Friday, November 12, 2010

Back to School Murder by Leslie Meier

This is the next book in the Lucy Stone series.  Lucy is working for Ted at the Pennysaver while his regular secretary is off looking after her ill mother. Part of her job is to listen to the police scanner and she can't believe her ears when she hears that a bomb threat has been called in to the elementary school where her second youngest, Sara, is spending her first day in grade 2. 

She rushes to the school to see all of the children evacuated and safe. Things are still quiet and under control when the new vice principle, Carol  Crane, is seen rushing back into the building and comes out carrying a special needs child. She has just exited the building when the bomb goes off. She falls to the ground sheltering the boy with her body. 

A real hero, and gorgeous too, all of the parents are extolling her virtues. The other teachers and the janitor at the school, however, have a different attitude about her. Lucy sees Carol's other side when she goes snooping around during a school board meeting. Her mysteryar is immediately peeked and she wants to find out more about this mysterious woman.

A few days later Carol doesn't show up for work and Lucy hears on the police scanner that there has been a homicide. She rushes to the address and finds that it is Carol who has been murdered, smothered in her own bed when someone put a pillow over her face. 

Along with the main story of murder the book talks about Lucy's difficulties at home. Lack of money, being taken for granted now that she has 4 children (Baby Zoe is now two years old). Her husband doesn't like her working. Her job is to look after the house and the children says her husband Bill. And he is not pleased to arrive home and not have dinner on the table precisely at 6pm. 

When the suspect is arrested Lucy knows in her heart that the police have the wrong person. She does her regular snooping but gets much further now that she can tell people she is with the Pennysaver. No one has to know she isn't a reporter. She uses some very creative techniques to get information. Unfortunately none of it can be printed in the Pennysaver because there is nothing to back it up. 

Twists and turns, one of my favortie parts of Leslie's stories, take us from suspecting one person and then another. For the first time there is an incident that kind of leans me in the direction of one person as the killer. He has an alibi but it still niggles at me throughout the book. 

Of course I didn't know why he would kill Carol because we don't know that much about her past or her relationships, but right at the last minute the connection to the killer is revealed. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trick or Treat Murder - Leslie Meier

This is the third in the Lucy Stone Mystery series. It appears there is an arsonist on the lose in Tinker's Cove. One of the first fires did little damage while the 2nd destroyed an old barn completely. The third fire was in an old house that was being restored by "summer people", vacationers who only came to Tinker's Cove in the nice months. It too was total destruction with only a part of the chimney remaining. When the police scanned the rubble the K-9 found that there had been someone in the house at the time of the fire. The owner had had a fight with her husband and unbeknownst to anyone had driven to Tinker's Cove to take refuge in the house. 

Because this now meant manslaughter or even murder rather than plain arson the fires were given more attention. Suspects were questioned, held, let free, and Lucy of course did her own snooping into what she was convinced was a case of murder. 

Lucy's husband Bill is invited to join the Tinker's Cove Historic District Commission chaired by cranky and immoveable old Miss Tilley. The results of Miss Tilley's strict adherence to the rules of the commission, ones that made sense or not, bring forth another bunch of possible candidates for the arsonist. 

After the local Halloween Festival, just when Lucy thought life had slowed down a bit she found herself alone with and at the mercy of the real arsonist. Things really heated up for her and it was thanks to her son and his friends that she made it out alive. 

Seeing as this is a series and it would have to end if anything happened to Lucy we all know that she comes out shaken but unscathed in the end. 

I'm still finding Leslie Meier's books to be fast paced enough to give edge of your seat excitement and yet still remain true to the concept of being a "cozy" mystery. She knows just how to twist and turn to keep you guessing to the last chapter. 

Off to read the next one. I can't get enough. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

I've read all of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books with the exception of Lord Grey. Someone gave me Lord Grey but when I flipped through it I realized it was not a type of book I'd be interested in. My husband gave me this volume for Christmas the year it came out. It's a huge hardcover book and so although I picked it up a few times to start it I always put it down again in favour of smaller paperbacks.  For those of you who haven't read it it is available in paperback now. 

Last month I finally decided to read this book in earnest. It's almost 1000 pages long and I think it took me about 3 weeks to read it. 

Being a prude there's way too much sex in it for my liking but that aside I really enjoyed this volume. My minister calls it erotica for middle aged women *LOL* It's not too graphic but you know what she's talking about. 

There's so much that happens in this book and yet it doesn't seem like overkill like some books do that have numerous scenarios happen. Diana Gabaldon seems to know exactly how to weave it all together so that it makes perfect sense and flows naturally. I'd liken it to an action book but it's much smoother than that. 

We get a glimpse of what life was like before the American Revolution and some of the things that were happening as precursors to the war. I'm a Canadian but I'm interested in the history of all countries. 

If you have read the earlier books you will know that there is a fire mentioned. To avoid spoiling the book I will only say that the fire does happen but not in the way any of us would have expected and not on the date expected. 

She now has another book out, which I didn't expect. When I began reading this book I thought it would be the last of the series but I'm looking forward to reading just one more. 

I highly recommend this series. One of the volumes (Firery Cross) was not a particular favourite of mine and I've heard the same from others but it is a necessary read to keep the continuity of the story. Unfortunately I gave away all of my books in the series but I'm in the process of collecting them again as I'd like to read them again. That, I feel, is the sign of a good book. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Death Loves a Messy Desk by Mary Jane Maffini

Oh my gosh! I came onto my site to do my review and the author herself left a comment on my last post! Okay, I know authors are just people like everyone else not royalty or something but I find it exciting that she'd be nice enough to leave a comment on my blog. 

Death Loves a Messy Desk was every bit as good as The Cluttered Corpse. I don't know how authors do it but some are just able to make their characters so likeable that I just want more and more stories about them just so you can spend time with them. Throughout this book Charlotte is also trying to train her two dachshunds, Sweet Marie and Truffle, so that they can become therapy dogs visiting nursing homes and hospitals. Her training sessions are really interesting to read about.  

