Wednesday, August 29, 2007

'E' is for Evidence by Sue Grafton

In E is for Evidence, Kinsey Millhone becomes her own client when a warehouse burns down and someone wants it to look like Kinsey is on the take. The insurance claim is being rushed through just as money mysteriously appears in Kinsey’s bank account. Clearing her name and reputation is her number one priority.

I love the matter of fact style in which this series is written. Every time I start one of them, the phrase “Just the facts, ma’am” pops into my head. I love it. With this one, I had a little trouble following all that was going on with all of the siblings. I kept mixing them up. I’m not sure I had them straight by the end. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed the book.

I’m looking forward to reading the next one in line as well as the many others already written.


The Cat Who Played Brahms by Lilian Jackson Braun

In The Cat Who Played Brahms, Jim Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum, have decided to spend the summer in Aunt Fanny cabin. Qwill is hoping that time away will help him decide what to do with his life. When strange things start happening at the cabin and in the nearby town, Qwill knows that something is amiss. His investigation starts soon after he returns from an unusual fishing expedition. Of course, Koko is always willing to lend a hand, er, I mean paw to help out.

As with the other books I’ve read in the series, this one was excellent. Reading about Qwill and the Siamese is always great fun. Call me dumb, but this is the first time I made the connection between the cat’s whiskers and Qwill’s moustache. Braun had to practically spell it out for me. sigh.

Braun’s story line is pretty straightforward and easy to read. In Pickax, where locks on doors are virtually non-existent, people can wander in and out of each other’s homes. This made Qwill nervous, especially with all of the strange things that were going on. I think this would make me nervous as well.

Her characters are fun to read about and usually a little eccentric or larger than life. Besides Qwilleran and the cats, some of my favourites were Tom (I loved the way he talked), Rosemary (she was trying to get Qwill to eat better) and Aunt Fanny (she got people to do what she wanted and she carried a gun even though she was an elderly lady).

I’m not reading this series in order so some of the storylines are jumbled up for me. For some reason I started in the middle of the series and it’s only now that I’m going back to read some of the early ones. From what I’m told, some of the latest books are not as good. I haven’t gotten to them yet, so I’ll wait and see.

I can’t wait to read this next one. Recommended for cozy mystery lovers, especially those who also like cats.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

In Life on the Refrigerator Door, Claire, a teenage girl, and her mother, a single parent, lead busy lives. Luckily, they have found a way of communicating that works for them…notes on the refrigerator door.

The story is told exclusively through these notes. An interesting and unique concept! I enjoyed reading it. The ending was especially touching.

However, I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. I generally love quirky little books like this, but something about this book didn’t grab me. There were a few notes that seemed unrealistic. That is, some contained information that I didn’t think one would include in a note. Maybe that’s just me. I also had trouble connecting a few of the notes and had to go back a couple of times to fill in the story.

That being said, I still enjoyed reading the book and I’m looking forward to reading more works by this author.

Matchstick Men by Eric Garcia

In Matchstick Men, Roy and Frankie are con men. They’ve been partners for years and have their routines down pat. There’s only one problem; Roy has some mental health issues for which he’s seeing a shrink and is taking medications. It doesn’t get in the way too much as long as he takes his meds. Then one day he finds out he has a 14-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. She wants to learn his tricks of the trade and at that point, his life turns upside down.

I liked this book. It was quick and easy to read with an interesting and humorous story. It made me a little uncomfortable at times when I thought to myself “Would I fall for this scam?” and the answer was “Probably”. [Not that I was talking to myself or anything. LOL.] Anyway, this book is perfect for the beach or a lazy day in the hammock. It certainly kept me entertained for a couple of hours. Great ending. I didn’t see it coming until it was almost upon me.

I didn’t see the movie and now that I know the ending, I probably won’t. I like Nicholas Cage, so I probably would have enjoyed it. Too bad.

This is my first book by Garcia. While I’m not going to run out and get more books by Garcia, if I happen to come across some in the future, I’d be more than happy to read them.

Overall, it’s a fun and entertaining book.

