Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Baker's Dozen...and Done

It's been four years of fun, but for now I'm done! (At least for now!) But before I go, here are some sweet picks for you:

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah is a new murder mystery featuring Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. Love Agatha Christie, love Poirot, loved this book!

Jan Karon's Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is her latest addition to the Mitford Series. The Mitford Series and Fr. Tim rock, but I think the writing itself is getting a little disjointed. Wait for the paperback, or Kindle it.

One of my favorite authors, Louise Penny does not disappoint in The Long Way Home. Chief Inspector Gamache is fascinating as always, and this investigation into the far reaches of Canada takes the reader to a place filled with incredible beauty and skin-crawling creepiness. Terrific!

Sunshine on Scotland Street is the latest in probably my favorite series by Alexander McCall Smith. Everyone who lives in or around 44 Scotland Street is a character, but I am definitely a fan of adorable, put-upon, mother-smothered Bertie. Don't worry, Bertie! Things seem to be looking up. Read and find out how.

Carl Hiaasen is known for his riotous adult books featuring crazy Floridians, but Skink No Surrender is his first book for teens. That's not to say adults won't like it. I did! To read him is to love him.

Another funny man: Dave Barry.  Dave Barry Slept Here is vintage Dave Barry. I like Dave Barry. I vote for Dave Barry for president of everything.

On a more serious note, if you liked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, you will love Songs of Willow Frost. Sweet and heartbreaking but totally worth a read.

And now for some serious escapism in the form of Nora Roberts. The Cousin O'Dwyer Trilogy of Dark Witch, Shadow Spell and Blood Magic. Includes Irish castles, spooky woods, horses, dogs, falcons and hot witches of the male AND female variety. Nothing else required.

The Apothecary and The Apprentices by Maile Meloy. Books one and two of a new series aimed at younger readers, but again for anyone who likes a good story. Takes place in the 50's and brings back memories of bomb drills, black lists and commie paranoia. Not to worry, as usual the kids save the day.

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear is a stand-alone novel NOT featuring Maisy Dobbs. It DOES give the reader a very real picture of the home front during WWI. I LOVE this author, but do not read if you are depressed.

Adios, amigos! Ciao, amici! Au revoir! Until I feel like writing again...TBC

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Eight is Enough

No, I'm not referring to the circa 1977 show starring Dick Van Patton, but if you know what I am talking about, welcome to my world. I AM referring to my apparent inability to put down a new book long enough to write about the one I've just finished, leaving me with this pile of eight:

I submit that there is nothing wrong with me that a deadline wouldn't cure. Or a threat. So I'm telling myself, through sheer strength of will, that I will NOT read another word until this post is done. Since I'm also my own editor, I can make it as short or long as I like. I can also ignore myself. Ha. Let us begin.

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

This is the fourth book in the Maggie Hope Mystery Series, and I'm liking them more with each new addition. Maggie starts out in the first book as a secretary for Winston Churchill, but, as you can obviously tell from the title, in The Prime Minister's Secret Agent she has become much more. If you like mysteries, moral dilemmas, interesting fictional and non-fictional characters and WWII history this series is for you. Keep Calm and we'll Carry On...

O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King

Another great story of Sherlock Holmes and his young apprentice Mary Russell, presuming that Sherlock was real, Watson wrote the stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was his literary agent and Holmes retired to keep bees next door to the brilliant young Mary. Fortunately the writing of Laurie R. King makes this all pretty easy to imagine. O Jerusalem finds Sherlock and Mary in 1918 British-occupied Palestine for two reasons.  One, some really bad people in England want them dead. Two, Mycroft Holmes needs their help in said Palestine. This is the interesting part for me, as I am woefully uneducated in Middle-Eastern history and conflict. Our story finds the tenuous peace between Muslim, Jew and Christian disturbed by the expulsion of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI. (The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.) With the common enemy gone all bets are off, and  now a game of political manipulation is afoot. But not to worry, with vintage Sherlock technique all is eventually revealed.

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich

Next we have the delightful, entertaining, fluff-a-licousness that is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. In Top Secret Twenty-One, a Trenton used-car dealer goes missing and those close to him start dying. Bond agent Stephanie has to find him to make rent money, but various bad guys and a feral pack of chihauhaus keep getting in her way. Throw in her hot policeman boyfriend Morelli and the mysterious and steamy Ranger, and you will soon forget everything bad you saw on CNN today. Huzzah for Janet Evanovich!

