Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein

Once in a while, I come across a children's picture book that I love and want to share. I'm going to read Galia Bernstein's I Am a Cat to a group of third graders next month. I know it's a picture book, but its subtle message of diversity and similarity is too good not to read to my kids.

Simon is a cat. When he meets a group of cats, he introduces himself, and tells them he's a cat, "Just like you!" Here's their first reaction.

And, their second reaction.

The lion, cheetah, puma, panther, and tiger tell Simon he's nothing at all like them. But, Simon points out that none of them resemble each other, so how can they all be cats? When the lion points out the features they have in common, all the large cats realize Simon has small, perky ears, and a flat noise, and long whiskers, and a long tail, and sharp teeth and claws, "and big eyes that can see in the dark".

Despite the difference in size and coloration and abilities, Simon is just like the big cats.

Need I say more?

Galia Bernstein's I Am a Cat marks her debut as an author and illustrator. I love the facial expressions on her cats. I can't wait to share this book with my kids.

Galia Bernstein's website is www.dancingkangaroo.com

I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. ISBN 9781418726439 (hardcover).

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, March 19, 2018

Have You Heard? - A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell

Sandie Herron caught my comment that I was reading Juliet Blackwell's A Toxic Trousseau, and she reminded me that she had reviewed the audio book. Thanks, Sandie. Here's her review of the last Witchcraft Mystery.

A TOXIC TROUSSEAU                                                          
Witchcraft Mysteries #8
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 7 hours and 41 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Audible.com Release Date: July 5, 2016

Vintage clothing dealer Lily Ivory almost stumbles down the stairs 
from her second floor apartment to open Aunt Cora’s Closet only to 
open the front door and be served papers!  Autumn Jennings had 
visited Lily and her shop and had bothered Lily’s witch’s familiar 
Oscar in his public persona as a miniature pot-bellied pig so much 
that he head butted her!  She fell into a rack of clothing but was 
none the worse for wear until she decided to sue Lily.

Trying to avoid the suit altogether, Lily visited Autumn across town.   This time Autumn looked rather ill and confused.  When Lily referenced the suit, they both went upstairs to Autumn’s apartment where Lily notices what appears to be a complete vintage trousseau.  Autumn spoke of the items being cursed and how the curse went back several generations.  The curse had been placed on one of Autumn’s male relations plus anyone born of the same line. It was a coincidence that found the trousseau for which  Autumn had spent decades searching.

The next day when Lily returned with some scrumptious cupcakes, she found Autumn dead upstairs.  Cause of death was the clothes from the trousseau!  Cursed or deliberate poisoning?  Plus now there was a charming dog with no owner.  As Lily and the women in her shop looked for a new home for the dog, they found a friendly dog park where they politely gathered more information and met more people involved in this peculiar case.

One of Lily’s best workers had a birthday for which her beau treated her and her entire coven to sleep over at a haunted house once owned by a very wealthy widow.  The woman had been renovating when her husband died, and she could never stop construction.  The mansion had 75 bedrooms, 6 kitchens, and 10,000 windows.  Along as protection for the coven, Lily and her beau Sailor, found doors opened onto walls and other peculiar features of the house.  When they inadvertently went to an area denied visitors, an alarm sounded in the caretaker’s home, who struck up a friendship with the lovebirds when he came to investigate.

Did I mention that Sailor’s nemesis Aidan, head of the magical community in San Francisco, left on a trip and left Lily in charge for which she needed his well-worn leather satchel.  The Mayor’s private number was included along with many slips from people who owed Aidan for some favor or deed.  Others feared the Satchel.  It held quite a lot of power that Lily might have known if so much else wasn’t going on in her life..

All of these items were figuratively blended and brewed until Lily figured out who was responsible for many of the calamities going around.  I was shocked when the main perpetrator revealed herself.  Enough clues had been dropped throughout the book that a more astute reader would have put to the open case, especially when the curse hit another outside the family.  Unfortunately, I did not so did not determine who the killer was until it was revealed in the book.  Lots of fun with full impact hitting me as it hit Lily!

