Friday, February 27, 2009

Book Review: Drood by Dan Simmons

Opening Drood by Dan Simmons is like stepping into a time machine. I could almost feel the cobblestones of London’s back alleys beneath my feet and smell the overpowering stench of raw sewage draining into the Thames.

In June of 1865, world-famous author Charles Dickens and his mistress were among the few survivors of a horrific train crash. Simmons manages to weave this real-life event into a compelling and terrifying tale of murder, jealousy, ancient Egyptian magic and mesmerism.

Drood is narrated by Dickens’ fellow author, friend and sometimes rival Wilkie Collins. A laudanum addict, Collins is an unreliable narrator at best. Three days after the accident at Staplehurst, Dickens relates the harrowing experience to Collins. At the center of his tale is a mysterious man named Drood; a disfigured, wraith-like creature who seemed to float back and forth amongst the dead and dying victims of the crash. Was he rendering assistance to these unfortunate souls or hastening their departure from this mortal coil?

Dickens becomes obsessed with finding Drood, and this search will lead him and Collins into a labyrinthine world hidden below London's poorest districts. The horrors that await them there will change both of the authors – and their friendship – forever. Collins begins to wonder if Dickens has simply gone mad from the trauma he endured at Staplehurst or if he has fallen under the mesmeric influence of Drood, a man rumored to have killed over 300 people.

Victorian London is masterfully depicted; the sights, sounds and even smells seem to come alive and add a rich sense of atmosphere to this dark story.

The first 100 pages of Drood were slow-going for me, but they established a framework that was essential and very rewarding later in the book. I never knew what to expect with this story, and the shocking ending left me re-evaluating virtually every conclusion I'd come to over the length of the book. While it's still very early in 2009, I can certainly see Drood as one of my favorite reads of the year.

Rating: 9/10.

Buy Drood:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

For more reviews of Drood, visit:
Allison's Attic of Books | Bermuda Onion | Booking Mama | Books Ahoy! | A Bookworm's World | Cafe of Dreams | Cheryl's Book Nook | A Circle of Books | Darby's Closet | Drey's Library | Heidenkind's Hideaway | A High and Hidden Place | A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore | Jenn's Bookshelf | Linus's Blanket | Marta's Meandering | Medieval Bookworm | My Friend Amy | Savvy Verse & Wit | The Tome Traveller | Write for a Reader

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Collectibles

This week's BTT question is about books as collectibles:

Hardcover? Or paperback?
Illustrations? Or just text?
First editions? Or you don’t care?
Signed by the author? Or not?

Can a person who owns over 500 books legitimately say that she doesn't collect books? Probably not, but I don't really collect collectible books.

I have a pretty even split when it comes to hardcovers and paperbacks in my personal library; I don't have much of a preference either way. I like the durability of hardcovers and the affordability and portability of paperbacks. If I really love a book, though, I may try to track down a hardcover copy. I vastly prefer trade paperbacks to mass market paperbacks, and will gladly pay a little bit more for a trade paperback in most cases.

I'm not big on illustrated editions. I think there's only one book in my library, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, that I sought out as an illustrated edition. Candlewick published a lovely illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol in 2006, and I chose that over many text-only versions.

First editions are nice, but not essential. I love signed books and will occasionally purchase signed editions of favorite books or new books by favorite authors. I'm also very grateful when an author sends me a review copy and has taken the time to sign and/or personalize it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mailbox Monday: February 23, 2009

It's been awhile since I've done a Mailbox Monday post, so this list is much longer than it would usually be.

Only three of the listed books actually arrived in the past week. Some of these go all the way back to Christmas gifts and my post-Christmas gift card purchases. I have a lot of great reading ahead of me!

Mailbox Monday is a weekly feature hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page.

