Browsing Tag

robert crais

Favorite Reads of 2017

Though 2017 has been in the rearview mirror for almost a month, with skid marks I left on my way out, I wanted to look back to review my reading stats. Last year was rich for me in terms of reading, with mid-June through mid-July being my best period, when I had four 5-star reads. I’ve gone years without one 5-star read, so that many in one month was fantastic.

Excluding all the manuscripts I edited, my number of books read is 65.

Some random stats, because I’m a nerd.

Debut authors: 20

New-to-me authors: 18

Female authors: 41

Male authors: 24

Writers of color: 8

International authors: 20

Imprint I read the most: William Morrow (7), runner-up: Minotaur (5)

Total imprints: 33 (I was pleasantly surprised to see my reads spread across so many different publishers)

Below are my favorites in various categories.

Favorite debuts: Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin and Gail Honeyman’s Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Favorite novel from new-to-me author: Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds

Most welcome return of series characters: tie between Robert Crais’s Elvis & Joe in The Wanted and Joe Ide’s Isaiah & Dodson in Righteous

Favorite illustrated memoir: Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do

Favorite celebrity memoir: Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine

Favorite new heroines: Sheena Kamal’s Nora Watts in The Lost Ones and Kathleen Kent’s Betty Rhyzyk in The Dime. The common denominator? Fierceness.

Favorite international thriller: Mark Mills’s Where Dead Men Meet

Favorite overall: Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking 

What are some of your stats from last year? Share them in the comments!


Q & A with Robert Crais

After a long wait for readers, Robert Crais released The Promise last November. I pounced on it like it was the last piece of bacon post-apocalypse. It’s billed as an Elvis and Joe novel but also includes LAPD officer Scott James and his K-9 partner Maggie from Crais’s previous book, Suspect (read my Promise review for Shelf Awareness here).

Crais went on tour right before the holidays, and will appear tomorrow (Saturday) at the Santa Monica Public Library at 3 p.m., as part of the library’s 125th anniversary celebration. But first, he was kind enough to fill out my questionnaire about his adventures and provide glimpses of his life on the road.

Most unexpected experience:

The Promise debuted at #1 on the NY Times e-book list. In November. When dreadnoughts like King, Albom, and Grisham are plowing the pre-Christmas waves. I expected to be swamped.


An enormous, 50-foot statue on the road from Cincinnati to Dayton. I asked my driver, “What’s this?” He said, “Touchdown Jesus. We call it Touchdown Jesus because of how the arms were raised like he’s signaling a TD.” I studied the statue, and didn’t see it. “His arms aren’t raised. They’re spread to the sides.” He nodded. “This is the second Touchdown Jesus. The first was struck by lightning and destroyed. They changed the arms when they built the new one, but he’ll always be Touchdown Jesus to me.”

TD Jesus

Most suspenseful:

The car service hired to drive me from Vero Beach to Jacksonville flaked at the last second. It’s a three-hour drive, and I had to be in Jacksonville for a couple of live radio interviews, so the publicists really had to scramble. They found a replacement, but there was just no way we were going to make it. Too many miles and not enough time. But this new driver? This cat was Han Solo. We blasted up the highway like the Millennium Falcon. I had to, ah, close my eyes a couple of times, but we made it.


Most fun with TSA:

The TSA were great. Three different agents recognized my name, and asked about Elvis and Joe. What’s not to love?

Best meal eaten:

Flounder and fried green tomatoes at The Olde Pink House in Savannah. I’m drooling as I remember.


Most surreal moment:

The bar in the basement of the Olde Pink House. Ghosts.

Most beautiful sight:

I was in New York City when Paris was hit by the terror attacks. The next day, I happened upon Washington Square Park, which was filled with people. I don’t know how many, maybe a few thousand. Here were all these people, Americans, some of whom were waving French flags, who had come together in this spontaneous show of support for France. I found it moving and beautiful. I still do.


Favorite activity between signings:

Flying. No calls, no email, and I’m on to another event.


Favorite souvenir:

Fans brought so many wonderful gifts. Little stuffed German shepherds. Cookies to represent Elvis and Joe and Maggie. I loved them all.

maggie cookies

All photos: Robert Crais. To stalk his snaps, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.


Nerdy Special List November 2015

Happy November! Hope everyone had a fun Halloween weekend. I dressed up as Princess Leia. Does that surprise anyone? Not slave Leia but the I’m-gonna-keep-my-bits-warm Hoth version.

From here on out, we might as well coast into the holidays. But we aren’t done with this year’s selection of good books. Here are the new releases we recommend.

