Sunday, May 14, 2017

H is for Hawk (Book Review)

Title: H is for Hawk
Author: Helen Macdonald
Publication: Grove Press, 2014, Hardcover
Genre: Memoir/Nature
Plot: When Helen Macdonald unexpectedly loses her father, the only way she can endure her grief is to take on the challenge of training a goshawk, using a little known book by the author of The Once and Future King as her guide and retreating from friends and colleagues to an isolated cottage, where she can immerse herself in falconry – and where she becomes as feral as the creature she is trying to tame.

Audience: As this book was a bestseller in England and America, the audience must consist of more than just hawking aficionados. I have no doubt that the striking cover helped attract attention initially but the reviews were fairly rhapsodic.

My Impressions: My friend Maria chose this book for our book group last month. Given that at least three of us had recently lost our fathers, I thought it was timely, and like any history major I had always had an appreciation for a good hawk. However, it was much more raw and miserable than I was expecting. There were really three different stories within the story: 1) Helen’s sense of incredible loss at the unexpected death of her father; 2) Helen’s irrational belief that training a goshawk is the logical way to overcome her terrible grief; and 3) a depiction of author T. H. White, best known for his book, The Once and Future King, which inspired the musical Camelot, who also trained a hawk and (reluctantly) published a memoir about his efforts. Helen is obsessed with White’s book although he was not disciplined enough to follow the rules about hawk training so was doomed to failure; thus, is not a good role model.
Author with Mabel
Helen admired her father, a photographer capable of infinite patience to get the image he sought, and who was a self-taught historian with quirky interests such as photographing every bridge on the Thames in his spare time. One gets the sense that he encouraged her childhood obsession with hawks while her mother merely put up with it (others in my book group felt she had a bad relationship with her mother, but it could have been that she was just much closer to her father). Her belief that training a goshawk is the only way for her to recover from losing him disrupts her career and friendships as she becomes completely obsessed and anti-social, to say the least. As a child, she had read every book about hawking she could find, including White’s own book, The Goshawk (she describes vividly the upper class British falconers who glorified falconry in their 19th century tomes she absorbed that way other English children read Swallows and Amazons). She also read The Sword in the Stone, which my mother read aloud to me and my sister. I vaguely remember a chapter where Merlin turns Wart into a hawk but it did not make the impression on me that it did on Helen.
Helen imagines the life of T. H. White, a prep school teacher who is even more lonely and dysfunctional than Helen herself, as he tries to train his own hawk, several generations earlier. These depictions of his life interrupt her own efforts to train her hawk, Mabel. Her description of his isolation and the unhappy obsession with his own goshawk are convincing but not very appealing. I was actually happier not knowing about his horrific parents and how wretched a human being he was. While I found the concept of the book interesting, a couple chapters would have sufficed, as parts seemed repetitive. While Helen conveys that mastering her hawk is what restored her sanity, it also appeared that interacting with her father’s colleagues at his memorial service helped her regain her ability to interact with humans unrelated to hawking.
Author T. H. White
Source: I got a copy of this book from the Boston Public Library

Thanks for the use of copyrighted images, including the photo of Helen Macdonald from The Independent

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Death at St. Vedast (Book Review)

Title: Death at St. Vedast: Bianca Goddard Mystery #3
Author: Mary Lawrence
Publication: Kensington, Trade Paperback, 2017
Genre: Historical Mystery
Plot: Bianca Goddard is the daughter of a notorious alchemist and was once accused of murder herself in intolerant Tudor England, but does not allow her humble station to prevent her from expressing herself. Recently married to John Grunt, a silversmith’s apprentice who does not appreciate his wife’s outspoken ways, Bianca has moved to a new neighborhood of London with John to advance his career, temporarily putting aside her skill concocting cures and medicines. John and Bianca are welcomed to London by his patron Boisvert, the master silversmith, and Boisvert’s fiancée, Odile Farendon. However, when tragedy strikes, Bianca refuses to keep a low profile and boldly investigates several mysteries that all seem to lead back to their church, St. Vedast.

Audience: Fans of historical mysteries by authors like Fiona Buckley, Ariana Franklin, Kate Sedley

My Impressions: I enjoyed this mystery vividly set in a London that is as full of politics as the nearby court of Henry VIII, although it is not the machinations of Thomas Cromwell at issue but the artisans whose industry fuels a less elegant but equally important role in society. After a slow beginning and despite some difficulty keeping track of the characters initially, the story came together and built to a dramatic climax. I appreciated the way Bianca interacts with minor and major characters, extracting information to solve the mysterious poisonings that have disrupted the community.  Lawrence's portrayal of 1543 London is colorful and provides an interesting contrast to the more frequently depicted scenes of Tudor nobility.

Historical fiction is a tricky undertaking and easy to criticize: if there is too much history, the story can become didactic and dull. Similarly, if the language is too authentic (forsooth!), a modern reader would become impatient. Then you have me, with my former editor eye and my 16th century History and Literature concentration, very critical of anachronisms which I consider a lack of care or failure to properly research one’s historical period. However, Mary Lawrence’s research appeared impeccable to me and reflects hard work, and my only critique is that a woman in Bianca’s position – both as a lowly apprentice’s wife and her apparent notoriety from an earlier book/previous accusation of murder, not to mention her gender – make it very unlikely she could gain the needed entré to conduct the type of investigation necessary to solve this mystery. Still, sometimes a murder mystery requires some suspension of disbelief and despite the above quibbles, I thought Lawrence did a good job of creating a logical path for her sleuth to untangle the mystery but could do without Bianca’s predilection for rats.
Henry VIII is only referred to in this book but I have had a weakness for him since childhood
Source: I obtained a copy of this book from the Minuteman Library System. It is against my usual rule to start a series in the middle but it was not an impediment to enjoying this book although I could not figure out what she sees in her whiny husband.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Slow Burn Cowboy (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: Slow Burn Cowboy, a Copper Ridge Novel
Author: Maisey Yates
Publication: Harlequin paperback, April 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Description: Lane Jensen left her affluent East Coast upbringing behind as a teen and found a home, career, and even a best friend in Copper Ridge, Oregon. She runs a gourmet food store, owns a cozy house, and can call her friend Finn Donnelly whenever there’s an emergency like a mouse or blown fuse. Finn runs the Laughing Irish ranch and has the dark moods and taciturn personality of a romance hero, and has hid his attraction to Lane because of the difference in their ages and the fact that she is his friend’s younger sister. All of this changes when Finn’s grandfather bequeaths the ranch to Finn and his three brothers. All of Finn’s churning emotions finally emerge, forcing him and Lane to face their feelings and determine whether to turn back for safe friendship or test a new and more exciting relationship.