In this book Charlotte Adams is hired to help with a desk in an office that is out of control. On her initial visit she comes close to a head on collision in the driveway of the office building when a driver is speeding in the wrong direction directly towards her.  She finds the woman in the SUV is the owner of the desk that needs tidying up. She's told her services aren't needed, but that evening on the news she sees the woman who was driving the SUV in a news story about a man found dead in the trunk of his car. She's sure it must be the missing desk owner. 

Of course now Charlotte can't help herself, she just has to find this woman. The book is a series of her being welcome in this office and being forbidden to come near the building. Her friend the Police Detective Pepper knows something, she can tell by the look on her face. But the only way Charlotte can find anything out is  by snooping. No one will give her information. 

The book takes twists and turns and there is one amazing car/truck race through a suburban neighbourhood with a surprising ending. 

I never would have figured out the answer. I love the way we are fed bits of information that lead us to conclusions and just when we think we have it we are given another clue that contradicts our assumptions. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book too and stayed up way to late at night reading. Unfortunately the 4th book in the series hasn't been written yet. I hope there is a 4th book. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Cluttered Corpse by Mary Jane Maffini

Interestingly enough all of the cosy mysteries that I love have been written by women. It's amazing how far we have come. I was just thinking, Mary Anne Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880) published her work under the pen name George Elliott because she felt that her work would be taken more seriously if people thought it was written by a man. This was the case in the mid 1800's in Britain. 

160 years later I'm not only finding good books written by women but books written by Canadian women. Two of my favourite Canadian authors live in the same city I grew up in, Ottawa, Ontario. 

Mary Jane Maffini has 3 mystery series. This is the second book in the Charlotte Adams series. Again I ordered the 3rd before finishing the second because I enjoyed it so much. 

For this series Mary Jane has used the fictional town of Woodbridge, New York. Charlotte Adams is a professional organizer who has returned to her hometown to live where she still has ongoing friendships with friends from high school, some quite interesting to say the least. 

In this book Charlotte is hired to help a woman organize her stuffed animal collection which has gotten beyond out of control. The second time she goes to meet with her she finds her in the middle of the street crying out "I murdered him!" A teenager who had been playing tricks on her was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her house. It could easily have been an accident as the stuffed toys had not only taken over 3 upstairs rooms but the stairs as well. He could have easily tripped. 

But we all know that if someone confesses to murder right at the beginning of a book that that's not whodunit. 

I've seen comments complaining that it's not realistic for someone to get involved with the problems of someone she's only met once. My feeling is that this is fiction and I don't care if she's never met the alleged killer. It's the mystery of the story that intrigues me. We are given clues throughout the book. There are various scenarios presented that could be the possible answer. In the end the answer is very unexpected. 

I love how a book climaxes at the end like that and you can't put it down. It's like having tree sap on your fingers and the book just won't let go. 

I highly recommend Mary Jane Maffini's books. 

Tippy Toe Murder by Leslie Meier

I was given this book by a friend. Before I reached the end I knew that I had to read the whole series. I checked which ones my library has and I've ordered the missing ones used from Abes Books.

Our heroine, Lucy Stone, is the mother of 3 children and very pregnant with her fourth. Her two daughters, ages 7 and 4 are getting ready to perform in a ballet recital. There is a retired dance teacher in town who is living a quiet life, following a pretty strict routine every day. So when she suddenly disappears and leaves her Golden Retriever running loose people are quite concerned that she may have had an accident in the woods or been attacked. A thorough search by police turn up nothing. The police conclude that she has simply gone on vacation without telling anyone. But why would she abandon her dog? Why would she leave right before the dance recital? The dance instructor was one of her star pupils.

Meanwhile there is a cantakerous old man who runs a hardware store in town. His prices are much higher than at other stores but his store is more convenient so people will shop there if they don't feel like travelling to the larger area of stores. This man is the patriarch of the richest and most powerful family in town. When he is found dead suspicion rests on Fanny who has been an underpaid, faithful lone clerk in his store for years. Her fingerprints are found on the murder weapon.

Lucy knows in her bones that Fanny didn't do it and sets out to figure out who did. A lot of people had a vested interest in his estate.

I love the way the plot twists and how the two seemingly completely different mysteries end up converging near the end of the book.

the curious Incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon

Whenever I mention the book House Rules to people they ask if me I've read this book by Mark Haddon. So I decided to get it from the library. It is also a book about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome. It's another interesting look into the mind of an Autistic. Christopher seems to be lower functioning than Jacob in House Rules. He attends a special school and can't go further than the corner store by himself whereas Jacob functioned in a normal school setting and seemed somewhat more able to function in the world at large. However Christopher appears to have an even higher IQ than Jacob. His references to Science and Maths made no sense to me at all. Of course those are my worst subjects so even long division throws me *LOL* This book is written as if it is Christopher writing it. I found it a bit more difficult to read because Mark Haddon is British and it takes some time getting around the everyday words that Brits use as compared to what we use.

Christopher discovers the body of his neighbour's poodle stabbed - killed - with a garden fork and he is determined to play detective and figure out who killed the dog. His teacher suggests that he write a diary which will become a detective book. It's difficult for him because he wants to interview people, like the neighbour next door, but he doesn't know her and therefore she is a stranger and he has been told not to talk to strangers.

It's an interesting read because of the way he views the world, the way he organizes his thoughts and the way he interprets things. He comes to the conclusion that his father killed the dog and that frightens him. He thinks his father is a murderer and will murder him too. Therefore he decides to run away to London to live with his mother. His journey is frightening to him, when things get too overwhelming he closes his eyes and puts his head down and groans. I understand this. My son groans when he is nervous although he doesn't shut himself off like Christopher does.

