Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope 2018 is kinder to all of us. Cancer and politics, and maybe the cancer of politics seem to have been the tune during 2017. We've lost friends and beloved authors this year.

I've been fortunate. I have my family, all of my friends, including all of you readers, and so many books. I had the chance to go to Paris, something my father always hoped I would do. I lost two cats this year, but still have three beloved ones.

May 2018 bring all of us happiness, good books, and, most of all, good health.

Last year, I ended the post with this song. I'm not copying the entire song this year, but it's still appropriate.

So, here's a toast to you, and a song from an Irish singer. Eamonn McCrystal wrote and performs, "Friends As Yet to Come".

May all the blessings of the world
Be well within your reach.
And all the days that lie ahead
Be ones of love and peace.
When the midnight falls upon us
And the elder year is done,
We'll raise a glass to friends of yore
And friends as yet to come.

May seasons of good fortune drift
Along and find you well.
And by this time next New Year's Eve,
Have you new tales to tell.

Happy New Year! Here's to all those new tales in our life, our own, and the ones in books!

Favorite Books of 2017

It's time. I know there's one more day, but this is my definitive list. As I say every year, this is not a "Best of 2017" list of books. We all know I usually don't read the literary novels that make some lists. I'd much rather read a good mystery, a story with interesting characters. And, there are so many other books out there that I didn't have the chance to read. This is only a list of my favorites read in 2017.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. This is a book that celebrates the people and objects that come into someone's life. The author sums it up. "It was a sweeping story of love and loss, life and death, and, above all, redemption." It starts out as the story of a man who rescues and stores lost items, including a young woman who needs rescuing. It's so much more.

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames. I told the author that we tend to forget about the books we read in the early part of the year. But, this one stayed with me. It's the story of the new police chief in Jarrett Creek, Texas, Samuel Craddock, hired despite his youth and inexperience. When Craddock believes a man has been wrongly arrested for a crime, he won't let up, and he's willing to take on the entire town, including his wife. We learn about Craddock's moral beliefs, and his dawning awareness he was unprepared for his job.

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day. As I said, I read for character. Anna Winger is a flawed, determined character, a woman who has always been on the run. She never doubted that she was doing what was right, until the day her son disappears. She finds unknown strength in her determination to find her son.

Hell's Detective by Michael Logan. The gritty story of a detective condemned to Hell for her final act. Bloody, gritty, and redeeming. For all of us who love Simon R. Green's books.

Too Lucky to Live by Annie Hogsett. A delightful caper that introduces a hot couple, a woman who takes home a blind college professor. That night, he wins the lottery, and a few too many people are interested.

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods. Take one miserable thirty-five-year-old, and put her in daily contact with another woman determined to have one hundred happy days. Noisy, boisterous, with a wonderful cast of characters. There's a tearjerking moment or two, but worth it.

The Western Star by Craig Johnson. A young deputy Walt Longmire travels on the annual train across the state with the Wyoming sheriffs on board. While dealing with marriage problems, Longmire has to contend with murder, and he's the suspect. It's Johnson's homage to Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. And, there's a cliffhanger!

The Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams. This intense, riveting mystery kicks off a new series featuring four strong, damaged women who band together to learn who killed a man who had come to Miracle Springs, North Carolina looking for the help that good books can provide. A book lover's mystery.

Murder in Mayfair by D.M. Quincy. The wit and setting bring this Regency mystery to life as adventurer Atlas Catesby buys Lilliana Warwick at auction, only to see her return to her husband. But, when the man is murdered, Atlas teams up with Lilliana to find the killer because the two are suspects in the eyes of a shrewd Bow Street Runner.

Honorable mention to Pete Souza's gorgeous book of photographs, Obama: An Intimate Portrait. A beautiful book that reminds us of the dignity that once graced the White House.

And, my number one book for the year was Louise Penny's Glass Houses. A recent book discussion reminded me why Penny continues to take first place. Her latest Armand Gamache book is a powerful story that deals with the greater good while involving all of the townspeople of Three Pines in a perplexing current mystery.

Are there a couple books that stood out for you this year? What books might top your list?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sue Grafton, R.I.P.

I had intended to post my Favorites of 2017 piece today, but it will wait until tomorrow. Instead, let's take a minute to remember Sue Grafton. She died Thursday night of cancer, at the age of 77. Her family's tribute came in the form of the statement that "The alphabet now ends in Y." Here's the obituary from the New York Times.

I met Sue Grafton four times. The first was in Naples, Florida when she was in a group of mystery authors who appeared to a small appreciative audience. I only remember Sue Grafton and Lawrence Block. It must have been 1986. The Lee County Library System hosted her for our annual luncheon the second time. She showed slides of Santa Barbara, and talked about the similarities with her Santa Teresa. And, she showed us Kinsey's car.

