Looking for Some Leads

I’ve been thinking lately about some folks I’d like to interview for Buried Under Books, authors but also some other folks like agents and publicists.  It might also be nice to interview some people that have nothing to do with the book world except that they are readers—that’s practically a must or they wouldn’t even know who we are, you and me, book addicts extraordinaire.  So, I’m throwing the question—questions, actually—out to you.

1.  Who would you like to have me interview?  Be reasonable, please.  Stephen King is not going to while away an afternoon with me.

2.  What are the questions you’d like to have answered?  You can suggest as many or as few as you’d like.

3.  Think of someone else who’s been interviewed before but the one question you were dying to know about wasn’t asked.  Who is that person and what is the question?

4.  Would you like to be an interviewee?  Why? (Don’t be shy; everybody is interesting in some way!)

Leave your comments below or, if you prefer, email me at cncbooks1@gmail.com and we’ll see what mayhem we can cause 🙂

Book Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader
Bernhard Schlink
Vintage Books, 2008
ISBN 0307473465
Mass Market Paperback

When 15-year-old Michael Berg discovers an older woman willing to become his lover, he thinks he’s the student. Yet, intimacy with Hanna comes with one condition–he’s got to read to her first.

Michael never thought much about this odd form of foreplay until years later when Hanna’s on trial as a Nazi war criminal. Michael, who is now a law student, watches as the other guards do their best to shift their blame onto Hanna. But, she couldn’t be to blame, he realizes Hanna couldn’t read nor write.

Yet, Hanna takes the fall for the other defendants. She’s sentenced to life. Their roles reverse and Michael is now the teacher. In the time before talking books, he records chapters and sends them to her.

“The Reader” appears a short, quick read, but the content within is thought-provoking and intense. The author’s language literally transports you to postwar Germany.

My one regret is this book is not bound as a classic should be.  “The Reader” will not stand up to more than a couple of readings, at least in this particular iteration.

Reviewed by Rebecca Kyle, February 2010.

Note:  This title is also available in another paperback edition that may be of sturdier quality—ISBN 0375707972 (Vintage Books, 1999).

Road Weary

Annie and I left Richmond Monday morning, heading for Florida, a little for vacation but mostly so Annie can check out a couple of areas of the state she wants to move to this summer.  We drove through a whole state’s worth of rain (North Carolina) on the first leg and arrived in Savannah not too much the worse for wear–and had a wonderful dinner at a place in the City Market called Tapas by Anna.  Tuesday morning, we did the trolley tour of Savannah, then had lunch at a terrific little pub called Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub & Grill, had Molly’s Favorite, the sandwich to die for (roasted turkey, cheddar cheese, thinly sliced green apple, drizzled with maple butter and grilled, YUM).   Then we hit the road again.  So far so good…

…until we crossed into Florida and became the latest victims of the state’s highway signage system, apparently designed to cause heartburn for unsuspecting travelers.  See this sign?

Now look at this one—

Do you see the difference?   The Florida sign assumes you know all the route numbers coming up but there’s no need to tell you the distance to any of the towns before Jacksonville.  All the signs are like this so you have no idea how far it is to your destination unless that destination happens to be the ONE city or town they chose to put on the sign.

The second sign, on the other hand, is useful— well, except for  the fact that the  designer of this one thinks you need to know how far it is across the country.  I figure this guy comes from Ocean City and is homesick living out there in California.  A little goodhearted humor never hurt anybody, right?  So,  come on Florida, make it a little easier on travelers, OK?

And that brings up another question, Florida—you’re a big state so why are there so few bookstores, especially indies?  In Daytona, Port St. Lucie, Stuart, Ft. Pierce and Jensen Beach, we’ve seen exactly one Barnes & Noble.  If I had the freedom to move down here, I might be forced to rectify the situation 😉  Booklovers of Florida, UNITE!