Even though he is frightened he comes up with some unique ways to protect his psyche.. like hiding on a luggage rack to get away from a policeman and the crowds on the train. He does manage to ask the right questions and be able to deduce how to get to the right trains that will take him where he needs to go.

I found myself feeling very hyper while reading this book. It was better if I made sure I didn't read it right before bedtime. It was so well written that I really could identify with Christopher and that left me feeling anxious as well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I loved this book. It was recommended to me by someone who knows that I have a son with Aspergers Syndrome. Jodi's portrayal of what her characters life is like seems very well researched.

Jacob is 18 years old and his obsession is forensic science. He has an extremely high IQ but his Aspergers makes life difficult for him. His favorite show is CrimeBusters and he watches it every day at 4:30. He writes notes as he watches, he knows which episode numbers relate to what case and everything that happened on the show. And yet he watches them over and over and takes notes each time. He doesn't quite grasp the fact that the show will always end the same way. 

When his tutor is murdered Jacob is arrested and put in jail. Anyone who knows anything about Aspergers knows that went over like a lead balloon and caused a reversion in his behaviours. 

This book was difficult to read. My son is not like Jacob. No two Asperger individuals will be alike. My son doesn't have a high IQ but unlike Jacob he does have a driver's license. Of course we had to wait until he was 20 before we felt it was safe for him to learn to drive. He has had his license for almost 10 years now and no accidents. In many ways he functions better day to day than Jacob but the similarities, the problems socially, misreading cues, etc. are all too familiar to me. 

It's my hope that people who don't know about this Syndrome will read the book and it will become better known. It's an "invisible disorder". People who meet my son think he is shy or eccentric but other than that "normal" in their view of normal. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Keeping The House by Ellen Baker

This was a fun book with enough mystery to make it a page turner. The story spans 3 generations and two World Wars. The Michelson house sits high on a hill looking down on it's neighbours, as do the inhabitants of the house. The house is said to be cursed because it was built on the grave of an indian princess who had committed suicide by throwing herself into the Bear Creek River. 

When the main character, Dolly Magnuson, is introduced she has just moved to Pine Rapids with her new husband Byron. It is 1950 and I find the life of a 1950 housewife funny, she had an apron shower - she has 40 aprons and always wears one that matches her dress when she serves dinner. But at the same time, in today's terms, her husband is a total jerk like when he complains that there were no freshly ironed shirts in his closet for him to wear and that it's Dolly's job to make sure he always has freshly laundered and ironed shirts. They were in fact ironed, but Dolly had forgotten to bring them up from the basement which, in her eyes, was a failure to be a proper wife. 

When Dolly arrives in Pine Rapids the Mickleson house is empty and badly in need of TLC. Dolly believes that if she and Byron could buy that house and she could fix it up that it would improve their marriage and they would be happier than they are living in their small bungalow.

The ensuing story takes us back to the beginning when the house was built and through two generations of the experiences and losses of the Mickleson family. At the same time we follow Dolly to her women's meeting where she learns more about the house via the gossip mill. 

I love books with a twist and this book has one heck of a twist about 3/4 of the way through. 

This is Ellen Baker's first novel and if this is any indication of her writing ability she's going to be a force to be reckoned with by her fellow authors. 

It's up to the reader to ask themselves if the house really is cursed or if the inhabitants used the story of the curse to excuse their bad deeds and behaviours. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fatally Flakey by Diane Mott Davidson

This is Diane's 15th book in the Goldy the Caterer series. I really enjoyed this one. I've read all of her books now and was actually was kind of able to figure out what the mystery was that caused the death of old Dr. Finn and Goldy's godfather Jack when I was a little over half way through the book. The murderer, however, was a different story and a huge surprise. On the other hand it also answered a whole lot of questions that made mego "hmmm."  One thing about a series too is being able to see the characters grow. Goldy's son Arch who was only about 6 or 7 when the first book was written is now 16 and has his driver's license. It's like watching my own kids grow again. They say that Sarah Graves Home Repair Homicide Mysteries are like Diane Mott Davidson with a hammer. It's very true. Their writing styles are similar and both series are really enjoyable.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

I'm listing this book under the name it is published as in the Untied States. I don't find the Canadian name offensive because I am white and because the name of the book refers to an archival genealogy document, it is not meant to offend. Lawrence Hill lives in Manitoba and he is black. The Canadian name of the book is The Book of Negroes. For a first book it is absolutely amazing. My only disappointment was when I reached the end of the book only to discover that his main character was fictional. I grew very attached to her. I admired her courage, her intelligence, her choices and I cried with her disappointments and losses. Hopefully someone like her did actually exist even in a composite of different women.

She was kidnapped from her home in 1745 and sold in South Carolina. She eventually made her way to New York State. This was during the American Revolution. The English held Manhatten for many years before they surrendered. A part of the deal when they did surrender was that any blacks that had worked for the British for at least a year were given free passage, unmolested by previous owners, to Nova Scotia where they were promised land of their own. This is where the Book of Negroes comes into play. A list of names and descriptions was made of all those who were eligible to leave on ships going to Nova Scotia. The original document is in Kew, London, England and there are films available in archives in Canada and perhaps the US. Of course the promise of land never materialized in Nova Scotia however the people were free. They were then invited to colonize Sierra Leone in Africa. Again they were promised land... which never materialized but again they were free and they were back home where they belonged.

Our main character then travelled to Britain in 1802 to work with Abolitionists in London. This is where I so wanted her to be real. Her story was told to Parliament and in the book did make a difference. She was reunited with her daughter who had been taken from her many years earlier. It just was a very happy ending.

It was difficult to read this book because of the cruelty brought to light. But I believe it is good for us to read about these things, not in a straight history book, but in a novel where we can see how it affected an individual. It would be nice if a movie or series was one day made from the book similar to the Roots series.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Crawlspace - Sarah Graves

I read this book in about 4 days. Sarah Graves is just getting better and better when it comes to suspense. This was another kidnapping but the circumstances were completely different from the last book. And this book took place mostly on the water instead of on land. The water around Eastport Maine is treacherous for small boats, lots of whirlpools, undercurrents and rocks not to mention large (huge) ships. And, of course, fog in the Fall.