Past Imperfect by Julian Fellows

Yes, THAT Julian Fellows, so all you fans of Downton Abbey may commence the celebration. Past Imperfect is the story of a group of friends, their experiences during one debutante season in late 1960's London, and their lives forty years later. It is a testament to the brilliance of Julian Fellows that I just now realized the narrator, one of this group of friends, is never named. Or, perhaps that just proves I wasn't paying attention. Anyway, pull up your long white gloves and enjoy this perfectly fascinating look at the not-so-distant past.

Angelica's Smile by Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri is a man. He is also a prolific Italian novelist. Angelica's Smile is the seventeenth installment of his Inspector Montalbano mystery series which makes me very happy, because I now have sixteen new books to look forward to! But back to Angelica's Smile...Inspector Montalbano is dealing with a rash of peculiar burglaries in his little slice of Sicily, and heads will roll if he doesn't solve the case. In between lover's spats with his girlfriend and delightfully long lunches he starts to make progress, but foolishly falling in love with one of the victims is not helping his detective skills. Will he pull his head out of the clouds long enough to make sense of it all? Si!!  Ciao, bella.

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

If you've never read Carl Hiaasen you're in for a treat. All of his novels are set in Florida, a place where crazy things seem to naturally occur. So, the fact that Andrew Yancy, disgraced sheriff and current reluctant health inspector ends up with a human arm in his freezer is really not shocking. It's everything that happens after that, including the appearance of a very bad monkey. Read this book! There's nothing like a good literary romp in the Florida Keys to brighten up one's day.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

In case you haven't noticed, I love mysteries and crime fiction, and this debut novel by Robert Galbraith made me very happy:) -- Private detective Cormoran Strike is ex-military police and ex-one lower leg, but that doesn't stop him from being a first-rate investigator. (If only he had clients who would pay their bills.) When the lawyer brother of a supermodel hires him to investigate her death, Cormoran thinks he may finally be able to shake off his creditors, but it won't be easy to prove that she didn't commit suicide three months before. The London Police aren't going to cooperate as they were the ones who ruled her death a suicide in the first place. Witness' memories have become hazy, and the "crime" scene has long been wiped clean. Cormoran's sense of honor almost prevents him from taking the client's money in a seemingly futile attempt to prove foul play, but in the end he agrees, and Pandora's box is opened. Peppered with fascinating characters and sub-plots, The Cuckoo's Calling will call to you until it's finished. Then you can read:

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Did I forget to mention that Robert Galbraith is the pen name for J. K. Rowling? Minor wonder these books are so good! Moving on...The Silkworm is the second in the Cormoran Strike series, and I CAN'T WAIT for more!! -- Owen Quine may not be a very good novelist and he may be impossible to live with, but when he disappears for an extended period of time Cormoran is hired by Owen's wife to track him down. It seems Owen has written a VERY nasty book libeling almost everyone he knows. Gruesome events are discovered, and things don't look at all good for Mrs. Quine, but Cormoran is treating everyone as a suspect. This book is better than the first. Write faster, Mr. Galbraith/Ms. Rowling!

Ta ta for now...TBC

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I've Been a Very Bad Girl

The Put-It-Off-Until-Later Bug has had me in his grip, and May flew by with very few posts. So Sorry. And now I am left with this:

Therefore, I am about to cheat these mostly wonderful books out of proper posts and give you blurbs instead. This is me beginning...

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

(I just finished this, and it was FANTASTIC, so this might be more than just a blurb.)

