margaret Coel's website is www.margaretcoel.com

Man Found Dead in Park by Margaret Coel. Illustrated by Phil Parks. ASAP. 2017.  ISBN 9781892011640 (hardcover), 135p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

I wish I could tell when authors are ending a series or ending a storyline. This is the second book I read in three days that might be doing either. Maggie McConnon does end a three book arc in Bel, Book, and Scandal. There was a shocking conclusion, but the series could go on. We'll see.

For three books and fifteen years, chef Belfast McGrath has been wondering what happened to her childhood best friend Amy Mitchell. Because Bel came home without Amy on a party night when they were eighteen, the town of Foster's Landing has always looked on Bel with suspicion. Did Bel know what really happened? That suspicion drove Bel away from home, but when her relationship and her professional reputation crashed all on one night, she returned to Shamrock Manor, the Irish wedding center owned by her parents where her four older brothers performed in the band. She's the chef there, but she lost her high school sweetheart to the prettiest girl in town, and she recently lost another boyfriend. With Amy missing, Bel has been afraid to trust and afraid to open her heart.

It's the stepmother of a bride-to-be who leaves a newspaper at Shamrock Manor, and Bel is stunned to see Amy's picture. All these years later, she recognizes her friend, and is determined to track her down. Where is Amy, and what has she been doing? It seems she was once at a commune in upstate New York, not far from Foster's Landing. With a surprise ally, Bel goes searching for answers to the questions that have been plaguing her for fifteen years.

Maggie McConnon's Bel, Book, and Scandal appears to be a cozy, with the humor, the weddings, the music. But, it has dark undertones that have haunted Bel and all three books in the series. McConnon ends the arc with a surprising conclusion that leaves the series open. And, Bel's ally in this mystery is a fun addition. Professor Alison Bergeron makes more than a cameo appearance. Alison is the amateur sleuth in McConnon's other series, the Murder 101 books written as Maggie Barbieri.

Will Bel McGrath learn to trust again? Will the series continue now that Amy's storyline is over? Who knows? Maggie McConnon has left us all hanging with an ending filled with possibilities.

Maggie McConnon's website is http://maggiebarbieri.com/

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon. St. Martin's. 2017. ISBN 9781250077301 (paperback), 320p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy from the publisher.



Monday, December 04, 2017

The Silent Second by Adam Walker Phillips

Who would ever expect a Human Resources manager to be a successor to Raymond Chandler? Adam Walker Phillips' Chuck Restic walks Chandler's mean streets of Los Angeles in the debut mystery, The Silent Second. It's an unusual combination, HR professional and amateur sleuth, but it works.

Chuck Restic had one good idea, an idea that shot him to HR executive in his company. Now, he's been there for twenty years. He's as bored with his life as his wife was. She left him, and now he's just going through the motions. As he tells it, he isn't surprised when an always-complaining associate complained about a co-worker. He is surprised when Ed Vadaresian doesn't show up for work again, and is officially declared a missing person.

Chuck's curiosity sends him to Vadaresian's home in the Armenian neighborhood in Glendale. He's told stories about Ed's business dealings and that the man is back in Armenia. Before he knows it, he's digging into Ed's personnel files, where he discovers real estate holdings. Restic is already in deep. Before he knows it, he's investigating real estate, checking on his wife's relationships with entrepreneurs, and asking questions. He's hanging out with a reporter friend and cops. When a friend is murdered, and Chuck is beaten up by thugs, he knows he's in dangerous territory. But, Chuck Restic has never felt so alive.

With his melancholy attitude and knowledge of HR jingoism, Chuck Restic makes a perfect narrator. The author, and the character, show a knowledge of Los Angeles that adds to the atmospheric story. There's a hopelessness at times that is perfect for this novel. Adam Walker Phillips' debut mystery, The Silent Second, introduces an amateur sleuth worth following.

