Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Wilder Rose

by Susan Wittig Albert

I was familiar with this author through her China Bayles mystery series.  Those mysteries are well written and enjoyable, so when I saw this book by her on Net Galley I was interested.  That and the fact that this book is about the author/s of the Little House books.

The focus is on the relationship between Rose Wilder Lane and her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Rose was a strong, independent woman and writer who moved back to her home in Missouri.  Both Rose and her mother were short on money, so Rose hatched the idea of Laura writing a book that told of her early years growing up on the plains.

The idea was a good one but publishers weren't happy with Laura's writing.  Rose had to do a great deal of work with her mother's manuscripts to get them acceptable to the publishers.

The tumultuous relationship between these two strong-willed women was further complicated because of the mother's old-fashioned ideas and the daughters liberated, worldy ideas and life style.

I liked this book and would recommend it to others who grew up reading or watching The Little House books or tv series.  Or anyone, actually.  I thought it was well-written and informative.  I always enjoy a book that informs while it entertains.

* I received a copy of A Wilder Rose  from NetGalley in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Air We Breathe

by Andrea Barrett

     Autumn, 1916. America is preparing to enter WWI, but at Tamarack State Hospital, the danger is barely felt. Here in the crisp, mountain air where wealthy tuberculosis patients recover in private cottages and charity patients, mostly European émigrés, fill the sanatorium, time stands still. Prisoners of routine and yearning for absent families, the inmates take solace in gossip, rumour and secret attachments.

      One enterprising patient initiates a weekly discussion group, but his well-meaning efforts lead instead to tragedy and betrayal. The war comes home, bringing with it a surge of anti-immigrant prejudice and vigilante sentiment. Andrea Barrett pits power and privilege against unrest and thwarted desire in a spellbinding tale of individual lives in a nation on the verge of extraordinary change.

      I love Andrea Barrett.  My favorite is her short story Ship Fever.  She brings the progression of scientific inquiry and development to life. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013


by Karen Slaughter

Why haven't I been introduced to this author before?  If Unseen is a good indication of her work, and I have every reason to believe it is, I should have been reading every book she's ever written.

This is my kind of mystery.  There's a main plot but then there are several subplots going on that are equally intense.  The characters are real, 3-dimensional, flawed yet likable, and strong-willed.  

Here's the write-up from Karen Slaughter's webpage:
Karin Slaughter’s New York Times bestselling novels featuring detective Will Trent are utterly riveting and masterfully drawn. Her latest thriller, Unseen, pits detectives, lovers, and enemies against one another in an unforgettable standoff between righteous courage and deepest evil.Will Trent is a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent whose latest case has him posing as Bill Black, a scary ex-con who rides a motorcycle around Macon, Georgia, and trails an air of violence wherever he goes. The cover has worked and he has caught the eye of a wiry little drug dealer who thinks he might be a useful ally. But undercover and cut off from the support of the woman he loves, Sara Linton, Will finds his demons catching up with him.Although she has no idea where Will has gone, or why, Sara herself has come to Macon because of a cop shooting: Her stepson, Jared, has been gunned down in his own home. Sara holds Lena, Jared’s wife, responsible: Lena, a detective, has been a magnet for trouble all her life, and Jared’s shooting is not the first time someone Sara loved got caught in the crossfire. Furious, Sara finds herself involved in the same case that Will is working without even knowing it, and soon danger is swirling around both of them.In a novel of fierce intensity, shifting allegiances, and shocking twists, two investigations collide with a conspiracy straddling both sides of the law. Karin Slaughter’s latest is both an electrifying thriller and a piercing study of human nature: what happens when good people face the unseen evils in their lives.
For my reference, and anyone else's who wants to read these mysteries from the first, here's a list of Slaughter's books that feature Will Trent:
1. Triptych*
2.  Fractured
3.  Undone*
4.  Broken*
5.  Fallen
6.  Snatched
7. Criminal
8.  Busted
9.  Unseen

I just checked my book shelves and I already own the 3 title with an asterisk by them.  I must have read a review in the past that piqued my interest enough to order her books.  Why didn't I get around to reading them sooner?   My only defense is 'too many books, too little time.'  Now that I know I love her work, these books will get read!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ariel Bradley

by Lynda Durrant

As you can tell from this picture this is a book for young readers between the ages of 4 to 8.  Ariel Bradley is the name of a real boy who served as a spy for George Washington.  At only 9-years-old, Ariel is asked to ride into the enemies camp and act as if he is looking for a mill that his father has sent him in search of.  He pretends to be a country bumpkin but he is really spying for General Washington, assessing the strength and numbers of the British camp.

This is a great little book for K-3 grades to correlate with a history unit on the Revolutionary War.  Also, a good book for mother's to read to their children to introduce them to real life heroes and instill concepts of courage and bravery.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Magic Words

by Mike Blanc

Magic Words is based on the expedition notes of the Danish explorer, Knud Rasmussen.  My maiden name is Rasmussen and, as a child, I used to wish that I was related to Knud.  So when I was this book I was interested in what he learned about the Inuits.

This is a very old creation story where people and animals share bodies and languages.  I think children will find the story confusing, as I did, but the pictures are wonderful and will spark the imagination.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard

by Susan Crandall

Loved this book and the two main characters.  Starla was born to teen-age parents but is being raised by her strict (and mean) grandmother.  Her father works off-shore on an oil rig but comes home when he can but Starla hasn't seen her mother since she was three.

