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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Medicine in Britain During Roman Occupation!

Medicus (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #1)Medicus by Ruth Downie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Deceptively understated writing that follows the daily comings and goings of the title character, a Roman Legionnaire who happens to be a medical doctor in a Brittanica outpost in the far-reaching Roman Empire. He is a solemn man, whose life is totally filled by his job. His more easy going room-mate, the handsome one, Valens is always urging him to live it up a bit and find himself some distractions. Rusa, however, is divorced from the ambitious Claudia, whom he has left behind in Africa and is anxious to rise within the ranks to become CMO of the hospital, a position also sought by Valens.
Rusa is in financial straits, primarily the result of poor money management by his now deceased father and his spend-thrift step mother. He is attempting to write a Concise Medical Handbook that he hopes will also help strengthen his pocketbook. He is, you see, almost to end of the last pay period and his brother and other family are attempting to hang onto the family vineyards in Gaul. He must send them money for their living expenses as well as support himself.
While walking through the streets of Deva on his way back to the hospital, contemplating his position and also the mystery of the suspicious death of a woman pulled from the river and deposited in his infirmary, he comes upon a slave dealer and an almost dead female slave who is bloodied and appears to have a broken arm. Though he tries to avoid becoming involved in the workings of the town and its native inhabitants he finds himself using the last of his money to purchase this slave and take her to the hospital where he sets her arm.
So begins a series of seemingly unrelated events with which he becomes involved, not the least of which is this new unanticipated responsibility, the young blonde slave he calls Tilla.
The short chapters, interesting history of Legion life, the medicine of the times, the interaction between Romans and Britons all keep the story moving until its final revelations, which are not entirely surprising though more complex than expected. This is the first in a series of novels telling the story of Rome and its occupation of Britain. It promises to continue interesting and unusual and worth reading.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

A Change inThe Weather December 28, 2015

Nature's power and fury fascinate, frighten me and fill me with excitement. What woke me at 120 am? Was it the howling, roaring wind? The high pitched whine of the chimney cap I'd bought at the antique shop in Meredith, NH as it whirled madly? Or the frenzied cacophony of the buoy bells from Maine, the chimes Charlie gave me for my birthday, the chimes bought for Betsy as a child, the hand made bell from Joshua Tree and the myriad other chimes and bells hanging from the beams of the porch? It could have been any or all of those things. As I sat in the Christmas light lit bedroom looking toward the darkened night outside mental images of a roaring sea of air --changing tone and pitch as it eddied, rose, crested and fell moving into what had been an unusually warm space for this time of year. As the walls and roof of our solid, strong home creaked a bit with the buffeting I marveled at the fact that the most vulnerable areas of its structure, the windows, didn't even rattle in their frames. Pulse racing I listened as the wind whirled in circles and imagined the trees bending and their crowns turning and wondered if there was snow twirling as if in a snow globe. Would we lose power? Would there be icy snow on the ground come morning. On the cold air came--heavy and dense---pushing the warmer air with great force upward and eastward. I wondered if the warm air would continue out over the ocean and pick up moisture to drop as snow on Northern Europe. The temperature gradient was so great that the battle of air masses was fierce. And then, suddenly, all became calm. An occasional peal of one of the bells as the wind died down--exhausted and triumphant. So, I too, settled back down and drew the comforter around my ears and snuggled next to the cat and the husband who slept through it all. As my heart stopped racing from its wonderful exhilaration, I slept. And now, with wind swept snow --only a dusting and found in few places--and bright sun the cold air moves as a breeze and seems to dance gently among the few leaves still clinging to the oaks. For now, Nature is resting and preparing for the storm it is to bring tonight.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Silent Night Has Only One JD Robb Tale, But It Is a Good One

Silent Night  (includes In Death, #7.5)Silent Night by J.D. Robb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is rather misleading to have Robb's name listed prominently on the cover and have the book listed with her as the author. This is a Christmas anthology of four short stories by four authors. Robb's story is the last of the four. It is an enjoyable book--the first story by Claire Cross something that could appear on Lifetime Channel involving a hapless Christmas elf who falls in love with a mortal. The second involves a divorced mother of a young boy, who in his wanderings discovers a drunken man passed out on their Vermont lawn two days before Christmas. The third reunites a former Navy Seal, now FBI agent with his former fiancé, a girl from an affluent family who is now working with abused women and children in his former wrong side of the tracks neighborhood. And lastly, Dalles and Rourke find their first Christmas Day together disrupted by the discovery of the nude, abused corpse of a judge, thrown onto center ice in Rockefeller Plaza. The body shows all the earmarks of a crazed killer caught by Dalles and imprisoned off-planet for life three years ago. Needless to say the discovery is soon followed by confirmation that the murderer has escaped and returned to NYC to seek revenge upon all involved in his apprehension, most especially Dalles, herself.
Needless to say, while I found the first story cute and the middle ones mildly interesting, it was the futuristic tale of 2058 NYC that was most riveting.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Charles Lenox Must Determine Who Murdered His Friend, Jenkins Alas!

The Laws of Murder: A Charles Lenox MysteryThe Laws of Murder: A Charles Lenox Mystery by Charles Finch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A screenwriter for a New Zealand mystery TV series was asked why people like mysteries so much. His answer was twofold--the obvious puzzle of it all, but also the satisfaction the viewer gets if he solves the mystery before the detective or at least as soon as the detective. I am in total agreement with his answer but must admit that I cannot remember solving any of Lennox's mysteries before him or even simultaneously and for that I'm grateful. There is nothing worse than plowing on through a book once you've figured it out and I often do that just to make sure. Never the case with Lenox.
Another thing I hate is being so frustrated with the false leads that I read the end of the book to see the solution because I cannot stand the convoluted story. Again, not the case with nox--there are false leads and they frustrate Lenox and his compatriots, including the reader, but before one gets bogged down in anxiety another lead appears and revs up the juices once more--even if it, too, goes nowhere.
In the end, Lenox and Scotland Yard get the criminal and the reader then looks at the case once more to see if there were hints, clues that should have been seen earlier and often there are but that only adds to the pleasure of the chase. In this particular crime, however, there is a weeks old wound on the corpse of Jenkins, the Scotland Yard investigator who is the first victim. The wound is noted at the scene, again at the autopsy and is even mentioned in the back cover synopsis, yet I cannot remember if it was ever explained away. Next time I read the book I'll have to make a special note of that clue. Hmmm--or maybe some other reader and reviewer will clarify its cause?
Just a very satisfying addition to the Lenox Mystery Series, though it is too bad Jenkins is gone--I rather liked him.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Our Man in Charleston

It pains me to post a poor review but I've tried several times to get into this book. The writing seems lifeless and bores me terribly--it is as dry as a history text book and the historical figures are flat and lifeless. I was truly looking forward to reading about this period in our South and the days leading up to the Civil War but this is not the book for me. It is my hope that others will find it less onerous.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox Learn About the 1900 Galveston Hurricane From an Unusual Source

Widow's Tears (China Bayles, #21)Widow's Tears by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So glad I've returned to this series. I had gotten kind of tired of it, because the focus on China Bayles and her sleuthing was beginning to be rather repetitive. But in this and the prior book, while China makes several appearances, the story focuses on one of the other main characters of the series. In Widow's Tears, China's partner, Ruby Wilcox takes the lead. Ruby has psychic abilities with which she has dabbled but, having great respect for the potential power of unleashing them, Ruby has always backed away when the pull grows too strong. When she gets an urgent call from a childhood friend to come to visit the site of one of Ruby's earliest experiences she is reluctant, but Claire is a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser who went off the deep end into this life when her husband was unexpectedly killed. Claire has inherited a deserted Victorian mansion from her aunt but the mansion is eerie and Claire needs Ruby to come help her determine if it is haunted. It is in this mansion, that as a child, Ruby saw the image of a Gibson girl type lady on the stairs and was frightened by the experience. Nevertheless, Ruby leaves Pecan Springs for a vacation at Claire's but does not tell China of her past association with the place.

Interspersed with the story of Claire and Ruby are chapters describing the Galveston Hurricane of Sept 8, 1900. There is a reason for this seeming digression but it is better for the reader to work along with Claire and Ruby to discover what connection there is between the tales. I have read one of the references Susan Albert makes to the storm that devastated the city of Galveston, Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Eric Larson. In the end of Albert's book it would seem that Claire may write a book about the storm--hope she does as well as Larson. I'm so happy I read his book first--it definitely made this one much more striking.

