Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Dead List (A John Drake Mystery) - Martin Crosbie

Happy New Year!

The Dead List is an intriguing mystery novel. It's easy to see why the Kindle Scout folks picked it to publish and promote. And it's a fine option for this night, whether it's the year that's passing or the one to come that you want to keep your mind off of.

John Drake is something of a cipher. He's from somewhere back in eastern Canada, or so he claims. But he's landed here in the tiny town of Hope, British Columbia, with some police training under his belt, and is working for the local police department. Then a man is found dead. The local cops want to call it an accidental death, but Drake thinks it's murder -- and saying that aloud is enough to bring in the RCMP.

Crosbie's style is engaging enough that even when there's not much movement in the plot -- and there's not, for perhaps the first third to half of the novel -- you're caught up in the story anyway, watching the interplay among all the characters. When things get moving, though, the book becomes very tough to put down.

I'm looking forward to reading more books about Drake, if only to find out what he's running from.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Sudden Gust of Gravity - Laurie Boris

It's Christmas Eve -- give yourself the gift of a terrific new book.

The best thing about e-books is that you don't have to go anywhere to shop for them. So while your pals are out at the mall, elbowing other shoppers out of the way to get to the least ugly sweater in the picked-over bin, you, my friend, can simply go online and buy copies of A Sudden Gust of Gravity for everyone you know. And while you're at it, get yourself a copy, too.

The lady on the cover is Christina Davenport, a waitress who has given up on her dreams of becoming a magician. Then she meets Reynaldo the Magnificent, who offers her a job -- not as a magician's apprentice, but as a magician's assistant. You know, the girl in the flirty skirt who keeps the crowd's eyes occupied while the magician does his tricks. Still, she figures she can pick up some pointers from the guy.

Across town, Devon Park is a surgical resident with his own set of personal problems. Yet he's intrigued by Christina, when he sees Reynaldo's show in a public park -- and concerned about the bruises Christina's trying to hide with makeup. He's interested, she's trying not to be interested, and Reynaldo's jealous -- so you can bet things are going to get very interesting indeed before the story ends.

Boris continues to amaze me with her ability to write about characters from disparate cultures. Devon is Korean-American -- very unlike the Jewish family in her Trager Family Secrets books and, again, unlike any of the characters in Drawing Breath. Boris is the real deal, guys. Why she's not a bigger literary name is a mystery to me. Highly recommended.

Happy holidays, everyone!

(Note: I read an Advance Reader Copy of this novel.)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mr. Pish 2016 Calendar - K.S. Brooks

All right, fine. This one isn't a book, either. But Mr. Pish does have a literary connection: he is the star of a series of children's books that promote reading and outdoor literacy. His photographer/typist/publicist/chauffeur, K.S. Brooks, has put together a selection of shots of the adorable Jack Russell Terrier and added them to this 2016 calendar.

The calendar has big squares, so you can keep track of your important stuff. And it also includes dates for astronomical events like meteor showers and supermoons, to remind us all to look up once in a while, when we're outside in the dark.

You need a calendar anyway, right? You could do worse than this one. Recommended for Jack Russell Terrier lovers, people who think kids should read more, and anybody who needs a calendar.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tribal Nations Maps - Aaron Carapella

Okay, okay. This isn't a review of a book. But this would still be a terrific gift, so I'm including it in my holiday guide.

Aaron Carapella has made it his mission to spread correct information about the names and locations of Native American tribes in North America -- both before, and at the time of contact with, Europeans. He has done a ton of research to find out each tribe's territory and the name by which the tribe refers to itself.

He started out with maps of the United States and Canada, and has since expanded his line to cover Mexico, as well as Central and South America. He even has specialized maps -- including a separate map for Alaska, which I found quite useful when I was planning Dragon's Web earlier this year.

If you're a teacher, a historian, or affiliated with a museum -- or even just interested in Native America -- Aaron's maps are a great resource.

I don't usually include buy links in my reviews, but I see only a few of Aaron's maps listed on Amazon, and they're all from third-party sellers. If you're looking for more information or would like to see the whole line of maps, go to Tribal Nations Maps and check them out.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sunflowers: Photos, Facts, and Fictions - Leland Dirks

This is a beautiful little book, and very much deserves a place on my holiday gift guide.

Author Leland Dirks spent part of his summer taking photos of the sunflowers that grow wild in his little corner of the world, from first bloom to faded seed pods. Those photos feature prominently in Sunflowers -- but in addition, Dirks weaves in quotes, facts, flash fiction, and poetry about the plants. There's even a recipe for sunflower bread.

I was surprised at the amount of sunflower lore I learned from this book. For example, did you know that the big outer petals are not the actual flower? The real flowers are the tiny yellow florets that pop out in the middle; the seeds grow under these florets. The big yellow petals around the rim aren't there for any reason other than to attract birds and insects.

Sunflowers would make a lovely gift for a gardener or a fan of wildflowers. Highly recommended.