On the 4th of July, 1963 when Starla is grounded from the funnest events of the year, she runs away from home in hopes of getting to Nashville and finding her mother.  Starla meets up with a nicest black woman, Eula, who has a white baby on the front seat of her car.
As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.
I also really liked the black school teacher who took Starla and Eula in for awhile.  Her compassion and wisdom really touched me.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

1st Victim and 9th Girl

by Tami Hoag

I am familiar with this author's name but had never read any of her books.  When Net Galley offered these two books, I clicked that I was interested and they approved me.  So glad because I am a BIG fan now.

The 1st Victim is a short story featuring Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska.  On New Year's an unidentified body is left by the side of a highway.  Kovac & Liska suspect a serial killer.  Finding clues is difficult and they are unable to discover the girl's name because she isn't listed as a missing person.   This was a very satisfying and thrilling mystery story.

I jumped right into the 2nd book with gusto.  The 9th Girl starts out one year later on New Year's eve.
A young woman's brutalized body falls from the trunk of a car into the path of oncoming traffic. Questions as to whether she was alive or dead when she hit the icy pavement result in her macabre nickname, Zombie Doe. Unidentified and unidentifiable, she is the ninth nameless female victim of the year, and homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are charged with the task of not only finding out who Zombie Doe is, but who in her life hated her enough to destroy her. Was it personal, or could it just have been a crime of opportunity? Their greatest fear is that not only is she their ninth Jane Doe of the year, but that she may be the ninth victim of a vicious transient serial killer they have come to call Doc Holiday.
This book grabbed hold of me and didn't let go until the very end.  I love it when I find a book with depth to the story and the characters and keeps me asking questions that I want answered.  I highly recommend this series to those of you who love a good mystery.

You won't be surprised to hear that this is a series and, yet again, I did not start with the first book.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to go back and read the first 3 in the series.  Here's the list in order:
1.  Ashes to Ashes*
2.  Dust to Dust*
3.  Prior Bad Acts*
4.  The 1st Victim*
5.  The 9th Girl*
And of course, I'm going to be checking out other books by Tami Hoag.  Love it when I find a new-to-me, fabulous author.

* These are the books I now own.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


by Mark Goldblatt

This was a delightful book narrated by the main character, Julian Twerski.

Julian Twerski isn't a bully. He's just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade--blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he's still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can't bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.
Inspired by Mark Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.
I read this book because my grandson will be in the 6th grade next year and I thought this would be a book he'd enjoy.  I certainly did.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

The River of No Return

by Bee Ridgway

I received this chunkster (550 pages) in the mail today and I'm so excited to read it.  Unfortunately, it was an advance reader copy and I was suppose to review it close to its release date of May 23.  Even though it's a story of love and time travel, and I would love to review it when requested, I cannot travel back in time to get this read before the 23rd.

What I can do is a post a "heads up" that this book is now in bookstores and it sounds like a fabulous read.  There are 51 reviews on that can give you a good feel for the book.

Here's the write-up from Bee Ridgway's webpage: 
In Bee Ridgway’s wonderfully imaginative debut novel, a man and a woman travel through time in a quest to bring down a secret society that controls the past and, thus, the future.​“You are now a member of the Guild. There is no return.”Two hundred years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Lord Nicholas Falcott wakes up in a hospital bed in twenty-first century London. The Guild, a secretive organization that controls time travel, helps him make a new life in the modern world.
But Nick yearns for home and for one beautiful woman in particular, now lost to history.Back in 1815, that very woman, Julia Percy, finds herself the guardian of a family secret inherited from her enigmatic grandfather... how to manipulate time. But there are those who seek to possess Julia’s power and she begins to realize she is in the gravest peril.The Guild’s rules are made to be broken, and Nick discovers how to travel back to the nineteenth century and his ancestral home. Fate and the fraying fabric of time draw Nick and Julia together once again . . . soon enough, they are caught up in an adventure that puts the future of the world into their hands.Love endures the gulf of centuries . . . and so does danger.  As gripping as it is evocative, The River of No Return is a sweeping story of lovers who match wits and gamble their hearts against the rules of time itself.
Can't wait to read this! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sleeping in Eden

by Nicole Baart
There's a bit of mystery in this book - who is the woman's body under the barn's floorboards and was she murdered by the man who hung himself over that spot?  

The story takes place in two different time periods, approximately 10 years between.  The earlier story involves a charming tomboy, Meg, who falls in love with the new boy at school.  The later story, which is interwoven with the first,  involves Luke whose marriage is strained.

I like this method of storytelling - one chapter about one person and then the next about another and back and forth.  Watching for clues as to how the two stories are connected keeps my mind in a questioning, seeking mode.

Sleeping in Eden is a mystery, I guess, but I think the better classification would be real life drama.  The mystery adds intrigue but the real depth of the book is in the characters and their personal dramas.

Thanks to Anne Staszalek and The Book Report Network for sending me a copy of this book to read and review.  I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Girl, the Gold Tooth, and Everything

by Francine LaSalaon

I've never done drugs, but this made me feel like I might be on them.  It was mind-boggling, and not as in 'awe-some' but more like 'what was that?'  The first part seemed to drag on.  The last part of the book, when the action finally starts up was good but it didn't rescue the book.  The dentist scene made me think I had missed that this was a fantasy and not a mystery.  But, no, it is a mystery.  I can't imagine anyone I know going to that dentist and not feeling like something was totally off about it.