Audience: Fans of contemporary romance series who enjoys authors such as Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Giveway: Enter for a chance to win a copy!   I think this is U.S. only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Impression: I think Fiona Marsden recommended Maisey Yates to me, so I was eager to try the series. This is the second Copper Ridge story I have read and I enjoyed it much more than the first, although had some of the same issues. I liked the fact that Lane and Finn have a long standing best-friend relationship that evolves into romance, and they both care about and understand the other: he listens and empathizes over the secret that has shaped who she is while she is supportive of his reluctant acceptance of his brothers’ arrival. However, in both Slow Burn Cowboy and One Night Charmer, it seemed to be the arrogant male hero who dictates the terms of the romance and I found this annoying. Perhaps I have outgrown these alpha male control freaks and prefer someone more considerate, even in my escapist fiction. When Finn decides he wants to have a sexual relationship with Lane, despite knowing she would want a long term commitment he is unwilling to provide, he puts his feelings first and tries to guilt her into acquiescing. This not the behavior of a best friend, although in romance-world it turns out well. I did enjoy the other inhabitants of Copper Ridge, however, and will probably read subsequent books in this series about Finn’s brothers.

Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes. Please visit TLC Book Tour’s Slow Burn Cowboy blog tour for more:

Tuesday, April 25th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, April 26th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, April 27th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, April 28th: Back Porchervations
Wednesday, May 3rd: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, May 4th: Books and Spoons
Thursday, May 4th: Written Love Reviews
Friday, May 5th: What I’m Reading
Monday, May 8th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Tuesday, May 9th: Books a la Mode – excerpt
Wednesday, May 10th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, May 12th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, May 16th: The Romance Dish
Wednesday, May 17th: Becca the Bibliophile
Friday, May 19th: The Sassy Bookster
Monday, May 22nd: A Splendid Messy Life

Monday, April 17, 2017

All-of-a-Kind Family (book review)

Title: All-of-a-Kind Family
Author: Sydney Taylor
Publication: Dell paperback, originally published in 1951. I was inspired to reread this for the 1951 Club.
Genre: Juvenile fiction, series
Plot: The All-of-a-Kind Family lives on New York’s Lower East Side not long before the outbreak of World War I. Papa is a peddler and Mama manages the home and five daughters as frugally as possible, while promoting their Jewish faith. Ella is the oldest, Henny the boldest, Sarah the thoughtful future writer, and Charlotte and Gertie are the youngest and eat penny candy in bed. The girls share adventures and due to loving parents and a spirit of adventure do not dwell on their poverty or the challenges of living in a crowded tenement. Their enjoyment of activities together and their ability to find fun out of simple tasks such as dusting, shopping, visiting the synagogue on festival days, or even suffering from Scarlet Fever at the same time, is what makes this book and the whole series exceptional, charming, and memorable.

Quiz: Which All-of-a-Kind-Family Sibling are you?

You got: Sarah
There’s no place you’d rather be than the library, except maybe onstage accepting the history prize. Maybe you’ll grow up to write a book about your family history! Sydney Taylor would be proud.

Audience: Children 6-10, as well as fans of historical fiction and series books such as Betsy-Tacy; those interested in Historic Manhattan and/or Jewish family life at the turn of the 20th century. This book has many fans of all ages and religions and was “voted” #55 on Betsy Bird’s top 100 Children’s Novels.

My Impressions: I loved this series growing up and especially identified with Henny, the outspoken daughter who (in a later book) gets into difficulty when she borrows her sister’s best dress without permission. This book begins with Sarah’s lost library book, another memorable incident, because of the girls’ enjoyment of the library and fear that they will lose access because Sarah lent to book to a friend. Miss Allen, the librarian, recognizes that payment for the book would create hardship but also knows the girls’ parents would not accept charity, so she allows Sarah to pay for the book over time. As a child who did not get an allowance, I was fascinated by the girls’ daily penny allowance and the mileage they got out of their pennies – particularly the feast of chocolate babies and broken crackers. Growing up in a Boston neighborhood that was primarily Jewish, I also enjoyed learning about Passover, Purim, and other festivals so meaningful to this family. Taylor makes the point that celebrating the Fourth of July is also important to the All-of-a-Kind family, their parents and friends, and that Papa is friendly with men from other faiths (Italian and Polish peddlers). Taylor also makes it clear that this family is relatively privileged: they have a four room apartment which occupies an entire floor in a two-storied private home.

About 15 or so years ago, the Greater NY Chapter of the Betsy-Tacy Society (which meets regularly), all fans of AoKF, went on a tour of the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, which I highly recommend (I was annoyed that the tour guide did not know about these books, and I thought they should have been for sale in the museum shop.   The first book is now available on their website).  A number of my Jewish friends loved these books because there were few books featuring Jewish children; however, I am Catholic and enjoyed them just as much as they did due to Taylor's incredible storytelling.

About the Author: Sydney Taylor based these books on her childhood and the Sarah character on herself. She was a camp counselor in Long Island (where my dear friend Rachel Rose and her sisters were campers) and probably honed the stories there before turning them into books. After her death, her husband established The Sydney Taylor Book Award which is now awarded annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.  
Source: I read the first three books repeatedly growing up. The first two were oversized Follett hardcovers in my grade school library, shabby from the grasp of many hands. The others were in the Newton library, although Ella was not published early enough for many rereads. I own all five now. Much of my knowledge about Judaism came from Sydney Taylor and Gladys Malvern’s Old Testament historical fiction. If you have never read this series, you have a treat in store! Thank you to Lizzie Skurnick for her efforts to keep these books in print and for the quiz above.

