Saturday, December 8, 2007


1. RED LEAVES by Thomas H. Cook. Audio download. Stand-alone mystery, my first read (or listen) by this author. A small-town family is torn apart when a young girl disappears from her home, and the teenage son of the man telling the story is suspected in some foul play in the matter. During the course of these events, several other issues plaguing the man and his family—even his distant family, relating to his father’s previous business dealings and his mother’s death, his brother’s alcoholism, etc. are brought to light. While I loved the author’s way with words and the way he was able to depict raw emotion and flay the protagonist’s soul open to inspection, I can’t say I think much of his plotting, as he seemed to broadcast every plot twist long in advance and by mid-book I had a gut feeling for exactly how it would end, and I was right, which disappointed me very much. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t say more. Excellent writing (and reading) aside, ultimately the book was just plain depressing and not much of a thriller or a mystery. There were also too many issues that were never firmly wrapped up, but left to the reader’s imagination to decide what had ‘really’ happened—which I don’t mind occasionally because my imagination is generally up to the task—but in this case, there were just TOO many things left that way…it felt as thought the author just couldn’t be bothered to wrap things up, or something. C.

2. SPANISH DAGGER by Susan Wittig Albert. Sixteenth (and most recent) entry in the China Bayles herbal mysteries—I’m now caught up until April when Nightshade is released. When China hosts a friend of Ruby’s to do a papermaking class, she and Carol go out to gather yucca leaves for the class, never suspecting that they will find a dead body among the plants near the railroad tracks! When China is at the scene of another dead body being found a couple of days later, an acquaintance of the first one, she’s thrust right into the midst of the case whether she wants to be or not. Meanwhile, Ruby is off to her mother’s to sort out her growing dementia problem, and McQuaid, China’s PI husband, is off to Houston to further investigate China’s father’s death, having been hired by China’s recently-discovered half-brother Miles, who suspects that Robert Bayles’ death by car crash sixteen years earlier was not an accident as had been presumed. Lots of difficult issues to deal with in this book, and definitely not your typical “light” cozy read, but I didn’t mind. I love these characters and it’s only natural that they would occasionally have difficult things to go through and was glad to share them. A.

3. PAST REASON HATED by Peter Robinson. Fifth entry in the Alan Banks police procedural series set in Yorkshire at Christmastime. How appropriate! LOL Called out a few days before Christmas to investigate a brutal stabbing death, we’re introduced more closely to recently-promoted Detective Constable Susan Gay, newest member of Eastvale’s CID. Caroline Hartley, the victim, is a bit of a mystery. Aside from her live-in partner, Veronica, no one knew her very well in Eastvale, having arrived just a few years ago from London. In fact, no one even realized she was a lesbian, as she was a very attractive woman prone to flirting with the men she encountered, mostly within her local dramatic society. Was her death the result of something from her troubled past, or a current problem? Well, I figured it out quite early on—the only reason Banks didn’t was because he didn’t have all the information, I’m sure. LOL I like this series quite a lot, though the constant, repetitive descriptions of Banks’ many cigarette lightings and pouring of and drinking of drinks (as well as those of the people he’s interviewing or his cronies) really wears thin after awhile. I seem to notice it more in some of the books than others, and it was at the forefront in this book once again, lowering my enjoying of the book just a titch. Maybe it’s just the fact that I figured things out so far in advance made me notice those details more in this one or something, I dunno…but it’s annoying as heck! We know Banks smokes and drinks—which is fine—but must we get detailed blow-by-blow descriptions whenever he lights up or has a pint?? B+

4. A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. (audio download) Wonderful reading (by Recorded Books, Inc—I’ve forgotten the reader’s name already!) of one of my favorite classic books, and certainly appropriate to the time of year! Highly recommend this if you’ve never had anyone read you this story! A+

5. THE HIGH LORD by Trudi Canavan. Third in the Black Magician fantasy trilogy, which wraps up and ties together all the bits and pieces from the two previous books. The High Lord Akkarin reveals to Sonea, his ward at the University, why he has been practicing the forbidden so-called “black” magic, and suddenly he doesn’t seem to be such an evil guy. Why all the deception? Why not just come clean to the Magician’s Guild? The reasons are many, and all of them make sense, once explained. Are the Ichari really planning an invasion against The Guild of Magicians? Excellent ending to the trilogy and with a finale that certainly leaves an opening for more books set in the realm of Kyralia—and I’ll definitely be reading the next set, The Traitor Spy Trilogy, as well as a planned prequel to this series when they are published beginning next year. A.

6. BANGKOK HAUNTS by John Burdett. Third (and most recent so far) in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series, set in Bangkok, Thailand. I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as I had the previous two books, which were superb in their cultural immersion as well as their quirky stories. This one involved a snuff film involving another of Sonchai’s former lovers, and a twisted tale of a mystery as to who was ultimately responsible. Not sure what jangled my nerves with this one; I think part of it was that at the end of the last book, there was a bit of a cliffhanger regarding Sonchai finally getting to meet his American father, but that didn’t happen in this book and the issue was only addressed very briefly in two or three lines. At any rate, while I enjoyed getting together again with the interesting characters, I find myself not singing this book’s praises as much—possibly just because the novelty of it has worn off some, and from previous books I rather know what to expect. B+

7. THE SOUVENIR: A DAUGHTER DISCOVERS HER FATHER’S WAR by Louise Steinman. (audio download) Story of a woman who, when both of her parents die within a short time of each other, comes into possession of an army footlocker full of letters that her father had written to her mother while he was in the army in the Pacific during WWII. Hundreds of letters! With these letters is a blood-stained Japanese “good luck” flag with an inscription she doesn’t understand. Slowly the story of her family unfolds as the author comes to know the man who was her father as she had never seen him before—before the war, before having the experiences that he did. Also told is the story of the author’s pursuit of the family of the young man to whom the flag belonged in Japan. Wonderfully done, difficult to stop listening to. I’m not a big WWII history fan, although my own father was there, albeit on the European front. I did have an uncle, one of my mother’s brothers, who was killed in the Pacific, so this certainly did have some family relevance to me even though I never met Uncle Cliff. Reading the description of this book made it sound like an interesting story—and something different than my usual fare, and indeed it was on both counts. Highly recommended, especially for those who enjoy memoirs. A.

8. YULE: A CELEBRATION OF LIGHT AND WARMTH by Dorothy Morrison. Interesting book that looks at the origins of the Yule celebration (as well as other ‘winter holiday’ celebrations,) different cultural variations over the years and the meanings behind the rituals, origins of some of our modern-day practices. Also has sections for rituals, recipes, potions, decorations, etc. and another chapter on how to make your own Yule celebration uniquely yours, gives ideas on how to start new traditions of your own, etc. Although a lot of this is “nothing new,” to me, I did glean some interesting information and quite enjoyed the book; will be keeping it on my reference shelf and will have to plan to dig it out again next year, probably in November, to allow for a bit more planning time for some of the neat ideas included. B.

9. THE DIVINE CIRCLE OF LADIES COURTING TROUBLE by Dolores Stewart Riccio. Fourth (and so far, last) in the “Circle” mysteries, featuring five Wiccan coven-mates in Plymouth, MA who always seem to get tangled up in various nefarious plots and crimes happening around town. The main character is Cassandra Shipton, a herbalist and small businesswoman who sells herbs, potions, lotions and the like. Recently married to Joe, her Greenpeace-employed, globe-trotting Greek, Cass tries to settle in to her new routine, but someone in Plymouth is using hemlock to poison the chocolate-lovers of the town! The poisoner strikes a church ladies meeting, the taping of a cable network food show and even a Thanksgiving dinner being held for the homeless! Who is behind it? And is it just a mad poisoner, or is there an actual intended victim? Cass gets flashes of an answer, but only small clues at a time, and by the time she gets all the answers, it’s nearly too late! I do hope the author continues this series—this is the last one for now, but I hope it’s not too long before Cass, Phillipa, Heather, Fiona and Deirdre and their families and friends are back making more magic for us again! A+

10. DEATH OF A MACHO MAN by M.C. Beaton. Twelfth in the Hamish Macbeth Scottish police procedural series set in the fictional Highland village of Lochdubh. A newcomer to the village, Randy Duggan, a loud and swaggering braggart, is murdered in his home, but as usual, there is no end of suspects as he was not a well-liked man. Hamish is even briefly suspect as he was to fight Randy publicly and was much relieved at not having to do so. When another newcomer, the writer of romance novels, is also killed, it’s believed she knew something about Randy or saw something she shouldn’t have and had to be removed. But are the two cases related? These are getting just a little too formulaic for me, and while I enjoy them for the most part, I think between these and the Raisin books I’ve been reading one M.C. Beaton book per month for over a year now…bit of an overload, perhaps …and I will likely ring in 2008 Beaton-free, at least for the first month. B-.

11. ZERO TO THE BONE by Robert Eversz. Fifth (and final) book in the Nina Zero noir mystery series set in LA, in which Nina is finally able to confront some of the demons from her past—her abusive father, complacent mother, and reasons for her toughness and survival through her time in the California prison system. It all begins when a woman Nina photographed for some pictures for her first artistic gallery showing is killed in a snuff film and a copy of the tape is sent to Nina at Scandal Times. (This seems to be the month for snuff films for some reason!) Was it an accident or was Christine’s death deliberate? Nina must then also deal with her teenaged niece Cassie, who knew Christine, as they attempt to navigate the path of grief, both of them tough and hardened beyond their years. This book was hard to read, knowing it was the last one, but I did like how Eversz chose to end the series. That’s all I’m going to say. Very well done—well, I hesitate to say enjoyable, because it’s hard to read through pages filled with so much pain, but Nina is a toughie and her pragmatism and realism is something I admire greatly. The book is definitely well-crafted and Nina has to be one of my favorite mystery characters ever. Although I know that Eversz had planned a beginning and an end to this series—something I admire him for, disappointing though it may be as a fan—I do hope we will be hearing more from him in the future. A+

12. THE TWYLIGHT TOWER by Karen Harper. Third in the Elizabeth I historical mystery series featuring The Queen herself and her entourage of fellow sleuths. In this book, they set out to solve the death of the Queen’s luteist, Geoffrey, while good queen Bess is preoccupied with the attentions of her Master of Horse, Robert Dudley rather than attending closely to matters of state. This book really took a nose dive in the quality and enjoyment department since the last one. Much more political intrigue and romance than mystery, and it just seemed a real departure from the entire tone and characterization of Elizabeth I from the previous two books. I plan to read at least one more—I actually have the next several in line here on my TBR—and if the next one hasn’t improved any, I’ll be stopping the series. I think it’s a pretty tough job trying to feature a prominent historical figure whose exploits have been pretty well documented like Elizabeth I’s have, and in this book, that comes crashing home with a loud bang, though the author did seem to pull it off fairly well in the first two. Even the secondary characters seemed “off” and not themselves as they were portrayed previously. Perhaps this was just a quickly cranked out entry in the series that didn’t have as much thought put into it as the first two, I don’t know. C.