The language was over the top.  My students used to say that it was part of life and I would tell them that so is human waste but we didn't need to spend our days in the sewer.  I chose not to hang out in the sewer so I won't be reading any more books by this author.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Burgess Boys

by Elizabeth Strout

I wanted to read this because my mother loved Olive Kitteridge written by the same author.  Mom highly recommended it to me and to several other people.  Reading it was like a treasure hunt as I searched for and wondered why my mom loved it so.  What was it that 'spoke' to her? I never really answered that question and my mother couldn't really pin it down when I asked her.  She said there was something that resonated within her as she read it.

Now I understand.  Even though I really liked Olive Kitteridge, it didn't resonate with me, but The Burgess Boys did.  It wasn't so much the story but the characters and what they felt at different times.  I highlighted several (okay, lots) of passages that 'spoke' to me but I can't share them because my copy is an advance ecopy and I'm not suppose to quote from it.

Surprisingly, it wasn't the two Burgess boys that spoke to me, but their sister and one of their wives.  The doubts these women expressed were some that I have felt and sometimes still do.  Strout was able to help me see into the hearts of people who, on the surface, I wouldn't have thought I had much in common with.  The two women were not the only ones I felt compassion for - my heart ached for the teenage boy, for his two uncles, and for the Somali people who were forced to move to a small town in Maine.

Here's the write-up from the author's webpage.
Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.
Strout won a Pultizer Prize for Olive Kitteridge and I'll bet she wins a few prizes for The Burgess Boys, too. I liked this book a lot.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Ophelia Cut

by John Lescroart

I read this book with my heart in my throat.  In this installment in the Dismas Hardy legal thriller series, Dismas must represent his best friend and brother-in-law against a murder charge.

Brittany McGuire is the beautiful, twenty-three-year-old daughter of Susan Weiss and Moses McGuire—and the niece of defense attorney Dismas Hardy. Popular and pretty, Brittany has always moved easily from one boyfriend to the next, but her most recent ex, a young man named Rick Jessup, can’t seem to get over her. His abuse escalates, culminating in a terrible night when Brittany is raped.
Within twenty-four hours, Rick Jessup is dead, Moses McGuire is the prime suspect in the investigation, and Dismas Hardy has been hired to defend his old friend. Making things even more complicated, this case threatens to bring to light old secrets that could destroy the careers of Hardy and police lieutenant Abe Glitsky.
As the overwhelming evidence against Moses piles up, Dismas Hardy focuses on planting doubt in the minds of the jurors—until, in a feat of legal ingenuity that is staggering in both its implications and its simplicity, Hardy sees a new way forward that might just save them all. But at what price?

I've read several in this series, but not in any order.  Each one read just fine as a stand-alone, although I think it would be nice to know more of the background story.  In fact, I'm going to get my hands on the last several books in the series so I can learn more about something that happened years earlier to Dismas, Moses and a couple other guys.

Lescroart writes a really good story, with substance. Meaty.  The characters are life-like and complex.  Nothing is black or white in this novel - lots of grey, shady areas.  I liked it a lot.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stalking Sapphire

by Mia Thompson

I received an advance copy eBook of Stalking Sapphire from NetGalley and, as with most ARCs, there were some rough spots.  I almost gave up reading because the first 3rd of the book was so choppy.  Actually, I did set it aside with no intention of going back but I couldn't quit thinking about the story.  I finished it.  First book in a long time that I stayed up until the wee hours to finish.
Despite the illusion Sapphire Dubois presents to the rest of the world, she is not just your stereotypical 22-year old Beverly Hills heiress; she hunts serial killers. While her fellow heirs spend their nights with trending celebs and drugs at the hottest club, Sapphire secretly spends hers luring, capturing, and anonymously handing over So-Cal’s most wanted killers to the police — just your average Tuesday night. 
What Sapphire doesn’t know is that one of her adversaries is watching her every move, aware of both her true identity and her unconventional hobby. Needless to say, he doesn’t approve. Used to being the one who redefines the definition of predator and prey, Sapphire’s world abruptly shatters when a gruesome ‘gift’ arrives for her at the Beverly Hills Country Club. With her involuntary crush, handsome Detective Aston Ridder, close on her tail, Sapphire now has to rethink her routine strategy and figure out how to capture a killer who already knows she’s coming.
What I didn't like:   I've already mentioned that my copy of this book didn't get transferred to my Kindle in the best condition and I assume the finished product will not have the same problems.  The only other problem I had was with Sapphire's rich friends but they toned down a bit towards the end.  

What I liked:  Sapphire.  She's plucky and smart, but not always.  And I loved the idea of a beautiful woman setting traps for serial killers and, of course, catching them.  Then there's the tension between Sapphire and the brash detective.  He's such unlikable character, but he had his moments.

This was Ms. Thompson's first book and she did an amazing job.  Stalking Sapphire is a first-rate thriller.  I'm looking forward to the 2nd in the series.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The One More Thing

by Anne Perry

A stand-alone from one of my favorite authors who writes two wonderful mystery series - Thomas & Charlotte Pitt and my favorite, William Monk.
And then there's her WWI series that I loved.  I have another stand-alone, The Sheen on the Silk, which is set in the Byzantine Empire that I can't wait to curl up with.

The One More Thing is set during the French Revolution - a time period that intrigues me and I've read several books about.  This book deals with a murder that took place in a family home.  The investigation only covers a period of weeks, but the Revolution sets the stage for the goings on.

