Thursday, December 10, 2015

Zeroes

Title: Zeroes
Authors: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti
Published: September 29th 2015 by Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover, 546 pages
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Series: Zeroes #1

Ten years ago, I found Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series and fell in love with it. Since that time, I have been on the lookout for another young adult fantasy that would give me the same feel. Unfortunately, I felt let down by Zeroes. This book does not have the same pull that his previous writing did. I did not find myself connecting with any of the characters or the plot; and found myself constantly flipping to the end wondering when this book was going to be over and yet hoping that with each chapter something would grab me.

Zeroes begins a year after Ethan (Scam) angered his fellow “superheroes” and completely broke up a group of teens that all have special abilities. Scam, for instance, has the ability to use a voice that he cannot control to talk about events that he has no previous knowledge of. This voice will just let loose and this is what had gotten him into his most recent predicament. Somehow coming up with too much information during a bank robbery has set his world spinning.

With Chizara’s (Crash) ability to decimate electronics, Nate’s (Glorious Leader) ability to charm, Riley (Flicker), though blind, can see through the eyes of others, Thibault (Anonymous) with his ability to be easily forgotten and Kelsie (Mob) who can control a crowd with just her mind.

The book, to me, seemed over the top. Not sure that it will fully play to the early teen set since the main characters are too overdone and young adults are much more sophisticated when it comes to this genre. The plot is redundant and drawn out and I am sure that the premise of teens who are trying to get away from Russian drug dealers has been done before.

Second thought, maybe this really is not about a new book series and just a premise to open the door for a movie with multiple sequels. I could see that. This book might have better appeal as a movie tie-in, but then again, that seems to have already played out. I do wish this writing team well but I cannot seem myself searching out any future books.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Girls She Left Behind

Title: The Girls She Left Behind
Author: Sarah Graves
Expected Publication: January 12, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
Genre: Suspense
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Lizzie Snow #2

I know that when it comes to prologues, some readers choose to skip that part, but when it comes to “The Girls She Left Behind”, you have to start there. This sets up the whole book and without it, the reader will be a bit in the dark as to what choices were made deeper in the book.

Cam was the bad cousin that smoked cigarettes and liked boys; Janie was the good cousin that likes to attend the knitting club in the church basement. On that fateful night, Cam convinced Janie to head out to the park for music and boys. Ariel Castro, the Ohio man who kidnapped girls and kept them imprisoned in the basement, inspired what happens next -- Sarah Graves put her spin on the story by allowing one an early escape and therefore creating a new dynamic to the story.

Janie never told anyone what happened that night, she assumed that the lump she saw on the mattress was her dead cousin and all she could think was to get out, take no one with her, just save herself. Years later, when the group of women are released from the home where they were kept, she goes into panic mode. How is she going to keep her secret hidden?

Lizzie Snow, the new sheriff deputy in Bearkill, Maine already has her hands full with a forest fire that is bearing down on her town of 1,100 people and a missing teen that has a history of running away. Tara Wylie the blonde haired blue-eyed cheerleader tends to disappear for a day or two at a time so no one is concerned - that is until her mother starts to panic and does not tell all that she knows.

Henry Gemerle, the man that has kept three girls prisoner in his basement for fifteen years has managed to escape from the forensic hospital that he was being held in and is on his way to Bearkill. He is out for revenge, the person who betrayed him is there, and he will get his vengeance.

Dylan Hudson and Trey Washburn are both making hard plays for Lizzie who is not sure that she wants to stay in Bearkill since all the leads for her missing niece Nicki are leading her nowhere. If the reader remembers, Winter at The Door (book one in this series) that is what brought Lizzie to Maine in the first place. When her sister was found murdered, her niece went missing so now every time a child or body is located that matches a very vague description, Lizzie races to find answers.

As Lizzie tries to locate Tara, the story of Cam and Janie takes over. As the town is slowly being consumed by an inferno, Lizzie finds herself rushing into this firestorm one more time. Stories are not adding up and if one more person lies to Lizzie, she is going to take everyone down. She knows that the answers are on this fiery mountain and she has to get there before all is lost.

You bounce back and forth between present and past in addition to having multiple speakers in each chapter. Several times, I found myself stopping and rereading so I could figure out who was talking. You definitely need to read this book in large chunks otherwise you will get lost.

This is a captivating series and I do hope that Sarah Graves brings us more Lizzie Snow.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dream a Little Scream

Title: Dream a Little Scream
Author: Mary Kennedy
Published: August 4th 2015 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Dream Club Mystery #2

When the climax of the story is peaking, the first thing that came to my mind was “he’s got a flip phone?” Somehow I am thinking that this is not what the author had intended for me to be thinking about; but this story had gone on for so long that I was easily distracted.

For me, it was hard to take a crime mystery seriously when it revolves around receiving clues from dreams. I know that the premise of the book is dream interpretation and since this is a cozy mystery, I went along with it. When the storyline becomes stagnant, the group is very fortunate in that someone will have a dream that will point them in the right direction. I know I should not be insulting since I am the one that chose this book and continued to read, but there has to be limits.

When Taylor Blake and her sister Ali are not running their candy shop in Savannah, Georgia, they are hosting Dream Club meetings in their apartment. When Sonia Scott, a celebrity chef, arrives in town and agrees to a book signing, Taylor and the club have their hands full when one member swears that Sonia has stolen her family’s recipes, one member holds her responsible for a family member’s career demise and Sonia herself is embroiled in an affair with a person on her own team. What the dream club had not anticipated was Sonia’s sudden death. Now the real question to the group is -- can their dreams help them to solve this crime before Taylor and Ali lose their shop.

Add in the usual side romance of the main character and cats and you have a typical cozy mystery. The location and the unique way that the mystery is solved, through dream interpretation, and a little bit of private detection, makes this series a little different than the rest. Will the premise appeal to everyone, I cannot say but it was a way to spend a couple of hours on a quiet weekend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Too Close to Home

Title: Too Close to Home
Author: Susan Lewis
Expected Publication: December 15th 2015 by Ballantine Books
Format: ebook, Paperback, 512 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine

When I began this book, I did not really care for it. No single character stood out and I found myself scanning the first quarter of it in hopes that something would grab me. I figured if I could keep the names straight that I would eventually get in a rhythm. I continually had the feeling that there was going to be more to the story. What I did not realize was that Susan Lewis was not sure what that more should be. Was it a women’s fiction novel centered on divorce and its daily discoveries or was it a young adult novel centered on bullying? Unfortunately, the two stories are somewhat interwoven with an unsatisfactory conclusion for both.

Jenna Moore and her husband Jack leave their London home when Jack loses his job and is unable to find another. He has the brilliant idea of starting his own online publishing business on the Welsh coast while Jenna is quietly in the background trying to write a follow up to a previously successful novel. Meanwhile, fifteen-year-old daughter Paige is immersed in her own battles at school. Apparently, the campus bully has decided to make Paige’s life hell and if it were not for a new anonymous online friend, things would have tumbled completely out of control.

Little did both mother and daughter realize that life would get worse before it could ever have a chance of getting better. As Jenna discovers lie upon lie falling out her husband’s mouth and Paige realizes that her new online friend may not but a friend after all, both Moore women have decisions and choices to make. With the inability of speaking to each other, both Jenna and Paige seem to be on their own course until they can emotionally make it back to their family.