Adam Walker Phillips' website is www.adamwphillips.com

The Silent Second by Adam Walker Phillips. Prospect Park Books, 2017. ISBN 9781945551048 (paperback), 280p.

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

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner

Hilary Bonner launches a new British police procedural series with a gripping story with an unusual twist at the end. However, Deadly Dance's protagonist is a little too cold as a lead character. He is a character with a few problems, and we'll see if he becomes a little more likable as the series continues.

All murders are troubling, but the victim of a killing in Bristol is a little too close to home for Detective Inspector David Vogel. Fourteen-year-old Melanie Cooke is the same age as Vogel's own daughter. Melanie is found behind trash bins in the red light district, just hours after her mother reported her missing. But, Melanie's secrets led her to that spot, and the police have to discover what she was hiding. Naturally, they look at her father and stepfather. Their alibis are a little shaky, and when there's a DNA match, it seems they've found a killer. But, Vogel is a little uncomfortable with the results. A call from his former boss in London leads him to suspect there is a serial killer out there.

Three suspects tell their story in this suspenseful novel. The methods used, and the victims, indicate a wide pattern of crime. But, it will take a story from the one who got away to set the police on the right track. None of the police saw the direction this case will take.

DI Vogel is a little too uptight for my taste. He really only becomes human when he's home with his wife, his sounding board and support system. And, he's struggling with his own family issue, one he hasn't revealed to his wife. That's a story that will turn his life upside down. Despite his problems, he's a thoughtful, capable team leader who is blindsided.

Despite Vogel's stuffiness, I'm looking forward to the next in the series. Deadly Dance is a well-developed procedural with a villain who leads the police down a twisted path.

Hilary Bonner's website is www.hilarybonner.com

Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner. Severn House. 2017. ISBN 9780727887344 (hardcover), 256p.

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


Saturday, December 02, 2017

January Treasures in My Closet

It seems so early to be talking about January books, but I'm already reading February releases, so it's time. And, the sooner we get to these, the sooner winter is over. So, let's jump right in. It's a wonderful collection to kick off 2018.

Marie Benedict, the author of The Other Einstein, now brings us a historical novel about an Irish maid and Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie's Maid. Clara Kelley is actually a poor farmer's daughter, not the experienced Irish maid hired to work in one of Pittsburgh's grandest households. She serves as a lady's maid, but eventually Carnegie begins to rely on her for business advice. Even though when Andrew Carnegie becomes more than an employer, Clara Kelley can't let her guard down. (Release date is Jan. 16.)





New York Times bestselling author Melanie Benjamin returns with The Girls in the Picture. It's a novel of the powerful creative friendship between two legends - superstar Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion - who defied the early Hollywood system...and triumphed. (Release date is Jan. 16.)








Nothing defines cozy mystery like a donut shop. Survival of the Fritters is the first in Ginger Bolton's new series, featuring a widow and donut shop owner. When a regular at the shop is killed, Emily Westhill is drawn into the case in the town where her familiarity with everyone draws the killer's attention. (Release date is Jan. 30.)







The men in my sister's family are all waiting for Pierce Brown's new book, Iron Gold. It's the fourth book in the Red Rising Saga. A decade earlier, Darrow was the the hero of the revolution. But, the Rising only brought endless war. Now, he'll risk everything, hoping to save everyone. (Release date is  Jan. 16.)







Jayne Ann Krentz' books are always exciting. Her latest, Promise Not to Tell, is about a terrifying legacy. Seattle gallery owner Virgina Troy and PI Cabot Sutter share a common past. They spent time in a cult as children, until a devastating fire destroyed the compound, killing Virginia's mother. But now an artist has taken her own life, and has left behind a painting that will make them both doubt everything about he so-called suicide - and their own pasts.  (Release date is Jan. 2.)





