February 21, 2013

by | Feb 21, 2013 | 2013

Books of the Week:

  • Undead and Underwater, MaryJanice Davidson
  • City of Dark Magic, Magnus Flyte
  • Hit Me, Lawrence Block
  • And When She was Good, Laura Lippman

What a wonderful lot of books I had to read this time. Sadly, there were a couple I just couldn’t make progress on, too, but these four books were fabulous entertainment. I’ve known MaryJanice Davidson for years, and I’m always glad when our paths cross. Undead and Underwater contains three novellas, one about human resources representative Hailey Derry, who has a mighty big secret, the second about Betsy (queen of the vampires) meeting the sullen mermaid Fred, and the third about Lara Wyndham assuming leadership of the pack and gaining a mate during one excruciating day. They’re all fun, and for fans of Davidson’s, required reading.

It’s a great day when I read a book by writers hitherto unknown to me, and I realize I’ll buy anything they write in the future. Magnus Flyte is Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch, and they’ve written a wonderful book (City of Dark Magic) about a heroine that MaryJanice Davidson would totally approve of. Sarah Weston, a Beethoven expert, is given an amazing chance to spend the summer in the castle of one of his patrons in Prague. She has to be careful, though; her predecessor died in what may have been an accident . . . or it may not have been. If you like time-travel, immortal dwarves, Beethoven, impulsive sex, and old castles full of scholarly treasure – and who doesn’t like these things? – this is the book for you.

I’ve always loved Lawrence Block’s Keller books, and I would have stood in a long line to get Hit Me. Luckily, I didn’t have to. I read it in a huge gulp. Keller, hit man, formerly of New York, is now living in New Orleans, a husband and a father. (He seems just as surprised as anyone at this turn of affairs.) Unfortunately, his new career flipping houses has come to a standstill, so when his old contact Dot calls him with a job, he accepts. We knew he would, right? And when he’s accepted one contract, he’s going to accept others . . .

Laura Lippman is universally respected in the mystery field and beyond, and deservedly so. Her books are as layered as a seven-tier cake, and her writing is impeccable. I don’t say that lightly. And When She was Good is the story of a suburban madam; how she came to be what she is, what she will do after she must shift her executive skills to something else. This suburban madam is a mom, and her son’s dad is due to be released from prison. He must not find he has a son. And other madams in the area, women Heloise knows, are turning up dead. This is a fascinating book, and I was intrigued from beginning to end.


You know those weeks when everything seems to happen? When you just long for your routine to fall back into place? This is one of those weeks for me. Our grandson generously passed along his cold to my husband, and I fear I’m going to get the hind-end of that. My husband’s schedule just got turned upside down by his decision to participate in a two month program, which requires he be gone at odd hours. And (worst of all, from a time-consuming point of view) my publisher sent me thousands of tip-in sheets for DEAD EVER AFTER.

To be honest, I really feel for my husband as his new schedule is so intense. The company he works for is undergoing some major management changes and although this is exciting, his normal working hours seem to have been dramatically increased. We were speaking to a friend of ours who works in HR about this just the other day and she has told us that his employer would be much better off if they decided to Track Employee time with a tool like this.

She told us that there are some fantastic HR resources out there nowadays that are totally changing the workplace so it will be interesting to see whether or not the new management at the office where my husband works decide to make use of any time or scheduling tracker tools. I, for one, think it would make such a difference. His office is pretty huge so it must be really difficult to know what everyone is working on. My husband loves his workplace. The HR department has been very understanding over the years and his employers have always been very generous, but keeping track of all the deadlines must be a nightmare when you have a growing team! The risk is that if you aren’t keeping your staff happy, they will leave. My husband would never want to leave his workplace, but I know he would if he became unhappy in his work. I guess this is why so many HR departments use employee retention programs. Employee turnover is far too expensive for businesses to be losing staff all the time.

Back to my own worries now though. Let me make it clear that I volunteered to do this, since I’m not touring with DEA. No one is holding a gun to my head. But – insanely — I said I would sign 7,000 tip-ins for the book. That means I sign 7,000 sheets, and send them back, and they’re bound into the books. And this was after agreeing to sign over 2,000 sheets for the super deluxe collectors’ edition. (Before you ask me, I don’t know how those are going to be distributed, but I’ll find out.)

Yes, I am an idiot. I’m supposed to be writing a book, and I’m trying to, but at the same time if I have twenty minutes or so free, I’m sitting at our breakfast table signing sheets. And whining about it. Then I scold myself and tell myself it’s dumb to complain about something I agreed to do. Rinse. Repeat. I need to have a time maven living with me who will slap me upside the head when I agree to do things like this. Right? But then I think, “Well, I’m not touring, and people will want signed copies, and I should sign them . . .” Both are valid points of view.

My husband pointed out that if I were touring, I’d sign that many books. I’ve never added up the number of books I sign on tour, so he may be right. But this way, I don’t have the fun of meeting readers as I sign. Yet I can stay home, which . . . oh, well, This is what I’m doing with every spare moment these days. I hope you all enjoy the book, and I hope those of you who buy the signed ones really love having a signed book.

By the time I write my next blog, I imagine that things may be back to what passes for normal in my world, and I hope your world is on an even keel, too.

Charlaine Harris