Friday, April 18, 2014

A Few Friday Odds and Ends

With a holiday upon us, I wanted to just offer up a few tidbits in a short post today. Hopefully these are of interest to some.

I meant to talk about this awhile back but as things got a bit hectic it fell by the wayside. One of the authors who has her website maintained by xuni is Deborah Clearman. And in creating a newsletter for her I found out about her work with this prison writing organization. She's on the PEN Prison Writing Committee. So I started poking around their website and was really rather fascinated. Check it out when you have a chance. It's worthwhile. And if you're so inclined, there's video on this page of Deborah and others reading from the 2014 winning works. Deborah reads a piece called "Betrayal."

For you Francophile's out there, St. Martin's Press created a site that features their books set in France. A slew of crime novels in the mix.

And speaking of this case French-Canadian...there's a big Gamache reread that starts on Monday as a big community of Three Pines fans re-reads the series in the lead up to Louise Penny's 2014 publication, The Long Way Home.

If you'd like a short story to read today, you can check out Hilary Davidson's "Barnacle" that is available in its entirety from Criminal Element. I'm falling down on the job lately or I'd have my review of Hilary's new book Blood Always Tells for you by now. It came out on Tuesday and is a winner, so don't miss it. More soon!

Another freebie you may want to take advantage of. You'll be hearing from me about James Rollins' upcoming book The Kill Switch (that I loved!), but in preparation for that, he's giving away the e-story that introduces the book's military working dog, Kane. The story is called "Tracker" and you can get links to all the various formats here. This is US only, too.

I don't think I've mentioned that I'm now reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine. They have one of my first reviews up on the site as part of the hotlist and you can read it here. I have to say, I've been listening to some fascinating books so far and have a good bunch coming up as well.

Have to send out congrats to this year's Barry Award nominees. Especially happy to see Suspect on the best novel list!

And finally, I'll wrap up with my usual contest round-up:

Criminal Element has a "Daring Women" sweepstakes. Entry cut-off is Tuesday, so don't delay.

Friday Reads has a couple of hot titles this week: The Accident by Chris Pavone and Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs.

And of course, don't forget to run by Lesa's blog today. It'll be a surprise since I don't know what she's offering up yet, but it's always something good!

That's it for me today. Hope you have a wonderful Easter if you're observing the holiday. Whether you're observing or not, I hope you have a great weekend with sunshine, smiles and good reads! Happy reading my friends!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's almost May!

As many of you long-time blog readers know, May is "Get Caught Reading Month." I try to do a special feature each May highlighting a group that is caught reading.

For this year, my theme is "Heroes." One of my personal goals has always been to encourage more reading, especially in our young people who need to start reading habits early to develop a love. And who better to model that behavior than heroes?

I've asked people to submit pictures or video of their heroes caught reading along with a few sentences--nothing extravagant--about why the person is their hero. Because I've been having so incredibly much fun with the submissions so far, I wanted to open it up to you as well.

So if you'd like to be included in this year's feature, catch your hero reading and submit it to me by April 25th. Let's showcase all those people who are setting the example and proving how fun reading can be!

Email me if you have any questions!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Left Coast Crime (A Little Tardy)

I sincerely apologize for my tardiness in getting this post written for you. Left Coast Crime was such a wonderful time this year (except for transportation back to the airport, but we'll not go there--I might cry). I think I said this last year, but in case you weren't around then or I am mistaken, this is such a great conference and if you enjoy mystery and crime fiction, you need to attend at least once. It's the perfect size, the programming is wonderful, you have great opportunities to interact with others. It is really a gem in the crime fiction world. I hear say that Hawaii is the destination in a few years. I might be starting to save up for that one! Anyway...let's talk about Monterey.

If you follow the Facebook page, you may have already seen the video of Toastmaster Brad Parks introducing Guest of Honor Sue Grafton for her interview. For those who did not see it, I give you, "Keep Away from Alphabet Sue":

Throughout the course of the interview Sue Grafton shared many fun stories. She was animated and engaged. She talked about her frustrations writing in Hollywood--and not selling the rights to Kinsey Milhone, the books that came before A is for Alibi, the trouble she's having with her present novel (X), and the great support she gets from her publisher. She spoke about "Shadow" and the "death cookie" and how she knows someone is the child of an alcoholic. Sue wowed the crowd and Brad did a stellar job giving her the platform to do so. An exceptional interview indeed!

