Friday, December 30, 2011

Col. Mustard in the library with the ....

The Herring in The Library
L.C. Tyler

Genre:  mystery, cozy, British
Series:  Ethelred and Elsie Mystery
Pages:  225
Rating: ****

I love the game Clue.  For a while it was the favorite game of my oldest.  We played it all the time, she had to be Scarlet and I was Peacock.  She even have a birthday party surrounding the game.  Such fun.  When I came across The Herring in the Library, I was thrilled by the Clue influence.

herring in the libraryThe Herring in the Library, follows a crime writer, Ethelred, and his agent, Elsie, as they try to solve the death of an old chum named 'Shagger'.  In true Clue style it takes place during a dinner party.  Suspects abound.

I loved this book.  First, let me say I don't know why they call Clue...Cluedo.  That said I loved the book.  It was funny.  The book is written from the perspective of both Ethelred and Elsie.  The type is different for each person, so pay attention.  Ethelred is, according to Elsie, a third rate crime writer.  He's also not to sharp with  observation.  Elsie is loud, opinionated and fond of sweets.  The two of them together must solve the perfect mystery of a murder in a locked room.  Evey person at dinner seems guilty and the victim wasn't that nice.  It's great.  It's a fast read and witty.  It's a wonderful incarnation of a favorite children's game.  Oh, did I mention it was very funny!

- Caren

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A New Spin on the 3 Kings...

The Spy Who Came for Christmas
David Morrell

genre: suspense, action, thriller
pages: 239
rating: *****

I have been reading mainly Christmas themed books for the last few weeks.  That's hard to do when you are sitting in shorts because it is 70* outside.  The traditional warm and fuzzy novellas with snow covered houses on the cover just don't work.  Luckily, I found The Spy Who Came for Christmas.

The Spy Who Came for Christmas, is an action-suspense thriller.  It follows a double agent named Kagan (aka Pyotyr) who is deep under cover with the Russian Mafia in the US.  His team is hired by the Arab terrorist to kidnap a baby of one of it's enemies to use as leverage.  Kagan chooses this mission to pull himself out and hopefully save the baby.  The plot unfolds with the backdrop of Christmas Eve in Santa Fe on Canyon Road (sounds like fun).  Kagan ends up injured and involves a woman and her 12 year old son.  Kagan explains the spy version of the Three Kings and the birth of Jesus.

The Spy Who Came for ChristmasIf I didn't have to sleep I would have finished this book in one day.  I loved it.  It was action packed, full of twists and turns and tons of emotion.  I sat on the edge of my seat waiting to read if Kagan and the two innocent bystanders would survive with the three hit men from the the mafia stalking them outside.  I could not fathom what the terrorists wanted with the baby.  Chilling.  I enjoyed how Morrell mixed the old bad guys (Russians) with the new bad guys (Arab terrorist).  It was brilliant.  I really wanted Kagan to survive and save the baby, I will not tell you what happened you must read the book.  Then Morrell gave the spy's version of the Magi.  I don't know where this story came from, but it was very interesting.  I especially liked the ideas of what killed Herod!  The plot was quick moving and the writing was sharp.  The big fight at the end was great.  I really could see it as I read it.

The Spy Who Came for Christmas is a must read.  If you don't like the traditional warm and fuzzy Christmas novel, give this a whirl.  It is nonstop action and intrigue.  It has a great mix of characters and rich layers, many small stories wrapped up in one bow.

- Caren

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ohhhhh, Look at the pretty pictures...

Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts
Martha Stewart

Genre: nonfiction, crafts
Pages: 365
Rating: *****

This is my first review of a nonfiction book, so bear with me.  Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts is a huge book of crafts for every holiday.  There are 225 projects, for 10 major US holidays.  They range from simple paper cards for Mother's Day to Gilded egg ornaments for Christmas. 

OK I have to admit I have been a 'follower' of Martha Stewart's craft projects since I married.  The Gilded eggs, from blowen eggs, have been on my tree since I made them 8 or 9 years ago when it was published in Martha Stewart Living.  They are just as lovely as they were then.

Product DetailsLike the magazine, Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts has step by step directions and beautiful photos to go with each project.  Some projects are a little out there.  I don't know anyone who wants to make striped bunting for the house on 4th of July, it's easier to buy it.  But most are very doable.  Many are even kid friendly and perfect for treats for kids.

In all honsetly, I'm putting this book on my to-buy list.  Shocker I know.

I loved the book and look forward to making the Crayon and waxed paper hearts with my girls for Valentine's Day!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Can You Keep A Secret???

The Christmas Scrapbook
Philip Gulley

Genre: fiction, Christmas novella, Faith
Pages: 89
Series: Harmony
Rating: ****
Favorite Quote: " And Sam's otherwise difficult day drew to a close in the warm embrace of his wife, whom he loved deeply, but seldom understood."

In case you were wondering I am reading Christmas books at the moment.  Most are very quick reads, which is good because I have quite a few in my TBR pile.  I sit in front of my twinkling, tinsel covered tree with a cup of hot tea and read sweet tales of Christmas.  HMMMMMM.  So relaxing.  OK there are a few that are not sweet, but those are for later.

The Christmas ScrapbookThe Christmas Scrapbook, is a very quick read.  It centers around a Quaker minister, Sam Gardner, as he attempts to make the greatest Christmas present ever  for his wife.  You guessed it a scrapbook.  He has 17 years of giving potholders to make up for.  He tires to keep it a secret, he started weeks in advance, but one thing after another happens and before you know it stories are circulating around town that Sam is deathly sick.  Small towns.

I loved this book.  Sam is a really down to earth minister with flaws, he has problems with his flock.  My favorite charachter is Frank the elderly secretary.  He tends to be blunt and can not keep a secret.  The small incidents that happen in this book are hysterical, they could only happen in a small town.  The charachters are genuine and real.  The writing is simple, meaning Gulley choses the right word without wasting time with extra glitter.  I really enjoyed it and plan on reading more about Harmony.  Sounds like a nice town.

