Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tea with Deborah Crombie & The Todds

I've seen a lot of photos from Bouchercon on Facebook, but I was out of town again this past weekend, so haven't put all of mine together. Many of you haven't seen them, and I'll do a whole compilation. But, first I'm going to do a recap of an event that was by invitation only, so most attendees didn't get to see this one. And, it was my favorite program at Bouchercon. It was quiet and intimate, and nothing else is quiet at the mystery convention.

HarperCollins invited a small group of bloggers, librarians and booksellers to a two-hour tea with Deborah Crombie and mother-son team of Charles and Caroline Todd. While the attendees were at small tables, Charles, Caroline and Deborah talked, and then joined us at the tables.

Caroline Todd led the conversation, asking Deborah Crombie about her next book featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. Garden of Lamentations comes out in February, and Deborah did have the cover art to show us.




And, then Caroline said Duncan and Gemma are the modern equivalent of the Todds' Rutledge and Bess. She said that's one reason they love each other's books, and, they did even before they met or toured together. And, speaking of touring, they told us about the story of a Florida book tour. They were to appear at a library, and they were dropped at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. When they asked about food, they were pointed to a small shack. But, the food was so good. And, people were feeding alligators nearby. There were signs, though, saying do not take the path after dark. The food at the shack was good, but if you took the path at night, you might be eaten on the way.

Caroline asked Deborah about going to England to research the places for her mysteries. Deborah said you have to go. The Sound of Broken Glass takes place at the Crystal Palace in South London. Deborah's guide told her you could get stranded there if the weather is bad, and people had been stranded there for three days by an ice storm. No one could get in or out. She knew she had to use that as part of the story. Charles and Caroline went on to tell their own story about the Crystal Palace. There are trees in it, and it's built of glass. When it was first built, sparrows got in there. They didn't know how to get them out. They couldn't shoot them because of the glass. The Duke of Wellington only said one word. "Sparrowhawks." And, that's what they did. They let sparrowhawks loose to get the sparrows.

The tidbits of conversation from the three authors were so enjoyable to listen to. In comparing characters, they said Crombie's Duncan stands back and analyzes as Rutledge does, and Gemma, like the Todds' Bess Crawford, tackles troubles head-on.

Caroline Todd said they put Inspector Rutledge in Scotland Yard because they could send him to other parts of England. Everyone did London, so they wanted to explore crimes in other parts of the country.

Charles and Caroline Todd


Caroline said they explore villages because there's more opportunity for murder. People in villages know each other. She said the friend who takes them around when they explore will contact them, saying, "I have found the loveliest place of find a body." They said the villages have the same social structure as London, but in the city, the classes may never mix. In the villages, everyone interacts. Charles said he was a corporate troubleshooter, and he knows what it's like to show up and not be welcome in a village, so outsiders may not be welcome, and may be shut out. He said it's important to explore the villages, to see the details. All three authors agreed that pubs are the perfect places for people watching.

Charles described the correct way to draw Guinness in England. He said there's a line on a standard clear glass pint. When it's done right, there's no foam below the line. The foam is all above the line, and they leave room to form the clover leaf.

In The Shattered Tree, the latest Bess Crawford mystery, the Todds deliberately sent her to Paris. They wanted to see how she would deal when she was out of her comfort zone with no support.

In talking about research, they all agreed they do extensive research, but there are stories they couldn't use. They discussed clothing. Women wore military-style gowns during World War I. They couldn't get feathers. The British wore dark styles while in mourning, but Paris refused to do that.

For The Shattered Tree, they had to know that the French lost Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans in the Prussian War. After the war, the official language was German.  And, Bess has a patient who speaks German when he has a shock. Is he a German spy? Or, something else? Then, Charles gave a great deal of information about the Paris gun. It fired from eighty-two miles away. There was a great psychological effect because people couldn't hear it go off. It was a four hundred pound plus bomb, but it only made a four foot wide hole. It was not very accurate, and not highly explosive. But, the people suffered from horrific terror during the summer of 1918 because they never heard the bomb coming.

Asled about outlining, Caroline said she never could outline. Even in college, she would write the paper and then outline it afterward. They let the story tell itself. They know the first scene. She said the characters will tell you what will happen next if you listen to the characters.

Charles said as a mystery author, they need to be one step ahead of the reader. But, they have to play fair. If the reader goes back, they have to be able to make sense of the story. "Readers keep us honest."

Deborah agreed. Garden of Lamentations has multiple viewpoints and storylines. She doesn't like keeping things from the reader. She believes in fair play and the traditional formula. That's what made traditional mysteries popular. Can you catch the killer?

After the talk, Caroline Todd joined our table, and we had a delightful conversation until it was time for the session to be over. I may not always catch the killer in the mysteries, but I was smart enough to wait to thank Deborah and the Todds, and I was able to get final pictures of the authors after the entertaining program. As I said, it was my favorite from Bouchercon.







Monday, September 26, 2016

The Poisoned Pen Blog

I'm not being lazy. I was out of town for the weekend. And, whatever I posted would not have been as good as several of the articles I posted lately on The Poisoned Pen's blog. Today, it's photos of Craig Johnson's appearance on his book tour for An Obvious Fact, the latest Longmire mystery. And, there's a link to the Livestream event, which you really should watch if you get time. Last week, I had a fun interview with Karin Slaughter.

While I'm catching up, check out the blog. I write that for The Poisoned Pen. I hope you find the authors, notes, and interviews interesting. It's at https://poisonedpen.com/category/fiction-review/.

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 http://sadanimalfacts.com/brooke

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 Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. 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 www.jennycolgan.com

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
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51STVIIeeuL._AA300_.jpgWitchcraft series #2
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 8 hours and 41 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio, Audible.com Release Date: November 19, 2012
ASIN: B00A8PJD96


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