One of Brooklyn's first female detectives returns in Lawrence H. Levy's latest mystery, Last Stop in Brooklyn. A convicted man's brother wants Mary Handley to reopen a murder case, convinced his brother didn't kill a prostitute. Before she can solve the case, she uncovers disturbing evidence, and has to turn to a surprising ally, police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






Those of us who appreciate classic crime stories and police procedurals will enjoy The Long Arm of the Law: Classic Police Stories, edited by Martin Edwards. The anthology includes background information on the British authors as well as a collection of little-known stories. (Release date is Jan. 2.)








Meet bounty hunter Alice Vega in Louisa Luna's Two Girls Down. When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated family hire a bounty hunter to do what the authorities cannot. The local police department shuts her out, but Vega enlists a disgraced former cop to help cut through the local politics. Now, the two must untangle a web of lies, false leads, and dangerous relationships. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae takes us back to Scotland where Inversgail welcomes back native environmental writer Daphne Wood. But, Daphne upsets most people in the town. Then, she pushes bookshop owner Janet Marsh and her friends to investigate the death of a visitor, found outside a pub. Daphne's pushiness will only lead to trouble. (Release date is Jan. 2.)







I'm excited about Sujata Massey's new series. The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s Bombay, introduces Perveen Mistry, one of the first female lawyers in India. She's investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a murderous turn. (Release date is Jan. 9.)







HR executive-turned-amateur sleuth Chuck Restic returns in The Perpetual Summer by Adam Walker Phillips. A missing teen leads Restic to a high-profile fight over a new art museum and a forty-year-old murder that won't stay in the past. Anyone can be behind the teenager's disappearance: her fitness-obsessed mom, switchblade-toting chauffeur, personal life coach, or even the girl herself. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






Dominic is the second Hollow Man novel by Mark Pryor. Dominic's secret, that the charming Englishman, prosecutor, and musician, is also a psychopath is only known by two other people. They also know a year ago he got away with murder. Now, when a homicide detective starts digging up that case, one of those people offers to take care of the situation, permanently. (Release date is Jan. 2.)






Deanna Raybourn's third Veronica Speedwell mystery, A Treacherous Curse, is delightful. When a photographer disappears from an Egyptian dig, taking a diadem with him, Veronica and Stoker are drawn into the case by the connection to Stoker's past. Readers of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books, and Jane Eyre fans should pick up this book. (Release date is Jan. 16.)







Popular lawman Samuel Craddock returns in Terry Shames' A Reckoning in the Back Country. When a physician disappears, and appears to have been attacked by vicious dogs, Jarrett Creek police chief Craddock suspects there may be a dog fighting ring operating in the area. Now, Craddock has to be careful because lawmen who meddle in dog fighting in Texas put their lives at risk. (Release date is Jan. 9.)






I learned more about the European refugee crisis from Jeffrey Siger's mystery, An Aegean April, than from anything I've read in the news. When a refugee is arrested for the vicious murder of a wealthy Greek shipowner, an American woman affiliated with a refugee organization contacts Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis. When the Easter holiday slows down the investigation, she draws the media's attention, along with a killer's. (Release date is Jan. 2.)






In Randall Silvis' Walking the Bones, Sergeant Ryan DeMarco is still reeling from the case that led to the death of his best friend. Now, he just wants to lay low with his new love. But, when they arrive in her southern hometown, he's roped into an investigation. All DeMarco knows is that it's an unsolved case, the bones of seven young girls, picked clean and carefully preserved, discovered years ago. (Release date is Jan. 23.)






Teresa Trent's Murder of a Good Man is the first Piney Woods mystery. When New Orleans native Nora Alexander arrives in Piney Woods, Texas, she only meant to deliver a letter from her deceased mother. But the police chief asks her to stay in town when the letter's recipient ends up dead, and Nora's the only one who seems to have a reason to hate the man. (Release date is Jan. 15, no jacket cover available.)