Book Review: Margarita Nights by Phyllis Smallman

Margarita Nights
Phyllis Smallman
McArthur & Company
ISBN 1552786994
Trade Paperback

Some women just pick the wrong guy to fall in love with.  Sherri Travis is one.  She loves Jimmy Travis.  I’m not sure why.  He is a golf pro from a better social class than Sherri, and he tends to get into all kinds of trouble.  Money trouble.  Woman trouble.  Stuff like that.  Sherri is trying to divorce Jimmy, which makes his mother very happy.  Jimmy?  Not so much.  He can’t/won’t accept that Sherri really means it.  And since she keeps letting him back into her bed, I can see why he is having a hard time believing her.

Margarita Nights 2Sherri tends bar at the Sunset Bar and Grill in Jacaranda, Florida.  She likes her job.  She meets lots of people, has friends of all kinds.  She’s been doing it long enough that she can get into that groove, do her job, and still think about other things without making a mess behind the bar.

When the police tell her that Jimmy is dead, blown up in the same explosion that destroyed his boat, Sherri refuses to believe it.  She is convinced, based on her knowledge of Jimmy and his character, that he has taken this opportunity to skip town, get out of whatever hot water he’s currently in, and he’ll come back when the dust settles.  Sherri decides to find out why Jimmy skipped town; she thinks this will get the police off her back.  They think she killed him, and they have good reason to think that: she’s the beneficiary on a large insurance policy and she
threatened to kill him not all that long before the boat blew up.

Using her connections and her listening skills (bartenders do tend to be good at this), she does her best to figure out what Jimmy was up to.  Of course, there are people in Jacaranda who don’t take kindly to this interest.  The police aren’t thrilled about her poking into things; the people involved with Jimmy are none too happy, and they make their displeasure known.  Still, Sherri persists and figures out what really happened.

I found Margarita Nights to be entertaining and well written.  Smallman knows how to plot, how to write believable characters (even if I don’t particularly LIKE Sherri’s inability to let go of Jimmy), and how to put the reader smack dab in the middle of Jacaranda and its environs.

Margarita Nights is the first in a series; Sex in a Sidecar has just come out.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, February 2010.

Sisters in Crime in Richmond?

Not so many years ago, fictional female characters were frequently the victims of graphic sadism and women writers were treated as less than equal to their male counterparts throughout the mystery field.  They were rarely nominated for awards and their books weren’t being reviewed at a percentage rate comparable to their participation in the field.

Sisters in Crime (SinC) was formed in 1987 with the express purpose of helping women who write, review, buy, or sell crime fiction.  The ultimate goal was “to become a service organization to address issues of concern to everyone involved in the mystery field”.  The organization has made great strides over the years but, as recently as November 2009, when Publishers Weekly issued its list of Best Books of 2009, there were no women in the top 10, only two female mystery writers in the fiction section and, of seven titles selected in the mystery section, only two were by women.  To make matters worse, in the first three quarters of 2009, only two of fifty publications had reviewed more mystery novels written by women than those written by men.  Of the other 48 publications, a number were very heavily weighted in favor of male mystery writers to the tune of 79% or more.  Clearly, after 23 years, there is still much to be done.

Today, SinC has 3,600 members in chapters all over the country, involved in many activities  to “make things better for our sister writers and strengthen the field for our sister readers” and includes many men in its membership, men who support the aims of the organization.  It is the only national mystery association that offers full membership to readers, writers, and industry professionals.  Two chapters currently serve Virginia, the Chesapeake chapter representing the District of Columbia, central and eastern Maryland and northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads chapter.  There is a growing interest in possibly starting a chapter here in central Virginia.  If you think you might like to be a part of this and would like to know more, please leave a comment here or send a message  to cncbooks1@gmail.com and I’ll pass your name and email address on to the proper person.

Teeny Reviews X 3

The Telltale Turtle
Joyce & Jim Lavene
Midnight Ink, 2008
ISBN 0738712264
Trade Paperback

Pet psychic Mary Catherine is a widow with panache and a successful radio show.  Then, one day, she hears the thoughts of an animal in distress and discovers a turtle with the body of his murdered owner.  Unfortunately, turtles don’t have a good grasp on communication skills so Mary Catherine will need to do some sleuthing to figure out what has happened, especially since the police don’t exactly have faith in her psychic abilities.