I know that the author tried to give the book a nice little happily ever after bow at the end, but it did not work for me. After trying to throw everything possible into the plot, it still fell flat and I felt that the author was just as tired of writing as I was of reading.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Secrets of the Lighthouse

Title: Secrets of the Lighthouse
Author: Santa Montefiore
Published: August 5th 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Genre: Romance

Ever since I read “The French Gardner”, I have been in search of another book by Santa Montefiore that would give me the same feel. Though I enjoyed parts of “The Secrets of the Lighthouse”, there was something missing for me. Something that did not match up to the first book.

Except for the scene where Ellen threw her cell phone into the sea, you would have thought that this book had taken place in the 1800’s. What thirty-three year old woman could be forced by her mother to marry for wealth and position or what woman would have the hem of her skirt catch fire because she ran up a flight of stairs that was lined by candles? If the author would have changed the time period, I believe that the overall premise of the book would have worked.

Set on the desolate coast of Connemara in Ireland, the story is of Ellen Trawton who is running away from her life in London. Away from her controlling mother and an engagement to a man that she cannot tolerate. In a desperate move, Ellen runs to find her mother’s family, a family that her own mother had abandoned prior to Ellen’s birth.

In a way that romantic novels do, Connemara and the people soothed Ellen’s soul. That is until she meets ruggedly handsome Conor Macauslan who has a secret of his own. It was his wife, five years prior, which had caught her dress on fire and now Caitlin haunts a nearby castle (sorry, even that was too preposterous for me) and a lighthouse. Places that have fascinated Ellen since her arrival.

Told in alternating voices of both Ellen and Caitlin, the story is slowly built as to what has happened in the past and with Ellen’s burgeoning writing career, the final chapters can finally be written. Yes, that was a bit of a stretch to read.

With a Gothic feel, this romance missed the mark for me. Be it Ellen’s naiveté or the obvious family ties, this book seemed to go on forever. I can understand how some loved this book, but for me, I was disappointed that it could not live up to the previous book.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Maple and Willow Apart

Title: Maple & Willow Apart
Author and Illustrator: Lori Nichols
Published: July 21st 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Genre: Children's
Ages:3 - 5 years

I just love this series. I adore watching Maple grow up and loving her little sister Willow. This time, Maple is taking a giant step and going to big-girl school. Willow just does not know what to do with her time since home is not the same without Maple to play with.

When Maple returns from her first day with stories of her teacher and class, Willow decides that she will not be outdone and tells of her new friend Pip - where they met and what they did. This piqued Maple’s curiosity. How could her little sister have fun and a new friend without her? Willow did not intend to hurt her sister’s feeling; she just wanted to have her own adventure. In the end, she gave her sister the best gift of all. Now the two will never truly be apart.

Lori Nichols always tells such wonderful stories of love and kindness in her Maple books. The two sisters have created their own world of friendship and have created adventures with nature in their own backyard.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hallowe'en Party

Title:
Author: Agatha Christie
Published: Published 1970 by Pocket Books
Format: Paperback, 255 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Hercule Poirot #36

From time to time, I like to go back and reader older mysteries. The type of books that do not throw all of the characters or side parts at you at once. Books where there is no jumping to conclusions or where the sleuth actually takes their time to get the reader from the beginning to the end. I admit that I picked up this book because of the title and the time of year, but to be honest, other than the book beginning at a child’s party, it has nothing to do with what the tradition has turned into.

Featuring Hercule Poirot, his friend mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver has called upon him for help when a young girl at a Hallowe’en party recounts her witnessing of a murder. She claimed that at the time she did not know that it was in fact a murder and that it had only come to her later on. When this young girl, Joyce Reynolds, is later found murdered at the party, Ariadne relies on Poirot for his insight as to what could have happened.

As it turns out, thirteen-year-old Joyce has a tendency to lie. Not just a little bit, she is well known for her fibs. To Poirot’s mind, just because this young girl has a history, does not mean that there is not some truth to her story.

Calling on his friend retired Superintendent Spence, Hercule Poirot is getting a better idea of residence of Woodleigh Common and it turns out that there was an au pair named Olga Seminoff that had disappeared under suspicious circumstances and now Poirot is starting to put the puzzle pieces together.

Some claim that this is not Agatha Christie’s best work and I think to each their own. I find all of her books fascinating and enjoy them each time I pick one up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dead as a Doornail

Title: Dead as a Doornail
Author: Linda P. Kozar
Narrator: Michelle Babb
Published: May 15, 2015
Format: Audible.com
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Michelle Babb
Series: When the Fat Ladies Sing #3

I do not know if it is possible for a book to be too southern, but for me, I think that the mystery got lost somewhere in the quirks of this southern tale. From the names to the people to the odd situations, this was almost too much to handle.

Granted, I have come into this series in the middle and after having a conversation with Michelle Babb, the narrator, I agreed to take a listen. She did a wonderful job in separating the characters and making each voice their own person – which was necessary since they are all new to me. I am not sure if author Linda Kozar intentionally made this book or series an exaggeration of the south, but I went with it anyway. There is a simplicity and innocence that confused me from the beginning. What year did this book take place? I am sure that it is modern day, but at the same time, it felt like 1950. The characters are that quaintly naïve and simple.

What begins with an apparent accidental death of a contractor working on Sue Jan and Monroe’s home quickly goes downhill when Monroe is considered the prime murder suspect. Small town politics are thrown into the mix and money is missing from the high school band fundraiser. Add to that a new woman is in town and wants to open up her own beauty parlor that just might put Lovita and Sue Jan out of business. Plus troubling relatives that have moved in, complete with their own trailer, and have dug a “swimming pool” without permission.

From the outside, the town of Wachita is in a mess of trouble. Lovita has no plans for this to ruin her wedding day so with the help of Sue Jan, she sets off to set her town and her friends to right. It may involve the reinforcement of seven types of ribs from the Chinese restaurant, but that is all doable.

Once you get past the exaggerated southern-ness and quirky characters, the small town of Wachita does begin to grow on you. This is a place that takes care of their own and when you have two women that are best friends for life looking out for you, no one stands a chance of ruining their plans.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Twain's End

Title: Twain's End
Author: Lynn Cullen
Published: October 13th 2015 by Gallery Books
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Genre: Fictionalized Imagining
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books. for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Midway through this book, I did not want to continue. I did not want to see the beloved figure Mark Twain denigrated in this way. What I came to realize is that this is not about the Mark Twain that American’s know; it is it about a caricature that Samuel Clemens created and could not rid himself of. Granted, they are both the same physical person, but in temperament, they are very different. One that wants to be love and one that you will learn to despise.

Author Lynn Cullen will tell you that this is a fictionalized imagining of the personal life of Mark Twain, a man that kept a room in his home for his Angelfish. Which came across to me as something akin to Heffner’s mansion. A little club within his home for young women whom he cared about and gives them angelfish pins to show their membership. A humorist that rarely laughed and whose own daughters despised him. A man that loathed himself and everyone’s adulation only made him loath himself more.