Friday, November 9, 2007

November 2007 Reading List

1. THE WEAVER’S INHERITANCE by Kate Sedley. Eighth in the Roger the Chapman medieval mystery series in which a ghost from Roger’s past pops up. The young man, the weaver’s son, whom Roger had proclaimed dead—though never having seen his body—when he investigated six years previously, now turns up alive and recovering from an amnesiac shock. The Alderman Weaver, so anxious to have his son back, accepts him wholeheartedly—but others, including the boy’s sister, aren’t so sure, though there is at least a passing resemblance and he has some knowledge of the family history and details of family life—and what he can’t recall, he writes off to his still sketchy memory. Is it really Clement Weaver, back from the dead, or a vile impostor, coached by one of the jealous family members to seem like Clement in order to claim the wealthy father’s inheritance? Roger investigates, of course. Love this series! A.

2. THE SKYSTONE by Jack Whyte. First in the Camulod Chronicles, an Arthurian series that begins back in 360’s A.D. Roman Britain. Wonderful historical detail with an interesting story and twist on the Arthurian myths—this constitutes the beginnings of the legend, with nary a mention yet of Arthur, just with his (apparent) ancestors. However, the Lady in the Lake is mentioned and a special sword made from a strange metal that “fell from the sky” in a skystone. This is the story of Publius Varrus, the blacksmith who made the sword, and quite a wonderful story it is, too. Lively storytelling, rich with detail, interesting characters—all essentials to a lengthy historical and/or fantasy series, and all definitely present in this first installment. I’m greatly looking forward to the next one in the series! This is one TBR Challenge book that I’m glad I finally got to. A.

3. IT’S NOT OVER TIL THE THIN LADY SINGS by Michelle Ritchie. Oh, yawn, I thought. Another book by a gastric bypass patient explaining how to make things work long-term. Received this from the LibraryThing early reviewer’s program to review, even though the book has been released for some months. This book is certainly different than several others I’ve read by post-bypass patients. The author is a certified addictions counselor, and she tackles one of the most difficult aspects of weight loss by ANY means, be it weight-loss surgery or a diet and exercise regimen and that is the psychological aspects of what cause us to overeat and become obese in the first place. There is some very basic information about WLS itself and about post-op care and eating, but not much. It is refreshing to read a book that doesn’t give lists of what you can and can’t eat, how many grams of this or that is essential, huge recipe sections, long lists of do’s and don’ts. It’s also refreshing to read a book in which the majority of the content is not all about the author and her story from fat to fit and how fabulous life is now. This book is about YOU. There are some anecdotes about the author’s personal experiences and the experiences of some of her clients (she facilitates WLS support groups and deals with chronic overeaters), but it’s mostly exercises encouraging you to find your own answers and gives you tools to help you work through your own “demons” and to develop strategies let go of the old behaviors. It also encourages you to come up with a post-op program that works for YOU rather than just following someone else’s lists of do’s and don’ts. This is an aspect of obesity in general and WLS in particular that I feel is very neglected and this book is a welcome addition to any collection of books dealing with WLS. That said, I do feel it’s somewhat incomplete with regard to the lack of information about the surgery itself, physical followup care, and I don’t believe it emphasizes enough the importance of putting protein first, and her protein requirements run a little lower than my own research indicates is necessary. The vital necessity of vitamin supplementation after gastric bypass is also not addressed forcefully enough, I don’t think. As an RN working in a GI clinic, I talk to many post-ops who are quite malnourished down the road, and their supplementation is very underdone. Since so many others of these types of books are just the opposite—emphasizing the physical aspects but ignoring the psychological, I do feel this book is an essential addition to any WLS patient’s library, but I cannot say that it is a complete and comprehensive guide to WLS. I myself am a year post-op RNY, and I did find the book very helpful, although not always pleasant, as some of the psychological things I have put on the back burner and it wasn’t easy dragging them into the light. Still, I believe for long-term success, the author is absolutely correct in stating that these things MUST be addressed. B+

4. THE COLD DISH by Craig Johnson. Audio download from the library. First in a mystery series featuring Walt Longmire, Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Walt is a crusty, middle-aged law enforcement officer, instantly likable, with a bevy of well-fleshed friends and townsfolk surrounding him, from his foul-mouthed deputy, Victoria Moretti to his best friend, Henry Standing Bear. Even the waitress at the local diner has more personality than the main characters in some books I’ve read! I really felt like I knew them all very well in a short period of time. When Cody Pritchard is found shot to death, it’s first assumed that it was a hunting accident. But the young man had a history—he was an arrogant ex-con, recently released after serving a very short sentence for the brutal group rape of a mentally challenged Indian girl. Walt has his suspicions about the death from the beginning, and would have been hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t want to pop Cody at one time for one reason or another. But when another of the young men convicted with Cody ends up the same way, everyone else realizes that there must be a connection with the rape case, someone out for revenge—a dish best served cold, it is said. I figured out the killer well in advance and even managed to suss out why, but it did not in any way lessen my enjoyment of this book. The reader was excellent and really evoked the spirit of the characters, I think, and together with the author’s skill at storytelling made it a very worthwhile read…uh, I mean, listen. I was rather embarrassed at the end to be sitting there with tears streaming down my face, but ya know—I guess that means they did a great job, because I don’t leak all that easily. Just so you know how much I enjoyed this, I’m presently downloading the second one in the series to listen to next, and I almost never do “two in a row!” A+

5. THE BURNT ORANGE SUNRISE by David Handler. Berger and Mitry mystery number four, in which Mitch, a New York film critic and Desiree, the resident state trooper, end up at big old Victorian inn, trapped during a winter ice and snow storm that topples trees, causes power lines to be down and generally makes things miserable. Even moreso when there are two deaths—the first thought to be heart failure of the inn’s proprietor. But when her mother, a feisty and unconventional famous ninety-two-year-old filmmaker and photographer whom the people present at the inn had gathered to honor ends up strangled to death, Des realizes that the first death is probably not natural, either. Mitch conjures up thoughts of the old Agatha Christie movie “And Then There Were None,” as they have no way out of the inn and no way for the crime scene investigators or detectives to get in until the storm breaks. A houseful of suspects, all with secrets and possible reasons for doing in the mother-and-daughter combo—and then, Mitch is clonked on the head and comes to next to another dead body! But which one did it?? Well, I figured it out pretty easily, and well in advance. This book didn’t enthrall me nearly as much as the previous ones in the series did. It was still a good read, but I was not impressed by all the celebrity name-dropping claptrap early on in the book—which I suppose is to be expected, since Mitch IS a film critic. Still, I am not fond of Hollywood hype stuff. It was still a decent read, and I do like these characters, but they just seemed a bit “off” in this installment. Or maybe I was off! Anyway, I didn’t enjoy it as much. B.

6. PYRAMIDS by Terry Pratchett. Sixth in publication order of the humorous fantasy Discworld series, this book features Teppic, a newly inducted member of the Assassins Guild. When his father dies, he must leave Ankh-Morpork and journey home because he also becomes King Teppicymon XXVIII, a demi-god/king in the land of the pyramids, far away physically and culturally from Ankh-Morpork. Many interesting supporting characters round out the cast, including Ptclusp, the pyramid builder, and his twin sons, IIa and IIb, who cause a major time (and other things!) warp when trying to erect the Great Pyramid in Teppic’s father’s honor by taking a few magical/metaphysical shortcuts. Plenty of chuckles and wacky Discworld humor, but I have to say this storyline isn’t my favorite. I think my favorite character in this book was You Bastard, the mathematical genius camel. LOL Enjoyable but somewhat ho-hum in spots—or perhaps it was just my mood. B+

7. EVAN BLESSED by Rhys Bowen. Ninth in the Evan Evans Welsh village police procedural/cozy series. Evan and Bronwen’s wedding fast approaches as Evan begins work on a case of a missing teenage girl lost while hiking on Mt. Snowdon. When the search turns up a hidden bunker dug into the mountainside, people begin to fear that perhaps this is a serial event. And when the perp starts sending musical clues to Evan, the local police force calls in a profiler to help aid their search. Will Evan solve this case in time to be married? And will his and Bronwen’s mothers drive them all crazy before it takes place? I did figure out the bad guy (though I admittedly followed the red herring for awhile) ahead of time, but didn’t solve the ‘whole’ puzzle. Nice plot twists and turns and another pleasant interlude in Llanfair. A.

8. DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY by Craig Johnson. Audio download, second in the Walt Longmire series. Not quite as compelling as the first one, but with an interesting mystery (though I pegged the bad guy when introduced—again, no reason, just a ‘gut feeling’ without knowing why) and further development of Walt and the other central characters in the story. When an elderly Basque woman who lived in the Durant Assisted Living home is found dead, former Sheriff Lucien Connolly, who also lives there, believes it’s murder and tells Walt so. Walt trusts his judgment and orders the body to be examined—but what Lucien fails to reveal is that the woman was once his wife for a few hours, before her family had the marriage annulled. When the woman’s granddaughter, who runs the bakery in town, is clonked on the head and a worker at the home turns up dead also, the suspects start piling up along with the dead and injured. Another wild goose chase across Absaroka county with Walt, Henry Standing Bear and Walt’s new deputy, whose name I can’t begin to figure out how to spell—the disadvantage of listening rather than reading. LOL Anyway, very much enjoyed again, though I’m going to give it a rest now—especially since (at the moment) there’s only one more in the series. A.