 I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Perry provided a fascinating window into history and people's lives during this part of the Revolution.  Again, I found myself grateful to be a woman, living in America.

I never am able to figure out who the murderer is and this case there were only a handful of people to choose from.  A very interesting novel and a good mystery.  I suggest you give it a read.

One more thing before closing.  Covers interest me and I would like to know what kind of discussion goes into choosing the one for American audiences.  Very seldom are they as interesting as those for European and Canadian audiences.

* I received a copy of The One Thing More from NetGalley in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One Step Too Far

by Tina Seskis

This book is going to be hard to review.  I've been thinking about it for days and still don't know quite what I think about it.

I like books that flit back and forth between time periods and characters, but this one bothered me.  I know that was the author's purpose and it added to the tension of what was happening in the main character's life.  Overall, the writing was good, as was the story.

I was tempted on a few occasions to set it aside, but I kept reading.  It was nice to have everything fit together and make sense in the end.  Overall, I just didn't love this book but I can't quite figure out why.  It would be a good one for a book club because there would be so much to discuss.

I would love to hear from others who have read One Step Too Far.  What are your opinions?  Can you put into words what I am failing miserably to do?  Or did you love it?

*I received a copy of One Step Too Far from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Tapestry of Fortunes

by Elizabeth Berg

If you go into a bookstore today you will see this beautiful cover on display.  At some point when I was reading this book, I stopped and thought what I would write about this book when I reviewed it.  That day was dreary outside, but inside my house and inside my soul there was warmth.  I felt like I often do when I sit outside on a beautiful, warm spring day - I read for  awhile and stop periodically to appreciate the beautiful flowers, the smell of spring, and the soft breeze.  When I closed the book and looked at the cover and I thought, "That cover sums up what I'm feeling."  There's a feeling of gentleness, taking time to sip a herbal tea, and enjoying the natural flow of days, and life.

Tapestry of Fortunes came at a good time for me.  It brightened up my days and made me feel lighter.  There's nothing earth-shattering or remarkable about it's story, only the learning to accept life, to listen to your inner voice and do what it suggests or urges.  I groaned when I read the first couple pages and learned the main character was a motivational speaker.  She even shared some of the advise she passed onto others.  My early thoughts, "Oh, good grief!  This is not what I need - advise on becoming a better me."  I was in a grumbly, heaving mood and I didn't want to be told to snap out of it.

I kept reading and soon the advise stopped and the gentle caressing started.  When I finished the book I didn't want to change anything about myself or my life, I just wanted to be more of aware of the good things around me.

Tapestry of Fortunes is a story about friendships - old and new and renewed.  Here's the write-up from the cover flap:
Cecilia Ross is a motivational speaker who encourages others to change their lives for the better. Why can’t she take her own advice? Still reeling from the death of her best friend, and freshly aware of the need to live more fully now, Cece realizes that she has to make a move—all the portentous signs seem to point in that direction. She downsizes her life, sells her suburban Minnesota home and lets go of many of her possessions. She moves into a beautiful old house in Saint Paul, complete with a garden, chef’s kitchen, and three housemates: Lise, the home’s owner and a divorced mother at odds with her twenty-year-old daughter; Joni, a top-notch sous chef at a first-rate restaurant with a grade A jerk of a boss; and Renie, the youngest and most mercurial of the group, who is trying to rectify a teenage mistake. These women embark on a journey together in an attempt to connect with parts of themselves long denied. For Cece, that means finding Dennis Halsinger. Despite being “the one who got away,” Dennis has never been far from Cece’s thoughts.

I received a copy of Tapestry of Fortunes from Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Tuesday's Gone

by Nicci French

This is the 2nd in a series featuring Frieda Klein.  The first was Blue Monday which I haven't read yet but will be doing so soon.  Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.  They have written several stand-alone thrillers that I can't wait to read.

Here's the description of Tuesday's Gone from the authors' web page:

For Frieda Klein the days get longer, the cases darker . . .
Psychotherapist Frieda Klein thought she was done with the police. But once more DCI Karlsson is knocking at her door.

A man’s decomposed body has been found in the flat of Michelle Doyce, a woman trapped in a world of strange mental disorder. The police don’t know who it is, how he got there or what happened – and Michelle can’t tell them. But Karlsson hopes Frieda can get access to the truths buried beneath her confusion.

Painstakingly, Frieda uncovers a possible identity for the corpse: Robert Poole, a jack of all trades and master conman. But the deeper Frieda and Karlsson dig into Poole’s past, the more of his victims they encounter – and the more motives they find for murder. Meanwhile, violent ghosts from Frieda’s own past are returning to threaten her.

Unable to discover quite who is telling the truth and who is lying, they know they are getting closer to a killer. But whoever murdered Poole is determined to stay free – and anyone that gets too close will meet the same fate.
I loved this book.  Starting with Michelle Doyce - why would she keep a naked, decomposing man sitting on her couch?  I had to have an answer to that.  How are  Frieda and Karlsson going to get the necessary clues from her deranged mind?  The dead man seems to be an enigma, too. 

I may have discovered a new author and series that are in my top 5 list, though I probably should read a couple more by this team of authors before I get too excited.  Let me just say, based on this book, they are heavy contenders.