Isabel Lyon came to the Clemons’s household as a secretary to Olivia Langdon Clemens, the sickly wife of Samuel. In time, Isabel was beguiled by Sam. She was lonely and he showed attention. This was a recipe for disaster since the more Mark Twain loved a person, the harder he was on them and in turn, they tried harder and harder to please him. Between Twain’s dying wife, his daughters and Isabel, there was a constant struggle for his affection. Someone has to lose, but in the end, it seems that they all did.

At heart, Samuel Clemmons was just a salty Mississippi steamboat pilot who became Mark Twain. A persona that he neither liked nor could live without. He was a lonely man that needed every bit of love thrown at him, but yet he could never give any back. He was volatile and with little provocation, he could become frightening. A controlling man that was not happy unless everyone loved him and only him.

At Isabel’s breaking point, Ralph Ashcroft, Twain’s business manager, began to show his affection for her. Mark Twain had no intention of marrying her when his wife died and in that time and place, it was unseemly for a single woman to be living in the home of a single man. She was a friend that was more than a friend, a secretary that was more than a secretary, but in her heart, she knew that she was nothing. It was time for her to leave and Ralph, twelve years her junior, allowed her the escape.

What neither Isabel nor Ralph knew was the extent to which the world’s beloved humorist would go to destroy them. He even went as far as writing a letter calling Isabel Lyon "a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction." He was a cruel man that was not going to let someone like Isabel ruin his story.

Mark Twain wanted to own people. He would not let suitors around his daughters and actually hated the idea of any man, other than himself, in their lives. He needed control. He was a man that was nothing but a tyrant and bully in his own home.

Lynn Cullen did a remarkable job in trying to separate the two personalities that made up the same man. At times, the book seemed long and unnecessarily drawn out. I am not sure if that was due to the subject matter or Ms. Cullen wanting to make her readers feel the same kind of entrapment that Isabel felt. There is a lot of material to their association, though rejected by the man that she loved, Isabel refused to speak publically about their relationship and his hateful turning on her. This was a deeply troubling book to read and I do hope that if you do delve in, that you take your time and do some of your own research into the central characters presented here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Agatha's First Case

Title: Agatha's First Case
Author: M. C. Beaton
Published: August 11th 2015 by Minotaur Books
Format: eBook
Genre: Short Story
Series: Agatha Raisin

Well, that was frustrating. I was settling in to read a short story that evolved around Agatha Raisin’s beginnings and just when I thought that I was going to get a full glimpse of her life before “The Quiche of Death”, when she arrived in the Cotswold’s, the story is over and I come to realize that this was just a marketing ploy to introduce the first two chapter of the book “Dishing the Dirt”.

This book begins when Agatha is twenty-six and still sensitive. Having fled the Birmingham slum where she was raised and the life of her drunken parents; she is currently employed by a horrible woman in a Mayfair public relations office. Jimmy Raisin, her first husband is out of the picture and quite by chance, Agatha stumbles onto the life changing moment that she has been hoping for.

The overall story is bumbling and choppy. Parts do not make sense, sensationalism is thrown in and conclusions are reached without enough story building. What does come across are Agatha’s dreams for the future – her own agency and a cottage in the Cotswold’s.

There are parts of the series that will never change such as Agatha’s way of “solving cases by apparently blundering about like some demented wasp” and Agatha’s way of ferreting out people’s weak spots and ruthlessly gaining inside information.

Agatha is one of those characters that you either love or hate and since I am well vested in this series, I find myself reading whatever comes out with her as a main character. I do not know what the future plans are for this series, but I do hope that M. C. Beaton steps up her game.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Touch & Go

Title: Touch & Go
Author: Lisa Gardner
Published: February 5th 2013 by Dutton
Format: Hardcover, 423 Pgs
Genre: Suspense
Series: Tessa Leoni #2

At first, I wondered why I picked up Touch & Go, book number two in the Tessa Leoni series when I did not have favorable things to say about “Love You More”. I am glad that I did. I actually loved this book. Lisa Gardner gave you a big picture and then slowly narrowed down the possible suspects in a way that reminded me of a playoff schedule. All the likely suspects are lined up and as their story is pitted against their opponent, then one is discarded. The only difference being, you do not want to be the winner. Then, as you get down to the final four, Ms. Gardner throws in a wildcard or two and the reader is bouncing back to the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s.

Justin Denbe inherited his father’s twenty-five million dollar construction company and is quickly turning it into a two-hundred million dollar premier building empire. They do not do the little stuff, they handle the large jobs like prisons and hospitals and the like. As the company grows, Justin and his wife Libby are hitting the rough years in their marriage. Their daughter Ashlyn is fifteen and everyone is just walking around each other, but their daughter is seeing everything. To the outside world the facade is working - that all ends the night that Justin and Libby return home from date night to Taser wielding home invaders who are dragging their daughter down the stairs. The family is now being held hostage, but the terms do not make sense. Where is the ransom demand?

Tessa Leoni, now a corporate investigator, has been hired by Denbe Construction and is working closely with New Hampshire officer Wyatt Foster to get to the bottom of this abduction. The parts are not coming together. Why was the whole family abducted when it is clear that Justin is the only one worth a financial payoff? This is starting to look like someone from within Denbe is behind this, but whom?

At the same time, truths are coming out about Denbe Construction and the on goings there pale in comparison to the messy lives that Justin, Libby and Ashlyn are leading. As the chapters unfold, the reader is shocked by what comes next. Not that some of it was not foreseeable, but there were definite gasp aloud moments.

Unlike other books, Lisa Gardner does not present her main characters as demi-God’s with all the right answers in the nick of time. They are just as confused and wondering as the reader is. Their light bulb moments are actually based in facts that have been presented to the reader.

Unfortunately, you will have to read book number one to understand Tessa, but just grin and bear it knowing that book number two so is worth it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No Honor Among Thieves

Title: No Honor Among Thieves
Author: J. A. Jance
Expected Publication: November 16th 2015 by Pocket Star
Format: eBook
Genre: Mystery Novella
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.
Series: Ali Reynolds #10.5
In the world of smuggling, who would have thought that you would end up with eight dead bodies all over LEGO’s, yes, those little plastic building blocks? In No Honor Among Thieves, J.A. Jance brings together two of her female characters. Joanna Brady and Ali Reynolds team up to solve the “Great LEGO Caper”.

Ali’s husband B. and his High Noon Enterprises, a security consulting company, have been hired by the toy company to track missing shipments of their famous sets. When a driver is found dead with boxes tumbling out of his truck, B. and his gang are called in to investigate which put this interesting group of women, including newest computer nerd Cami, together.

I have never read a Joanna Brady novel, but she does seem like an interesting character that I should look for. Ali will never change and always seems to have the right solution for each situation. I would love to see more of Stu in future books since his quirkiness always seems to entertain me.

This book may have moved the Brady series further along with an interesting revelation for the police chief, but for the Ali Reynolds’s series, there is nothing new here other than a brief chance to bring these two characters together.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Read it and Weep

Title: Read it and Weep
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Published: November 5th 2013 by Berkley
Format: ebook, Paperback pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #4

Oh, tell me that I am not the only one that did not see that coming. Jenn McKinlay drew a very definitive picture so it did not occur to me that she was going to change it up. Rarely am I surprised in a cozy mystery, but she had me there. I am not saying the culprit that was obvious early one, but more of a surprise near the end.