Children's / MG / YA Fiction:
Enola Holmes:The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer
Doctor Who The Darksmith Legacy: The Dust of Ages by Justin Richards
Doctor Who The Darksmith Legacy: The Graves of Mordane by Colin Brake
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The King's Rose by Alissa Libby
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Literary Fiction:
Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Mystery/Historical Fiction:
A Dangerous Affair by Caro Peacock
Good Night, Mr. Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

The Love Potion Murders in the Museum of Man by Alfred Alcorn

Doctor Who: The Inside Story by Gary Russell
How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

What books came into your house last week?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-5: Judge a Book By Its Cover

Weekly Geeks
This week it's all about judging books by their covers! Pick a book--any book, really--and search out multiple book cover images for that book. They could span a decade or two (or more)...Or they could span several countries. Which cover is your favorite? Which one is your least favorite? Which one best 'captures' what the book is about?

I had a tough time deciding which book to choose, but finally settled on one of my favorite reads from last year, The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman. I thought this was a fitting choice since it's one of the few books that I own multiple copies of -- and the reason for that is I couldn't decide which cover I liked better.

This is the cover of one of my copies, the most recent mass market paperback. I love the simplicity -- just three colors but it works beautifully.

The cover of the new trade paperback. I own this one as well. I like that this has a bit more color, but definitely emphasizes the red to go along with the title. I also like the Victorian style lettering at the top.

An older paperback cover. This is probably my least favorite. I don't care for the purple and too many scenes are represented. Less is more; there's just too much going on here.

This cover is wonderfully Victorian, but would you know that the book's central character is a young woman just by looking at this one? I'm guessing that you would not. I see this cover and think "Victorian Fight Club" -- not necessarily a bad thing, but not very representative of the book.

Generally, I'm not fond of movie tie-in covers. If I'm purchasing a book that has a movie tie-in cover, 99% of the time I will try to hunt down a copy with the original cover, even if the original is more expensive. However, I really like the BBC tie-in cover that features Billie Piper, who starred as Sally Lockhart in the BBC's adaptations of Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North. (Of interest to Doctor Who fans: Matt Smith, the actor selected to play the Eleventh Doctor, gives an excellent performance in both of these films.)

Finally, we have a German cover of Der Rubin im Rauch. This is another that doesn't really capture the title, but it is nicely atmospheric. I love the lamppost and the fog.

Which one of these do you like the most? If you've read the book, which one do you think captures it best?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

C is for Cookie (That's Good Enough for Me)

There's a fun letter meme bouncing around the blogosphere right now. Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading? gave me the letter 'C', so here are ten of my favorite things that start with that letter.

In no particular order:

Cookie Monster. Like millions of other children, I grew up with Sesame Street. Cookie Monster was my favorite, although Bert and Ernie ran a very close second.


Cats. This will come as no surprise if you saw my last Weekly Geeks post, but I have a big heart for cats. In addition to the rescue work my mother and I do, we have eleven cats (five of which are foster kittens). It's not at all unusual for me to have a book in my hands with one or more cats in my lap.

Compassion International. I became a Compassion sponsor almost two years ago, and it's been an extremely rewarding experience. I sponsor an 8-year-old girl named Eunice in El Salvador. Eunice loves to draw and always includes the most delightful drawings with her letters. Her artistic skills have already surpassed mine. For more information about Compassion, click here.

Caesar Salads. Take me to a restaurant, and if there is a Caesar salad on the menu, there's a very good chance that I'll be ordering it. My personal favorite is Texas Roadhouse's Chicken Caesar Salad.

Classic Literature. My eighth grade teacher got me hooked on the classics, and I've never looked back. Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Stevenson, Poe and Doyle are just a few of my favorites.

Clue aka Cluedo. I'm fond of both the board game and the film. I usually play as Miss Scarlet, since red is my favorite color. I once won a game of Clue Master Detective (a now-discontinued version of the game with more suspects, rooms and weapons) on the very first turn. It was more a lucky guess than anything else, but it was still pretty cool.

Converse. I love my Chuck Taylor All-Stars. I'm not a big shoe shopper, but I have three pairs of Converse hi-tops and plan to buy at least two more pairs in the next year. I even have a miniature Converse sneaker on my keychain.

Corn on the Cob. A summer favorite.

The Canon Rebel XTi. I love photography and rarely go anywhere without my camera. I bought the Rebel XTi to replace my film SLR, and I've been extremely happy with it.