The 1936 Olympics in Berlin were more than just athletic games. They were the perfect opportunity for the Nazi propaganda machine to convince the world that Germany was a happy place with no evil plan for world domination. They also expected their Aryan athletes to win big, especially in the wildly popular sport of rowing. Enter stage left the American eight man rowing team, the varsity crew from, of all places, the University of Washington. These nine sons of Seattle, a place still considered the boondocks by the elite teams of the East, blew past the likes of Princeton, Penn and Navy to earn the right to a trip to Berlin where they would face the vaunted Germans. Did they win the gold? Of course they did!! But this is such a great story that my heart was pounding as I read about the final race. (Just like Apollo 13 makes me nervous even though I know they make it home O.K.) But this is more than just a story of rowing or the Olympics, this is about determination and commitment and working for something bigger than yourself. Every high school freshman should read this book. And you, too!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Oh, Orphan Train, how I loved thee. It is a little-known fact that between 1854 and 1929 trains full of orphans departed eastern cities en route to a better life on the farms and in the cities of the Midwest. Babies and children of all ages were displayed for immediate adoption at train stations along the way, and some were taken into warm and loving families. Some were not. Orphan Train is the story of one of these orphans, Vivian, now in her 90's and living in Maine. It is also the story of a modern day foster child, Molly. When Molly is assigned to do community service with Vivian an unlikely friendship blossoms, and both discover their ability to live in the present. Read now. This is a beautiful book.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

No matter what your religion, everyone can learn from this book. Just the basics will change your life, and they are pure common sense! Here they are:

1. Be impeccable with your word.

2. Don't take anything personally.

3. Don't make assumptions.

4. Always do your best.

Simple, but powerful. It might be a little late, but this would make a great graduation gift.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

If you still haven't bought a Father's Day gift for your various father figures, run out now and buy this book. It is HYSTERICAL!!! I love Jim Gaffigan, and you will LOVE THIS BOOK. Anyone who lives with a wife and five children in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City has to have a sense of humor. His is very well developed. Enjoy!

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

I didn't know much about WWII in Italy, but this book changed all that. Stuck between the Nazis and the Partisans, the people of Tuscany had to walk a tightrope of wartime diplomacy just to survive. Ten years later, members of the noble Rosati family are being brutally murdered, and it is up to Serafina Bettini of the Florence Police Department to learn why. But these crimes reopen the wounds of Serafina's own horrifying experience during the war, for some a war that might never really end. Magnifico!

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P. D. James

The incomparable P. D. James' first book with the female private investigator Cordelia Gray, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman perfectly captures the early 70's in Cambridge. Amongst the sons and daughters of well-heeled Englishmen, untested P. I. Cordelia Gray must fight the still prevalent prejudices against women to discover why an otherwise intelligent young man would hang himself. The denizens of Cambridge soon learn not to underestimate her abilities. It is a mystery worth the read.

The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

Three women, all for different reasons, are hunting down vintage tea sets at flea markets in the English countryside. When they all converge on the same beautiful set at the same moment, they have the brilliant idea to share their find. Thus begins a friendship that will last their lifetimes. This is more romance novel than I usually like, but The Vintage Teacup Club is charming without being syrupy. A great beach read!

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

Bruno Courreges is the sole policeman for the village of St. Denis in the South of France. He is their protector and friend, and he knows EVERYTHING that goes on in his village. He also loves to hunt, fish, grow his own vegetables and cook it all up into delicious French country dishes. Nothing much happens as far as crime goes in St. Denis, that is until an elderly French/Arab war hero is found viciously murdered with a swastika carved in his chest. It appears that someone had a bone to pick with the victim, and it is up to Bruno to figure out who and why. This is the first in a series and I LOVED it! I can't wait to read more about the denizens of St. Denis and their beloved chief of police.

I just finished this today, so here's the photo:

That's it for now!  TBC

Thursday, May 1, 2014

City of Tranquil Light

Confession time:  I would be a terrible missionary. Mostly because I really like my own bathroom.  I would have been an especially whiny missionary in 1906 China, but many MUCH more selfless souls than I gave up their creature comforts to do just that, and that is where our story begins in City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell.

Will Kiehn is the son of Mennonite farmers in Oklahoma, but he feels the call to be a missionary in China. Without any real idea of what he's about to get into, he joins a group of fellow Mennonites led by Edward Geisler, an old family friend. As fate would have it, Edward's nurse-sister-in-law Katherine is also in the group, and Will falls hopelessly in love. From the Mandarin they learn to read, speak and write, the customs they must understand, and the ever-changing dangerous political climate, there is much to learn on their long journey. They somehow find a way through the distrust of their Chinese hosts, and find a place with the people of Kuang P'ing Ch'eng-City of Tranquil Light.  Will and Katherine spend the next 36 years on the North China Plain, experiencing extreme hardship and joy in an alien land they would come to think of as home.

