May 4, 2016

The View From the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s non-fiction is as accomplished and fascinating as his stories and graphic novels and here is a collection of the best speeches (commencement and otherwise), essays and forwards he has written to date. 

Every piece contains Gaiman’s unique view of the world from his days as a journalist interviewing an unknown Terry Pratchett to the ‘door falls off a plane incident’ whilst travelling with Diana Wynn Jones and why you should never ever give your ten year old daughter a Stephen King novel. Gaiman’s voice echoes in your head as you read, making each piece of advice, each story, each warning seem very personal.

May 2, 2016

Seven days in the book world with Betsy Burton

Betsy is co-owner of The King's English, author of the book of the same name and so much more. At the time this post was written Betsy is President of the American Booksellers Association. She co-founded Local First and serves on their board too. She is a champion of local businesses and of women in business and co producer of the documentary, Invisible Disabilities (which featured her son Nicks.)  You can hear her on Books and Beats (KUER) every Saturday. Her op-eds in the Salt Lake Tribune are always insightful and she backs up statement with fact. She has also met President Obama, twice!

Here is Betsy's week in her own words.

I read Barkskins by Annie Proulx (700 pages! Due out in June), The Latter Days: a Memoir, by Judith Freeman (also a June book) reread LaRose by Louise Erdrich and Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo (both due out in early May) so I could write my May radio reviews, and a mystery called Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner. After all of that I’m just reading a mindless but pleasant mystery, the new Robert Parker (who didn’t write it, he’s no longer with us) Slow Burn. I haven’t been sleeping much…

Betsy's week in a nutshell

Barkskins (out June 14)
The Latter Days (out June 7)
LaRose (out May 10)
Everybody's Fool (out May 3)
Missing Presumed (out June 28)
Slow Burn (out May 3)

The King's English is available in cloth and paperback at TKE
A link to Books and Beats can be found here
Invisible Disabilities 

May 1, 2016

Pinpoint: GPS And The Quest For Perfect Knowledge, Greg Milner

GPS may seem cutting edge to most of us but it turns out that we are putting all our eggs into a technological basket from the seventies, which is when the Global Position System satellite network was first conceived.

The US Airforce tried their hardest to strangle the project with lack of funding. Proven by the first gulf war and used for such diverse things as turn by turn directions, monitoring seismic activity in earthquake zones and trading on the stock market this is a fascinating look at a technology that has stealthily invaded every aspect of our lives.

Apr 26, 2016

Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel

Like your science fiction with a dash of The day the earth stood still? Then this is for you.

Dr. Rose Franklin was 11 years old when she fell down a hole was rescued and inadvertently discovered a giant mechanoid hand. Rose, now a physicist is involved in a project to reunite the parts of a device that no one on earth could've built. The team she assembles, pilots Kara and Ryan, linguist Vincent and geneticist Alicia gather the parts with the assistance of 'the man with no name' a person who seems to wield more power than the commander in chief. Is his interest in the device as philanthropic as he claims?

A more thoughtful brand of sci fi, told through the team's interviews with Mr. no name, news reports and insight from the team members’ private journal entries. The story moves at a good clip to an intriguing conclusion. A sequel is coming.

Apr 25, 2016

Seven Days in the book world with Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein is the author of the New York times bestseller Code Name Verity and novels Rose Under Fire and Black Dove White Raven and the Lion Hunters series. She holds both a pilot's license and a PhD in folklore and she (like me) was a bell ringer (I haven't rung a treble in a very long time) Elizabeth and family live in Scotland but she will be attending the Symposium on Books for Young Readers at BYU this coming July.

Here is Elizabeth's week in her own words.

"I am the world’s most sporadic reader, and the reading I do is bound up not only in my own writing but in social interaction. Last week was pretty typical and, I suppose, gives you a good slice of my life as a writer… Though maybe not a TYPICAL slice of life as a writer!

Friday: Finished the second draft of my current Work-in-Progress and sent it off, a week late, to publishers in the USA, Canada and the UK. I then began re-reading the entire thing on my Kindle, highlighting plot-holes and typos. That’s what I spent the weekend reading – interspersed with Jo Walton’s Farthing, also open on my Kindle, which I’m reading partly for pleasure and partly out of professional curiosity to see how she went about writing a mock-Agatha-Christie-style mystery novel.

Saturday & Sunday: more of the same, and – ta dah! – I finished the proofreading of my own book.

Monday: After an email exchange with one of my publishers, I received an unexpected telephone call from my “expert reader” or fact-checker. This is a woman who’s been hired, at my suggestion, to advise me on the background and setting of my current manuscript. I was delighted (and a bit apprehensive!) that she’d got in touch with me directly, and we spent half an hour going over her very thorough notes for the first third of the book.

Tuesday: And now for something completely different! I’ve been Skyping with my brother on a weekly basis and we are in the middle of John Bellairs’s middle-grade ghost story, The House With the Clock in Its Walls, which I’m reading aloud chapter by chapter each week. This is, hands down, the SCARIEST STORY I HAVE EVER READ. First published in 1973, this book TOTALLY stands the test of time, and even though I’ve read it about twenty times it STILL gives me chills. Incidentally, Harry Potter fans would probably like this one, as it features wizards with PhDs living in the modern world and a very relatable, youthful, overweight and bullied hero who dabbles in the occult.