- Caren

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Tangled Web...

A Christmas Journey
Anne Perry

Genre: Christmas, Fiction, Mystery
Pages:  180
Series: Christmas Series
Rating: ***
Favorite Quote: "And mercy, the gift to forgive, to wash away from the memory as if it had not happened, to accept the gift of God which is love and hope, courage to begin again in the faith that redemption is come into the world, is the meaning of Christmas."

I am ashamed to say....I have never read an Anne Perry book.  I know shocking.  I love mysteries, historical novels, and Christmas.  Anne Perry does all three in one.  I should have read one by now.

A Christmas Journey, is set in Victorian England ( I think).  A group of wealthy 'friends' have joined together for a long weekend before Christmas.  After dinner, and a few unkind words, Gwendolen Kilmuir is found dead in the pond.  It is determined to be suicide.  The result is a pact between the guests and the one they blame to be responsible for pushing Kilmuir to kill herself.  Isobel Alvie, with the help of Vespasia Cumming-Gould must hand deliver Kilmuir's last letter to her mother, who is in the farthest reaches of Scotland.  It is meant to be an ordeal, in return Alvie will be forgiven.

That's a bit larger than a nutshell, but a lot goes on in this little book!  I could have used a list of players, I got confused more than once on who was who.  I blame my lack of attention, not the writer.  I enjoyed the book, it was well written and had lots of detail.  I felt a shiver as they were plodding through the frozen bog of Scotland.  I had difficulty getting to know any of the characters.  They were not forthcoming in emotion, they all wore a mask to hide their inner self.  Of course with people as board as the super weatlhy of the time whose main sport was gossip, one had to guard themselves.  I just didn't like that aspect.  It was important to show that, it just wasn't my cup of tea and put me off from the start.  I will give another go at Anne Perry, maybe a bigger book.

- Caren

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Chocolate Fun...

I Love You More...Than Chocolate
Written by Melanie Milburn
Illustrated by Cindy Coleman

Genre: Children's picture book
Pages: 32
Rating:  ****

I received a free copy of the book for review, from the author.  The opinions are my own not anyone else's.  I promise I was not overcome by my lust for chocolate.

As I have mentioned before...I love chocolate.  When I received an email about the book I jumped at the chance to read it.  I love chocolate and really wanted to see how the title would be translated into a book for kids.

Basically, I Love You More...Than Chocolate, is a look at the night time ritual between a child and her mother.  The mother tells her all the things she loves her more than, every few pages the title is repeated.

I really liked the book.  My 7 year old also enjoyed the book!  She was able to read it in just a few minutes.  Each page has a sentence and a full page illustration of what the child is loved more than.  It's a sweet little tale (pun intended) all of those with children will recognize.  We all have little ritual sayings that our children can repeat from heart.  The book comes with a CD of the book being read and then sang.  I'm not keen on the CD ( I don't like kid music).  Kids on the other hand will love it.
The only negative I have is some of the illustrations were not as 'good' as I would have liked.  they seemed a little uneven.  One page would have a beautiful drawing and then the next would be so-so.  It didn't detract from the book, I just thought they could be better.

Overall, it's a sweet book.  A great one to share with a small child you love...more than chocolate.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Christmas Read...

The Christmas Pearl
Dorothea Benton Frank

Genre: Fiction, Christmas Novella, southern
Pages: 139, plus recipes
Favorite quote: "My poor dumbbells!"
Rating: ****

As I have mentioned before I am a Christmas Novella junkie.  I walk down the isles of the library, looking at book jackets, and these cute little books just jump out at me.  Not all of them are good but most are sweet with a side of morals on the side.  The Christmas Pearl is both.

Christmas PearlThe Christmas Pearl is set at Christmas in South Carolina. (Extra points for being southern!)  Theodora is the 90 something matriarch of a batch of misguided offspring.  She is distraught over their lack of interest in a traditional Christmas as well as their interest in hurting one another.  Her heart is breaking over her "knuckleheads".  Then in the most unexpected ways her prayers for a real Christmas with a loving family are answered.

I loved this book.  I loved the sweet Theodora as she tried to deal with her crazy family.  I loved reading about how Christmas was celebrated with such expectation and vigor in Theodora's youth.  I wanted to be at her house for the entire month of December.  Her childhood Christmas is classic Christmas.  Several foods of her youth are those of mine.  It was heaven.  But the jewel int he crown is Pearl.  The cook, and much more, of Theodora's youth was the fabric that held her family together.  She was a force of nature.  This force is bold, kind, and pure magic on the page.  I couldn't wait to read more about how Pearl was going to save the family from self destruction. 

This was a great read.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  I highly recommend it.

- Caren

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's a hoot...

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted
Elizabeth Berg

Genre: short story, chick-lit
Pages: 270

I have checked out many books by Elizabeth Berg....but never got around to reading them.  Well, I came across this book and I had to read it.  All because of the title: The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted.  Who can resist a book with that title!

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted is a collection of short stories.  The stories are centered around the lives and emotions of women.  The subtitle is And Other Small Acts of Liberation.

It is hard to write a review on this book.  I loved reading it, but the stories are varied and rarely have repeat characters.  Some are laugh out loud funny, others are bittersweet.  There are two in the middle that just kind of dragged.  Each gives an insight into how women think.  I noticed myself in several of the stories, even though I am younger than the women in the book.  I take that back there is a young girl in one story.  Most, but not all, center around food and weight.  Could women really spend that much time thinking about their weight and food?  Probably so.

The draw back to me was the language.  The F-word was dropped more than once, along with other words, but they were in context and fit with the characters.  It was very well written and enjoyable, except for two.  I will definitely check out other books by Berg.

- Caren

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just in time for Christmas....