As I've said, China does make several appearances and midway through the book, joins Ruby and Claire at the mansion, having driven from Pecan Springs through a windy, rainy, slippery road storm. Hmmm, the stage is set.

I have only two minor criticisms of this foray into China's series--first, have no idea why the character of the Rawlings were introduced--they did nothing to drive the story. Second, in one scene China says if she knew what was coming she would have thought what had already occurred would be quite mild. That is paraphrasing--but the implication is that there is going to be some heavy duty stuff around the corner--and when it didn't appear, I felt let down. In fairness, I may have expected much more because I'd read the Larson book. Therefore, a reader who had not, might find the climax more climatic than I.

All in all, with a basis in a true historical event, this is one of the best books of the series, so far, in my opinion. It is not necessary at all to read the whole series from beginning as I have, but it is nice to be familiar with the characters--it is like visiting with old friends.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Return to Ballybucklebo, Fingal O'Reilly and His Service in The Royal British Navy in WWII

An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea: An Irish Country Novel (Irish Country #11)An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea: An Irish Country Novel by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While this could certainly be read as a stand alone, it would be far more enjoyable if at least a couple of the earlier books have been read first. The series follows an older GP, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly practicing in the Ulster County town of Ballybucklebo. It is in the earlier books that we meet O'Reilly as a widower living at One Main St with Mrs Kinkaid, his daily housekeeper. His surgery is attached to his home and it is here and in the local watering hole, The Duck, that many of the town's denizens are introduced to the reader. My favorite is Donal Donnelly, a man who falls into it and comes up roses every time--he is just amazing. There is the local aristocrat who is anything but aristocratic in his dealings with the townsfolk. And there is Bertie Bishop, the town Councillor. They are all here in this installment but their characters are built in the older books and here we see how they have changed over time, or not.

Again, in the earlier books, we meet Fingal's fellow doctor, Barry Laverty, when he first comes to town. It is really fun to see how the relationship has grown and developed. There are references to Fingal's wartime service, the loss of his first wife, his relationship with Barry's father in the older books, too.

All that being said, Patrick Taylor so deftly describes and develops his characters that they are appealing even if their earlier escapades are unknown to the reader--I've just found them more like old friends having met them before. In this part of the story, Fingal is 25 years away from the war but he is reminded of many of his wartime experiences and the story goes back and forth between the present--that is to say the '60's in Ulster and the British navy in World War II and Fingal's service.

For some such flashbacks might be disconcerting but those who have read the prior books will recognize the characters and enjoy the elaboration of themes that were only referenced before. On the other hand, such throwbacks in memory will be totally understood by the older reader, who also has built up a past of memories and who probably at certain times revisit them as well. For the younger reader, Barry's relationship with his fiancé, Sue, who is off in France and has met a young Frenchman with whom she is enjoying the sites, will resonate. As will the maternity cases and young child cases the doctor's encounter. If there is an interest in history, especially naval history, that theme will also appeal.

All in all, this series is interesting, the characters appealing and the setting bucolic. Ballybucklebo is a neat place to spend a few days, if not a lifetime.

This review is of an Advance Uncorrected Proof provided for unpaid, honest review by Goodreads.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Reason to Live--Marty Singer, Retired DC Detective and Cancer Patient

Reason to Live, AReason to Live, A by Matthew Iden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marty Singer, retired DC Homicide Detective and recently diagnosed cancer patient, is demoralized, depressed, despondent, lonely, restless, hopeless. Mindlessly, he sits nursing a cup of coffee in a small café when a young girl stops at his elbow and identifies herself as the daughter of a woman slain by a fellow cop 12 years ago. Despite what appeared to be an open and shut slam dunk case, the cop, Michael Wheeler, walked and Marty was the lead detective on the case.

Now, Amanda, a twenty something young woman stands before him and announces that Wheeler is back in town and she is afraid for her life. She needs Singer to find Wheeler and protect her. Suddenly, Marty is energized at the prospect of finally getting justice for Amanda's mother and, at the same time, putting Wheeler away--something Marty was not able to do the first time and for which he has always felt somehow guilty. What went wrong in a case that seemed so iron clad? Can he get it right this time and prevent Wheeler from killing yet another woman, Brenda Lane's daughter?

Marty's sleuthing is helped by his former partner, Kransky, as well as Wheeler's defense attorney. Every time there appears to be a viable lead it falls through. The biggest mystery is where Wheeler is and where he has been for the past 12 years, since his acquittal. He appears to have fallen off the face of the Earth and yet he seems to be stalking Amanda and leaving white carnation petals, the flower he gave her as a child, in places where she works and frequents.

Interwoven with the investigation is Marty's starting chemotherapy--something which leaves him nauseous and weak and which brings the reality of his disease into focus. Not sure what the outcome of his cancer will be, Marty finds that the challenge of protecting Amanda and investigating the man who killed her mother helps to keep him going and gives him a reason to live.

Well written and exciting, Iden keeps the story moving and the reader guessing practically to the last page. A really Good Read.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Working Her Way Through College

Lowcountry Bordello (A Liz Talbot Mystery, #4)Lowcountry Bordello by Susan M. Boyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liz Talbot Mystery #4--haven't read the first three but think I'm going to have to get hold of them. An entirely new approach to the cozy mystery genre. Well, the plot is different even if the main characters are not unique. Liz Talbot is a PI with a handsome partner, Nate Andrews and a helpful ghost of a high school friend, Colleen. Liz and Nate are about two days from their wedding when Liz gets a call from one of her bridesmaids who tells her, hysterically, that she has just seen her husband, dead and face down in the ancestral home of her family in Charleston. Let me back up, Olivia, the bridesmaid, has seen her husband, Robert, dead on the floor of Aunt Dean's parlor.

Well, Robert is very much alive but a prominent politician is not. Also the ancestral home, far from being a boardinghouse run by Olivia's ancient aunt, is actually a bordello. The girls housed there give a whole new meaning to working one's way through college. Like a fun game of Clue, only with the room and weapon known, Nate and Liz attempt to discover who did the murder while also trying to get the details of their rehearsal dinner etc set.

A great romp like an Audrey Hepburn-Cary Grant movie with lots of Y'all's thrown in.

PS--Love the covers on the books from Henery Press!

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Friday, October 9, 2015

X Marks the Spot--Grafton's Almost Last Book in the Series

X (Kinsey Millhone, #24)X by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been awhile since I've read any of Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries and I'd forgotten how much I love Kinsey Milhone! The latest installment does not disappoint. As usual, Kinsey is juggling life and work in her normal methodical manner. She takes on a simple location job-- rich woman wants to reconnect to a son she gave up for adoption years ago. He's just gotten out of jail and she's lost track--wants to help him go straight and succeed. Simple $200 job--right?

Henry, her landlord, is obsessed with saving money on his water bill but actually, no, that isn't the issue--he wants to cut down on his water usage in anticipation of rationing as the drought intensifies in Santa Teresa Ca. He is also falling into the habit of running errands for the new elderly neighbors, since the man is confined to a wheelchair and his wife is his sole caregiver. Kinsey feels he's being taken advantage of and she has a strange feeling about the whole set-up.

A former colleague has died in an accident and his widow is asking Kinsey's help in organizing his files since she is being audited by the IRS. Kinsey didn't like the guy--thought he was a crook--but she is friends with the widow and wants to help her get the files sorted and most of them shredded and discarded. Among the papers is a large padded mailing envelop that Pete, the deceased, had secreted away. It contains a few mementoes of a woman, whose death seemed suspicious 30 years ago. They had been sent by the woman's friend to the local Catholic priest to be given the woman's daughter, now grown and married. Pete also left an encrypted list of the names of several women that he apparently was investigating--all somehow connected to the woman's husband. Kinsey decides to continue before turning the items over to the girl.

As usual all of these threads are nicely intertwined in the story that Kinsey tells the reader as though they were right along with her or waiting at Rosie's up the street with Henry to get the day's report. And, as usual, the story ends with all the threads tied off, sort of, anyway until next time in Y or Y Not? BTW, Grafton is too cute tossing X's all throughout the book--Teddy and Ari Xanakis, Father Xavier and even Pete's box of files marked on top with a large X !!

