Monday, July 26, 2010

Book # 28 "There Goes the Bride" by M.C. Beaton

One of the problems with reading a series is sometimes the author loses their way with characters or story lines and end up just writing to complete another story. The last few Agatha Raisin novels have fallen into that rut.

Luckily there's been a little rebound in this last book. The story was a little less bumbling and Agatha was much more likable (which is saying something since she's not always a likable gal).

The story starts at the wedding of Agatha's ex James Lacey when the bride to be is shot dead. After Agatha is cleared as a suspect she gets hired to look into the murder.

The usual Agatha Raisin exploits begin as does the fun. I really did like this one better than at least the last two, maybe even more.

I look forward to seeing what Agatha will do next.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book # 27 "A Lie for a Lie" by Emilie Richards

I hate when I write a review, get more than half way through, then hit the wrong key and erase the whole thing. Oh well, here we go again.

I do enjoy this series. Even though it's none to hard to figure out "who done it" the characters are enjoyable and the town holds some interest so it's a nice read.

This story's plot revolves around a hometown boy Grady Barber coming home after to judge an "America's Got Talent" type contest. The once semi-popular now mostly C list celebrity has attitude to spare and of course meets his end while in town.

Acting as his assistant at the time of the murder Aggie Sloan-Wilcox sets out once again to figure out the culprit. There's a sub plot about a traveling circus/tent revival and it's leader Sister Nora's past with Grady Barber.

It shouldn't be to hard to guess what happened but that's okay. The reason I read these is the characters more than the plot and they were just as entertaining this time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book # 26 "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by Beth Hoffman

After reading the first several chapters of "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" all you'll want to do is save CeeCee Honeycutt. After reading every other chapter all you'll want to do is be CeeCee Honeycutt.

CeeCee is a brave, resilient, loving girl whose life is about as messed up as a poor girl's life can be. Her seriously mentally ill, southern beauty queen mother is spinning out of control in there small Ohio town. Her absentee father leaves the taking care of her mother to CeeCee, who is all of 12 years old when the inevitable happens.

In the wake of this tragedy CeeCee's life is changed forever. Sent to live with her great aunt in Savanna. That is when we lucky readers are introduced to a remarkable cast of southern women who will make you wish you could be a 12 year old girl in 1969 Georgia. With their love, caring, wisdom CeeCee will heal and thrive and bloom.

I love books that feature strong southern women.This one has a diverse group of women who all love so much there's no way not to love them. Throw in the elderly next door neighbor from Ohio who loves and cares for CeeCee and you've got a great feel good novel.

Book # 25 "The Recipe Club" by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

I know there are some people (one of my sisters to be specific) who don't like epistolary novels. (I should own up to have to look up the the spelling of this I think it would sound better as epistlatory which of course is dead wrong) Anyway, I know reading a story told in letter form is not some folks cup of tea but I like them or at least I don't mind them. Especially a well written one. Though I guess that could be said about any book, if it's well written then it's a good book, no matter, right?

The story of two life long friends and the ups and downs of their lives together and apart told through the letters they send each other through childhood until a terrible fight tears them apart. Then after life changing events they begin to write again, this time via email, to reveal a secret that will either tear them apart or bring the together forever. Along the way the Val and Lilly share their love of cooking by sharing recipes in their "Recipe Club" of two.

I loved these two girls, then women and the way their personalities are slowly revealed over the course of their letters. Their hopes and dreams and the relationship between their families that will end up effecting their lives more than they could ever imagine.

This was a well told story told in bits and pieces. While the great secret was easily guessed it didn't stop the story from being very enjoyable and well rounded. Plus the recipes sound very yummy and there really is something for every taste.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You know what I hate.....

...when some celebrity who I used to not hate becomes someone I think is a total douche and then shows up on Sesame Street. Case in point Tiki Barber. I used to not really think about him. Ya know, he was kind of cute when he was on The Today Show and he did the whole reading to kids thing with his twin brother (at least I think they were twins) and then he goes out an acts like a total tool, cheating on his wife and then trying to hose her and their kids about money.

Then today I'm watching Sesame Street with the babies and here's ole Tiki talking about going on the quest and all I can think is "Yeah, I bet you are you a**" and he ruins a perfectly good Oscar/Grover/Cookie Monster segment.

I hate that. Now back to the book blog.

Book # 24 "To Kill an Armchair Husband" by Terri Weeding

What to say about this book. I liked it, I may have even really liked it. I'll have to think about it for a bit.

But here's the thing. It calls itself a comedy and I didn't really get it as one. I suppose I could see where it would be funny, it just didn't hit those buttons for me.