Will and Katherine are based on the true-life missionary story of Bo Caldwell's grandparents. The hardships they faced are astonishing, and the fact that they lived to tell the story even more so. Just the lack of hygiene alone would have killed most people! And wait until you read about the local remedy for stomach pains. I say "ick".  Anyway...City of Tranquil Light is a fascinating and inspiring book, and I hope you ALL read it.


The Snow Child

When a childless couple build a snow girl with cranberry-red lips and yellow straw for hair, they hardly expect her to come alive, but that seems to be what magically occurs in The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

Jack and Mabel have come to Alaska in 1920 to homestead a farm. They have come to escape the sorrow of their stillborn child, and with dreams of starting over in the pristine wilderness, but they never expected the harsh reality of the immense physical struggles they would face. During the first snowstorm of winter, they put aside their worries and build a snow girl, giving her a beautiful face and hair, a red wool scarf for her neck and matching mittens for her tree-branch hands. The next morning she is gone, but so are the scarf and mittens. Soon they start seeing a little girl with yellow hair and red scarf flitting noiselessly through the trees, and their lives are changed forever.

Based on a traditional Russian fairy tale, The Snow Child is an extraordinary tale of magic meeting reality, at once enchanted and brutally honest. I loved it. (By the way, it was a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist.)


Some Thoughts About Procrastination

I swing between procrastination and being really thorough so either way things aren't getting done quickly.
My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry 'til a more convenient season.
One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we're idling in front of our computer screens.
think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.
Yup, this is me today.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Trains and Lovers

Trains and Lovers is a story of four strangers on a train who share their tales of love, and it is brilliant. Of course it could not be anything less than brilliant, as it was written by Alexander McCall Smith.

The train is traveling from Edinburgh to London. American Andrew has been to a conference and will return to his family in New York the next day. Australian Kay has been visiting Scotland, the birthplace of her father many years before. Sottish Andrew is moving to London for a job, and English Hugh is traveling home from a business trip. It is an average day on a train, but the stories they share with one another are extraordinary.

So simple, yet so powerful. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Buddha in the Attic

I have just read a book that affected me deeply, because I knew people who experienced this story. I knew people, and yet I never really understood what they went through. Until now.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka is about the Japanese in California from about 1920 to the beginning of WWII. She tells the collective story of a group of "picture brides", who are hoping for a better life in the United States with husbands they only know through photos and letters. Upon arrival in San Francisco, they are mostly disappointed by the much older and poorer husbands than the ones they were expecting, but return to Japan is not an option. They speak no English and don't understand American customs, clinging to their own. They are forced to labor on the fringes of society picking our crops, cleaning our houses and doing our laundry, surrounded by suspicion and mistrust. They labor in childbirth, over and over, and continue to work in the fields. They don't give up, and expect their children to work just as hard. Through sheer determination they come to own their farms and businesses, and their children attend Stanford and Cal. Then the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and these American Citizens lose everything.

The Buddha in the Attic is exquisitely written and powerfully told. It is bittersweet, poignant and heartbreaking. It is also the story of most of us who live in America, because most of us were immigrants at one time or another. It makes you think. As the saying goes: Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.


The Mysterious Benedict Society

I have a high opinion of children's/young adult literature. Of course I haven't read everything that's out there, and I know some of it is rubbish, but mostly it is terrific and sometimes brilliant. In fact, I think the children's book section should be re-titled as "Books for Interesting and Imaginative People of All Ages". So, if you're an interesting and imaginative person, I've got a great series for you!

The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy by Trenton Lee Stewart has very mysterious beginnings. A strange ad appears in the Stonetown paper seeking "gifted children looking for special opportunities". Dozens of children arrive at the specified time and place to take a test, but only Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance pass. Each have very different gifts, but they are the qualities that the great and good Mr. Benedict believes can save the world from the evil Ledroptha Curtain. (Don't you just love that name?!) The children embark on a dangerous and frightening adventure to Nomansan Island, and only if they work as a team can they succeed. (You might be detecting a theme by now.) Yes, as in most of life, teamwork is the key.

The adventure continues in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and concludes with The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma. (I love it when all loose ends are tied up.) I also adored the charming illustrations by Carson Ellis, who I think imagined the quirky characters perfectly. I hope you agree!


Monday, March 24, 2014

March Madness

Yes, it's that time of year. A time when New Year's resolutions, despite everyone's best intentions, begin their inevitable march into madness. (i.e.: my intention to NOT fall behind on my blog posts.) So, in honor of my very own March Madness, here's a different kind of bracket for you...