The Doll Violinist
by Mayra Calvani
illustrated by Amy Moreno

genre: picture book
pages: 27 (or so)
rating: ***

I was given an ecopy of this book to review by Donna McDine, I assume she works for the writer or publisher.  The review is my own opinion.

The Doll Violinist is the story of an orphan girl who falls in love with a doll that holds a violin.  Each day she checks the window to see if the doll is still there.

I first must apologize for my tardiness.  I was given this ecopy back in October and am just now writing the review.  Although I have read the book several times since I received it.  My children have also read it, they like more than I did.  That's all that really matters, it is geared to children.

On with the review.  First, the illustrations are lovely.  They appear to be painted and are full of detail.  the setting is 19th century France, maybe, just a guess.  The clothing and decor have great detail and it is fun just to sit and look at the pictures.  It is a picture book!

I found the story sweet.  I know that's not much to go on.  But it was sweet.  The little girl loves the doll and wants more than anything to have it.  But being an orphan she has no money.  I liked the story, but it's a common theme.  The story occurs around Christmas so there is a nice warm and fuzzy ending.

It's a nice Christmas book with beautiful pictures that little girls will enjoy reading.


Friday, December 2, 2011

A new cozy review...

The Lies That Bind
Kate Carlisle

Genre: Cozy mystery
Series: A Bibliophile Mystery
Pages: 271, not counting the dictionary and preview of the next book
Rating: ****

The Lies That Bind is centered around book collectors and restorers.  The protagonist is Brooklyn Wainwright a book restorer and teacher at the San Fransisco's Bay Area Book Arts (BABA).  She has a bad habit of being around when someone is killed.  And they are dropping like flies at BABA.  Brooklyn is aided by the British boyfriend and security hot shot, Derek Stone. 

The Lies That BindI really enjoyed The Lies That Bind.  Brooklyn and her motley crew of friends made the stuffy world of book collecting fun and entertaining.  Of course her friends aren't book collector's.  There are a pair of lesbian chain saw sculptors, an entire commune from the 60's led by Guru Bob, a mysterious hottie in black ready to save the day and steal from you at the same time, one bookbinder with a mouth like a sailor and dresses like a tramp, and a guy that lives in the basement of the museum and only says 'huh'.  The fact that the series is set in San Fransisco makes it work.  Beyond being interesting characters they are well developed.  The character of Derek Stone didn't sound British.  Usually, when I read a book with someone who is British, I can here the accent.  That didn't happen with Stone.  But then he wasn't my favorite character either.  My complaint is with the ending.  I was invested in the events and characters, I couldn't wait for the mystery to come to a head.  The story had moved along at a pleasant pace, building up with suspense and then the end kind of fell flat.  Yes, there was even a chick fight scene.  But, is was too quick and neat.  I felt a little let down at the conclusion.

Overall, even with the Wicca nonsense, I really enjoyed the book and would definitely read more in the series.  It's very well written, smart and fun.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Return of the Wemmicks

Best of All
by Max Lucado
Illustrated by Sergio Martinez

genre: Children's picture book
series: Wemmicks
pages: 31
rating: ****

Best of AllThe little Wemmicks return in Best of All.  This time Max tackles prejudice.  A famous Wemmick visits the village.  Bess Stovall divides the village by the wood the Wemmicks are made from.  Maple is seen as the best wood.  Thus the town begins to treat each other differently based on their wood.

Another great moral from Max.  The point is, regardless of ancestry, God made you the way you are on purpose, and you are special.  In a world full of negative images, it's nice to have a positive book for children.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bryant & May

Full Dark House
Christopher Fowler

genre: mystery
series: Bryant & May
pages: 356
rating: ***1/2

Full Dark House, is the first Bryant and May Mystery.  (It's always nice to read the first in the series.)  The pair work in the Peculiar Crimes Unit.  This book parallels Bryant and May's first case with what could be there last case.  There first case took place in 1940's London, during the Blitz, as the pair investigate the death of a dancer at a local theater.  Then 60 years later their office explodes and Bryant is inside.  The stories are interwoven as May remembers the old case and tries to solve the new one.

Full Dark House (Bryant & May Mysteries)Bryant & May are a cross between the odd couple and ghost busters.  Bryant is an ardent believer in all things paranormal and May is the light of reality, sort of.  They are loads of fun to read.  Both characters are smart, witty, and adept at thinking out of the box.  I really enjoyed reading reading the book, for the characters and for the historical aspect.  I have never read much on life during the blitz.  This is a work of fiction, but it seems well researched.  I can't imagine living through the constant fear of bombs falling from the sky.  Supporting characters are just as interesting and well developed as the main characters.  A few times I did have to pull the dictionary out to look up words, that's not a bad thing.  I'm not sure if it is because it was set in the 40s or because it is British.  The only negative I have to mention is that when Fowler switches from past investigation to present, sometimes it was hard to tell when, in time, things were happening. 

Regardless, it was a fun read, not necessarily a fast read, but full of interesting characters and a good plot.


Friday, November 25, 2011

You are special

You are Special
By Max Lucado
Illustrated by Sergio Martinez

genre: Children's, picture book
series: Wemmicks
pages: 31 pages
rating: ****
quote: "You are special because I made you.  And I don't make mistakes"

You are Special is a simple, yet profound tale about a town of wooden puppets called Wemmicks.  The Wemmicks like to give stickers for good and bad.  This makes some Wemmicks feel less valuable because they don't get 'good' stickers.

You Are Special (Max Lucado's Wemmicks)I love this book.  I regret that my children might be too old to really enjoy it.  But I can still read it to them anyway!  The crux of the story is to ignore what others think.  What matters most is what God thinks.  Spend time daily with God and those that criticize you will not matter as much.  The story of the Wemmicks is a great analogy between us and God.  A wonderful, timeless story.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baaaad Kitty!