A Crime Author from "away" arrives at the island with her assistant only to be kidnapped before they even check into the hotel. Her assistant, Chip, notifies the police the next morning. Police Chief Bob Arnold is skeptical but when Jake finds that her son Sam is missing as well it begins to appear more and more that both of them were kidnapped by the same person. Jake for a change does what she's told, through most of the book anyway, and stays at home waiting for phone calls. Chip meanwhile "borrows" a boat to go looking for them without telling anyone where he's gone. With Chip not being a main character you know he can die at any point. This makes it more suspenseful when he's out on unknown waters in the fog, at night, with the engine broken down and nothing to paddle with cause the oars broke. He'd have no idea which way to paddle because he can't see any lights through the fog.

See why I couldn't put it down? And that was the latest book in her series! She's left me waiting with baited breath for her next one which probably won't come out until the Fall or early 2011 if she decides to write a next one. Please, please, please, Sarah. Keep writing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Face at the Window by Sarah Graves

This is Sarah Graves 12th book in her "Home Repair is Homicide" series. I have to say it's my very favorite of her books, so far. I'm sure I said that before about one of her other books cause I've really enjoyed all of them.

Jake has given a very simple written statement about what she remembers from the night her mother died. Seeing as she was only 3 years old she didn't remember much but one thing that she wrote down is enough to go a long way towards convicting Ozzie Campbell, the true killer of her mother. But Jake doesn't know that until she starts receiving threatening phone calls. The next day Ellie's daughter and her daycare provider are kidnapped. Jake has to find them and, naturally, this puts herself in danger as well.

This was a sit on the edge of your seat book. Sarah Graves obviously knows how to use the literary art of switching from one set of characters in trouble to another. So you finish a chapter with a suspensful thought only to find the next chapter is devoted to the other character who is elsewhere. This results in you carrying the book around reading and doing housework at the same time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rotten to the Core by Sheila Connolly

I was given this book by a friend. It is the second in a series and I'd like to get the first one and then read the 3rd one. The first one is called One Bad Apple. Her newest one is called Red Delicious Death and she is now working on a 4th, as yet unnamed but still in the Orchard series.

I have accepted that this is my kind of book. One that I can read in a week or less cause it grabs me. 

Meg Correy has inherited a family orchard and farmhouse from her family which has inhabited the land for over 100 years. She's a financial type who lived the business life in Boston, rented apartment with no real home care experience.  All of a sudden she has a house and barn that is badly in need of repairs and an orchard full of apple trees which, thank goodness, the local university has been using for teaching horticulture to students. But even though the orchard has been cared for she needs to learn all about looking after it because now that it's hers it will be her responsibility.

Of course there is the handsome neighbour who just happens to need some space so is fixing up the barn for her to make into an office/work area for himself. And what would one of these books be without a murder?

The book begins with her finding a body in her Spring House. He appears to have been poisoned. The police aren't getting far so Meg takes it upon herself to learn as much as she can about poisons found/stored on the farm and about the person's life in general, including motives for killing him. Lots of people are glad that he's dead (isn't that sad?) but every lead she follows dead ends with a solid alibi. We don't find out who the murderer is until the end of the book and it's like an Alfred Hitchcock novel. You'd never even expect it.

Not saying any more. Just saying that it's a fun read and I will be reading her other two books.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Charles I by Jacob Abbott

I downloaded this book in MP3 format from It is by the same author as Mary Queen of Scots. I wish he'd written a book on her son James VI who became King of Scotland on her death when he was only 13 months old. He then also became James I of England on his aunt Elizabeth I's death. Since she had no children James was first in line for the crown of England. However there is a bit about him at the beginning of this book.

James was baptised Catholic because of Mary's religion but was brought up reformed protestant of Scotland. He married Anne of Denmark and they had 6 or 7 children but only 3 lived past infancy. Henry was the oldest and expected heir to the throne. Charles was his second son and was quite ill as a child. Charles was paid little notice and, as a matter of fact, when the family left to move to London when James was crowned King on Elizabeth's death, Charles was left behind in Scotland because he was considered too delicate to make the journey.

Many Scottish people were considered to have the gift of "second sight". A man who claimed to have this gift came to visit James in Scotland and bowed down to Charles who he declared would be the next King, not Henry. His prediction came true when the stronger Henry died as a child and Charles was the one who ultimately became King.

This story is amazing. I had no idea of the turbulance surrounding Charles I. If he wanted funds and parliament didn't agree with him he would parogue the house and rule himself levying taxes to raise the monies he wanted. This happened a number of times during his rule. His wife was a Catholic and the British Protestants felt that Charles was bringing the Protestant Church too closely in line with the Catholics. He travelled to Scotland with the Archbishop of Cantebury tried to reform the Scottish Presbyterians and this created the Bishops Wars.

There were two Civil Wars during his reign. In the second war he was captured and eventually beheaded, accused of high treason. The monarchy was disolved and Oliver Cromwell ruled England for 11  years before the monarchy was restored and Charles II was placed on the throne. 

There are just too many incidents to even begin to mention them here so it would be best to download the book - it's free - and listen to it for yourself. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

THREE DAY ROAD - Joseph Boyden

I love cozy mystery books but I've decided to join a book club and add some more thought provoking books to my reading library. I've always had a second deeper book going but my urge to read them isn't always strong and it's a struggle to get through them. With a book club it's required that I read the book before the next month's meeting so it gives me incentive.