Brad didn't get much of a break on that Thursday as he had to turn around and MC opening night. Here he put on his liturgical robes and led the convention in the crime fiction reader's prayer.  You can see the prayer in its entirety here and pray it yourself tonight.

As always, opening night was a nice chance to mingle and chat. A very special treat this year was getting to meet my online friend Sarah RH.  I've made some of the best friendships online but getting to meet the people in person is always the ultimate treat.

In an effort to keep from writing a mile long blog post, I won't detail all the panels I attended. It's kind of late for that and I'm sure you'd get bored anyway. So I'm going to give you a Top 10 list of things I took away from Left Coast Crime panels:

10.  There's now a frozen yogurt shop in Buffalo, Wyoming called THE COLD DISH. I want to visit it!

9. Tim Hallinan was motivated to be a writer after he wrote his teacher a love poem.

8. There is a humor ghetto in crime fiction. Did you know that? I love humor in my books...topic for another blog post later, so tune in again on that topic.

7.  Lou Berney used Trip Advisor as a weapon in his novel Whiplash River. A lot of readers like to use Goodreads or Amazon that way, don't they? Wielding the powerful review!

6. Tim Hallinan, David Morrell and Sophie Littlefield all agreed that bad sex writing is worse than any other bad writing. Amen to that!

5. Lisa Brackmann, in a discussion on gender in crime fiction, said PTSD is PTSD regardless of gender. The difference comes in the additional obstacles women have to overcome in the military.

4. In a screenwriting panel, I learned there's a saying in Hollywood: "It's the only place on Earth you can die of encouragement."

3. Kent Krueger said he never understood winter until he moved to Minnesota--through his books, he wanted to help anyone anywhere understand that winter. (I'm sure that's especially true after this winter, right?)

2. One of Marcia Clark's goals in writing the Rachel Knight series is to depict the reality of female relationships.

1. And the top item goes to Kent Krueger who gave kudos to mystery readers saying they love to do a lot of the work in the reading process. So the writers only have to provide them a snippet and they take it from there.

A special award must be noted for Johnny Shaw. He made Brad Parks swear in front of his mother during their panel.

As a teacher I assured my students there is no such thing as a stupid question. As a panel attendee, I've learned how very untrue that really is. *sigh*

The programming was truly outstanding at this convention and I enjoyed every panel I attended, as well as the panel I moderated. We had standing room only--wow! So thanks to everyone who attended and to the great panelists with me: Janet Rudolph, Maddee James, August McLaughlin and Chantelle Osman. We had a great time talking about social media, but we could have talked MUCH longer.

The panels are always fun and I always take away interesting tidbits from them, but the true gems of these conventions come in the most unexpected encounters. I loved talking with Johnny Shaw and Erica Ruth before the awards banquet. I had the opportunity to meet several spouses--and parents--at this conference. So nice to meet people I hear about but haven't ever seen. I got to talk about dogs--and Harry Connick, Jr.!--with Lou Berney. Having dinner with Sophie Littlefield, Juliet Blackwell, Gigi Pandian and Maddee James was another highlight. I didn't have near enough time with my dear friend Lesa Holstine, but even if I had spent every minute with her, it wouldn't have been enough time. :-)

So, when you make your plans for your next convention, attend the panels--they're definitely great fun. But make sure you snatch up your own little gems as well!

Happy Reading, my friends!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five on Friday - Dana Cameron is back!

I'm here, I'm here. I haven't fallen off the end of the Earth or anything. So sorry for the silence lately; have been in the midst of a big job and am just now surfacing. I promise you my much overdue Left Coast Crime recap next week with pictures and video and everything!

In the mean time a few quick links for you who enjoy the contests:

Criminal Element has a "Daring Women Sweepstakes" with some good book loot. So check that one out.