I consider Xe Sands one of my favorite narrators.  Different characters have been given subtle changes from each other but never so much that could be considered overdone. She can switch gears from catching the murderer to a romantic scene that leaves Lily utterly speechless to another scene that leaves Aidan out of sorts.  It all makes up the eighth book of the Witchcraft Series by Juliet Blackwell.  Now, I need some juju to help me wait for number nine!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Where I've Been

No video today. Instead, I'm going to invite you to a couple blogs where I've been spending time this weekend.

I've raved about my friend Kaye Wilkinson Barley before. She's my roommate for mystery conferences and even in Paris. We're already planning Bouchercon in Dallas next year! She was kind enough to invite me to read on her blog, Meanderings and Muses. Kaye's doing a feature called "Inside My Book Fort" in which she reads favorite passages from books. I'm sharing an essay from one of my all-time favorite books. Stop by to see what it is! http://bit.ly/2DAjcvS

With Kaye in Paris

I was also at Jungle Red Writers with several blogger friends, Dru Ann Love and Cathy Cole. Author Jenn McKinlay invited us to talk about the three books we're anticipating in 2018. Stop by for our lists, and the lists of several readers who commented. http://bit.ly/2IsBxPi

Once in a while, it's fun to appear on someone else's blog.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Irish Pub by James Fennell & Turtle Bunbury

What better book for St. Patrick's Day than The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury?
Fennell is the photographer of this gorgeous book with 201 color illustrations. And, Bunbury is the historian and writer who tells the story of a representative thirty-nine pubs in Ireland.

To tell the story of Irish pubs, the pair traveled to over 700 pubs through all thirty-two counties of Ireland. Then, they picked a small group to "celebrate, and document, pubs that epitomize that essential charm of old Ireland." According to the authors, the oldest pubs in the book date to the 17th century, and some of the most recent were built in the late 1990s when the economy was exploding.

The authors break the book into three sections. "Urban Retreat" features the more metropolitan pubs from the 19th and twentieth centuries. The threatened pubs are the ones in the chapter "Rural Charm". These are the more traditional country pubs, closing at a rate of one per day as of 2008 when the book was published. Bunbury explains the economy, the ban on smoking in public places, and the crackdown on drinking and driving have all combined to hurt the traditional pubs. The final section features four pubs, "Contemporary Heritage". Those pubs, created more recently, in the authors' opinions, reflect the best of Irish tradition.

Dark wood, large or small pubs, former groceries, centers of music. In their books, the authors attempt to capture a disappearing Ireland. They make the comment "The upshot is that if you want to see what a traditional Irish bar looks like, you might have better luck in Chicago or Sydney than in Dublin, Galway or Tipperary." But, I think they've found some to write about and photograph. As I said when I reviewed Vanishing Ireland, Bunbury's words are pure poetry. The stories and pictures in this book are magic, capturing pubs that exemplify Ireland for some many of us.

James Fennell's website is www.jamesfennell.com. Turtle Bunbury's website is www.turtlebunbury.com. There's also a Facebook page that salutes many of the people of Ireland, a page called Vanishing Ireland.

The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. Thames & Hudson, 2008. 9780500514283 (hardcover), 192p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Winners and Cozy Wedding Blues

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Kara M. from Adrian, MI won The Lost Order. Deanna S. of Carlisle, MA will receive Breaking Point. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away cozy mysteries involving weddings. The first is Death, Taxes, and a Shot Gun Wedding by Diane Kelly. For IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway, this case is personal She and her soon-to-be-husband are preparing for their wedding day. But along with all the RSVP cards are a series of death threats from an unknown source. Tara has run across too many lawbreakers to narrow down the list of suspects.

Belfast McGrath is the chef at Shamrock Manor, her family's wedding center. Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon finds Bel helping with wedding planning while looking into a story from her own past. Bel has been unable to forget the long ago disappearance of her best friend, but a newspaper clipping sends Bel on a search. Amy Mitchell might still be alive.

