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.