***I received an ebook of Tuesday's Gone from NetGalley and the Penguin Group in exchange for my honest review.***

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

by Wendy Wax
No secrets about Downtown Abbey are laid bare in this review.  This book briefly deals with happenings from Season One and Two of Downtown . 
I loved all three seasons of Downtown Abbey and saw this book as a way to continue the nostalgia and loss I was feeling when Season Three ended.  I wanted more and didn't want to wait for Season Four that won't show until next January. 
This book is not really about Downtown Abbey and it isn't even necessary to have seen the show to enjoy the book.   It's more about three  women and the one male concierge who develop an unlikely friendship.  They know of each other before the concierge, Edward, decides to show weekly screenings of the first two seasons of Downtown Abbey in hopes of building a feeling of community in their upscale apartment building.  It's fun to see how these different personalities forge a bond that helps them through some tough times in their individual lives.
I thoroughly enjoyed the backgrounds of each individual and how Ms. Wax provided me with just enough to further peak my interest.  Sometimes more knowledge led to more questions, which fed my desire to keep reading. 

 I liked some of the characters better than others, but I could sympathize with each and I absolutely fell in love with Edward.   Even though moments from the actual show weren't talked about very much it was fun getting a glimpse or two of past episodes of Downtown Abbey that I had forgotten about.  I need to re-watch all seasons again.  Netflix, here I come!

 Everyone who reads this will wish they lived in an apartment building with a concierge like Edward.  Oh, my!  The Sunday night viewings were enjoyed along with the most delicious sounding refreshments.   What a fun way to watch Masterpiece Theater with friends and neighbors and good food and drink.  It would be great to bring Edward to life and have him cater a book club meeting.   (That would be a perfect job for someone living in a city!)

I recommend this book to those who loved Downtown Abbey as well as those who haven't watched the show or haven't even heard of it.  If you like books about friendships, hurdles in life, a little romance,  starting over again, finding love, keeping it,  along with a touch of humor, I think you'll enjoy this book.  I certainly did.

 ***I received an advanced reader's copy of While We Were Watching Downtown Abbey in return for an honest review.***

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Corner of White

by Jaclyn Moriarty

I didn't realize this was a YA novel and when I started reading it and discovered its intended audience, I groaned.  I used to enjoy reading YA books every once in awhile, but lately the genre seems filled with vampires, werewolves, and/or otherworldly beings.  The writing is often lackluster.  And the teenage angst wears me out in no time.

Since I had received this book free as a review copy, I decided I needed to give it a fair shake.  I'm so glad I did.  I thought it was delightful.

There are two main characters who are both likeable, confused, searching for their fathers, and who view their worlds in a fresh, unexpected way.

Madeleine has a history of running away from home, but this last time was the worst because her mother ran away with her.  They end up in Cambridge, England.  Even though it's the real world (our world), the view from Madeleine's perspective makes you wonder if it really is.  Madeleine writes to her father hoping he will come rescue them and get her mother the help she needs.

Elliot is also looking for his father who disappeared the night his uncle died and the physics teacher also went missing.  Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello where Colors can be scary.  It is believed that his uncle was killed by Purples, who then took his dad as a prisoner.

Quite by accident, our two main characters discover a way of sending messages back and forth between the two worlds.  It seems unlikely that Madeleine and Elliot will ever be able to understand the content of the other's messages but its these communications that lead to answers for each.   I liked the interplay in the messages between the worlds of the concepts of light, color, rainbows, and Isaac Newton.

The way things came together in the end provided some clarity but also got me excited to read the next book in the trilogy.   I liked how Moriarity created two such different settings for her characters.  Even though, one was the real world, it seemed just a little off kilter and, even though Elliott's world was a fantasy world, it seemed 'real' in many ways.

Even as I pushed forward to the clarity of the ending, I found myself smiling and feeling good as I enjoyed the tone of the book  and the interesting play of ideas.  I know we're not supposed to quote from ARCs but I want to share a couple of places where you can get a sense of these playful ideas.  The first is about Jack who is Madeleine's friend and classmate.
Jack had gathered these names together by the stems; he'd arranged them in a vase which he kept to the right of his mind.  At night, before he fell asleep, he'd breathe in the fragrance of each, the details that Madeleine had shared.
Jack was very interested in astrology and one time asked Madeleine what her star sign was but she heard his question as "What does your star sigh?"
He'd seen how much she liked the idea that she owned a star, and that it sighed; he's seen in her eyes that her mind was rushing through the possible words that it could sigh.
Towards the end of the book, Elliot is summoned before the Princesses of his kingdom.  One of the princesses says to him
You seem a bright boy, so could you just gather your shock and confusion into a little handkerchief size and save it for later?
There were two things I did NOT like because this book is written for 12 year olds and older: 1)  Elliot and his friends jump on a moving train and went into a neighboring territory where it was legal to buy beer at age 16, 2) the mention of sex between more than 2 people.  I thought both of these were out-of-line and not necessary to the story.  I am appalled at how casually multiple-partnered sex is thrown into television as run-of-the-mill, normal, everyday stuff (I'm talking about a recent episode of Psych) and then to run across it in this YA book, sickened me.  Totally uncalled for and not necessary!

The Corner of White will be in bookstores on April 2.  I loved it and can't wait to hear your thoughts about it.  I received this book from NetGalley  and Scholastic Books in hopes that I would read it and give it an honest review.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Six Years

by Harlan Coben

I don't know how many books I've read by Coben but I've enjoyed each one.  Six Years was remarkably good.  Loved it!
Six years have passed since Jake Sanders watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.
But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out.
As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart—and who lied to him—soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.