That being said, I liked the story and characters a lot. More importantly it surprised me. I thought I knew the direction the story was going and it took a total turn and went somewhere completely different and it took me right along with it.

The story begins with Charlie Score making list of pros and cons for killing her chair-potato husband Billy. When she decides killing him is better than divorcing him the problems arrive. It seems Billy won't die. This is where the comedy is suppose to start. Charlie decides to kill overweight, out of shape Billy with a mixture of E.D. medication and vigorous sex. I think it was suppose to play out like a comedy of errors as each attempt fails but that part didn't work for me.

What did work is the overall story. As Billy realizes what a lump of a husband he's become and tries to change his ways with surprising results and Charlie realizes maybe she doesn't want Billy dead after all the story get interesting. I thought I knew where the story was going and boy, was I wrong. I'm glad I was because I really liked where it went.

As a dark comedy I don't really think this was successful, I saw what Weeding was going for and I'm sure there are going to be people who find it laugh out load funny, it just didn't work for me. But as a novel of marriage and where it can take you sometimes and the results of how you deal with where it take you, it totally worked for me.

I do look forward to Weeding's next book. I'd like to see what she's comes up with

Book # 23 "Something Old, Something New" by Jane Orcutt

This series has multiple authors and the late Jane Orcutt is one of my favorites. I'm very sorry she won't be adding any more titles.

It's a hit or miss proposition when I pick up a new Grace Chapel Inn book. There's also some difficulty in telling where in the series each book falls. There does not appear to be a consistent list of titles and there different site have the same titles in different number positions in the series. That being said, except for my OCD need to read books in order it doesn't create a story line flow for the most part.

I did enjoy this book more than the last one I read. The story was sweet and funny. One of the hardest parts to writing a series in my opinion is how to introduce old characters to a new audience if the joining mid-series. Jane Orcutt manages better than other authors of the series and that helps this book flow better.

The new characters introduced were fun and endearing and the story on whole was lite enjoyable and somewhat romantic. There were many sweet moments and as always a happy ending which is what I look for in this set of books.

All and all these stories are a nice was to spend a weekend (or a day is you're a fast reader) and I will surely read more Grace Chapel Inn tales.

Book # 22 "Summer at Tiffany" by Marjorie Hart

To quote Marjorie, "Ohmygosh". I want someone to invent a time machine and a transmogrifier so I can go back to New York in 1945 as a leggy blond girl from Iowa and work for Tiffany.

What a wonderful story that truly is a snapshot of a moment in history and in Marjorie Hart's life. This was so well written that I could really feel what it was like to be young and excited about everything happening to me and around me.

I loved every bit of this book. From her descriptions of her first moments in New York to the events leading to her and her best friend Marty becoming the first ever girls Tiffany had every hired, from celebrity sitings to dates with handsome midshipman, everything was new and exciting. But there was also sorrow as the War neared it's end it seemed no one was immune to loss.

This was a beautiful memoir that captured a time in a young woman's life and was so well told I couldn't put it down. And as a bonus there are some great photos as well as lovely sketches from a Tiffany brochure of the time. If that isn't enough the dust jacket is in glorious Tiffany blue and who doesn't love that.

Book # 21 "Crime Brulee" by Nancy Fairbanks

I don't know what to say. I wanted to like this and sometimes I sort of did but I'm not committed to this series quite yet. I think I'll have to try another in the series to see what I think of the main character.

Carolyn Blue, a professor's wife is in New Orleans with her scientist husband to attend a convention and a reunion of college friends. When her childhood friend disappears and none of her other friends including the missing woman's husband seem to care. So, Caro decides to try to solve the mystery.

I would have to say the main fault I had with the story was the believability of some of the situations and with Caro's reaction to them. I'm just not sure I'm in love with her yet. But, I'm willing to give it another try. Plus, I loved the food aspect of the whole things so that's a plus.

Book # 20 "The Story SIsters" by Alice Hoffman

This was not my favorite Alice Hoffman book. The last I read I think was the "Ice Queen" and I did enjoy that one, mostly. The last couple of books I've read by her have been darker than the earlier books.

This one was especially dark and a little depressing, actually a lot depressing. It kept coming at me like a one, two punch. The characters were not always very likable.

All that being said, I'm glad I stuck with it. The ending was satisfying and the characters rebounded through all the horrors their lives had seen to become full and content people.

I do miss the lighter Hoffman books and while all of her novels tend to deal with heavy emotional and life issues, the last few have been particularly heavy. But again, I have to remind myself that she always pulls off, not quite a happily every after ending but more of a real life happy ending.

