Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Garden Plot (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: The Garden Plot
Author
: Marty Wingate
Publication Information: Alibi, Random House, 2014, ISBN 978-0-8041-7770-2 (ebook original)
Genre: Mystery     Setting:  England
Plot: 50ish Pru Parke has always dreamed of living in England, her mother’s country, so after a failed relationship, she moves from Dallas to London hoping to get permanent work as professional gardener.  Giving herself a year to find a full time position, Pru makes ends meet through small projects so is pleased when she is hired by Vernona Wilson to tidy up a garden.  But when Pru finds a body in the garden shed, she is plunged into a police investigation.  Although intrigued by Detective Chief Inspector Pearse, Pru can’t help following up a few leads on her own, even though the handsome detective warns her she might put herself in danger…

Audience: Anglophiles, gardening fans and fans of cozy mysteries.  Remember that you don't need to own a Kindle to read an ebook.

What I liked: This is a charming debut mystery with an appealing heroine whose melancholy is understandable in someone basically alone in the world and living in a new city.  One yearns for Pru to alleviate her loneliness by making more friends, and DCI Pearse’s interest seems like more than enough reason for Pru to extend her sojourn in England.  There aren’t a lot of books about women of a certain age which is another plus for what I hope is the beginning of a new series.

Each chapter begins with a letter declining her services from one of the gardening positions Pru has applied for – I wish my job rejections were that funny (not that Pru is amused).

What I disliked:  I know a plot involving an amateur sleuth requires that she pursue her curiosity but I get tired of heroines who withhold information from the police and gratuitously put themselves in danger. It works better if there is some plausible reason other than pique to pursue leads on one’s own.   This was a good read although the whodunnit seemed a bit obvious.

Source: I received this book from TLC Book Tours (via the publisher and NetGalley) and urge you to stop by the Garden Plot tour.   This tour includes a giveaway for a Grand Prize of a $30 egiftcard to the ebook retailer of the winner's choice, and a First Prize Mystery Prize Pack of three mystery mass market paperbacks and a gardening title from Random House.
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The Garden Plot Tour
 Monday, April 28th:  5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, April 30th:  Reading Reality
Thursday, May 1st:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, May 5th:  From the TBR Pile
Monday, May 5th:  Kelly’s France Blog 
Wednesday, May 7th:  A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, May 8th:  Bibliotica
Monday, May 12th: Under a Gray Sky
Wednesday, May 14th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, May 15th: Joyfully Retired
Friday, May 16th:  Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, May 20th:  Serendipity Reviews
Wednesday, May 21stMom in Love with Fiction
Thursday, May 22nd:  Stitch Read Cook
Thursday, May 29thNo More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, May 12, 2014

Northanger Abbey (Book Review)

Publication Information: Harper Collins, Hardcover, 2014
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 21st century Scotland
Plot:  Giddy teenager Cat Morland, a minister’s daughter, is invited to accompany affluent and generous neighbors, the Allens, to Edinburgh for the Festival.  Homeschooled and naive, Cat has spent more time obsessing over Twilight than preparing for a career.  She longs for drama and adventure and finds both when she makes two friends: vivacious Isabella Thorpe and charming Henry Tilney, a young lawyer who teaches her how to dance.  She is fascinated by Henry and his sister Ellie, but is distracted from pursuing their acquaintance by the unexpected arrival of her brother James, who is involved with Isabella.  Thrown into the constant company of Isabella’s obnoxious brother John, Cat has difficulty extricating herself from his boorishness and possessive John tries to scare away the Tilneys.  As in the source, Cat is invited to visit the mysterious Northanger Abbey, and is welcomed by General Tilney, then unexpectedly sent home in disgrace, left to wonder if any of her new friends cares enough about her to follow her back to Dorset.  

Audience: This book is part of a project commissioned by Harper Collins in which six noted authors will recreate Austen’s work in contemporary settings.  Purists may object but I think casual fans of Austen and GeorgetteHeyer, as well as those who are reading/buying all the Austen imitations will enjoy it and appreciate some of the twists McDermid concocts.  It is still a comedy of manners to some extent, as well as a coming of age story, and the reader can't help but sympathize with Cat's growing pains.
What I liked: The original Northanger Abbey is a parody, and McDermid pokes fun at the craze for Twilight as Austen did with the gothic bestsellers of her day (there is one clever bit where John makes fun of a fantasy series Cat likes and she silences him by revealing the author contributed to a video game John plays).  Northanger Abbey is not one of my favorite Austens so in many ways I felt that McDermid’s reworking was an improvement on the original and I raced through it with great enjoyment. 

Yet it seems just as much as waste of McDermid’s talent as Joanna Trollope’s in Sense & Sensibility, as I observed recently (although it is also a way to expand one's audience).  McDermid’s writing is usually dark and angst-ridden; here, she is arch, and this book is memorable primarily because of its inspiration (although the characters are well done, particularly Isabella – everyone has just such a friend who seems charming until one realizes she never listens or cares about anything but herself). Of course, while I like McDermid’s crime novels, it was relaxing to read this and know no one was going to be tortured or raped!  In addition, the descriptions of Edinburgh were very appealing and my desire to visit is even stronger now: the Edinburgh Festival sounds like so much fun.

Source: I got this from the library, and despite my quibbles I look forward to reading other forthcoming books in this series.