From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

Woman With a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine (Seventh Street Books, November 10)

woman-with-blue-pencilIt feels rare these days to read a book and feel like you’ve experienced something genuinely unique. Woman With a Blue Pencil is that rarity for me. Gordon McAlpine imagines the life of a character who’s been left on the cutting room floor. Sam Sumida is Takumi Sato’s Japanese-American protagonist who simply came into existence at the wrong time.

Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Sato’s publisher didn’t think a Japanese-American hero would be a commercial hit. So Sumida was replaced. Woman With a Blue Pencil intricately weaves together the revised novel, Sumida’s survival following his expulsion from the book, and letters from Sato’s editor—the woman with a blue pencil. Chock full of exciting action, brilliant plot twists, and timeless social commentary, Woman With a Blue Pencil is an exceptional treat.

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe (Seventh Street Books, November 3rd)

secret-life-of-anna-blancJennifer Kincheloe’s debut is hilariously entertaining. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Anna Blanc is an intelligent, sheltered, and restless young socialite who has a propensity to worm her way into trouble. So much so that her father has hired a constant chaperone to keep Anna out of questionable situations and protect her reputation.

But Anna’s rascally ways outsmart even her father. She bribes the unscrupulous chaperone and adopts the alias Anna Holmes in order to fulfill her dream of being a detective—she takes a position as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department.

While she’s supposed to be typing reports and removing small children from whorehouses, Anna sets out to find a rapist and solve a serial murder case the department seems to be hiding. Anna is very smart when it comes to logic and deduction. But the street smarts and common sense are not so abundant.

Kincheloe does a wonderful job of balancing those two qualities so that Anna comes off authentically awkward and empathetic. Her moxie is admirable and her compassion endearing. The dialogue is excellent, and Kincheloe’s depiction of Los Angeles in the early twentieth century is so realistic, it’s often palpable, sometimes even rancid with the smell of manure. The romantic element is predictable, but satisfying nonetheless. I was sad to turn the last page.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

The Penguin Lessons: What I Learned From a Remarkable Bird by Tom Michell (Ballantine, October 27, moved up from November 5)

penguin lessonsThis utterly charming memoir helped me waddle out of a severe reading rut. In the mid-1970s, author Michell, then 23, left his native England for a position at an Argentinian boarding school. On a relaxing weekend jaunt to Uruguay, he comes across the horrific results of an oil spill: a large group of dead beached penguins. When one mighty little penguin shows signs of life, Michell has no choice but to rescue the plucky fellow, who he (quite hilariously) smuggles back to Argentina and ultimately names Juan Salvado.

If you’re given to anthropomorphizing, you’re going to love this book. If you’re not, I dare you to read this gem and not come away with a different feeling and understanding about the minds and emotions of animals. Juan Salvado is a sheer delight—to Michell, his students, his cleaning lady, school staff, and, I’m betting, most readers.

At turns warm and laugh-out-loud funny (I literally did lol at Michell’s efforts to clean the bird in the posh Uruguayan apartment he was using), The Penguin Lessons also provides interesting insight into Argentina and its people in the 1970s. A slim volume at just 240 pages, this would be a great holiday gift for the animal lover on your list.

From Patti at Patti’s Pen & Picks:

A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay (Berkeley Prime Crime, November 3)

likely storyThis is the sixth in Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s Mystery series and the first to be published in hardcover. As a librarian, it’s no surprise I love this series.

A Likely Story takes place on the coast of Connecticut in a small town, and our heroine is Lindsey Norris, librarian and director of the Briar Creek Public Library. She and one of her suitors, Sully, take a water taxi out to a local island to deliver books to two older men who are brothers. When Lindsey and Sully aren’t met at the dock, they venture up to the Rosens’ house, only to find one brother missing and one brother murdered.

Things are resolved in interesting and satisfying ways, with a bit of a twist at the end, and readers should be happy with how the characters are moving forward with their lives.

From PCN:

The Promise by Robert Crais (Putnam, November 10)

the promiseLongtime Craisies have been impatiently awaiting this new entry in the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series, and they’re in for a treat. Elvis is hired to look for a missing woman, and immediately becomes embroiled in a case that might involve Al-Qaeda. Luckily he has a formidable team by his side: his partner Joe Pike, mercenary Jon Stone, LAPD officer Scott James and his K-9 partner Maggie (the last two are from Crais’s standalone novel Suspect).

Look for my full review in Shelf Awareness for Readers later this month, as well as additional coverage here of Crais’s first novel in almost three years.

Which books are you looking forward to this month?


Book Giveaway: SUSPECT by Robert Crais

suspectHello, dear PCN readers, are you still there?

