Category Archives: Resource

Strand releases 2013 Best Books List


Image from A Bit of Je Ne Sais Quoi

Its 2014 – and I have to start it with a mea culpa.  I’m starting a new job and between leaving the previous one (Bye!  I will miss you!) and starting the new one (How does this work?), buying a house, selling one, visiting family… well, the blog is taking a hit.  Not that I haven’t been reading.  I give up sleeping before I give up reading.  So despite no reviews recently, I’m moved to post because The Strand Magazine has released its list of top 20 mysteries of 2013!

Here they are: 

1) The Devil in Her Way by Bill Loehfelm (Sarah Crichton Books)
2) The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver (Grand Central)
3) The Ophelia Cut by John Lescroart (Atria)
4) White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central)
5) Twist by John Lutz (Kensington)
6) No Way Out by Alan Jacobson (Premier Digital Publishing)
7) Death’s Last Run by Robin Spano (ECW Press)
8) Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black (Soho)
9) Dead Man’s Time by Peter James (Macmillan)
10) Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley (Harper)
11) The Famous and the Dead by T. Jefferson Parker (Dutton)
12) Into The Dark by Rick Mofina (Mira)
13) Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
14) A Dog in Water by Kazuhiro Kiuchi (Vertical)
15) Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (Mulholland Books)
16) The Highway by C.J. Box (Minotaur)
17) The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith  (Pantheon)
18) The October List by Jeffery Deaver (Grand Central)
19) The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown and Company)
20) Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)

I greet a list like this one with mixed emotions and expectations – I really expect to have read most of the books on the list, but generally my hit rate is not so high.  (I’ve highlighted the six I’ve already read, and included links to the two I reviewed.)   While my self-esteem takes a blow, I’m thrilled to have newly recommended books.  In this case, the timing may be problematic, because it’s likely the 2014 Edgar nominees will be announced shortly.  Perhaps they’ll overlap.



PS:  Point of Personal Privilege to plug The Strand Magazine.  Great reviews, original mystery short fiction, and even the ads are worth perusing.   Subscribe for less than $20.

Plagiarism in the blogosphere!

pile of booksI’m swamped with work and reading Edgar nominees, and I have a backlog of recently read books that I haven’t reviewed yet, but I had to take blogger Kristin Lamb at her word when she encouraged her readers to repost her posts.  Particularly this one on plagiarism.  She tells her own experience with a guy whose online presence fooled her completely.  It’s a great cautionary tale.  Here’s a taste:

Kristin Lamb

Kristin Lamb

I tend to be a Naive Nell. I feel one of my best qualities is I see the best in everyone. What’s my greatest weakness? I see the best in everyone. I also like to give new people opportunities. I know that without people like Candy Havens, Bob Mayer, Les Edgerton, James Scott Bell, Agent Laurie McLean and others, I wouldn’t be where I am, which is an AWESOME place, namely because you guys are here.

This said, I like to pay it forward. Ah, but paying it forward can bite back, and I’ve been bitten way more times than I care to admit.

So back to stupid. NO, EPIC stupid.

I don’t even think I should have to blog about this, because COME ON! Plagiarism? In this day and age? REALLY????


Jump over to Kristin Lamb’s blog to read the rest.  You might want to wander around there for a while, she usually has some insightful and interesting things to say!


Literary New York. I’m so there.

30 rock treeToday’s New York Times is making me wish for another vacation, just a few short weeks after I returned from an 8-night Caribbean cruise.    What could cause this enthusiasm for a NYC winter solstice getaway?  No, it’s not the Christmas tree in Rockfeller Center.  Or even the 52 degree temperatures and constant drizzle… it’s this article in the travel section about literary Manhattan.  I’m nostalgic for places I haven’t really been!

cafe loupI yearn for the cafés and bars where the literati (past and present) elevated (and sometimes degraded) discourse.  The Café Loup sounds excellent.  I’ve actually seen Jimmy’s Corner, near Times Square, and avoided it, not appreciating its seedy charm.  Now that I know the folks from the NYT Book Review congregated there, I recognize how very shallow I was.  Dive, indeed.


The Strand Bookstore

Bookstores, of course.  On previous vacations, I’ve blogged about my visits to  The Mysterious Bookshop (Otto Penzler’s famous store) and Partners & Crime.  I’m glad I got to visit the latter. It was a pleasure to shop there and I felt a pang when I read, just a few months ago, that it was closing.  I assume it’s shuttered now.  And of course, The Strand and its 18 miles of books!  It’s been there so long, it used to be just 8 miles of books.  Now there are so many books they are double-shelved.

Library Hotel1

The Library Hotel

And, of course, hotels with a literary connection.  I’ve stayed at the Algonquin Hotel.  It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 100 years since Dorothy Parker and her literary posse gathered there daily.  I loved its convenient location, and thought the bar – and live music – was excellent.  They also have a hotel cat, which ups the experience.  The Chelsea is famous not only for its literary connections, but has a strong history of strung-out rockers.   But I’m drawn to the new and enticing Library Hotel, located just steps from the actual NYC Library.  They not only have 6,000+ books on site, they’re organized around the Dewey decimal system.  They have a reading room, complimentary breakfast and a complimentary evening reception, plus free wi-fi.   A quick check of their reservation system shows that it’s not outrageously priced.  By NYC standards, that is.

levAnd if I needed any further inducement, I could go see My Name is Asher Lev on Broadway.  Love the Chaim Potok book on which it is based!  It’s getting awesome reviews.  As are Steppenwolf’s Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  A major inducement.

