Friday, August 24, 2012

Season of Darkness by Maureen Jennings

In Season of Darkness, Tom Tyler is a detective inspector in Whitchurch in Shropshire in 1940. He's married to Vera, but a former lover has recently resurfaced and has him emotionally torn. When a Land Army girl (a young woman helping the farmers during the war) is found murdered, Tom is up for the challenge. In the nearby internment camp of Prees Heath, which is holding many German nationals, Tom finds a German psychiatrist willing to help solve the murder. Tyler must solve this one quickly before more young woman fall victim.

  I really enjoyed this book. I don't usually read books set in this time period, but I found this one fascinating. I learned lots about England, the war and the internment camps. The story and connections between the characters is complex, but Jennings does a great job of laying it all out for the reader. Also, she has the police reviewing the facts of the case frequently so that the reader has a chance to catch up if they happen to miss something. She is such a great storyteller.

In this first book of a planned trilogy, the author gives lots of information about the characters, including a little about Tyler's personal life with his wife, daughter and former lover. I really liked reading about his ennui with his life and his desires for some change.

The story were written from different points of view. I didn't always know who it was, though. I'm not sure if it was my failure to recognize them or if the author was purposely being vague. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this style.

Favourite quotes:
...the qualifications of a good policeman were the strength of a lion, eye sight of an eagle, tact of an ambassador; worldly knowledge of an undergrad; patience of a husband and the memory of a wronged wife. (page 208)
Jennings also writes the Murdoch Mysteries series. I've read Under the Dragon's Tail (my review). I think I liked that one a little more than this one, probably because of the TV series connection.

New words:
pillock (page 58): an offensive term that insults somebody's intelligence (UK)
dower house (page 155): landowner's widow's house (UK)
fifth columnist (page 193): secret or subversive group
plaice (page 228): large flat ocean fish
wool gathering (page 229): dreaming (I knew this one, but I love the term.)
soutane (page 263): cassock or priest's robe
perspicacity (page 291): acute perception
recce (page 308): same as reconnaissance
palliasses (page 364): straw-filled mattress

I also loved the term "chin wag" for conversation.

Highly recommended, especially for British mystery fans.

For more information about this book, please visit the McClelland & Stewart website.

For more information about the author, please visit Maureen Jennings's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

Season of Darkness by Maureen Jennings, McClelland & Stewart (RandomHouse), ©2011. ISBN 9780771043253(Uncorrected proof), 398p.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Sky Scarf Update

Just a quick update on my Sky Scarf...

It's not going as well as I'd hoped, but I'm getting there. I'm not really keeping up with the knitting on a daily basis, but I'm trying to look at the sky daily and at least write it down. I did miss a few days but was able to remember what those days were like, so everything is basically on track. Oh, except for that one day in June when I accidently knitted a day twice. I'm not sure how that happened, but I got to the end of the month and had two rows too many.  Oh well.

Here's the latest photo:

Note:  I am about a week behind in knitting.

Since I'm carrying 7 strands of yarn (8 once we get snow) up the left hand side of the piece (I'm left handed), I leave the whole thing on a tray to keep it from getting too tangled.   It still gets twisted, but not too badly.  Speaking of the left edge, it's not a neat as I would like, but this is my first time using this technique.  It's way better than having yarn ends to weave in. 

I devised a way to represent a rainbow in the scarf.  You can barely see it about 1.5" up from the bottom...where that strand of yarn is on the right hand side.  In my stash, I found some lots of embroidery thread.  I took one thread from each of the seven colours of a rainbow (ROYGBIV), twisted them together and wove them through the front loops on the right side of the scarf.   I didn't have the exact colours, but they were close enough for me.   So far, we've only had one rainbow. 

Here's my first post about the sky scarf in case you missed it. It'll give you the low down on it.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts. Click here to see what she's up to this week. It looks like she's getting ready to knit up a storm. ;)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Death of a Kitchen Diva by Lee Hollis

In Death of a Kitchen Diva, Hayley Powell is given a new assignment at the Island Times. She's going to be taking over the food column. She's a great cook, but not a great writer, so she's a little apprehensive. Her first column appears to be a hit, however, and everyone is thrilled. Well, except for her rival, Karen Appelbaum, who writes the food column for a competing publication. When Karen is found dead, Hayley is the first suspect, but works quickly to clear her name. Things get really hairy when Hayley discovers a secret about the victim and gets closer to finding the killer.