In C.J. Tudor's The Chalk Man, a man has to return to an event of his childhood to find the truth about his small English village. In 1986, Eddie and his friends ride their bikes, avoid bullies, and have a secret code, little stick figures of chalk men left as hidden messages. Then, a mysterious chalk man leads them to a dismembered body. Thirty years later, Eddie gets a letter with a single chalk stick figure. When one of Eddie's old friends ends up dead, Eddie returns to find the truth. (Release date is Jan. 9.)

There are so many enticing books this month that I can't cover all of them. Here are the other January releases. I may have missed some, even in my own place. Have I missed anything you're waiting to read?

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht (Jan. 30)
The Monk of Mocha by Dave Eggers (Jan. 30)
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances (Jan. 30)
Killer Choice by Tom Hunt (Jan. 30)
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson (Jan. 16)
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (Jan. 9)
The Black Painting by Neil Olson (Jan. 9)
The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce (Jan. 9)
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Jan. 9)
The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith (Jan. 23)



Friday, December 01, 2017

Winners & Another Christmas Mystery Giveaway

First, those of you waiting to see the January Treasures in My Closet, please come back tomorrow. Today's a giveaway. When the first falls on a Friday or holiday, it always makes it awkward. It will be up tomorrow.

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Ginger Snapped is going to Bonnie P. of Palo Alto, CA. Judith B. from Battle Creek, MI won Bel, Book and Scandal. The books will go out in the mail today.

Here are a couple notes for this last giveaway of December. First, it's the last giveaway until January. I usually close down the contests for most of December so I don't have to go to the post office. The new giveaway will kick off on Jan. 5. Second, this contest will run through Friday, Dec. 8 because of my schedule. I'll pick the winners, and get the books out on Saturday.

Now, what you're really waiting for. What are this week's books? I have a copy of Wendy Tyson's Seeds of Revenge. Megan Sawyer braves a December snowstorm to promote her fresh greenhouse greens to Philadelphia chefs. On her way home to Winsome, she picks up a stranded woman. Becca Fox is heading to her aunt's house for the holidays. But, Becca's aunt also invited her estranged father. When the man ends up dead, Megan is caught up in a story that affects the entire town, including her own family.





Or, you could win a hardcover of Rhys Bowen's latest Molly Murphy book, The Ghost of Christmas Past. Molly and her family are grateful to escape to a mansion on the Hudson for Christmas. But, they find themselves caught up in a family drama, and tragedy, when a young girl shows up, claiming to be the daughter that disappeared ten years earlier.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Please email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Seeds of Revenge" or "Win The Ghost of Christmas Past." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. As I said, the contest winners will be announced next Saturday, Dec. 9.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading this week? In between college basketball and football games, I'm reading Man Found Dead in Park, an illustrated novella written by Margaret Coel and illustrated by Phil Parks. I couldn't even find a photo online, so the poor photo you're looking at is one I took. Ann Hillerman wrote the introduction. Keith McCafferty did the Afterword, and Craig Johnson wrote the jacket copy. Parks' illustrations are sketches, including ones of Coel's characters. She brings together her attorney, Vicky Holden, and her investigative reporter, Catherine McLeod.

Before I ask you what you're reading this week, I have a question for those of you who regularly respond to "What Are You Reading"? Would you like to write a guest post about your favorites of 2017? If so, would you like to do it before the end of the year, or early in January? It will be your choice. I am limiting those posts to those of you who read this regularly and respond on Thursdays. If I don't recognize your name, I'm sorry. I won't include a guest post. If you're a regular reader and answer, and would like to write a post, you can respond today and say yes, or I'll think about it, when you mention what you're reading. I'll take care of jacket covers. You'd only have to write the post. My email is no secret. It's available on the blog, so, if you say yes, you can email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com for more details.

Back to the real subject here. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Q & A with Lawrence Kelter

Lawrence Kelter is the author of a surprising sequel. Back to Brooklyn is the sequel to a movie, "My
Cousin Vinny". He's going to tell you how that all came about.