• All-of-a-Kind Family (1951), illustrated by Helen John
• More All-Of-A-Kind Family (1954), illustrated by Mary Stevens
• All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown (1958), illustrated by Mary Stevens
• All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown (1972), illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush
• Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family (1978), illustrated by Gail Owens

images above are copyright to the publisher

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Duplicity (Book Review)

Title: Duplicity, a Julia Gooden Mystery
Author: Jane Haseldine
Publication: Kensington, hardcover, April 2017
Genre: Suspense
Plot: In Jane Haseldine’s second book about Julia Gooden, the Detroit newspaper reporter is up against the city’s most devious criminal—and her own painful past.

Julia Gooden knows how to juggle different lives. A successful crime reporter, she covers the grittiest stories in the city while raising her two young boys in the suburbs. But beneath that accomplished façade is another Julia, still consumed by a tragedy that unfolded thirty years ago when her nine-year-old brother disappeared without a trace.

Julia’s marriage, too, is a balancing act, as she tries to rekindle her relationship with her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, while maintaining professional boundaries. David is about to bring Nick Rossi to trial for crimes that include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and bribery. But the story becomes much more urgent when a courthouse bomb claims several victims—including the prosecution’s key witness—and leaves David critically injured.

Though Julia is certain that Rossi orchestrated the attack, the case against him is collapsing, and his power and connections run high and wide. With the help of Detective Raymond Navarro of the Detroit PD, she starts following a trail of blackmail, payback, and political ambition, little imagining where it will lead. Julia has risked her career before, but this time innocent lives—including her children’s—hang in the balance, and justice may come too late to save what truly matters…

Purchase Links

Kensington Publishing CorporationAmazon | Barnes & Noble


Praise for Duplicity

“Haseldine (The Last Time She Saw Him, 2016) uses her experience as a crime reporter to bring authenticity to this exciting and gritty tale.”—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for the first Julia Gooden Mystery, The Last Time She Saw Him

“A ferocious thriller….you can bet no one will stop reading.”– Booklist

“Journalist Jane Haseldine’s debut novel rings with authenticity as she, like Julia, is a former crime reporter. This is a harrowing read.”– BookPage

“A sharp, breathless thriller. From the opening scene to the last, The Last Time She Saw Him, kept me flipping the pages. I loved it! Jane Haseldine is one to watch!” —Lisa Jackson, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Audience: fans of writers such as Hank Phillippi Ryan and Allison Brennan

My Impressions: Once I got past the brutal beginning, I enjoyed this fast paced novel about a reporter committed to her job who also loves her sons and is trying to work things out with her estranged husband. An added complication in her life is that Julia is trying to cover a high profile trial her husband is litigating as an Assistant District Attorney. In addition, Julia has never recovered from the kidnapping of her older brother 30 years ago, and this has made her understandably overprotective of her children. Julia is fortunate that she has good friends in the police force who look after her and feed her scoops, as her husband is ambitious and not risking leaks to his wife that would damage his career.  I liked the unusual Detroit setting and the quirky characters.

Although this was book 2 in a series, something I normally avoid (and admonish people regarding!), it was not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy this one.  For the most part, Julia is an appealing character, smart and courageous, although has a habit I find annoying of recklessly putting herself in danger (for example, jogging to a drug lord’s secret home believing a knife in her waist pack will be protection against a bunch of murderers with guns) yet emerging with barely a scratch. For a parent devoted to her children, this was foolish behavior, although I realize it can sometimes advance the plot. However, towards the end I was distracted from Julia’s foolhardiness as the plot got a little crazy and extremely improbable, requiring quite a bit of suspension of disbelief as various twists were revealed.

Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes. Please visit TLC Book Tour’s Duplicity blog tour:

Tuesday, March 28th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, March 30th: Just Commonly
Friday, March 31st: Fictionophile
Monday, April 3rd: Tina Says…
Tuesday, April 4th: Sara the Introvert
Wednesday, April 5th: Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, April 6th: Clues & Reviews
Friday, April 7th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, April 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, April 11th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, April 12th: The Cactus Chronicles
Thursday, April 13th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, April 18th: Girl Who Reads
Friday, April 21st: The Suspense Is Thrilling Me

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Last Chance Matinee (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: The Last Chance Matinee: A Hudson Sisters Novel
Author: Mariah Stewart
Publication: Gallery Books, Trade Paperback, March 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Description: When Hollywood agent Fritz Hudson passes away, he leaves families on each coast who didn’t know of the other’s existence. His first wife was an over the top movie star, now deceased, with whom he had two daughters. Allie Hudson, divorced and having just lost her job, is stressed about finances and sharing custody of her pre-teen daughter in Los Angeles. Her sister, Dee, is a former child star, now living quietly in Montana, with a few close friends, spending most of her time as an animal volunteer. After his first marriage fell apart, Fritz fell in love with a calm and affectionate woman in New Jersey, who gave him one daughter, Cara. Cara runs a new but successful yoga studio, and has just suffered heartbreak when her husband left her for a close friend, not long after her mother’s death.

Fritz’s untimely death brings the sisters together for the first time, and they learn from their father’s close friend and lawyer that his will requires them to join forces to restore an old theater in the small Pennsylvania town he came from or forfeit their large inheritance. His hope is that they will grow to love his childhood home and understand the mystery he left behind and never felt able to tell them.

Audience: Fans of Nora Roberts’ “sisters” series; readers of books by Jill Shalvis, Kristan Higgins, and Susan Mallery.  A reading group guide is included in the back of book material if you'd like to read it with your book group.