Coneflowers. I'm very passionate about gardening and this is just one variety of flower that appears in my garden each year. The photo above was taken late last summer, unfortunately a little while after the petals were in their prime.

If you'd like to do this meme but haven't yet, let me know in a comment and I'll have pick a letter for you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

From the New York Times: Scholastic Accused of Misusing Book Clubs

"Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher of favorites like the Harry Potter, Goosebumps and Clifford series, may be best known for its books, but a consumer watchdog group accuses the company of using its classroom book clubs to push video games, jewelry kits and toy cars.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group based in Boston, said that it had reviewed monthly fliers distributed by Scholastic last year and found that one-third of the items sold in these brochures were either not books or books packaged with other items."

"In response to the campaign’s recent complaints, Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, said she stood by every product in the book club fliers. Many of the items identified by the campaign, she said, were books sold with small items like stickers to help engage children who 'may not be traditional readers.'

She added that the proportion of video game and other toy sales was overshadowed by book sales.

But Ms. Linn said that selling books with stickers, posters or other trinkets sent the wrong message to children about reading.

'The message that children get when books are marketed with other items is that a book in and of itself isn’t enough,' Ms. Linn said. 'And what it does is encourage children to choose books based not on the content but on what they get with it.'”

Read the full article here.

I remember the Scholastic Book Club with quite a bit of fondness. It was always an exciting day when the fliers were passed out at school. Finding a stack of books on your desk after recess a few weeks later was akin to Christmas. I remember we often had the option to get posters, and occasionally there would be trinkets (I seem to recall getting friendship bracelets, which were all the rage at the time) or toys related to a book, but most of the offerings were books.

From the two images provided with the article, it looks as though there are quite a few more non-book items offered than there were when I was in school. My mother and I both loved the program, but times have certainly changed since I was part of the Scholastic Book Club's target audience in the 1990's.

What do you think? Is Scholastic abusing the privilege of marketing to schoolchildren? Or are they reaching out to reluctant readers? Does this kind of marketing really promote literacy or does it just reinforce the "I want that!" mentality? I'd love to have parents weigh in on this, especially if your child's school participates in the book club.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

TSS: January Reading Wrap-Up

(The photo to the left is one I took in 2005 at Cape Neddick Nubble Light in York, Maine. Unfortunately, I was there on a rather dreary, rainy day. About half an hour after I took this photograph, I got drenched.)

January was a very busy month for me, but I still managed to get a good amount of reading in. You might notice a theme:

1. Doctor Who: Martha in the Mirror by Justin Richards
2. Bella Baxter and the Lighthouse Mystery by Jane B. Mason & Sarah Hines Stephens
3. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
4. Doctor Who: The Last Dodo by Jacqueline Rayner
5. Lily Quench and the Lighthouse of Skellig Mor by Natalie Jane Prior
6. The Boxcar Children: The Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner
7. The Baby-Sitter's Club: Claudia and the Lighthouse Ghost by Ann M. Martin
8. Manning the Light by Terry Webb
9. The Lighthouse Keeper's Tea by Ronda and David Armitage
10. The Lighthouse and the Three Little Pigs by Katherine Von Ahnen
11. Florida Lighthouses for Kids by Elinor DeWire
12. Lighthouses for Kids by Katherine L. House
13. Lighthouse Ghosts and Legends by Nin Costopoulos
14. The Keeper of Lime Rock by Lenore Skomal
15. The Lighthouse Activity Book by Elinor DeWire
16. The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift
17. Sammy the Boston Lighthouse Dog by Sally R. Snowman
18. The Lighthouse Family: The Whale by Cynthia Rylant
19. The Lighthouse Family: The Turtle by Cynthia Rylant
20. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Lots of lighthouse books. I'm helping to compile an annotated bibliography of children's lighthouse books that will be distributed to libraries and schools. It's a big project, but a very rewarding one. I have reviews for all of these books ready to go, but I'll be spreading them out a bit so I don't inundate all of you with lighthouse book reviews. (Although, I have a feeling Caite might not mind...)