When I was Chair of the Authors' Programming for the Lee County Reading Festival, I tracked her down, and called, after learning her husband's name. She told me I had good detecting skills. When I asked her to appear at the reading festival for 2002, she said yes. She didn't even ask for airfare from California. We picked her up at the airport, and my college roommate came in on the same plane. We took her to her hotel, and she hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Her graciousness with her fans was unequaled. She even signed a tee shirt as she came out of the restroom.

The last time I saw Sue Grafton was in Scottsdale, Arizona when U is for Undertow came out in 2009. I did a lengthy recap of the program when she appeared for the Poisoned Pen. You can read it here, if you'd like.

Kind. Gracious. And, she signed my book with, "Hello, Everyone...Read Lesa's Blog! Sue Grafton"

RIP, Sue Grafton. And, thanks for the memories.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Wine Lover's Daughter by Anne Fadiman

I'll admit I know nothing about wine, and I really don't care to. That doesn't make Anne Fadiman's memoir, The Wine Lover's Daughter, an odd choice for me. This is the story of her father, Clifton Fadiman, and, her yearning to appreciate the same things he did, good books and fine wine. She could appreciate the good books, and she succeeded in something her father never did, teaching at an Ivy League university. But, despite all her knowledge of wine, she never developed a taste for it.

It's Clifton Fadiman's story of rising above his Jewish childhood in Brooklyn. "Things were run by people who spoke well and who were not Jewish, not poor, and not ugly. He couldn't become a gentile, but there was nothing to stop him from acquiring money and perfect English." With his love of books, information, and knowledge, Fadiman developed the skills and English to make a living from his knowledge. Fadiman's wit and expertise brought him the jobs with radio, magazines, and the Book-of-the-Month club, jobs that provided him the money to indulge his other love, collecting wine.

Anne Fadiman, as her father's literary executor, had access to all of his writings, as well as her own memories of almost forty-six years with him. She tells his life story until his death at ninety-four. She tells of his feelings of inadequacies, while also discussing her own feelings of inadequacy when it came to wine and writing. She still checks to see there are more Google entries for her father than herself. And, she tells of looking for scientific reasons why she can't appreciate wine the way her father did. Like so many of us, she never outgrew the need for her father's approval.

While I skimmed over the named wines, I appreciated the story of Fadiman's life, and his daughter's story of it. It was the chapter called VIP that interested me the most, though. This chapter discussed his move to Captiva, Florida, late in life. It mentioned South Seas Plantation, 'Tween Waters. This was the period in which Fadiman went blind, and attended classes for the visually impaired in Ft. Myers.

I met Clifton Fadiman and his son, Kim, once on Captiva. I was the manager of the Captiva Public Library, and Fadiman and his son came in to donate books, including a copy of his book, The New Joys of Wine. It was so large we had no good place to put it. But, I knew who Clifton Fadiman was.

I met Clifton Fadiman just that one time. But, it was enough to make me pick up Anne Fadiman's memoir, interested in reading about the intellectual I saw as a book man. She saw him as her father, and sees herself as The Wine Lover's Daughter.

The Wine Lover's Daughter by Anne Fadiman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. ISBN 9780374228088 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I asked the publisher to send me a copy.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

What Are You Reading?

This is the last "What Are You Reading" post for 2017. Next week, we're on to a new year, new
books, new memories. I hope we all make wonderful discoveries in 2018. And, don't forget, if you want to do a "Favorite Books Read in 2017" post, feel free to send it anytime from Dec. 31st on.

In the past week, I finished two Ben Aaronovitch Rivers of London urban fantasies. I finished the first in a new mystery series for a journal review - just so-so. I may have been reading Anne Fadiman's The Wine Lover's Daughter for a while now, but I'm over halfway through it, so the end is in sight. I've enjoyed it, but other books have distracted me. (In fact, I brought all the rest of the Rivers of London books home from the library.)

And, today, a wonderful book arrived in the mail, a gift from a dear friend. It's called Vanishing Ireland by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. I've only glanced through it, and read snippets here and there. But, here's part of the description from Amazon.

"Short-listed for the Eason's Irish Published Book of the Year Award 2007, Vanishing Ireland is a unique collection of portrait interviews looking at the dying ways and traditions of Irish life and taking us back to an Ireland virtually unrecognisable today. Illustrated with over a hundred evocative and stunning photographs, we meet the people and customs that shaped the cultural identity of the Irish nation. Through their own words and memories, sixty-four men and women transport us back to a time when people lived off the land and the sea, when music and storytelling were essential parts of life, when a person was defined by their trade. Divided into five parts -- Children of the Field, Children of the Music, Children of the Horse, Children of the Trade and Children of the Water -- Vanishing Ireland brings together the stories of those who lived through Ireland's formative years."