Soul Catcher by Michael White

In Soul Catcher, Augustus Cain is hired to find two runaway slaves, Henry and Rosetta. Cain has a knack for tracking and finding people and sets out, with three others, to find them in America’s northeast. It’s before the American civil war when slavery was rampant in the south and “soul catchers” hunted those who tried to escape.

White presents a beautifully written, but haunting story about the slaves and slave catchers. He provides lots of details to give the reader a full picture of the characters, the area and the era. The writing was easy to read, but the subject matter wasn’t. As I got to know the characters more, I cringed every time I saw the word “shackle”.

This book was very different from books I normally read; yet I enjoyed this book immensely. I really didn’t want to put it down. I thought about the characters even when I wasn’t reading the book. I loved seeing the conflicts and changes in Cain and Rosetta as the story moved along.

I’m not a fan of history; therefore, I generally shy away from historic novels. I knew very little about the subject matter, so the book was quite the eye-opener for me. I learned a lot. The author put faces on both sides of this terrible and troubling era in America’s history.

This is my first book by Michael White. I hope to read more. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Best of Friends by Sara James and Ginger Mauney

In The Best of Friends, Ginger Mauney and Sara James lead fascinating lives. Ginger as a filmmaker in Africa; Sara as a newswoman in the U.S. The story begins in the early 80s, but they actually met much earlier as youngsters. It ends with the present day and what the women are doing now. They are not just friends, but as the title suggests, they are best friends.

An interesting biography/memoir about the women, their adventures and the people they meet throughout their lives. My favourite parts were Ginger’s experiences in Africa and Sara’s experiences with the well-known world news events.

I didn’t warm up to the whole best friends aspect, though. The best parts of the story were the times when the women were apart, off on their own adventures. As far as I’m concerned two books could have been written, both equally interesting. Their friendship wasn’t the strongest part of the book.

The chapters alternated between Ginger and Sara with the chapter names at the top of every page. Every once in awhile I had to check to whose chapter I was reading. Sometimes it was difficult to tell. At first I thought I detected a slight difference in the writing, but that only lasted a chapter or two and soon it all sounded the same. Could two people have such similar writing styles that they are virtually indistinguishable?

Overall, I enjoyed reading about these adventurous women. I just wish my life were half as interesting.

I got this book from the HarperCollins - Reading Group on MySpace.

When The World Was Young by Tony Romano

In When the World Was Young, the members of the Peccatori family come face to face with tragedy. A tragedy that has them reeling in pain and seeking refuge away from each other. While they try to carry on with their lives, each deals with secrets and desires, some too risky to share with others.

Set in the 1950s with brief respites in the 1970s, Romano’s novel is an excellent narrative about family, growing up, grieving, love, and compassion. It’s exceptionally well written with a terrific storyline and fascinating characters. Even though the book was overwhelming sad, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Every once in awhile, I come across a book with characters that I care about. I wonder about them even when I’m not reading the book. What are they doing now? Are they going to be ok? Is everything going to turn out for them? This is just such a book. I’ll be thinking about these characters for a long time to come.

I really liked a number of the characters: Santo, Victoria, Agostino, Vince. It took me awhile to warm up to Angela Rosa, but she had me in tears near the end. Normally, it drives me crazy when characters keep secrets from each. In this case, though, it didn’t. Because the story was believable and so well written, I understood the characters and the reasons for their actions.

I loved the whole book, but I particularly liked the chapters in which the author switched to first-person and jumped 20 years ahead in time. These chapters were few and far between, but they fit in beautifully with the rest of the novel and gave the reader a brief glimpse into the future.

Generally, I’m not a re-reader. However, in this case, I might make an exception. I hope to read many more books by this author.

A beautifully written story. Highly recommended.

I got this book from the HarperCollins - Reading Group on MySpace.

Friday, August 3, 2007

October by Richard B. Wright

In October, James is in London visiting his seriously ill daughter when he runs into an old friend, Gabriel, whom he hasn’t seen in sixty years. The story jumps back and forth between past and present. In the past, Gabriel and James are teenagers interested in the same girl. In the present, Gabriel is dying and wants James to keep him company during this difficult period. James has to deal with his feelings for his old friend as well as his dying daughter and the rest of his family.