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath
Nick Buel

genre: children's chapter book
series: Bad Kitty
age: 5+
pages: 125
rating: ****
favorite quote: "It's simply that...CATS HATE BATHS!"

I was subbing in my daughter's 2nd grade class, when I came across this book.  Knowing I would be surrounded by little people I didn't bother taking reading material.  All year I have heard about Bad Kitty, so I decided it was time to read it.  It only took about 30 minutes, tops.

Bad Kitty Gets a BathBad Kitty Gets a Bath is a story about a kitty who gets dirty and needs a bath.  It's a how-to guide, complete with diagrams and a dictionary in the back.

I loved this book.  Th illustrations are very funny, especially the one of kitty after the bath.  It is funny to read about what could possibly happen if you gave kitty a bath.  Kids love this book, they laugh at the funny pictures and story.  I really enjoyed the added notes from the editor when things became too harsh for children!  Those were really funny.


Monday, November 21, 2011

It's about time...

Christopher  Paolini

genre: fantasy
series: Inheritance Cycle, book 4
pages: 857, including dictionary and pronunciation
rating: *****

I have been waiting for an eternity,or so it felt, for this book to come out.  It is the final book in the Inheritance Cycle.  It was well worth the wait.

If you have not read any books in the Inheritance Cycle, here's a brief review.  Inheritance is the final book in the series.  The first book was Eragon.  Basically, you have the world filled with the basic fantasy creatures: elves, humans, dragons, etc.  In Alagaesia, there was once a group of men, and elves, that rode dragons to ensure the peace of the land.  Then a rider destroyed the riders, killing them and their dragons.  Only the ones who swore allegiance to him, Galbatorix survived.  A few eggs were saved.  That's a brief history at the beginning of Eragon, thankfully the new book does a recap!  Anyway, one egg survives and Eragon becomes her rider.  Inheritance covers the final battle between the rebels (Varden) and the evil king Galbatorix.  Epic battle!  I'm trying not to get into all books or give away too much of the new book. 

Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)Review: I found the beginning of the book a little jolting.  It starts in battle.  There is no time to gently get into the story, you thrown full force into the tale.  Once I had my bearings I was into it until the end.  All of the characters I fell in love with in the first book are here.  All of the questions I had were answered.  What's so great about this series is Paolini's ability to give vivid descriptions for totally foreign races and geography.  I've never been to Alagaesia, but I have seen it in my mind through his writing.  I also like that nothing is easy for Eragon.  He, as well as the rest of the Varden, have to struggle to win.  Even then the win comes at great losses.  I must admit I really expected someone to die.  But that is all I have to say about that.  It's a great book, well worth me actually buying a copy!


Friday, November 11, 2011

An oldie....

A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin

genre: fantasy, middle reader
series: Earthsea Cycle
pages: 192
rating ***

I discovered fantasy books rather late in life, I read The Hobbit in college.  Since then I have been a fan of children's and YA fantasy.  I have seen this book in the children's section of the library for years, so I finally took it home.

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1)A Wizard of Earthsea tells the story of Ged, aka sparrowhawk.  As a boy Ged goes into wizard training.  His main flaw is arrogance and maybe pride.  Because of these flaws he sets loose a "shadow" on the world, and sets on a quest to conquer it.

Before I say anything I have to say Ursula Le Guin is a wonderful writer.   The book is easy to read, but it is not a quick read.  It took me a little longer than I had intended.  She is heavy on narration.  I enjoyed the book, but I was not attached to the characters.  Because of that I may not read another one.  Earthsea is probably a great book for a middle reader new to fantasy.

- Caren

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gobble Gobble

A Catered Thanksgiving
Isis Crawford

genre: cozy mystery
series: Mystery with Recipes
pages: 335
rating: **
favorite quote: "Death by turkey."

I was really looking forward to reading this book, being that it is November.

A Catered Thanksgiving by Isis Crawford (aka Barbara Block)A Catered Thanksgiving, is about two sisters who own a catering company.  They are hired to make Thanksgiving dinner for the Field family.  They are a wealthy family that owns a fireworks company.  They take dysfunctional to new heights.  The Thanksgiving dinner is ruined by a murder.  To makes thinks worse a freak blizzard keeps help away and forces the sisters to solve the murder.

The beginning of the book was laugh out loud funny, the ending was pretty good as well.  Unfortunately, what was in the middle was not.  Beyond the main characters, Libby and Bernie, the extended cast was flat.  You had this large cast of unhappy family members, who only bickered.  They kept rehashing the same thing over and over again, it was really annoying.  The story line was good, but it got lost in the family feud.

- Caren

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guest post and a review...

I am taking part in the Geek Girl, blog hop.  I just love that book title.  Today we have a guest post from the author Cindy C. Bennett.       You can catch up with the rest of the tour here.

Inspired Character by Cindy C Bennett

People often ask writers of fiction where they get the inspiration for their characters. The answer to that question is as varied as the writers themselves. Sometimes characters are based on someone the writer knows, other times they are entirely created from imagination. I can’t answer for any other author as to where they get their inspiration from, but I can tell you about my characters in this particular book.

Jen is almost entirely from my imagination. I don’t personally know anyone like her, nor did I in high school. But I’ve known people like Jen in that they are people judged based solely on how they look. I wanted to write a character who is very distinctive in how she dresses, purposely painting herself into a specific guise. Her reasons are to show the world that she is hard and untouchable, which is the absolute opposite of the truth. She also found that the others who dress in a similar manner were the ones who would accept her into their circle without question. I did pull her backstory from the real story of a boy who I saw on TV some time ago. His childhood closely reflects hers, though I fictionalized it to a degree. He, however, chose to take a different path and his interview that I watched was from prison. I also wanted to show Jen finding her strength, becoming who she wanted to be rather than who she felt forced to be.