Like Meghan, I'm reading Drood by Dan Simmons this weekend. While I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of this one (I'm about 100 pages into the 700+ page book), I'm enjoying it so far. Very atmospheric. I'll be participating in a blog tour for Drood on February 27th, which also happens to be my mother's birthday. (I won't reveal her age, since she reads my blog and I want to live to see my next birthday. Let's just say it's a milestone. A big milestone.)

What are you reading this weekend?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Deborah Sloan Interviews Mitali Perkins about Kids ♥ Authors Day

I'm pleased to have Deborah Sloan and Mitali Perkins guest blogging today. If you're in New England, I'd encourage you to check out the events they've coordinated for Valentine's Day. I won't be able to attend, but I'm hopeful that someone will do a similar event in the tri-state area (PA/NJ/DE) next year!

Where will you be on Valentine’s Day? If you live in New England, you might consider, as part of your day of love festivities, bundling up your brood and bringing your family to your local independent bookstore for a signed literary Valentine. On February 14, 2009, newly dubbed Kids ♥ Authors Day, 170 children’s and teen authors and illustrators will be visiting 40+ regional bookstores to spread some literary love to neighborhood kids and families. Young readers of all ages will meet published authors and illustrators and get an in-person look at what writing and illustrating is all about, have the chance to ask questions about how they do what they do, and come home with a signed book and a great Valentine’s Day memory.

Kids ♥ Authors Day is the brainchild of children’s book author, Mitali Perkins, whose latest book for teens, Secret Keeper, will be published in January from Delacorte. Here Mitali gives us the scoop behind this regional lovefest:

Deborah Sloan: What was the idea behind Kids ♥ Authors Day?

Mitali Perkins: One snowy day in December, after reading a depressing royalty statement from my agent, and bad news from the publishing world came screaming from my computer screen, I asked myself, "What's the big picture here?"

The answer's easy: children's book publishing is about getting great stories to the kids who need and want them. With a diversity of kids on the planet, we need a broad mix of stories. Some of the key players in the industry who fight valiantly for that breadth are independent booksellers, and they've been taking some hits.

"We should show them some love," I thought, and logged onto Twitter, a social networking tool that limits posts to 140 characters. “IDEA,” I tweeted. “Indies partner with authors for a ‘give a signed book’ day, all Kid/YA authors in area show up at stores to sign one afternoon.”

Other Twitterers responded and the conversation took off. Since the idea was so new, we decided to focus on only one region, New England, and picked Valentine's Day as the perfect date. I approached (New England Independent Booksellers Association and New England Children’s Booksellers Association, and as soon as they communicated their excitement, I set up the website. Through Facebook, I cajoled you into participating. And when as you agreed to join us, I knew we were good to go.

Deborah Sloan: Why did you, as a children’s book author, decide to take on such a big project?

Mitali Perkins: I have no idea. I'm crazy. And you're equally crazy. No, Deborah, seriously, we've talked about how our vocations (me as an author, you as a marketing guru) are about that big picture -- connecting all kinds of stories to all kinds of kids.

Deborah Sloan: Who are some of the children’s book authors and illustrators participating?

Mitali Perkins: People may see a full -- and still growing -- list of authors and illustrators in the sidebar on our website: Each time a new author or illustrator signs up, it's a thrill. You may think I have a low threshold of excitement, but go check it out -- it's an impressive list.

Deborah Sloan: Why are independent booksellers important to our communities?

Mitali Perkins: We asked our authors and illustrators to answer this question, and if you read through their responses, you'll be absolutely convinced that independent booksellers are irreplaceable and immensely valuable members of our communities.

Deborah Sloan: Thanks, Mitali. Readers, booklovers, aspiring writers and artists: If you live in ME, CT, VT, NH, RI, MA, or NY, please visit to find a participating store near you and join in on the fun. Hope to see you on Valentine’s Day!

