Monday, January 30, 2012

Move over Indiana...

The Explorer's Code
Kitty Pilgrim

genre:  suspense, thriller
pages:  358
rating: ****

The Explorer's Code is a suspense/thriller that follows Cordelia Stapelton and archeologist John Sinclair cross the globe in search of a land deed left to Cordelia.  Of course, religious zealots and the Russian mob also want the deed and are willing to kill anyone that steps in their way.

The Explorer's CodeSounds cool huh.  Well, it is.  At first the narative was a little dry and unemotional.  It took a while to get past that.  I also felt lke Sinclair was patronizing, instead of concerned.  These were the only problems I had with the book.

The plot was well written and fast paced.  There was more than one time I wondered how our heros were going to get out of a mess.  Each time the pair found a clue to the location of the deed, the Russians were on their tail.  I didn't know who was a good guy and who was a villian.  Spy's aren't very trustworthy!  The locations were amazing,  London, Monaco, Turkey, and Norway, and the amount of research must have been enormous. I really enjoyed the sections on the Flu Pandemic of 1918 and wish the author had spent more time on that.   It has an element of armchair traveling, I'm sure I will never make it to Ephesus.

The Explorer's Code, has a little of everything: spy's, arctic exploration, desiese, archeology, subnmarines, supermodels, family secrets and tragedy's.  358 pages full of excitment.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Secret Life of Nancy Drew...

Confessions of a Teen Sleuth
Chelsea Cain

genre:  parody, mystery, Nancy Drew
pages: 160
rating: ***1/2

I must confess...I have never read a Nancy Drew book.  Ahhhhhh!  I know I know.  I love mysteries, but I have never read one of her books.  They always seemed old to me. Yet, both of my daughter's love Nancy Drew.  I don't know, I don't get it.  But, when I saw this book at the library, it looked too good to pass up.

'Confessions of a Teen Sleuth'Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, is a parody on the Nancy Drew series.  It is divided into ten chapters, or short stories.  Each with a name reminiscent of a Drew title.  It starts in 1926 and concludes in 1992, that's a lot of time to sleuth.  The basis is that the Nancy Drew books were written by Carolyn Keene, Nancy's college roommate.  Carolyn got most of her facts wrong and that prompted Nancy to write her memoirs, Confessions of a Teen Sleuth.  More than one famous teen detective makes an appearance in this book.

I really enjoyed this book, as far as the plot.  I don't want to give too much away.  There are lots of surprises about Nancy's life.  It's slightly irreverent, which I liked.  The writing is very well done, but it is written like the old Nancy Drew books.  It had an 'old' feel to it.  That I didn't enjoy.  It was a lot of fun reading stories with the Hardy Boys, those were eye opening, Trixie Belden's daughter, and Encyclopedia Brown.  I was a huge Brown fan growing up.  That was the best part.  Reading about series characters, in a different book, like they were real people.

If you want a fun quick read give Confessions of a Teen Sleuth a try.  It's a hoot.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soon to be Released

Time and Again: Charlotte of Miles Station
Deborah Heal

Genre: Fiction, I think it's YA or Middle reader, Christian
Pages: 252
Rating: ***

I was sent a free copy of this book from the author.  The review is an honest opinion and my personal opinion.

Time and Again: Charlotte of Miles Station, is a story within a story.  At first you have a college student, Abby, going to a rural area in Illinois to tutor an 11 year old girl, Merrideth.  Merrideth is going through a difficult time.  She has recently moved from Chicago and her parents have gotten a divorce.  There's more going on there, but I won;t give it away.  Abby is young, naive, and a bit idealistic.  She tries to get her young charge interested in her studies.   The pair discover a computer program that has the story of there little village and the original owners of their house.  That's 160 years ago! Is it real or is it virtual reality?  Read the book to find out. 

Timeandagain_frontcoverI enjoyed reading Time and Again.  The plot was interesting and the story flowed well.  I liked the characters and how history was brought to life.  I enjoyed the Christian themes that flowed beneath the surface.  You won't be slapped in the face with religion.  I think girls between the ages of 11 and 16 would probably enjoy this book.

 I just didn't like it as much as I wanted too.  I think my problem was I thought the book was a 'grownup' book, it was only labeled as fiction.  The writer may have told me it was something else, but I don't remember.  Anyway, there were a few places where the writing was not as tight as it could have been.  I'm not a professional so, take that with a grain of salt.

Basically, it's a good book.  An interesting concept with a moral and historical lesson to teach.  More appropriate for middle readers and above.  Give it a go, it's a good read.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Guest Post: Thea Atkinson

The bedrock of family and fiction

Thea Atkinson

My Grandmother was a war bride. I never really understood what that meant as a kid. I assumed it meant she'd left her country to marry a man she'd met during the war. And it does. It does mean that. But I've realized over the years that it means so much more.

 I learned during my early school days that the province I call home: Nova Scotia means New Scotland. Because of the heritage of this long strip of land surrounded on three sides by Atlantic ocean, it's named for my grandmother's home. I imagine that despite her love for her new beau, it must have given her some pause, some sense of comfort and security, that she'd be moving to a place that would seem like her own home. The name must have taken some of the fear away.