And Friday Reads has both print and audiobooks in their prize this week!

Finally, be sure to stop by Lesa's blog to check out her new contest. As I write this the new contest is not yet up, so consider it a surprise!

Now, let's get to the important stuff. It's a good thing I have great authors who participate in my hair-brained blog schemes. They keep me from getting to lax on my blogging. This week one of my favorite people in the crime fiction community returns to the blog: Dana Cameron.

I can rattle off Dana's very cool--very impressive--resume and we can all ooh and aah, but that doesn't do justice to this wonderfully funny, amazingly creative, warm and generous woman. You know in school how kids would all want to sit at the "cool" table at lunch? Sitting with Dana is like the grown-up version of that. No matter where she is, she creates fun--with her laugh, her stories, her genuine interest in others. O.k., case in point. I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed today and I see this post from Dana:

"Just noticed that the adverts I'm seeing on FB are for fancy lingerie, Las Vegas hotels, and designer dresses. Either they've got me confused with someone from an 'Ocean's 11'-type caper or my career as a Bond character is about to begin."

We are thousands of miles apart and I feel like I'm at the cool kids' table sharing this chuckle with her!

In all seriousness, though, Dana is an accomplished writer with many awards to show for it. Most recently she's been working on her Fangborn novels featuring archeologist Zoe Miller who learned in the first novel that she is Fangborn, a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles dedicated to protecting humanity. The second novel, Pack of Strays, comes out on Tuesday.   So before Dana becomes a huge Bond sensation, she's hanging out with us again. I hope you all enjoy sitting at the cool table with us today!

Dana with one of her comic writing heroes, Howard Chaykin
If I could tell my 16-year-old self one piece of advice, knowing what I know now, it would be: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”  Goethe didn't say it, but he should have, and he should also have said that some of those mighty forces will be you.

A skill I’ve always wanted to have, but don’t is: I would love to be able to sing.  When I sing now, snakes weep and bats fall stunned from the sky.

My idea of the perfect ice cream sundae includes: Real vanilla ice cream, with a goodish splash of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.  Over that should be a hot fudge (not chocolate sauce!), just slightly on the bitter side—it's a sundae, not a test.  Maybe just a dollop of whip cream to lighten it up.  And a couple of those Luxardo cherries on top.  With two fingers of the Glenmorangie Ealanta on the

When I’m feeling under the weather, I….see it as a personal failing.  Then I apply cats, “Firefly” or
“Sherlock,” and possibly chocolate.  Or cheese.  Or Cheetos.  Or maybe that ice cream sundae and whisky, depending on the nature of the malaise.

If you had been born with a warning label, what would it read? Improper use may result in fire or explosion.

Excuse me, I'm headed over to Dana's for ice cream sundaes! Just another reason why she has the cool table, right? I'm so thrilled to have had Dana back for Five on Friday and I'm hope you have enjoyed today's treat as much as I did. Many thanks to Dana!

I'll have more posts next week, I promise. I have fun from Left Coast to share and of course more books! I hope you have a wonderful weekend and happy reading!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mind of Winter - Laura Kasischke

First line: "She woke up late that morning, and knew:  
Something followed them home from Russia.

Holly Judge and her husband Eric Clare overslept Christmas morning. As Eric dashed out the door to the airport to pick up his parents, Holly began the laborious process of preparing for a holiday and a house full of people.

Meanwhile, Holly and Eric's teen daughter Tatiana, who they adopted from Russia, is behaving strangely. She's ignoring her mother's requests for help, changing her clothes repeatedly and swearing at Holly. One minute she's kind and loving, the next she's angry and volatile.

With a snowstorm raging outside, all of the holiday guests are stranded and unable to make Christmas dinner. Eric has to detour to the hospital because his mother is acting confused and disoriented. So Holly's left alone to deal with Tatiana's tantrums until her husband can return. As the swinging door of Tatiana's emotions flips back and forth, Holly remembers the process she and Eric went through to adopt "Tatty" and the life they had once she came home to live with them.

But this Christmas, will Holly discover that more than just a beautiful baby girl came home from Russia with them?