Book # 19 "Going to Bend" by Diane Hammond

I didn't start off in love with the characters, it took me a little bit to warm up to them but once I did I found I could really did find myself wanting to know what happened next to them.

The town was interesting enough but really it was a the characters that kept me involved in the book.

Rose and Petie were flawed and lovable and very human people. Their lives, kids, friends, and loves were all very real and left me glad I had met them.

Not always a warm and fuzzy story but very uplifting and a very good take on female friendships.

Book # 18 "Ready to Wed" by Melody Carlson

This is a nice, easy read series that makes me feel I've just spent an hour on a summer afternoon relaxing on the front porch, drinking lemonade, talking to whoever passes.

Book # 17 "Life After Yes" by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

I started this book a little ambivalent. I thought it was going to be another Chick-lit/"Sex in the City" clone with New York girls perpetually dissatisfied with the mostly perfect lives.

Well, it was and it wasn't. Quinn/Prudence, our heroine is leads a somewhat "only in books" like. Great job, perfect boyfriend, great New York apartment, and no money worries what so ever. So, what's she got to complain about, right?

First off, she lost her beloved father in 9/11. A plot device which could have been schmaltzy or just plain gimmicky. But instead is handled with care and restraint and really does work in this story. Second, she's not a "Oh, I can't wait to get married" kind of girl and a little panicked about whether or not she's happy about it. Finally, she's not sure she's over her first love, she's not sure her fiance hasn't just cheated on her with her best friend, she's not sure she loves her career, and she's really not sure what she thinks of her future Mother-in-law.

Now, I'm not usually a big fan of books where the girl has everything but she's "just not happy" (that part should be said in a whiny voice). But, this book works. Rowley makes her main character some one to whom you can relate and all the secondary characters are believable and endearing. I ended up stating you way to late to finish which is always the sign of a good book.

I know this book just came out yet, I'm still looking forward to see what Rowley does next.

Book # 16 "Prayers for Sale" by Sandra Dallas

A wonderful story of the life of a great story teller. In a 1936 Colorado mining town we meet Hennie Comfort and Nit Spindle. When Nit stops in front of Hennie's house to read her "Prayers for Sale" and asking to buy a prayer. Well, of course, Mrs. Comfort doesn't really sell prayers but odd meeting is the beginning of a great friendship.

There are many secrets and sorrows that unfold in this quick read (maybe quick because I couldn't put it down). But there's lots of joy and humor as well. There are a remarkable cast of characters in Middle Swan and in the many stories Hennie tells. Stretching from the Civil War to the end of the depression Hennie's stories are the stories of a country grows and changes over the course of a lifetime.

I can't wait to read more by Sandra Dallas if the rest of her books are as engaging as this.

Book # 15 "Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg" by Michael Perry

I enjoyed this book. There was a little too much graphic detail of pig slaughter and there's only so much farming detail I find interesting but, all in all I enjoyed the story.

Perry has an interesting voice and I took me a while to get into the rhythm and pattern of his writing. His stories of his families lives and history are very touching. He doesn't sugar coat life's difficulties and tragedies.

He and his family live a life I don't think I could live but, I admire the way they live it.

There are truly touching moments as well as funny moments. Most of all there are relate-able moments. Why they live a life I couldn't live but, their life is a life we all know. The ups and downs, the happy and sad, the mundane.

I look forward to reading more of his work and get to know his interesting life even better.

Book # 14 "A Vintage Affair" by Isabel Wolff

What could be better than a story of learning to forgive yourself, finding true love, and great vintage clothes? Filled with fun and still very real characters "A Vintage Affair" is the kind of story I want to hurry to find out what happens but I don't want it to end. How great is that in a book?

As Phoebe Swift tries to recover from a tragedy for which she feels responsible she leaves her job in the vintage clothes department of a famous auction house to open her own vintage clothing store. All the while dealing with her parents divorce, her mother's mid-life crisis, her father's later in life baby (and very young new wife), her budding romance with an older man, and her new friendship with a rather odd but also rather wonderful reporter.

During all this she meets Therese, an elderly French woman selling her vintage clothes while putting her affairs in order. In somewhat parallel stories we learn both Phoebe and Therese need to find forgiveness in their hearts for themselves.

There are great messages of forgiving yourself, forgiving others, loving yourself, loving others, and mostly of having hope. I truly loved this book and kind of hope we may hear from Phoebe Swift again.

Book # 13 "Portraits of the Past" by Rebecca Kelly

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggggg. I wrote a nice long review of this particular book in the series and the series as well but lost it all in the internet etherworld. Since, this is not really a series to promote deep reviews and analysis I think I'll wait till the next in the series and try again.

