Friday, July 29, 2016

Little Beach Street Bakery ~ Jenny Colgan

Colgan, Jenny. 2015. Little Beach Street Bakery. New York, NY: William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0062371225. $14.99 USD.

I have fallen in love!  Jenny Colgan’s Little Beach Street Street Bakery was a delightful vacation read, with a strong sense of place, local color and well-developed, quirky characters including a hilarious Puffin named “Neil.”

Image result for puffin

Polly Waterford, together with her long-term boyfriend, owns a graphic design business in Plymouth, England that is failing.  Polly has done everything she can to save the business, but ultimately finds herself facing bankruptcy, a depressed boyfriend and homelessness. Seeking an affordable place to live (harder than it looks), she eventually lands, single again, in a flat above an abandoned bakery located in a quiet seaside town on the Cornish coast, only accessed by a causeway that has high tides twice a day.

 As she rests and tries to figure out what she is going to do for the rest of her life, she bakes bread for comfort, and ends up starting a business, caring for her neighbors, falling in love and finding her place in the world.  Brimming with vivid descriptions of a Cornwall coastal town and its inhabitants, this book is a treat for the senses, a feel-good novel of pure escapism.  And admit it, sometimes that’s just what we need!  A sequel, titled Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, was published in March.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Blood of the Earth - Faith Hunter

Hunter, Faith. 2016. Blood of the Earth. New York, NY: Roc Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0451473301. $7.99 USD.

I was looking forward to this spin-off from one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series involving Jane Yellowrock, an American Indian Skinwalker, set in a New Orleans not quite like our own.  One good thing about this title is that it is not necessary to be familiar with the Yellowrock series to enjoy this book, though the background is helpful, especially with all the were-creatures discussed.

Nell Ingram, a young widow, grew up in a cult-like church community in the south, and although she has escaped and is no longer obligated to the discipline of the church, she still has family ties. However, with the location of her land so near theirs, she is regularly harassed by certain misogynistic male members of the "church."

Nell has a type of supernatural power that is connected to her land, and I enjoyed how the author used anthropomorphism to reflect the emotions of the land and unique descriptions of its power.  It was intriguing to watch the main character, Nell, grow and change over the course of the book, coming out of her shell and gaining confidence in her self and her powers. I like that we aren't told too early what kind of magic she possesses, which keeps the mystery fresh and propels you to keep reading.  I do have to admit I wasn't fond of the dialect that Nell uses at times, what she calls the "church" language; though after some research, I found out "you'uns" has been around for a long, long time and represents a diminutive of "you ones" from Scottish or Irish settlers.  Very interesting, but a little awkward - it interrupts the flow of reading and makes the characters seem not so bright.  Other than that, I enjoyed Blood of the Earth, and the appearance of some of the characters from the Yellowrock series.  A second title in this spin-off series will be published in November: Curse on the Land.  And of course, I will continue to look for the next Yellowrock title!

Monday, July 25, 2016

All is Not Forgotten ~ Wendy Walker

Walker, Wendy. 2016. All is Not Forgotten. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1250097910. $26.99 USD.

Beginning with an enticing premise, Wendy Walker's new novel asks an intriguing question - if you had the chance to erase a traumatic memory, would you, or more thought-provoking, should you?

The concept of the unreliable narrator has been so popular lately that I was almost put off by yet another psychological suspense/literary thriller with that kind of set-up. However, the author does such a good job of examining each character, and their motives, that it felt fresh and new, especially with that unique question that readers will be asking themselves: which memory would I erase, and what would be the ramifications to my life, and the lives of those around me, if I could do so?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

How to Murder a Millionaire ~ Nancy Martin

Martin, Nancy. 2002. How to Murder a Millionaire. New York, NY: Signet Publishing Company, a division of Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0451207241.  $7.99 USD

I realized that I’ve been reviewing a lot of pre-pub titles that folks don’t have access to yet (I get them because….I’m a librarian with a blog!  Great perk)!  However, that doesn’t help those reading the blog, except to perhaps create interest and excitement over forthcoming titles.  I was walking the “stacks” at the library (another word for the book shelves) and saw a series I have been reading since it first came out.  It’s one of my favorites, so I thought I’d review it.  Most libraries should have this series.

Written by the prolific Nancy Martin, the Blackbird Sisters Mystery series is set in Philadelphia and has a great cast of unique characters.  The main character, Nora Blackbird, comes from an old, wealthy family and lives in the rather dilapidated family home.  Her parents, apparently not good money managers, have left the country, leaving her the property, land and a two million dollar tax bill.  Finding herself needing to work to make ends meet, Nora raids her grandmother’s vintage clothing cache in the attic and goes to work as a society page columnist for a local paper, using her connections to gain entrance to the upper crust establishment society gatherings.  Her sisters, wild child Emma, and flaky, earth mother, Libby, round out the quirky cast.