Now I have to go find the other Grafton's that are in one of the TBR piles around here.

This particular one was a GoodReads Uncorrected Proof Giveaway for review.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Wandering Harlot

Wandering Harlot, TheWandering Harlot, The by Iny Lorentz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The time is 15th Century Germany.King Rupert has died and his two sons are in conflict over the throne. Without a firm governing hand the nobles are in disarray--forming and breaking alliances, overtaking each others properties and incarcerating and killing opponents.

So, too, is the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire in chaos with three disparate Cardinals claiming to be the rightful Pope. As in the lay realm, the Church's clergy--from Bishops to lowly monks are anything but religious. There is corruption and sin at every turn. And there is collusion and unsavory alliances among the hierarchy of the priesthood and the strongest of the nobles.

Onto this stage steps the affluent Matthis Sharer and his beautiful daughter, Marie. As the story opens the Sharer home is being prepared for the celebration of Marie's betrothal to Rupert Splendidus, the son of a Duke and a Counsellor of the City of Constance. The marriage is seen by many to be an excellent match which will elevate Marie in society and bring Matthis' considerable wealth to Rupert over time. Marie is an innocent young girl, nervous at the prospect of marriage to this man she hardly knows but accepting of her obligations and duty to her father. A childhood friend, Michel, the seventh son of the local taverner, loves Marie but, being of such lowly stature with no chance of being able to support her, is hardly considered an eligible suitor.

Michel, who has heard rumors of Rupert's nepharious dealings in the town resulting in the ruin of many a family, warns Marie that this match is dangerous and will result in sorrow. Though this only increases Marie's apprehension she is powerless and must carry out the contract of marriage the next day.

Rupert, however, has other plans and as the legal documents have been signed the only way to break the marriage contract is to prove that Marie is not a virgin as claimed in one of these signed by her father. He states that Marie has slept with several men and that they will vouch to these accusations. Marie is arrested to await inspection by an honest local woman who can attest to her virginity. While being held overnight she is raped repeatedly, fails the inspection the next day and despite her hysterical accusations is whipped and taken from the city and left in a gully to fend for herself. She is forbidden to return to Constance under pain of incarceration and so begins the life of a wandering harlot, who spends five years in the company of other prostitutes traveling from festival and fair to another selling herself in order to eat and have a roof over her head during harsh winter.

Though the book is quite long and the above introduction covers only a very few of its pages, the story moves very quickly. It is populated by nobles and their wives, prostitutes with stories as varied as the areas of the country and personalities to match. The men with whom these women sleep are kind or cruel, generous or greedy, but those that are important in Marie's search for revenge are more highly developed characters as are several of the women with whom she travels. Though they are fictitious they walk through a landscape and history that is made more interesting by their presence.

The book cover calls this part of the Marie series and though the story could end satisfactorily at its end, I hope there is a series and look forward to following Marie into the next phase of her life story.

I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for my review.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Where is Saardisca?

All the President's Menus (A White House Chef Mystery, #8)All the President's Menus by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Olivia Paras' story continues with the White House Executive Chef running the kitchen with only Bucky as assistant and Marcel continuing to create his sugary confections in the pastry kitchen. The country is in the midst of a sequester so Cyan is on unpaid leave and is thinking of leaving the White House staff, much to Ollie's dismay. Ollie and Gav are now married so there are many marital conversations about government doings with Gav's return to duty with the Secret Service.

This latest adventure finds President Hayden entertaining the female candidate for the Presidency of Saardisca, a fictional country in which female leadership is unheard of and where dssidents to the government, are harshly handled. Coinciding with the visit the White House kitchen is hosting four Saardiscan chefs anxious to learn the secrets of organizing and presenting State dinners efficiently. Despite her directives to speak only English while in the kitchen these men frequently revert to their own language.

Two fainting bouts by Marcel and the death of the leading Saardiscan chef begin to make the hairs on Ollie's neck rise and soon, despite her best efforts, she is embroiled in an international mystery. Are these events merely the results of natural causes or is something else afoot--well,this is Ollie Paras about whom we speak. What do you think?

In the meantime, Gav has the opportunity to leave the Secret Service and take over the operation of a winery currently being run by the parents of his first fiancé who was murdered before they could wed. Though no decision has been made other than to consider it for some
future time, the introduction of the possibility creates flexibility to the author should mysteries at the White House dry up.

If there was a weakness in this episode it was the fact that Saardisca is a fictional country--making it more a distraction than an exotic twist.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jamie Stewart is Back in Scotland and the Lairds MacFarlan are Loyal

The Laird's Choice (Lairds of the Loch, #1)The Laird's Choice by Amanda Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of many examples where having won a Goodreads book I've looked for others in the author's series to read and review. This is the first in The Lairds of the Loch trilogy which I read after having won the second and third installments. They are all stand alone books revolving around the three MacFarlan girls during the time of Jamie Stewart's return from English captivity to resume the rule of Scotland.

I am particularly fond of this series for several reasons--the characters are so well drawn and realistic that you are honestly interested in their lives and relationships. Secondly, there is a great deal of actual Scottish history shared in an entertaining way. And third, the description of the scenery of this wild, rocky, highland is breath-taking.

This is the first story--the escape of a young galley prisoner from rebel clan's fleet. Magnus Galbraith washes up on the shore of MacFarlan land and is found by the eldest daughter, Lady Andrena. Having lost all of his sons, Laird MacFarlan convinces Mag to marry Dree and to assume the MacFarlan name. James Stewart is once more on Scottish soil and is in the process of gathering loyal followers together to unify Scotland under a uniform code of law. This is their story and it is page turning.

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The End of the Hope Diamond Trilogy

The Undercover Scoundrel (The Hope Diamond Trilogy, #3)The Undercover Scoundrel by Jessica Peterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the last of The Hope Diamond Trilogy and, though the middle book was disappointing, this one returns to the excitement and enjoyment of the first. All three books revolve around the brazen robbery of the Hope Diamond by a bored womanizing aristocratic young man looking for a thrill. The first focuses on him, William and his lady love, Violet and is quite exciting when he realizes that he must return the diamond without revealing his role in its theft.

The second book focuses on Violet's mousey cousin, Sophia and the banker, Thomas Hope, owner of the diamond. They are also trying to recover it, since Hope's bank is losing customers since word got out that he wasn't able to protect such a valuable asset. He and his remaining clients, including Sophia's family are in dread danger of losing all they have. In this installment, the constant repetition of events from the first book made for boring and less than exciting reading.

This last entry in the trilogy returns to a higher level of excitement with the return of Henry Lake, an English spy, attempting to find the Diamond so that he might use it as a bargaining chip with Napoleon, who wishes to reclaim this lost gem of the French crown jewels. Henry hopes that he can trade it for the lives of British soldiers held captive by the French. His cohort in his quest is none other than William, the thief's, sister, Lady Caroline. Henry had married her in secret twelve years earlier, when he was 20 and she 18. He left her the day after the marriage to serve his King as a spy, without any parting word. She married his best friend and is now that man's widow. The excitement builds as spy vs spy battle to find the gem, as Caroline's brother attempts to hide his part in the whole affair and as Henry, who knows he must leave once more, attempts to avoid new entanglement with Caroline, who is also restraining her emotions.

Yet, as is often happens in these spun-sugar historical romances all's well that ends well. --Easy read and fun trilogy, to which I was introduced by a Goodreads win of the first installment several months ago.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hope Diamond Trilogy Part 2--Ho-Hum

The Millionaire Rogue (The Hope Diamond Trilogy, #2)The Millionaire Rogue by Jessica Peterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the second installment of The Hope Diamond Trilogy by Jessica Peterson. Having enjoyed the first in which William, a bored Duke, meets Lady Violet, an almost spinster at 22 and equally bored, I was looking forward to a continuation of the story. In actuality, this turns out to be a rehash of the original. Lady Violet is dancing with William and is wearing the Hope Diamond.
Acrobats come storming into the ballroom, create havoc and when everything settles down the Diamond and William are both gone.