She'd seen hardship in Glasgow. I know this. I imagine the hardships she faced were even more daunting here if only because the support system we all take for granted was gone. She had no family to run to when she and her new husband fought. She had no mother to coddle her when she nursed her first born and struggled with trying to figure out what it meant to be a mother, how to make formula, change diapers, calm the squalling in the middle of the night. She had no friends to relieve the stressful hours with chitchat over a hot cup of tea.

And she had no one to turn to when she and this new husband realized they'd made a mistake.

I think she went home once, packed up my mother and rode the waves back to Scotland. I wonder what they thought of her back there: was she a failure, were they excited to see her? She had brothers who I don't doubt would have torn my grandfather limb from limb if they'd been able to get hold of him. (what brother wouldn't feel such fierce protectiveness over a hurt sister? See: my blog post about my own brothers)

But she returned to Nova Scotia and she stayed here. My mom tells me stories of her walking home from work in the winter. They had no car and 'work' was 10 kms away, in the town. I think of the 10km drive from my house to my work and it takes 15 minutes. What must it have been like to walk to work everyday, work, and then walk home, hoping for a ride. So you can feed a family, put clothes on your three girls' backs?

I only know that in the story, my grandmother's nylons are torn and holey in places. Her shoes are soaked. She's wet and cold from the snow. I take snow in the winter for granted. I just assume the snowfall is going to be a foot high with temperatures below freezing and a wind chill that gains fierceness from the Atlantic air. In Scotland, the average precipitation is 9cm in January. The average low temperature is 1degree.

In the story, my grandmother doesn't complain. Just hangs her threadbare coat behind the stove and asks for a good hot cup of tea.

That hardy Scots will, I suppose, as hard as the brogue that never left her despite living in an area where English and Acadian French mix to form an odd sort of accent that most folks in my area call Fringlish. How she must have stood out in that.

What kept her here, I don't know, but I imagine it had to do with family. Her new family. Those three girls married and had kids of their own. Her grandchildren--my brother and I especially--practically lived there. We ate pizza late at night in her bed and watched The Rockford Files. She made me Koolaid and told me tales of Nessie and Robbie Burns.

Is it any wonder I've remained fascinated with Scotland?

 Although  Throwing Clay Shadows is not about my grandmother, it's set on the Isle of Eigg, Scotland, during the 1800s, where my genealogical line travels. I've always wanted to visit, and some day I might, but I do know I go there often in my thoughts and dreams.

There's some slight paranormal within, but not enough to call this a paranormal novel.

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction; call it what you will: she prefers to describe her work as psychological thrillers with a distinct literary flavour. As in her bestselling novel, Anomaly, her characters often find themselves in the darker edges of their own spirits but manage to find the light they seek.

She has been an editor, a freelancer, and a teacher, but fiction is her passion. She now blogs and writes and twitters. Not necessarily in that order.

Please visit her blog for ramblings, guest posts, giveaways, and more

or follow her on twitter!/theaatkinson

or like her facebook page:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Positive Thinking...

Ann's Amazing Adventure
by Jeanetta Brancaccio
Illustrated by Sara Petrous
Edited by Anne Christiano

genre: Picture book
pages: 52
ages: 8-12
rating: ***1/2

I received this book from the author.  This is an honest review with my personal opinion of the book.

First off I have recently received several self published books and have been impressed by their quality.  Kudos to those that self publish.  Secondly, I get a kick out of the nice bookmarks that go with the books.  This one came with a silly band attached to the bookmark.  My kids ran off with that as soon as they saw it!

Book Cover - Ann's Amazing Adventure
Ann's Amazing Adventure, is a story about a doll named Ann who is loved by a little girl.  On a trip Ann falls out of the car and gets left behind.  She is quickly found by a dog and another little girl.  Ann learns how to adapt to the differences of her previous life and her new life.  She wants more than anything to return to her her first little girl.  Amazing things happen at the end...

This is a sweet little story.  The pictures remind me of paper dolls.  I liked the story.  It has a very positive message.  Always have hope and stay positive.  Ann has to adapt to the loss of her little girl and then finding a new little girl, but her life is different than what she had.  Change is constant and Ann shows a positive image of dealing with change.

I did find the story a little long and simplistic.  That said my girls, age 7 and 9, loved the book and have read it several times.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Move over Sherlock...

Dangerous to Know
Tasha Alexander

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Pages: 306
Series: Lady Emily Series #5
Favorite Quote: "I wanted to cheer when she thoroughly schooled that man."
Rating: *****

Have you ever read a book where you loved the characters and the writing so much you wanted to live there?  I must admit I love this series.  It's only one of two book series I have read almost every book.  I haven't read the first one yet, and there's another one coming out this year.  If your read this Mrs. Alexander I would love an advanced copy.  OK let's get started.