Novelist Lawrence Kelter chats about writing BACK TO BROOKLYN, the literary sequel to Dale Launer's 
classic legal comedy film My Cousin Vinny

How did the chance to write BACK TO BROOKLYN come about?

Lawrence Kelter: There was one specific project I always wanted to be involved in, but like the rock star dream and the Super Bowl victory, I thought it was not to be. You might think this silly or lame. And maybe it is. There was a film I enjoyed so much that every time it popped up on TV, it made me late for an appointment because I just couldn’t pull myself away. I knew the script verbatim and often incorporated the better-known lines into my everyday conversation. That movie is My Cousin Vinny.

It popped up on the tube about two years ago, and I decided to email the screenwriter/producer to tell him how much I loved his film, thinking, Hollywood screenwriter—I’m dirt beneath his boot—He’ll never reply.

But he did.

And somehow we forged a connection. Emails led to conversations. He discussed his upcoming projects with me, and I with him. One day he called up and said, “Hey, I read one of your books and you’re pretty f_ _king funny.”

“So how about you let me turn My Cousin Vinny into a book series?”

“Make me an offer.”


Four attorneys and fourteen months later, BACK TO BROOKLYN was delivered to Eric Campbell, publisher of Down & Out Books.

What was the most rewarding part of writing established characters like Lisa and Vincent? The most challenging part?

Lawrence Kelter: Writing BACK TO BROOKLYN was the most fun I’ve ever had sitting in front of a keyboard. I have high hopes for this book. After all, I love the characters and the backstory—not to mention the two years I have invested in the project. But where it goes from here… I've received a great deal of feedback from readers. Almost universally they tell me that that they can hear Lisa and Vinny in their heads playing that cat and mouse game--they visualize Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci as they're reading. Nothing could be more rewarding than that.

At the onset there were two big challenges that gave me pause. 1) I had to get the voices just right--my Vinny and Lisa had to sound exactly like Vinny and Lisa from the film with the same type of smart Alec rhetoric and the same colloquialisms. They had to think alike and  react alike. In the words of Beechum County DA Jim Trotter III, they had to be, "IDENTICAL!" 2) The movie reveal was just so damn clever and startling that it was a real challenge to develop a plot that felt like the original but was completely different, and at the end ... well, it was a serious undertaking to reveal the true villain and his MO without relying on "magic grits" and "Positraction."


Why should fans of My Cousin Vinny read BACK TO BROOKLYN?

Lawrence Kelter: Fans of the film will instantly fall back in love with Vinny and Lisa and hopefully laugh just as hard as they did the first time they saw the film. In the words of New York Times bestselling author William Landay: "Like visiting with old friends, BACK TO BROOKLYN captures the fun and spontaneity of every lawyer's favorite legal comedy, My Cousin Vinny. As surefooted as a '63 Pontiac with Positraction." 

Have you heard feedback on BACK TO BROOKLYN from the original movie cast?

Lawrence Kelter: Both Ralph Macchio and his wife have both read the novel and reported that they really enjoyed it. I tried to get in touch with Joe and Marisa but was unsuccessful. On a lighter note, Nelson DeMille gave his copy of the book to his mother after he read it and she reported, "Nelson, this guy knows Brooklyn a hell of a lot better than you do!"

What are you working on now? Will we see further adventures with Vinny and Lisa?

Lawrence Kelter: I'm working on four or five new books at once. OMG, it's scary that I can't remember how many books I'm working on. They're all in different states of completion. Next up is (insert drumroll) the novelization of My Cousin Vinny. Why you ask? Because it's bigger, and fresher, with additional scenes, lots of new humor, and sneak peeks into Vinny and Lisa's history that was not revealed in the film. It's due for release in March of next year.