Which wedding mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Those titles are long, so let's use the authors' names. Your subject line should read either "Win Kelly" or "Win McConnon." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 22 at 5 PM Ct. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Thursday, Thursday! I look forward to Thursday all week. I love to see what you're all reading.

I'm playing catch-up. I'm reading Juliet Blackwell's A Toxic Trousseau because A Magical Match, the next one in her Witchcraft Mystery series, is out on April 3. Somehow I missed A Toxic Trousseau. It's a cozy mystery series featuring a witch who runs a vintage clothing shop in San Francisco. As much as I like Lily Ivory, I love her familiar, Oscar. When he's around other people, he takes the form of a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.

What are you reading or listening to this week? We're interested!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sandie's Corner - Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle

When Sandie Herron first started sending occasional reviews to Lesa's Book Critiques, we called it Sandie's Corner. Then, she switched to reviewing audio books for "Have You Heard?". Today, she has a book review for us, last year's Coffeehouse Mystery, Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle, now out in paperback. Thank you, Sandie.

Dead Cold Brew                                                                             

By Cleo Coyle (Alice Alfonsi & Marc Cerasini)
Berkley; Paperback reprint edition (March 6, 2018)

“Friendship has no legal status.”  Clare Cosi didn’t know what significance that statement would have when her boyfriend, New York City Detective Mike Quinn, pushed her back into the shadows of The Village Blend, the coffee shop Clare co-managed.  A sniper was taking shots at New York’s finest including Mike and his squad.  When one member of the squad was hit, Clare and Mike went to the hospital after the paramedics, and the nurse would talk to Mike as commanding officer, but she would tell Clare nothing since she was “just a friend.”  

Clare’s ex-husband Matt Allegro, also co-manager of The Village Blend, brought Clare a newspaper about all the recent cop shootings as well as news of a special opportunity.  Clare had recently created an exquisite coffee blend with the many kinds of coffee that Matt scouted around the globe.  Available on a limited basis, the Billionaire’s Blend held just the qualities the owners of the newly replicated Andrea Doria were seeking.  An exclusive blend was needed for her maiden voyage; could Clare do it?

While the cop shootings remain unsolved, Clare enticed Mike to an evening of sheer delight after a 36-hour shift.  She began to ask him to propose again while Mike began to break things off for a while to help her worry less.  She professed that she would only worry more.  What will they do now? 

In researching the possible Andrea Doria coffee blend, Clare went straight to a good source: Matt’s Italian godfather, Gus Campana, who was on the ship when it sank.  In today’s world Gus is a world-famous jeweler running his family business in the Diamond District of New York City.  It seemed odd that shortly after that visit, Matt received a summons to meet an attorney in the massive complex of vaults embedded in Manhattan’s bedrock underneath the Diamond District.  The summons was issued on behalf of Gus Campana and Silvio Allegro, Matt’s godfather and father. What could they have had in common that would bring this attorney, Matt, and Gus’ daughter Sophia together sixty years later in a tiny room of private safe-deposit boxes guarded by Lyons Global Security guards?

If you want to answer these questions and more, enjoy this 16th entry in the coffeehouse mystery series by Cleo Coyle, real-life husband and wife team Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.  I asked them the oft-asked question about a series – “Do I need to read them in order?”  Their answer is no.  They told me what this means to them:  “When we sit down to write a new Coffeehouse Mystery, we do our best to provide enough background on the characters and storylines to give longtime readers a quick refresher and new readers the chance to enjoy our work without feeling lost … anyone can feel comfortable picking up each book as standalone reads.”    I believe they do a beautiful job of this by writing an intriguing mystery with charming characters in a city large enough to house any number of stories.  I think this series has longevity because the authors make each entry a self-contained story but leave the long-term relationships flowing from book to book.  Each book carries a different theme while they all engage in a bit of social satire and have a biting sense of humor.  

We even get a clue what is coming up since for the first time, the paperback release of DEAD COLD BREW includes a bonus teaser of the first chapter from the 17th in the series – SHOT IN THE DARK due out April 17, 2018.  All I’m going to say is don’t miss it!