My Impression: This was an enjoyable launch of a new series by a New York Times bestselling author, and those who enjoy a quirky, small town setting and fresh starts will like unassuming heroine Cara and her more complicated half-sisters. Required by their father’s will to spend a year in Hidden Falls, PA, they are welcomed by a hitherto unknown aunt and by the community, despite learning secrets about their father and the reason he rarely returned to his home. Each sister begins to come to terms with their father’s secrecy and the adjustment to a new family. The sisters are helped in this effort by the warmth of the community and by an unexpected visit from Allie’s daughter, a bubbly teen who is improbably unspoiled by her LA upbringing. Although Cara is the focus of this book, segments are told from her sisters’ point-of-view, and there are three very different male characters who will provide a second chance at love for Cara and Allie and a first opportunity for Des. Another appealing character is Fritz’s sister, an aunt the sisters did not know existed but become fond of quickly. I also enjoyed the descriptions of renovating the Sugarhouse Theater, which has fallen into disrepair, based on a theater the author knew.

My biggest concern with the book is the back story which requires much suspension of disbelief. I don’t doubt that it is possible in this day and age for a man to have two families at opposite ends of the country and keep them in the dark about each other, but it would have been more plausible if he had not been a celebrated Hollywood agent and I wish the author had created a scenario which was more convincing. How could Cara have never read an article about him, which would certainly have mentioned his other family? Never Google your own father? No one in Devlin’s Light, NJ was ever curious enough about its part time resident to research him? No coverage of her own wedding, which might have revealed her to her West Coast sisters? When she traveled with her father to London, none of his colleagues there ever asked her about his famous wife Honora or his famous daughter Desdemona? She never saw her half sister’s TV show Des Does herself and remarked that the star shared her surname? And, by the way, despite traveling with her former husband, she never knew that New Jersey is one of the few states that bans self serve gas? It is also surprising that Allie, financially down on her luck when the story begins, would not have asked her father to help her get work. I know they weren’t close but surely he wouldn’t have wanted her to lose her home. These issues could have been explained away, perhaps, or Stewart could have set the book back in a pre-Internet era.

There is a hint that Cara’s mother knew all along that her husband was a bigamist, and perhaps she didn’t mind, due to her laid-back personality, but wouldn’t she have been upset for her daughter to learn she’d been the victim of deceit and was illegitimate or is that so passé no one cares anymore?

Recipe: At one point Cara makes her mother's homemade granola, which is a big hit with her new family. Stewart includes the recipe at the end of the book. I don't think that would replace chocolate chip cookies in my house but it fits with the image of Cara's hippie mother.  Stewart includes the recipe in the back of the book.

Giveaway: Thanks to Gallery Books, I have a copy of this book to give away. Please leave a comment by 4/23/17 if you are interested - tell me your favorite book about sisters - and I will pick a name. U.S. only, please!
Monday Matinee Giveaway: Follow XOXOAfterDark on Twitter (@xoxoafterdark) on Mondays in April to see which other blogs are hosting giveaways for The Last Chance Matinee on April 3, 10, 17, and 24! #MondayMatinee

About the Author: Mariah Stewart is an award-winning and bestselling author of numerous novels as well as several novellas and short stories, including the Chesapeake Diaries series, one of which I reviewed previously. She lives with her husband and two dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors county life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel. Visit her at mariahstewart.com and follow her on Facebook.com/AuthorMariahStewart and on Instagram @mariah_stewart_books.

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. Despite the quibbles above, I enjoyed The Last Chance Matinee and am looking forward to the next two books in the series, focused on Allie and Des. Author photo credit to Nicole Leigh.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Story of Ruby Bridges (Book Review)

Title: The Story of Ruby Bridges
Author: Robert Coles  
Publication: Scholastic Hardcover, 1995
Genre: Picture Book/Nonfiction
Plot: This is a children’s version of the real story about Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American who integrated the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960. Each day she had to walk by angry, vicious protesters as she was escorted by federal marshals to her classroom. The white parents kept their children home so Ruby was taught alone by Barbara Henry. Brought up by a religious family that was proud of what they realized was her place in history, Ruby handled the pressure with dignity and grace beyond her years, praying for the protesters as she passed them each morning. Eventually, other African American children joined her at the school, and after several years, the white families sent their children back to school. Ruby graduated from this elementary school and from high school, and brought up her own family in New Orleans as well.

Audience: This is a great story to introduce civil rights issues to small children, as it is a dramatic story with a winsome heroine that hints at the underlying violence but is not too scary.

My Impressions: This is a wonderful story for all ages about the brave Bridges family: a mother who was determined her daughter would make history, and had brought up this small child to pray for her enemies and have the strength to walk by them every day. Coles captures both the incredible loneliness of Ruby’s situation and her great dignity, as she marched past her tormentors, clutching her lunch box. I am not sure a modern child used to an integrated classroom could even begin to understand why it was such a volatile issue or comprehend the viciousness of the adults who yelled death threats at Ruby. Of course, my own City of Boston had its own shameful episode during its court-ordered desegregation when white adults threw rocks at buses bringing African-American children to South Boston. As in this book, people blamed the judge instead of their own racist attitudes.

The existing teachers from the Frantz School refused to teach in an integrated school, so Ruby was taught by the amazing Barbara Henry, a teacher from Boston, whose sons later went to school with my brother. Mrs. Henry taught Ruby alone for a year before other children joined the classroom. Here is a link to the Boston Globe interview about her experience. I knew Mrs. Henry as a kind family friend long before I learned about her courage and willingness to sacrifice her own safety to advance the civil rights of African American children in the South. I love that she attributes her outstanding education at then Girls’ Latin in Boston as instilling respect for all, regardless of race or background. My sister-in-law’s niece Parker is a seventh grader at Boston Latin Academy, as it is now known, and I hope her experience there will be as enriching.

Last year, the Friends of Roslindale Branch Library, of which I am part, formed a Racial Justice and Inclusiveness Committee to plan educational events, discussions, and presentations related to race, ethnicity, religion and culture. We have had good attendance at the first events and are considering a children’s event which inspired me to read this book. Click here for more information and a schedule of events.

Note that on March 30, 2017 the Roslindale Library will be discussing Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk which was highly recommended by one of our committee members.