Trevor is not based on one specific person, but on a few different guys I’ve known at different times in my life. I went to school with kids who were just genuinely kind guys like he is, who were a bit geeky, but who were well liked anyway, though they could hardly be called popular. I also based him loosely on a boy that liked my own daughter at one time. He was definitely a geek, though a very cute one. He played the piano and sang as Trevor does. So Trevor’s sort of a blend of a bunch of different people.

Jane is based on those girls or people we’ve all known at one point or another, people who are just so sincerely nice that no one could possibly dislike them. I have a neighbor who is like that. Everyone who knows her absolutely loves her. There is no vanity, meanness, or guile in her at all, qualities I admire and try—and fail—to emulate.

Trevor’s mom is based on a few moms of friends I’ve had over the years. Who didn’t have a friend whose mom was controlling, strict, and didn’t like any of their child’s friends? But I also wanted to give her some redeeming qualities, as I believe all people have some kind of redeeming qualities.

Jen’s foster mom is based on a woman I know who was a foster mom herself, though she had taken in many kids over the span of many years. She really loved her foster kids, and I believe she would have adopted them all if she’d been able. I know she helped find adoptive families for a couple of the kids she fostered. She was pretty amazing.

I suppose in all of my characters there is at least one quality or quirk that belongs to someone I know. I don’t know that any writer can create a character that doesn’t have something in them that helps the author to have compassion or at least some small bit of love for those characters—even the villains. There isn’t any real person who is so completely beyond human that there isn’t one single, recognizable compassionate quality about them. Obviously if a writer wants their characters—all their characters—to seem realistic, they will have to borrow from people they know or love themselves, even if it’s something as small as pushing glasses back up the bridge of their nose. That’s how we give our characters, well . . . character.

Now ... a review

Geek Girl
 Cindy C. Bennett
genre:  YA
pages: 280
rating: ***3/4
I was given an e-copy of the book for review.  The review is my own.  I was not required to give a positive review.
 Geek Girl is a story about a teenage girl living in a foster home.  She is "Goth" and has a tragic family story.  The basis of the tale is Jen bets she can turn a geek into a bad boy.  She chooses Trevor.  Anymore and I give away the book.
First off I have to say...I am a geek and I love geeks.  When I received the book I scanned through to get a feel for it.  I was thrilled to find a table of contents.  The titles for chapters are awesome, The Wrinkled Prunes and Stardates and Spock-girl are just two titles.  I had difficulty rating this book.  I really enjoyed the characters and the story, yet at times the writing was too simple.  Maybe I'm just used to adult books. 
 Parts of the book have Romeo and Juliet overtones, but no one dies.  You have classic angst associated with high school, complete with cliques.  The characters, at first glance, seem to be stereotypes' of teenagers.  A dark Goth girl in black and heavy makeup who makes fun of the "normal" kids and likes to party.  A buttoned up geek who makes straight A's and enjoys sci-fi movies and bowling.    Yet, as the story moves on the characters evolve into complex people.  I am a character nut.  I will stick with a bad book if the characters are authentic and interesting.  These characters are blessed to be in a really great story, as well as being authentic and interesting.
I would be wrong not to mention Jen's extremely low self-esteem irritated me to no end.  At the same time it fits with her character.  Once you read her back-story, you understand why she is the way she is.  But it still bothered me. 
 In the end, the story is not about high school.  It is about overcoming the odds, even those you are born into, and finding love and redemption.  I laughed and I cried, seriously, it's a good read.  It would be a great book for teenagers, obviously it's a YA book.

A few helpful links:

Author Website:


Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Book for Christmas

The Christmas Shoppe
Melody Carlson

Genre:  Christmas, fiction, Christian
Pages:  168
Rating: ***

The Christmas Shoppe  -     
        By: Melody Carlson
The Christmas Shoppe is a short fiction book.  It's a really quick read.  The story is set in a small town called Parrish Springs.  A new shop is opening in town, by a new resident.  The whole town can't wait for it to open.  When it does they become divided over loving it and wanting to run in out of town.  It's not a normal shop.  The shopkeeper, Matilda, doesn't offer anything new.  Everything is used and mostly broken.  Yet those that venture in leave with something more valuable than material possessions. 

I picked up this book last week on a whim.  I'm a sucker for a Christmas book!  It is a sweet tale of love and forgiveness, with a sprinkling of the real meaning of Christmas.  It was a nice distraction.  I enjoyed the break from reading about murder and mayhem.  If you are interested in a quick read, one that will lighten your mood, give The Christmas Shoppe a try.


You bet they were...

Snip Snap What's That?
Mara Bergman (author)
Nick Maland (illustrator)

Genre: children's, picture book
Pages: 32
Age: 4 years and up
Rating: ****1/2
Publication: 2005

I was going through Goodread's, marking books I have read, and came across this jewel.  I had totally forgotten about this book.  Sadly, my kids haven't read it in a while.  First....

Snip, Snap  What's That? is a picture book following three kids as they come in contact with a giant alligator.  The gator is going through the apartment wrecking the place.  The kids, of course, are scared.  Without giving the end away, the kids must deal with their fear...and the gator.

Snip Snap!: What's That?I love this book.  We had to buy it after checking it out a dozen times from the library.  It's a wonderful read aloud book.  The kids love the flow and rhyme of the story.  They also love the repetition of ,"you bet they were".  After two or three readings the kids will be shouting out their part.  I love taking it to school when I read to the class, the more kids the better.  They pick up real quick to yell "You bet they were".  For added effect slam the book shut, loudly, when you get to the full 2 page spread of the gator's face.  Kids fall over with giggles.  It's not scary at all just fun.

This is an older book, but I love it so much I wanted to share it with you.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Mystery Series...