In case anyone noticed, I have been away for a while, not just from this blog but from home. I spent the last 6 weeks of 2013 on the East Coast visiting different family members, eating extremely well (my daddy can cook!), but also freezing my buns off, which counteracted any weight gain from aforementioned delicious food.

While traveling, I stayed away from blogging and almost all social media activity, and found myself not missing it at all. I loved the real life that was happening: face-to-face conversations, laughter over late-night coffee in my parents’ kitchen, birthday celebrations, actual hugs, and snuggling with my cute-beyond-words niece/goddaughter. But I can’t mooch free food off relatives forever, and my toes threatened to fall off due to frostbite, so it’s back home and back to business.

I’m starting off the year with a giveaway of one of my favorite books from last year, Suspect by Robert Crais. The paperback was released this past Tuesday, and the kind folks at Berkley are allowing me to give away two copies of the paperback to PCN readers. Enter by leaving a comment below, telling me something you suspect will happen for you this year. As usual, lies are accepted; this rule is simply to make comments/entries interesting.

Giveaway ends Friday, January 17, 9 p.m. PST. Winners will be randomly selected and have 48 hours to claim prize before alternate winners are chosen. US addresses only, please. Good luck!


Robert Crais and His Mighty Balls

Just a reminder that tomorrow—Tuesday, Jan. 22—is launch day for Robert Crais’s Suspect.  You will love Maggie and her relationship with Scott James, so buy the book and help Crais rule the world.

Go to a signing (tour schedule here) and ask him for balls!

[Ed. note: The action figure in the photo is Captain Crais from the series Farscape.]


Winner of Robert Crais’s SUSPECT

The randomly selected winner is:

  • Shell Sherree

Congrats, Shell! Please email me by Wednesday, Dec. 19 noon PST with the address where you’d like the ARC sent.

Thank you to everyone who shared amazing dog tales. If you didn’t win but would like to get some Robert Crais books, a few of his previous titles are 60% off at Amazon as I write this. Hardcover editions of the following are less than a dollar more than the eBook versions:

  1. The First Rule for $10.78
  2. The Watchman for $10.38
  3. Chasing Darkness for $10.38

Grab them if you don’t have the hardcovers, or give them as gifts if you’d like to turn friends into Craisies. You can also pre-order Suspect, out 1/22/13, from Amazon or from your favorite indie bookstore.

Lastly, his tour schedule is up. Check here to see if he’s coming to a bookstore near you!


Giveaway: SUSPECT by Robert Crais

Wow, it’s good to be back. If you visited this site over the past several days, you probably saw a “suspected malware” warning, which was extremely upsetting to me. I hired a company to scan the site, and the problem was my WP software and some other plug-ins and files were outdated. I don’t always upgrade right away because sometimes the new versions are full of bugs (Apple Maps, anyone?), but I’ve updated everything, installed extra security plug-ins, and Google has removed the warning. It’s important for me to make clear I’d NEVER knowingly install or host malware of any kind.

Anyway, on to some good stuff. Thanks to Lydia at Putnam, I get to give away an advance reading copy of Robert Crais’s highly anticipated Suspect, which doesn’t come out until January 22, 2013, but you can have the ARC before Christmas if you’re good. And lucky.

This is a standalone featuring LAPD’s Officer Scott James and his new partner Maggie, a former military working dog retrained for the K-9 platoon. They’ve both suffered on-the-job injuries—physical and emotional ones—and the deaths of their former partners. Together they track the killers of Scott’s previous partner, and learn to trust and heal each other along the way.

I think you will fall in love with Maggie; she made me cry. Crais writes several chapters in Maggie’s POV and, based on my former ownership of a German shepherd, her thoughts and actions seem spot on. The relationship between her and Scott is life-affirming.

For a chance to win the ARC, share an amazing dog story in the comments. Could be about your dog, someone else’s, one you read about, or saw on YouTube. Let’s make this a celebration of our four-legged friends. I’ll take entries only until this Sunday, December 16 at 9 p.m. PST. US addresses only.

As with my other giveaway, please only enter if you can check back to see if you’ve won because I may not get around to contacting you by email. The winner will be randomly chosen, announced here on December 17, and have 48 hours to claim the ARC before I select someone else.

In related news, the Kindle version of L.A. Requiem, a game changer in Crais’s Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series, is on sale for only $1.99. Don’t know how long it’ll stay at that price so grab it now.