So, what are you reading this week? What are you ending the year with? We're all waiting!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Here's what I've learned after reading just two books in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London urban fantasy series. It doesn't pay to be Peter Grant's girlfriend. Moon Over Soho, the second book in the series, provides another series of educational adventures for the young police officer turned wizard's apprentice.

Dr. Walid is the one who originally calls in Peter Grant while Grant's boss, DCI Thomas Nightingale, is recuperating after being shot. A jazz musician, Cyrus Wilkinson, dropped dead in a pub two days earlier. It appeared to be a heart attack, but Dr. Walid detected, and suspects, magic. Peter, the son of a jazz legend, Richard "Lord" Grant, recognizes the saxophone solo rising from the corpse, "Body and Soul". It's a song that will lead Peter into multiple clubs around Soho, involving him the search for answers as to why jazz musicians died before their time. And, Peter will also become involved with Simone Fitzwilliam, Cyrus' lover.

While investigating, Peter recognizes magic books that he's using as textbooks. Nightingale fears they may be dealing with a black magician who uses magic to cause injury to others. And, that investigation grows more dangerous the deeper they go into the past.

At the same time, Grant assists while others are looking for a "Pale Lady" who attacks men. Unfortunately, he makes the mistake of sending a god to do a policeman's work. The attack on young Ash Thames threatens all agreements with the river gods. And, Peter's actions in rescuing the young god threaten the wizards' finances.

While this urban fantasy series fascinates me, I'll admit I had a hard time remembering the victims, and which case they were involved in. There were a few too many named victims, all male, in both investigations, and I couldn't keep them straight.

Saying that, it's fascinating to watch Peter Grant's growth as a young wizard. The police officer with a scientist's curiosity is still experimenting. He has a long way to go to compete with black magicians. And, he has a long way to go if he's ever to keep a girlfriend.

The series is witty and clever, with its own history. Moon Over Soho marks a period of growth and exploration for our young wizard-in-training.

Ben Aaronovitch's blog is at

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. Ballantine Books, 201l. ISBN 9780345524591 (paperback), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

A friend told me years ago to read Ben Aaronovitch. And, I read the book back then. This time, when I read Midnight Riot, the first Peter Grant, I must have been in the moon for a combination of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files and Simon R. Green. There's the magic, the wizard, and the gruesome at times. But, just as I always said the early books in Butcher's series were mysteries, this is a police procedural. And, it was so good I've already picked up the second book.

Peter Grant is a probationary police constable in London when he's assigned to protect a murder scene. A man's head was completely knocked off by a passerby. During the cold hours when another constable goes to get coffee, Peter encounters a ghost who tells him about the murder. But, how can he explain that his witness was a ghost? In a rash moment when he returns looking for that ghost, Peter blurts out the truth about Nicholas Wallpenny, the ghost who claims he's been dead for one hundred twenty years. The person he tells? Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale.

The next day, Peter finds himself assigned to the Economic and Special Crime unit. That consists of Nightingale and, now, Peter. When Peter's new "governor" casts a spell, Grant discovers his boss is a wizard. Ghosts are real. There's a special residence where Peter must live if he apprentices himself to a wizard. And, only the police commissioner can swear him into his new position, one where he'll be learning for ten years. To a curious man who relishes history and discovery, educating himself in magic and history is perfect.

While Grant and Nightingale's main case is the investigation of the violent occurrences that happen when a seemingly normal human is overtaken by anger and attacks a stranger, this is a police procedural. The two-man team also have to juggle other cases. They're called in when the residents of a house go missing. They have to deal with a power struggle between rivers. Just everyday crimes for a wizard and his apprentice.

While Nightingale is mysterious, Peter Grant is the star of the book. He's witty with a dry humor at times. He's sexually attracted to some women, including a river, and he's young enough to not always handle it well. He's curious about magic and history, perfect traits for a young police officer.

This time, Ben Aaronovitch's Midnight Riot caught my attention. I don't know where I went wrong the first time.

Ben Aaronovitch's blog is at

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. Ballantine Books, 2011. ISBN 9780345524256 (paperback), 310p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Note - This is the first in the Rivers of London series. In England, that's the title, Rivers of London. So, the Polish title makes sense.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

As I get older, I realize Christmas isn't always the joyous, carefree holiday it seemed when I was younger, even into my twenties. It was always the magical exciting holiday spent with family. And, when I talked with my mother last night she mentioned the Christmas Eve I drove home, and I shouldn't have. When I left work, it was snowing. I drove home in a blizzard, country roads that were sometimes down to one lane. And, the drive took so much longer than usual. By the time I finally arrived home, my sisters had left for church to pray for me. Even that time, for me, Christmas was always magic and family.