Wright has presented a wonderful story with vivid characters. I read this book in a just a couple of sittings, which is quite unusual for me. I was totally hooked from the first page to the very last. His writing is very easy to read and his storytelling is superb. At various times though the book, I felt as though I was reading a true story. Everything was so believable.

I haven’t read anything else by Wright, but I happen to have Clara Callan on my bookshelf. I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

My husband got this book from HarperCollins First Look program. He said it was good, so I decided to give it a try.

Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch

In Service Included, Phoebe Damrosch gives us a behind the scenes look at the life of a captain at the 4-star New York restaurant, Per Se. Her main focus is the restaurant, the other staff, the clientele and, of course, the food. However, we get to also see her life outside of work: where she lives, where she eats, whom she dates.

I really enjoyed this one. It bought back all kinds of memories from my line cook days in a much more casual restaurant. The information she provided was fascinating. I was confused about a few things, but mostly the author took the time to explain all of the fine details of the fine dining experience. The whole scenario sort of reminded me of a stage play with adlibbing permitted.

Phoebe’s life outside of work was not quite as interesting, but it was still fun to read about. Her insecurities about her relationship with AndrĂ© were easy to relate to, but her outing with Patrick to find the best bone marrow was not. Patty melts I can handle, bone marrow, not so much.

To put this review into perspective, I’ve never dined in a 4-star restaurant and I’m not even sure I’d be that relaxed there. I really it like when I have one server who takes my order, brings my food, clears the plates, pours me water and brings the bill. Otherwise, I don’t know to whom I can direct my questions. Is it ok to ask the person who brings my food for more coffee? Is it ok to ask the guys who fills my water glass for more salad dressing? Maybe if I knew “the rules”, I could do it. Besides, I could never afford to drop $20,000 on dinner or order an item off the menu that has 3 digits in the price. I’ll put this on my to-do list after I win the lottery.

I’d recommend this to readers who have an interest in food or those who have dined at a fine dining establishment and would like a glimpse behind the scenes.

I got this book from HarperCollins First Look program.

When Day Breaks by Mary Jane Clark

In When Day Breaks, news anchor Eliza Blake and her co-workers investigate and develop the news story about the death of their former co-worker, Constance Young. Constance has just landed a spot with the competition, but before she could start, her body was found dead in her swimming pool. As the number of suspects abound, the group has their work cut out for them.

This novel is a larger-than-life behind-the-scenes look at network news. I don’t know if this would classify as a cozy mystery, but it reads like one. Instead of the protagonist stepping into role of investigator (officially or unofficially) these characters investigate the crime/mystery in the course of their jobs. I was a little disturbed by the opening shocking prologue, but I soon got over that. The novel was fun and entertaining to read and completely captured my attention.

As a fan of CNN’s morning new program, American Morning, I was particularly fascinated by the fact that the reporters were getting information more quickly and ahead of the police. Very interesting.

Mary Jane Clark is the Queen of short chapters, in my opinion, managing to squeeze in 113 chapters in a mere 326 pages. Of course, other authors do this, but not all of them number the scene changes. I don’t really like putting down a book in mid-chapter, so these short chapters would allow me to read as little as a page when I had the time. With this book, though, I didn’t really put it down all that much. Once I picked it up, I wanted to read to the end to find out who the culprit was.

There are lots of interesting and unique characters in this book. My favourites were Eliza, Annabelle and Boyd. I really didn’t like Mack and Todd all that much, although they were very minor characters. I didn’t particularly care for Stuart either, but I did feel sorry for him. Constance treated him badly and really took advantage of him, while he was completely devoted to her.

I’d definitely recommend this book to cozy mystery lovers and those looking for a light read. It’d be perfect for the beach or a lazy afternoon in the hammock.

I’m looking forward to reading more books in the Sunrise Suspense Society series.

I got this book from the HarperCollins - Reading Group on MySpace.