Archive for 'Book Bits'
Yes, we are alive! It has been a while since we posted and we apologize for the absence of new material. But sometimes life interferes with blogging…
One of our good friends has written a play and Liz is playing one of the major roles in it. She has the part of a loud, outspoken, and sarcastic woman – it was practically written for her! She is rehearsing four nights a week and hasn’t had the time to write any reviews. But she has been reading and will write them up in the next few weeks as the play wraps up. Right now she is looking for the perfect purse to use onstage. Something that will accommodate a bowling ball and coordinate with all four of the costumes she appears in. You would think this was the search for the Holy Grail.
I do know that she is very excited about the boxes arriving from SOHO Press. Their new Constable line of books is delighting her. She found time to buzz through the new Donna Andrews, and she practically danced when the Neil Plakcy book arrived. It is terrible when she misses her cues while reading backstage during rehearsals.
And Liz is also thinking about her next round of library talks. She did a series of six at local libraries about some less well-known mystery authors this spring and they were very well received. The far-ranging discussions ran so long after her talks that the librarians were practically pushing the groups out the door at closing time. She has been asked to prepare another presentation on Michigan mystery authors for the fall, so if you have some to recommend – or mysteries set in Michigan by out of state authors – be sure to let us know.
We had intended to host another Summer Mystery Reading Challenge until Liz took this role in the play, but we realized that we wouldn’t be able to kick it off in time. I am helping with rehearsals and publicity and Emily is on the stage crew, so we are all living at the theater during these final weeks. We hope that you will adopt the spirit of the challenge on your own and discover some “new to you” mystery authors. This blog and the interaction we have had with both readers and authors on the internet has exposed us to so many new and wonderful books and we hope you have benefited from the experience, too. When the final curtain falls, we will be back with a new round of reviews and we will get everything caught up then. In the meantime, tell us what you have been reading in the last few weeks. There are a bunch of new books coming out this summer – what are you looking forward to? Or are you discovering some classic mysteries for the first time? Leave a comment below so we know what to read next!
My mother will often start off a conversation with the words “So I had a brilliant idea…” I am going to borrow it for a moment.
So I had a brilliant idea that harkens back to the Sundays of my childhood. Those old-timers amongst us and those of us who grew up in “God’s Country” will remember blue laws – those who have no idea what blue laws are should check here.
For a devoted reader, there are few things worse than finishing up your last unread book late Saturday or early Sunday in an area where there are blue laws or where the tradition lives on. The library isn’t open, the bookstore isn’t open, and no book is going to appear by magic in your mailbox. Instead of reading something new and exciting, you end up re-reading a book from your personal library. When I was a kid, the Sunday afternoon book scavenge was a frequent event. The four members of my family would drift like restless spirits from bookshelf to bookshelf in search of something tasty. On a good day you would find an undiscovered treasure, but often you had to settle for something that wasn’t really what you wanted.
So for those Sunday afternoons when you are fresh out of books and really want some new reading material, we are going to introduce a new reviewedbyliz feature – Sample Chapter Sundays.
I was tickled pink to discover how many authors’ and publishers’ web sites had sample chapters of books available to read when we were doing the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge. The process of posting an author’s page would become an hours-long event if I was enticed by sample chapters from several books. These sample chapters are a great (free!) resource for readers who want to try before they buy and a great (free!) marketing idea for authors – because if we readers like the teaser, we will buy the book. But you have to find the sample chapters before you can read them, so…
On Sundays, we are going to put up an open invitation for mystery authors to post a link to a sample chapter of one of their books. It could be their new book, the first in their series, or even somewhere in the middle. We are going to start this Sunday and see who shows up. Since we haven’t told anyone we are doing this yet, it will probably start small. But tell your friends because sample chapters really are darn fun and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Or even a Sunday morning. I think we will make the post available for comments on Saturday night (shall we say 8:00 p.m. Eastern?) so when we wake up Sunday morning it will seem as if the Sample Chapter Fairy has left us presents during the night.