When I reached this part of the story I thought I had already read this book but NO--it is the exact plot of The Gentleman Jewel Thief, part one of the Trilogy, but retold from the perspective of Violet's young cousin, Sylvia and Thomas Hope, the banker who owns the Diamond. Quite a disappointment, since all of the major plot lines are repetitions. The difference is that Sylvia, determined to make an excellent match has caught the eye of the most eligible batchelor of the season and, because she has some pretty heavy romps with Thomas, finds herself turning down the man's proposal and settles for the non-English tradesman, Hope.

There wasn't even the suspense of the mystery of the theft of the Diamond or whether it would be recovered since that had all been revealed in the first book. I have the third book of the Trilogy and will read it--at least as far as it takes to determine whether there is any difference in the story--other than which guy is tearing which bodice this time. While that is fun there needs to be a plot in which it is set that offers SOME mystery to the story.

Left me as bored as William and Violet in the first.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

You're NOT in Riudoso or Tularosa Anymore NPH!

Never watched Doogie Houser--don't know why--think it seemed like a kid show, though my daughter, who was a toddler when it was on, assures me it was not. Never watched How I Met Your Mother--or more cool HIMYM--seemed like Sex in The City, which didn't seem anything like my young single adulthood in that same City. But then, I didn't smoke pot or drop acid in the 60's either and I was in my 20's. Not cool, enough, I guess. And that same daughter assured me I WOULD NOT like HIMYM! So, how is it possible that I even KNOW who NPH is ( that's the way he refers to himself, ad nauseum, throughout the book--or refers to YOU, if you accept his premise that the book is about you--very confusing, this talking in the second person. But that is who he is a cutesie, gimmicky guy from small town New Mexico. And yet, the book is interesting and fun. From his teen-age breakthrough on TV, to his almost invisible movie roles, to a successful Broadway career, that I missed since I'd left the city by then (and probably would have missed if I'd stayed since many of the shows he appeared in did not appeal to me. I saw Cabaret in its original run--didn't like the blatant homoerotic reimagining that pervades its rebirth. ) the story romps along professionally and also, personally. For it is once he is on his own in his 20's in NY playing in Rent that he starts to explore more thoroughly his sexual orientation. His description of his sexual awareness through school, to Hollywood, to NY and finally to Germany is handled so beautifully. It is obvious this is an intelligent and sensitive man speaking. Throughout most of the book, the Neil Patrick Harris that tackles that sensitive issue in such a way is the narrator. Periodically, however, he wanders off into vocabulary and language that is strange to me. It seems immature, self-conscious and even insecure. It was difficult to tell if it is locker room speak, gay man speak, Hollywood cool speak, or just used to shock. At times, when he digresses this way, I almost abandoned the book. But, because it is scattered throughout such interesting and well told and thought out areas--meeting David, why he fell so hard for him in comparison to others with whom he'd been involved, their decision to have children, the process of accomplishing it, the joy of birth and the wonders of parenthood--I had to keep reading. I still don't know how it is that I'm familiar with this actor. But, I'm glad to have read his story and come to know him better as a person--or at least as well as any autobiography lets you know someone. I am very familiar with the area from which he came, a bit familiar with the city where he tread the boards and totally unfamiliar with the fiction that is Hollywood, but he made the trip a magic carpet ride and he seems to have been happy taking it with his readers. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Smart Cookie Takes the Lead, but China is Still Around

Cat's ClawCat's Claw by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was interesting to look back on my last China Bayle's mystery review and see that I'd read #19 Mourning Gloria in April of 2012 and at that time said I'd taken a break from the series because they were beginning to feel like reruns. That book was written in 2012 and I must have bought Cat's Claw paperback when it came out and then proceeded to misplace it. So about a week or so ago, looking on Amazon for something new to read, I ordered another copy ( I've since found the first on my nightstand, where I was putting this one each night before turning in.). I'm glad I waited three years to resume the series because not only is it nice to see China and her family, including recently adopted daughter, Caitie, but also to reconnect with Ruby. It is refreshing, too, to see that Susan Albert apparently recognizes that the stories needed a bit of a tweak. This episode focuses on Smart Cookie, Sheila Dawson, the new Chief of Police in Pecan Springs, having kept the job after winning a coin toss with her new husband, Blackie. They decided that they couldn't both work in law enforcement after marriage and could not figure out which of them should resign when both loved their work so much. After the coin toss Blackie joined China's husband in forming a PI company and in this installment the two men are on their way into Mexico to find a young Austin child kidnapped by his non-custodial parent.

Not only do I enjoy the stories Albert tells but being familiar with the area of Texas she writes about I enjoy the information she shares such as the dangers around Piedras Negras/Juarez that have developed in the few years since I've crossed the border there with no thought of danger. Sad developments. Also until I read this I had never heard of the dead peasant insurance policies that large corporations take out on their employees. Interesting use of the system.

All in all, with the new tweaks focusing on some of the other characters in Pecan Springs, the new crimes being investigated and the breaking news of changes in the Hill Country, I am happily back on board and have a new copy of Widow's Tears ready to go.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Meet Vanessa Michael Munroe--a Female Jason Bourne

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars This is the first installment of the Vanessa Michael Munroe series that I've read, although it is the fifth of six installments available. The author states that this is a stand alone action adventure and it is, but the constant referral to Munroe's teen years and her struggle for survival that seems to have turned her into a emotionless reactor to her surroundings leaves the reader at a loss for detail. It is enough, though I wasn't crazy about this book, to entice me to read the first book. Perhaps starting at the beginning would make the heroine more appealing, Here we find Vanessa, obviously a woman and flaunted by author and publisher the next best thing to " catwoman in plain clothes, Lisbeth Salander sans Dragon Tatoo, Jack Reacher with an extra X chromosome ( a genetic disorder XXY I seem to recall from my days of teaching biology) ", posing as a 19 year old boy, Michael. This is explained away by the fact that women aren't safe in the places where this superwoman operates. Quite true, Somalia, Kenya, etc tend to have problems with knife wielding --two fisted I might add--female mercenaries or whatever she is. It isn't quite clear, though it would seem that she is working for a marine security outfit out of Djibouti. What is also not clear is whether her boss just doesn't like Michael, a white African from Cameroon, or whether he, Leo, thinks his wife, Amber, has the hots for the cute teenager. That is another issue not clearly defined. What is the relationship between Amber and Michael and how does it change, if it does, once Amber learns that Michael is not a he? One of those strands left dangling though not terribly important to the plot--just curious--as though the author wasn't sure what she wanted to do with that situation. So as not to keep the androgynous thing going too long, Michael very soon is referred to as Munroe when named at all. The action and pace is exciting but once more the repetition gets in the way of the reader's own response. In case our own heart rate does not increase we are alerted to the rush of adrenaline Munroe experiences whenever she is cornered. Once she has gotten out of the fix, we are allowed to relax and recover and we are told there has been an adrenaline dump. This would be fine the first or second time things get iffy but each time interrupts the action. So, too, does the repetition of the pain Munroe is suffering throughout the second half of the book, resulting from a severe beating. The repetition of the ingestion of pain killers, the repetition of the blood lust she cannot control when pushed too far and the God awful repetition of the stench of body odor, rotting vegetation, human waste etc in almost every place Munroe finds herself. Like Munroe, the reader is grateful for the few times a shower, change of clothes and clean linens make their appearance. If this review tends to focus on many descriptive issues rather than the plot it is because the plot is so padded with these distractions. When Munroe is out and about, tracking down why the ship on which she has been assigned to protect is hijacked by Somali pirates, who hired them, where the bad guys are and how to thwart them, when she is skulking in dark alleys and on crowded buses and finding allies to rescue the crew of the hijacked ship and her fellow armed protectors, the story is exciting and riveting. It is a fast read and the ending is a thing of wonder --she is indeed a female Jason Bourne--all action and organization and stealth. If you like him, you'll like her--but she is a she, and so , unlike Jason there is a bit of nose wrinkling and lightheadedness and debilitating pain--well, at least, he doesn't dwell on it so much! "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Do I love Fingal or Barry More? Fingal's More My Age--Barry Could Be My Son. So

An Irish Country VillageAn Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an example of winning a Goodreads review copy and deciding to read the series of books from which it comes. I won the 9th book in this wonderful group of books about Fingal O' Reilly: Irish Doctor is the title of that volume. So taken was I by the story of an older widowed GP in the Northern Irish fictional village of Ballybucklebo and the recently graduated new doctor, Barry Laverty that I went to the first volume to start the series. This, An Irish Country Village, is #2 and continues into the 6th month of Barry's tenure as a conditional member of Fingal's practice. If all goes well after a year, Fingal is going to offer Barry a permanent position.