On Nora’s first assignment, she unwittingly stumbles across a murder: a millionaire art collector who is an old family friend.  As she investigates the crime, using resources she didn’t know she had, she crosses paths with a variety of intriguing characters, including the son of a rumored New Jersey crime boss, who shows more than a little interest in the down-on-her-luck blue blood.

Currently, there are ten titles in the series, and a two-book spin-off series about a relative of Mick Abruzzo, Nora’s love interest.  I’ve read all these mysteries and have enjoyed the experience and characters.  Give them a try!  The first title in the series is How to Murder a Millionaire, followed by Dead Girls Don’t Wear Diamonds.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An Obvious Fact ~Craig Johnson (Pub. Date September 13, 2016)

Johnson, Craig. 2016. An Obvious Fact. New York, NY: Viking Books. ISBN 978-0525426943. $28.00 USD

Craig Johnson’s Longmire series has a large following, with a popular TV series on Netflix keeping fans entertained, as well.  His new novel, scheduled for a September release, takes the laconic sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming on a road trip with his trusty side-kick, Henry Standing Bear, to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.  This novel has one of the best opening chapters Johnson has penned!

The title of the book comes from one of the many Sherlock Holmes quotes that Henry voices, deadpanned, during the novel, to Walt’s irritation and chagrin (Hank “borrowed ”Walt’s copy of the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, you see).  Henry takes his car, Lola, and his two motorcycles, also named after women, to compete in a race he won at a much younger age.  While in Sturgis, the original Lola, whom Henry had a relationship with many years ago, approaches the duo to investigate a motorcycle accident that has left her son in a coma.  During the course of this entertaining read, new quirky characters are introduced, droll dialogue is displayed on every page, and a complex plot is revealed featuring motorcycle gangs, a reality TV star, an ATF agent and a MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle named “Pequod” (Moby Dick, natch).

Image result for white mrap

An Obvious Fact was a wholly satisfying and entertaining read, and I am only disappointed at having to wait another year for the next title in the series.  Luckily new episodes of the TV show are scheduled for September.  This is one of my favorite reads of the year, so far.

The Hating Game ~Sally Thorne (Pub. Date August 9, 2016)

Thorne, Sally. 2016. The Hating Game. New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks.
 ISBN 978-0062439598. $14.99 USD.

Reading The Hating Game by Sally Thorne reminded me of some of the Hepburn/Tracy films with their love/hate relationships, snappy dialogue and large city workplace settings, updated for the 21st century (with language and sex, of course)!  As Sarah Hudson wrote in a blog post for "Arts and Literature Review Blog," the Hepburn/Spencer “films tended to be about the clash between personal ambition and personal relationships, something that men and women [still] haven’t really been able to reconcile.”  This seems true about Thorne's book, as well.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman work for a fictitious publishing company, comprised of two smaller firms that merged.  They are each executive assistants to co-CEO’s who despise each other, and Lucy and Josh work in a small office with desks that face each other.  The title of the book “The Hating Game” comes from the fact that Lucy and Josh’s interactions are combative and competitive, like a sports match - a bit like tennis, with the verbal volleys being batted back and forth between them.  Lucy’s bright clothing, optimistic attitude and quirkiness seem to grate on Josh’s nerves, and his joyless, OCD, passive-aggressive tendencies are driving Lucy insane!  They indulge in various other games:  “The Staring Game,” where they see who will blink first, and “The Mirror Game,” where they copy each other’s movements, as well as other “games” of one-upmanship.

When Lucy and Josh both are presented an opportunity for the same promotion, things really get tense.  But somewhere along the line, Lucy and Josh realize another game is afoot:  The Game of Love.  Watching these two characters, to whom the author has given well-developed back stories, we are treated to an entertaining romance that sizzles when they finally stop all the games and start embracing their attraction to each other.  This is an entertaining and satisfying romance, and the HEA is well-deserved for these “players.”

Geared toward mature audiences.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Vacation Break!!

Took a break from real life and spent a week in the woods!

It was beautiful, but HOT, in East Texas!

Our "cabin" with amazing amenities.  No camping for me!

I read and finished 7 books, but haven't had time to review them since I've been back at work.  Here's the list of what I'll be reviewing soon:

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson
Time of Departure by Douglas Scholfield
The Forgotten Room by Karen White, et. al.
The Hating Game by by Sally Thorne
The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
American Blood by Ben Sanders