See you on Sunday!
I apologize for the lack of reviews recently. We have been involved in some local events, including the annual underwear festival. For those of you who didn’t recoginze our town from the bucolic picture above, we live in Cedar Springs, Michigan, home of the annual Red Flannel Days celebration. For those of you who want the whole story on why we celebrate red flannel underwear, click here.
Suffice it to say, a great time was had by all at this small town party which has now gotten so big that it has stretched to cover two weekends and 47 events. If you are going to be in the neighborhood next year be sure to drop by. But remember to wear red – anyone not sporting local colors is subject to arrest by our local Keystone Cops.
Between events I did manage to get in a little reading. My bookmark bounced from Harley Jane Kozak’s DEAD EX to Troy Cook’s 47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS to Jasper Fforde’s LOST IN A GOOD BOOK. All of which I highly recommend. I plan to mend my evil ways this weekend and finish tons of book reviews, so check back here for the good stuff.
And what have you been reading lately?
So long from Cedar Springs, where every young girl wants to grow up to be the Red Flannel Queen!
IN THE SHADOW OF THE GLACIER – Trouble is brewing in the small, bucolic mountain town of Trafalgar, British Columbia. An American who came to Trafalgar as a Vietnam War draft dodger has left land and money to the town but there’s a catch: the money must be used to build a garden to honor draft dodgers. This bequest has torn the close-knit, peaceful town apart. Then the body of a leading opponent is found in an alley, dead from a single blow to the head.
Constable Molly Smith is assigned to assist veteran Detective Sergeant John Winters in the investigation. But Winters doesn’t want the help of the enthusiastic rookie, and suspects that he’s been assigned Smith for political reasons, her mother, a life-long activist, is the leader of the group arguing for the park.
Egged on by a muck-raking TV personality, outside agitators from both sides are soon streaming into Trafalgar, while Smith and Winters search through small-town secrets for a killer.
Winters is haunted by a recent failure of judgment, and Smith just wants to be a good cop, and a good daughter, in a town where a substantial number of the residents had seen her performing as Number Two Wise Man in the Grade Three Christmas pageant.
In the Shadow of the Glacier is the first in first in a traditional mystery series featuring Constable Smith, Sergeant Winters, and the town in the shadow of the glacier, Trafalgar British Columbia.
Check out Vicki’s web site at www.vickidelany.com/.
My bookmark has been a little lazy this week because Dancing With The Stars is on again. With a few exceptions, our television doesn’t get turned on between DWTS seasons. And yes, lack of television is the secret to reading 200+ books per year. But when the dancing shoes, fake eyelashes, and sequins are back our little eyeballs are glued to the screen.
I have no idea why ballroom dancing is so addictive. I have certainly never done it, but watching it is fascinating. And it goes across generations. Our 8-year old calls her grandmother before school to discuss the previous night’s performances. They natter away about which turns weren’t synchronized, who didn’t stay in the hold long enough during the Foxtrot, and the terrible music they picked for the Paso Doble. Everyone knows the highest scores go to the dancers who use traditional music with a strong beat for the Paso. Haven’t these these people watched the past seasons?
Because we have. Emily has been watching since she was four. And she remembers almost all of it – every couple, costume, dance, music selection, and score. She will hear a song and remember that it is what a pair danced to in season two. She will reel off the names of the dancers, the dance, what they wore, and when they were eliminated. The little bugger is always right, too. Believe me, I check. It is a little spooky.
So, instead of finishing Donna Andrews’ NO NEST FOR THE WICKET, I sat with my family and enjoyed and critiqued ballroom dancing. We yelled “watch your posture” at the television. “You haven’t been in the hold long enough!” We tsk-tsked over sloppy footwork and oohed and aahed over unexpected grace. It is early in the season, but in a week or two we will have enough info to make book on the competitors. Yes, it is a strange hobby, but we like it.