Wednesday: Once a week I join another writer friend for a work session at a hotel halfway between us. (This is the gracious venue: the Winter Garden of the Crieff Hydro  ) This week I was making notes on Bruce Myles’s Night Witches, a book I’ve just finished reading as background research for a non-fiction project. In between this note-taking, I’ve been working my way through another book for similar research, Reina Pennington’s Wings, Women and War. Both these books are about the incredible exploits of the young women, many of them only in their teens, who flew as bomber and fighter pilots for the Soviet Union during World War II – or as the Soviets called it, the Great Patriotic War.

Thursday: A day of talking to schoolchildren about my own books, and meeting other authors to talk about theirs, at the YAY!YA Scottish children’s book festival in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow. I and my fellow writers gave ten short but sweet readings to an assortment of 200 students over the course of the day. It was exhausting but exhilarating! On my return home, I found myself sorting through the stack of 200 unread books which just collapsed next to my desk. I’m trying to be brutal about getting rid of them, but I couldn’t help diving into P.E. Leathem’s The Short Story of a Long Life, which I ordered for another writer friend who was researching Leathem’s mother – I accidentally acquired two copies and kept one for myself. Leathem’s rambling style is charming and I’m greatly enjoying her tales of pig farming and being a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during World War II!

That brings us back to Friday! As I was finishing this post, the phone rang – it was my fact-checker letting me know that she’s finished her full set of notes and that she enjoyed the manuscript! (And she had some excellent suggestions for it, too.) So that’ll be me back to revising next week. And I’m still working my way through all these half-finished reads."

Elizabeth's week in nutshell

Farthing 2006
The House With the Clock in Its Walls 1973
Night Witches 1981
Wings, Women and War 2001
The Short Story of a Long Life 2009

Code Name Verity is available now 9781423152880

More at

Apr 19, 2016

The Letter Writer, Dan Fesperman

An explosion on the ship Normandie marks Woodrow Cain's arrival in New York City. Only months after Pearl Harbour the city reeks of paranoia and Cain, a southerner taking up a detective's position in the 14th precinct is having to go along with the culture of corruption in his new precinct just in order to work cases.

Cain's first case is that of a dead immigrant dock worker which brings him to the attention of Max Danzigger. Danzigger, who provides a letter writing service for the local mainly illiterate immigrant population has some information that ties in with Cain's case. Information is Danzigger's currency, is it also the thing that could get him and Cain killed if they can't quickly learn to trust each other. As the two begin working together they have no idea what kind of unholy alliances they are about to uncover.

Apr 18, 2016

Seven days in the book world with Scott Graham

Scott Graham is the National Outdoor Book Award-winning author of the National Park Mystery Series for Torrey House Press (

Here is Scott's week in his own words.

Like most writers I know, I keep a pile of books around my house and spend my evenings working through as many as I can. As a longtime author of nonfiction turned mystery author, I mostly read mysteries these days, with great pleasure, generally at least one a week.

I’ve found reading mysteries with the eye of a reviewer helps me focus on what’s working, or not, with my own work. As an example, here’s a review of Margaret Mizushima’s excellent recent debut, Killing Trail, I wrote for the monthly Prose & Cons review column I write with Chuck Greaves, whose mighty fine Tom & Lucky and George and Cokey Flo was a Wall Street Journal Top 15 Book of the Year for 2015.


Killing It

Mystery lovers in the West who love dogs—or dog lovers who also love mysteries set close to home—have reason to cheer.

With Killing Trail, Margaret Mizushima has launched a fine, Rocky Mountain-based mystery series featuring kind-hearted, small-town cop Mattie Lu Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo.

Canine aficionados will be happy to hear Mizushima devotes plenty of ink to the dog star of her series.

In her Timber Creek K-9 Series debut, Mizushima calls on Robo to play critical roles in every step of the investigation into the murder of a teenager high in the Rockies. Robo locates the buried body of the victim, sniffs out drugs, comforts frightened children, protects Cobb from harm, tracks suspects as directed by Cobb, and points out others of his own volition with growls and bared teeth.

Robo even plays the part of potential murder victim—a role generally reserved for whodunnit sleuths at the point in mysteries when sleuths get too close to their prime suspects. In the case of Killing Trail, when the unknown murderer grows frustrated by Robo’s uncanny tracking abilities and throws tainted meat over the fence into Cobb’s back yard, Robo wisely turns up his finely tuned nose at it.

Mizushima, the wife of a veterinarian and an obvious animal lover, describes in absorbing detail the involved process by which Cobb trains, readies and works with Robo. The author makes clear, for example, the differences between K-9 searches aimed at finding hidden contraband and those tracking humans.

Though the book is her first, Mizushima understands the expectations of her mystery-reader audience. While Robo is an example of canine, and K-9, perfection, Mizushima’s human protagonist, Cobb, is flawed in all the right ways. As the insecure young adult of a foster-home upbringing, Cobb in Mizushima’s assured hands is tentative professionally and uncertain in the ways of love, endearing herself to readers from page one.

As Killing Trail progresses, readers easily find themselves rooting for Cobb and Robo as they work their way through numerous suspects—in Cobb’s case, with street smarts, logic, and not a small amount of compassion for the shortcomings of her fellow small-mountain-town citizens, and in Robo’s case, with a nose that knows no bounds.

Mizushima has finished the second installment in her series, Stalking Ground, which will be released later this year. Assuming Cobb and Robo remain at the top of their respective games, look for Mizushima’s sophomore effort to be another winner.

Scott's week in a nutshell

Killing Trail 2015

Yellowstone Standoff  comes out in June