Friday, September 30, 2011

The Duchess

The Duchess (Movie)

What comes around goes around.

Visually, this is a very beautiful movie. The costumes and scenery are stunning, but I came away thinking that I was missing something. The overall plot is not very deep so I think that those who have read the book that this movie is based on – Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman might have an upper hand as to what was going on in the periphery.

What the movie portrays is a beautiful woman (Kiera Knightly) trapped in a marriage to a man more interested in heirs then in his wife, so when the opportunity presents itself the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) moves his mistress it the home to taunt his wife with a woman who can have male heirs; and only to make matters more hurtful, the mistress in question was once the best friend of the Duchess herself.

Not to be outdone, the Duchess takes on her own lover and publicly taunts her husband with a game of one-upsmanship. Unfortunately, in the 18th – century, this cannot end well for the woman and so with what was once a shining moment, she now finds herself begging for the morsels of her former life.

I enjoyed the movie, I just wished that I had known more of the back story so I could appreciate the overall portrayal more and understood who all the side characters were.

Princess Diana Spencer is a distant relative of Duchess Georgiana Spencer and after watching this movie you do wonder if History does repeat itself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Heat Wave

Heat Wave

Richard Castle

A titillating mystery thriller this is not. This is not even as good as the TV show, Castle, which they are playing off. This is just a middle of the road, let us slap some words on a page and call it a book kind of read. I don’t know if it has been published anywhere who the actual ghost writer is, but I am hoping that it’s not one of Richard Castles poker buddies, because a few of them have written some good books.

Nikki Heat and Rook (this would be the name given to Castle’s character, because calling him Pawn or Knight would just be silly) are in charge of the investigation into the death of a New York real-estate developer. Of course everything is smoke and mirrors when it comes to Manhattan and the rich and famous, so when the death is ruled a homicide and the art collection doesn’t live it to its estimated value, you throw in the Russian factor and wham-bam you have a police procedural.

The book goes where the series has not, but then again, this is all in the imagination of a somewhat 12 year old wanting to play cops and robbers.

If you are not looking for anything heavy or thought provoking, you might appreciate this sophomoric attempt at entertainment. It would work great for a lunchtime read where you can pick it up over a week and not feel that you have to go back and read anything to remember where you were.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Cozy Mystery Challenge - Completed

Hosted by Kris at Not Enough Books

•The Ghost and Mrs. McClure :: Alice Kimberly (Berkley)
•The Diva Cooks a Goose :: Krista Davis (Berkley)
•Agatha Raisin and The Day the Floods Came :: M. C. Beaton (Minotaur Books)
•Holiday Grind :: Cleo Coyle (Berkley)
•Vision Impossible :: Victoria Laurie (NAL)
•The Main Corpse :: Diane Mott Davidson (Bantam)
•Dead and Berried :: Karen MacInerney (Midnight Ink)
•Aunt Dimity Down Under :: Nancy Atherton (Viking)
•Bean There, Done That :: Sandra Balzo (Severn House Publishers)
•Chocolate Covered Crime :: Cynthia Hinkley (Barbour)
•Buzz Off :: Hannah Reed (Berkley)
•Town in a Blueberry Jam :: B. B. Haywood (Berkley)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Town in a Blueberry Jam

Town in a Blueberry Jam (A Candy Holliday Murder Mystery #1)

B. B. Haywood

Ending my Cozy Mystery Challenge for 2011, I decided on Town in a Blueberry Jam by B. B. Haywood since this was a new author for me - I had no idea what I was getting into. Apparently, B. B. stands for the writing team of Beth and Robert (I assume Bob) Haywood – but then again – Haywood is not their real last name either. Ok, maybe that does not matter, but with the ever-ongoing use of pseudonyms in the writing world, I always want to know if a new author is actually new or an old author with a new name.

Hope I have not lost you yet.

This is the first book in a brand new series set in the seaside village of Cape Willington, Maine. Candy Holliday has returned home to her father, Doc, and has decided to help run the Blueberry farm until she can decide what it is that she wants s to do with her life. Having given up a demanding career in Boston, Candy has returned home to figure out what her next steps should be. That is until not one, but two unexplained deaths have occurred in this tiny hamlet and wanting to clear the name of a local handyman, Candy finds herself and her good friend in the middle of a jam (ok, I wanted to say pickle, but that wouldn’t fit) and with the killer having them trapped on the roof of city hall all seems doomed, that is until an apparent invisible neighbor comes to their aid. OK, that last part was a bit of a stretch, but it does open up an interesting potential for future books.

The book has a couple stutter starts - feeling as if the writing team had put down their laptops and wanted to know “now what direction do we go in”. What I did come away with was the hope that this series will take off. The first book spends a great deal of time introducing attention-grabbing characters and with any luck, they will be given their own center stage in the future.