The Two Mrs. Abbotts vs. The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton

D. E. Stevenson is one of my favorite authors, and she doesn't disappoint with The Two Mrs. Abbotts. The third in the charming Miss Buncle trilogy, Barbara Buncle Abbott is now the mother of two young children, and she is finding it hard to concentrate on much else. Luckily, her niece Jerry, (the other Mrs. Abbott), is the perfect partner-in-crime, and between the two of them romance is nurtured and thwarted, families are reunited and German spies are flushed out. It is a perfect time capsule of WWII in a quaint English village.

The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton by Elizabeth Speller cannot be called charming, but it is definitely riveting. This is the author's second "Laurence Bartram Mystery", again set in post WWI England. While researching the unique architecture of the manor and church of Easton Deadall, Laurence finds himself drawn into the mysterious 1911 disappearance of five-year-old Kitty Easton. One night she simply vanished from her bed, no body was ever found, and this limbo of unanswered questions has haunted the Easton family ever since. Everyone has a theory, but will Laurence be able to "dig up" the solution? You'll have to read to find out!

RESULT: I can't pick a winner between these two. It's a tie.

The Baker Street Translation vs. Moriarty Returns a Letter

I am a fan of anything Sherlockian, so this is going to be a hard one.  Both of these books are by Michael Robertson, who started this clever series with The Brothers of Baker Street, followed by The Baker Street Letters. Here is the premise:  When brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath move their law offices to 221-B Baker Street in London, they don't realize the implications of a small provision of the lease. Namely, that they are obligated to answer any and all letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Yes, people all over the world seem to believe that he is real and still alive. Reggie finds the letters an absolute nuisance, but Nigel finds them fascinating and takes it upon himself to delve deeper into certain mysteries, inevitably involving his brother in all sorts of trouble. What else is a brother for?! In The Baker Street Translation, Reggie reluctantly finds himself tracking down a terrorist in the London sewers, rescuing his rival for the affection of the beautiful Laura Rankin in the process. In Moriarty Returns a Letter, Reggie and Laura are supposed to be on a leisurely drive to her aunt's country manor, but nefarious villains are found around every twisty turn in the country road. Oh, and Moriarty really does make an appearance. Sort of.

RESULT: Postponed due to indecision on blogger's part.  Blogger is a wimp.

Takedown Twenty vs. A Secret Gift

Janet Evanovich never fails to delight, and she has done it again with Takedown Twenty. Stephanie Plum is in big trouble. Her boss is demanding that she bring in local mobster "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi, or the bail bonds office will lose a passel of dough. The problem is that almost everyone in Trenton, NJ loves Uncle Sunny, and they're more than willing to hide him from the law. This includes Stephanie's almost-fiance Joe Morelli's scary grandmother Bella, who is just waiting for an excuse to throw a curse Stephanie's way. Meanwhile, little old ladies are turning up dead in dumpsters, a giraffe is on the loose in the neighborhood, and Grandma Mazur has a new beau. What else can go wrong? Plenty, and it's a ton of fun as always!

A Secret Gift by Ted Gup is as different from Takedown Twenty as you can get. It's a true story about the author's grandfather, a story he did not uncover until 28 years after his grandfather's death. It was Christmas of 1933 in Canton, Ohio. The depression hit Canton hard, and by 1933 people were desperate. A small ad in the local paper offered an anonymous gift of $10 to seventy-five distressed families. All they needed to do was write an account of their circumstances to Mr. B. Virdot, who promised complete anonymity on both sides. This secret benefactor received so many replies, that he decided to give $5 to 150 families. This was still a generous amount of money for 1933. No one ever knew who B. Virdot was, and his gift was forgotten until Ted Gup's mother gave him an old suitcase. It contained the letters from the 150 families, and many thank you notes for the $5 checks. Yes, B. Virdot was Ted Gup's grandfather. Ted just happens to be an investigative journalist, so he set out to investigate this amazing gift of his grandfather's, and in doing so discovered his own family's long lost secrets.  

RESULT: Although I loved A Secret Gift, I have to give this one to Takedown Twenty.  No matter how you spin it, the Depression is depressing. This was probably an unfair matchup, but that's the way March Madness goes! (Go Arizona!!) TBC

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Chase

After reading Gone Girl and feeling so MAD, it was a pleasure to finish The Chase with such a satisfying sense of justice and closure. Even better, The Chase is just plain FUN!

Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg have collaborated once again to bring Los Angeles FBI agent Kate O'Hare and master-thief extraordinaire Nick Fox back for another adrenaline-filled adventure. (Get it?! The fox and the hare.) A cache of priceless stolen art sends them on a desperate chase to Florida, Shanghai, Scotland, New York and Montreal, with time for an In-N-Out burger between flights. (Anyone who can correctly reference an item from In-N-Out's secret menu is O.K. by me.) Which brings me to another reason I love Evanovich and Goldberg's partnership: they get the details right. I know I've mentioned this before, but they say you should write about what you know, and they obviously know Southern California.

Read The Chase. It's a light-hearted roller coaster ride, and I loved it!


Monday, March 10, 2014

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

Fourteen reasons to read The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith, the 14th book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series:

1. It is the newest installment of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

2. It is written by the brilliant Alexander McCall Smith.

3. You will wish that Precious Ramotswe is a real person so you can be her best friend.

4. For that you would have to move to Botswana, but that's ok because the author so obviously loves Botswana and Africa, making the reader love it also.

5. Grace Makutsi is the perfect counterpart to Precious.

6. Grace is very obviously pregnant, but she doesn't want to jinx it by telling anyone.

7. Grace's nasty auntie-in-law is back.  She's as nasty as ever, but gets what's coming to her.

8. There are snakes involved, but they also get what's coming to them.

9. Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni is the BEST HUSBAND EVER.

10. Mr. J. L. B.'s perpetual apprentice mechanic, Charlie, has redeeming qualities after all.

11. The bad guy/girl in this story doesn't seem to have many redeeming qualities. I think she needs a minor adjustment. (See what I did there?)

12. Also, sometimes the right thing to do requires stretching the truth.

13. Again, it is by Alexander McCall Smith. Duh.

14. This quote about children: "We wanted to protect them, she thought, of course we did, but we knew that we could not and they would have to deal with the disappointments and shocks of life as best they could. All we could do was to give them that one thing that they could use to protect themselves from all that. At least we could do that. That thing was love, of course."


Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is an excellent book.  It has superb writing, exquisitely detailed characters and a well thought-out plot.  So why have I been sitting here trying to decide if I should write about it? BECAUSE, this blog is supposed to be about the books I love, and this book made me SO MAD!!!!!!

Another problem with reviewing Gone Girl is the risk of giving away important plot lines. If I did that it would ruin it for you. But, I CAN say that it is a cautionary tale about marriage, and unresolved mommy/daddy issues, and beware-of-what-you-wish-for-crazy-psycho-people.

So, if you like books that keep you up at night because you can't stop thinking about them for love or money, read Gone Girl. Just don't say I didn't warn you.


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

Today will be one of the best and worst days of any fan of Alan Bradley. It is the best because his new book, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, is AWESOME. It is the worst because now we have to wait for him to write the next one. Waiting is not my happy place. But enough complaining! This is what you can enjoy now...

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is the sixth book in his Flavia de Luce series. Flavia is not a typical eleven year-old. She and her eccentric family live at Buckshaw, her family's ancestral but crumbling estate. The title to the property is in her mother's name, but she disappeared in the Himalayas a decade before. She left no will, and the taxes are financially killing the de Luces. But now Flavia's mother is returning to Buckshaw, and she brings mystery and mayhem with her. I can't say much more without spoiling it, but I can say it involves a dead stranger, Winston Churchill, MI5 and plenty of red herrings.

Alan Bradley has me flummoxed. With every new book that he writes about Flavia de Luce, I become more amazed that a late-middle-aged man from Canada can write so brilliantly about an eleven-year-old-chemist-savant-detective-girl from the 1950's English countryside. It is a beautiful mystery, but luckily one that doesn't need to be solved, just enjoyed.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Forgotten but Not Lost

I was organizing my to-read pile and came across a Laurie R. King book.  Yay!! I thought to myself, another Laurie R. King book!  Then I realized I'd already read it ages ago and forgot to write about it. Bummer.  Since it was quite a while ago I'll just give you the basics...