This book kept me guessing about Jake, about Natalie, and what really happened in that short summer they supposedly spent together, and the six years since.  Did Jake and Natalie ever have their time together or is Jake delusional.   I love a book that keeps me guessing, questioning.

There is a freshness to this story.  It's not an ordinary mystery with a body that needs to be solved.  There's no body.  The police aren't involved.  It's one man in search of his one true love who doesn't seem to even exist.

Sometimes when I write a review on a book that I really liked, I feel a little nostalgic - wishing I hadn't already read it so I can look forward to reading it.  Does that ever happen to you?  

***I received a copy of Six Years from Dutton Books, Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review.  No other compensation was received.***  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scent of Triumph

by Jan Moran

I picked this book up after quitting early on another book.  I've had such good luck with the other books I've read this year and was sad to pick up one that didn't hold my interest.

Scent of Triumph had me in its grips on page two.  The writing and the intense scene captured my attention immediately.

It's 1939 and the Nazi's had just invaded Poland.  Danielle and Max secure passage to England as soon as they get word while in New York on business.  Instead of bringing their son with them to the states, they left him in the care of Max's mother who lived in Poland.

You can probably guess that the son and his grandmother are captured and sent to a work camp.  Danielle searches for them but eventually has to flee to America for her safety and that of several family members.

In America, Danielle must rely on her determination, strong will, and natural abilities to forge a life for her and   those dependent on her.  Life isn't easy, but she is beautiful and has a 'nose' for scents.  Trained in, and with her knowledge of perfumery she starts a successful business.

I really liked the parts of the story that took place in Europe.  The parts in America were good, but I wanted to read more about what was happening to those family members that were impacted by the war and still living in Europe.  The author had a direction she wanted Danielle to take, but I want to read the alternative version where Danielle stays in Europe.  I don't know that it would be better, just different.

This was a good read, one that I think most of women would enjoy.  I suppose this book would be classified as general fiction - drama, maybe?

I received a ecopy of Scent of Triumph from NetGalley and Briarcliffe Press in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Resilient Woman

by Patricia O'Gorman, PHD

I read a lot of self-help books in my 20s & 30s but when all the messages were just different wording of the same themes, I weened myself.  Some of those books helped me create some positive changes in my life.

The Resilient Woman is among the best of the best that I've read.  I don't even know where to begin telling you how worthwhile this book is.  In preparing for this review, I went back and looked at my highlights - there are many highlights.  I can see that I need to reread the whole book a couple more times.  Plus, I'm going to buy a copy for each of my 4 daughters.

As I read The Resilient Woman the Lord's admonishment to us in the scriptures to "endure to the end" and "endure all things" kept coming to mind.  I realized that by becoming a resilient person, I could endure all things with grace and learn lessons from my life experiences.

Throughout the book Dr. O'Gorman provides thoughtful journal exercises.  Let me just share one with you.  This is about half way into the book and so there has been quite a bit leading up to this one but it hit home with me.
You are puzzle worth working on.  Get curious.  Begin by looking your patterns.  Describe a pattern that you keep repeating.  What are you protecting yourself from by following this pattern?  What would happen if you did something else?
Then she talks about curiosity vs shame.
   With shame we see ourselves as the problem.  Shame doesn't feel good no matter how we package it.  It traps us, sucks out energy, and, most important, shame keeps us stuck, which keeps us from accessing resilience.  By disempowering us, shame facilitates us doing the same things over and over again  It keeps us in the same patterns that we know do not work for us.  The opposite of shame and critical self-judgement is curiosity.  Curiosity invites an openness to understand, a willingness to dare to take the risk to explore.  In fact, curiosity can actually be quite exciting!  Experiment with changing some small things in your life to see if the earth falls out from under you.  When you find out it doesn't, you, too, can feel this exhilaration.
I liked this because curiosity is one reason I read.   That's something I know about.  By using curiosity in another way I can learn to experiment with small things in my life and see if they work for me or not.

There are so many concrete suggestions in this book.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  It's directed at women but I think it can apply to men, too.  I recommended it to my husband.

I received a copy of The Resilient Woman from NetGalley in return for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Murder Below Montparnasse

by Cara Black

 I enjoyed this book a lot and look forward to reading more from the series.  That's right, it's a series. I can't believe how many times I find myself in the middle of a series without having read any of the earlier books.  That's not always a bad thing.  Reading a mystery out of order can create it's own experience - the reader gets to go back and discover the motivations behind the main character.

Murder Below Montparnasse is book 12 in the series.  There were times I was a little confused and that was probably because I wasn't familiar with the characters and some of the backplot.  The sprinkling of French words also added to my confusion but I wouldn't want those left out.

In spite of that, it was a really good book and a good mystery that revolves around a painting by a famous French artist that has gone missing.  I liked the main character, Aimee Leduc, and her two colleagues in her detective agency.  I have already made a list of the books in the series, in order, so I can read more.

This book will be released on March 5.

Are you familiar with this series featuring Aimee Leduc?  Do you have a favorite?  At this point I'm not worried about reading them in order, but I would like to read more.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bones Never Lie

How forensics Helps Solve History's Mysteries
by Elizabeth MacLeod

This is another nonfiction intended for children 10 years of age and older.  I'm just barely over that and I love science.  I taught high school biology and chemistry before retiring.  Being a forensic scientist would be a great job.  That's what this book is about - using forensics to solve history's mysteries.

