Friday, August 19, 2016

ARROWOOD (2016)


ArrowoodArrowood by Laura McHugh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's been months since I felt like reading with being sick and in the hospital. ARROWOOD was a perfect reintroduction to feeling normal again. It had all the elements I love in a gothic mystery: an old house, a creepy groundskeeper, and unsolved family secrets.

THE FIRST LINE: "I used to play a game where I imagined that someone had abandoned me in a strange, unknown place and I had to find my way back home."

THE STORY: Arden Arrowood was playing outside with her baby twin sisters when they disappeared forever. All these years later, she still holds out hope that they are alive somewhere. The man who was imprisoned has maintained his innocence.

Now Arden is returning to her childhood home to try to put her life back together. The house, the neighbors, and the community all know parts of the past that can solve the puzzle.

WHAT I THOUGHT: After having read Laura McHugh's first mystery, the excellent The Weight of Blood, I was excited to read this second book. Without spoiling anything, I have to say that there were several places that I found hard to accept. Things happened that should have made the heroine run screaming and didn't. On the other hand, I did enjoy reading the book, my first read after emerging from a difficult medical summer. So thank you, Laura McHugh. You got me reading again!

BOTTOM LINE: Suspend disbelief and just enjoy a great gothic story.

Title: Arrowood
Author: Laura Hughes
Genre: Gothic Mystery
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 288
Copyright: August 9, 2016
ISBN-10: 0812996399
ISBN-13: 978-0812996395

Disclaimer: An advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book was provided to me by Net Galley for an honest review.

Laura McHugh is the author of The Weight of Blood, winner of an International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel and a Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel: Literary Suspense. The Weight of Blood was named a Best Book of the Year by BookPage, the Kansas City Star, and the Sunday Times (UK), and was also nominated for an Alex Award, Barry Award, and GoodReads Choice Award (Best Mystery and Best Debut). Her second novel, Arrowood, will be published in 2016.

A lifelong Midwesterner, McHugh lives in Missouri with her husband and children.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

DEATH AT THE DAY LILY CAFE (2016)


Death at the Day Lily CafeDeath at the Day Lily Cafe by Wendy Sand Eckel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year about this time Minotaur sent me an ARC (advanced reading copy) of Wendy Sand Eckel's first cozy mystery Murder at Barclay Meadow. As it turned out, I was one of the first people to review the book and I loved it.

You can imagine my excitement when Death at the Day Lily Cafe showed up in my mailbox, and I am glad to say that it a worthy second adventure for Rosalie Hart!

THE STORY: Rebuilding her life, divorcee Rosalie Hart is opening a cafe on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and serving tempting organic food. Of course, it doesn't take any time at all before her good friend Doris asks Rosalie to help clear her little sister of a first degree murder charge.

Nobody much liked Carl James Fiddler, so there are lots of suspects for Rosalie and her friends to investigate.

When Rosalie's daughter gets caught up in the investigation, things get serious.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Although you don't have to read the first book to enjoy this one, I would because you are going to want to read each book in the series.

Charming, quirky characters the reader cares about surround Rosalie. The location is seductive and you will want to jump in the car and drive down to the Day Lily Cafe to hang out, have a brownie, and an espresso. The menus discussed and the recipes included are an added enjoyment.

Extra points for changing the name of an adopted cat who kills birds from Sweetie Pie to Todd (short for Sweeney Todd).

The story is told first person and sprinkled with clever jokes and allusions to popular culture. If you get them, it's fun. If you don't, it doesn't spoil the story.

Wendy Sand Eckel's writing and storytelling is intelligent and funny. I just wish Rosalie was my best friend and I lived close enough to stop by . I think all readers will feel the same way.

BOTTOM LINE: Any story that includes scrapple is a winner for me. A most worthy entry in this cozy mystery series. The book will be released on July 26, 2016.

Title: Murder at Barclay Meadow
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 288
Copyright: July 26, 2016
ISBN-10: 1250058619
ISBN-13: 978-1250058614

Disclaimer: An advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book was provided to me by the publisher Minotaur for an honest review.

"WENDY SAND ECKEL is a psychotherapist who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, where she enjoys her family, multiple pets, and life on the water. Murder at Barclay Meadow is her first novel." (AMAZON)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

MY RANDOM INTRO FOR ARMCHAIR BEA


Is there an award for being the oldest blogger? There should be. I'm approaching 71.


My earliest memories are of my grandfather, who lived with us after my grandmother died, reading OZ books to me. Although he was actually my step-grandfather, he had raised my father and was probably responsible for the 21 OZ books in my father’s collection. By the time I inherited them, two generations had colored the illustrations and the bindings were falling apart.

Books were everywhere in our home. I bragged that I could find a book on any topic the teacher assigned that would at least get me started on my report. And then there was the library.

I don’t remember ever going to the library with my Mother. It was always my father and he had a very distinctive browsing style. It included the entire collection of our Philadelphia branch library. Sadly it no longer exists.