I enjoyed the book as I do the series for being a nice quick read that doesn't ask a lot of it's reader.

Sometimes it's all I need in a book.

Book # 12 "Brava, Valentine" by Adriana Trigiani

I love this series. I love this author. Andriana Trigiani makes me happy the way only a few authors do. I know I'm going to end up happy by the end of the story. I may not be happy with everything that happens in the book and boy this one had some drama.

It seemed no one in the Angelini/Rocellli family made it out of this one unscathed. But they were all well on their way to healing by the end. And hopefully, by the third in the series (I do believe there's suppose to be three) I'm sure everyone will live happily ever after.

I don't know if I love Valentine more than I love Ave Marie her heroine in the Big Stone Gap series but I know I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Thank you Ms. Trigiani for another wonderful read. Please don't take too long to give me another.

Book # 11 "The Sweet By and By: A Novel" by Todd Johnson

How do you want to get old? What things will matter to you as you age? Five very different southern women, in different stages of the aging process learn about life, love, and friendship in this lovely story.

Todd Johnson does a very good job in writing for a woman's point of view. The story is nicely paced and brings each woman's story to a satisfying conclusion. There's some real insight to what it means to grow old, when you body won't let you do what you used to do or when your body is fine but your mind has gone somewhere else.

What made this book was the relationship these five women had with one and other. How simple acts of kindness can touch the lives of, not only those who are shown kindness, but also those who show that kindness.

While this is a quick read, there is a lot said in this book. It is well worth a read.

Gosh, I say the same things a lot.

I realize reading all my reviews over again close together I say the same things. I'll try to get better for the next 25 (since the reviews of most of the first 25 have been written already).

And if I do say so myself I think ending with the fact I would read more by the same author says quite a bit about the quality of the book.

Oh, well.

Book # 10 "An Irish Country Doctor" by Patrick Taylor

This is a completely charming book. When young Doctor Barry Laverty comes to interview with Doctor Fingal Flahertie O'Reily, little does he know what he's getting into.

Welcome to Ballybucklebo (if you can pronounce it you're one up on me), a small village in Northern Ireland in the mid 1960s. Full of all the quirky characters you would expect in a small Irish village. From the old Major and his wife who keep crying wolf to the young woman who finds herself in the family way all the odd-bodkin inhabitants are covered in this book.

It really was a little Irish vacation reading "An Irish Country Doctor". I felt I was there in the room as we got to know each person you came to the doctor's surgery for medical help or just a kind ear. The story really captured how a small town GP is more than just a doctor, he really cares for all parts of his patients life.

I can't wait to read the next in the series to find out what happens next in Ballybucklebo.

Book # 9 "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

Clearly I have come late to the party about this book. Even thought everyone and her mother, best friend, son's preschool teacher, and daughter's softball coach have read this book. But, hey, I'm here and WOW what a book. I always have this fear when it comes to reading a book "everybody" loved that I will just hate it. I won't get what all the fuss is about. Thankfully, this is not the case with "The Help". What a wonderful book, really exceptional.

Written from three different perspectives it tells the story of race relations in Mississippi during the 60's between the Junior League crowd and their domestics. Even if each section didn't tell you who was telling the portion of the story you would be able to tell. Each voice is so strong and distinct. While there a large important themes in this book it's the small quite moments that stand out for me. Being in the position of taking care of other people's children I understand a little (very little in the since of the social issues) what it's like to invest time and love into these little ones only to lose them from your life.

I'm so glad this book lived up to all the praise it has received. I plan on passing this along to my sisters, best friend, and day care parents. What a wonderful book. I can't wait to read it again.

Book # 8 "The Circus in Winter" by Cathy Day

There's something inherently fasinating about a circus. There's also something inherently creepy about a circus. What does the circus do when the winter comes? Why, they settle in Indiana. Why they would choose a cold place to winter instead of say, California or Florida is a question for another book. There is a town in Florida where ex-circus folk live but that's another book as well. This is the story of the fictional Wallace Porter circus and it's winters in Lima, Indiana (Lie-ma, not Leema) Based on a real circus that wintered in Peru, Indiana this is a inside look into depression era circus life.

The second section of the book deals more with the families who live in this former circus town and while not nearly as fascinating still very well written and an interesting take on how the history of a small town plays a large part in the lives of it's inhabitants.

Book # 7 "Enter the Murderer" by Ngaio Marsh

Gadzooks, another one I forgot to review when I first read it. Oh well, it was a good period piece mystery. The period being (if I remember right) WWII/post war England.