Nerdy Special List November 2012

Here are the November titles we enjoyed:



From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

The Right Hand by Derek Haas (Nov. 13, Mulholland Books) is an action-packed spy thriller. Haas introduces his American spy, Austin Clay, in the first of what will hopefully be a continuing series. Clay is a traditional loner, but a character readers will quickly embrace as a genre favorite. With fully realized characters, well-timed plot twists, and subtle humor, Haas keeps his readers invested until the very end. And then he leaves them wanting more Austin Clay.

From Jenn at The Picky Girl:

In A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry (Nov. 1, Sourcebooks Landmark), Bronte Talbott is a flourishing ad exec in New York, trying to prove her worth to her dead father, whose intellect and self importance always got in the way of a father-daughter relationship. After a move to Chicago and heartbreak, Bronte is hesitant when she meets Max, a handsome Brit she runs into at a bookstore. Telling him up front that all she wants is something casual, Bronte keeps Max at a distance. But Max, confident and persuasive, wants more, which could be difficult as he’s not just a Brit…he’s also a duke who must uphold the family title.

My responses while reading: “I love Bronte!” “I hate Bronte!” “I love Bronte!” “I LOVE Max.” Though at times this book made me roll my eyes with the typical women’s fiction “barrier” to the romance and the need of the heroine to constantly deny her feelings, I must admit this was a fun read, especially for a woman who dreams of meeting a handsome man in a bookstore…

From Danielle at There’s a Book:

Diverse Energies edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti (Oct. 1, Tu Books) This new YA dystopian sci-fi anthology, Diverse Energies, edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti (Oct. 1, Tu Books), features an incredible list of authors. From Paolo Bacigalupi to Malinda Lo to Cindy Pon and more, there’s bound to be an author in the group readers will have heard of, if not read previously. Each brings a rich and diverse cast of characters to their individual story within the collection, making this the perfect read for anyone looking for a great dystopian and/or sci-fi read. For me, not only was the genre a huge draw, but the anthology factor played a huge part. During this busy time of year, with activities and holidays coming practically every day until after the new year, it’s nice to have a book filled with fantastic stories by talented authors that you can pick up and read when you have ten or fifteen minutes to spare. Diverse Energies is a quick, well-written and -edited anthology that I’m certain will be just the book  for those of us who love to read, but may be rushed this time of year!

Ed.’s note: This ARC had a November pub date, but the book was moved up to October.

PCN’s recommendation:

While some people like to peek in others’ bathroom cabinets when they visit their homes, I like to peruse their bookshelves, which I think are good indicators of how a person thinks, what their interests are, perhaps even their dreams. (If they don’t have any bookshelves, I judge them harshly and leave immediately.)

My Ideal Bookshelf, by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount (Nov. 13; Little, Brown), allows me to look at some well-known people’s bookshelves right from my reclining sofa. It’s a thrill to see what books have shaped them, to learn tidbits such as Michael Chabon reads Sherlock Holmes, James Franco’s shelf is overflowing with classics, David Sedaris’s collection is full of sad stories because he believes “humor needs some aspect of tragedy in order to be memorable.” It was also fun to see the shelf of one of my favorite authors, Robert Crais, without having to climb up his drainpipe and peek through his window, and though I don’t read James Patterson’s books, I applaud his placing Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and Don Winslow’s California Fire and Life on the list of books he reveres.

Note: Check out the Pinterest sweepstakes going on right now to win a painting by Jane Mount of your ideal bookshelf, or autographed books. You can also chat with the authors and some of the contributors on Twitter tomorrow, Nov. 13, by using the hashtag #myidealbookshelf.


Once again, I really like the diversity of this month’s list. Hope you find something to your liking. Which November releases are you looking forward to reading?


Stalker Award Nominees 2012

Happy Tuesday after a long weekend! Hope you’re all well rested, sun-kissed, loaded up on burgers and potato salad, and caught up on your reading. Me, I’m still pasty, but I did manage to ingest a healthy amount of ice cream. In this heat, I consider it a survival technique.

I also snapped out of my sedentary stupor long enough to tally up the nominees for this year’s Stalker Awards, given to crime novels and authors readers are obsessed about. Nominations were submitted by genre lovers at large over the last two weeks.

The poll will be open for one week, so you can now vote for one winner in each category until June 5, midnight PST. I’ll reveal the results soon thereafter.

My profuse thanks to all who took time to submit nominations and/or spread the word. I hope you see some of your favorites on the ballot!

*Voting has ended. Winners will be revealed next week. Thanks for stopping by!*


Nominated covers:


Why Write the Great American Novel When You Can BE in One?