Briar Creek Community Theatre is putting on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The town’s people have auditioned for their parts and front and center in the character of Puck will be Robbie Vine, a Broadway actor and best friend of retired actress and local Violet La Rue.

Not everyone is happy with the production with one parent in particular that is completely against her son having anything to do with the play or the people involved. He has much better things going on in his life to waste it on this play. To the absent father of another local woman - who just happens to be the daughter of Violet - who has threatened Violet’s reputation to the point of hiring a critic to write bad reviews?

With no acting skills, Lindsey Norris the town’s librarian has volunteers for costuming and it is in this position that she is able to see everything that is going on. From a prop that has fallen and injured Robbie’s knee, to an stabbing that has in turn revealed a major clue, to the poisoning that has removed an actor from the production.

Add to this Sully, Lindsay’s boyfriend, has taken a step back from her life to give their relationship room that she had not asked for and in turn allows for Robbie’s very forceful wooing of her. Lindsay is in for a confusing couple of weeks.

All the usual characters from this series are here including a very interesting relationship for the sour Ms. Cole. By the end, Lindsay seems to have put all the pieces in the right order but will it be in time before another life is destroyed. On the other hand, was it just in time for a new and wonderful life to begin?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beewitched

Title: Beewitched
Author: Hannah Reed
Published: February 4th 2014 by Berkley
Format: ebook, Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Queen Bee Mystery #5

A twisty maze feel complete with witches was a perfect autumn read.

First off, thank goodness this series dropped the text speak, that was almost the series breaker for me. Now if we can get Hannah Reed to drop the bullet points, I would be a much happier reader.

Moraine, Wisconsin does not try to hide the fact that you either belong or you do not, so when “witch” Dyanna Crane moves into the neighborhood, people start their chatter. The way this town is reacting you would think that it was Salem in the sixteen hundreds. Things get a little dicer when another member of her visiting coven is murdered.

Claudene Mason has ties to Moraine, she grew up there and her estranged brother still owns the farm outside of town; since that is where her body was found in a corn maze, the town is in a twitter as to who did it. It would be so much easier to blame a member of the coven than one of Moraine’s own, but sometimes tragedy hits closer to home and since Claudene was the cause of a boy’s death years ago, this might be the perfect time for revenge.

Story Fischer owns the local market, The Wild Clove, and since it is known as a “hotbed of gossip and innuendo”, it only makes sense that she jumps into amateur detective mode to get to the bottom of this. Not only is she lying to the police chief about her involvement, she is lying to her boyfriend Hunter Wallace, the detective on the case.

With fingers pointing and stories flying, it is surprising that this book actually nailed down the culprit. The reader might wonder about this person in the beginning, but with so many other things going on the ruse was very good.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

All I Want for Christmas is Fudge

Title: All I Want for Christmas is Fudge
Author: Nancy Coco
Published: September 29th 2015 by Kensington
Format: ebook only, approx. 50 pages
Genre: Short Story; Cozy Mystery
Series: Candy Coated Mystery

Told in the perspective of Jenn Christensen, Allie McMurphy’s best friend, who has recently returned from Chicago, where she had spent a couple of months on a job only to realize that she misses her EMT beau Shane. She is back for Christmas week and while participating in the Santa Fun Run on Mackinac Island, where she stumbled across a dead body in a snow bank dressed as Santa.

Following his usual trend, police chief Rex Manning jumps to the conclusion that Jenn is responsible for the murder and has used it as a ruse to recapture Shane’s attention. Turns out that was not the case. Apparently, not only did dead Santa aka Tim Slater have a stalker, there was trouble much closer to home.

Writing a novella or short story is an art. The author must get to the point quickly without repetition and being able to tie the ending up with all the questions answered. This did not happen with "All I Want for Christmas is Fudge". The conclusion was reached with no substantiation. The sudden blurting of “I know who did it”, just does not work.

With stilted writing and downright ridiculousness – what company would change their toll free number because of a stalker, would not a new number be easily found on their website? Nancy Coco made an error in putting out this book. The series was gaining traction, but this novella was a waste.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Any Other Name

Title: Any Other Name
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: May 13th 2014 by Viking
Format: Hardcover, 319 pages
Genre: Western Fiction
Series: Walt Longmire #10

The case of three missing women and one contract on the life of Walt Longmire.

Just because Cady is due to have a baby in Philadelphia within days does not mean that Walt does not have time to help his former boss Lucian Connally solve a case. Really, how long could it take to find three missing women, discover the reasoning behind the suicide of a detective, chase bad guys into the deep snow, get tangled up in a herd of buffalo, get shot and beaten up, have conversations with dead people, race trains, bad weather and a coal chute. Really, if you have not been reading the Longmire series, you just have no idea what this man is capable of.

As Walt digs deeper, he is not sure what he is looking at. Are the women victims of a serial killer or is there something more unsavory going on. Dragging Lucian and Henry Standing Bear with him, he is determined to figure out this whole mess before he has to deal with one more panicked phone call from Cady.

The humor in this series is what keeps me coming back. Whether it is Walt’s self-deprecation or Victoria Moretti’s strong cynical stance or Henry’s “this is what it is” approach, I am entertained from beginning to end with this trio.

Walt is a brilliant man who glosses over his intelligence by making subtle comments as to how his father had a photographic memory and he got a slight touch of it. A man that leaves no stone unturned and will literally battle a blizzard to seek justice. A man that can find redeeming qualities in the most horrendous of people and at the end of the day just wants to settle down with his dog and a Rainier.

As the book ends, the reader is reminded of the escapades that were involved in a previous book “A Serpent’s Tooth” and now Walt knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that there really is a contract out on his life. Boy Howdy is this going to get messy.

As I have said in the past, the Longmire television program may have brought more recognition to this book series, but it does not hold a candle to the writing and humor that is found within the pages. If you have to pick one over the other, choose the books you will not be disappointed.*

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Murder in the Paperback Parlor

Title: Murder in the Paperback Parlor
Author: Ellery Adams
Published: August 4th 2015 by Berkley
Format: Paperback; Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Book Retreat Mystery #2

Though many of the same elements of a cozy mystery are here, Ellery Adams breaks off a bit with the inclusion of quotes from classic books and poetry. I am not going to say that others have not done this, but considering that the story takes place at Storyton, an estate that was brought over from England to Virginia one stone at a time to create a heaven on earth for bibliophiles it is the perfect addition.

Storyton has a deeper secret that is not revealed to the guests. It houses an extensive collection of books, manuscripts and unfinished documents that have been kept from the public’s eye for centuries. There is a secret guard called the Fins that are responsible to protect the Steward Family and the guardian of the library.

Jane Steward is the current guardian and in addition to that stressor, she is a single parent to twin boys and is running a hotel that caters to a very select clientele. This week, she is hosting a “Romancing the Reader” event. Envisioning a lovely, festive and harmonious times did not prepare her for the body that was found.

Apparently, romance writers can have a mean side and when they start bickering amongst themselves and threats begin with uncovering a charlatan, Jane is working double time to keep the event on track. Then when a writer introduces a new book with a character that is offensive to some, there is no telling who exactly is responsible for the death.