Christmas is still magic for me. The last couple years I've spent Christmas Eve with dear friends who have become family. But, I know Christmas isn't always easy. So, it's a good time to share the message I wrote last year.

Merry Christmas! I know this hasn't been an easy year for so many of my friends, people I love. There's been so much loss and grief this year. It may not be an easy Christmas for so many people.

I hope you find joy in your family and friends. I hope there is love in your life. If you're facing loss and grief, I hope you have someone who reaches out to you. If you face fear or unhappiness, I hope there is someone to hold your hand.

I'm grateful for my wonderful family, the joy and laughter in my life. I'm grateful for my friends, people who have become family. I'm grateful that I have people to talk with.

For Christmas, for the New Year, I wish you love. I wish you joy and laughter. And, if you need someone to listen, reach out. So many of us have needed someone to listen.

My Christmas wish for all of us is for peace, and joy, and love. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas Eve

I'm celebrating with friends today. Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to you. Have a beautiful day. And, safe travels if you're on the road.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Choices, Choices

I'm off work now until Wednesday, December 27. And, I have piles and piles of books all over the house. How do I choose?

Honestly, I pick a library book, a couple books coming out in the next couple months, a couple books I own. Then, I start sampling until one fits my mood. It's exactly what we talk about in libraries with Readers' Advisory. Sometimes, you have to try a few until they're just right.

I'm sure I'll read and finish all of these books. There's the new book in a favorite series in the pile. There are a couple new authors to discover. But, right now, it's finding the right one.

What have you been sampling lately? Have you found the book that fits your mood?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Favorite Crime Fiction of 2017 - According to Crime Fiction Authors

Over on the Poisoned Pen's blog, I've been working with a number of authors. I asked them what their favorite crime novels were that they read in 2017. They didn't have to be books published in 2017. Some came out this year. Others are older. And, a few will give you sneak peeks at books in 2018.

Here's the link for The Poisoned Pen's blog.

Who will you see over there?

Thomas Perry kicked us off on December 5. These other authors followed.

Dana Stabenow
Clea Simon
Joe Ide
Lori Rader-Day
Jeffrey Siger
Deanna Raybourn
Catriona McPherson
Terry Shames
Dean James
Nick Petrie

We're taking a short break over Christmas because most people won't be reading a bookstore's blog. But, if you see a favorite author on this list, I hope you check out their recommendations. And, there will be more authors chiming in after Christmas.

If you have time, check it out!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

What Are You Reading?

Today is our last "What Are You Reading?" before Christmas. If you celebrate, I wish you books or
gift cards or enjoyable reading over the holiday weekend. Even if you don't celebrate, I hope you have reading time! I'm looking forward to watching some movies, going to see "The Greatest Showman", and reading time. And, of course, time with the cats.

This week, I finished Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon. It's an unconventional mystery with an odd twist. The story was first published in 1939. It's one of the British Library Crime Classics with a forward by Martin Edwards. It doesn't come out until February. I also have quite a pile next to me with that Connie Willis' collection, A Lot Like Christmas, Anne Fadiman's memoir of life with her father, The Wine Lover's Daughter, and Laurie Kilmartin's February release, Dead People Suck.

Did you have reading time this week? What are you reading?

Merry Christmas to you and your household! And, hugs from me and the cats.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Berkley Prime Crime's January Releases

Usually, Jinx and I would do a video chat to talk about January's releases from Berkley Prime Crime. But, I only have three books from them for January, hardly worth getting the camera and cat out. Instead, I'll give you a brief summary.

Jennifer Ashley's Death Below Stairs launches a new historical mystery series. "The brazen heroine of Ashley's popular novella, A Soupçon of Poison, returns as the protagonist of the Below Stairs series. Beloved young cook Mrs. Kat Holloway is as shrewd and calculating as ever, charming readers with her fierce sincerity as she takes on a new position in the Victorian housefly of a British Lord." Mrs. Holloway discovers a slew of odd characters in the Rankin household. And, there's trouble brewing in the home, which boils over when the cook's young assistant is found dead.

Dial M for Mousse is Laura Bradford's third Emergency Dessert Squad mystery. Owner and baker Winnie Johnson is supposed to proved a plate of motivational desserts for an artists' retreat. Instead, she discovers the body of the retreat owner just inches away from some very eccentric suspects.