This book is about two Cree friends who sign up to fight in World War 1. The story is told in 2 first person accounts. Xavier has returned from the war wounded and addicted to morphine and relates his story in flashbacks as his elderly aunt paddles him from civilization back home to an area near James Bay. Her stories are interesting. She lives in the old ways and has much to share about her culture. Many of her stories are of her childhood and of the indian medicine she is famous for among the different clans.

The book is quite graphic in parts,  however the interspersing of the two first person accounts softens the horrific story of what the war was actually like. I found myself wondering how any man could have come back from that war sane enough to live a productive life, to not have the memories destroy him. It's also interesting to see what abilities the Cree bring to war. The ability to sneak up quietly on the enemy as they would animals in the forest. The ability to "smell" the enemy. The ability to lay quietly for hours at a time which enables them to become expert snipers.

Elijah was brought up in a residential school and I find his morals and beliefs are very far removed from Xavier's. In my mind it could be because Xavier was raised by his aunt, felt loved, and was taught morals perhaps without even knowing it. Elijah being brought up in a residental school had none of the benefits of a close relationship with an adult to guide him.

Elijah loves to hunt and kill. He's told by a group of Frenchmen to start collecting evidence of his kills because there is another indian who is perhaps more famous than himself for sniper kills who is able to prove it. Xavier hates killing. He does work in conjunction with Elijah because of his same abilities to move quietly and lay still but he is his sight man. At one point he prefers to work in the mud burying the dead of the Canadians rather than kill.

Throughout the book Elijah's main purpose is to become famous for what he does. For Xavier all he wants to do is return home.

The three-day road also refers to the journey between life and death and I was constantly wondering if Niska (the aunt) was taking Xavier on this life to death journey or if it literally took three days for her to return Xavier to his home from civilization.

A great read. Amazing for a first book.  

Monday, April 12, 2010

Aunt Dimity Down Under

This is Nancy Atherton's 15th book in the series. I missed #14 because I was given this for Christmas so got them out of order. As I probably said waaaayyy down there on my post about the Aunt Dimity Series these books are fun, cozy and an easy read.

Lori's neighbours, the sweet twin Pym sisters, are seriously ill. No one knows how old they are. They've been a permanent fixture in the village forever. It isn't unreasonable that their hearts would eventually get tired. But they have one last wish and ask Lori to help them. They had a brother, who no one knew about except for their personal lawyer, and they wanted to find him before they died. Their father had banished him from the home when he was a young man because of his wild ways. Aubrey (the brother) made his way to New Zealand and unbeknownst to anyone but the lawyer, made his fortune there. He had set up a fund for his sisters which had been supporting them all their lives without their knowledge. They had always thought their pastor father had invested well to care for them in their future. They never did marry.

So off Lori goes to New Zealand. There isn't so much a sense of mystery in this book as their were in some but I really enjoyed learning about New Zealand. I didn't realize the whole south of the island was a mass of volcanos! Lori doesn't find Aubrey, she just misses Aubrey's son who had died shortly before she got there, and shortly after she arrives his grandson died in hospital, the result of a drunken lifestyle. What she does discover is a great grandneice for the Pyms. But Bree has gotten tired of her dysfunctional situation and now that her grandfather is dead and she doesn't have to worry about him she has taken off on her own. Most of the book is Lori's search for Bree which takes us all over New Zealand which in itself is reason enough, for me anyway, to read the book. I'll never get to go to New Zealand, I loved reading about it.

Lori is finally successful and takes Bree back to England to meet her greatgrand aunts whom she immediately bonds with. They rally and so hopefully we will have them to read about in book #16.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Touching Stars by Emile Richards

Well I had to read it didn't I. It's the next in Emilie Richards Shenandoah  Series. This was a really large book - 520 pages. Again it was slow getting into, I thought it would take me longer than the three weeks allowed by our library but I just reached a point, as I do in most books, that I was so hooked I sat down and finished it in 2 days. I've had a lot of other reading to do because I'm doing two studies at the moment so I guess that's what slowed me down too.

This story is about Gayle. If you've read the series you will remember that she runs a bed and breakfast Inn on the Shenandoah River. She is a single parent with 3 boys plus another boy a lot of the time who she took in to give him a break from an abusive situation.

Her husband is a charasmatic television reporter who goes to all of the worlds most newsworthy spots to bring people the news. He has come back from Ahganistan after a harrowing experience, almost died, to recover and he chooses the Inn to recover at. This does pose a bit of a problem for Gayle - they've been divorced for 12 years - but she also sees it as an opportunity for her sons to spend a summer really getting to know their father the person, not their father who they see on TV.

The family dynamics for all 5 people in this family are interesting. There's a son who hates his father, a son who doesn't really care, and a son who falls over himself trying to get acceptance.

The book ends in a good space. Things that have gone on too long have been resolved. Eric (Gayle's husband) reunites in a positive way with his children.

Now I can't wait to read the next one! I have a request in at my local library for it. It's called Sister's Choice and will again be about Isaac and Kendra Taylor (who we met in the last book Lovers Knot) and Kendra's desire who have a child even though she is unable to in the normal way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mary Queen of Scots

I've decided to include the books I've listened to from Librivox Librivox is a site made up of volunteers whose mission is to record all books not in the public domain and distribute them without charge. I listen to the books on an iPod but it looks like they are trying to extend the library so they can be listened to in different formats, such as CDs.

I'm loving Jacob Abbots books. I did some reading for his book on Elizabeth I. His books are so easy to understand and I'm gaining a whole lot about history from them. Mary Queen of Scots was first published in 1876.

I thought I knew about her. She was Catholic and Elizabeth chopped off her head.. what else is there to know? Lots. I didn't know she grew up in France, I didn't know about her marriges, or about her being charged with abetting several crimes.

The names of castles and their location are given, unfortunately when you're listening you can't see the diagrams. He quite often says "which is still standing today" but being written in 1876 who knows if we can still see them in 2010? Maybe outlines though. 