And I have just ordered a new crop of books from the library, including several of our SMRC authors. I will let you know how I like them in the coming weeks. I slipped in a copy of the Antonio Banderas dance movie, Take The Lead, too.
So what do you enjoy doing when you aren’t reading? Any guilty secrets like ballroom dancing?
My bookmark has been skipping and jumping the last few days. Together we zoomed through FAKED TO DEATH by Dean James, WINTER QUEEN by Boris Akunin, and SECONHAND SMOKE by Karen Olson. All excellent, by the way.
So what are you reading?
My bookmark is still resting in GRAVE APPAREL by Ellen Byerrum, which I finished last night. It really needs to rest while I catch up on some of my reviews, but is sorely tempted to move into the Twist Phelan book that arrived yesterday, FALSE FORTUNE. Or into the ARC I have for DYING TO BE THIN by Kathryn Lilley. Choosing is difficult, ya know?
But I am about 16 books behind on my reviews. I have read 5 or 6 books by our SMRC authors and want to tell you about them because they are all very good – so look for those in the coming days. Nose to the grindstone.
I was just reading my DorothyL digest and saw that Donna Andrews is looking for a new publisher for her Turing Hopper series. Apparently the existing publisher didn’t pop for more books. If you haven’t read this series, pick it up when you have a chance. The main character (Turing Hopper) is a computer avatar that has gained sentience. Her programmer doesn’t come into work one day and she decides to find him. She worms her way into other software to track his whereabouts and enlists some friends along the way to help in her quest.
One of the wonderful things about the series is Turing’s relationship with the chess program avatar who, like herself, is developing a personality and sentience. Nobody pouts like chess master software.
I’m extending my crusade to get people to read mystery authors new to them to the local library. Next Thursday I am giving a talk on mystery authors I really enjoy but that others may not yet have discovered. I limited myself to 12, which was a painful process, but the library had to request these books from all over the area to get copies in house for the talk so I couldn’t go overboard. I’ll be talking about: Hailey Lind, Boris Akunin, Craig Johnson, Chris Grabenstein, Megan Abbott, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Mary Anna Evans, Karen Olson, Jasper Fforde, Dean James, Perri Oâ€™Shaunessy, and Bill Crider. If you are interested, you can find reviews for all of these authors on this blog.
Yes, I know, some of these authors have a lot of books out, but they don’t have any/many in my local library. I tried to pick something for everyone and hope that they will come back for more next month. Wish me luck!
I am also putting together a list of “Freshman Class” authors who have had their first books (or first mysteries) published in 2007. I picked up the names of several from the SMRC, but could use a few more. So if you have discovered somebody new and fabulous (or if you are a new and fabulous mystery author) please let me know the title and author of the book so I can include it on my list. Everybody is looking for some new reads!
Second, I just know that somebody is going to ask me for Janet Evanovich readalikes. The librarians will, if no one else does. So give me your recommendations for that, too. I have read several readalike lists and have yet to discover mysteries that are really like the Plum books. The ones I have personally read tend to have better mystery plots (which I like) and are humorous, but don’t have the laugh-until-you-blow-milk-through-your-nose aspect of the Plum books. Yeah, I’m a sucker for Bob the dog and Granda Mazur.
Here are some of the ones I would recommend:
MURDER… SUICIDE… WHATEVER by Gwen Freeman
DATING DEAD MEN by Harley Jane Kozak
WHISKEY AND TONIC by Nina Wright (just reviewed yesterday!)
And, depending upon what you like about the series:
Donna Andrews’ Meg Lanslow series (funny relatives)
Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder series (capers)
Sarah Strohmeyer’s Bubbles series (romance)
Tim Dorsey’s Serge A. Storms series (general bizarreness and things that go boom)
P.G. Wodehouse (the grandfather of the humorous mystery)
So who would you add to the list? And what aspect of the book or series makes it like Evanovich?