Ruby Bridges was escorted by federal marshals to her classroom each day
Source: I checked out this book from the Boston Public Library. There are a number of books about Ruby Bridges but I recognized the name of Pulitzer-prize winning Robert Coles, so chose this one. I did not know that as a child psychiatrist he had offered to provide counseling to Ruby and met with her weekly during her first year of school (he was stationed in Biloxi). One of my greatest academic regrets is not taking advantage of the opportunity to study with him in college.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Widow's House (Book Review)

Title: The Widow’s House
Author: Carol Goodman
Publication: Trade Paperback, William Morrow, 2017
Genre: Suspense
Purchase LinksAmazon, Harper Collins, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound
Plot: When Jess and Clare Martin sell most of their belongings and leave Brooklyn to move to the Hudson Valley, they both hope it will jump start Jess’ writing career, which has faltered after one high profile novel. The area they choose is familiar to them because it is Clare’s home town and is near Bailey College which they both attended. In fact, the professor they admired, Alden Montague, needs a caretaker for his property, Riven House, so they move into his gate house. Soon Jess is writing again and drinking with Montague, and while Clare is relieved to see him in a good mood, her own spirits have suffered after hearing a disturbing story about Montague’s father and a young woman he betrayed. Clare’s parents are gone but even as she tries to reconnect with old friends, including her high school boyfriend, the atmosphere around the house becomes so disturbing she begins to wish she had never returned. . .

Audience: Fans of romantic suspense, including authors such as Susanna Kearsley and Daphne Du Maurier (coincidentally, I chose Du Maurier’s The Scapegoat for my book group to read this month, and it too was dark and suspenseful).

My Impressions: The Widow’s House is a modern gothic which I found so compelling that I read it in two sittings. Clare is an appealing heroine, and Goodman has created memorable major and minor characters. Having visited my share of small colleges in upstate New York, I enjoyed the depiction of Bailey College and its aspiring literati, as well as the arrogant (if sometimes charming) professor who flirted with his students (hard to believe it was acceptable in my grandparents’ day). Readers will enjoy Goodman’s effortless prose and vivid descriptions of the Hudson Valley (the apples can almost be tasted) and its inhabitants, past and present, and will lose themselves as I did in a mysterious ghost story that leads to the discovery of numerous family secrets.  I give her extra credit for surprising me with some of the twists at the end; I need to reread later to see if there were clues I missed.  Just don’t do what I did – I read it late at night in bed as the snow came down and I felt very isolated!
  
I had always meant to read Carol Goodman so when I noticed that the heroine of this book shares my sister’s name I was intrigued and made that my excuse to be included in this blog tour.

Five of five stars - recommended!  I may also buy her new middle grade novel, The Metropolitans, which looks enjoyable, for my nephew's birthday.
Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes.

Please join Carol Goodman, author of New York Times bestseller, The Lake of Dead Languages, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 21st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Thursday, March 23rd: Tina Says…
Monday, March 27th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, March 28th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, March 29th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, April 5th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, April 11th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 13th: Book by Book
Wednesday, April 19th: Unabridged Chick
Thursday, April 20th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Hollywood Star (Book Review)

Title: Hollywood Star (Gloria Whitcomb, #3)
Author: Gladys Malvern
Publication: Julian Messner, Hardcover, 1953
Genre: Young Adult
this blurry cover was all I could find
Plot: Gloria Whitcomb, a talented but unknown ballerina from New York, has been cast to play Anna Pavlova in a movie, and heads to Los Angeles for the filming, chaperoned by her mother and young brother. It is hard for Gloria to leave her handsome fiancé behind in Manhattan, and she doesn’t realize the studio will want to promote her as glamorous and single. The stresses of acting for the first time before people who doubt her and being thrown into the company of handsome actors (with dubious motives) strain her performance and her relationship with Doug. Can Gloria triumph over Hollywood’s petty jealousies and stay true to the man she has loved for so long?

Audience: Young adult readers, fans of ballet fiction and of career novels

My Impressions: As a pre-teen I loved all of Gladys Malvern’s books, at least those found in the Newton and Brighton libraries. Most of her books were historical fiction, ranging from surprisingly compelling biblical fiction (Behold Your Queen, The Foreigner) to books set in colonial America. The Boys and Girls Library in Newton Corner had copies of the first two books in this series, Gloria Ballet Dancer and Prima Ballerina, and I read them many times, without knowing this third book existed until I was grown up. It is the weakest of the three but Gladys was clearly trying to convey as much as she could about the movie business for eager teens. She does a good job conveying the spite and backbiting that go on when an outsider is cast for a big part (luckily, Gloria has retained her girl next door personality and usually wins people over sooner or later), and she depicts two gossip columnists who must be based on Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, rivals who together had an audience of 75 million in their heyday.

On the movie set, Gloria is upstaged and belittled by her co-star, an actor who thinks he can take advantage of her lack of experience. She is assisted in standing up for herself by his rival, Jules Fletcher, not because he cares about Gloria but because Jules doesn’t want a rival male actor to gain in popularity. It is a sign of Gloria’s cluelessness that she never figures this out, and disappointing that her mother is too intimidated by Hollywood and Gloria’s success to provide the sensible mothering needed.

Those of us who suffered with Gloria during years of wondering if Doug Gardiner cared for her will not enjoy seeing her squabble with him or flirt with another man. It’s a little like when you think Betsy Ray and Joe Willard have finally worked out their differences and then you learn that in a book which doesn’t even exist, Betsy was flirting with Bob Baryhdt at the U*!
Anna Pavlova
Source: I obtained a copy of this book via Interlibrary Loan. Thank you to Rowan University in New Jersey for preserving and sharing it. This is one of what were called a Career Romance for Young Moderns. My library had only a handful because they were already dated in the 70s but I read them and so did @sadiestein.