Missing Persons
Clare O'Donohue

Series: A Kate Conway Mystery
Genre: mystery
Pages:  280
Rating:  ***1/2
Warning:  There is some language the 'F-word' is used a few times

   I have had this on my TBR pile for a while.  I am so glad I finally got around to reading it.  I must say I don't usually read books with the 'F-word', but the story was so good I stuck with it.  I am so glad I did!  Clare is the writer of a cozy series entitled, 'the Someday Quilts Mystery Series'.  This is not a cozy.
   Missing Persons, is a book with two mysteries.  One is the sudden death of the main characters soon to be ex-husband, Frank.  The other is the disappearance of a young woman.  The main character, Kate is a freelance TV producer for a crime network.  Her assignment is to cover a young woman who disappeared over a year ago.  Eventually the tables are turned and she is questioned about Franks death.  If that's not enough she is being threatened, has to deal with her husbands mistress, and her in-laws.  That's enough to drive anyone crazy!
   I loved this book.  It was not cozy, it was edgy and at times too real.  I have learned more about TV producers than I ever dreamed, I will never watch a real crime show the way again!  This book is so different from the Quilt series Clare writes.  The characters are flawed, cranky, and real.  The idea of meeting your hubbies mistress and not killing her is mind boggling.  I really enjoyed the character of Kate for her flaws as well as her intelligence and attitude.  I also really enjoyed Kate's crew Andres and Victor  they at times provided comic relief and a protective male presence.  All of the characters were multi-faceted with secrets.  It was a great read!

- Caren

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Killer Fiction...with a twist

A Killer Among Us
Lynette Eason

Genre:  Mystery, Suspense, Faith
Series:  Women Of Justice (Book 3)
Pages:  343
Rating:  *****

When I was scanning the shelves of new books, at the local library, I came across a mystery book with a pink spine sticker.  I stopped.  Pink means faith.  I have never come across a mystery novel with a pink label.  In my brain 'faith' and a murder mystery seemed like odd partners.  So of course I had to read it.  All of the preconceived notions I had were dashed.  But first....

A Killer Among Us, is a novel centered on Kit and Noah they are police officers and partners.  Kit is a trained hostage negotiator and Noah had recently lost his old partner to a deadly accident.  The two have doubts about each other at first but soon learn to trust each other.  Through the book you learn about Kit's past and family issues and why she became a cop.  You learn more about Noah's character and faith in God than you do his past, at least until the end.  Kit and Noah are investigating the deaths  of law students when the killer becomes interested in them.

A Killer Among UsI expected warm and fuzzy.  I have read some Christian fiction, I didn't like them because they were too warm and fuzzy.  I was so wrong.  This book is full of energy and action.  It is a faced paced roller coaster.  I stayed up late last night just to finish it.  I could not put it down.  (I almost cried in the end.  I loved the storyline, even the gross parts (there are a few).  I loved the characters. I have never been so happy to be wrong about a book.  If you are not a reader of Christian books, give this one a try.  You won't be hit over the head with religion.  Noah's faith is a part of his life and therefore it is a part of his police work.  It fits his character and the story. 

I highly recommend A Killer Among Us.  I am going to the library today to find more of the series!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blog Hop

Today I am taking part in a blog hop to feature:
   "Dressed To Kill"
      by Brian Bianco

His website has a cool trailer, I love book trailers!

Product DetailsTwo convicted felons, in a rape and murder case, turn up dead after the acuittal.  (That's such a pitty.)  Miles, a Chicago Tribune reporter discover similar cases.  He thinks he knows who the killer is.  Miles gets on the wrong side of the FBI and plans on solving the case and getting all the glory.

Sounds good to me.

Dressed To Kill,can be found on Amazon here, for $12.99

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Just in time for Halloween...

Monster in Miniature
by Margaret Grace

Genre: cozy mystery
Series: A Miniature Mystery
Pages: 287

This is the thrid and final book in completing my Goodreads mini challenge for October.  I joined late, so I only read 3, next month I will do better!  This is also my first time to read a Miniture Mystery or a book by Margaret Grace.  I am so glad I did.  I never knew there was so much interest in 'dollhouses'.  I don't know why I am a super crafter, there can never be enough glue or glitter in the house.  I have even built a dollhouse.  Of course now it sits abandoned in the corner, (sigh).

A brief synopsisi first.  Gerry, short for Geraldine, is an avid miniaturist.  She is working on a haunted house with her eleven year old granddaughter Maddie.  Maddie is a Nancy Drew wanna be!  While the two are strolling down a street covered in Halloween decorations they, along with a group of teenagers, discover a dead body.  In true cozy fashion the victim is related to a fried of Gerry's and she must find out what happened.  Along the way city corruption is discovered along with secrets of her late husband.  If that's not enough Gerry maybe on the cusp of a new relationship with a nice retired gentleman, who also like to be crafty.  Sounds like a match made at Michael's!

Monster CoverSome of you may know, I love books with old ladies in them.  So I was thrilled to read about an older sleuth.  Gerry is agaile, smart, and a lot of fun.  She stays hip with the constant help of her technologically gifted granddaughter, Maddie.   One of the things I loved about the book was the constant sprinkling of wit and wisdom from Shakespear.  I didn't appreciate him in high school.  Monster in Miniature, is very well written.  It flows well and the plot is interesting.  There was a point when I thought I had figured it out, but I was wrong (I hate to figure the ending out ahead of time).   The 'extra' charaters were nice additions to the well thought out main charachters.  One in particular was surprisingly sinister, but I can't tell you anymore than that.   It was a great read, and I plan on reading more in the series.

If you haven't read a Margaret Grace book, grab one now.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Blog Hop

Book Blogger Hop

I am joining the Book Blogger Hop!  It looks like so much fun.  If you are interested go to Crazy for Books (here)

There rules are simple
1.  Must be a book blogger (I am)
2.  Must link back to the primary link (I did)

10/21- 10/24
Question of the Week: 
What is your favorite type of candy?
I am torn.  My absolute favorite is my mom's fudge.  It is awesome and incredibly hard to make.  My second favorite is Divinity with pecans.  It's the only thing I WANT to have pecans in!