Deborah Sloan is the founder of Deborah Sloan and Company, a marketing and promotions firm for books and their creators. A publishing professional with over twenty years experience, Deborah works to connect books and authors with their reader (and visa versa). See, (her blog that offers sample books to teachers and librarians for reading and reviewing), and/or follow her on Twitter at

Review of The Boxcar Children: The Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

In the eighth book of "The Boxcar Children" series, the Alden children and their grandfather are renting a lighthouse for the summer. They anticipate a quiet summer by the sea, but find themselves investigating a mystery instead. Their dog wakes up growling each evening, and an unknown woman is seen wandering the grounds.

When the children befriend a troubled but gifted young man, Larry Cook, they discover that he is using the abandoned lighthouse keeper's cottage for scientific experiments. The boy's father has forbidden him from attending college, so Larry continues his studies in secret. When Larry becomes lost during a summer storm, will his father have a change of heart?

I read this book as a child and greatly enjoyed revisiting it as an adult. The Lighthouse Mystery perfectly combines intrigue, adventure and a strong moral message. Highly recommended for young readers.

Rating: 8/10.

Buy The Lighthouse Mystery:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Friday, February 6, 2009

Coraline in Theaters Today

Neil Gaiman's Coraline debuts in theaters today.

Have you seen it yet? If not, do you plan to see it?

In the era of Netflix, I find myself going to the theater much less frequently. I didn't see a single film in theaters last year, in fact. I may have to break that streak with Coraline.

The trailer (below) looks fantastic. I loved the book, which was my first experience with Gaiman's work.

Do you have a favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-4: Other Passions

I've been out of the loop in the blogosphere for much of 2009, so even though Weekly Geeks started up again in January, this is the first week that I've been able to participate. And this week's topic is fantastic:

What are you passionate about besides reading and blogging? For example, are you crafty (knitting, woodworking, scrapbooking, model building)? Do you cook? Into gaming (computer or board)? Sports (player or spectator)? Photography? Maybe you like geocaching, rock climbing? Or love attending events like renaissance fairs, concerts? Music? Dancing? You get the idea.

Tell us why you're passionate about it. Post photos of what you've made or of yourself doing whatever it is you love doing.

#2. Get us involved. Link to tutorials, recipes, Youtube videos, websites, fan sites, etc, anything that will help us learn more about your interest or how to do your hobby. Maybe you'd like to link to another hobbyist whose work you admire or tell us about a book or magazine related to your interest.

#3. Visit other Weekly Geeks. Link in your post to other Geeks who've peaked your interest in their passion. Or maybe you might find a fellow afincionado among us, link to them.

One of the great joys of my life is the work that my mother and I do as part of a cat rescue organization.

A few years ago we discovered that there were several feral cat colonies near our home. We live close to a dead end street that happens to be a popular drop off point for people to abandon cats. When we starting working with these cats, many of them were in very poor health. I've owned cats my entire life, and seeing cats in such a horrible situation was just heartbreaking. My mother and I both decided that we wanted to do something to help these poor animals.

Feeding Time
We feed the cats daily, in any kind of weather. Right now we're feeding 30-45 cats each day. This translates to roughly four pounds of dry cat food, four large cans of wet food and two liters of fresh water every day.

We also ensure that they have proper veterinary care (including spaying/neutering and vaccinations), and help find homes for kittens or older cats that are adoptable. (Unfortunately, some of the cats we work with are just too wild to be good pets. In that case, the cat is either spayed or neuter and then released.) Local veterinarians donate their time and services at a reduced cost to help keep the cat population under control.

In the past three years, we have helped place over 25 cats and kittens in loving homes, and have gotten at least 30 adult cats spayed or neutered.

We've also adopted four of the cats ourselves. Duchess was living in an abandoned greenhouse when we first found her. Gwen was born to one of our foster cats and has become my constant companion. She often guards my workstation or sits on my lap as I type.

Each time we take a cat in for veterinary care, we need to give that cat a name if it doesn't already have one. I think it would be fun to do literary names this year, so I'm opening the floor to suggestions.

What literary character name would you choose for a cat?

To learn more about feral cat rescue, you can visit Alley Cat Rescue.