* Maud Hart Lovelace always referred to the University of Minnesota as the U, so I did too. When I was about ten, some friend of my parents asked where I wanted to go to college, and when I said, importantly, “The U,” she asked, puzzled, “Which U?”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Divided Spy (Book Review)

Title: A Divided Spy (Thomas Kell #3)
Author: Charles Cumming
Publication: Hardcover, St. Martin’s Press, 2017
Genre: Suspense
Plot: Thomas Kell is a British spy, forced into retirement and, thus, at loose ends. His former colleague, Amelia Levene, is now chief of Britain’s Intelligence Service, and twice she has been the cause of Kell being dragged back into undercover activity. One of these episodes ended with the death of a woman the divorced Kell had begun to care for. As this book begins, Kell learns that the Russian agent who caused that death has an illicit relationship that can be used against him. Kell wants revenge but he also wants to “turn” the Russian agent and deliver him to Amelia and her sneering minions who either enjoyed his downfall or simply don’t take him seriously. And then he wonders if he is the one being played. . .

Audience: Fans of sophisticated espionage or suspense, such as John LeCarré, Anthony Price, Alan Furst.

My Impressions: This is the third book I have read about Thomas Kell, and each has provided an absorbing, compelling, and, at times, frightening story. There is no glamour in the lives of these spies: Kell acknowledges that his lifestyle and obsession with work ruined his marriage and the incident that destroyed his career is something that would likely have been swept under the rug for someone better politically connected. Instead, he is depressed and low in funds. However, Kell is talented and his disdain for others’ opinions, while it has not won him any popularity contests, seems to help him analyze and anticipate how the enemy will react. This is why Amelia and her ilk come to him for help with international situations, although they find him insubordinate. One of the things I have enjoyed in all three books is the detailed descriptions of surveillance: the set up, the long hours watching (and tedium), the details that can and do go wrong, and the exhilaration when events start moving.

The author is skilled at creating minor but vivid characters as Kell’s foil. My favorites, in this book are very different: Rosie, a shop girl who has unwittingly been dating a terrorist, and Marquand, a high level intelligence agent who acts as if meeting with Kell “is an interruption in his day that he could have done without.” When the meeting is over, “[t]here had been no trace of the years they had spent together as colleagues, no acknowledgment of the awkwardness of the situation, nor of Marquand’s role in exacerbating it.” I know I am often forced to work with people like this and pretend I don’t notice their arrogance. It is a testament to Kell’s skill that he is (eventually) able to persuade Rosie and Marquand to trust him.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the basic premise of this book – Minasian’s illicit relationship – but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for a great read.
Source: I first learned of Charles Cumming by reading a glowing review in Publishers Weekly and highly recommend this series, ideally by beginning with the first book, A Foreign Country. A pre-publication copy of A Divided Spy was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tough Justice: Countdown (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: Tough Justice: Countdown (part 1 of 8, currently priced at $.99 each)
Author: Carla Cassidy
Publication: Harlequin Intrigue, ebook, February 2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Giveaway: I can give away one digital copy of Book 1 - see below
Plot: Tick. Tock. BOOM.

FBI Special Agent Lara Grant had thought that she’d put her past behind her—finally—with her last case. But now a serial bomber is targeting Manhattan’s elite power players, offering them a choice between saving hundreds of lives or seeing their darkest secrets exposed. Lara is working with the Crisis Management Unit to stop the bomber, but how will she react when she’s the one who has to choose between truth…or death?

Part 1 of 8: an explosive new installment in the thrilling FBI serial from New York Times bestselling author Carla Cassidy and Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis, and Janie Crouch.  Note that it looks like the first installment's title was originally Exposed and is now Countdown.

Audience: Fans of romantic suspense. You can *meet* the authors here.

My Impressions: This is a fast paced story told in eight installments of about 85 pages told by several of Harlequin’s popular authors. Lara is an intense, attractive, and flawed FBI agent who, in a previous case, went undercover to infiltrate the Moretti crime ring. As the story continues, we learn that Lara made some serious mistakes on that investigation and actually had a child with the notorious drug lord. To keep the child safe, Lara gave her up for adoption but this decision has caused her enormous grief. It is unclear how long ago that was (or if there are books about Lara’s previous case) but since then Lara has continued to throw herself into her work and has a passionate on again/off again relationship with her partner, Nick Delano. As this story begins, Lara and her team are tasked with investigating a killer who is using homemade bombs to terrorize New York. This is just the first installment but Lara comes across as superwoman tough yet vulnerable. As yet it is hard to distinguish between the other characters and their personalities but I look forward to learning more about her complicated back story and the interrelationships with other members of this elite FBI team.
About the Series: Harlequin launched a serialization publication with the debut of this Tough Justice mystery-suspense series. The eight-part digital-first serial is a multi-author endeavor that sees all the episodes in the series published simultaneously and are available as ebooks and as audiobooks. Each installment is currently priced at $.99.   Click here for purchase links and here for more info about the series.

I have one digital copy to give away.   If you are interested, please leave a comment below and I will pick one at the end of February.

Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of the first installment of this book by the publisher for review purposes. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harlequin for including me in the launch of this series.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Law and Disorder (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: Law and Disorder, Book 1, The Finnegan Connection
Author: Heather Graham
Publication: Harlequin Intrigue, paperback, January 2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Plot: Kidnapped while visiting her family home in Florida, Dakota “Kody” Cameron has no one to turn to – except the unexpectedly attractive man holding a gun. Outnumbered and trapped in the deadly Everglades, she has little recourse, but something in this captor’s eyes make her believe he is not as evil as the other men threatening her. Does she dare trust him?

Undercover agent Nick Connolly met Kody briefly in NYC where they both work and is afraid if she recognizes him the bad guys will kill them both. Though determined to maintain his cover, he can’t let Kody die. And his decision to change his own ruls of law and order are about to cause all hell to break loose. . .

Audience: Fans of romantic suspense; readers who like Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, and Kay Hooper.

My Impressions: This fast paced and, at times, humorous story begins on a historic estate in Florida, once owned by a 20th century mobster named Anthony Green. Kody, an aspiring actress in New York, is home briefly visiting her family, who nominally own the Crystal Manor, when she is kidnapped by a group of thugs dressed up as historic gangsters. Their leader, going by the name Dillinger, believes Kody can find lost treasure, reputed to have been hidden by Green years ago. He threatens to kill Kody and the staff managing the estate if Kody, who has always been fascinated by the history of her home, cannot locate the treasure.