Questions:

1. What is the name you prefer to use? My grandmother insisted that my mother name me Dorothy, which was my mother's name; but from the day I was born I was called Annie. However, no thanks to the TSA and Homeland Security, I am Dorothy in all official capacities. My friends and family still call me Ann or Annie.


2. How long have you been a book blogger? I retired from a lovely library career in 2007 and immediately started my retirement book blog because books have always been a part of my life. (I have notebooks of everything I have read going back many, many years.)

3. Have you participated in ABEA before? You can check out my 2013 Introduction.

More Questions:

1. Do you have a favorite book? The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I read it at least once a year.

2. What is your favorite genre and why? I tend to read mysteries and psychological thrillers interspersed with something more literary or educational to assuage my guilt.

3. If you could recommend one other book blogger, who would it be and why? This is the blog I want to write when I grow up. It's professional, helpful, interesting, and visually appealing. Beth Fish Reads - Reading, Thinking, Photographing

5. If you could create a playlist that reflects your bookshelf, what would be the first song you choose?  Alexander Hamilton

7. What book are you most excited for on your TBR? What are you most intimidated by?

Theresa Rebeck, an American playwright, has written several novels and was responsible for the television show Smash among others. I loved her two earlier books so I am looking forward to I'm Glad About You.

I've started reading Alice Dreger's Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and one Scholar's Search for Justice. She is an American bioethicist, author, and former professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. I am totally intimidated. I feel like I have to take notes.


Armchair BEA 2016


Until I get my questions for 2016 finished, please feel free to read what I wrote in 2013. What am I Doing Here?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

HAMILTON (2016)



Do you have your copy yet? If not, read more HERE.

FALLING IN LOVE (2015)


Falling in Love (Commissario Brunetti, #24)Falling in Love by Donna Leon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coming full circle, Falling in Love features opera singer Flavia Petrelli who appeared in book one of this twenty-four book series. What readers appreciate in Donna Leon's series is the character of Commissario Guido Brunetti and his relationship with his family, colleagues, and Venice.

Flavia is back in Venice to sing the lead role in Tosca but someone is sending her flowers. Too many flowers. That have shown up in too many places.

I don't know much about opera but I do understand performing and a bit about singing so I found the story engaging.

An earlier review of another title in the series, A Sea of Troubles (2001) was also lukewarm.

ENTRY ISLAND (2015)


Entry IslandEntry Island by Peter May
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peter May paints pictures with words to bring the reader into the world he has created. I started reading Entry Island expecting a modern day police procedural and was surprised to find the historical fiction aspect.

THE STORY: A murder has taken place on a small island off the coast of Quebec. Sime McKenzie finds himself assigned to the investigation team because the hundred or so people who live on Entry Island speak English not French.

What first appears as an open and shut case, takes an unexpected turn when Sime interviews the suspect and feels that he knows her.

Plagued by insomnia since his divorce, Sime's few hours of sleep contain vivid dreams composed of stories he heard as a child about his ancestor's life in Scotland.

WHAT I THOUGHT: My first Peter May book was The Blackhouse, part one of The Lewis Trilogy (The Lewis Man, The Chessmen). I always intended to read the other two books so when Entry Island appeared, I assumed it would be similar and, of course, in some ways it is.

Entry Island begins as a police procedural and morphs into historical fiction creating an engaging pastiche through the use of Sime's dreams and ancestral journals.

This may not appeal to all readers; but for those of us with roots in Scotland, who love journals, islands, and literate mysteries, it's a wonderful adventure.

The human characters are interesting and well-drawn but the most care is taken with the locations. Vivid word illustrations cause the reader to remember times they saw such a sunset or storm on the horizon. I found myself searching for pictures of the island on the internet. As much as I enjoyed the descriptive language, I sometimes had to force myself not to skip over it in pursuit of the story.

Obviously much research goes into May's works so there is the added pleasure of learning something new. The terror of the Highland Clearances in the 19th century resonates. My Mackay's left from Wick to come to Canada and eventually the United States around this time.

Although told in the third person, Sime's memories, dreams, and journal entries are told in the first person. Some reviewers pointed out the language was modern throughout. To that and some of the other criticisms, I would say forget your expectations (suspension of disbelief) and follow where the author leads you. You will have much more fun!

And I should admit that I was moved to tears many times. Peter May is gifted storyteller. You need to add his name to your list of authors to follow.

FIRST SENTENCE: "It is evident from the way the stones are set into the slope of the hill that industrious hands once toiled to make this pathway."

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who love language, police procedurals, and historical fiction.

DISCLAIMER: Invited by NetGalley to request and receive this title for an honest review.

Title: Entry Island
Author: Peter May
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Publisher:  Quercus
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 544 pages
Copyright: September 15, 2015
ISBN-10: 162365663X
ISBN-13:  978-1623656638

Peter May is the multi award-winning author of:

  • the internationally best-selling Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland;
  • the China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell;
  • the critically-acclaimed Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France;
  • and several standalone books, including the multi award-winning Entry Island (January 2014, Quercus UK) and his latest Runaway (Quercus 2015).

He has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer. Born and raised in Scotland he lives in France. (from the author's web site)