This is fun brain candy and sometimes that is just what an afternoon calls for.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came (Agatha Raisin Series #12)

MC Beaton

As I live and breathe, that Agatha Raisin appears to be growing up. No longer is she endlessly chasing after James, or Charles or even the new man next door. Agatha is not doing anything as trite as trying to “find herself”, but she is starting to come to some new realizations and her old irritating self is starting to wear off those rough edges and slowly, but surely, turn into a tolerable woman.

In a deep slump after James joined the Monastery and Charles has run off and married a woman purported to be carrying twin; Agatha is left to her own depressed thoughts, that is, until a body is found floating down the river. Though the police call it a suicide - Agatha knows better and sets off to solve the mystery of the woman and why she was wearing a wedding dress and carrying a bouquet of flowers.

Mrs. Bloxby comes into her own in this book; she is a character that I have always enjoyed for her never-ending insight and patience when it comes to Agatha and her harebrained schemes. Police Chief Budge is still completely flabbergasted by Agatha and the regular characters make their usual appearance, including the reverend and his endless frustration with “that horrible Agatha woman”.

The overall story is not that fascinating, but the characters are what brings me back again and again to this series. If you are expecting a thrilling and fascinating read, you will not find that here, but start this series at the beginning and you will find a parade of characters that never cease to entertain.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contagion (Movie)

What a boring anticlimactic movie. After reading some initial comments, I was prepared to be scared to death to go out in public after viewing this. I have a tendency to be that person who is turning a corner in the grocery store as someone is sneezing, so I was prepared to have all of my worst fears confirmed. That society’s lack of basic prevention, like washing your hands and not touching your face, would be reinforced – but that was not the case.

Beginning on Day 2 of an initial outbreak, you see Gwyneth Paltrow as Elizabeth Emhoff returning from a trip to Hong Kong with what appears to be a case of the flu. From bad to worse millions are quickly infected with this unknown pathogen thus putting the world into a panic and every major health organization quickly attempting to find a vaccine. Still not sure the real reason for some of the name actors (Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Elliott Gould, Laurence Fishburne) in this story, but I guess that is what you have to do to bring people to a movie such as this.

Do not waste your time with this snooze-fest. What it boils down to is that the wrong bat and the wrong pig meet up in Hong Kong and the world is thrown into a tizzy over it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

First Grave On The Right

First Grave on the Right
Darynda Jones

This was a tough sell for me. I loved the whole talking to the dead thing, but when the psychic affair with the spectral visitor started, I was lost as to why this direction was chosen. Why add a dark element to what had started as a light and airy girlie read.

Paranormal Romantic Thriller. Paranormal – yes. Romantic – well if straight out s e x is romantic then yes you have that too. Thriller? Nope – I did not find this book thrilling, just meandering down the path to the next encounter.

What I did learn was that the Grim Reaper is bright and shiny – I had always envisioned the dark cape and scythe – guess it is time to expand my horizon. Souls must pass through the Grim Reaper to get to the other side; this apparently is the bright light that they see and Charley Davidson is the current Reaper.

From birth, Charley has been able to see souls, has remembered all events and when called upon, has helped both her father and uncle solve crimes. So why not go into the Private Investigator business. Seems like the most likely way to make a living and help the recently departed murder victims. When three recently deceased attorney’s make their appearance, Charley has no idea the events that are about to unfold and send her interesting life into yet another tailspin.

Told through immature humor and sarcastic wit, do women really name their breasts and ovaries, Darynda Jones introduces a new character that appears to be a hit with most and falls flat with others. This book will fall within the love/hate category. If the PRT genre is your thing, go for it, if not, take a pass. The premise is good – has the whole Ghost Whisperer things going, but the ethereal visitor was lost on the more ordinary person in me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Today My Son Graduates From Air Force Basic Training

Today My Son Graduates From Air Force Basic Training


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


On my way to that lovely town of San Antonio to see my son


The devil wanted a place on earth
Sort of a summer home
A place to spend his vacation
Whenever he wanted to roam.

So he picked out Texas
A place both wretched and rough
Where the climate was to his liking
And the cowboys hardened and tough.

He dried up the streams in the canyons
And ordered no rain to fall
He dried up the lakes in the valleys
Then baked and scorched it all.

Then over his barren country
He transplanted shrubs from hell.
The cactus, thistle and prickly pear
The climate suited them well.

Now the home was much to his liking
But animal life, he had none.
So he created crawling creatures
That all mankind would shun.

First he made the rattlesnake
With it's forked poisonous tongue.
Taught it to strike and rattle
And how to swallow it's young.

Then he made scorpions and lizards
And the ugly old horned toad.
He placed spiders of every description
Under rocks by the side of the road.