* * *

About BACK TO BROOKLYN (Down & Out Books, May 2017)


“Fans of the movie will enjoy Vinny and Lisa’s further adventures.” —Publishers Weekly

Gambini is back! Hot on the heels of rescuing his cousin Bill and Bill’s friend, Stan from an Alabama electric chair, our wildly inappropriate hero, Vincent Gambini heads home to Brooklyn where he attempts to establish a successful law career. Meanwhile, Lisa aches to have a wedding band placed around her finger and her biological clock is still ticking away like mad. Vinny and Lisa have been together ten long years. She’s waited so very patiently for him to complete law school and pass the bar. Winning his first case was the last piece of the puzzle, and now nothing can stand in the way of true love, except that between them they don’t have two nickels to rub together, and Vinny is about as romantic as a box of frogs.

In the course of building his practice, Vinny is reunited with Joe, his walking, talking embarrassment of a brother, Lisa’s nudging parents, Ma and Augie, and his dear old friend Judge Henry Molloy, who refers him the mother of all capital murder cases.

Theresa Cototi is young and pretty but far from innocent, and darn her luck … her boyfriend has just been scraped off the pavement after taking a header from eight- stories up. You’d better believe she’s going to trial, charged with murder one.

Aided by Lisa and a ragtag team of misfits, Vinny defends his client against overwhelming odds. Our endearing neophyte attorney must match wits with a cunning DA and a formidable influence peddler, who appears to anticipate his every move. In the balance hangs the life of a woman he believes to be innocent. Or is she?

Yes, Vinny may have finally won his first case but his and Lisa’s story is far from over.


About the author
Lawrence Kelter never expected to be a writer. In fact, he was voted the student least likely to step foot in a library. Well, times change, and he has now authored several novels including the internationally bestselling Stephanie Chalice and Chloe Mather Thriller Series.

He’s lived in the Metro New York area most of his life and relies primarily on familiar locales for story settings. He does his best to make each novel quickly paced and crammed full of twists, turns, and laughs.

Find Lawrence Kelter online …

Website: http://lawrencekelter.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lawrencekelter/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LarryKelter
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lawrence-Kelter/e/B0058Q8IIW
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/673845.Lawrence_Kelter

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Death Comes to the School by Catherine Lloyd

Fans of old-fashioned mysteries, or stories that remind you of Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen, may appreciate this fifth book in the Kurland St. Mary Mystery series. .Death Comes to the School by Catherine Lloyd is a quiet story involving class differences and role differences for boys and girls.

Three years after the events of Death Comes to the Fair, Major Sir Robert Kurland and Lucy Harrington are married, but their marriage has some problems. While he is patient and understanding, Lucy suffers from poor health and anger after a series of miscarriages. However, Lucy is interested in the state of the school she and Robert established for the local children in their small village of Kurland St. Mary. When she hears that some of the children have not been treated well by the teacher, she confronts her. But, someone else is unhappy with Miss Broomfield. It's not a pretty sight when Robert visits the school to talk to her, only to have an upset student report she found the teacher murdered. 

There are so many reasons to suspect the teacher of stirring up trouble in the village. Lucy, along with some of the other women, have received venomous notes. Some of the parents have not been happy with Miss Broomfield's treatment of their children. And, when Lucy finds valuable jewels hidden in the teacher's rooms, she suspects theft. While Lucy asks questions of the women in the community, Major Sir Robert takes his role as local magistrate seriously, questioning local residents. It's unfortunate that it takes a murder investigation to bring Lucy and Robert back together.

Lloyd's portrayal of the characters in Death Comes to the School is excellent. Kurland's servants, as well as the villagers, are well-drawn and not forgotten in this Regency mystery. In fact, in many cases, they come across so much better than the higher class characters. The mystery is intriguing. However, the relationship between Lucy and Robert will bring readers back to the series, even more than the mystery itself. It's a solid, well-written portrayal in a quiet mystery.

Catherine Lloyd's website is www.catherine-lloyd.com

Death Comes to the School by Catherine Lloyd. Kensington Books. 2017. ISBN 9781496702081 (hardcover), 288p.