Other Weekly Geeks:
Lou and I share two passions, Egyptology and photography.
Booking Mama and Linda are both knitters. I learned to knit last year, after several unsuccessful attempts. (Thank heavens for tutorials on YouTube, or I still wouldn't be able to purl!)
Wendi is also an animal lover and participates in animal rescue.
Robin is new to Weekly Geeks this week and has a wonderful post about the effect music has had on her life.
Dreamybee and I share a passion for gardening. I can't wait for warmer weather so I can tend to my flowers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Guest Blogger: Laurie R. King, Author of the Mary Russell Series

In 1987, when I was 35 and had two small children, I sat down one morning in September, took out my Waterman pen and a legal pad, and wrote the words, "I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him."

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, as that book eventually came to be called, taught me everything I know about writing. Writing is fun and writing is frustrating and if one is very, very lucky, writing is a way to pay the bills without having to punch into a time clock, but most of all, writing is work. Writing is sitting in a chair and making oneself produce words, even though they’re not the best words, sometimes not anywhere close to the best words, sometimes they’re just barely adequate words, but writing is putting words on paper, so that’s what a writer does, even if every one of those words need to be pushed around again later.

Twenty years and eighteen books later, that is pretty much what I know about writing: that you have to sit down and do it in order to get it done.

But sometimes, if the wind is right and the morning coffee has been precisely the strength needed and the gods of storytelling have been propitiated correctly, the writer receives a gift. The Muses take hold of pen or keyboard and drive the story in their own fashion, and a scene, or a chapter, or a plot twist comes out exactly, gleamingly, perfectly right. The only thing the writer can do to solicit the gift is to sit at the keyboard and plug away, sweating one word at a time, churning out one dead and awful phrase after another until the Muses take pity and lift the writer’s prose into a brief and perfect flight.

And sometimes it happens early on, and spoils the writer for any other job, forevermore.

I could not have invented Mary Russell. That is to say, I could have, since I did, but had I sat down that September morning and told myself that what I needed was a character who was absolutely clear in my mind yet who gave me all kinds of flexibility in plot and development; who was young enough to grow before my eyes yet mature enough that I never became impatient with her; who was enough like me that I felt I knew her but who could go ten books and still surprise me and keep me on my toes. Who was from a time I had never seen and a country that was not my own. Who could interact with another writer’s character, a figure the whole world knew intimately yet whom I had scarcely met, and force him to reveal unexpected, yet completely reasonable, sides of his personality.

Had I told myself all that, I would have put the cap back on my pen and gone to weed the vegetable patch. Fortunately, the Muses struck and Mary Russell came to life, all on her own.

Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 18 novels, from the Edgar Award-winning A Grave Talent to 2009's The Language of Bees. She is a third generation native to Northern California, holds a BA degree in comparative religion and an MA in Old Testament Theology, and has spent much of her life traveling, raising children, and renovating old houses. She now lives a genteel life of crime, back again in northern California. For more information, visit her website at

Image Credit: Red Bat Photography.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

TSS: Super Bowl Sunday & 15 Weeks of Bees

Happy Super Bowl Sunday to my fellow football fans. While I would have loved to see my Eagles make it to this game, I'm a bit dubious that the state of Pennsylvania would survive a Pittsburgh/Philadelphia Super Bowl match up. I'll be holding my Philly pride in check for a bit as I cheer for the Pittsburgh Steelers later on today.

Today marks the official kick off (sorry -- still in Super Bowl mode) of Laurie R. King's 15 Weeks of Bees, which celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of The Beekeeper's Apprentice (the first novel in her popular Mary Russell series and one of my all-time favorite books), the 150th birthday of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the release of the ninth Mary Russell book, The Language of Bees (April 28, 2009). I'm delighted to announce that I'll be hosting Laurie as a guest poster. Check back tomorrow for a great article about the genesis of Mary Russell. And don't forget to check out Laurie's site for lots of fun events in the coming weeks. (Mary Russell's Twitter feed is not to be missed.)

(Also, for those who may be wondering: While Ms. King and I share both an awesome middle initial and last name, no relation.)