Each chapter focuses on a famous person or group of people and how forensics was used to answer questions and solve mysteries.

The first chapter:  How Did and Entire Maya Royal Family Die?  Different forensic measures are discussed and how they were used to discover what happened to this important family.  Involved were studying and reading the bones, looking at the artifacts left with the bodies, studying the Mayan history, and limiting the suspects.

Chapter 2 - Was Emperor napoleon Bonaparte Poisoned? This chapter discusses what an autopsy is and how it helps solve crimes, the use of bugs that give clues about the blood and guts, knowledge of poisons and illness, etc.

Each chapter is immensely interesting.  If I was a 10 year, I know I would devour every  tale and want to grow up to be a forensic scientist.  My grandson is dead set on being an airplane pilot, but my 9-yr-old granddaughter is undermined.  Well, she's pretty set on win gold in swimming at the Olympics but after that she needs a job.

Other mysteries discussed & solved in this book are King Tut, Kan Maax, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, The Man in the Iron Mask,Louis XVI, Louis XVII, Grand Duchess Anastasia, King Rama VIII, King Rama IX.  (Did you notice that many Louis that had questionable deaths?)

I loved this book and highly recommend it for sparking an interest in a young child's brain.  What a good source for a report for history or science.

I received a free copy of Bones Never Lie from NetGalley for an honest review.  No other compensation was given.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

10 Plants that Shook the World

by Gillian Richardson

Is it just me or does everyone perk up at titles like this?  Books about the longest feuds of all time, the top inventions, the weirdest animals, the greatest speeches, anything with a list intrigues me.

My favorite classes in college were my botany classes so when I was this book dealing with plants I requested it from NetGalley.  I couldn't wait to read what the 10 plants were that shook the world and discover what criterion the author used to wheedle the list down to ten.  The introduction didn't really discuss why some were chosen over others.  This book is aimed at children age 10 and above, so that may explain why poppies, marijuana, or hops didn't make the list.  I guess the claim isn't that these are the top 10 plants to shake the world - only that these 10 did have a big influence on the vast populations of the entire world, not just a region or country.

That said, here's the list:  tea, sugarcane, corn, potatoes, cacao, pepper, cotton, rubber, chinchona (quinine bark), and papyrus.

This is the type of book that I love to buy and set out on an end table for the grandkids to pick up and read a bit here and there.  I want them to be exposed to a lot of different interests to broaden their horizons.  I learned some fascinating tidbits of this book and recommend it.

Have you ever heard of Fordlandia?  It was Henry Ford's dream to build a megacity and rubber plantation on the amazon.  When you think of potatoes, don't you think of Ireland and Idaho?  Potatoes came to Europe in 1570 from Peru.

These plants have brought about ease, comfort, improvements in life style, health and taste but there stories are often filled with greed and dishonesty by governments and businesses.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Prairie Chicken Little

 by Jackie Mims Hopkins
Illustrated by Henry Cole

I grew up loving the story of Chicken Little so when I saw this new version of the tale I wanted to read it.  In this version there's a real threat not a misinterpreted one.

Prairie Chicken Little hears a rumblin' and a grumblin' and a tumblin' and is sure a stampede is coming.  She feels she must warn Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan so she runs lickety-splickety across the prairie to tell them.  Along the way she meets other prairie friends who become convince of the impending danger and go with her to issue the warning.

One of the prairie creatures she encounters is Slim Brody the sly coyote who tells the group about a short cut.  You'll have to read for yourself to see if Slim Brody is really offering help or not.  Will Prairie Chicken Little get the message to Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan in time?

I highly recommend this book.  It reminded me of my children's favorite, What Was That? because it had lots of repetition of fun lines and fun words that they enjoyed saying with me.  This is the kind of book that children will love hearing over and over again and joining in on those fun repetitions.  Since my copy was an eBook for the Adobe Reader I didn't get to enjoy the artwork, but from the fun cover, I'll bet it's cute & vivid throughout.

Here's what a prairie chicken looks like.  In this picture you can just barely see one of the orange sacs on the side of the male's neck.  When it is mating season or when in battle he puffs those little sacs up to impress the females or to scare away other males.

I received a copy of Prairie Chicken Little from NetGalley and Peachtree Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  I received nmonetary compensation. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

10 Plants That Shook the World Trivia Question

by Gillian Richardson

I'm reading a children's book that is proving to be very interesting.  Before I post my review in a few days I thought I'd post a trivia question.

How many of the 10 Plants That Shook the World you can name?

I'm trusting you not to cheat -  the glory comes in guessing the correct ones, not looking them up on the internet and rewriting them in the comments.  No prizes.  This is just for the fun of it.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Next Time You See Me

by Holly Goddard Jones

I feel like I'm on a reading high.  The last three books I've read have been top-notch.  All three are mysteries, but are quite different in voice, story line, and settings.  The first was The German Suitcase set in WWII and present day, then Three Graves Full that was at once hilarious and tense, and third The Next Time You See Me is a small town drama.

I was surprised to discover that this is a debut novel.  It's very well written, crisp and descriptive.  The characters are flawed, likable and sympathetic.  The story is told with direction and compassion.  I can easily see this book on the New York Times best selling list and in Oprah's magazine as one of the year's best.  It's an excellent choice for book clubs because there is so much depth to the story and the characters.  So much to discuss.