Miranda James' Twelve Angry Librarians will be out in paperback in January. After a public argument with the guest speaker at a librarians' conference at Athena College, interim library director Charlie Harris is the primary suspect when the man ends up dead. Charlie and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, must check out every clue to find the real killer. (For more about Miranda James, and the author behind the Cat in the Stacks books, check out Poisoned Pen's blog today, at

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Have You Heard? Victoria Laurie's Better Read Than Dead

This is the post that was supposed to be published yesterday. Unfortunately, it looked fine when I saw the preview. Once it published, the formatting was terrible. I'll try again. Thanks to Sandie Herron for the audiobook review.

Better Read Than Dead
Series: Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye Book 2
Written by: Victoria Laurie
Narrated by: Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins 
Publisher: Audible Studios    
Release Date: 03-02-10

Abby's world was a bit lonely with Dutch away at the training academy for the FBI.  When he returns home, she has to postpone their big reunion to do a reading for a wedding where the bride was really looking forward to having two psychics.  The original two got sick.  They ask for a favor, and Abby and a friend attend the reception and take up their places doing readings.  When Abby does her first one, it is of a man who has killed and hurt others.  She becomes alarmed, but the man is very calm.  She talks to her friend who has discovered that this is a Greek wedding put on by the head of the Greek Mafia!  

They grab their things and run and keep running for the remainder of the book.  Abby's friend goes on vacation leaving her to answer to the Mafia boss and father of the bride as to why they didn't deliver services for which they were paid in advance.  She ends up returning the money for their half done reading, in double.  That's after the Mafia goons kidnap her and bring her to the boss’s office.  He is riddled with cancer; Abby can see mostly black in his aura, so he is close to death.

He lives long enough to make Abby's life hell between questioning her, chasing her, burning down her house, wrecking her car, and bringing in Dutch and the female agent playing his wife undercover who is tremendously jealous of Abby in real life.  Then Abby's sister Cat visits and unfortunately meets the serial rapist hitting Boston.  Finally Abby is sent on a search to find a person important to the Mafia boss, someone he would like to see before he dies.   

This story had many funny moments.  I think Victoria Laurie may have a sense of humor sneaking in behind her main story about a psychic and her FBI agent boyfriend.  It was a bit difficult to take everything seriously, but maybe that was the point.  Much of the humor was situational brought out by what was happening to the pair. 

I still have a bit of trouble with the narrator sounding a bit old for the part.  However, when Abby dealt with some older women, it became much less intrusive.  I forgot about it after that. The narrator did do a good job with various accents and changes in gender of the characters and brought the story to life.

All in all, Abby and Dutch survive to find each other again even though she's feeling a bit hesitant about their relationship.  When you've read all the twists and turns and stunts they go through for the Mafia, you'll know why!  

Monday, December 18, 2017

Good morning!

Good morning! Due to technical difficulties when I opened today's blog, I deleted it. Hopefully, tomorrow's will look better. We'll see.

Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ireland: A Luminous Beauty by Peter Harbison & Leslie Conron Carola

Ireland has the most beautiful skies, the most beautiful light, that I have ever seen. Peter Harbison and
Leslie Conron Carola celebrate Ireland's light, scenery, history and myth in a stunning book of photographs, Ireland: A Luminous Beauty.

Harbison, an Irish archaeologist, art historian, lecturer and writer, captures the magic of Ireland's scenery as his words accompany stunning pictures by a number of photographers. He says many of the photos celebrate Ireland's light, taking pictures at "photographer's golden hour, the hushed first light of morning or the end of day when the sun streams down tot he sea." The photos capture the rugged landscape, the vivid greens, the colors of the sea and the sky.

I recognize so many places I fell in love with when I went to Ireland, the Burren region in County Clare, the rocky countryside known for its flowers and butterflies, but also for its dolmens, the monuments to the Stone and Bronze Age dead. The dolmens, meaning stone tables, may be the earliest public sculpture in Europe. There are several photos of the most famous one, Poulnabrone, which I saw at sunset. There are photos of stone circles and the beehive huts built by monks.There are photos of the Cliffs of Moher. But, the book also celebrates the art of the Celtic people, the Book of Kells, the gold jewelry. Although most of the book is filled with photos of the scenery, the authors also show houses and doors in a short section called "The Cultivated World".

I've yet to see the Giant's Causeway and the Mountains of Mourne. Those mountains, according tot he author, inspired C.S. Lewis' Narnia.

I am already in love with the Ireland I saw. This gorgeous book, and the poetic words of Peter Harbison, bring it all to life again. Here are Harbison's words. "Each of our senses is indulged by the natural environment of Ireland: the ever-changing light from dawn to dusk; mysterious shadows, the rocky coastline; the roar of the ocean challenging the ancient cliffs; stretches of golden sand; ancient patterns traced by perfectly angled grey stone walls and hedgerows through the lushest green fields; steely rivers carving through rich river banks; the sweet smell of flowers and salt air; fields of heather under a sunny summer sky complete with puffs of white cloud; mountains in shadowy silhouette proving the artistic background for a gentle world. It's all here."