9. AGATHA RAISIN AND THE HAUNTED HOUSE by M.C. Beaton. Fourteenth in the Agatha Raisin, amateur sleuth in the Cotswolds mystery. A mystery presents itself when a woman in a nearby village claims she’s being haunted in her own home. 92-years-old, far from frail, and the bane of everyone in the village including her own children, the woman eventually ends up dead. Many had motives, as the woman had some money and lived in a home that was significant historically. But who had means and opportunity? Agatha and her new neighbor Paul, a computer specialist that she (once again!) finds attractive, investigate. Agatha and her concerns over her aging looks and propensity to become enamored of every man she meets makes me laugh—in other characters, it would just be annoying and I’d stop reading, but for some reason I tolerate it and even enjoy it in the indefatigable Ms. Raisin. This was a typically enjoyable entry in the series, bolstered by the appearance once again of Sir Charles Fraith. B+

10. PETER PAN by J.M. Barrie. (audio download) I hadn’t read this book since I was quite young, and must say it was an enjoyable interlude listening to this classic children’s story being told by an excellent reader. Running the gamut of emotions from hilarity to fear to grief for things long lost, this was quite a treat as Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Wendy and the boys, Hook and Smee and all the other characters spring to life. Definitely more enjoyable than Disney’s watered-down, whitewashed version! A.

11. KAFKA ON THE SHORE by Haruki Murakami. Last of my “TBR Challenge” books for 2007, yay! What a WEIRD book! I liked it—it was a very interesting story, about a 15-year-old boy who runs away from his home and his emotionally distant father in Tokyo and travels to a small city on the coast where he spends time in a private library reading all day. It’s also about an older man who, as a child during WWII, had a strange blackout episode and woke up with basically a ‘blank’ mind, living the rest of his life unable to read or write or retain much knowledge, but who could from then on talk to cats. Sometimes difficult to follow, these two both meet some interesting characters and their paths begin to intertwine in bizarre and strange ways. I sometimes wonder what the author was smoking when he wrote this book and I’m still undecided as to whether I want some or not! LOL I’m not even sure I understand what exactly his point was, but it was a thought-provoking book and very hard to put down, though necessity dictated that I had to pause quite often. I will be looking for more my Murakami for sure. A.

12. THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS by Colin Dexter. Ninth in the “Inspector Morse” British police procedural series set in Oxford, in which an American tourist who is part of a tour group staying at a ritzy hotel in Oxford dies shortly after checking in. Although it appears that the woman dies of a massive coronary, police are alled in because a valuable artifact that the dead woman was carrying to donate to the Ashmolean Museum has also been stolen. And when another body associated with the group turns up a couple days later, the niggling doubts Morse had about the first death being by totally natural causes spring to life and he and Lewis are hot on the trail. Typical excellent Morse mystery, always a joy for me to dig back into this series. A.

13. PLAINS CRAZY by J.M. Hayes. Third in the “Mad Dog & Englishman” series. Full of wry humor, bizarre happenings, interesting characters, and the very essence of small-town Midwestern life, this series set in Kansas and featuring Sheriff English and his half-brother Mad Dog, is in my opinion one of the most sadly overlooked and seldom talked-about mystery series out there. When a teenage boy, a member of a family doing a re-enactment of Cheyenne life in the 1860’s for PBS, dies with an authentic Cheyenne arrow in his back, Mad Dog is looked at as the first suspect. Until it’s determined that he was probably the intended victim, that is. Then, the bank is robbed and several crudely-made bombs explode at different locales in town accompanied by notes from a terrorist with terrible grammar, and Judy, Englishman’s wife, insists that they take a trip to Paris in the midst of it all. As the story progresses from one madcap scene to the next, there is a sense of total incredulity and frequent “No way!” exclamations from inside the brain, but also one of pause as you think, “Okay, I CAN see that happening after all…bizarre coincidence, but it could happen!” but not likely strung together in a series of events such as depicted in this book. Still, it’s highly entertaining and felt like a visit with well-loved friends once again. Was glad to see that Hayes had a fourth book in series published earlier this month—I look forward to it! A.


FORTUNE’S SLAVE by Fidelis Morgan. Altogether TOO campy and silly for me, and I found myself on page 60 with a decided lack of interest so decided to move on.
THE FIG EATER by Jody Shields. Yawn. The author’s writing style rather annoyed me too.


Friday, October 12, 2007


1. THE DIVINE CIRCLE OF LADIES MAKING MISCHIEF by Dolores Stewart Riccio. Third in the “Circle” Cassandra Shipton series. I almost hesitate to call these mysteries, in much the way the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books aren’t true mysteries. They’re more stories with a mystery element to them. These stories feature five women with very different personalities and lives who are best friends and Wiccan coven members. When I need a dose of good-feeling and hominess, this series does the trick for me. The author is able to evoke sights, smells, and sounds that put you right in the moment, and most of her moments are pleasant and cozy and idyllic. I would probably eventually gag left to read only this type of book, but I do love this series for the warm fuzzy feeling as much as for the accurate portrayal of pagan belief and practice—or at least, a plausible portrayal, given that there are no hard and fast rules and pagan worship and lifestyle can be quite varied. Anyway, this was a lovely way to open October and I heartily enjoyed it! A+

2. KISSED A SAD GOODBYE by Deborah Crombie. Sixth in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James British police procedural series. I absolutely love this series! The mysteries are interesting, the characters are fully-fleshed and very real, and the books are a nice blend of integrating the personal lives of the characters with a decent mystery. This one had its origins back in the Blitz of WWII and was set on the Isle of Dogs with a local businesswoman brutally murdered and laid out in Mudchute Park there. As the list of suspects grew and new clues were added via flashbacks into the past, the mystery became more mysterious and I truly had no idea who the murderer was until just before it was revealed. Always a nice surprise. I often will give some of my favorite series books an A simply for enjoyment, but this one deserved an A+ and gets it!

3. JAMAICA ME DEAD by Bob Morris. Second Zack Chasteen mystery in which Zack flies to Jamaica to help an old college teammate with security for a millionaire resort owner, only to have his friend blown up in one of the resort’s vans almost immediately after Zack’s arrival. Zack sets out to find who murdered his friend as well as who is continuing to harass the political candidate son of the man Monk was working for, eventually believing they are two separate entities. A light, relatively quick read with a humorous lean, though I have to admit that some of the humor seemed a bit “forced” in this one, and I figured out the mystery way ahead of time. I’ll read more, but it won’t be really high on my priority list. B-.

4. THE NOVICE by Trudi Canavan. Second in the Black Magician fantasy trilogy, in which Sonea, the young slum girl who was found to have magical talent, begins her formal training at the Magician Guild’s University. Under the sponsorship of Rothen, the magician who helped her get her magic under control, Sonea enters the summer class with eight other students, all of whom shun her because she is not “high born.” One boy in particular, Regin, who is a bully and leader of the group, seems to have it in for Sonea and makes her life a living hell, such that she is determined to test out of that class and advance to the next one. But when Regin follows her to the more advanced class a few days later, Sonea thinks her world has fallen apart—until the High Lord, Akkarin, decides that he will take over her guardianship from Rothen. Since Sonea witnessed the High Lord practicing black magic at the end of the last book, this terrifies her to no end, but she feels powerless to do anything as he is basically holding those she cares about hostage. The middle book of trilogies are usually the weakest and I think that’s probably the case here, too. It was a good read, just that nothing is really resolved, though it set up the final installment very well. B+

5. THUNDERBIRD FALLS by C.E. Murphy. Second in the Joanne Walker “Urban Shaman” paranormal series. I listened to the audio book version of this one, the second of my free downloads from that came with my MP3 player. At first I found the reader’s voice to be very annoying and contemplated stopping listening, but after awhile I got used to it, and the storyline became the focus rather than the voice. The story begins with Joanne discovering a young woman dead in the showers at the University where she is taking fencing lessons and continues with forays into the mystical world as Joanne acquires a teacher to help her get control of her Shamanic powers. The supporting cast were more fleshed out in this book and I felt like we were getting to know Joanne better, too (and I really like her!) although the frequent descriptions of the ‘spirit world’ got somewhat repetitive at times. I also find her relationships with the men in the book, particularly her boss and Gary, her elderly cab driver friend, a bit confusing. I will definitely continue to read on in this series, whether in printed form or another audio. B+

6. DEATH OF A CHARMING MAN by M.C. Beaton. Tenth in the Hamish MacBeth cozy Scottish police mystery series. The premise of this one put me off just a little, as last month I read one of Beaton’s Agatha Raisin books which also dealt with a “beautiful man,” a stranger who came into a village and wreaked havoc, delighting in causing strife with his malicious and manipulative ways, hidden under a thin veneer of good looks and charm. So the story was kind of “old hat” in that regard. On a personal level, Hamish is dealing with conflict within his newly-formed engagement to Priscilla as well as trying to stay one step ahead of his bosses. He uses some accrued vacation time to investigate a death that had been deemed an accident in the tiny village of Drim, where Peter Hynd, the beautiful stranger, caused problems before disappearing into thin air. This was not one of my favorites in this series because of having just read another book with a similar storyline by the same author, and with Hamish feeling so lost and disconcerted, I didn’t get my usual warm fuzzies, either. Still, a decent entry in the series and one I’ll continue reading. B.

7. ONE HEX OF A WEDDING by Yasmine Galenorn. Fifth (and last, at least according to the author) in the “Chintz n China” cozy mystical mystery series featuring Emerald O’Brien, tarot reader and tea shop owner. Emerald and Joe’s wedding is approaching fast, and her family are in town for a celebratory bash a couple weeks before. Things turn ugly when Emerald’s ex, Roy, turns up, having been invited by their son Kip, ever the one to optimistically think that they could be friends again. Roy, drunk and belligerent, makes a mess of things by confronting Em and Joe, and when Joe turns up the next day with a bullet in his shoulder, Roy becomes the prime suspect in the attack in pretty much everyone’s mind. But when other mysterious things begin happening, Emerald is no longer so sure and hurries to solve the mystery before her wedding is a shambles. Enjoyable visit to Emerald’s world, and I am glad that things ended in the series on an “up” note. A.

8. THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier. Audio download from the library. Post-apocalyptic/sci-fi book about a somewhat alternate world where the dead “live” after departing this mortal coil; they stay in “the city” as long as there is a person alive here on Earth who remembers them, but once anyone who knew or remembers them dies, they disappear from the city never to be seen again. When a viral plague sweeps across our world, killing everyone except for one woman, Laura Byrd, who survived only because she was on an expedition in Antarctica and was unexposed to it, the population in the city dwindles down to only those whom Laura has memories of (although not all of them know her)—not very many people in the grand scheme of things—although more than you might think! The story is told from the viewpoint of Laura back on ‘our’ world and several others of those who have died and “live” in the alternate world in the city—Laura’s parents, an old lover, a blind man she used to chat to on the street, one of the men who was with Laura’s expedition, etc. Once I started listening to this, it was very difficult to stop! It was a rather short book (only about 10 hours long, and yes, that was the unabridged version) though a very interesting one, too. Highly recommended as it combines several of my favorite types of books all into one—plague fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, fantasy and death fiction! A

9. POPE JOAN by Donna Woolfolk Cross. Historical fiction set in the 800’s A.D, dealing with the life of a girl with a thirst for knowledge and found the way to education blocked for a girl so she posed as a boy, became a monk and eventually was named Pope and served as such for two years before her death. This is the story of her journey from childhood to Popehood. It was a pretty good read, though I have to admit, a little too fraught with political wrangling and intrigue—and yes, although that’s probably the way it was, I didn’t find it as interesting as it might have been and often grew weary of the story, particularly in the middle with the Papal intrigue. It does sort of seem improbable that Joan could go all those years with no one discovering that she was indeed a woman, but given the clothing and the rules of the monks/priests in the Church in those days, I guess it’s possible. Perhaps I just expected too much from the book as it’s been highly touted by many. B.

10. CALL FOR THE DEAD by John le Carré. First in the George Smiley mystery/spy series. I first read these books when I was in my teens. This was an audio download from the library, and quite enjoyable! I didn’t remember much about the details of the book except about Smiley himself, so it was quite fresh and new and the reader was excellent. I think I’ll do the rest of this series via audio as well. A man that Smiley has recently interviewed commits suicide, despondent that he is under suspicion. Supposedly. A number of things don't add up, however, and Smiley makes a friend in the CID and together they begin investigating the case. Full of action, plenty of plot and intrigue, albeit admittedly a bit “dated” since the book was written in 1962—still a good story. A.

11. CAKES AND ALE FOR THE PAGAN SOUL edited by Patricia Telesco. Compilation of short essays, recipes, spells, reflections and informational blurbs from various Pagan elders and leaders about a variety of topics. Interesting to read the wide variety of experiences and lifestyles and beliefs encompassed in these pages! Just as with a symposium with different speakers, some of these blurbs and short essays were more interesting and compelling than others, but overall it was a good, diverse collection. I took a few notes from some and even re-read a few, and others skimmed over less attentively, and will be letting the book pass to someone else rather than keeping it as a reference—it’s really too scattered to use for that purpose. B+

12. DEATH AT BLENHEIM PALACE by Robin Paige. Eleventh in the historical Victorian/Edwardian mysteries featuring Lady Kathryn and Sir Charles Sheridan in early 1900’s England. Kathryn is an American from a poor family with an alter ego named Beryl Bardwell, who is a writer of “penny dreadful” novels. Charles is a Lord with a bent toward photography, forensics and all things scientific, and they have been married since book two and solving mysteries together for awhile now. This book finds them as guests of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, another American-and-English couple, with a couple of interesting disappearances from Blenheim Palace on their hands. This one wasn’t much of a mystery, like most cozies, and I did figure it out fairly early on, but it was good to revisit these characters and time period after quite a prolonged absence, and I enjoyed the story anyway. One thing I did find annoying in this book was that the author had portrayed Kathryn/Beryl almost as a dual personality with Beryl quoted as “thinking” certain thoughts inside Kathryn’s head, and Kathryn sometimes answering her verbally! It was rather unsettling at times, and a bit too weird for the character. There’s only one of these left in the series—the author has called at least a temporary halt to the series as she concentrates on her other series (“Robin Paige” is actually a writing team with the books co-written by Susan Wittig Albert and her husband Bill.) B+

13. DIGGING JAMES DEAN by Robert Eversz. Fourth in the Nina Zero series. Nina is a paparazzi working and living in LA, a tough ex-con with a toothless rottweiler and a crazy cast of friends and acquaintances. When Nina’s sister—whom she hasn’t seen since she was six years old, twenty-four years ago—turns up in town and ends up dead a couple of days later, Nina feels a long-buried obligation to find her killer, even though her sister turned out to be nothing but a con woman—especially because Nina believes that she herself was the intended victim! Who is going around digging up celebrities’ bones?? First James Dean back in Indiana, then Rudy Valentino at a cemetery in LA. And what on earth do the graverobbers want with these bones? Is it a cult of Satanists hell-bent on some strange ritual? Or a group of freaky UFO worshipers who are trying to clone famous people? Or something else? I love this series and really hope Eversz carries on with it—for now, there’s only one left! Waaaah! A.

14. FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Audio download from the library. I’m not sure if I read this when I was a kid or not—I must’ve. But man…I must have lost my taste for “classic” language as there was just sooooo much in this to annoy the heck out of me! The one thing that sticks in my mind is that they don’t seem to have invented the phrase “we left (place)…” instead the author said, “we QUITTED (London)” or “we QUITTED the house” or whatever. Once or twice was no big deal, but after dozens of times, it started to get really distracting and pulled me right out of the story. The second thing I noticed is that it wasn’t really scary. It’s not really a horror story so much as a treatise on man’s tendency to judge each other based on looks—how we create our own monsters by the way we treat others, that the monster Frankenstein created was reviled because of how he looked, that he originally had a peaceful, inquisitive mind. The reader had a rather strange voice and the modification he used for the monster’s speech was just weird—sort of like I had to keep listening, slightly repulsed, but too fascinated to shut the darned thing off. LOL Okay, I loved the old B & W Frankenstein movie and this book I just didn’t care for all that much, “classic” or no. It was actually sort of…boring, despite my agreement with the author’s premise that we place way too much emphasis on appearances. C.

15. NO REST FOR THE DOVE by Margaret Miles. Third in the Charlotte Willette “Bracebridge” mysteries set in the times just before the Revolutionary War in small-town Massachusetts. When a houseguest of Richard Longfellow, Charlotte’s neighbor, arrives from Italy, before the man is around for 24 hours, a dead body, also a foreigner, is found on the side of the road. The houseguest is an opera singer, a castrato, and thus is suspect on many levels by the villagers and even to some degree by Richard and Charlotte. When a shocking secret is discovered, they wonder how much they can trust him about everything else that’s happened—and does this make him capable of murder? The secret certainly gives him a strong motive for having killed the strange man—or does it? Enjoyable foray into the eighteenth-century Colonies. Even though it was sweltering August in the book, for some reason I always get a “Sleepy Hollow” autumn-ish feeling when I read this series—I’m forever picturing shocks of harvested cornstalks and pumpkins! LOL A.

16. A FINE BALANCE by Rohinton Mistry. This is one of my "TBR Challenge" reads, a book that's been on my shelf for over a year waiting patiently for me to get to it. It took me over two weeks to finish this book, and I read and listened to several others at the same time. Not because it was bad—it was a very good, and very interesting story set in 1970’s India, telling the story of four people—a young widow, a college student and two tailors—who ended up housed together for a time during the Emergency times when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was imposing her will on the country, and I did learn a lot about the political turmoil that was rampant in India at that time—something I knew nothing about before. The book did go slowly at times, but it’s very deep and rich and immersed you fully into the culture of India, both in the city and in the countryside where the caste system was still being clung to much more rigidly. A story of heartbreak and despair, yet balanced with moments of love and hope. A lot of people probably didn’t like the ending, but I thought it suitable. So despite the length of time it took me to read this book, it was only because it is a book to be slowly digested, not gulped. A.

17. DEATH OF A NAG by M.C. Beaton. I couldn’t find this eleventh book in the Hamish MacBeth series anywhere in print (except for a couple way-too-expensive used copies) so decided to download the audio version free from the library. The author’s voice was kind of annoying but it was a short book and I got used to it after awhile. I found with this book that I did not figure out the murderer early on as I often do with these MacBeth books—perhaps since I was listening and not *seeing the words* I lost some advantage there? I don’t know, but doing an audiobook did end up being a nice change and let me catch up by an additional book in the series without the side effect of being “too much Hamish” so soon after having read the previous book. Hamish is off to a small town boarding house for a holiday to recover from his broken engagement to Priscilla and the scorn of the Lochdubh villagers. Of course he ends up involved in a murder case when one of the boarding house guests, an obnoxious man that Hamish himself punched out the day before, ends up dead. And I learned how to pronounce "Lochdubh" as well. LOL In the end, I did enjoy the story although a beloved member of the usual cast of characters dies in the book. A-.

18. DEATH OF A HOLLOW MAN by Caroline Graham. Second Inspector Barnaby mystery, and very much a pleasure to read, with interesting, well-fleshed characters and a tightly woven mystery that I did not figure out until the end. In the local amateur theatre production, in which Barnaby’s wife Joyce has a small part, the obnoxious leading man does himself in with a straight razor that was supposed to be well-coated with tape to blunt it. Who had motive? Almost everyone in the company. Opportunity? Only a few people—and none of those had a very strong motive. Unless there’s a motive that no one suspects—but what? It takes a few offhand comments to jar Barnaby’s memory and then the puzzle pieces start falling together. Graham makes this ‘composite’ type book—where the story switches point of view many times between most of the characters—work well. I’ve read some books done in this style that I didn’t care for. It was refreshing to read a British police procedural where the police detective and all his nasty habits and personal problems was not the prime focus of the book—the mystery was. While Barnaby is a nice, stable character, we don’t know a whole lot about him just yet—but it’s okay. It’s not because he’s shallow, it’s just that the actual story, the suspects and the mystery take the forefront. We get heady glimpses into all their lives, Barnaby’s included. I liked this, a lot! A.

· Passage by Connie Willis. An interesting premise for a story, but though I gave it 175 pages, it felt like the story was going nowhere, getting bogged down in endless piddly details that I found very tedious to slog through. So I quit.
· The Fire in the Flint by Candace Robb. Quite a disappointment, as I love her Owen Archer series, and thought the first book in this series (Margaret Kerr) was okay. I read almost 100 pages and found myself bored and that I didn’t give a hoot about the protagonist. I even set it aside for a few days and gave it another try to no avail—I just could not get interested.
· Hôtel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. No one warned me it was romance! LOL Plus, all that lace, silk and powdered hair in 18th century France…yeck!


