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.