Yes, I know there is supposed to be a feature author page here, but we screwed up. We realized that we had scheduled an author and then failed to notify them. We wanted them to have a fair shot at it, so the irregularly scheduled author will appear later in the Challenge.
So we decided to pass along another cool mystery site, Amazon.com. Specifically, the really cheap book section.
As you may know, we get many of our books from the local library but sometimes you just have to buy books. And since we live in a rural area, we tend to buy them from Amazon rather than make the big trek to the store. There are several spots on Amazon that lead to sale books, but they aren’t visible from all the pages and I, for one, keep misplacing them. So I thought I would put the link up here to the really discounted books. These are up to 80% off and most or all off them count towards the $25 minimum purchase for free shipping (U.S. only – check the top of the book description page to confirm that the book is eligible for super saver shipping).
The selection changes as they sell out of their overstocked books, but when I checked yesterday, here are a few of the 80% off books they had:
Definitely Dead (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 6) by Charlaine Harris
Grave Sight (Harper Connelly Mysteries, No. 1) by Charlaine Harris
Under Orders by Dick Francis
S is for Silence (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries) by Sue Grafton
Predator (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries) by Patricia Cornwell
The Bancroft Strategy by Robert Ludlum
The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell by Lillian Jackson Braun
The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime by Jasper Fforde
Irish Linen: A Nuala Anne McGrail Novel by Andrew M. Greeley
These are just some of my favorite authors and big names that I recognized. There were a bunch more. My brother shops Amazon a lot and throws in a sale book by an author he hasn’t read when he needs to get up into the free shipping zone. Clever shopper, that boy.
And now for the disclosure… yes, we are Amazon associates. If you go to Amazon from our site and make a purchase we get a small commission. We aren’t getting rich off this, but every little bit helps to keep reviewedbyliz going. And since we have such a hard time finding these sale books when we want to see what they have, Bob did some techno magic and we put a link to them on the top left of this page. If you keep misplacing the bargain books, too, you can get to them from our site. Why they don’t make them easier to find I will never know.
No, Iâ€™m not dead yet, but consider this a sort of advance directive for when the time comes. I know that some of you readers are starting to feel that you know me through my writings and are even becoming quite attached to me. So, after my death (when you are no longer prostrate with grief) and are trying to decide between the tabletop floral arrangement, the free-standing horseshoe shaped wreath, or the blanket of roses to be draped across my casketâ€¦ send books instead.
No, I donâ€™t want them piled up on the floor by the coffin or packed in the box with me. That would detract from the seriousness of the occasion as my mourners would probably sit down on those comfy sofas and start reading. At least, my family would. Instead, send these books to the library.
I was introduced to the concept of memorial books when I was 16 and working at the local library. When someone died, a friend, relative, fellow club-member, etc., would bring a donation to the library and the librarian would order a book that the deceased person would have enjoyed. When the book arrived, the librarian would put a bookplate in the front of the book saying that it was in memory of so-and-so and donated by so-and-so and put the book into circulation.
As a dedicated library patron, I have read many memorial books over the years. And, in fact, I was prompted to write this by one of the books I currently have checked out. Megan Abbottâ€™s The Song Is You was donated in memory of Betty Harte by Ronald J. Bly. Since this book is on inter-library loan from a library 20 miles away, I donâ€™t know either party mentioned. But by donating a book in Bettyâ€™s name, Ronald has introduced her to me at least a year after her death.
Floral tributes are nice, but how many of them last a year? And this hardcover book will probably be on the shelves for several years for other mystery lovers to enjoy. They, like me, will pick up the book, read the bookplate, and know they shared a link with another book lover. It was a good book. I think Betty would have liked it.
Yes, it is a small thing. But if this is how you would like to be remembered by fellow bibliophiles, pave the way for your own legacy, as I have done here. Call your local library today and ask how their memorial book program works. Tell your loved ones that paper and ink is preferable to pansies and petunias and literature wins out over lilies. My family knows that novels trump nasturtiums â€“ and when I die, make mine mystery.