Beware of this psychological thriller, it's addictive. Once you pick it up, you'll likely have a difficult time putting it down. The plot is bewitching and the characters are enchanting. Tatiana is Holly and Eric's fairytale princess, but this story is more in line with Grimm than Disney.

While I feel that the plot is loose and could have been tightened up significantly--detail often had a tendency to be redundant or excessive and the repeated use of parenthetical phrases pulled me out of the story--the foundation is a suspenseful, mind-boggling mystery. The alternation of present day with past memories slows the momentum of the plot down, so it's not especially fast paced, but it enhances the suspense and pumps up the reader's adrenalin levels.

Holly and Tatiana are engaging characters. The reader is closest to Holly as the story's narrator, but her depictions of Tatiana from their first encounter in Russia and throughout her childhood are endearing, starkly contrasting the brooding, erratic teenager tormenting her mother on Christmas. Holly helps the readers to fall in love with her daughter, just as she did, so they're invested in what's plaguing Tatty and how it can be resolved.

Holly is a sympathetic character. As she looks back on her journey to adopt and raise Tatiana, she identifies her faults and failures as a first-time mother, looking for ways she could have changed, been a better mother, so this Christmas day would have turned out differently. Who hasn't experienced regrets and can't identify with this feeling? As Holly learns throughout her day, hindsight is 20/20 and sometimes when we simply don't want to see what's right in front of us, we don't.

As the white pristine snow blankets the world outside her home, chaos rages inside Holly's world. So clear your calendar once you pick this one up because you aren't going to want to take a time out for anything until you discover exactly what followed Holly, Eric and Tatiana home from Russia!

Mind of Winter is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0062284396) from Harper. There is also an unabridged audiobook version (ISBN: 978-1482992670), narrated by Justine Eyre available from Blackstone Audio.

My review of Mind of Winter is part of the TLC Book Tour. You can see what other bloggers are saying about the novel, by visiting the tour site for a complete list of tour participants. And you can learn more about Laura Kasischke at her website.

Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work does not involve this tour or any other tour I would agree to be a part of here at the blog. Nor does my work with them obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Suspicion Nation - Lisa Bloom

My review of Suspicion Nation first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. It is appearing here today with their permission. This is truly a book that should make us stop and think, really think about our society. We can't be passive and hope everyone else fixes things. It starts with the little choices and actions we make every day.
First line: "Maddy had had it."

Trial attorney and legal analyst Lisa Bloom evaluates the George Zimmerman murder trial, sharing her views on where the Florida state prosecution failed in their attempt to win justice for Trayvon Martin. Bloom takes readers step by step through the areas she’s identified as key problems: refusal to address the issue of race, lack of trust in their own witnesses, excluding vital evidence, even in their tendency to pose questions to the jury instead of making firm statements. Then she shares alternate strategies for the prosecution’s thwarted approach.

In the second half of the book, Bloom analyzes why Trayvon Martin’s plight is not uncommon. While Martin made international headlines, many more frighteningly similar tragedies barely make their local news reports. Through a combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence, Bloom illustrates how “our laws, beliefs, assumptions, and blind spots combine to create the conditions that led to the death of Trayvon, and which made Zimmerman’s acquittal by far the most likely outcome.”

No one wants to believe they are racist. And placing the label on anyone is a severe affront. But Suspicion Nation is an alarming, somewhat uncomfortable and brutally honest look at the reality of race, stereotypes and violence in the United States. Racists do exist and race does matter—in education, in employment, in the justice system. The evidence clearly shows continued inequality in all realms of life and how that inequality deprives a significant segment of the population of its chances for success. Reading this book and thinking there is no longer a problem would be a great feat indeed.

Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9781619023277) from Counterpoint Press. An unabridged audiobook version (ISBN: 9781480584297), read by the author, is also available from Brilliance Audio.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Left Coast Crime Social Media Panel

Whoa! Sorry for the long silence there. I'm back from Left Coast Crime and starting to recover from the jet lag. Those cross country trips--and all-day travel adventures--can be a challenge. But the conference was wonderful, and I have much to share with you in the coming days.