Go ahead and join the blog hop!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Calling all Chocoholics

The Chocolate Cupid Killings
by JoAnna Carl                                                              Chocolate Cupid

genre: cozy mystery
series:  A Chocoholic Mystery
pages:  230
rating: ***

This is book 2 in my attempt at the Goodreads mini challenge for October.  The category was something sweet for Diabetes Awareness Month.  I must admit I am shocked that a mystery centred around chocolate has missed me.  I am a total chocoholic.  I love everything about chocolate.  It comes from a bean therefor it must be good for you.  So when I found the series I knew I had to read it.

The Chocolate Cupid Killings is about Lee and her Aunt Nettie, who owns an expensive chocolate shop.  Nettie has gotten herself into helping a woman in the battered women's underground railroad.  True to cozy fashion, everything, or everybody, is not what it seems.  Dead bodies start popping up, secrets start growing with in the family.  Lee must solve the crime and the identity of the mystery woman.

This was the first book by JoAnna Carl I had read.  I really enjoyed the story and the plot.  The characters were interesting, but not amazing.  I cared about what happened to them, but I don't know if I cared about who lived or died.   I did feel like the writing didn't flow as smoothly in some places, not that I'm an expert.   I really enjoyed the chocolate facts sprinkled throughout the book. 

All in all it was a good read.  I will read one more book in the series to see if I like it better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Won?! So cool!

I can't believe my little bitty blog won an award.  That is so cool.  Toni over at One Chocolate Box awarded me with the Versatile Blogger Award.  How cool is that.
I do so love awards.  Thank you Toni!

Here are the rules:
1.  Thank and link the blogger who nominated you. (Be sure to check out Toni's blog.)
2.  Share 7 random facts about yourself. (frightening!)
3.  Spread the love.  Pass the award on to 5 other bloggers.  Contact them and let them know.

Short and simple.

Here are my 7 Random Facts:
1.  I pretend that I am Mrs. Claus every year by turning my kitchen into a cookie shop.  I end up baking cookies for anybody who will eat them.
2.  I want to visit Middle Earth.
3.  I have a crush on Spock.  (Don't tell my husband he doesn't know.)
4.  I have more books on my side table than I can possibly read in the time allotted by the library.  (I've also paid for the new library with all of my late fees.)
5.  I dream of being able to fly, yet I am terribly afraid of heights.
6.  I am an art quilter.
7.  I just myself another small silver Christmas tree.  I had to this one was taller and came with lights!

I searched high and low for bloggers to nominate (I didn't know if they had to be book bloggers or not)

Here are the nominated, Check them out they are all cool:
1.  A Sea of Books
2.  Bonnie's Books
3.  Wren's Thoughts
4.  Book'd Out
5.  Straight from the Writer's Mouth

Congratulations all.  Good luck to all on their blogs. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Agatha Raisin strikes agian...

Cover image for Agatha Raisin: There Goes The Bride by M.C. Beaton
There Goes the Bride
by M.C. Beaton
Genre: cozy mystery
Series:  Agatha Raisin
Pages:  277
Rating: ****
   There Goes the Bride is the 20th book (gasp) in the Agatha Raisin Mystery Series.  I picked this book to go along with the mini challenge at Goodreads.  This is the second Agatha Raisin book I have read.
   Before I get into the review, let's give a synopsis of the book.  Agatha finds herself invited to her ex-husbands wedding, to a much younger woman.  Before the bride makes it up the aisle she is murdered.  Of course Agatha has to solve the crime, bringing her own life close to danger...more than once.
   Let me set the record straight.  I love British mysteries.  I spent many hours this summer watching more than a few on DVD this summer.  I love to read them as well.  That stated I must also admit, I was not thrilled about the first Agatha Raisin book that I read, wasn't planning on another.  I was thrilled to change my mind after reading this book.
   If you haven't read an Agatha book let me warn you, she is feisty.  She smokes, she is vain, jealous, and very competitive.  She also seems to have a bad habit for falling for the wrong man.  My guilty pleasure is her iconic curse, which I won't print here (family friendly blog).  Agatha is smart, the books are well written, and the characters are interesting.
   The unusual thing about these books is, the mystery is not solved quickly.  A lot of cozies tidy up the mystery quickly...unrealistically quickly.  Beaton's books cover months and Agatha and her team work on the case, get sidetracked or stalled, and then find a new clue which leads to the solving of the case.  It's not neat, the sleuths get into plenty of trouble.  Which also make it seem more real.
   If you are looking for a lonely (sometimes), chain smoking, and loud sleuth give Agatha Raisin a try.  She is a breath of fresh air.
- Caren

Monday, October 17, 2011


I have just entered my very first writing contest.  I'm so excited, I don't know if want to jump for joy or throw up!

Just wanted to share,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

I am joining the Book Blogger Hop!  It looks like so much fun.  If you are interested go to Crazy for Books (here)

There rules are simple
1.  Must be a book blogger (I am)
2.  Must link back to the primary link (I did)

For October 14-17

Answer this question:  What is your favorite Spooky book?

I must be honest.  I don't do spooky.  I have nightmares :(
BUT... when I was younger I did discover Edgar Allen Poe.  Don't laugh.  If you haven't read Edgar in awhile (or ever) try it.  My favorite is the Tell Tale Heart.  That beating heart freaks me out every time.  Murders in the Rue Morgue is another freaky favorite.  Ole' Edgar was brilliant in his word choice and flow(?)  Anyway, he sweeps you up and locks you into the story.  They are so bizarre and frightening.

So join in the fun at the Book Blogger Hop

Sweet, Little Book

Giovanni's Light
by Phyllis Theroux

genre:  fiction
pages: 114
rating: ***1/2

Sometimes you want to read a little book.  Something light, I usually tend to head for the small Christmas gift books.  That's what led me to Giovanni's Light.  I didn't read the blurb on the cover.  I could tell it was about Christmas and figured it would be a nice, easy read.  I write.