DTKpbcover1Dangerous to Know, has Lady Emily and Colin resting in Normandy, at his mother's house, after their dangerous honeymoon in Turkey.  Of course, the pair can not stay out of trouble.  Emily finds the mutilated body of a young woman.  It appears to be similar to Jack the Ripper.  Emily is under stress and has a disapproving mother-in-law, as well as being told to limit her help in the investigation.  Danger and ghosts abound as they travel Normandy in search of a killer.

There's so much that goes on in this book it's amazing.  As usual the writing is witty and the characters are vivid.  I don't know who I love more the terribly charming thief Sebastian or the loyal and brilliant Colin.  Do I have to choose?  The love of Emily and Colin set the page on fire without being explicit.  Emily is smart and joy to read.

If you want to read a book that doesn't insult your intelligence and has a smart leading lady, give this one a try.  I highly recommend it.


Monday, January 9, 2012

A Dog Tale...or Tail.....

Ok I have quite a few book review coming up.  It's amazing how people send you a book if you are willing to give an honest review.  I'm shocked.  I love to read.  It's just so much fun.  Today's book is one of those books.

By Craig Inglis
Illustrated by Richard Kinsey

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Pages: 36
Rating:  ****
I was provided a copy of Lucky by the writer.  This review is an honest review consisting of my opinion of the book.

Hot off the presses!  I don't think I've ever read a book this new.
First let me get his out of the way.  Why are all 3 legged dogs named Lucky?  Okay, I just needed to say that.

Lucky is the tale of a man who wants a dog.  After searching he finds a cute little terrier he names 'Lucky'.  The man teaches Lucky tricks and they have lots of fun.  Until Lucky is hit by a car.  The accident causes Lucky to lose a leg. The man loves Lucky and ....

I don't want to spoil the ending for you, but I will tell you there is a happy ending!  I pulled this book out of the mailbox this afternoon and promptly sat down on the sofa with the kids to read it.  They are 7 and 9.  Both enjoyed the story and laughed at the pictures.  Lucky is a cute little dog and the drawings give him a fun personality.  The story is about overcoming adversity, especially a disability.  A great message for kids who are learning to deal with difficult situations.  The illustrations are funny with little details added.  For instance the doggy doctor has the title of 'Cool dog doc' on his scrubs. 

I enjoyed the book.  It was a simple and sweet.  The kids laughed as we read it, bonus points for that.

Happy Reading

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas Again...

Kissing Christmas Goodbye
M.C. Beaton

Genre: Cozy mystery, British
Series:  Agatha Raisin
Pages: 234
Rating: ****

I promise this is the last Christmas book... for a while anyway.  It was sitting on my TBR pile and I had to read it.  Being an Agatha Raisin mystery it's not very Christmasy.

Cover of Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M.C. BeatonKissing Christmas Goodbye, finds Agatha searching for another murderer.  This time she recruits a new, young detective named Toni to join her team.  Agatha receives a letter from an elderly lady that claims one of her children is trying to kill her.  Agatha is invited to a dinner party to meet the suspects when the unthinkable happens.  The old lady is killed.  Agatha and her team must find the killer, before Agatha is killed too.  All of this happens while she is planning the perfect Christmas dinner, again.

You have to love Agatha Raisin.  She's middle aged, chain smoking,  and cranky.  I won't tell you her favorite curse, but it's a hoot.  She's still chasing her ex husband and now she's jealous of the youth of Toni.  Agatha is flawed and perfect.  The great hing about these books is they actually seam real.  They are solved over months instead of a mere days.  It's a fun read.  Oh!  who knew you could own a village!  Can I have one.

Love it you gotta read it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Fish Tale....

Coral Reefs
Jason Chin

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Pages: 40
Age: 5 and up
Rating: *****

I'm a sucker for a good picture book.  I try to pass it off on my kids.  I walk into the children's library, during the school day so I can actually look, and tell the librarian I 'm looking for something for my kids.  They know my girls so I  pretend that I could actually pick something out they would read.  The reality is they only read books they pick out, and I'm looking for a book for myself.  It could be worse. 
I am particularly attracted to picture books that are centered on the ocean or beach.  We live with in a few hours of an amazing beach, so I love the beach.  Therefore I enjoy books about the ocean.  That's what attracted me to Coral Reefs.  Actually, Coral Reefs, combines two of my favorite things.

Coral Reefs is a picture book about coral reefs.  It starts with a little girl looking through the book Coral Reefs in her library.  As she reads about reefs, and the animals that live there, a reef begins to form around her.  The book talks about the how reefs are formed and the animals that live there.  It mentions  life cycles and food webs, and in the back talks about how we can help save the reefs from pollution.

Coral ReefsCoral Reefs, is educational and beautiful.  The writing is crisp and to the point.  It delivers a eco-friendly message that is fact based.  The art work is breathtakingly beautiful.  Once the story is read, hours can be spent looking at the pictures and discovering new fish that were not seen the first time around.  The inside covers are covered with animal drawings and labeled.  So, if like me you find a fish you like, you can look on the inside cover to find what it is.  I don't know if all the fish are listed but a good many are. 

Bottom line:  It's a beautiful book to read and share with a child....or a grownup.