Here's the jacket write-up:
In The Next Time You See Me, the disappearance of one woman, the hard-drinking and unpredictable Ronnie Eastman, reveals the ambitions, prejudices, and anxieties of a small southern town and its residents. There’s Ronnie’s sister Susanna, a dutiful but dissatisfied schoolteacher, mother, and wife; Tony, a failed baseball star-turned-detective; Emily, a socially awkward thirteen-year-old with a dark secret; and Wyatt, a factory worker tormented by a past he can’t change and by a love he doesn’t think he deserves. Connected in ways they cannot begin to imagine, their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves.
I eagerly anticipate more novels by Ms. Jones and highly recommend this one for others to pick up and read.  There's a little bit of mystery but it's mostly literary drama.  I'm betting you'll like it.  After you read your copy will you let me know how you think the title connects to the story.  That would be another good thing to discuss with my f2f book group.

 ** I received a  copy of The Next Time I See You  from Simon & Shuster in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Year-Round Slow Cooker

by Dina Cheney

I was a bit disappointed when I first browsed through these recipes because they require a little more food preparations than I am used to.  When I think of slow cooker I generally think I'll throw all the ingredients in, put on the lid, and go about my business.

Then I got to thinking ~ I am willing to put quite a bit of effort into a nice meal, on occasion.  Where is it written that a slow cooker can't be used for a gourmet meal.  Why not use the slow cooker as one of the different tools we have in our kitchens to make delicious, elegant meals as well as fast, easy meals.

This book is divided into 4 sections ~ one for each season.  Just look over these delicious sounding recipes in the summer section. (I jumped to the summer section first because I'm so tired of winter!)
Summer Brisket with roasted Red Peppers
Pulled pork Sandwiches with Peach Barbecue Sauce
Pulled Chicken with Cherry-Chile Barbecue Sauce
Beef Peppers stuffed with Latin Beef Picadilla
Triple-Apricot 'French Toast' Bread Pudding with Sea Salt Caramel Sauce
Corn-Vanilla Pudding with Triple Berry Sauce
As you can see these are not your run-of-the-mill slow cooker recipes.  And, yes, they do require a little more effort but I'm looking forward to trying some of these for those times I feel adventurous and when I want something especially tasty.  You can tell by the few recipes titles I listed above that these recipes are something special.  I've always been turned off by slow cooker cookbooks that only include 30 different soup recipes and a few bland casseroles.  That is NOT this cookbook.

Throughout the book Cheney provides tips such as getting the most flavor from slow cooker dishes, why it's important to brown some meats first, power ingredients, and information on certain ingredients.  I learned that I shouldn't overload my frying pan when browning my meats because it steams them instead.   I need to leave space in between each piece.

I received this book from NetGalley on behalf of Dina Cheney and The Taunton Press, Inc. in exchange for my review.   I received no other compensation.  The only thing I didn't like was the book had to be read on Adobe Digital Editions, which meant I had to sit at my computer to read it.  That also means I cannot print out a copy of a recipe to take into the kitchen so it makes it difficult to try any of the recipes.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Graves Full

by Jamie Mason
I have discovered a new author to add to my favorites list.   I read this entire book thinking this was a male author and was blown away to discover it was a female.  I don't know that I am always able to distinguish one from the other but usually I know something about the author going into a book and quite often the name provides that information.  Not that I care one way or the other - I have both male and female authors in my favorites list - but I just assumed this author was a man.  And, frankly, the book read like it was written by a man.
I loved this book!  Absolutely, loved it.  The writing was spot on. I felt like I was watching a movie instead of reading because I could see and sense the action that well.  A few weeks ago I couldn't stay involved with a book because I was working on a quilt.  This week I was at the finishing stages of that quilt, which usually holds my undivided attention but I was forced to divide my time between it and this book.  I wanted to pull my hair out because both were calling me with equal draw.  
Three Graves Full made me laugh, bite my fingernails, and turn pages as fast as I could go.  One of the best books I've read in the last several years.  And to think it's a debut novel.  Amazing!  I can't wait until Mason's next book.  Here's the write-up from Net Galley that enticed me to request a copy of this book for review:
There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.”With this memorable first line, we meet Jason Getty, a regular guy in every mild sense of the word. But extraordinary circumstances push this ordinary man to do something he can’t undo...and now he must live with the undeniable reality of his actions. And just as Jason does finally learn to live with it, a landscaper discovers a body on his property—only it’s not the body Jason buried.As Jason’s fragile peace begins to unravel, his life is hitched to the fortunes of several strangers: Leah, an abandoned woman looking for answers to her heartbreak; Tim, a small-town detective just doing his job; and Boyd, a fringe-dweller whose past is about to catch up to him—all of them in the wake and shadow of a dead man who had it coming.With the tense pacing of a thriller and the language and beauty of a fine literary novel, Three Graves Full heralds the arrival of a stunning new voice in fiction.
I usually don't suggest mysteries/thrillers for bookclub but this one I would recommend.  There are so many good literary passages with insight into the human psyche, bullying, self-doubt, truth & lies.  I highlighted many.  I bargained with my husband that if he would read Three Graves Full, I would relinquish my hold on the Kindle until he finished it.  I'm that desperate to have someone to discuss it with me.  Let me know if you read this book and what you think.  It goes on sale Feb. 12, I believe.  Watch for it.  This is an author you will hear more about.