The book is The Moor by above referenced author.
It's about Sherlock Holmes.
It takes place on Dartmoor.
It involves mysterious happenings and giant glowie-eyed dogs.

If that all sounds familiar, that's because it is.  Sherlock and his partner Mary travel to Dartmoor to revisit the scene of one of his most famous adventures, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Of course they encounter another creepy mystery which only they can solve.

Read The Moor by Laurie R. King.  I liked it as much as the original. TBC

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hyperbole and a Half

Allie Brosh is a smart, outrageous, hysterically funny, achingly honest, brilliant storyteller, but the best thing about her stories is that they are TRUE! Well, mostly true, except for a little exaggeration. After all, that's what hyperbole means, and it is perfectly illustrated in her first book, Hyperbole and a Half, unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened.

Based on her award winning blog by the same name, Hyperbole and a Half  is the story of Allie's life, from childhood to present day, illustrated by Allie in her own unique style.  I won't even try to describe this uniqueness, just know that the stories and the illustrations are the conjoined twins of Allie's genius, and one would die without the other. (That last may have been a little hyperbole of my own...let's just say that the book would not be the same without the pictures!) Moving on...

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh is a riot!!  Read it now.  TBC

(Warning:  contains liberal usage of naughty words. If you don't like that sort of thing, this book might not be for you.  End of warning.)

And Speaking of England...'s another one.  Christmas at High Rising by Angela Thirkell is a collection of stories published between 1928 and 1942.  Angela Thirkell was a prolific writer, but I think she is/was popular mostly in England.  I can't remember how I found out about this book, but I know I had to order it through an Amazon seller that was in the UK.  When it arrived in its plain brown wrapper weeks later, and after Christmas, I had totally forgotten about it.  Happily, it was charming in every way.  Perhaps these books are available at a library so you don't have to wait. It would be worth a trip:) TBC

A Fine Romance

Things you need to do before you start to read A Fine Romance by Susan Branch:

Brew yourself a cup of tea.
Add some scones and tea sandwiches.
Grab a pencil and paper, because you will want to take notes.
Now you may start reading!

Susan Branch is amazing. Her many books are full of yummy recipes and inspiring ideas, but the incredible thing is she hand-writes and illustrates every single inch of every book. They are beautiful. She is also a self-professed lover of all things English, and that is what A Fine Romance, Falling in Love with the English Countryside is all about. She and her husband spent the months of May and June 2012 traveling to England on the QE II, exploring that timeless countryside and sailing back again to their home on Martha's Vineyard. And she documented this dream vacation as only Susan Branch can do, each page of her book a feast for the eyes and the frustrated Anglophile in us all.

So, if you love the English and their country, or if you just want to surround yourself with lovely things, you must read A Fine Romance. You just may fall in love.

(PS:  If you DON'T know her, check out Susan Branch at  You'll be glad you did!  TBC)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If You Like Mysteries...

...Then you must read The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries! Edited by Otto Penzler, he begins and ends with stories by Agatha Christie, but there are 57 little gems in-between, including stories by O. Henry, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ellery Queen and Mary Higgins Clark. In short, there is enough murder, mystery and mayhem to fill any armchair detective's stocking.

My kids gave me this book for Christmas. Thanks kiddos! You don't need a detective to know that I loved every word.

The Case of the Love Commandos

A list of things I love about Tarquin Hall and his new book, The Case of the Love Commandos:

1. Vish Puri, India's most private investigator. In his black Sandown cap and safari suit he solves crimes and devours curry with equal relish, always adding to his renown and his waistline.

2. Which brings me to his nickname: Chubby.

3. Mummy-ji. A traditional man who believes in traditional values, Vish feels that his mother has no business in his business. Just try telling that to Mummy-ji.

4. His wife, Rumpi. She and Mummy-ji make an unstoppable team, much to Chubby's chagrin.

5. His eclectic team of agents. From Facecream to Tubelight, they provide their boss with invaluable reconnaissance.

6. The vibrant picture Hall paints of his adopted country. I have never been to India, but these books bring the crazy-quilt of Indian culture to me.

7. The glossary of India/Hindi terms at the end of the book.

8. Mouthwatering Dishes from the Vish Puri Family Kitchen. Found at the end of each book!

9. The combination of larger-than-life characters, outrageous situations and terrifying realities that perfectly meshes the vast history and present day problems of India and its neighbors.