Right now I'm listening to the next in the series Charles I. The beginning of that volume speaks about Mary's son James who took over the throne after Elizabeth. He was James VI of Scotland and James I of England. That gets soooo confusing. But listening to the books I seem to retain it. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010


This book started out slowly for me. I guess I like the action to begin almost right away. Then part way through the book two skeletons are found wrapped in a quilt in a cave in the Shenandoah Blue Ridge mountains. Well I couldn't put the book down after that. I had to find out who these bodies were and how they got there!

Isaac Taylor was adopted at birth. His life has not been a good one. It has left  him with a workaholic attitude which helps him block out what he doesn't want to face or think about. He is left a quilt and a cabin by his birth grandmother who he'd never heard of. He will have nothing to do with these things but his wife, Kendra, a reporter, has the curiosity of a reporter wants to know more. After a shooting accident she moves to the cabin in Toms Brook to recover, alone, without her husband.

When it comes right down to it this story is about marriage, communication, family. It's also a story that shows how events in our lives, even negative ones, can help us see ourselves in a different light and help us see positives we didn't know were there. Emilie Richards does a great job, as usual, of tying present day to past through the use of bits of old letters, a quilt (of course), and a search for the answer to who the bodies are. The quilt is a Lover's Knot quilt but it is poorly quilted, on first inspection, and although it is made in a signature quilt style the signatures are all written and embroidered in the same hand. It is obvious that this quilt holds clues to something. Kendra goes in search of the message that has been left her husband by a grandmother he never knew.

As with the past two books in this series some of my favorite characters from the other books appear here and there throughout the story giving it continuity and building on what we knew of the characters and how their lives are progressing and changing.

I've already put in a request at the library for Emilie's next book, Touching Stars. I expect to be knee deep in it within a few days.

I still highly recommend this series and this author.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I was standing in the line at the grocery store on Tuesday evening. There are always about 5 books featured there. I saw this book. I picked it up and looked at it. It looked like a good book but it was $10.00 Canadian funds for a paperback book! I'm trying really hard to stay within a budget. I told myself I could check at the library for it, I told myself I could check on Amazon or Chapters for it. We have a Chapters card that gives us 15% off books. But the library might not have it and if I ordered it from Amazon I'd have to pay shipping. To get it from Chapters cheaper I'd have to drive into Richmond to get it. Still I tried to resist. The clerk started to ring up my purchases. My hand flew to the book and threw it on with my other things before she finished. I HAD to have this book. I had no idea why.

It's now Friday morning. I've finished the book and I know why I had to have it. It's one of the best books I've read in a very long time. I couldn't put it down. I felt so guilty sitting and reading but I just couldn't let it go... just one more chapter... then one more. I think I need a bookaholics anonymous meeting, if there was such a thing. It's not that reading is a bad thing to do, it's that I read so fast that it gets to be a very expensive thing if I don't get the books from the library.

Still Alice is about a Psychology Professor at Harvard. She has a PhD. She's written numerous articles and books and is constantly travelling to conferences, quite often as a speaker. She's very intelligent and very gifted.

She's 50 years old. She finds herself unable to retrieve words sometimes. That happens to all of us at one time or another once we reach a certain age. She thought it was menopause. She tried ignoring it until one day she was out running and she got lost 2 blocks from home. She recognized the buildings around her, she just didn't know which way was home from there. She reluctantly made a visit to her GP... maybe she needed HRT.  From there she was sent to a Neurologist, although she couldn't understand why.

The Neurologist diagnosed her with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease.

This book is about her journey. We, the reader, can see the things she's doing that would give others clues that there was something wrong. She doesn't see it in herself, of course. She tries to hide it. She doesn't want to tell her husband or coworkers. Naturally she eventually has to.

The book starts in September of 2003 and goes to September 2005. No one can know what goes on in the mind of someone with dementia or Alzheimers. Lisa Genova is an extremely talented writer and I believe that what she perceives as likely is very close to the truth.. the ability to think but not to get the words out, not recognizing even herself, thinking that she is living 40 years ago. Her long term memory is very clear, her short term memory doesn't even allow her to remember her children's names or even that they are her children eventually.

But she is loved. I think that's what I like best about the book. Even when she can remember nothing else she is surrounded by love.

I was sorry to see the book end and to have to say goodbye to Alice. There wasn't much more to say about her but just reading about her day to day life, how she processed things around her I found fascinating.

Off to the library to get a new book now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Endless Chain by Emilie Richards

I didn't know when I read Emilie Richards book Wedding Ring that I was reading the first of a series called the Shenandoah Album series. I think I read somewhere that she didn't realize she was writing a series either so that makes us even *LOL*

This book could easily stand alone but it was so nice to see characters from the first book appear now and then, and in one case become a major part of the story.

This book is about a disgraced preacher who has been given the church at Tom's Book, Virginia, in order to prove himself worthy of a second chance at a better church in a more populated area.. at least that's how I saw it. But Sam doesn't want another church, he's making progess here and making a difference here getting the local native Virginia's to accept and help more newly arrived Mexican workers and their children.

That is what I saw as the crux of the story... Sam's spoiled high society fiance has difficulty with his choice of lifestyle. A new arrival in the area, Elise, is everything that his fiance isn't. She's a hard worker but very secretive. She lets eveyone believe she is from Texas, although she is clearly of Latin American descent, and that's why her English is so good. It turns out she has an unknown past history connection to Tom's Brook and that is why she chose it. She's looking for her younger brother who is also on the run and hopes that he will remember about this small community and show up there looking for her.

I'm not giving any more hints to what it's about but I read through this one very quickly and  have Emile Richard's next installment, Lover's Knot, on request at my local library.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Barbara Fradkin - Inspector Green Series

I'm a bit partial when it comes to these books. You see they take place in Ottawa, the place where I grew up and the place I have forever been homesick for since I moved away in 1973. When she speaks of areas of the city, the police station on Elgin Street, the Glebe, LeBreton Flats... I can see them in my mind. There have been a lot of changes in Ottawa in the last 36 years but so much has remained the same that when she talks about Inspector Green heading out the Queensway I am headed out the Queensway myself.