Kody is a very resourceful heroine who doesn’t back down to thugs, but perhaps it’s a little over the top – given that people have been searching for 80+ years – how quickly she deciphers Green’s papers to deduce where the treasure is buried in the Everglades. Personally, I think having a gun being pointed at me while I researched lost treasure might inhibit my creativity! Add the fun of a kidnapper whose “deep, dark, blue and intense” eyes engender trust and make Kody yearn to get to know him better, even when he seems to be threatening her and her friends. While the reader assumes Kody will be rescued or save herself, this is a romp of a book that reveals Heather Graham’s love of history and her home state. So long as Heather doesn’t make me stumble about in the Everglades hunting for treasure amongst snakes, alligators, and goodness knows what else, I will continue to enjoy her books from the safety of an armchair.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels. She’s a winner of the RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers’ Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For more information, check out her websites: TheOriginalHeatherGraham.com, eHeatherGraham.com, and HeatherGraham.tv. You can also find Heather on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes.
Please join Heather Graham, author of Love and Disorder as she travels with TLC Book Tours.
Tuesday, January 17th: The Sassy Bookster – excerpt
Wednesday, January 18th: A Holland Reads
Thursday, January 19th: Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, January 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, January 23rd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, January 24th: Mama Vicky Says
Wednesday, January 25th: Books a la Mode – excerpt
Friday, January 27th: Books and Spoons
Monday, January 30th: A Bookaholic Swede – excerpt
Tuesday, January 31stSnowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, February 1stStranded in Chaos 
Monday, February 6thBook Reviews and More by Kathy – excerpt 
Monday, February 6thFrom the TBR Pile 
Wednesday, February 8thDog Eared Daydreams 
Friday, February 10thNot in Jersey 
Monday, February 13thBecky on Books 
Wednesday, February 15thReading Reality

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Plaid and Plagiarism (Book Review)

Title: Plaid and Plagiarism: Book 1 in the Highland Bookshop Mystery Series
Author: Molly MacRae
Publication: Pegasus, Hardcover, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Description: Janet, a middle-aged librarian from Illinois, her friend Christine, Janet’s daughter Tallie, and Tallie’s friend Summer, have moved to Inversgail in Scotland to run a bookstore, Ye Bonnie Books. Janet and her evil ex had bought a vacation home in Inversgail (which she got to keep after the divorce), and when the ladies go to check on the house, they find a dead body in the garden shed. As they settle into their new village, this intrepid foursome tries to help the local police solve the crime, in this first of a new series.

Audience: Fans of cozy mysteries, those who like books about books, and those yearning to go manage a bookstore in the Highlands (or anywhere else).

My Impression: I read a great review of this book and wanted to love it because I am definitely one of those people who romanticizes moving to a small village to run a bookshop (and with my luck, there would definitely be a dead body in my garden shed). However, having worked in publishing for 17 years, I also know that even one person can barely make a living owning/managing a bookstore so in addition to wondering how these characters (one is Scottish by birth so perhaps retained her citizenship while in the US) obtained work permits to move to Scotland, I wondered how they were going to pay for the mouthwatering scones they enjoy, not to mention everything else – Janet’s alimony was described as generous but it seemed unlikely her academic ex-husband had very much to spare.

Logistical quibbles aside, I would have liked more of a sense of place. The premise was fun but the delivery was weak.  These characters could really have been anywhere, not a quaint town in Scotland, and a few mentions of plaid and haggis were insufficient to set the scene, although there were quirky characters galore. Other than Janet being headstrong and bitter about her ex-husband and several mentions of the careers each had abandoned for Inversgail, there wasn’t enough about the four women to really distinguish them from each other. As a result, I did not care much what happened to them. The mystery itself was secondary to the women’s eagerness to help solve it. There were many red herrings (to go with a number of peculiar individuals whose behavior was never fully explained) – I am not sure if I fell for one or conjured it up on my own, but I certainly did not figure out who the killer was or guess why the murder had occurred.

Last year I read about a bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland where one can have a working holiday by renting a week at a bookstore through Airbnb.  Of course, I yearn to go to the Open Book and keep shop - what a combination of Maida's Little Shop and the bookstore dreams I am too practical to have.   Wigtown has been officially designated Scotland's National Book Town so I suppose it would be fun to visit even without getting to live above a bookstore - the waiting list for the Open Book appears to go through 2018, alas!

Source: I requested this book from the Boston Public Library after reading about it in Publishers Weekly.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Favorite Reads from 2016

According to Goodreads, I read 142 books in 2016 (this does not include rereads, however - my own calculations indicate that I read 149 books, not to mention that reading four Game of Thrones books is like reading a dozen ordinary books!).  Here are my favorites:

Suspense

The Dead House, Fiona Griffiths, #5 – Harry Bingham
This is the most compelling suspense series you haven’t heard of and I insist you go back and start with the first book in the series, Talking to the Dead. Set in Wales, this one is set against the backdrop of a mysterious monastery. Fiona is an extremely odd but endearing detective whose commitment to victims she is assigned to investigate (and those she is not) takes precedence over everything else in her life. She is also desperate to decipher the secrets of her birth, and it seems likely these two story lines will stay connected as the series continues.
I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh
The despair of Jenna Gray, the main character in this novel of suspense is almost too much to bear and requires occasional application of Kleenex. The story begins with a fatal car crash, then follows Jenna, as she tries to escape from her past in a remote cottage in Wales, while back in Bristol, two detectives are trying to track her down. I liked the detectives and hope the author will return to them in a future book.

Fiction

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
I really enjoyed this story about three very different women, which begins when their children attend a kindergarten orientation. Told in flashbacks, with hilarious comments from the other parents incorporated, it leads up to an over the top (but very convincing) school fundraiser, where all previous conflict comes to a head. Moriarty, sister of Jaclyn Moriarty who wrote another fave, The Year of Secret Assignments, blends humor and serious topics effectively, and I couldn't stop reading until I finished at 2:30 am. I think I subconsciously noticed that HBO is doing a miniseries in February and decided I wanted to read the book first, but the trailer shows it is perfectly cast: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley as the shy newcomer to town.