And there’s a new musical coming out soon, Matilda.  It’s based on the Roald Dahl book.  Oh, I’m sure that the days would be packed, if only I could go…

Young House Love book on its way!

I love the Young House Love blog.  Sherry and John Petersik are a fun young couple with a home decorating/DIY blog that is full of personality and great ideas.  (They also host one of the few blogs that affords a living – both John and Sherry are full-time in the blogging biz.)

Totally awesome that a Young House Love book is on the way.  Not a compilation of blog posts, all totally new stuff.  Can you say pre-order?

Quick Review: How the Mistakes Were Made

I picked up How the Mistakes were Made thinking it was a mystery.   It’s not, but it kind of feels like one!  It’s the story of an uber-popular grunge band, The Mistakes (Nirvana era), how the three-some got together and subsequently fell apart.  All told from the point of view of the woman who ruined the band:  bassist/drummer Laura Loss.

Mystery-like elements include:  Written in first person.  Plays with time.  Uses framing device to tell a story that happened in the past.  Lets you know something bad happened.  Oh, and something more bad happened!  And even worse.  There are fatal flaws.

Definitely worth reading.  And I have to say – the book is written by Tyler McMahon.  I assumed Tyler was one of those late 20, early 30-ish female writers with an androgynous name.  Nope.  He’s a guy and does an awesome job of telling the story from a woman’s POV.

Printers Row Subscription: Yeah, I’m kind of a chump

I was all compliments when I noticed that the Chicago Tribune was beefing up its pages on books and literary happenings.  And then, look!  They’re doing live programs and podcasts.  This is kind of cool.  It’s not as good as the old days, when they had a separate book section, but it’s pretty neat.  Makes me glad I’m a subscriber.  Little did I know that they were just softening me up.

Building on the brand awareness of the Printers Row Lit Fest (which is fun, I admit, a literary extravaganza of authors, publishers, bookstores and readers), the Trib has launched the Printers Row Journal, a “weekly collection of smart and accessible literary reviews, fiction, author interviews and commentary” paired with some live and online events.  The print version comes out weekly and will be delivered with my Sunday Tribune.

Of course I subscribed. I’m a book nut, an early adopter, and have enough income that 99 bucks is no big deal.  (It’s only $99 since we subscribe to the newspaper, it’s $149 for anybody who doesn’t.)

In one way, it’s an awesome opportunity – a weekly print publication all about books, with a bit of a Chicago slant.  The Printers Row brand is a positive connection.  I like the publishing perspective, the columnists and the reviews.  AND it includes original short fiction – so few places to get that these days, and maybe I could even get a story published.  (A gal can dream).  So, good.

But looking at it another way, the publishers have carved out the people who care about books and are socking it to them, big-time.  It’s the splinter-ization of publishing.  Imagine if the Trib covered sports a little bit in the paper, but you had to pay more to get the Sunday sports section!  Movies.  Opinion pages.  The triumvirate of Tribune advice columnists (don’t you take my Dear Amy).  Or heaven forfend, the funnies!   So maybe I, and my ilk, are making it easier to marginalize readers.  We’re a buncha chumps.

Still, I ponied up.  The paper pinky-swears that it is NOT cutting coverage in the regular Tribune.  This is all add-on content.  And since Elizabeth Taylor, Chris Jones, Rick Kogan, and my personal fave, Julia Keller are all contributing, I just hope they are all being given a big salary bump or are being paid by the piece for the new endeavor.

You can learn more about the offer here.  The preview issue is available for your perusal online and it includes an article by my neighbor Elizabeth Berg, a piece featuring Sara Paretsky, an article about Nicole Hollander of Sylvia fame, reviews, and some original fiction.   In trying to get used to the navigation system, I find myself grateful that it’s not online-only.  There’s lots of add-ons to make participation more engaging, and the Tribune seems a little confused about whether this is publishing venture or a membership community – the sizzle is about the community, but when it comes time to sell the steak, it’s all about the publication.

One note of amusement:  the preview edition of the Printers Row Journal includes a link to Olive, the software platform on which the publication is delivered.  Unfortunately, the home page sales pitch for Olive says “turn your old news into new revenue,” which kind of undercuts the Trib‘s preferred brand position. Of course, I immediately began to think of the myriad of ways that my own employer could use Olive to good advantage… which is good for Olive, but I can’t see the benefit for the Tribune.

New toy: Wordle

OK, it’s late.  And I can’t get to sleep.  I’m halfway through the new Stephen King book (11/22/63), but it’s pretty heavy.  (Literally.)  So I’m cruising blogs and Gretchen Rubin suggests a new web toy:  Wordle.  As the tag line says, “Beautiful Word Clouds.”  Intriguing, eh?

You just paste in the copy from your blog, or link to your blog feed, and it gives you a nifty piece of art. Here’s the wordle for yesterday’s post (a wrap-up of reviews).
Wordle: Literary Lunchbox Wordle #1

And I did another one, for my 12-27 reviews (relatively recent, random!)

Wordle: Literary Lunchbox Wordle #2

You can play around with the shape, the font, and the color. Here’s my final one, for the review of Elizabeth Berg’s Once Upon a Time.
Wordle: Literary Lunchbox Wordle #3
It’s kinda fun.  Check it out here.