There are many subplots in the book and that keeps the reader bouncing along. Some are interesting but when you begin to put all the fragments together, it is obvious early on what direction Ellery Adams is going but that is okay since there is enough side adventures to the reader engaged.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dead Wake

Title: Dead Wake
Author: Erik Larson
Published: March 10th 2015 by Crown
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 430
Genre: History, Non-Fiction

Dead Wake “a maritime term that describes the fading disturbance that lingers on the surface of a body of water long after a vessel (or torpedo) has passed.”

What started out as a very boring history lesson turned real once the R.M.S. Lusitania was hit by a torpedo. The people became real. The horrifying situation for those onboard became a twisted nightmare. Lies are told and history will forever have multiple tellings of this story. Fingers may be pointed but in the end, you have to remember that nearly 1,200 people died.

On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was traveling from New York to Liverpool when it encountered the German Submarine U-20. What is at question is if the submarine commander Walther Schwieger knew it was the passenger ship Lusitania. What he did know, was that a ship of this size was going to make the largest strike of his career. This would definitely put his tonnage numbers over the top. The post investigation said that two torpedoes hit the ship; Schwieger claims that it was only one. What is not in question is that there was a secondary explosion that caused the ship to list. What exactly was the Lusitania carrying? At the time, it was known that some passenger liners were conveying munitions, but to what degree has always been in question - but for a four-funnel, 787-foot superliner to sink in 18 minutes, is it possible that there was more in the cargo hold than was previous stated in the ships manifest.

Conspiracy theories still cling to this ship. What was the ship carrying that might have caused the secondary explosion? Why was there no escort when the area was known to have hostile factors? Most importantly, what did Churchill know? Was the sinking of the ship just a ruse to get the United States into the war? If so, it worked, two years after the sinking of the ocean liner full of innocent civilians, America finally entered the First World War.

There was a tremendous amount of research put into this book. There are certain parts that are as dry as a textbook, but then interspersed are the stories of the people. I do not feel that Erik Larson imparted too much of his own personal beliefs. He does not go off on diatribes of the “could haves” and trying to explain the unexplainable. He delivers facts. There is no proof of the ammunition, and the secondary explosion just might have been the result of the main steam line being ruptured from the torpedo that had torn a 40’ by 15’ hole in the side of the steam liner.

The title is two-fold. Not only does it describe what lingers on the surface of water after a vessel passes, it also describes what is left in the historical wake of the R.M.S. Lusitania disaster.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dishing the Dirt

Title: Dishing the Dirt
Author: M. C. Beaton
Published: September 15th 2015 by Minotaur Books
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Agatha Raisin #26

Scattered. I think that is the best word to describe this book. The Agatha Raisin series has been going downhill for years, so I take each one for what they are. I have been invested in these characters for years and I cannot look away when a new one comes out.

The Agatha Raisin books are very easy reads considering M. C. Beaton has a habit of doing a mid-book recap. Dishing the Dirt begins with the murder of a therapist that has a history of being a hooker when she lived in Chicago. Still not sure why that was even mentioned since the idea was not fully developed into anything other than maybe her past had caught up with her; personally, I believe it was thrown in for some sort of shock value. The people in Carsely went to her for counseling even though no one could actually prove that she was qualified, they just needed someone who would listen. A man is snooping around and is murdered. So is another. Listening devices are found in Agatha’s cottage. Then another woman is murdered. Wolfsbane is suspected. Yada, Yada, Yada. Turns out the real killer was even more diabolical than Agatha realized.

Curious that in this book, both James and Charles see Agatha in a new light. At one point, the reader wonders if James could change his mind about having divorced Agatha, but that all blows up in a little squabble. Then you have Charles wondering how he could ever live without Agatha. Very odd and very curious indeed. All the while, Agatha is blindly obsessed with one character as the murderer but many names are bandied about and until the reader reaches the end, you had no idea as to which characters you needed to pay attention to. Bumbling. Almost to the point where it felt as if the author was just making it up as she went with no clear path.

The books ends quite abruptly and then the reader is thrown into an epilog that actually ends the book properly. Properly that is for Agatha Raisin, meaning that there is dangling intrigue that involves a new man. A man that Mrs. Bloxby is quite taken with and Agatha cannot quite stop herself from chasing after.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pumpkin Pied

Title: Pumpkin Pied
Author: Karen MacInerney
Published: September 30th 2015
Format: ebook; Kindle Edition, Pgs 29
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: A Gray Whale Inn Short Story

A short story that adds the perfect feel for the beginning of the fall season.

Usually I complain about half books, but since this is not technically in that category, I can just go with the flow of starting a simple short story to kick-start the autumn season. Pumpkin Pied is not intended to move the series forward or to fill in any story gaps. It is just a quick snippet to settle into with a cup of coffee and a throw blanket.

It is fall festival time on Cranberry Island and with no guests at the Gray Whale Inn Natalie Barnes is free to participate in the island’s activities this year. Unfortunately, there is some shenanigans going on with the giant pumpkin competition, stories of a local ghost and now someone has splashed the corn maze with blood and has left a pig’s heart in full view. Then things take an awful turn when there is a fire and the old feelings of the land being cursed arise again.

To top it off, the field where the activities are held belongs to a home that will soon be placed on the market and the community of Cranberry Island may soon lose this gem and the festival that goes with it. That is unless a way can be found around the sale of the property to an outsider.

As Natalie said, “Who knew that harvest festivals could be so full of drama”.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Truth According to Us

Title: The Truth According to Us
Author: Annie Barrows
Published: June 9th 2015 by Random House
Format: ebook; Hardcover, 486 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

You might have second thoughts as you begin, but I recommend that you stick with this long and meandering book. The characters take on a life of their own the deeper you delve in and when their story is over, you will miss them deeply.

Taking place in the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia during the late 1930’s, the reader is introduced to the Romeyn family. Told mostly through the eyes of young Willa and her aunt Jottie Romeyn, you see a family that loves deeply but yet there is tragedy that they must face.

What brings it all to the forefront is Layla Beck, the daughter of a U.S. Senator who has been banished from her family when she turned down a marriage proposal that her father thought was ideal for her. Layla had other ideas and now has to face the cold cruel world without her family’s money or influence.

During the depression, the Federal Writers’ Project created jobs that would help bring the realities of the time to the rest of America. Layla, now ensconced in the Romeyn’s home is to write the town’s history for their upcoming sesquicentennial.

Sparks fly when Layla moves into the Romeyns’ home, she sees first-hand this town’s many eccentricities and has to carefully balance each story’s truth. Having to battle both its people and her own family back home, Layla is determined to succeed. With her digging, old wounds are revealed and both Jottie and Willa will be the ones that suffer the most.

Like most families, there are secrets and tragedies. Felix Romeyn, the single father of Willa and Bird, is a gone a lot, though that does not mean that he cannot manipulate from afar. He loves his daughters, and they love him desperately, but there is more to his story.

Twelve-year-old Willa Romeyn, with her feisty spirit and indomitable curiosity, is very reminiscent of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. She loves her life, but when the realities can no longer be ignored, she must fight with everything she has to keep her family together. This will have a lasting effect and to see her spark of ferocity and devotion leave her will bring the reader to tears.

Jottie Romeyn is Felix’s sister. Eighteen years ago, she lost the love of her life and since that time, she has shut herself off. Her whole world now revolves around taking care of her nieces. When the past is finally exposed, decisions have to be made. Can she forgive? Does she have a choice? If there is a choice, will she make it?