The Hating Game – Sally Thorne
This book, which I reviewed for TLC Book Tours in August, was a delightful read about two work enemies, thrown together when their publishing companies merge, who inevitably fall in love, but as I noted then, it shouldn’t be dismissed as chick lit.

Historical Fiction
The Summer Before the War – Helen Simonson
Some of you will remember the charming Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which came out in 2010 and was a popular book group read, including with my Radcliffe Reading Group. This book was delightful in a different way: it is about a plucky young woman (a penniless orphan, naturally!) who becomes the Latin teacher at a village school in 1914, just before WWI breaks out, and how she interacts with the locals, including the handsome medical student visiting for the summer. This is one of my favorite time periods, and in particular, I like reading about how war transformed the people in small villages like this one.  It's not as funny as Major Pettigrew

Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Game of Thrones, #1 – George R.R. Martin
I am late to the party on this legendary series, and others have described it more eloquently than I but, once I started, I devoured the first four books. It helped that I had brought the first book with me to the Emergency Room when I accompanied my father to the hospital in August. Something made me watch the first episode of the first season (once the Summer Olympics were over, I suppose I needed a new distraction) and I was mildly intrigued but not addicted. It took another episode to start figuring out who everyone was and start caring about them. For me, it worked very well to watch the HBO series while more or less simultaneously reading the books. This helped me keep track of the many characters a little better (there are way too many and it wasn’t until I finished the book that I found a useful list of characters broken down by kingdom/family). His greatest skill, in addition to his world building is making the reader care about unlikeable characters by writing from their point of view. It is somewhat amusing to me that Martin kills off readers’ favorite characters so ruthlessly – most writers are so in love with their creations, they can’t do it – but it can be very disconcerting. My friend Kimberly told me there is a bumper sticker that says, “Guns don’t kill people, George R. R. Martin kills people.”

Best Reread Elizabeth Cadell
I am grateful for those who fight to bring beloved authors back into print and now Cadell has a fan club.  Cadell's charming series about the irrepressible Wayne family is a must read for those who enjoy light English fiction set in a village where everyone knows everything about everyone else and makes it up if they don’t. The Lark Shall Sing, The Blue Sky of Spring (I think I missed this one when I first read this author in my 20s), and Six Impossible Things should be read in order and are newly available in paperback and as eBooks. The only thing I don’t like is that the bossy oldest sister is criticized for trying to organize her siblings into doing what’s best for them – what’s wrong with that, I ask? There should be a support group for misunderstood oldest sisters.

YA

Jess Tennant books - Jane Casey
Exciting news! There is a new Maeve Kerrigan book in Casey’s adult crime series coming in March (as one cannot wait for the U.S. publication in July) but if you can’t be patient until then, it’s time to try her YA books about Jess Tennant, who moves from London with her mother to tiny town on the English seaside where her mother grew up and constantly finds herself in the midst of controversy (this requires some suspension of disbelief when the heroine is a teen whose only connection with law enforcement is her on again off again boyfriend’s menacing father) but Casey makes it work. Jess’s only flaw (but perhaps I am just jealous) is her effortless appeal (everyone falls for her or wants to be her friend – except when they want to kill her) and her somewhat annoying habit of recklessly putting herself into danger, although one could argue this behavior is somewhat necessary when investigating criminal activity.  Start with How to Fall, which is followed by Bet Your Life and Hide and Seek. There is a strong resemblance between Maeve’s annoying colleague Josh Derwent and Jess’s boyfriend’s father which is very disconcerting! It is unclear to me if this series has ended – maybe Casey herself has not decided.
The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You – Lily Anderson
I loved this witty and hilarious version of Much Ado About Nothing involving two super-competitive teens whose friends tire of their bickering and come up with a plot to make them more than tolerate each other. Full of pop culture references and humor, this is a story about all the people you wish you’d known in high school. This was one of the few 5 star reviews I gave this year.

Winner’s Trilogy – Marie Rutkoski
I came across the dazzling Winner’s series when I attended a joint event she did with Kristin Cashore in Cambridge. As I already owned all of Cashore’s books (and because my friend Barb recommended it), I bought The Winner’s Curse for my sister. A gift is doubly successful if you have time to read and enjoy a book before you wrap and give it to someone, as was the case with this fantasy about a general’s daughter who buys a slave to save his life, and then recognizes he is more of a soul mate than the young man she is supposed to marry.  The author manages to transcend a lot of the cliches too prevalent in fantasy, asking many questions about who the winners actually are.  Unusually, I think the third book in the series was the strongest, although the first was also excellent.

Children’s

Book Scavenger – Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
I reviewed this in March before giving it to a nephew for his birthday. Inspired by a classic, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, Book Scavenger launches a series perfect for the fourth or fifth grader in your life who loves books and puzzles. It involves a game where participants all over the country hide books and leave clues online for the first person to figure it out. The heroine, Emily, has just moved to San Francisco and is looking forward to paying Book Scavenger in a new city, not knowing she is about to be plunged into a mystery involving Edgar Allan Poe. I look forward to more adventures of Emily and her friend James, coming with book 2 in July.

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White – Melissa Sweet
I recently reviewed this biography of the author of Charlotte’s Web, which is told in text, pictures, and replicas of items that were important to Andy White, as he evolved from child who loved the country to young writer for the New York to acclaimed essayist who moved to Maine and tried his hand at a children’s book.

Other:

Patricia Wentworth backlist
What wonderful news that a small publisher, Dean Street Press, has brought every Patricia Wentworth back into print!  Wentworth is one of the grandes dames of the Golden Age of British crime fiction.  I am a huge fan, not only of her Miss Silver books, but of the more obscure titles, some of which are so rare I had to photocopy them to own a copy. While she is best known for her creation of Miss Silver, an elderly spinster sleuth like Miss Marple, Wentworth’s talent is blending suspense, humor, and depiction of how ordinary people cope with stressful situations. My Christmas gift to myself – a long anticipated title, The Dower House Mystery, which so far is just as good as anticipated.