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


Monday, November 27, 2017

December's Cozy Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime

Although Jinx showed up early for the book chat, it's Josh's tail you'll see in the video. Enjoy the book chat from Jinx, Josh and me.




This month's featured books are:

Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs - 7th Cackleberry Club Mystery (1st time in paperback)
Hark the Herald Angels Slay by Vicki Delany - 3rd Year-Round Christmas Mystery
A Crime of Poison by Nancy Haddock - 3rd Silver Six Crafting Mystery
Honey-Baked Homicide by Gayle Leeson - 3rd Down South Cafe Mystery
Comic Sans Murder by Paige Shelton - 3rd Dangerous Type Mystery
Live and Let Fly by Clover Tate - 2nd Kite Shop Mystery

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Have You Heard? - Charlaine Harris' Definitely Dead

While I'm reading January releases this weekend, I can share one of Sandie Herron's reviews of an audio book. Here's her review of Charlaine Harris' Definitely Dead.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51X4-mGEjGL._AA300_.jpgDefinitely Dead
Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Book 6
Written by Charlaine Harris
Narrated by Johanna Parker
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 10 hours and 34 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books (May 8, 2006)

Sookie Stackhouse is a barmaid at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill in Bon Temps, Louisiana.  She happens to be telepathic which until recently she considered a disability. Now she has learned to harness this skill in dealing with many supernatural creatures that have become known to her following the “Great Awakening” of the vampires.  Sookie met were-tiger Quinn at the recent werewolf packmaster contest.  Now he was back to deliver a summons from Louisiana’s vampire queen to attend the upcoming vampire summit and to ask her on a date.

Sookie finds herself helping many “supes.”  Her brother Jason’s girlfriend Crystal, a were-panther, has just had a miscarriage, so Sookie arranges for Dr. Ludwig to see her.  Werewolf Alcide’s ex-girlfriend Debbie Pelt, still missing following the night of the Witch War, as the vampires were calling it, continues to plague Sookie.  Now her parents and sister were at Merlotte’s looking for clues to find her.  A child goes missing from the elementary school, and Sookie cannot stay away when her telepathic skills might help find the child.  Sookie is happy to be distracted from the problems around her to learn of the upcoming double wedding of Detective Andy Bellefleur and local school teacher Halleigh Robinson as well as Andy’s sister Portia Bellefleur, a prominent lawyer, and her accountant beau.  And then she has a wonderful time at the theatre with Quinn, only to be mugged by werewolves after the show.  Sookie notes that she has “assumed the role of guardian of the weird in my little corner of our state.  I was the poster girl for interspecies tolerance.  … It was kind of neat, knowing stuff that other people didn’t.  But it complicated my already difficult life ….”

Sookie is sad to learn of her cousin Hadley’s death and is surprised that Hadley left her entire estate to Sookie.   Sookie travels to New Orleans where she befriends Hadley’s landlady Amelia, a witch who has placed a stasis spell on her apartment.  Both women are stunned by the rising of a new vampire from Hadley’s place who attacks them both until help sent by the Queen pulls him away.  Needing to know what happened before Hadley died, the Queen employs Amelia and several witches to perform an ectoplasmic reconstruction.  The Queen reveals to Sookie that Hadley, her lover, had taken a wedding gift that she absolutely must have back before the reception planned to celebrate the nuptials.  Heads will roll if the gift is not returned.  

The Sookie Stackhouse novels rival the best soap operas and are written with intricacy and compelling plot lines.  This sixth entry in the series was bulging at the seams with characters working both with and against Sookie.  Plots formed and evaporated throughout the book that the reader might think would spin out of control due to the sheer number of plots and subplots.  Yet author Charlaine Harris is able to pull it all together, amazingly leaving very little left unsaid, undone, or out of place. Sookie saves the day, yet again, returning the world to harmony.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Club Babies by Ashton Lee

Ashton Lee wraps up his Cherry Cola Book Club series with the promise of the future for the Cherico Public Library in Cherico, Mississippi. Of course, he's talking about a new generation of library users in Book Club Babies.