The time and the place of this book is as much a character as any one living human being. Each person had a role to play and it is up to each character to perform their assigned part or to break from their character and live another life that was being offered. Not everyone is that strong. Not everyone is able to give up their comfort and challenge the future. When it comes to family, can you separate loyalty and the truth? Sometimes you have to make you own truth and make the best of what is left.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Serpent's Tooth

Title: A Serpent's Tooth
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: June 4th 2013 by Viking
Format: Hardcover, 335 pages
Genre: Police Procedural
Series: Walt Longmire #9

Granted, from time to time Craig Johnson takes a windy route to tell a story and A Serpent’s Tooth is no different. What begins with a Mormon “lost boy” arriving in Absaroka County looking for his mother ends with an illegal oilrig going up in flames and bullets and knives flying.

You also have to throw in a man that claims to be a 200-years-old that has quite a unique story and who seems to show up at the most interesting moments. All the while, Walt and his regulars are dealing with a polygamous compound that is hiding secrets and a few bodies. Oh, but we are not done yet – it appears that the CIA is involved because someone in this ragtag group was once an agent who seems, as a defense mechanism, to have forgotten who he really is. Confused yet?

You can just feel the author’s mind turning as he is trying to meld the different parts of this story. Bring in a “lost boy”, add a little conspiracy, a dash of frontier justice, a smattering of backward thinking, a whole mess of cover-up, then spice it up with attitude and just as you think it is finished, throw in a twist that brings Walt Longmire to his knees.

I enjoy the books so much more than the television series. When it comes to a Walt Longmire book, there are multiple layers. The people, the places, the situations and most importantly the humor that gets the sheriffs of Absaroka County through the most harrowing of situations. I once read that Craig Johnson has more book ideas then time, so I know that I will be inglook forward to whatever it is that he has planned for this group.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Place We Knew Well

Title: A Place We Knew Well
Author: Susan Carol McCarthy
Expected Publication: September 29th 2015
Format: ebook; Hardcover, 272 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Intense and poignant, melding fact and fiction, leaving the reader with an ache and a tremendous feeling of loss. Sarah Avery’s life did not work out the way that she had planned. She was going to study opera and have a life. She had grace and the voice of Lauren Bacall. That all changed when her sister Kitty became pregnant, Sarah had to forget her dreams. As their mother said, someone had to become the sacrificial lamb. Sarah is now married to Wes Avery, a Georgia farm boy who after returning from the war owns a gas station in Orlando, not too far from the McCoy Air Force Base.

The old anxiety and depressive fears are returning to Sarah. A Place We Knew Well is taking place during the Thirteen Days in October when the Cuban Missile Crisis is looming heavy over the nation. Sarah is already fragile with the impending doom and alcohol and Nembutal are no longer taking the edge off.

As the missile crisis is gearing up and ¬¬Kitty reentered their lives, though they had been told that she had died years before, the Avery family is spinning out of control. There is one part of their daughter Charlotte’s life that has been kept a family secret and that is about to be revealed. The Avery family cannot withstand any more devastation but that seems to be where they are headed. The older seventeen-year-old Charlotte gets the more independent she is, the more potential for disaster Sarah sees and she cannot allow this to happen.

As Wes tries to keep a firm grip on his family, he sees that everything is slowly running through his fingers. As he goes through the normal motions of everyday life, he knows that nothing will ever be the same. Feeling hollow and helpless against the slow steady drip of rising dread, Wes takes on each new disaster until there is no more strength within him. He realizes that he can no longer help his wife and if he does not make the right choices, he too will lose his daughter Charlotte.

This is a sad book, a book that is surrounded by the death of hope. Sarah has to grieve the death of a dream. Wes has to mourn the simple sweet life that they had – how could he have not seen what was coming? Charlotte, the one innocent in this whole story, has to mourn the mother that she loves but at the same time, never knew. Each having to face what hurts more, the truth or the lie.

How do you grieve a dream? The person that you thought you were, the life you thought you had. Try to figure out where you came up with the idea that you could dream, plan, buy, or will into existence a life without suffering. The answer – in any way you must.

For Charlotte and Wes, the world was saved but their family was lost. As I said, this is a sad and heartbreaking book.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Hidden Secret

Title: A Hidden Secret
Author: Linda Castillo
Published: June 2nd 2015 by Minotaur Books
Format: Kindle Edition, 74 pages
Genre: Short Story / Fiction
Series: Kate Burkholder 6.5

A short story that falls after “The Dead Will Tell” and before “After the Storm” tells the story of an hours old infant abandoned on the doorstep of the Amish Bishop of Painters Mill, Ohio.

Knowing the implications, Police Chief Kate Burkholder is called in and within days, the whole story is revealed. A sad tale of young love. A story of hope. An inevitable ending that brings peace to a family that has been hurting for their own lost child.

Short stories are not for everyone. Rarely do they move a series along, but sometimes they are just what you need. A filler before you take on another book that will lead you in a different direction from the last book that you had read. I love Linda Castillo’s writing. She gets to the heart of the story without all the fluff that other writers feel that their audience needs.

If you have not had a chance to reader the Kate Burkholder series, please start with “Sworn to Silence” and you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Casual Vacancy


Michael Gambon .... Howard Mollison Julia McKenzie .... Shirley Mollison Abigail Lawrie .... Krystal Weedon

I gave up reading the book about a third of the way through. With 25-ish characters, I had a hard time keeping everyone straight. Knowing that I needed more of a visual approach, I switched over to the video. Granted, keeping the characters straight was easier, but still, the overall story was not that entertaining.

Pagford is a village in turmoil since the push to move the lower classes out and a high-class spa in. The village council is divided, but when Barry Fairbrother dies and his seat on the council becomes available through a casual vacancy chaos ensues. To complicate matters further, the town explodes when videos and gossipy blog postings run rampant exposing what the members of the council would like to keep hidden.

Multiple stories abound with the town’s people fighting amongst themselves, children battling their parents and at the same time, central character Krystal is trying to save her mother. Add in strong women trying to man-up their husbands and a second stage has been set with nothing is as it seems in this idyllic village.

Abigail Lawrie is a fantastic actress and to be honest she is the only reason that I continued with the second and third episode. She carries the whole series with her honesty and vulnerability. Julia McKenzie is a deliciously evil mother-in-law with her snide comments and pixie smile. Then there is Michael Gambon, how could you not love his pretentious character; he is what drives most people to do the most awful things.

Based on a 500+ page book, I am sure that much was left out of the series, but what was included showed a very sharp picture of how things are never what they appear. Not a miniseries that I would recommend, but if you do chance watching, do it for Abigail Lawrie alone. She is the one shinning things in this adaptation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Circling the Sun

Title: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Published: July 28th 2015 by Ballantine Books
Format: eBook; Hardcover, 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Random House - Ballantine for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Years ago, I read West with the Night by Beryl Markham and the feel of it has always stuck with me. I could not quote specific parts of the book just that it was a remarkable read and both the feel and the woman have stayed with me.

