Saturday, April 23, 2011

And Finally...Brava, Valentine

I have one more book for you today:  Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani.  We were on vacation last week, and this is the perfect beach read.  It's not too deep but still very engaging, and Adriana describes places so well that you want to plan your next vacation while still on your current vacation.  In the case of this book, that would be Argentina.  I want to go now.  But back to Brava, Valentine.

Valentine Roncalli makes custom wedding shoes for her family's business, the Angelini Shoe Company.  Okay, she's got me right there.  Just the descriptions of the shoes is enough to keep on reading.  Throw in a crazy family and a VERY handsome Italian leather tanner and life in the beach chair gets pretty good.  Then she goes to Argentina to meet a cousin she never knew she had.  Family feuds and secrets anyone?  It sounds like a normal Italian family to me!

Brava, Valentine is the second book in a three part series by Adriana Trigiani.  The first is Very Valentine, and the third will be Ciao, Valentine.  See you at the beach!

Calling All fans of Jane Austen! (Or Not)

I can't say that I am a huge fan of Jane Austen.  I appreciate the stories, but I don't rush to her when looking for a book to read.  However, I DO love her characters, and I loved what Cathleen Schine did with The Three Weissmanns of Westport.

What does this book have to do with Jane Austen? A little tongue in cheek, Schine sets three women into an Austenian situation and the story unfolds from there.  Betty's husband of 48 years is leaving her for another, younger, woman.  Impulsive daughter Miranda has just lost everything she worked for in a huge literary scandal.  Responsible daughter Annie tries to rescue everyone as they all move into rich Cousin Lou's rundown beach cottage in Westport, CT.  Scheming gold diggers, handsome out-of-work actors, adorable 2 year old boys and other hangers-on populate the pages of this story.  My favorite is Cousin Lou's 98 year old father-in-law, Mr. Shpuntov.  He will make you laugh out loud!! (I do laugh when I read.  People think I'm nuts.)

The Three Weissmanns of Westport is funny, frivolous and touching, and I loved it!  I hope you'll give it a try.

Sherlock Holmes Lives!

I've found a new mystery series!  Yeah!!  The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson spoke to me from the book shelf at Barnes and Noble.  "Buy me, please," it said. Well, mostly I loved the cover, and it seemed to have an interesting story line, so I did, and I'm glad!

Reggie Heath is a lawyer who has moved his practice to 221b Baker Street in London.  That is a rather famous address because of a rather famous fictional character.  But what if people send letters to that character at that address asking for his help?  And what if it is a provision of the lease that the tenant answer those letters? The fun starts when Reggie's somewhat impulsive brother acts upon one of those letters, and they are both wrapped up in a murder and mayhem in faraway Los Angeles.  The story is set in 1997, just far enough in the past to make things even more interesting.

Michael Robertson's second book in the series is The Brothers of Baker Street.  I'm going to Amazon right now and order it.  It's elementary!

Maisie Dobbs

Life has gotten in the way of my blog!  I haven't stopped reading, I'm just behind in the blogging.  I will try to rectify that situation starting now.

Jacqueline Winspear has just published the 8th book in her fantastic Maisie Dobbs series.  I love and admire Maisie, as much as it is possible for one to love and admire a fictional character.  Maisie is a private detective/psychologist living in London in the early 30's.  She was a student at Cambridge when she left to serve as a nurse in WWI.  She is brilliant and independent and is surrounded by fascinating characters.  And Jacqueline describes depression-era London so well it's as if she had lived it!  In fact, the author grew up in a small English village that hadn't really entered the 20th Century, not to mention the 21st, and then she came to California where she has lived for many years.  I went to see her at Warwick's Books in La Jolla when her 7th book came out, and she explained that her background in an old-fashioned village and her life in Ojai  has really helped her write about Maisie's England, because she never really lived in modern England.  (If you have a chance, go to one of her book signings.  She is very interesting and very easy to talk to!)  Anyway, if you haven't read these books, start NOW!  And read them in order, because each builds upon the last.  Here is the list:

Maisie Dobbs
Birds of a Feather
Pardonable Lies
Messenger of Truth
An Incomplete Revenge
Among the Mad
The Mapping of Love and Death

And the new one is just read:
A Lesson in Secrets

The mystery and the history make a great combo!

Mary Kay

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, and now A Red Herring Without Mustard are three of my favorite books.  They are all written by Alan Bradley, who is now one of my favorite authors.  Why, you may be asking, is he so special?  What does he have that the thousands of authors out there do not?  Well, I will tell you:  Flavia de Luce.

Flavia de Luce is our protagonist.  She is 11 years old.  She is a brilliant chemist. (For real!) Her best friend is a bicycle named Gladys.  Flavia lives with her stamp collecting father and two older sisters at Buckshaw, the family's ancestral estate, a place that has definitely seen better days, as have their family dynamics.   Much to the dismay of the Bishop's Lacey police, Flavia uses all of her considerable intelligence to meddle, uh, help with their investigations.  Her age is her advantage, as most people don't consider an 11 year old girl a threat.  Boy, are they wrong!

SO, if you like a good mystery and a GREAT detective, give Alan Bradley's books a try.  Flavia and her family are slightly off kilter, but aren't we all, just a little?  Therein lies their charm...

"...a cup of ale without a wench, why, alas, 'tis like an egg without salt or a red herring without mustard."
Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene  A Looking Glasse, for London and Englande (1592)

Life without Flavia would indeed be like an egg without salt!  I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.

Mary Kay