Through #1, Barry, not really used to a small country practice and the intimate relationships with the community, has gotten his sea legs and is feeling fairly adequate though inexperienced. Nevertheless by this installment he has overcome his nervousness working with the bluff former sailor and has even adapted some of his elder's methods of interacting with the rural patients that make up most of their clientele. During this tale, however, an elder has died after Barry's diagnosis and treatment and it is possible that the widow is going to file a malpractice suit against him. Even without that threat the loss of the patient has rocked some of the inhabitants' confidence in the young newcomer's abilities. So, in Barry's eyes, he has to go back to square one to gain back their belief and has to depend upon a pathologist's findings to avert the suit.

In addition, Barry's sweetheart, Patricia is trying to receive a full boat scholarship to study at Cambridge University for the next three years. If she passes the exam he worries that such a long separation will destroy the young relationship that he has with a woman he's pretty sure is the love of his life. Should he stay in Ballybucklebo if she succeeds or seek a place in England?

All the while, we encounter the people of the village, the trials and tribulations both in health and in daily life and we move with Barry and Fingal among them. It is a warm and welcoming village with gossip and antagonisms, love and death, gambling and drinking, marriages and new life. It is a pleasant place to be and like Barry it would be hard for the reader to choose to leave.

Looking forward to #3--what is going to happen to Barry and Patricia's relationship and their careers? And who is this Kitty woman who has re-entered Fingal's life? Oh, and what new recipes will Kiki provide at the end of the next story. How are Arthur Guinness, the wellie napping dog, and Lady MacBeth, the diva cat, doing?

These books can be read alone with no problem but let me tell you, if you like Irish folk and country tales, once you've read one, you'll want to read them all.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

The Girls of August--A Lazy Day Read

The Girls of AugustThe Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An easy read, I completed it in one day. The girls of August are the four wives of doctors. They met each other when they were the girlfriends of medical residents. As they married they set aside a week in August each year when they chose a house somewhere on the Oceanside or Gulf Coast and had a ladies' vacation. Three years ago, one of them, Melinda, the second wife of Teddy is killed in an auto accident in which Teddy is the driver. Barbara, Rachel and Maddy, who is telling the story, never cared much for Teddy's first wife, Cornelia, but they all adored Melinda. After her death they just couldn't seem to want to get together anymore and so their friendships, as often happens over time, diminish to Christmas cards and emails etc.

Now, however, Teddy has remarried--to Baby, a twenty something beauty. She has a home on Tiger Island and the girls of August are, once more, going to spend time--this time two weeks--together with this newcomer. The Island has nothing on it but the house and, on the other side, a small Gullah community. As one can imagine, life with a girl young enough to be their daughter is interesting for both sides. And, as happens when friends of twenty plus years get together the conversations tend to include memories not shared by Baby.

There are no surprises in this book. Any of the personal problems each of these women have are easy to see coming. Hints of what will be revealed are quite blatant and the characters responses to the revelations are as low keyed as the reader's. As a result, though probably meant to be moving, the developments left me flat and unmoved. No elation, no sorrow, no surprise.

This was a Goodreads giveaway read for review purposes

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mary Handley Is A Delightful Sleuth in The Second Street Station

We first meet Mary as a precocious 12 year old wandering the darkened corridor of a train heading from the end of Long Island to Brooklyn. She sees a man in a bowler hat leaving the compartment of a man, who moments before had shooed her away from his open door when she'd lingered in curiosity as he fiddled with a curious device like none she'd seen before. Now, as Bowler Hat pauses momentarily to size her up, she again peers into the compartment only to see its occupant is now hanging suspended and quite dead. Bowler Hat expects screaming and hysteria but Mary calmly seeks help from a conductor as she also observes the compartment and its lack of the device. She disagrees with the verdict of suicide but who listens to a child? We next meet Mary about ten years later. Her brother, on whom her mother depended to make a name for himself, is a policeman--a bit of a disappointment. Mary? Well, she is still precocious, works in a sweatshop and has not found herself a suitable man to marry--just what her mother, Elizabeth expected. She's a disappointment but then she has always been in her mother's eyes. Getting fired from the sweatshop does nothing to change her mother's assessment and she is not adverse to vocalizing her dismay. At this point, the fiancé of another girl living in the tenement with Mary is found dead. His death, too, is determined a suicide but once more Mary worms her way into the scene and pronounces the death a murder. She is shuffled off despite the coroner's determination that she is correct. However, Mary can be a tool for a couple of police Commissioners in Brooklyn--she can be hired by the police to investigate the case. When she fails to find the murderer, and of course, she will fail--the women who have been picketing and clamoring for women police of the force will be silenced and the Police Chief who hires Mary will be disgraced and removed. And so the story takes off. Mary ranges throughout the City and into New Jersey following leads. The victim had worked for Thomas Edison as an accountant--the road starts there--before long it takes in many prominent people, among them JP Morgan, Tesla, George Westinghouse among others. Lawrence Levy has incorporated much of the history of the late 19th century development of the use of electricity. This thread is woven very well into the recounting of the actual Mary Handley who did investigate a murder much like the one described. Many of the other characters are also people who actually lived and were truly a part of the story. The description of Brooklyn when it was still a town apart from New York City is interesting as is the various areas Mary is lead into across the famous bridge that at this time is a wonder only five years old. It is amazing as is the description of the casual use of cocaine in wine and, most famously, Coca Cola, although that particular beverage is still not in widespread use. All in all, an engrossing, entertaining who done it--with the added surprise of who actually did! Looking forward to Mary's next adventures. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lady Emily and Lord Colin Hargreaves Solve Their 8th Murder!

Behind the Shattered GlassBehind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 8th in the Lady Emily series does not disappoint. This story begins in the drawing room of Anglemore Park, the home of Lady Emily and her husband, Colin Hargreaves. They, with her mother, Lady Bromley are settled in for a quiet evening, the children having been put to bed, when a formally dressed gentleman enters through one of the French doors, looks toward Colin and proceeds to fall dead at their feet. He has a bloody skull and is at first not recognized as the Marquess of Montagu, recently arrived from London, and the guest of honor at the party being given by his cousin at their home, the closest neighbor of the Hargreaves.

This installment takes Emily and Colin to the Montagu Manor as well as London and other parts of England to explore the life of the dead Marquess who has just announced his intention to move into the manor, which until now he has left in the capable hands of his cousin, Matilda. His death brings a distant male cousin who now appears to be the heir to the estate, much to Matilda's dismay, since it is his intent to renovate the property and otherwise take control.

Revelations about Archie's life before his murder, since that is what it is, bring to light many possible suspects. Intertwined with the aristocracy and those members who arouse suspicion are the revelations of life below stairs, including the possibility of romantic entanglements between the two classes. All very interesting and all leading to the final explanation of who among his enemies actually killed Archie and why. Just great fun--on to episode 9!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children