I'm going back someday.

Ireland: A Luminous Beauty by Peter Harbison & Leslie Conron Carola. St. Martin's Press, 2014. ISBN 9781250056597 (hardcover), 150p.

FTC Full Disclosure - My copy was a gift.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Have You Heard? Charlaine Harris' Dead to the World

It's a busy time of year, evenings with friends and I'm also on deadline. So, once in a while, it's nice to be able to thank Sandie Herron and use one of her audiobook reviews. This time, it's Charlaine Harris' Dead to the World.

Dead to the World: Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery #4DEAD TO THE WORLD
Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery Book 4
Written By Charlaine Harris
Narrated by Johanna Parker
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 10 hours
Publisher: Recorded Books (Dec 15, 2008)

Sookie Stackhouse is getting to know every type of supernatural being in the tiny town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. The “Supes” know Sookie is telepathic. Sookie considers reading minds a disability. It’s been difficult to find boyfriends when she always knows what they’re thinking. When vampires were proclaimed legal citizens three years ago, Sookie found vampire Bill Compton whose mind she could not read. She was a virgin until she met Bill, and oh my, what he taught her about sex.

In Sookie’s job as waitress at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill, she is mostly able to shield her mind from the cacophony of thoughts that swirl around her. However, this New Year’s Eve is different. Her ex-boyfriend Bill Compton is off to Peru to continue compiling a directory of vampires. Sookie is driving home following New Year’s celebrations, when she sees a partially naked man running for his life. When she stops to help him, she realizes that it is Eric, Bill’s boss in the hierarchy of vampires. Sookie has a love/hate relationship with Eric, but he doesn’t know who she is, or who he is for that matter.

Sookie calms Eric and takes him to her home where she calls Fangtasia, the vampire bar that Eric owns, to speak to Pam, his second in command. When Pam arrives at Sookie’s home the next day after dark, Pam tells her of an evil coven of witches who approached Eric and demanded money to not destroy his world. Hallow, the head witch, took a shine to Eric and offered a deal:  rather than a portion of the bar’s worth, Eric could spend several nights with her. Eric refused. When others tried to remove Hallow, Eric suddenly disappeared. Until this coven is found and the spell undone, all involved decide that the safest place for Eric is to remain with Sookie, especially since the witches have posted “wanted” posters to find Eric all over town.

The next day Sookie’s brother Jason doesn’t show up for work. With no other family than Jason, Sookie is lost for whom to turn to. She visits a fellow waitress who is a Wiccan who tells her Hallow called all the local witches together recently. She visits Jason’s last date, who is a shifter from Hotshot, and whose father takes a shine to Sookie. She visits Alcide, a werewolf she helped with a problem a short while back. She turns to the police. Even Sam, Sookie’s boss, a shifter himself, joins the various beings searching for Jason, protecting Eric, and finding and hopefully eradicating Hallow’s coven. Then the powers of the were-witches who drank vampire blood were revealed. Just when I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the supernatural beings, we learn about a fairy that saves Sookie’s life. The vampires lust after the fairy; the werewolves don’t really care for vampires, and Sookie is just dead tired and worried.

In the end, all’s well that ends well, but the ride there was twisted beyond my imagination. Sookie is the character that holds the entire story together with her very humanity among the witches, vampires, werewolves, shifters, and even the fairy. Her morality keeps the story centered and real so that it doesn’t whirl off into an incredulous fantasy.  Narrator Johanna Parker has skillfully brought us this far, but what will happen when the next full moon rises?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Thank you to Bill Crider

It's Friday, and, for "Friday's Forgotten Books", a number of us are telling stories about Bill Crider or reviewing his books. I could do either of those. I actually just met Bill a few years ago at Bouchercon in Raleigh. But, we'd been online "friends" for quite a while. It came as a complete surprise when he wrote about Lesa's Book Critiques for his column in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. I had no idea he was going to do that, and my sister's co-worker saw the column. I've always been grateful

Bill has frequently commented on the blog on Thursdays, when readers tell all of us what they're reading. He's chimed in, often mentioning older mysteries he's reading.

And, of course, anyone who follows Bill on Facebook knows about his VBKs, the Very Bad Kitties (now Very Big Kitties) that he rescued.

As a cat lover, I always loved to see these pictures.

I could review some of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes books. When I first read one, I thanked a fellow blogger, Kevin Tipple. Kevin's from Texas, so he had been a fan for a long time. Somehow, I had missed these books. They're fun, light-hearted in tone, but always cognizant of the seriousness of crime, especially murder. And, Bill often took on current issues.