After bringing Ernest and Hadley Hemingway to life in The Paris Wife, I could not wait to see what Paula McLain could do with Beryl. A woman most notably known as the first woman to fly a solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic from east to west in 1936. There is so much more to this woman. Beginning with the fact that her mother abandoned her when she was just four years old only to return sixteen years later assuming that her daughter would take care of her and ending in her final years in her beloved Kenya.

Growing up an ex-pat in colonial Kenya in the early 1900’s on her father’s horse farm in the Rift Valley, 100 miles north of Nairobi, taught Beryl about the people and the place that she would always call home. It taught her courage and strength and to know that she was her own person. She never limited herself by thinking that a woman could not do something; she just had to find her own way and prove that it could be done and that she was the best choice. Whether that be the first certified female horse trainer at the age of 18 in Africa or a record breaking aviatrix – she was a feminist before the word was even invented.

There was a rivalry with Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen, the author of Out of Africa, when it came to Denys Finch Hatton. The ex-pat community was small and insular so affairs and rumors were part of everyday life. Unfortunately for Beryl, people were more interested in her personal life than her public accomplishments. There were husbands, there were affairs, but that should never undermine her achievements as an individual.

Beryl Markham never fit into the world that was designed for the women of her time. She was too determined and too unwilling to be held back by the limitations of her class or gender. She was a fascinating woman growing up in a fascination time that she was determined to make all her own. Paula McClain brought Beryl alive a second time for me showing once again the courage a woman can have when the other options do not feel right.

Friday, September 4, 2015

One Pot, One Bowl

Title: 4 Ingredients One Pot, One Bowl: Rediscover the Wonders of Simple, Home-Cooked Meals
Author: Kim McCosker
Published: February 12th 2013 by Atria Books
Format: Paperback, 208 pages
Genre: Cookbook

I admit I was curious as to how four ingredients could create a simple main course that would be palatable. Not that I am a food snob, but I like to cook and rarely do I find simple recipes that pack enough flavor.

Kim McCosker reinvents easy main courses, but for me, they are lacking in flavor depth. Granted, the beginning of the book states that salt and pepper are not included in the four ingredients, but then again rarely are there any other seasonings listed. You will have to dress up each according to your personal likes. For instance, her version of Sloppy Joes includes ground beef, onion, bell pepper and ketchup. That is it. For me, even with salt and pepper, there is no flavor.

I would consider the recipes here as a starting point. There are some very good ideas and the pictures really give you a feel of how they should look, but it will be up to you, as an individual, as to where you want to take them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Curious Beginning

Title: A Curious Beginning
Author: DeAnna Raybourn
Published: September 1st 2015 by NAL/Penguin
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery / Romance
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1

Is it possible to be in love with a character after just one chapter?

Veronica Speedwell is attending to the funeral of Nell Harbottle, a woman that was not her aunt though that was a title that she had claimed for herself out of convenience. Both Nell and her sister Lucy had taken in Veronica and reared her though she was a foundling, orphaned and illegitimate. The small family moved a great deal when the gossip became too much and if it were not for the kind and loving nature of Lucy, now deceased, Veronica would have been the victim of the resentment that Nell had felt at the exclusion from the Christian folks that she had so longed to be a part of.

Veronica’s wit is biting and a bit crass for the time, but I am completely entertained by her. She never intends to shock anyone, it simply happens. She speaks her mind and lets the cards fall where they may and from the looks of it, it is a habit that she does not tend to curb.

For a woman of her time, she is direct and determined to be a mistress of her own fate. Being an obstinate and willful child has prepared her for her future – lepidoptery and her next butterfly expedition where she has found that men can be just as interesting as moths. Making it a rule that she never got involved with English men, foreign trophies were collected and quickly forgotten once she returned to England.

Baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach comes to Veronica’s aid and in doing so, she has embarked on the single most significant decision of her entire life. She is a woman in search of an adventure. Little did she know that this adventure would culminate in death and finding out her true heritage.

With Max now unable to continue helping, she has been placed in the care of Stoker (Revelstoke Templeton-Vane) a man with his own troubled past. They are quite a partnership – when one sees the forest the other studies the trees. This does not mean that they are constantly battling. There will always be a feisty discussion and a battle of wits, there is a strange connection that is not yet finished.

The first book in a continuing series will have you wanting to read more. From the main characters on down, they are well drawn and quite colorful. You will find yourself laughing at the banter and at a point or two gasping. This is the first book that I have ready by Deanna Raybourn and I am so glad that she has created a world that I look forward to returning to.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Death Under Glass

Title: Death Under Glass
Author: Jennifer McAndrews
Published: July 7th 2015 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Stained Glass Mysteries #2

Unless the reader is completely daft, they do not need the author to excessively describe the situation or to overdraw the picture, or to even repeat the situation to you. This book was superficial and did not add to the first book or make it a series that a reader would run to.

The title had absolutely nothing to do with the storyline. Other than the fact that Georgia Kelly creates stained glass art in her apparent spare time. This is a story about a town, Wenwood, New York, in flux since a new building project on the marina could mean big changes for their small town. A law office that has been torched, the ex-wife of one of the law partners having her own antique shop rifled through, another law partner murdered and an old photo album that holds a secret – pretty much that is the book. Add in the requisite heroine with curly hair, her cat and the two men that are suddenly smitten and you have your typical cozy mystery.

I enjoy series books, I enjoy cozy mysteries, but this book is just not very good. Add depth, add multiple storylines that will have the reader bouncing back and forth – just add something that will alleviate the flatness and monotony.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat

Title: Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?: True Stories and Confessions
Author: Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella
Published: July 7th 2015 by St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Essays

In their last collection of essays, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, Francesca Serritella the daughter part of this mother daughter writing team was droning on and on about her boyfriend. Jump to this book and the droning continues but with a slight variation. My ex-boyfriend, my ex-boyfriend, my ex-boyfriend – we get it Francesca, relationships are difficult and though you are in your late 20’s you are still sounding like a 12-year-old junior high school girl. Time to move on.

I do not mean to totally dis this book, because there are several touching and laugh aloud parts. It is just that each time a Francesca story would come up, the reader knew that there was more than a 50-50 chance it would involve the ex.

The writing team did address the recent death of Lisa’s mother – Mother Mary. It was sweet and loving and you could feel the admiration and respect that was felt for this remarkable woman.

I am not sure where the title came from. There was a story of the joys of the correct Scottoline foods to bring to the “shore”, but other than that, I would say that the title might be just an eye grabber since this really is the perfect book for your summer vacation. Quick easy memoirs that have you connecting them to your own life and your own relationships with your adult children.

I liked how Lisa ended this book. To me, she sounded as if she had a new understanding of life. She was somehow at peace and she knew where this next part of her journey is going to take her. She will still have dog problems and house problems and life problems, but she sounds more readily able to handle them. Good for you Lisa – I look forward to reading where you are going.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book, Line and Sinker

Title: Book, Line and Sinker
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Published: Published December 4th 2012 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 292 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #3

When I finished this book, my only thought was – now there is a book with inconsistent writing. Parts come across as very amateurish and then a couple of chapters later, the writing has tightened up and the story flows then only to fall back to sloppy again.