Usually two stories set in the same place but with different characters many years apart are confusing and irritating. The rhythm and plot are disrupted abruptly when the upcoming chapter takes the reader either back or forward in time. the story moves back and forth between Sarah Brown, the daughter of John Brown the famed abolitionist, beginning with his death in 1859 in Harpers Ferry, Virginia and Eden Anderson presently living in the house where the Brown family stayed. As stated above, the reader just gets into the events surrounding Sarah's family and the Hills with whom they stayed when the plot line changes to Eden, a woman who has, with her husband been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant. They have moved from Washington DC into the smaller town of New Charleston, West Virginia . She has given up a successful career and is going pretty crazy at home all day, depressed at not having conceived despite years of many different attempts, and lonely since her husband is on the road most of the week for his job. Just as one gets into this thread, once more we are carried back to Sarah and her family and the problems surrounding Brown''s death and the Hill's involvement in the Underground Railroad. Back and forth the stories go--each of them interesting but never actually picking up steam before another shift. It was well into the book before I actually realized that many of the characters in the present time shared surnames with the families of the Civil War period. Also as a result of this pendulum treatment many of the characters in both periods are less developed than they might have been, leaving the reader with a desire to know more about certain ones. The best developed and my favorite characters were the dog, Cricket, and the little girl next door, Cleo--both of whom were in the present time. It is a shame--I think both stories could have been developed into a satisfying book. Instead, the author has attempted to align the stories of two women who happened to share the same home in different times. Of the two, Sarah Brown is the more interesting and sympathetic heroine. I've been to the Brown homestead in North Elba, New York--many years ago, before it was spruced up to be a destination. I've read much about John Brown and don't find him a sympathetic character at all. Even his Committee of Six became rather disillusioned with him and his methods. But, next time I go to visit my sister in Saratoga, I intend to seek out Sarah's paintings--I'm fascinated my her story thanks to this book. It is hard to rate the book on a star basis--it was tedious going but the stories are interesting. I love the new approach to dog food--Beneful anyone--after years of being told by the vet that feeding my dogs human food--veggies and meat and fruit--was bad for them--now it is all the rage. Affluence does funny things to people. Don't think many other cultures treat dogs and cats as pseudo-children--the way we do. Call me guilty. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A New Story of Alcoholism and The Toll It Takes To Get and Stay Sober

Summer SecretsSummer Secrets by Jane Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometime in the 60's I remember seeing an article in the paper about the singer Lillian Roth being found passed out in the gutter in front of the London Terrace Apartments where she was living in New York City. I'd grown up right around the corner and when I mentioned it to my Mom she sadly told me about this woman who'd been an alcoholic and written a book about it called I'll Cry Tomorrow in 1954. And now several years later, after having become sober, her she was drunk lying face down in a dirty gutter in front of a fancy apartment building. I went out and got a copy of the book and it was such a harrowing story about a talented woman unable to leave alcohol alone.

Around the same time as I read the book a movie with Jack Lemmon, a favorite of mine, and Lee Remick was released. The Days of Wine and Roses had a beautiful but sad theme song written by very popular Henry Mancini and it won the Academy Award. But the story was not beautiful--it was harrowing and sad and tragic. Two beautiful talented people who marry but because they are raging alcoholics ruin their lives and marriage.

And then, in 1994, another beautiful couple, this time popular Meg Ryan and new comer, Andy Garcia, fall in love --When a Man Loves a Woman--again with a memorable sound track--this time a desperate crying dirge by Percy Sledge--and they, too, become the victims of the wife's uncontrollable affair with alcohol.

Now, here comes another story of that disease. This time, it is a young English woman who is a social drinker--like all the other friends who work with her. Drinking, getting drunk, one night stands, black outs, all very normal and laughed about. But when the rest of the world moves on into marriages and families and control, she continues the pattern of the young single swinging woman. It is the same harrowing story once more. She meets a man, they marry, they have a child, they divorce. AA meetings and the AA steps to sobriety cycle throughout. It is harrowing and so unbelieveable and yet so real.

The story is told through the voice of Cat Coombs----such a really nice woman but one with so many insecurities and with an addictive personality. The reader is on the same roller coaster as she and the friends and family who keep hoping that this time sobriety is here to stay. If there is one sure thing that comes through in this book as well as the stories that came before, it is that sobriety in an alcoholic is NOT a sure thing. It requires work and vigilance. The first step on the slippery slope into that gutter is never far away.

In the prologue, Cat finds an old bottle of vodka hidden way in back of a kitchen cabinet. She is feeling tired and lonely--two of the danger modes of HALT---hungry, angry, lonely, tired. She sits and holds the bottle and her story begins. At the end, like Meg and Andy, things with Cat and her ex-husband, Jason, seem to be on the mend and life for these two recovering alcoholics looks rosy. Like the little girl, who asks Jack, will Mommie ever get better? and he responds, I did, didn't I? ( But--that isn't true--the alcoholic is never better--well maybe better but not in the sense of cured), perhaps Annie's parents will BOTH be better. What is never told the reader, however, is whether Cat dumps that bottle of vodka or if she succumbs to just one small sip and heads back.

Lillian spent 18 YEARS sober and then fell off the wagon and was never able to climb back on. She spent 15 more years blacking out, falling in gutters before she finally succumbed to a stroke. So, what did Cat do with that vodka--one hopes that as before she tossed it away and not back and that she had one more day of sobriety as she moves on to the next and the next and the next--but one never knows. That's what it means to be a recovering alcoholic--an alcoholic--one never knows but one must always keep trying.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lucy Resnick of Dewberry Farm Is NOT China Bayles of Pecan Springs

Killer JamKiller Jam by Karen MacInerney
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Charlaine Harris and Susan Wittig Albert, two of my favorite cozy mystery authors, had nice words for this one so I was really looking forward to reading it. A disappointment, however. Found myself more than once checking to see if I was reading an ARC the editing was so poor. At first the detailed description of everything the heroine, Lucy, saw, smelled, tasted, cooked, mixed, molded was pleasant but it soon became irritating. Her mouth watered everytime food was mentioned and it was mentioned often. It actually watered twice in three sentences when she was in the kitchen of the Blue Onion, owned by one of the locals of the small town of Buttercup, Texas--a name I kept confusing with her milk producing heifer--which unless she is a first calf heifer isn't producing any milk--Blossom.

The ongoing dislike of Czech vs German settlers of this part of Texas also became somewhat tiresome, especially when it seemed to be the basis for the sheriff's single-minded goal of getting Lucy arrested for the murder of his aunt Nettie, a Czech descendent who was thrown over a few decades ago by Lucy's grandfather, who preferred her German grandmother. Old Rooster, the sheriff's name, is as anti-Lucy as his deceased aunt became when she realized that Lucy, an outsider who purchased Dewberry Farm from her, actually had bought back her grandparent's place.

Unfortunately, MacInerney mentions Albert and her amateur sleuth, China Bayles several times in the book. This only reminded me of Albert's books and her more masterful handling of the genre. Actually, it made me feel as though this book was an Albert plot sketch filled in with this author's characters--there was so much similarity.

In summary, if you haven't read Albert this book is fine--slow paced with little meat. But if you, like me, have read almost all of the China Bayle's series you will find this a poor imitation.

This book was won by me in the Good Reads giveaways.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Early 20th Century Lonely Hearts---in Murray Hill

Murder in Murray Hill (Gaslight Mystery, #16)Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My grandmother, who was born in the 1880's, died when I was 15 and my Mom was born in 1901--both in NYC. So growing up in Manhattan myself and having heard so many of their stories about growing up in the City, this has been an absolute favorite series of mine. This installment deals with the kidnapping of less than beautiful spinsters by a man who advertises in the Lonely Hearts column of a city newspaper. He is found with his throat slit and one of his victims slumped in a corner of the room drenched in his blood.

Malloy is called to the scene of what turns out to be his last case as a NYC policeman. Indeed, he is removed from the case and the force but is hired by the girl's father to investigate as a private investigator. Many twists and turns and red herrings later the murder is solved and the arrest of the murderer is handled in a very clever and satisfying way.

On another note, Malloy and Mrs Brandt seem to have found a house to which to move once they are married and need to merge their separate families. He has a son and his mother, and Mrs Brandt has a daughter and housemaid. Neither of their present homes is large enough to accommodate them all, but trusty Mrs Ellsworth may have found a place and nearby, too. Sooooo, maybe the wedding will be coming soon.

Can't wait.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

An Old Betrayal--Charles Lennox and Friends save Victoria

An Old Betrayal (Charles Lenox Mysteries, #7)An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just love this series. Charles is super busy as a member of Commons so is not detecting anymore. BUT, John is under the weather and has been contacted by a young lady in distress. He can't meet her at the place she has chosen and calls upon Charles to go in his stead. Unfortunately, neither Charles nor John know that it is a lady who has contacted them and so Charles makes a mess of the meeting. Having no way to contact her, that is the first order of business--who needs help and why. In the meantime, rumor tosses its ugly head in the Lennox circle. Toto is distressed for it would appear that Thomas is cheating on her with a society beauty of iffy repute. AND, Edmund brings Charles news that Graham, butler now Parliamentary secretary to Charles, is rumored to be selling access to Charles.