Library director Maura Beth McShay is pregnant. So is her sister-in-law, Elise, who is staying with her aunt and uncle in Cherico. Maura Beth's best friend, Periwinkle, owner of The Twinkle restaurant, is also expecting. Because the three women use each other as sounding boards, it inspired Maura Beth to start a support group at the library. It's called Expecting Great Things, and all the members of the book club are invited, as long as they tell entertaining stories about pregnancies. No horror stories.

The three women are perfectly capable of providing their own horror stories. Elise is going to be a single mother who planned her pregnancy, going to a sperm bank. Periwinkle's mother rejects the idea of a grandchild, because she's racist and won't accept that Periwinkle married a black man. Maura Beth's story really isn't horrible. She has to stop her husband, Jeremy, from having all her symptoms. He's using his wife and sister as the basis for a new novel. Writer's block really only stops when he teams up with a fellow teacher to write a different book, one for fathers-to-be. But, the drama in Book Club Babies doesn't end with horror stories.

All along, Ashton Lee's Cherry Cola Book Club books have been about the library as the heart of a community. As library director, Maura Beth struggled in the series. She faced a town council and its leader who did not appreciate the library. She headed a library that was in poor shape, with no parking for patrons. She faced down the council when they wanted to close the library so the money could go elsewhere. Lee's support of public libraries was evident in the series of books, as he introduced a young woman who faced obstacles to get town support for the library, and then support to build a new, modern library. Maura Beth grew in the course of the series, both professionally and personally. She met, fell in love with and married Jeremy, and, by this final book, she and her close friends have all moved on to motherhood. Best of all, though, in the course of this series, she helped a small town build a community.

These books, including the latest one, have gathered the townspeople together at the library. They formed a book club, ate wonderful food, and supported each other through death, marriages, and, now births. Ashton Lee never forgot his aim of showing the importance of libraries in the current world. He understands their role in communities.

Now that there is a new generation to attend story times, read books, use library computers, there's the promise of the future in Book Club Babies. This is the perfect way to end the series. Fans can see what the future might be for favorite characters. This is a satisfying way to conclude the books. But, Lee has one more gift for readers. This book also includes all the recipes that have been in the Cherry Cola Book Club books. He leaves all of us with the gift of food and community. What's any better?

Book Club Babies by Ashton Lee. Kensington Books. 2017. ISBN 9781496705808 (paperback), 272p.

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


Friday, November 24, 2017

Winners and a Win the Seasonal Mysteries Before You Can Buy Them Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The Twelve Dogs of Christmas goes to Trish R. of Decatur, GA. Prentiss G. from Burlington, NC won Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women. The books are going out in the mail today.

I have two mysteries that are released in December to give away this week. I've read them, and the reviews will appear on my blog close to release date. But, I'm giving them to lucky winners now. "Tis the season - for murder" with Maggie McConnon's Bel, Book and Scandal, a Belfast McGrath mystery. Even if you haven't read the earlier books, you can easily catch up with the chef and amateur sleuth who keeps her family in line, her parents and brothers, owners and the band for their Irish-American wedding center. But, Bel's been haunted for years by the disappearance of her best friend, Amy, when they were eighteen. Then, she sees a picture of Amy in a newspaper, and she's determined to uncover the truth.


It's the perfect time of year to give away a Spice Shop Mystery. Ginger Snapped is Gail Oust's latest. Spice shop owner Piper Prescott has finally become friends with Police Chief Wyatt McBride. When a local realtor is found floating in Wyatt's fishing hole, he's suspended from the police force. Too many people saw him having dinner with the victim. But, Piper knows he didn't kill anyone, and she's determined to help her friend.






Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject lines should read either "Win Bel, Book and Scandal" or "Win Ginger Snapped." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Nov. 30 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

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?"

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51X7eDcdg5L._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_.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 www.conlehane.com

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