Roderick Alleyn is charming entertaining detective and has enjoyable sidekicks as well.

The mystery centers around a murder that takes place on stage in front of an audience include our Inspector Alleyn and though the murder seems to be an accident all is not what it appears.

It was a fun read and I look forward to more Inspector Alleyn in the future.

Book # 6 "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton

What would you do if you found out you weren't who you thought you were and you're not sure who you really are?

This is the story of Nell, her granddaughter, the authoress, and how their histories are tied together.

What I loved most about this book was the way each woman voice was so clear. There are so many layers to Nell's history and it's given to us just enough at a time to make us want to read more and more.

With the added bonus of clever fairy tales interspersed throughout giving clever clues to Nell's true identity.

A completely enjoyable read; it makes me want to read more of Morton's work.

Book # 5 "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" by Dai Sijie

I'm writing this months after I read the book and I don't remember all the details. I do know I found this really interesting. I had to keep reminding myself it takes place in the 70s because the living conditions the main characters live in seems to primitive by our standards.

I did enjoy the book and I always love books about the love of books. The theme of using the banned books to survive the conditions the characters are forced to live in rang very true to me.

I think when my quest is over this will be one of the books I'll revisit to remember the small details I can't seem to remember now.

Book # 4 "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson

Boy, can Bill Bryson tell a story. He made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail(AT) and to never hike a day in my life.

After coming back from living in England for 20 years Bill Bryson decides to hike the AT. All 2100 plus miles of it. An old high school friend decides to go with him even though he's overweight, out of shape, and not a hiker at all. Neither is Bryson and think that's why I found it accessible and enjoyable. At times it's laugh out loud funny and almost always fascinating. The amount of research on this history and details of the AT are amazing.

I didn't enjoy the second section of the book as much as the first. After splitting up for a while after finishing their first section of the hike, Bryson goes on several day hikes to complete more of the trail and seems to lose some of the charm of the first section. He also seems to be really effected by a horrible crime committed on the trail during the first part of his hike. So, there's a lot of depressing statistics of the down side of hike the AT in the second section. But, it is the smaller section and doesn't bring down the rest of the story.

All and all a great read and I think I'll be looking for more of Bryson's books

Book # 3 "Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter" by Lisa Patton

While I enjoyed the story I do have two issues. First, why are men (especially southern men) always such bums. Sheesh, a lot of southern women writers have a problem with men.

This is the story of a southern belle who moves to Vermont to run a bed and breakfast with her husband (this would be the bum I mentioned before). Needless to say things don't go all that well and our heroine learns a lot about herself and grows to be a strong woman(ain't that always the way).

My second issue is the ending, it seemed a little to quick and maybe not the most thought out. It was a case of "I know how I want it to end so let's just make it happen" kind of ending.

Oh and, I totally want book kids. This in one of those books where the kids are there for amusing anecdotes but then are conveniently "in the other room" when not part of the story. Their like soap opera babies. I think I've got to get me some of those.

Mostly, it was a fun read and move me along on my quest. But I don't feel the need to own this one.

Book # 2 "The Thirteen Problems" by Agatha Christie

I enjoyed this series of short stories. While some are predictable I remind my self they weren't when written. I like the second half of the stories the best. "A Christmas Tragedy" and "The Affair at the Bungalow" made me work for the answers which is always fun and I love Miss Marple. Plus it's a quick read which is good for my quest.

Book # 1 "The Promise of Lumby" by Gail Fraser

I just love this series. It's right up there with the MItford series by Jan Karon. There's something about quirky small town fiction that just makes me happy. Everyone, if not accepts, at least tolerates the quirks of the inhabitants of these small towns. The residents in this type of fiction seem to understand is everyone, no matter how odd they are, contribute to the whole of the community. How can you not love a story like that.

"Lumby's Bounty" is the third in the series and introduces a few new character's and digs deeper into others. Gail Fraser has a way of fleshing out her characters and making them real.

A completely fun read and leaves you feeling like you've taken a nice weekend holiday.

Our first warm day, yuck!

I don't know why I live in a hot climate. I am not a hot weather girl. It's not even very hot and I can tell I'm starting to get cranky. I picked my new background to make me feel all could weather and rainy. Bleacck!

So, I'm trying again!

Here we go again. I've put up and taken down posts several times and now today, over half way through the year, I'm trying again.

I'm starting book 25 so I'm now half way through my book quest and without meaning to jinx anything I'm kind of on a roll. We'll see how well I do.

I'm going to import book reviews from another site I use and then work from there.

Let's hope I keep up this time.