I saw this on Twitter this morning via @PenguinLibrary and thought it was such a fun idea, I had to share. Flavorwire had written an article about a service called U Star Novels that will allow you to insert yourself and your friends into classic novels, Mad Libs-style, for just $24.95. The clear choice for me would be The Hound of the Baskervilles because I’m a Holmesian nut, and second choice would be The Importance of Being Earnest, because it was one of the required-reading books in school I actually enjoyed. I’m also perusing the list of available titles to see which would make good gifts for my sisters, who had both been English majors.

But I also started thinking about which contemporary novels I’d like to insert myself in. Top of the list would probably be something by Robert Crais. If I’m Elvis Cole, that means Joe Pike’s my partner and who wouldn’t want that?? The Cat would also be mine. I’d also consider wedging myself into a Lee Child novel as Jack Reacher, because being a 6′ 5″ asskicking dude is not something I’d ever get to experience in real life.

So, which classic and contemporary novels would you “reimagine” starring yourself?


Quarterly Review

It seems as if I blinked after New Year’s Day and opened my eyes to find the first quarter of the year over. Whaaat? So I thought I’d look back and see what I’ve achieved so far, reading-wise.

I’ve read 27 books, which means I’m averaging 9 a month, or 2.25 a week. At this rate, I’m on track to reach my goal of 100 this year, but I’d still like to pick up the pace a bit in case I have crazy weeks during which I don’t get any reading done at all.

Here’s what I’ve completed, in the order I read them (links are to my reviews):

  1. Taken by Robert Crais
  2. The Retribution by Val McDermid
  3. The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
  4. Defending Jacob by William Landay
  5. Catch Me by Lisa Gardner
  6. Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel
  7. Devil’s Oven by Laura Benedict
  8. Clawback by Mike Cooper
  9. Ali in Wonderland by Ali Wentworth
  10. Night Rounds by Helene Tursten
  11. Play Nice by Gemma Halliday
  12. Blue Monday by Nicci French
  13. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (review coming soon)
  14. The Girl Next Door by Brad Parks
  15. The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson
  16. Concierge Confessions by Valerie Wilcox
  17. Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham
  18. Shatter by Michael Robotham
  19. Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
  20. Kings of Midnight by Wallace Stroby
  21. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig (review coming later this month on Shelf Awareness)
  22. The Man in the Empty Boat by Mark Salzman (review/discussion coming soon here)
  23. The Guttenberg Bible by  Steve Guttenberg (review coming later this month on SA)
  24. The Destroyed by Brett Battles
  25. The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen
  26. Driven by James Sallis
  27. Getaway by Lisa Brackmann (review coming soon)

This isn’t just a time for me to look back, though. April is my birth month, so I’m also looking ahead to see if I want to make any changes as I start a new year. And that includes what I do here at the blog.

I’ve been wanting to start a Q&A column for a long time. I hesitate to call it an advice column because I want it to also be entertaining. As a kid, I used to read Ann Landers or the questions inside the front cover of Parade magazine and laugh at some of the ridiculous Qs. You know, something like, “There’s a steak dinner riding on this. My wife thinks Gary Cooper had a secret love child with his housekeeper, but I say he was a homosexual. Who has to pay for dinner?” I’d be tempted to answer: “Both, because his housekeeper was a beautiful Latino man. You now have to buy me dinner.”

But I’d also like to be helpful if I can. I’ve somehow managed to work in several fields—journalism, the movie business (on and behind the camera), book editing—and would be happy to share any useful info I’ve accumulated over the years.

So, would you be interested in an “Ask PCN” column? I’d need your help in submitting questions. They can be about anything I’ve covered here—movies, books, crime fiction, TV, authors, writing, acting, snacks, how to be a game-show contestant. They can be serious or goofy, and I’d answer in kind. I might not be able to reply to everyone, but I’d have fun trying. Use the contact form, or hit me on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t have to use your real name.

What else would you like to see here? Existing features you’d like to see more/less of?


Winners of Elvis Cole Detective Agency Business Cards

I entered everyone’s names into and it selected the following 5 to receive an Elvis Cole Detective Agency business card signed by Elvis’s and Joe Pike’s creator, Robert Crais:

Rich Miner
Shell Sherree
Kelly V
Rhonda Hicks

Congrats! Please use this contact form to send me your address and I’ll get this in the mail to you. If I don’t hear from you by Saturday, Feb. 4, noon PST, alternate winners will be chosen.

What? That slogan came straight from Elvis himself.

Thank you to everyone who entered. If you’ve attended a signing then you already know this, but if not, Robert has been sharing on his tour some of your assumptions of him and getting big laughs from the crowds. I’d also like to share that Taken will debut on the New York Times bestseller list at #1 for the week of February 12! I assume he’s pretty happy about that!