That's what I'm going to share. In November, 2010, Bill agreed to write a post for me. It was in reaction to a discussion on the listserv, DorothyL. Bill defended people who use public libraries.

I will always be grateful, as so many of us are, for Bill's assistance. He embodies the phrase "a scholar and a gentleman". But, I'm grateful for his stories as well. Thank you, Bill, for supporting public libraries.

***** Bill Crider, In Defense of Library Patrons, Nov. 4, 2010

There was a big brouhaha on the listserv DorothyL this week when mystery author K.C. Constantine, who once wrote the Mario Balzac mysteries, was quoted as calling  "library users literary welfare bums."  And, his own website says, "In Bottom Line Blues he spent an entire chapter attacking public libraries."  Thank heavens, mystery author Bill Crider stepped up to the plate to say he always loved libraries, and had a number of stories about them.  I jumped on that, and asked him to tell us a few of those stories.

It's hard not to like an author whose biographical sketch on his website includes information about his three cats.   Crider taught English at the college level for years, but his Ph.D. dissertation was on the hardboiled detective novel.  In the mystery field, he's best known for his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, described as "The adventures of a sheriff in a small Texas county where there are no serial killers, where a naked man hiding in a dumpster is big news, and where the sheriff still has time to investigate the theft of a set of false teeth."

So, thank you, Bill, for taking time to tell us a few stories about libraries.  

Library Stories

I’ve subscribed to DorothyL, the crime and mystery e-list, for more years than I can remember. Usually I just lurk these days, but when someone mentioned K. C. Constantine’s comment that library users were “literary welfare bums,” I was moved to put in a good word for libraries and library users, mainly because I am one. A library user, that is, not a library. I didn’t think anyone would notice, but someone did. So here I am.

I grew up in a house without many books. In fact, I still have the five or six books I owned as a child, including the remains of the Mother Goose book with which I supposedly met my father at the door every afternoon, demanding that he “‘ead Mama Goose.” But if I didn’t have many books, I had a mother who knew where to get them, and that was the public library. As I mentioned on DL and have mentioned elsewhere, one of my earliest memories of my mother is of her holding me up so I could reach the library shelves and pick out a book. I still remember the book, which was Clementina, the Flying Pig. Sometimes nostalgia tempts me to buy a copy of it, but when I look at the prices it commands, I decide that nostalgia is too expensive these days. At any rate, I loved that book, and I’m sure my mother read it to me many times. Maybe its influence on me has never died, as witness the title of my forthcoming (in 2011) Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel, The Wild Hog Murders. That might seem a pretty slim connection to you, but please remember this story when you seen the cover for the book. I’ll put it on my blog soon.

But I digress. I was going to tell some library stories. The two libraries in Mexia, Texas, became like second homes to me as I was growing up. There were two because the original library was replaced by the Gibbs Memorial Library, a fine air-conditioned building that wasn’t exactly structurally sound and that has now been replaced by a third library, an even finer one with the same name. The first library is still there, by the way, but it’s now a part of the Christ Episcopal Church complex. And sure enough, I’ve digressed again. I have a tendency to do that. I’d better stop.

Here’s a library story for you. When I was in college, a friend of mine and I were home for some holiday or other. We began talking about Dr. Seuss and how much we’d liked certain of his books when we were kids, McElligot’s Pool being a particular favorite. We decided we had to read the book again, so we were off the Gibbs Memorial Library. The book was right where it had always been, and we sat down to read it. Mind you, we were in the room with the children’s books, and the tables and chairs weren’t built for two guys of our size. We didn’t care. We sat in the little-bitty chairs, our knees sticking out above the table top and started reading. Pretty soon we were having a wonderful time. Maybe we even did a little reading aloud: “Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish, . . .” Pretty soon after that the librarian came in. We must have been quite a sight, and we’d forgotten about being quiet. Even though there was nobody else in the room, we got shushed. We were also asked to leave the children’s room because we might break the chairs. I had my doubts. Those were study chairs, solid wood. But we went quietly. It’s the only time I was ever chastised in a library.

Or maybe not. There was the time when I was a bit younger and had discovered the wonders of photography magazines. Those were in the periodicals room, and I believe the library had subscriptions to only one of them, maybe Modern Photography. Memory grows dim. At any rate, the attraction of the magazine (at least to me) wasn’t the amazing photography hints (shoot at 1/32 of a second at f/2.4) as the occasional “art studies.” I didn’t know much about art, but I knew what I liked. So did the librarian, who wandered through one day and happened to notice my choice in “reading” material. She obviously thought I should try something else, though she didn’t take the magazine away from me. Instead she suggested that I try a different one, maybe Boy’s Life. I put down the photography magazine and picked up Boy’s Life, which I glanced through until she left the room. Then it was back to my studies.