Product DetailsGiovanni's Light, is about a small town named Ryland Falls.  The town is in the process of getting ready for Christmas when a massive snowfall blankets the town.  This put all normal activity on hold, and forces people to stay inside.  Obviously, things no longer go as planned.

It is a sweet little book, a little sappy at the end.  But I really enjoyed it.  I don't want to give too much away.  The people in town are set in their ways, and do not see what they truly have.  The snowstorm makes them pause and notice what they have forgotten.  Each person learns something and in turn receives a "gift".  It's all very Norman Rockwell.

This is a great book to give at Christmas in a stocking for an avid reader.  It would also be a good book to read around the Christmas Season.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm in Love.....

Those of you who have been reading my rants know I have taken a break from reading mysteries.  A difficult break.  I have started several books and set them aside before reaching chapter 2.  Thankfully that streak has ended!

Dolci di Love
By Sarah-Kate Lynch

Genre: chick-lit, fiction
Pages: 309
Rating:  ****1/2
Favorite quote: " Their absence had just sapped the pant-peeing happiness right out of her."

   I love this book.  I stayed up late last night to finish it.  This morning I struggled with the rating.  It was not a literary masterpiece in the ranks of JRR Tolkien, but it was a wonderful book.  One I would gladly run out and buy to read again.  (A rarity for me, I am a library girl.)  So what is it about?
   It is a tale of love, broken hearts, forgiveness, and widows.  To make it even better it is set in Tuscany.  Lily is married to Daniel.  They have a problem that has caused them to grow apart, sort of.  Daniel travels to Italy a lot.  There he has another family. Lily finds out about it and flies to Tuscany to confront him.  Things don't work out as she plans.  Telling anymore would just take all the fun out of the book.
Dolci di Love   I love this book for many reasons.  One being is the language is funny.  Lynch weaves in Italian words with phrases like pant-peeing happiness and tipsy tourism (which by the way sounds fun).  She takes a story that could be very heavy and sad, and makes it bittersweet (yes), but also very funny.  Like life things don not always go as planned.  Events and people get in our way, sometimes that is for the best.
   The star(s) of this book is Violetta, Luciana, and the other members of the Secret League of Widowed Darners.  A group of very old widows trying to mend the brokenhearted.  I have realized I love a book with old ladies.  They are smart, witty, and have a wealth of experience to share.  Not to mention they add comic relief, especially here.  I'm pretty sure this group of ladies could form a coup if they so chose.
   Dolci di Love, has a cast of well formed characters, great writing, and a heart tugging story.  I loved every inch of this book.  Grab a copy now and read it.
- Caren

Monday, October 10, 2011

Author Q&A

I just love it when I get to quiz an author.  I am always interested in how a story, or series, starts and becomes a book.  This is the first time I was able to get in at the beginning.  Mitzi Kelly is the author of Classic Revenge.  I recently wrote a review on her first book, check it out here.  It is a cozy mystery and the start of a series.  This is also the first time I was able to read the first in a series, before another book was published!  So exciting.  Without further ado...

1. Since you mix characteristics from people you know, has anyone claimed to be one of your characters?

            Yes, and it’s so much fun!  I love it when someone relates to the characters and mentions they have done or said something similar.  Quite a few of the people I know will look at me suspiciously and ask “Did you create Edna (or one of the other characters) after me?”  What is so thrilling is when someone sees themselves in all three of the characters!

2. Why did you choose senior citizens to be your sleuths? (I love the name of the series Silver Sleuths)

            I felt that older women would bring so much fun into the amateur sleuth genre.  They have so much life experience that can be drawn from and their attitudes and the action can be flexible and unpredictable.  Older women can get away with anything! 

3. Being a mystery writer, do you find yourself daydreaming of ways to kill your characters?

            Sounds like a horrible way to pass the time, doesn’t it?  But, yes, there are times when I let my mind drift and play the ‘what if’ game with different murder scenarios.  What is fascinating is that almost every murder you can think of can be woven into a Silver Sleuths plot.  Given the right place and the right time, these three women can stick their noses into a sudden crime of passion murder or into a premeditated, evil murder.

4. I love the character of Millie. How much time, before writing, do you spend developing your characters?

            Actually, I don’t spend a lot of time before I start writing in the development of the characters.  I write down some basic characteristics such as appearance, age, and history as a guide, but it’s during the storytelling that my characters really become real.  They tell me what they want to do and say!

5. How long did it take to write "Classic Revenge"? After writing it, how long did it take to find a publisher?

            It took approximately nine months to write Classic Revenge but I wasn’t able to work on it exclusively.  I had a full time job and I’ve always helped my husband in his business.  Once it was completed I submitted it to Avalon Books.  They responded in a few months and then that process took about a year before it was officially released.   

6. I understand book 2 is coming out. What is the title? Can you give us a small blurb on the plot?

            Deadly Policy will be released in April, 2012.  In this book, Millie’s daughter, Michelle, is under suspicion for releasing private information to a car theft ring which leads to murder.  It becomes obvious that this is an inside job and as office manager for the insurance company that seems targeted in the car thefts, Michelle seems the likely culprit.  When the ladies begin to investigate, however, they never dream that the real perpetrators are so evil and dangerous.  Their crime-solving ability is severely tested but they plug right along in an effort to help Michelle, and to prove to the official investigators that their knack for solving crimes isn’t just a fluke!

7. When you are not writing, how do you spend your time?

            My husband and I recently built a new home and I spend a lot of time on ‘projects’ around the house and yard.  I also enjoy weekly lunch dates with my girlfriends and playing with our five dogs while trying to convince them they are not four-legged humans.

I can't wait for book 2, those silver sleuths are a hoot.   Now, this was the 2nd Q&A with an author, that I have been a part of.   What sort of questions do YOU think would be fun to ask an author?