Then he ordered the sun to shine hotter,
Hotter and hotter still.
Until even the cactus wilted
And the old horned lizard took ill.

Then he gazed on his earthly kingdom
As any creator would
He chuckled a little up his sleeve
And admitted that it was good.

'Twas summer now and Satan lay
By a prickly pear to rest.
The sweat rolled off his swarthy brow
So he took off his coat and vest.

"By Golly," he finally panted,
"I did my job too well,
I'm going back to where I came from,
Texas is hotter than Hell.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Buzz Off

Buzz Off

Hannah Reed

The whole time I was reading this book, my brain kept telling me that the title was Buzz Kill. I am not sure why that was, maybe because the story revolves around beekeeping and a murder was discovered right away and therefore – bees buzz and people die. Really, I have no idea. Sometimes even I wonder what is going on in my brain.

The cozy genre is getting a bit clogged with formulaic books, so when one comes along that stands out from the rest I am impressed. Is this a perfect book – no. But it is a series that I will make the effort to search for in the future. What is my hang-up? Bullet Points. A mystery is not a PowerPoint presentation so including bullet points is a bit off putting for me. I would also complain about Storey’s sisters’ fascination with text speak (you know that annoying language teenagers speak in on their phone), but after awhile it became endearing.

Newly divorced Story Fisher owns a small market in Morain, Wisconsin and has branched out into beekeeping with her dear friend Manny. This venture is short lived when Manny is discovered dead among his hives and it is believed that the bees have become killers. Story know that this isn’t true. How could those gentle creatures kill the man that loved them so much?

As the story unfolds, the reader is introduced to the town of Moraine and its somewhat strange inhabitants. As relationships unfold, the reader starts to pick their favorites and tries to solve this murder mystery with the few tidbits that are placed along the trail. About midway through, the culprit was easy to pick out, but Ms Reed included enough about the side characters and beekeeping to keep me continuing with the tale.

As I said, this is an enjoyable new series and I look forward to Mind Your Own Beeswax, the next in the Queen Been Mystery Series.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shelter Mountain

Shelter Mountain
Robyn Carr

I am not usually a women’s fiction reader, but occasionally a book or series will come along that just grabs me. The Virgin River series by Robyn Carr has grabbed me from the first book.

Yes, there is romance, but not the bodice ripping kind that sets my teeth on edge, just a nice meet a new person fall in love kind of romance that builds around the storyline and does not seem to jump out of nowhere catching you completely off guard.

However, like most romances, the male characters are a bit farfetched. I have never personally met a burley mountain man that melts like whipped cream in hot chocolate. Not to say that they do not exist, but that is definitely a woman’s creation.

What I do like about Robyn Carr’s books is that the end of one flows effortlessly into the next. The next story seems to take up where the previous one ended without a glitch or a feel that you need to play catch up. New characters are introduced in a subtle way that makes you wonder, “What is their story”, and low and behold, that is the path you are taken down.

Shelter Mountain begins when late one evening Preacher is closing the bar and a young mother and her child arrive scared and bruised. John “Preacher” Middleton has not had much experience with women, but he knows pain when he sees it and he knows that this young woman is in trouble and if she will let him, Paige Lassiter has found the man that will protect her from an abusive husband and a life on the run.

I like where Robyn Carr said that she doesn’t have villains, she has issues, and that is why she writes women’s fiction. She is drawn to capable female characters. That is what I like too. There are no victims in her books, there are just women that find themselves in difficult situation and they find, with the help of friends and community, a way through to the other side.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bean There, Done That

Bean There, Done That
Sandra Balzo
"Here’s a tip: if your ex-husbands mistress-cum-missus asks for your help in proving that he cheated on her while he was married to you, just say no. And, whatever you do, don’t invite her in.”
How can you resist a book that begins this way? Hum, now what would I do? Personally, I would have slammed the door, but Maggy Thorsen is just too nice of a woman. If she had only known what she was getting into, she would have slammed the door too. Maggie being Maggie, would not have done it before offering her a nice cup of coffee.

The newest Mrs. Thorsen stops by the first Mrs. Thorsen’s home wanting to borrow old calendars so she can compare notes and hotel room keys. She just know that Ted was up to no good, but when wife number two – Rachael – disappears and is later found murdered, Maggie, wife number one, is thrown right into the investigation. With a twisted tale of best friends and Brookhills Barbie’s, Maggie is trying to tie up all the loose ends of this mystery, in addition to trying to tying up a little Jake Pavlik, the local sheriff.

With this book, number three in the series, you most definitely see a new side to air headed Rachel (wife number two), who knew she was more than Ted’s dental assistant. I must have missed something in the previous books, because I didn’t see that family history coming.

I like this series, not as much as I like the Cleo Coyle series, but all in all, this is a nice cozy series with fun characters and a twist around every corner.