Lindsay Norris, the head library in Briar Creek, Connecticut has her hands full with a coworker that she refers to as the Lemon, Milton the Yogi, and her new lover Sully. Though she is not ready to make any declaration of love, she is moving that way until her ex-boyfriend, John Mayhew, shows up in town and rumors of Captain Kidd’s treasure map being discovered set everyone in a frenzy.

With a salvage company chomping at the bit to start their exploration, things get a bit messy when Trudi Hargrave starts forcing her way into the project and wanting to open Pirate Island, a treasuring hunting park that will bring tourists to the area and put a couple of dollars into her own pocket. Unfortunately, the discovered map shows that it is really Ruby Island, another one of the Thumb Islands, which was the location of the mass murder of the Ruby family several decades before. It appears that the island has not yet claimed its final victim when Trudi’s body is discovered at the bottom of a shaft.

Sometimes you have to trust the universe to take care of things, but then again, in cozy mysteries, it is usually the amateur sleuth that has outwitted the local police and everyone else to come up with the exact strategy to foil the criminal and right all the wrongs in the world.

There are odd little dangling parts of the storyline. Characters introduced but seem to go nowhere – Herb being injured at city hall trying to foil a break in but yet he is never seen again and when Lindsay had the opportunity to ask him who had pushed him, she does not.

Maybe I had missed it, but did the ultimate culprit actually kill Trudi? When asked he laughed if off, much like the reader does since there is no plausible explanation.

What was the point of the explosion on the island and the ultimate fire that almost destroyed everything?

Most of this book does not make sense. I am not sure what Jenn McKinley was after, but insulting her readers should not be part of it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Guest Cottage

Title: The Guest Cottage
Author: Nancy Thayer
Published: May 12th 2015 by Ballantine Books
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Romance

Not sure if this book could be any more boring, drawn out or redundant. I understand that when it comes to certain authors and certain genres that the reader has to suspend belief, but Nancy Thayer has taken that to a completely new level.

Picture if you will, a thirty-six year old woman with two children that has been in a loveless marriage for years, who just happens to rent the same cottage for the same summer as a recently widowed man with a troubled young son. Of course, they are both attractive but yet the woman could not possibly be interested in a thirty-year-old man because he is so young. Really? A six year difference and that is her first concern.

Doing the obvious dance around each other and making up excuses to be apart and yet doing everything within their power to make the other jealous, they inevitable fall into bed together with only days left on their vacation while of course having to sneak since they do not want the kids to know or heaven forbid her mother finding out. Geez.

I love a little mindless summer reading but this book was awful. Nancy Thayer kept throwing in people and situations that were supposed to add depth to the story but only it made it more ridiculous. I see that she is a well-liked author, but this book did not do anything for me and to be quite honest, I have no desire to check out anymore by her.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Title: Go Set a Watchman
Author: Harper Lee
Published: July 14th 2015 by HarperCollins)
Format: Hardcover, 278 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

I do not have a connection with To Kill a Mockingbird that others have. I do not remember reading it in school during a time when such things make a lasting impression. I vaguely remember parts but could not tell you if it was from the book or from the movie.

Without having an emotional tie with the classic book, I went into Go Set a Watchman with open eyes and a deep curiosity as to how a book could be so derisive. What I was greeted with was a woman that had a strong up-bringing, a curiosity for life, a life altering moment in her younger years, a handful of decisions to make and in the blink of an eye, the realization that the man that she thought she knew was a stranger to her.

There is nothing more earth shattering then when a woman learns that her father is not the man that she thought he was. Though it was not under the same circumstances, I could relate to Jean Louise “Scout” Finch at this exact moment. The moment when you world crashes and you begin to questions your whole life.

Flashing back to her past, Scout reminisces about her growing up and the times and situations that helped her to be who she is. As she states, she was blessed to be color-blind, so the realities that she must face when she returns to Maycomb County are harsh. Henry, her almost fiancé, tries to explain how you have to be in the middle of something, no matter how horrible it is, to see it from all parts and change it from within, but Scout is having no part of that. With Jem now gone, she is confused. Calpurnia and even her Uncle Jack have tried, but when times change, there is no going back.

I love southern humor. There are long drawn out parts of this book, but the humor is what kept me focused. Not to say that this is a funny book, the subject is very serious, but the south has a way of telling a story and peppering it with humor. Your heart breaks for Jean Louise, she has been gone a long time and home tends to change when you are not there. Home can even change when you are sitting at your father’s knee, but we cannot always see it when we are living it.

As others have said, this book is not To Kill a Mockingbird; it takes place almost twenty years later. The people are the same, but the time is different. I cannot say if it is better, but to me, it is lasting. The heartbreak is palpable. The frustrations are real. The realization that everything is bearable when you become your own person bounces off the pages.

Scout had to become a separate entity from her father. He was her God and when he descended to human level, her world was rocked. It was time for her to return to Maycomb, she was on the cusp of maturity and humbleness of mind. As the tide was turning, she now had to run to meet it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Plain Choice

Title: The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live an Amish Life
Author: Sherry Gore
Expected Publication: August 25th 2015 by Zondervan
Format: Paperback, 224 pages
Genre: Memoir
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Zondervan for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Halfway through this book and I was ready to put it down. For some reason, I thought that this was a book that chronicled a woman “living an Amish life”, not a woman that was essentially playing dress up. A woman that would choose the aspects of a simple life with what would work for her. There are moments of hypocrisy where she would throw out her children’s toys because they ran on batteries and made obnoxious noises that were contrary to her Christian values, but she saw no problem with her ownership of a computer.

Sherry Gore was a lonely girl with low self-esteem that could never find her place. Always running, always traveling to someplace else for some different reason and dragging her children with her in hopes of finding, or copying what she saw in other, to yet another place where they could all fit in. Reading this book reminded me of parallel play – where one child sees what another is doing and then modify their play accordingly. Sherry saw what was making a community work and decided to duplicate it but never fully being a part.

Anabaptists – Mennonites – Amish to me the terms were used so interchangeably for Plain People that I think that I am confused as to what each has to offer. Yet, Ms. Gore did seem to find the right place for her. After leaving Sarasota, Florida for many years in her religious journey, and subjecting her children to barebones living, and horrendous situation she discovered that Pinecraft was her true home and chose to return to the place that would care for her and her children. That would finally give them all the stability and a sense of belonging that was missing for most of her life. As she herself said, sometimes I wonder if it was a life or just survival.

Though a short book, there were many points in which I wanted to quit. I understand that she had a devastating upbringing when her father chose the new family that he created over her. I understand a young girl’s heartbreak when a mother makes it obvious that you are in the way. I can even understand the guilt when a sibling dies. What I cannot get over is the excessive dramatization throughout the book including that of Sherry’s baptism and reawakening with the understanding of God’s plan. That one just had me rolling my eyes.

Each person will come away from this book with a different opinion. I wished that it had been better written. Less soppy and woe is me. More along my original belief from the synopsis of how to live a Plain life and how to come to terms with biblical writing not just the parts of Plain that work for her. The summation states that “she becomes one of the few people on earth to have successfully joined the Amish from the outside.” By the end of the book, I did not get that feeling. I felt that the community may have accepted her being there, but I do not recall reading that she was baptized into the Mennonite-Amish community. So I am now wondering what the true point of this book was. Was it to give the readers of her inspirational romance books or recipe books more background on this author? Guess that this is something that I will not be able to figure out.