Today, however, I'm posting the promised handout for people who attended our panel...or didn't, if you'd like to access the handout but you didn't come, please feel free. This is a collection of tips, tricks, and resources that were shared by the fabulous panelists during our session. It also includes a section on Goodreads. We didn't discuss Goodreads in the session but there was a question about it. Like all the other topics, we could have discussed a full hour on it, so we definitely didn't have time to do it justice during our brief Q&A.

I will also keep a link up in the sidebar to this handout for people to quickly access once this post has moved down and out of visibility.

Thanks to everyone who attended. We had a standing room only attendance. I hope everyone left with something they could use in their social media strategies.

Social Media: Getting the Word Out in Today's Digital Age

More soon! Happy Reading!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Five on Friday - Louis Bayard

Happy Friday and Happy Pi Day everyone! I'm working on prep for Left Coast Crime next week and getting very excited to see a lot of my book-loving friends soon. Are any of you planning to attend?

I will be moderating a panel called "Social Media: Getting the Word out in Today's Digital Age."  It's Friday at 4 if you will be there and are so inclined to attend. We're going to try to touch on some current issues in the major social media platforms. There's another panel opposite us with Craig Johnson and Cara Black that I'd probably choose over ours, so if you're not there, I won't be offended, really! ;-)

If you haven't seen this yet, I'm sure all you Harry Bosch fans will be happy.

For my audiobook-loving friends, you definitely want to check out this contest over at Criminal Element. I'm listening to The Cairo Affair right now and can tell you it's excellent! I'm sure the other three are great as well!

Friday Reads has some dark international crime to give away this week. And me, I have Louis Bayard! Well, I have Louis' Five on Friday interview.

I did some brainstorming and came up with a new final question so we can have some great authors revisit us for Five on Friday. Don't worry, I'm still recruiting new faces, but this will enable you to get to know some of our favorite faces even better. And since Lou is definitely one of my most favorites, it's fitting that we welcome him back first. If you missed my review of his new book Roosevelt's Beast, be sure to check that out as well. I'm sure you'll see that on my end of the year favorites list.

And without any further ado, let me turn this show over to the star!

  1. As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to master: skating. Roller or ice. I held out hope that my two boys would succeed where I had failed, but they turned out to be just as oafish as me. We’re a family that respects solid ground. (But I’m crazy in awe of Olympic skaters.) 

  2. My favorite smell is: the smell of an old paperback. Which is cheating, I know, because each paperback has its own smell. The one I remember best was the old, dog-eared copy of “Gone with the Wind” I read as a kid. A sweet rich piney smell I could never get enough of.

  3. If I had to perform in a talent show, I would do: my Ethel Merman impersonation. A long time ago, a friend and I put together a show called “Ethel Merman Sings the Music of Boy George.” Today, I would probably have to confine myself to Late Ethel, sliding crazily between notes.

  4. I have nearly been driven to road rage when I’ve witnessed a driver doing: I’m big on etiquette, so if I let a driver cut in front of me, I fully expect a thank-you wave. And if I don’t get it, I begin to plot a vast array of diabolical paybacks, all of which climax with the driver sputtering out his last breaths on a hot pavement: “Why? Why?” “’Cause you didn’t thank me, punk.” Cue Sergio Leone music.

  5. If you had been born with a warning label, what would it read? “Don’t leave unattended. On second thought, do. Feed with chocolate.” 

When you stop laughing I encourage you to go check out Lou's Facebook page, his Twitter account and his website. And if you haven't read his books yet, put everything else away and go find one!! I've read them in print and listened to audios and I've loved every last word. And if you're in the DC area, I want to encourage you to go see Lou and tell him hi for me at One More Page Books on March 27th. I was going to make a trip to DC, but since I'll just be getting back from Monterey, it's not going to work out. Jenn Lawrence, I'm looking at you, girl! One of these days, I'm determined to meet this man in person!

It is such an honor to not only have this amazing writer here on the blog, but for him to return. What a treasure! My thanks to Louis Bayard. And to all of you for tolerating my fan girl behavior this Friday. Hope your weekend is great.

Happy Reading!


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