But aside from that Barbara Fradkin is a good author. I wasn't so sure when reading her first book, the story line didn't interest me too much, and yet her writing was so good that it kept me reading. The mystery part of her books are good.. she gives just enough information to make you keep reading, but not enough that you can put your finger on who the possible villan could be. And she will sometimes lead you off thinking that you positively have no doubt "whodunit" and then find out that the one you thought was guilty of the murder is acting guilty for some other reason and isn't the murderer at all. I found her subsequent books much more intriquing and difficult to put down. They aren't what I'd term cozy mysteries but they are good mysteries that any mystery lover will enjoy.

Through all of the books Inspector Green's life and internal struggles and questions evolve. He is a police inspector with all the unexpected overtime things that need doing that any inspector would have. His wife is a psychiatric nurse who has her own schedule, which means that when he doesn't come home from work to look after their son she has to scramble to find someone to take him until either she or his father arrive home. This gives her books a humaness that we can relate to.

#1  Do or Die - 2000
#2  Once Upon a Time - 2002
#3  Mist Walker - 2003
#4  Fifth Son - 2004
#5  Honour Among Men - 2006
#6  Dream Chasers - Sept - 2007

The next book in the Series is

#7  This Thing of Darkness - 2009

which I haven't read yet.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sarah Graves - Home Repair Is Homicide Series

They call this series Dianne Mott Davidson with a Hammer.

Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree divorced her neurologist surgeon husband, who had a penchant for young nurses, and moved with her teenaged son to Eastport, Maine where she bought an 1823 Federal style house and is restoring it. Her life now is a long way from her days as a Wallstreet Banker working mostly with the criminal element, helping them to invest their money in a legal manner. Her best friend is a life-long Eastport resident and together they get themselves into a lot of sticky situations.

I love this series too. I love the descriptions of small town Maine life. I think I like it too because living in Canada it's nice to see the Maine/Nova Scotia connection. Sarah Graves really does live in an 1823 Federal style home which she is currently repairing so when she talks about window frames and repairing or replacing sagging porches she's speaking from experience.

Along with new experiences and mysteries to solve there is a continuous story line and mysteries relating to Jake's life and the history of her home which makes the urge to move on to the next book impossible to ignore. I'm really enjoying this series.

They are:

#1   The Dead Cat Bounce (Sept 1998)
#2   Triple Witch (June 1999)
#3   Wicked Fix (April 2000)
#4   Repair to Her Grave (July 2001)
#5   Wreck The Halls (Oct 2002)
#6   Unhinged (Nov 2003)
#7   Mallets Aforethought (Oct 2004)
#8   Nail Biter (Oct 2006)
#9   Tool & Die ( (Nov 2007)
#10 Trap Door (Nov 2007)
#11 Book of Old Houses (Nov 2008)

There are now two more in the series that I haven't read

#12 A face at the Window (Dec 2008)
#13 Crawl Space (Dec 2009)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nancy Atherton - Aunt Dimity series

This series needs to be read in order. I was given one of the books in the middle of the series to read first and while I really liked the story and the writing I couldn't relate to what was going on and I couldn't figure out why our heroine, Lori Shepherd, was turning to a journal and it was writing to her instead of her writing in it. Then I bought the first book in the series and after just a couple of chapters was online ordering the rest in the series so I wouldn't have to wait for the next one to arrive once I finished the first one.

Lori is a lonely, and broke, divorcee when she recieves a letter telling her that a relative in England who she thought was simply a story book figure in stories told by her late mother, has died and left her a cottage in the Cotswolds in England and a large amount of money. There are stipulations of course, but Lori meets the challenge. Aunt Dimity is still wandering the rooms of her cottage and Lori soon discovers is in contact with her through a journal she finds in the cottage's library. Of course there is romance involved and Lori marries the also US born executor of Dimity's estate. They decide to settle in the delightful cottage in England rather than live in the States. The first few books give us more of an insight into who Aunt Dimity really was.

I love all the characters in the village, including the 90 something twins who finish each other's sentences. While most of the stories take place in or near the Cotswolds, there are also journeys to Oxford, Scotland, the midwest and now even Australia.

If you are looking for a ghastly ghost story, realism, life struggles, don't bother reading this series. If you are looking for a cozy mystery you can curl up with on the couch under a quilt for an afternoon and get lost in then you can't do much better than this series. I'm looking forward to reading the next two installments.

# 1 Aunt Dimity's Death (©1992)
# 2 Aunt Dimity and the Duke (©1994)
# 3 Aunt Dimity's Good Deed (©1996)
# 4 Aunt Dimity Digs In (©1998)
# 5 Aunt Dimity's Christmas (©1999)
# 6 Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil (©2000)
# 7 Aunt Dimity: Detective (©2002)
# 8 Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday (©2003)
# 9 Aunt Dimity: Snowbound (©2004)
# 10 Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin (©2005)
# 11 Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea (©2006)
# 12 Aunt Dimity Goes West (©2007)
# 13 Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter (©2008)

Next on my list are:
# 14 Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon (©2009)
# 15 Aunt Dimity Down Under (©2010)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Joanne Fluke - Hannah Swenson Series

More books involving food. I started reading these books in 2003. I know I did cause I was in a bidding war for a copy of Lemon Meringue Pie murder on eBay and in my stubborness to get it I paid more than I'd wanted to.
I have to admit I started to read these books because of the titles and the cute pictures on the book jackets. I decided to read them in order and was a bit iffy after reading her first book. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. It seemed kind of blah and amatuerish. Then I read Strawberry Shortcake Murder cause the Chocolate Chip one was good enough to look at giving the books another try and I haven't looked back since. I'm totally addicted to them now.