Yes, I was the only one in the room. I often was, and for years I’d spend hours there reading magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic, which I suspected that no one else in town cared about. I loved Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post and Life. Not to mention Mechanix Illustrated, where I discovered the writing of Tom McCahill, whose prose I greatly admired. He coined the phrase “zero to sixty” in his road tests, but that was the least of it. If you like wild metaphors, you can’t go wrong with Tom McCahill. I wanted to be Tom McCahill when I grew up. Didn’t make it, though.

When I was in graduate school, I was finally able to get a “stack permit” to enter the vast holdings of the main library at The University of Texas at Austin. What a great time I had there, when instead of doing research on the papers that were due in my classes, I could pore over the bound back issues of The New York Times Book Review. I read every single one of Anthony Boucher’s “Criminals at Large” columns with a pen in one hand and a note pad beside me. I wrote down the titles of practically everything he recommended. The paperback originals, I bought in used-book stores. The hardcovers, I checked out of the library, which had a wonderful and up-to-date collection. Those were the days. 

I’ve run on too long here, but it’s no wonder. Call me a literary welfare bum if you will, but I love libraries. Let me mention just one more thing about my hometown library, the annual reading game. As you can see from the newspaper article, I was a pretty good reader even 60 years ago. However, I was humiliated and trounced in the 1951 game by Jessie Lou Lively. How could she possibly have read so many more books than I did? I have no excuse. Well, okay, I have one. She was older than I was. Maybe that explains it.

The librarian whose name you see in the article was an older woman with hair that had once been red but was at that time mostly gray. Mrs. Armstrong. I thought she was wonderful. I still do.

On behalf of all librarians, Bill, and all of us who grew up using, and loving public libraries, Constantine's "literary welfare bums," thank you. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What Are You Reading?

It's my busy week, so I won't have much reading time until next Wednesday. I've actually only read one more story in Connie Willis' A Lot Like Christmas than the last time I mentioned that book. Others are piling up. I'm hoping I'll actually have some reading time over the holidays. But, there's Christmas Eve with friends and a movie I want to see and...I know you understand this time of year.

What are you reading? Are you finding some reading time in December?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Have You Heard? Victoria Laurie's Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye

Those of us who are avid mystery readers usually like to start at the beginning of a series. When Sandie Herron sent me the reviews of the audiobooks of Victoria Laurie's Psychic Eye series, she was wise, and started with the first in the series. Today, thanks to Sandie, we have a review of the audiobook of Laurie's Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye.

Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria LaurieAbby Cooper, Psychic Eye
Series:  Psychic Eye Mystery Book 1
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 9 hrs and 27 mins
Publisher:  Audible, Inc.  
Release Date:  March 2, 2010
**** stars

I really enjoyed the introduction to the Abby Cooper series by Victoria Laurie.
I've never been to a legitimate psychic, and I found her "reading" process fascinating.
It was always fun when she called out an impromptu reading or impression to the person
she was talking with, not intentionally doing a reading. The recipient of this mini-reading
is almost always surprised and shocked.

Abby's calendar was full to overflowing, booked months in advance. When Abby did a reading, she recorded the entire session on tape. It seemed a bit odd to me that she then handed over the tape to the client without making a copy or even making notes, as far as I could tell. Some of those notes might have helped her when the police came calling with one of her tapes taken from the victim's pocket. For this story, the reading was extremely recent, so Abby remembered many of the details, but I wonder how clear all those details from clients seen infrequently would stay.

Abby was fortunate to have so many friends help her out when she ended up in danger and couldn't go to work, for instance, and her entire schedule needed to be changed. She had a great handyman who worried about her, too, and performed great feats for Abby in fixing many construction projects.

It was the police officer who Abby fancied. They'd actually met first via a dating service where they had gotten along. When she needs a friendly neighborhood cop, she's glad it's Dutch. They had an instant camaraderie on the police case because of it, and Abby didn't want that friendship to distort the help she had offered to the police.

Abby's psychic ability was incredibly well accepted by her co-workers and clients. I was glad when Dutch began looking up the history of psychics in general as well as psychics from a law enforcement point of view. His behavior seemed reasonable and fair. The description originally given to "Dutch" led me to believe that he was younger than I suspected. It was later revealed that he had a serious relationship eight years prior, so that gave us an inkling of his age to be about 30. Abby's age was also later revealed to be about the same.

I found, however, that the narrator's voice sounded older than the way Abby was portrayed; her age was given in the second book as well which reinforced my feeling that an older woman than Abby was narrating.  However, she had loads of life in her voice and portrayed a good range of emotions so eventually this age feeling fell away and was forgotten.  This only occurred in the audiobook, so it does not reflect on the printed copy.  

Sandie Herron