Saturday, September 8, 2007

September 2007 Reads

1. SACRED COWS by Karen E. Olson. First in a mystery series featuring Annie Seymour, a police-beat newspaper reporter in New Haven, Connecticut. Annie is a hard-edged, cynical, experienced reporter who lives a somewhat chaotic life. When she is awakened at 3 a.m. by her editor telling her there’s a dead body and to get her butt to the scene and get the story, a whole series of bizarre events is set off, eventually involving her mother’s law firm and a private eye who turns out to be a guy that she went to high school with. The situation is complicated by the fact that Annie happens to be dating the police detective in charge of the investigation, and that there’s an eager beaver young reporter trying to scoop her at every turn. The young dead woman is a bright Yale student with rich parents, but when Annie discovers from talking to her roommate that she was also employed by a high-class escort service, the higher-ups really get their knickers in a twist! Annie is a very “real” character, one I liked a lot—partly because I recognized a kindred spirit in Annie; she talks and thinks a lot like I do. (i.e., this is NOT a cozy! LOL) Excellent first in series and I will be following this one very closely! A+

2. THE LEPER’S BELL by Peter Tremayne. Thirteenth book in the Sister Fidelma series set in 660’s A.D. Ireland. Fidelma and Eadulf are beside themselves when the nurse to their baby Alchu is murdered and the baby abducted. At first it is thought that it was a planned abduction for ransom, then possibly a political abduction engineered by enemies to the north. But once Fidelma puts her emotional responses aside and resumes her logical stance and begins to investigate, she wonders if it wasn’t a personal attack on the nurse, with Alchu being an unexpected complication. Fidelma and Eadulf also grapple with whether to continue their temporary marriage, as the “year and a day” is fast coming up and they must decide whether to walk away from the arrangement or commit to one another permanently. The stress of Alchu’s abduction shows each of them a side to the other previously unseen, and it’s unsettling for both of them. I always enjoy a visit to Tremayne’s Ireland and it was far too long since my last foray there, so this was a thoroughly enjoyed treat for me. A.

3. POLTERGEIST by Kat Richardson. Second in the Harper Blaine “Greywalker” paranormal series, featuring a young woman P.I. who died for two minutes and since that time is able to walk the world that exists between the living and the dead, known as “the Grey.” In this book, Harper is hired by a college professor who is running experiments to see if the collective minds of a group of people can make their own poltergeist. He wants her to figure out whom if anyone is “faking” some phenomenon that have begun to crop up, or else authenticate that the experiment has worked and is valid. When one of the participants of the group ends up dead—beaten and mangled—in his apartment, Harper sets out to find whether the energy entity that has become Celia, the poltergeist, did Mark in or whether he was killed by someone all too human. I enjoyed this book a lot; it certainly did have an interesting premise and storyline, though it did take me a good 50 pages to really get sucked in to the story. The only downfall for me is that Harper still feels somewhat “dry” to me—even though we learn more *about* her, what she likes, dislikes, what’s important to her, we haven’t yet really been shown who she is…the messy parts, the ‘soul’ of Harper seem to be sitting there just beyond our grasp. It’s hard to explain just what I mean. Still, this is a series I enjoy. One thing I really appreciate is that there isn’t a bunch of gratuitous sex and continual sexual tension between Harper and every male she encounters like in some paranormal books. If I want romance and erotica, I’ll read books from those genres! A-.

4. DEAD TO THE WORLD by Charlaine Harris. Sookie Stackhouse “Southern Vampire” mystery number four. Speaking of gratuitous sex and sexual tension….AAAAGH! This book is full of it. I’ve enjoyed the previous Sookie stories, and yeah, there was some of that…and some sexual tension is almost necessary to the story line. But in this book, every male that crosses Sookie’s path causes her to salivate, for heaven’s sake! The frequent descriptions of the various males’ physiques got really old after awhile. I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but this series seems to be headed the way of the Anita Blake series, with sex just for the sake of sex being a major theme. Maybe this is what most of the fans of paranormal books want, but as for me--no thank you. If I want erotic titillation, I’ll hook up with some good erotica! I finished this book, and do mostly enjoy the storyline, but for the reasons stated above I really lowered my grade and I do believe I’m just going to stop reading the series right here. It’s okay, but I’d rather read books where I’m not rolling my eyes every few pages when the heroine is drooling on some guy. C+

5. THE SIGN OF THE BOOK by John Dunning. Fourth in the Cliff Janeway, ex-cop and book dealer series. I waited quite a time between the previous book and this one as I was quite disappointed in it after the stellar first couple in the series. This one was back on track and I enjoyed it very much although I did figure out almost right away who the killer was. I didn’t guess the circumstances of the murder, but my gut told me whodunit. Cliff travels to small town Paradise to begin investigation on a case for Erin, his girlfriend, who’s a lawyer. This case involves Erin’s childhood friend Laura, who’s been accused of killing her husband. The husband also had an interesting collection of books that figure into the case as well. Our intrepid hero puts himself against snowstorms, the dark of night, a crazed deputy, a drunken grandfather and a whole host of other obstacles to help get at the truth. Enjoyable and once again looking forward to the next in series. A.

6. SNAKE AGENT by Liz Williams. First Detective Inspector Chen series in this genre-bending fantasy/mystery. Chen lives and works in a slightly futuristic Singapore as an investigator of paranormal crimes. He’s been to Hell and back several times—literally—even marrying a demon and bringing her out of Hell, which is strictly forbidden. With Inaria comes a family retainer—a teakettle that morphs into a badger! (My favorite character! LOL) I loved the premise and the world Williams paints in this book. When he begins investigating why the ghost of a young girl never made it to Heaven, he ends up in working with one of Hell’s investigators, a demon named Zhu Irzh, who is working on another case on the side for the Ministry of Wealth, trying to figure out what the devious Ministry of Epidemics is up to. Eventually the cases tie together and Chen and Zhu Irzh do a lot of working together. Hard to describe this book or to include all the crazy sub-plots; you really have to read it! Excellently written, fresh and different and very enjoyable. Looking for the next! A+

7. THE BURNING GIRL by Mark Billingham. Fourth in the DI Tom Thorne British police procedural in which a cold case that retired cop Carol Chamberlain is working on ties together with a current one featuring rival crime gangs. Twenty years ago, Gordon Rooker attempted to set the daughter of a local crime boss on fire—but he got the wrong girl, instead igniting her best friend Jessica who was horribly burned and committed suicide a couple of years later. Carol worked on that case and now she’s getting phone calls saying “I burned her.” The problem is, Rooker is still in prison. Upon being questioned by Thorne, he says he didn’t really do it, though he confessed at the time because being in prison was safer than outside where the crime boss who hired him would have easier access to kill him for botching the job. A sudden string of dead gang members between Billy Ryan’s gang and a new Turkish group sets up a task force throwing Thorne into the fray with a DCI he’s crossed swords with before. I really enjoyed this one—hard to put down, with a few twists and turns to the plot though nothing really surprising as I did anticipate what was going to happen before it did. A.

8. AGATHA RAISIN AND THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS CURATE by M.C. Beaton. Thirteenth Agatha Raisin book in which a new man comes to down to perk up Aggie’s flagging interest. The curate sent to help out Rev. Bloxby is a nearly perfect, angelic looking man who has the locals flocking to church every Sunday. Some people can see through his guise and refer to him as “slimy” but Agatha is smitten and accepts an invitation to dinner at the home of an elderly parishioner where he’s being housed. When he turns up dead the next day, guess who’s thrown headfirst into the fray? With her usual “Watsons” Roy Silver and Sir Charles Fraith out of the picture, Agatha’s new neighbor John Armitage, the author of detective stories, helps her investigate. Enjoyable visit to Carsely, and in this one, Agatha seems to show her soft side a bit more. A.

9. THE VOICE OF THE VIOLIN by Andrea Camilleri. Fourth in the Salvo Montalbano Italian police procedural series in which Salvo discovers the body of a beautiful young woman in her home when he stops to find out why the home’s owner has not responded to a note he left when one of their police cars collides with her car that was parked outside the home. As usual, the politics of the department and the country take the case over and Salvo must investigate on the sly after being taken off the case by the new commissioner. The gruff and grumpy Montalbano shows his vulnerable side too, briefly. A quick, enjoyable visit to Sicily where the author puts you right in the heart of the place, evoking smells, tastes and views that leave little to the imagination. Good stuff! A.

10. THE AWFUL SECRET by Bernard Knight. Fourth in the Crowner John medieval mystery series set in 1200’s Devon, UK. When a Templar Knight—or rather, an ex-Templar who has now left the order—who fought with John in Outremer seeks his assistance while he waits for a cohort to arrive, the coroner reluctantly agrees. When he finds out that Gilbert is now considered a heretic who has an ‘awful secret’ about the Church that the Templars are suppressing, and is being pursued not only by three higher-ups in the Templar Order, but by a papal nuncio who is part of the Inquisition, John curses the moment he pledged his help, but stands by his word. When the ex-Templar turns up dead, obviously murdered, John must then investigate even though his suspicions lie with the Church, whom he has no authority to question. A secondary plot deals with piracy off the coast of Devon and brings the Crowner to Ilfracombe and Barnstaple, which are familiar to me as my DH’s sister lives in that area. I did guess the bad guy way ahead of time in this one and didn’t think the story was quite as good as some of the others in this series—or maybe I’ve just been “DaVinci Coded” to death—but I still enjoyed it as I like the setting and the characters in this series.