A very satisfying romp past two murders, the goings and comings of a mysterious undersecretary at Buckingham Palace itself, late night meetings and debates at Commons, visits to the Lennox nursery to see the rapidly growing Sophia and her nurse, and evening tea with Jane and Charles. And at the end, all loose ends tied up tightly and the mystery solved handily.

On to the next installment!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Rather Lengthy Gossip Column

Frank & Ava: In Love and WarFrank & Ava: In Love and War by John Brady
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Basically this is a Hollywood tell all with a central theme of Frank's big love was Ava, Ava's big love was Frank. They couldn't live together but just couldn't stay apart. Ho-hum----the story didn't strike me as a life long passion but rather an obsessive relationship driven primarily by lust and booze. Not my definition of love and not terribly different from the relationships that they managed to have with others both together and apart. A very lengthy gossip column that revealed much more than I wanted to know about the sharing of wives, girlfriends and one night stands among far too many of the well-known men in Hollywood at the time. None of these people, in my opinion, loved anyone but themselves--both the men and the women.

As to the two principals of the story: Ava was pretty--some said beautiful-- an okay actress, apparently quite good in bed and very fond of it, and a drunken souse. Arrived in Hollywood a teen virgin who neither drank nor smoked, according to the author. Within two and a half years she was married and divorced twice, drank and smoked plenty and still hadn't landed a significant role in any movie. Frank was just what every newspaper article ever described. Here those stories were repeated and slightly elaborated upon--basically he was arrogant and slept around and hung out with mobsters.

I received this book from Bookbrowse in the First Impressions program to read and review. Glad I didn't spend any money on this padded supposed story of two people who couldn't live with or without each other.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Luther and Katharina--Reformers Looking for Love

Luther and KatharinaLuther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An absolutely riveting novel about Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, whose troubles with both the Pope and The Holy Roman Emperor seemed to preclude a chance at married life and love and the establishment of a family. At the age of 40 he becomes enamoured of a nun, Katharina von Bora, whom he has inspired to reject her Cistercian vows and whom he assists to escape her convent. She is 24 and has been cloistered since the age of 5 and he has been celibate all his life. She has brought eight other nuns with her and over time he manages to arrange marriages or placements in families for all but Katharina.

Though the struggle of these two to find love and compatibility runs throughout the story, the facts of Luther's attempts at Reformation of the Catholic Church, while eluding the enemies who would kill him are well presented. He is conservative in the demands he makes for changes but as in many movements that have a wide following there are those who become more fanatical. Their activities result in widespread vandalism, murder, rape and plunder known as the Peasants' Revolt. Luther is horrified by the rampage and tries to mediate between the peasants and their masters, eventually siding with the nobility. The description of these historically accurate events is presented in a very readable and enjoyable form.

The fact that the story is bolstered with appearances of actual personages such as Luther's closest friends, Melanchthon, who, though married himself does not want Luther to marry and thus become distracted from the work at hand. Interesting holdover from the Church's policy of priestly celibacy under the same premise. The paintings I've seen of Melanchthon make him seem to be the handsome man that the author paints Luther, though his paintings do not support the written description. I'm glad I looked at them after reading the book. Justus Jonas, with his humor and almost sibling ability to kid Luther, is a delight. Along with Martin and Katharina these two are the most well fleshed out characters though several of the others, less prominent, have distinguishing traits that ring true.

As the author states in her closing notes, the plot of the story and the backgrounds of the players are all true. What she has done is create scenarios that are her imaginings of the interactions of the couple on a personal level and some possible situations in which they may have found themselves. It is a novel after all and not an historical treatise and as such it was entertaining, informative and a delightful read.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review---an ARC

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: Undiplomatic Murder

Undiplomatic Murder Undiplomatic Murder by Donald Bain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Margaret Truman died it was a blow to her fans--we thought like Uris and Michener and others that her death meant the death of her Capital Crime series. Happily, Donald Bain has taken over and he does not disappoint. This, the most recent of the series, revolves around Robert Brixton, former cop, dissatisfied PI and now an Agent for a private investigative firm serving the Department of State in Washington, DC, a city he hates. Divorced, recently having broken up with his long-time girlfriend, he lives in a small apartment where he receives a call from his younger of two daughters. She is a free spirit who is part of a small music scene and wants to convince him to invest in a scheme for an app developed by her current boyfriend, a member of a rock band. They agree to meet for lunch at an outdoor café. While they are talking and eating, a young girl of Middle Eastern appearance sits at an adjoining table with a blond white American male, who, after drinking half a glass of lemonade and whispering several times in the girl's ear abruptly leaves. Robert's professional antennae are aroused and he suddenly urges his daughter to get up and depart with him. She is confused and while he rushes away from the patio she pauses to gather her things and grab another shrimp. As Robert turns to call her to him a bomb goes off knocking him to the ground and killing her and several others instantly. As the chaos develops around him, he sees the blond man, chases him into an alley and shoots him dead. As a result, Robert is put on paid leave and in his grief and confusion he determines that he will find the perpetrator of the blast and bring him to justice as the murderer of his daughter. The ensuing investigation with many twists and turns leads him in many interesting and seemingly unconnected directions. As with all of this books of this series, the characters are so well defined and the conversations so well written that one feels like another person in the scene. The two characters that Truman focused on were Mac and Annabelle Mackenzie and they do make several appearances in this tale as well. They are not as integral to Bain's installments and I miss them. There is hope at the end of the book, however, that this may change in the next installment due in August --another month--well in a couple of weeks. I hope that is true, I miss them and want to have them do more than host dinner parties where we all sit out on the balcony of the Watergate overlooking the Potomac.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Why Did Constantiople Get the Works? It's Nobody's Business But the Turks! And This Book Explains It All

Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern IstanbulMidnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul by Charles King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book arrived almost a year ago from Goodreads. I was so excited to receive it because my Father had told me so many tales about his Mediterranean cruise and arrival in Istanbul in the early 20's. The place sounded so exotic with its street vendors all speaking different hand vying for the sailors' American dollars and hassling with them over prices. The music that poured from many places on intruments unfamiliar to the West. The whirling dervish Sufi's in the square in front of the magnificent and indescribable Hagia Sofia--where one had to remove ones shoes before entering. The baggy pants and fez on the men and the body covering garments of the women. It all sounded so exciting and mysterious to the pre-teen girl who listened as he showed me faded black and white pictures that I still have, even more faded than before.

Why then did it take so long for me to manage to read this book? Because the first at least 150 pages were unbelievably dull and boring. The history of the Ottoman Empire and the First World War and all of the Russians pouring into the city to escape the Bolsheviks should have been interesting and riveting but instead it was a slog--it was like reading a history text book with little personality or feeling. I kept at it, on and off, reading other books and coming back to read a few pages at a time. And at last, my doggedness paid off.

Once King came to the rise of Ataturk and the modernization of Istanbul the story became exciting. Finally, the author began to talk about individuals who lived and moved through the city--and their lives and their motivations and their involvement in what the city is today. And, here too, the significance of the Pera Palace became more evident--for all of these people in one way or another stayed there, or had meetings there, or dealt with people who stayed there.

Now, we find ourselves talking about Trotsky's sojourn and the spies sent by Stalin to keep an eye on him and the move to Mexico. Now, we find a papal legate, named Roncalli, involved in moving Jews through the city to Palestine to escape the Nazi's, now we learn of all the Allied and Axis spies roaming around like Keystone Kops and studiously ignoring each other as they rub elbows in the Pera's Oriental Bar. And now, in three days, I was able to finish the last over 150 pages of the book.

But, once more, for the last 50 pages or so, King becomes a bit boring and redundant as he drives home the formation of Israel, the red tape and lack of coordination in moving Jews through the city to Palestine. Yet, at the end, when he describes the city as it looks now, there is a certain pleasure in knowing, that though very different than in its heyday, the Pera Palace, like the Hagia Sophia still stands. And, as one finishes, the horrible divisions of countries and peoples perpertrated by the Nazis and the League of Nations stuns. Particularly, the Palestinian-Israeli situation becomes even more clear and sad.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Like Stephanie Plum? You'll Love Davis Way! Go Ahead--Double Dip

Double Strike (Davis Way #3)Double Strike by Gretchen Archer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever sat in a public place reading a book and started to laugh out loud so heartily that people around you not only looked to see what was so funny but also smiled in appreciation that any book could produce such a reaction? Well, in places, this book produced that reaction. Davis Way is a young woman working security for a casino on Beach Road in Biloxi, Ms. She's engaged to a lawyer but her second divorce from her first husband, which she thought successful, apparently was not. She not only has to don various disguises for her job but she also is frequently called upon to disguise herself as the casino owner's wife when said snob does not wish to actually be present at some event, including a parent conference at her son's boarding school in New Hampshire. And, it would appear that there is a money laundering operation going on at the casino. How our girl, Davis, manages to keep all the spinning dinner plates in the air, produces a giddy ride that goes from Mississippi to Alabama to New Orleans and back again.