Hannah Swenson is a 30's something single woman who owns and runs The Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minnesota. There are lots of recipes for dessert lovers and hints on how to change existing recipes to give them a new twist.

Her cat, Moishe, is a big yellow ball of flying fur that she found abandoned and took in. He's an affectionate and friendly cat unless Hannah's mother comes over. He shows his displeasure of her by tearing her expensive silk stockings to shreds. He also can sense when it is her mother calling her. He puffs up and his fur stands on end. Hannah never has to wonder who's on the phone when she calls.

Hannah has a bad habit of tripping over dead bodies, which usually are in the midst of eating one of her creations... thus the titles. This embarrasses her mother no end because she's afraid that men won't be attracted to a woman with that habit. Quite the contrary. Hannah has two men in her life vying for her affection. I know who'd I choose for her - who would you choose?

1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (2000)
2. Strawberry Shortcake Murder (2001)
3. Blueberry Muffin Murder (2002)
4. Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (2003)
5. Fudge Cupcake Murder (2004)
6. Sugar Cookie Murder (2004)
7. Peach Cobbler Murder (2005)
8. Cherry Cheesecake Murder (2006)
9. Key Lime Pie Murder (2007)
10. Carrot Cake Murder (2008)
11. Candy Cane Murder (2008) (with other stories)
12. Cream Puff Murder (2009)
13. Plum Pudding Murder (2009)

Apple Turnover Murder (2010) is the next book in the series and I'll be getting to it also when I finish my other books I have stocked up.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Diane Mott Davidson - Goldilock's Catering Series

I'm enjoying this series of books. Again I was given one by a friend to read and ended up buying all of the series to date at that time. I've read all but her latest one which was published in 2009.

Goldy Korman is a single parent of an 11 year old son Archie, the result of an abusive marriage, making her living as a small time caterer. I love these books. If you like to cook then these books are for you. Recipes for all of the dishes mentioned in the stories are included in the book and are to die for (no pun intended). Again these are cozy mysteries each one having a murder to solve. Some of Goldy's adventures and risks she takes will have you sitting on the edge of your seat.

There is lots of humor involved which makes reading a delight. Goldy's best friend is her ex-husband's first ex-wife. Their comments about their former husband, who they dub "The Jerk" bring a smile to my face.

Goldie meets a policeman, Tom Schultz, early on in the series. Tom likes to cook (and eat) as much as Goldy does. They are a match made in heaven.

Part of what I enjoy about these books is that Goldy is portrayed as a regular parent with regular concerns (and sometimes not so regular due to her investigations). It's something that any mother can relate to.

In order the books are:

1. Catering to Nobody (1990)
2. Dying for Chocolate (1992)
3. The Cereal Murders (1993)
4. The Last Suppers (1994)
5. Killer Pancake (1995
6. The Main Corpse (1996)
7. The Grilling Season (1997)
8. Prime Cut ((1998)
9. Tough Cookie (2000)
10. Sticks and Scones (2001)
11. Chopping Spree (2002)
12. Double Shot (2004)
13. Dark Tort (2006)
14. Sweet Revenge (2007)

The next book in the series is Fatally Flaky which was released in 2009. I will be reading it as soon as I catch up on some of my other reading.

The Cat Who Series by Lilian Braun Jackson

These books are a very easy and quick read and I savoured every moment of them. Each book was like visiting with a friend. A friend of mine gave me one of the books, I can't remember which one, and I was hooked. I had have the whole series. I've since given those books to friends so that they too can enjoy them.

The first book introduces us to Jim Qwilleran, a former prize winning reporter who has come on hard times and is ekeing out a living working as a feature writer for the Daily Fluxion. In this first book he, along with his neighbour's siamese cat Koko, solve the murder of KoKo's owner and Jim finds himself the new room mate of one very intelligent cat. The second book introduces a second cat, Yum Yum, into Jim Qwilleran's household and the stage is set for another totally enjoyable 27 books, 29 books in all. Each book is 250-300 pages long.

By the fifth book in the series "Qwill" finds himself the recipient of a fortune but must move to Pickax in Moose County, "400 miles north of everywhere" and live there for 5 years in order to qualify for his inheritance. His 5 years stretches into forever in a town filled with colourful loveable characters (most of them). Each book includes a murder, of course, which Qwill solves only with the help of his quirky cat KoKo and his sidekick YumYum.

Lillian Jackson Braun had written the first 3 books of the series in the 1960s. In the 1990's she decided to pick up where she left off and wrote another 26 novels.

I was sorry when the series ended, I could have gone on reading forever. The series in order is:

1. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (1966)
2. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern (1967)
3. The Cat Who Turned on and Off (1968)
4. The Cat Who Saw Red (1986)
5. The Cat Who Played Brahms (1987)
6. The Cat Who Played Post Office (1987)
7. The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare (1988)
8. The Cat Who Sniffed Glue (1988)
9. The Cat Who Went Underground (1989)
10. The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts (1990)
11. The Cat Who Lived High (1990)
12. The Cat Who Knew A Cardinal (1991)
13. The Cat Who Moved A Mountain (1992)
14. The Cat Who Wasn't There (1992)
15. The Cat Who Went Into the Closet (1993)
16. The Cat Who Came to Breakfast (1994)
17. The Cat Who Blew the Whistle (1995)
18. The Cat Who Said Cheese (1996)
19. The Cat Who Tailed A Thief (1997)
20. The Cat Who Sang for the Birds (1998)
21. The Cat Who Saw Stars (1999)
22. The Cat Who Robbed A Bank (2000)
23. The Cat Who Smelled A Rat (2001)
24. The Cat Who Went Up The Creek (2002)
25. The Cat Who Brought Down The House (2003)
26. The Cat Who Talked Turkey (2004)
27. The Cat Who Went Bananas (2004)
28. The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell (2006)
29. The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers (2007)