11. BURY THE LEAD by David Rosenfelt. Third in the Andy Carpenter, defense lawyer in New Jersey series. When a serial killer begins calling a local newspaper reporter with details of the killings, the city is in thrall watching the story unfold. When the reporter is found at the scene of the fourth victim with a head injury, the apparent victim of the killer, things get tense. When it’s learned that the murdered woman is a high-powered political watchdog, and some of the reporter’s statements don’t ring true, he’s suddenly arrested for her murder, and Andy’s on board as his defense attorney. I really like this series! The book is well-plotted with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings, although I have to admit I had one of those “that’s the bad guy!” moments when the person in question was introduced, I had no idea how or why the killings were done, and I doubted my gut feeling a few times along the way. You gotta read to the end of these books, that’s for sure! Well done. A

12. THE HORSE YOU CAME IN ON by Martha Grimes. Twelfth in the Chief Inspector Richard Jury series. In this book, Jury and Sgt. Wiggins and his friend Melrose Plant are reluctantly off to America, to investigate two different murders at the behest of two different friends, wandering into the literary world of Johns Hopkins University, Edgar Allan Poe and a football franchise for Baltimore! This was another of Grimes’ weaker Jury novels; I don’t know if it was the setting, if being away from the UK weakened the book or what, but it wasn’t a story I enjoyed overly much aside from being glad for a visit with all the recurring characters. There were a lot of side trips away from the mystery part of the story and it wasn’t, in general, very coherent nor cohesive. C+

13. ENEMY OF GOD by Bernard Cornwell. Second in the Warlord Chronicles, his Arthurian trilogy, told from the viewpoint of Derfel Cadarn, a Saxon slave boy who has now become one of Arthur’s greatest warriors. A heady blend of historical fiction and fantasy with the retelling of the Arthurian legend in a very plausible way, without a whole lot of romantic nonsense—there are love stories within the story, but it’s primarily a tale of war, greed, and hunger for power, which makes it (in my opinion) a much more likely scenario than the fairy tale type Arthur stories. I particularly enjoyed Cornwell’s treatment of Arthur’s “Round Table.” LOL It’s impossible to begin to talk about this book very much without giving away too much. I can only advise anyone who enjoys Arthurian legends to check this series out—it truly is excellent and has a place firmly on my Keeper shelf. A+


Thursday, August 9, 2007


1. DEATH OF A TRAVELLING MAN by M.C. Beaton. #9 in the Hamish MacBeth cozy Scottish police procedural series in which a pair of “travelers” show up in an old converted bus in Lochdubh and Hamish immediately senses something amiss. Ruggedly handsome Sean and his scrawny girlfriend Cheryl seem to have brought nothing but ill will with them, though there’s nothing specific that Hamish can arrest them for, nor even hassle them about. None of the villagers will have anything bad to say about the pair—until Sean ends up with his head bashed in in the bus. And Hamish has enough on his plate, as he’s been promoted to Sergeant and how has a PC, Willie, who stays at the police station with him. Willie is a cleaning fanatic and is driving Hamish mad! Enjoyable read and as always a visit with Hamish is sure to put a smile on my face. A.

2. DEATH OF A MUSKATEER by Sarah D’Almeida. First in a historical mystery series featuring the musketeers, loosely based on the characters from Alexander Dumas’ book set in seventeeth-century France. When the three inseparable Musketeers and D’Artagnan stumble upon the body of a dead woman who greatly resembles the Queen dressed in Musketeer costume, they undertake to solve her murder and find themselves embroiled in a scurrilous political plot possibly involving some of the most powerful men in the country. I really enjoyed this book, although admittedly I don’t recall much in the way of details about Dumas’ original work so don’t really know how many liberties the author took with her story. I enjoyed it for what it was—a rollicking historical mystery, and didn’t figure out the mystery til close to the end. Looking for more! A.

3. A HARVEST OF BONES by Yasmine Galenorn. #4 in the Chintz n China cozy mystical mystery series featuring Emerald O’Brien, a tarot reader and tea shop owner. This is one of those series that I was dubious about when I started reading them but have enjoyed each successive book more and am glad I took a chance on the first one. When Joe buys the lot next to Emerald’s house and they begin clearing away decades’ worth of brambles and undergrowth, they discover the foundation of an old house. Emerald immediately gets some bad vibes coming from the place and when their cat Samantha disappears, she wonders just what they’ve unearthed. Research reveals that the house burned down fifty years before but no one died in the incident—so where is the malevolent spirit coming from? Em is once again embroiled in a battle of not only bad spirits, but some not-too-nice living and breathing humans too. Enjoyable! A.

4. THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch. First in the Gentlemen Bastards fantasy series. It’s a bit like a swashbuckling pirate tale set in a unique and interesting fantasy world, and the story hooked me in right from the get-go. This is the story of Locke Lamora, an orphan boy who learned to survive on the mean streets of Camorra, was then trained as a thief by the Thiefmaker, sold to Father Chains and trained even further—Locke is now a member of the Gentlemen Bastards, an elite group of thieves who do their dirty deeds on a much larger scale. Ever plotting and scheming to achieve the big score, it’s the game that keeps the Bastards going—the money they steal is secondary. At what point will Locke and his pals be in over their heads? I really, REALLY enjoyed this book! There is quite a lot of graphic violence and cussing, just as a warning for those who don’t care for that sort of thing. The characters all felt very real to me, and had me rooting for them right from the beginning. Where’s the next one? This one stays on my Keeper shelf! A+

5. DRESSED FOR DEATH by Donna Leon. Third in the Commissario Guido Brunetti Italian police procedural series. When a man dressed in women’s clothing is found in an area frequented by prostitutes in a smaller city near Venice, Guido is sent to investigate due to a staffing shortage in that district. With his vacation just on the horizon, Guido ends up having to send Paola and the children off to the mountains without him, while he slogs away in the oppressive heat and humidity of a Venice summer hunting for clues. As usual, some influential people end up mixed up in the mess that becomes the investigation and Guido has to tread on a few toes along the path to the solution. I really enjoy everything about this series—the author’s writing style, the atmosphere she paints, and her characters, too. Excellent! A.

6. THE CURSE OF THE PHAROAHS by Elizabeth Peters (audio book). Second in the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series, I decided to give this a try by listening to it rather than reading, as I really didn’t care for the first one that I read and someone in some group suggested I try listening to it. At first, it went well—this is actually the first audio book I’ve ever listened to, and I’d been concerned about not being able to concentrate on either the book or whatever else I was doing, but that part was fine. After the first half of the book (about 5 hours of listening time,) I found myself just as annoyed with the overbearing, pompous Peabody’s character and her frequent descriptions of her darling Emerson’s superb physique (not to mention his snarling, nasty disposition!) as I had been when I read the other book…I did finish it as I wanted to see if I’d guessed correctly as to who was the bad guy (I was) but the last couple of hours were almost torture. I couldn’t even skim to the end! LOL So while I definitely will try more audio books in future, it will NOT be of this series. I’m done with it! C.

7. THE JOYS OF ENGRISH by Steve Caires. Actually more of a picture book of t-shirts, signs, etc. in Japan with mutilated English phrases. Fans of the website “” will love this, as I did. You can’t help but laugh! The only downfall is that the book is too darned short! B+

8. BANGKOK TATTOO by John Burdett. Second in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep police series set in Bangkok, Thailand. Very rough and gritty look at the sleazier side of Bangkok. Sonchai, aside from being a policeman, is also one of the major interest-holders in a whorehouse called The Old Man’s Club and an avid Buddhist. The son of the whoremistress at the Club and an unknown American GI, Sonchai’s view of Western Civilization and Christianity can be quite scathing at times—although, to be honest, most of the time I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with him. Flag-waving, church-going patriots are most likely not going to be fans of this book. LOL Anyway, the mystery begins when one of the Club’s girls, Chanya, runs into the bar of the club covered in blood and stoned out of her mind. What Sonchai finds when he goes back to her customer’s hotel room is a dead American, gutted stem to stern with his penis whacked off and sitting on the bediside table. Later it’s discovered that he’s a CIA operative. Oh-oh. Yeah. LOL Great book—not for the faint of heart, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next one—when Sonchai most probably gets to meet his now-located American father. A+

9. UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. First of a teen fantasy trilogy sent in a future world where everyone is given an operation and turned pretty at the age of sixteen. Since we humans apparently hadn’t learned our lesson and our civilization as we know it crumbled because of wars started based on differences between us, the powers that be have decided that everyone should be alike. The operation, based on years of scientific research, gives everyone a perfect, symmetrical face, shiny white teeth, sparkling eyes and a toned, trim body. Gone are the little (and big!) imperfections and variations that make us unique. Of course, there are always going to be rebels out there, and Tally Youngblood meets one of them, a girl named Shay who shares her birthday. As they get to become friends, Tally, who is very much looking forward to turning from an Ugly (read: normal) into a Pretty, soon realizes that Shay isn’t so excited about the operation. When she runs away a week before their birthday, Tally is worried about her—but not worried enough to jeopardize her own operation. Excellent start to a series that I’m very much looking forward to continuing; fiction with a bit of a conscience that gives all of us—teens and adults—something to think about. A+

10. POISON STUDY by Maria V. Snyder. First of a fantasy series featuring Yelena, a young woman convicted of murdering the son of a nobleman. Yelena is given a reprieve—a choice—to be hanged, or to be trained as the Commander’s (the country’s leader) food taster. While admitting her guilt in the murder, Yelena wants to live and grasps at the chance. Trained in the art of poisoning and foot tasting by Yalek, the right-hand man of the Commander, Yelena is given a deadly poison called My Love which, if she survives, requires a daily dose of antidote to fend of a slow, painful, two-day death. She survives and goes on to complete her training and is introduced to a world of political intrigue, petty jealousies and soon learns that it’s best not to trust anyone. Another excellent first in series with an somewhat unique premise, a well-fleshed and interesting main character with diverse supporting cast; and another series I am looking forward to continuing on. A+

11. SET IN DARKNESS by Ian Rankin. Twelfth in the Inspector Rebus series set in Edinburgh, Scotland. When a body is found stuffed in the fireplace of a building being renovated to accommodate the new Scottish Parliament, Rebus and Derek Linford, a snotty up-and-comer from Fettes station, are assigned to the case as they were on a liason committee that was touring on site when the body was found. The body has apparently been there for approximately 20 years or so, but when a much fresher body turns up, Rebus tries to connect the cases by heading off on his usual wild goose chase while Linford chooses more conventional solutions as he looks to ride the promotion train. Meanwhile, Siobahn deals with the suicide of a homeless man who surprisingly turns out to have a bank account with a large sum of money in it. Quite enjoyable, back on track after the last book in the series which I felt wasn’t up to par. I have to admit I was cheesed off by the ending though—not going to say anything as it would be a big spoiler. B+

12. FACE DOWN BELOW THE BANQUETING HOUSE by Kathy Lynn Emerson. Eighth in the Lady Susanna Appleteon historical mystery series, featuring noblewoman and herbalist set in Elizabethan England. Queen Elizabeth is traveling around Kent, and wherever she goes, she will appropriate the homes of her subjects to house her and her staff. She sends an ‘advance team’ to scout out which homes are suitable and make necessary changes. When Brian Tymberly and his servant Carter come to Leigh Abbey and come to the conclusion that “it will do” for a visit from Her Majesty, Lady Susanna reluctantly cooperates with the necessary adjustments. When a banqueting house is built in a large, beautiful oak tree on the property, she inwardly cringes, but when the body of Carter is found beneath it, her sleuthing instincts take over. Murder? Accident? There’s no way to tell for sure, though as information comes to light that Tymberly and Carter are blackmailers, just about everyone at Leigh Abbey and in the village seems to have a motive for getting rid of the nasty man. Enjoyable entry in the series, and as always, a light and fluffy visit to Elizabethan England. A-

13. IDENTICAL STRANGERS: A MEMOIR OF TWINS SEPARATED AND REUNITED by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. ARC for review. At age 35, one of these identical twins learns for the first time that she has a twin sister. Adopted out as an infant, she has never been very interested in finding out about her birth mother or biological family, but once she knows she has a twin sister out there, things change and she sets out to find her. And find her she does! The twins find out that they started out as part of an identical twin study on nature vs. nurture that was sanctioned by the adoption agency their parents dealt with. And neither set of parents were told that the girl they adopted was a twin! Heart-wrenching at times, full of love and hope at others, the book goes back and forth between the points of view of each of the sisters as they travel along their journey of getting to know a sister neither knew she had. Although the writing is a bit amateurish at times, this is a compelling story, worth reading whether you have an interest in adoption, twins or none of the above. B.