I’m not sure if this is a standalone or the first in a series—no new titles have been listed yet—but I enjoyed it.  It’s entertaining in a lighthearted way and quite amusing to “read” the thoughts of the animals.

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Hollywood Cemetery: A Tour
James E. DuPriest, Jr.
Richmond Discoveries, 1989
ISBN 0941087018
Trade Paperback

This is a small (28 pages) booklet that would be of little interest to anyone other than a resident of Richmond, Virginia, or someone who likes to explore old cemeteries.  Hollywood Cemetery, dedicated in 1849, is an especially beautiful resting place for people from all walks of life, including U.S. presidents, Confederate soldiers and generals, and Supreme Court justices.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hollywood is a place where locals and tourists go to enjoy incredible beauty and peace while immersing themselves in history.

This treatise offers descriptions of the burial sites of some of the more prominent “citizens” as well as many photographs and the history of the cemetery and is a must-have for anyone with an interest in cemeteries in general and this one in particular.

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The Unscratchables
Cornelius Kane
Scribner Book Company
ISBN 1416596410
Trade Paperback

San Bernardo police dog detective Max “Crusher” McNash finds that he must ignore his misgivings and work with special agent Cassius Lap of the Feline Bureau of Investigation when a serial killer cat begins targeting dogs, starting with two Rottweiler goons for hire and progressing through movie star Jack Russell Crowe and other victims.  Along the way, they are offered help by an incarcerated psycho cat, convicted of murder.

Seemingly just another entry in the collection of animal-driven mysteries, this one is different.  Most of the books in this subgenre are naturally very cozy in nature and involve humans but this is a classic hardboiled story with a great deal of satirical humor set in a completely human-free world (although all the accoutrements of humans–clothing, bars, divorce, etc.–are present).   Anyone who likes the Raymond Chandlers of the mystery world and who can place tongue firmly in cheek will enjoy this book.  I really hope there will be more stories of Crusher and Cass.

Indies Rock!

I love being an independent business owner.  Obviously, I wish we hadn’t had to close the storefront, that this economy hadn’t been messing with so many of us the last couple of years, but I’m glad my daughter Annie and I took the plunge, the leap of faith.

Being an indy has made me so much more aware of other indies than I used to be, not only other retailers but also those folks who supply us retailers.  Over the years, I’ve come across many with products I loved even though they didn’t really “fit” us and often wished we could stretch a point, so to speak.

One of the few advantages of no longer having a storefront is that I can experiment with a few ideas and look for things I think people might like at the cons and festivals we’re still doing.   So, one day not long ago, I came across this little gem of an idea.  We actually would have wanted this in the store but didn’t know about it back then.

In My Book is a little company that has developed these neat bookmarks.  Robin Blum had the idea to start with and Meredith Hamilton does the artwork.  Between them, they’ve come up with a nifty concept, a greeting card that becomes a bookmark, sort of a 2-for-1 deal.  Pick out the card you want to give someone and then they can tear off the front to have a very cool bookmark.  They’re nice heavy stock, too, not those flimsy paper bookmarks we used to give out (although our store bookmark, while flimsy, was a nice one and popular).

This is the beauty of independent business.  Anybody, and that means you, can have a small brainstorm and turn it into a livelihood.  You might not be able to quit your day job, at least not right away, but maybe maybe you’ll turn out to be the guy that invented the pet rock or the sticky note.  You just never know what will take the public’s fancy but what fun it can be to give it a shot.  These days, with the internet, it’s easier in some ways (much harder in others) because the potential is pretty much unlimited if you can just figure out how to reach your target markets.  That’s where a lot of hard work and more than a bit of serendipity come in.

To any business, every sale or transaction matters, but especially to an independent.  We don’t have big corporate bank accounts to fall back on and we have to pay bills like anyone else.  If you like these greeting card bookmarks, go to their website at In My Book and buy some or look up a retail store in your neighborhood—or just give me a holler 😉