10. Finally, a great book is a terrific classroom, and Tarquin Hall is a great teacher.

So phat-a-phat and pick up a copy of The Case of the Love Commandos!  You'll be glad you did.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Bertie Plays the Blues

Darling Bertie is back! I speak, of course, of the delightful 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith, and my favorite character, seven-year-old Bertie.

Bertie Plays the Blues finds all the denizens of 44 Scotland Street plugging along with their Edinburgh lives. Matthew and Elspeth are newborn parents of newborn triplets. Angus and Domenica are trying to decide where they will live after their wedding, never forgetting that Cyril the winking dog must be considered. Big Lou has taken up Internet dating, and scheming Bruce is up to his old tricks. Meanwhile, Bertie just wants to be a normal little boy, but his mother Irene is making that difficult, so he decides to put himself up for adoption. If you knew Irene, you would do the same.

Written with wit and sympathy for the everyday dilemmas of the everyman, Alexander McCall Smith invites us into the lives of his characters, making us wish we could live at 44 Scotland Street. As long as it isn't with Irene.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Haiku or Two for You

Technology rules
Unless it doesn't do what
You want it to do.

Blogspot makes me smile
Unless I have a question
Then I frown a lot.

Margins and spaces
Should be the same every time
But they never are.

disabled people beware:
head banging solves nil.

The End



[ahy-den-ti-kuhl, ih-den-]  
similar or alike in every way: The two cars are identical except for their license plates.
being the very same; selfsame: This is the identical room we stayed in last year.
agreeing exactly: identical opinions.

The above definition is pretty straight forward, to be identical is to be alike in every way.  But human beings are not cars, and identical twins are defined as being very similar in appearance.  (Trust me, or look it up!) I think it is commonly accepted that twins have a unique connection, but Identical by Scott Turow poses an interesting question: How far would one twin go for another?

State Senator Paul Giannis' identical twin brother Cass was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Dita Kronon.  He has spent the last 25 years in prison and is about to be released.  Dita's wealthy, powerful and emotional brother, Hal Kronon, is not happy about it, and he has the means and the desire to make the Giannis family's life miserable. He calls on Evon Miller, the head of security for his company, ZP Real Estate Investment Trust, and Tim Brodie, the retired homocide detective that worked on the original murder case, expecting them to prove that Paul had something to do with the murder. What they go on to discover is a complicated can of worms, crawling with the Greek underworld, family loyalties and feuds.

The basic murder/mystery of Identical is reason enough to read the book, but what makes it truly fascinating is the intricate relationship of Paul and Cass. An average family of siblings are bound to experience varying degrees of love, jealousy, loyalty and resentment. In the case of Paul and Cass Gianni, all of these feelings are greatly magnified. So I ask you again, how far would Paul go for Cass, or Cass for Paul?  Read to find out the surprising ending to a terrific book.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Peter and the Starcatchers

Have you ever wondered about Wonderland? How did Peter and the Lost Boys get there? Why can Peter fly? And what's up with Tinkerbell?? If so, you must read Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.

Peter and a raggedy assortment of fellow orphans have found themselves in quite a pickle. Their cold-blooded headmaster has decided that they are to be the next batch of "volunteers"(i.e.: slaves) in service to the evil King of Rundoon. They soon find themselves trapped on the decrepit sailing ship Never Land, surrounded by a suspect bunch of sailors and crew. Also on board is young Molly Aster, her governess Mrs. Bumbrake, and a mysterious trunk that is guarded round the clock. When the notorious pirate Black Stache gives chase it seems that all will be lost, but the porpoise-speaking Molly is much more than she seems. Molly, Peter and the Boys, the trunk and the pirates all manage to reach a nearby "deserted" island. But between the not-so-friendly natives, the monster they are harboring and the secret contents of the trunk absolute mayhem is about to ensue.

Peter and the Starcatchers is the first in a series of five books.  I also read Peter and the Shadow Thieves and Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, all on my Kindle when we were on vacation.  Like many great books they are written for children, but they are equally fascinating to adults. This may be because Dave Barry is such an AWESOME writer and funny, funny man, and together with Ridley Person they make a truly dynamic duo. (Sorry, Batman.) So, if you're looking for a terrific series for your kids, or something fun for yourself, you can't go wrong with Peter and the Starcatchers. No pixie dust required.