14. MURDER SHOOTS THE BULL by Anne George. Sixth “Southern Sisters” cozy mystery set in Birmingham, Alabama and featuring two sixty-something sisters, Patricia Anne (Mouse) and Mary Alice (Sister.) This book sees Patricia Anne’s neighbor and good friend Mitzi pulled into a murder investigation when her husband Arthur is accused of killing his first wife, Sophie. Sophie had recently returned to town and had some chronic medical problems. She had changed her will to name Arthur executor just two days before she was poisoned—while eating lunch with him. Sister and Mouse just happened to be in the Hunan Hut at the same time and are drawn into the whole mystery as usual. Enjoyable visit to Birmingham as usual, and it saddens me to know the series only has two more books to go. A.

15. THE NICHOLAS FEAST by Pat McIntosh. Second in the Gil Cunningham historical mystery series set in 15th century Glasgow, Scotland. When a student at Glasgow University ends up murdered during the Nicholas Feast celebration, the Dean asks Gil to investigate—and since the boy was a Montgomery, a family at odds with the Cunninghams, it promises to be an interesting task, even though William was a bastard child. When it’s learned he had a penchant for extortion, the suspect list grows longer and longer and includes most of the faculty, fellow students and even the servants. However, when Gil realizes that those with the strongest motive had no opportunity, and those with opportunity no motive, he knows that someone’s lying and sets out to find the culprit with the help of his betrothed, Alys, and his future father-in-law, Peter Mason. A couple of finely placed red herrings had me fooled for most of the book, and I enjoyed the setting and the main characters were interesting and well-fleshed, too. Well done and looking for the next in series. A.

16. AROMATHERAPY FOR WOMEN by Maggie Tisserand. An older book with simple recipes for various things, focusing mainly on “women’s complaints” and gives information about how to do different aromatic baths, massage oils, and gives good, basic information about the properties of various essential oils—which ones are energizing, which are relaxing, etc. I found the way the book was laid out handy and easy to use—it was easy for me to skim/skip chapters relating to things I wasn’t interested in such as labor and delivery, post-partum recipes and the use of essential oils with young children, for example. This one will stay on my reference shelf and I’d recommend it as a quick, basic guide. B+

17. SHADOWS AT THE FAIR by Lea Wait. First in the Maggie Summers “antique print” cozy mystery series set on the east coast. Maggie is a college professor but also has an antique prints business called Shadows on the side. She does the antique show circuit, mostly during the summer months, and this story takes place at one such show. When one of her fellow dealers ends up murdered and her good friend Gussie’s nephew Ben, who has Down’s Syndrome, is accused of the crime, Maggie knows she needs to look more deeply at the situation than the police seem to be doing and sets out to ask a few questions of her own to clear Ben’s name. I figured out the bad guy way ahead of time and after a few clues were dropped, even figured out the motive well before the end of the book, too. This was an okay first entry in a series. I liked Maggie well enough, though I felt she rather two-dimensional. The dialogue was kind of stilted and didn’t seem very realistic, and the whole package just didn’t “jive” very well—something was “off.” I did enjoy learning about antique prints and the whole “antiques fair circuit” but it really wasn’t enough to maintain my interest; I highly doubt I’ll continue reading more in the series. C+

18. GOBLIN QUEST by Jim C. Hines. First in a series featuring Jig the Goblin, one of “the other guys” in most fantasy novels. Scrawny, nearsighted and cowardly, Jig is content to do muck duty, never really aspiring to go on adventures and be a hero. However, he is thrust into that role when Porak, leader of a pack of swaggering goblin bullies, makes Jig go on patrol and do the work while he and his cronies sit and gamble. When Jig encounters a couple of humans, a dwarf and and elf, he runs back to tell the others, but no one believes him and the rest all end up slaughtered. Jig then ends up as the unwilling guide for the ‘foreigners’ through the tunnels of his underground world on an expedition to find the Rod of Creation, which is guarded by a Necromancer and a ferocious dragon. Along the way, many of Jig’s preconceived notions about other races fall by the wayside, and the others learn that not everything you hear about Goblins is true, either. Great light fantasy read with a wonderful main character and good supporting cast. Easy-to-read writing style, plenty of humor (some subtle and some not-so-subtle!) and an overall excellent read. Will be getting to the next in series sooner rather than later, methinks! A.

DNF: THE LAST CATO by Matilde Ascensi, TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay, IN THE HAND OF DANTE by Nick Tosches, and THE TREASURE OF MONT SEGUR: A NOVEL OF THE CATHARS by Sophie Burnham and CANDLEMASS ROAD by George MacDonald Fraser. Was just not able to get interested in any of them...the situation, the main character, or the author's writing style just couldn't get me to care enough to carry on beyond my 50-page rule.


Monday, July 9, 2007


1.BLEEDING HEARTS by Susan Wittig Albert. #14 in the China Bayles ‘herbal’ mystery series set in the hill country of Texas in fictional Pecan Springs. This book takes on the issue of the importance of high school football in Texas, where coaches and players are gods and reign supreme and anyone standing in their way are bugs to be squashed. When an official at the local school receives an anonymous tip that the current Pecan Springs coach has a ‘thing’ for teenage girls, she asks China to investigate on the sly and see if she can come up with any concrete evidence before the Golden Boy is accused openly—which could get very messy. China begins looking into things, and also discovers some disturbing information about her own past via some letters discovered when her father’s secretary passes on. An enjoyable visit to Pecan Springs with China, Ruby, McQuaid and the gang. A.

2. DEATH OF A COLONIAL by Bruce Alexander. #6 in the Sir John Fielding historical mystery series set around the Bow Street Court in late 1700’s London. Sir John is commissioned to investigate a claimant to the estate of a very wealthy nobleman—an estate that was left without heir because the previous owner was sent to the gallows by Sir John himself. It’s suspected that the claimant is a false one—a long lost brother who has not been seen nor heard from, having disappeared to the American Colonies eight years previous. Sir John and his sixteen-year-old assistant, Jeremy (from whose POV the stories are told) and the rest of the family are off to Bath to interview the mother of the supposed claimant and then things start to get interesting. This was a typically interesting, enjoyable visit back in time and with well-loved and well-fleshed characters. A.

3. IN THE GARDEN OF IDEN by Kage Baker. First in the fantasy/time travel/sci-fi series featuring The Company, this book tells the story of Botanist Mendoza, one of the immortals sent back in time to England during the reign of Bloody Mary. A nobleman in Kent has a small garden where he collects rare plants—plants which will eventually become extinct, and which The Company wishes Mendoza to collect samples from and replicate so that sometime in the future they can be reintroduced to nature. This is what The Company does. What they do not count on is nineteen-year-old Mendoza falling in love with the assistant at the gardens. This is her first “assignment” and while she’s been assured that it’s fine to have sex with mortals, getting really involved with them can be messy. Which it assuredly turns out to be in this case. This book smashes genre classification—it’s wonderful historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, time travel with a little romance, too—and the romance was well-done, else I’d not have tolerated it. LOL What a totally bizarre and interesting premise for a series! Well-written, interesting characters, an appealing writing style and very difficult to put down. Will definitely be looking for more in the series. A+

4. SHIP OF DESTINY by Robin Hobb. Third and final entry in the Liveship Traders trilogy, this book was somewhat painful to read on many levels, because I knew I’d be saying goodbye to these well-loved characters. I did like the way it ended, though, so I can’t complain, even though the ride there was sometimes heart-breaking and tumultuous. I can’t begin to explain all the different relationships, family and political ties and mystical creatures in this book so I won’t even try. Suffice it to say, if you liked the first two books, you’re gonna love this one! A+

5.THE HANGING VALLEY by Peter Robinson. #4 in the Chief Inspector Alan Banks series set in the Yorkshire Dales. When a hiker discovers a partially decomposed body in an idyllic little valley near a small village, the first task is to identify it. Once that’s done, trying to find a motive for the murder becomes Banks’ main concern, though it’s not easy wresting clues from the closed-mouth villagers. When the identity is discovered, Banks believes the death is related to a previously unsolved murder case that took place six years previously, before he arrived in Eastvale, and he sets out to tie everything together, even going so far as a trip out of the country to Toronto, Canada, to follow his nose. As usual, he first looks in the wrong direction, though I figured out the bad guy fairly early myself. I enjoyed this entry in the series much more than the last one. A.