I've been to all the places described in the book and other than the fact that the boy's school is probably in Haverhill, Ma and not Haverhill, NH, it is pretty accurate--right down to the fact that touring Jefferson Davis' last abode, that belonged to some lady friend, not his wife, takes about three minutes. ( I live about half an hour from Haverhill,NH and equidistant from Montpelier, the site of a marriage other than Way's.)

All of the characters are delightful, even the immature fellow security guy, Baylor. Each in his and her own way make Davis' life easier or more difficult. Particularly funny is her grandmother and her husband but Bianca, the boss' wife is such a hoot as is Misty Jennings, the millionaire Christmas tree farm owner from Alabama. This is Book 3 of a series by Gretchen Archer and, though I'm a reader of several other series, I have to add this one to my repertoire.

It is interesting to note, in light of recent events, Davis' comments on the Alabama State flag having been designed to echo the Confederate flag and that both fly "high and proud, flagpole to flagpole, in each of the sixty-seven counties" of Alabama. One has to wonder how much longer that will be the case. In another part of the book, when she reconnects with fellow with whom she slept in college because she needs his computer hacker abilities in the money laundering case, she states that he is the type who likes to collect cats and name them after celebrity reality stars, including, among others, Bruce Jenner. Well, he has a few new options with that one, I guess.

This is a review of an uncorrected proof ARC provided me by Goodreads for an unbiased review. Unfortunately, the book went on sale on Oct 21, 2014--the day before Davis' wedding and two days before my big birthday bash at the Bellissimo Resort. So nice of Davis to arrange her wedding around my birthday plans--lol ( # Not True )

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pure Grit is Certainly True Grit

Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison CampPure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp by Mary Cronk Farrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are watching the current Masterpiece program, The Crimson Field, about nurses serving the British Army during World War I, then this book about real US Army and Navy nurses serving in the Philippines during World War II is a don't miss. Having enlisted in the 1930's and shipped to the Islands, these women had no idea that they would find themselves attacked by the Japanese immediately after the Naval Fleet was sunk at Pearl, stranded when no ships were available to rescue them and MacArthur had been ordered to Australia, evacuated to Corregidor and then shipped back to Manila when that island was also overrun.

Their experiences caring for the thousands of military and civilian victims both before and after their internment as POWs are devastating. All survived though many suffered lifetime physical and emotional trauma once released and brought home. The story of the Government's refusal to treat them at VA hospitals or to allow them any disability compensation is heart-rending. Looking at the pictures of these mostly single young women and reading about several of them in detail made it impossible to realize that they are all dead now and most died in their late 80's and early 90's.

Such a short book, only 133 pages, but such a large story. Mary Cronk Farrell brings these women back to life. She includes a bibliography for further reading, a glossary, a list of all the nurses who served at this time in this place and their home towns, websites for more information, notes on each of the chapters. The reader can stop with this book or if the topic interests them follow some of the pathways provided to delve further. Either way, you'll never be the same or take the women in service for granted.

This was a free uncorrected proof provided me by Goodreads to review.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Saint Mazie--Amazing Book about an Amazing Lady

Saint MazieSaint Mazie by Jami Attenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like nothing I've ever read before. A young girl and her younger sister are brought by the eldest sister and her husband to live with them on the Lower East side of Manhattan. Their father is abusive and Rosie and Louis take them from the parents to protect them. The girls, Mazie and Jeanie, are treated like the children Rosie and Louis will never have. Mazie yearns for freedom and fun--she is the wild girl, the good time girl. Jeanie is the good girl. The book tells of how their lives evolve through entries in Mazie's diary and commentary of neighbors and friends and others who come in contact with, primarily, Mazie for this is her story ultimately.

One character who finds her diary many years after her death cannot put it down and feels as if he knows her. By the end of the book, I felt the same way. Not only her but the City in which she lived from the turn of the century, over the War period, into the 20's through the Depression almost to the start of the Second World War. The City of my parents, ending when I came into it in 1942. A place I know during a time I don't but about a woman who could be one of my Aunts, the youngest of the seven, now 92 years old. The City I've been told about--but probably not ALL there was to tell.

Like the diary finder, I didn't want it to end.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cool Jazz Spy for a Cool Jazz Summer's Day

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In November 1965 at around 530 PM I started to walk across the deserted parking lot of the mall in which I worked, the stores all having closed at 5. My car was one of a scattered few left and I had parked it under one of the tall multiple light fixtures, knowing that I would be leaving with few people around. As I walked rapidly toward the car all of the lights suddenly went out. Rushing I got into the car and locked it, looking around and seeing that not a light of any sort could be seen. Driving home through a darkened town, across the bridge and through another darkened village and on into the country it was unnerving to realize my headlights and those of the few other cars I met were the only lights to be seen. I arrived home to my parents sitting with candles and kerosene lanterns lit and supper cooling on the table. None of us were terribly nervous since it was winter in upstate New York and power outages were not unheard of. By 8 the next morning all had returned to normal, except the fact that the whole North Eastern seaboard had been thrown into darkness for over thirteen hours. Thoughts of possible sabotage were bandied about for awhile but, as often happens in situations like this, it was found that human error in setting a relay in a large power grid caused it to fail.

Imagine this happening today but instead of an electrical power grid being damaged the whole of a country's computer system was hacked and all systems failed. No cell phones, no computers, none of the systems that are computer operated--what systems are not? Banking, gas pumps, cash registers, airline computers, hydroelectric dams, water purification systems --just think how the world has changed since 1965 and how much of the world's activities and systems are computer based. Well, this is what happens in Cool Jazz Spy.

Needless to say all of the major governmental security agencies are put on high alert and the scramble begins to answer several questions--what the hell happened, who is responsible, how do we get things back to normal, and how do we prevent this from happening again?

CIA operative, John Angstrom, recovered from a nervous breakdown and just back from the extraction from Russia of a beautiful Soviet agent is put in charge of assembling a team to tackle these problems. Happily the author refrains from calling it Angstrom's Unit but in my mind I could not resist. The writing is so exciting it is like watching a fast paced spy thriller movie. Each of the characters is so well sketched physically and his and her personalities so defined that it is easy to create mental images of them--the sound of the voice, the lift of the brow or lip in a smile or grimace. And the locations--I think were I ever to go to St Petersburg, Russia I would recognize the Sennaya Ploschad instantly--down to the canal, the line of parked cars, the arrangement of the buildings, even the exact sniper's balcony.

There are references throughout to various jazz pieces and the musicians who play them. Except in a few places these references didn't enhance the action for me, but they also did not detract from it. Jazz is not a favorite musical form of mine but skipping blithely past the asides didn't alter the work.

There is a lot of Computerese in several places---mostly in the various meetings of the agency personnel for updates and explanations of what happened and how the malware is being identified and either destroyed or over-written. I love the poor guy who has to address the meetings--known as Q-Directorate--homage to the gadget fella in Bond, I suppose. Several times he worries that he is overloading the minds of his audience and wonders if they are all able to follow. Well, not this reader, by the second sentence my eyes glazed over, but I read on just in case I could glean some meaning from all the gibberish ( to me ) and I did get the gist of what happened. That again, was good enough. If you are a computer nerd you'll love that part, if not, like this dinosaur, you'll skim it and move on. Again, no damage to the action.

All in all, a good story with a hero who engineers a terrific operation with all kinds of excitement and success. Some computer science for those who like and understand it. A bit of romance for the hero and his defector, Anna. And some jazz reference and a beautiful cello reference for the musically inclined. Bartusiak, the author, even gives a discography at the back and a bit of blurb on the works of several of the big names in Cool Jazz.

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