6. SWEET SILVER BLUES by Glen Cook. First in the Garrett Files series, which is a genre-bending series featuring a hard-boiled PI in a fantasy world with gnomes, elves, dwarves and other strange cross-breeds. Garrett is a human. He is awakened early one morning by a family of short people whose brother/son was an old army buddy of Garrett’s. They ask him to look into his death—well, not so much his death, which seems to have been an accident, but to find out why he left everything—which is a questionably obtained horde of silver they found hidden in the basement—to a woman they don’t know. The law stipulates that she be contacted to see if she is able to or wants to claim the estate. This woman just happens to be an old love of Garrett’s, so naturally he’s intrigued and sets out to look into it. The woman lives in a war-torn region and is apparently married to someone else and finding her proves most difficult and dangerous. Interesting premise, interesting characters, and mostly enjoyable though I found it a little heavy on the violence and beer swilling and a little light on character development and details. Given that this is the first one, written a number of years ago, I’m willing to continue reading at least another book or two and see if things get better. B-

7. DON’T LOOK BACK by Karin Fossum. First in the Inspector Seijer series set in Norway. Actually, it’s the second in series, but the first one hasn’t been translated to the English yet. The book opens with a scene featuring a six-year-old girl getting into a van with a strange man. You’re thinking—oh no! A serial killer after kids. But a few pages later, the girl is safely home, and Inspector Seijer is investigating the death of a fifteen-year-old in the same village, found peacefully dead on the shore of a small lake. Full of unexpected twists and turns, the only thing predictable about this Scandinavian police procedural is the taciturn nature of the main character. Do Scandinavians have any personality aside from stodgy, quiet and prone to melancholia? Don’t get me wrong—I actually enjoyed this book a lot! I just felt that somehow the real “feelings” of Konrad Seijer didn’t come through very well on the page. We were told how he was feeling, but it didn’t ‘show’ if you know what I mean. I did figure the mystery out ahead of the reveal, despite a couple of tricky red herrings. I’ve got the next in series by this author on my TBR and will definitely read more, but not when I’m looking for a light, lively read. B+

8. THE WHEELMAN by Duane Swierczynski. Hard-boiled mystery type book about a bank robbery and how Murphy’s Law gets its claws into the whole operation and not only rips it to shreds but gives it a few twists, too. Focuses primarily on the story of Lennon, the wheelman (getaway driver) for a bank job done in downtown Philadelphia. The heist was well-planned and the parties were professionals, so what went wrong? Obviously, someone sold them out. At least one someone, if not more. Fast-paced, violent, with just enough sick and twisted humor to appeal to those who enjoy sick and twisted (like me), the book was hard to put down. Several of the plot twists I didn’t see coming, but I did anticipate some of them. Will definitely be reading more by this author! A.

9. CHAINS OF FOLLY by Roberta Gellis. Fourth (and so far, last) of the Magdalene la Batarde historical mystery series set in medieval England and featuring a whorehouse mistress as the main character. When a whore is found dead and propped up in the Bishop of Winchester’s dining chair, the bishop sets Sir Bellamy to finding who wished to besmirch his character and why. Set with the backdrop of the recent ascendancy of King Stephen (the bishop’s brother) to the throne of England, political plots abound. Bell seeks Magdalene’s help and both of them remain somewhat tortured trying to sort out the nature of their relationship and their feelings for one another. But they manage to set this aside and work to solve the bishop’s mystery. Enjoyable trek back in time, though the mystery was quite easily solvable. B+

10. THE MAGICKAL LIFE: A WICCAN PRIESTESS SHARES HER SECRETS by Vivianne Crowley. An interesting book that touched on many different areas of magickal practice without going terribly in depth into any of them. I can’t say that I learned any big, deep ‘secrets’ or read much that I hadn’t read or heard elsewhere before, but it is a good reference book with some simple rituals outlined, recipes for various incenses and oils, correspondences, etc. Also gave much practical advice for living. I liked the author’s writing style and her practical approach to life and magick. This one will stay on my reference shelf. A.

11. THE WYNDHAM CASE by Jill Paton Walsh. First in a British mystery series featuring Imogen Quy, the college nurse for St. Agatha’s college at Cambridge. This was a new-to-me author, and despite finding the main character a bit stodgy and the writing style a bit formal and stuffy, I actually devoured this book in one evening. Well-plotted, wonderful descriptions, and over the course of the book I did warm up to the main character eventually. When one of the students is found dead inside the locked Wyndham Library at the college, speculation begins as to whether he was murdered or it was an accident. Aside from his head injury, which appears to have happened in a fall, there was no initial evidence of foul play. But how did he get into the library in the first place? The students are being decidedly uncooperative with the police, and Imogen’s friend, DS Mike Parsons, asks her to see if she can influence them to be more forthcoming with information. I actually did figure the mystery out fairly early, but I wasn’t sure enough of my deduction and wanted to read to the end to find out. Definitely want to read more! A.

12. THE NIGHTINGALE GALLERY by Paul Harding. First of the Brother Athelstan medieval mysteries. Athelstan is a Dominican friar set to assist Sir John, the corpulent coroner of London; this is more or less a punishment for him due to a disgrace from his past. Regardless of what name he writes under, or what series I’ve tried, I have been finding P.C. Doherty/Paul Harding’s historical mysteries a bit slow-going. While I like the premise for his characters, I find them not very well developed. But think it’s something about his writing style that puts me off more than anything. I can’t even say what it is—but it’s—well, I guess it’s boring, because I find my mind wandering when I try to read his books. They’re always slim little volumes and yet it takes me ages to get through them because I’m forever having to re-read parts. This one was no exception. I do like the grittiness of his books, the realistic descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of medieval London, but I do believe I’m going to set anything by Mr. Doherty/Harding aside for the time being as this has been a universal reaction to his books regardless of what series it’s in, and this is the fourth series of his that I’ve tried. I did finish this, but it took awhile and when I was done, I felt like my time could have been better spent elsewhere. C.

13. AGATHA RAISIN AND THE DAY THE FLOODS CAME by M.C. Beaton. Twelfth in the series set in the village of Carsely in the Cotswolds and featuring amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin. In this book, Agatha takes an extended holiday to Robinson Crusoe Island and begins to work through her disappointment over her failed marriage. When she returns to the village, rain and flooding await, and when Agatha sees the body of a young girl she’d encountered at her beauty parlor a few days previously floating down the bloated river, she has a new mystery to occupy her time. As usual, she runs afoul of the police, who admonish her to leave the detecting to the professionals. A new neighbor moves into James’ old cottage next door, and he’s a detective fiction writer. Agatha staunchly makes up her mind to be totally uninterested romantically, but accepts his friendly offer to help her investigate. A typical enjoyable light read in this series, and I did not guess the killer until close to the end which was a nice surprise. A-.

14. EXODUS FROM OBESITY by Paula F. Peck. Book detailing the author’s journey before and after gastric bypass surgery with tips and hints for each stage of the journey from pre-op to years post-op. I was not very impressed with the book, to be honest. The author’s writing style is rather boring, and much of the advice in it is very basic and in some cases even condescending. I also felt that some of it was not very good advice, based on what I’ve learned from years of my own research and experience. She makes a lot of assumptions that everyone who is morbidly obese and/or has the surgery does so for similar reasons and has the same problems. I guess I just could not relate to much of her own personal story and felt that it was too simplistic to be very beneficial. Perhaps if I had read it pre-op instead of eight months after my own surgery I might have felt differently, but for someone who’s already gone through most of the process, much of the advice and observations just didn’t ring true. C.

15. THE GOOD FAIRIES OF NEW YORK by Martin Millar. Fantasy tale about fairies—beginning with two exiled Scottish fairies, Heather and Morag—who make their way to New York. Eventually the book encompasses the stories of several fairy clans both across the pond and in NY itself, with bits on the Isle of Skye to Cornwall to Ireland and different neighborhoods of New York. Some interesting humans pepper the story as well—Kerry, a young hippie-ish woman with severe Crohn’s disease and a colostomy whom Morag befriends; Dinnie, an overweight, bigoted layabout whom Heather takes on as an improvement project since, like herself, he is a MacKintosh; and Magenta, a thirty-something mentally ill bag lady who has delusions that she is the captain of a mighty Greek army. Witty, funny and yet poignant with interesting characters and an interesting ‘world,’ I enjoyed this book quite a lot. It’s written in an easy reading style and sometimes the humor sneaks up on you and makes you laugh out loud. A.

16. THE TROUBLE WITH WITCHES by Shirley Damsgaard. Third in the Ophelia and Abby series featuring Ophelia, a small-town librarian and witch/psychic and her grandmother, Abby, also a witch. This book moves from their home in Iowa to a secluded lake in Minnesota where O & A have gone to investigate the disappearance of the daughter of a friend of reporter Rick Delaney at his request. She was last known to be associated with a group of people doing psychic investigations and Abby’s intuition tells her that she and Ophelia need to be there. Staying in a cabin on the lake where PSI, the group involved, lives, Abby and Ophelia begin to pick up some strange vibes from the moment they arrive, as well as a host of interesting characters. I did pinpoint the bad guy very early on (maybe I’m psychic? LOL) but still enjoyed the story and have enjoyed getting to know the recurring characters better with each book. The next one definitely looks interesting, which you’ll understand when you get to the ending of this one—bit of a surprise, that! A.

17. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J.K. Rowling. Seventh and final HP book, ended the series well, I thought. Not much to be said without giving away spoilers, so I won’t say anything except well done! A+.

18. THE WENCH IS DEAD by Colin Dexter. Eighth in the Chief Inspector Morse series set in Oxford, UK. This one has Morse laid up in hospital with a bleeding ulcer as he reads a mystery given to him by the wife of a ward-mate who has died. Not having any real mysteries to ponder, Morse attempts to solve the mystery in the book, a hundred and twenty year old case centering around the Oxford canal, certain that the judge and jury acted too hastily and wrongly in convicting several members of a crew on a river boat of murdering one of their female passengers. Enjoyable read, as are all the Morse books; liking them just as much this time around as I make my way through a re-read of the series. A.

19. THE BROTHERS OF GLASTONBURY by Kate Sedley. #7 in the Roger the Chapman medieval mystery series, this one set in and around Glastonbury. Roger is asked by the Duke of Clarence to escort a young girl—the daughter of one of his knights—to the home of her betrothed in Glastonbury when her fiancée doesn’t show up to escort her as planned. Upon arriving at the family home, it’s discovered that the betrothed, Peter Gildersleeve, has disappeared—vanished, quite literally, into thin air. With the household in an uproar, Roger has one of his dreams/visions that entice him into staying and trying to solve the mystery of Peter’s disappearance. When his brother Mark also vanishes a few days later, Roger steps his efforts into high gear and of course later solves the case. One of my very favorite series, though the mysteries are usually fairly easy to figure out. The period detail and Roger’s “voice” make this series special for me. A.

20. DEATH ON WASHINGTON SQUARE by Victoria Thompson. #4 in the “gaslight” mystery series set in early 1900’s New York and featuring Sarah Brandt, a young widow and midwife. In this book, Sarah’s friend and neighbor Mrs. Ellsworth’s son Nelson is accused of murdering a young woman. Sarah and Detective Sergeant Malloy work to prove that he didn’t, and as they investigate, bits of interesting information about the woman come to light. As with many cozier mysteries, the actual mystery isn’t too hard to figure out here; the strength of the series is in the characters and the period descriptions. Enjoyable, light read as the others have been. A.



DEATH BY MISADVENTURE by Kerry Greenwood (yawn)

MOO by Jane Smiley (yawn)

CANDLEMASS ROAD by George MacDonald Fraser (what? yawn)

PATTERNMASTER by Octavia Butler (again, yawn)