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery! It was well written and contained some great characters. The story, set in Bar Harbor, Maine, was interesting enough to sustain me to the end without being overly complicated or convoluted. It was also fluffy, light and funny...a perfect summer read and a terrific start to a new series.

I especially loved the way Hayley's columns were written...informal, fun, and friendly. I wish we had a local food column like this. The recipes look straight forward, easy-to-follow and yummy, although I haven't tried one yet. I'm either going to make the Maine Crab Stuffed Mushrooms or the Sausage, Spinach and Cheese Ravioli first, but there are a few others that look good, too. Besides recipes for tasty food, the author also included recipes for cocktails. Yay! While there's a list of recipes for the food at the end of the book, sadly there's no list of cocktails. Also, it would have been nice to give page numbers so it's easy to find those recipes later on.

Lee Hollis is the pen name for the brother/sister writing team of Rick Copp and Holly Simason. Their blog is Lee Hollis Mysteries.

Highly recommended for cozy fans. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next one.

For more information about this book or to read Chapter 1, please visit the Kensington Books website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Death of a Kitchen Diva by Lee Hollis, Kensington Books, ©2012. ISBN 9780758267375(Mass Market), 327p includes recipes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'm not even going to attempt to write a proper review for this book. There's been so much written already and since I didn't really like this book, I don't want to spend too much time on the review. Besides, it's not a book I got for review so I reserve the right to write what I want.

I wasn't particularly interested in reading this book. I don't read young adult (YA) that often and the synopsis didn't exactly thrill me. I read the book because my Book Club (the one in which we DON'T all read the same book) decided to switch things up a bit and have a Hunger Games party before our summer break. Part of that party was to discuss "this great book" that a few members had read.

Like I said, I didn't like it. Without going into details and revealing spoilers, I'll just say that I found parts of the story to be unbelievable and other parts to be downright silly. There were a few things I liked, but those were in the minority. Before anyone says "you have to take into account that it's YA fantasy", I already took that into account and still didn't enjoy the book.

I won't go into how my book club discussion went. Let just say I felt battered and bruised afterwards because I was the only one (out of 15) who disliked the book. With so many voices in favour of the book, I didn't really get my points across as I would have liked. C'est la vie. I did learn something, though, and I'll be a little leery of any book recommendations I receive from them from now on.

I'm a little peeved at myself for buying the box set at Costco only to find out that I really don't want to read the following two books. I've heard that they aren't as good as the first anyway, so I'd probably be wasting my time if I did.

By the way, I saw the movie, too. Contrary to what some of my fellow book clubbers said, it didn't help me understand/appreciate parts better. In fact, I disliked the movie and the book more afterwards. They also suggested that I read the other two books...yep, well, that ain't gonna happen. ;)

Anyway, I'll leave it at that.

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

In The Map of True Places, Zee is a psychotherapist on the verge of getting married, when the suicide of one of her patients throws her for a loop. It that wasn't enough, she discovers that her father who has Parkingsons disease is a lot sicker than he's been letting on. When she becomes his caretaker, she makes discoveries that not only alter her life, but also allow her to see the past in a whole new light.

I loved this book! It took me a bit to get into it, though. I think it was a rhythm thing. Anyway, after about 50 pages, I was hooked. The book is written in short sections within somewhat short chapters and changes direction often. Great format and style! I loved the way it explained the past and present events alternatively and how it all fit together. Barry is a wonderful story teller.

The book offers lots of facts about different subjects and manages to tie them all to the story in a meaningful and entertaining way. I learned a little about Parkinson's disease (her father disease). therapy and bipolar disorder (her profession), and celestial navigation (an analogy for her new course in life). I love learning new things and I enjoyed these sections, even though they seemed a little more rigid (like a textbook) and less fluid and storytelling-like. They might not be for everyone.

The characters were outstanding, but I didn't feel a connection to Zee or her predicament. Even though she seemingly turned her life around, I had a hard time tying her troubled childhood to her adult life, where she appeared to be still somewhat unstable. Also, I'm not fond of the name "Zee", which didn't help.

The ending was outstanding with some pretty shocking twists. I didn't see any of them coming and at first confused me a bit. I had to reread a few sections to understand what was happening. Loved it!!

I love the blue tones and wonderful adorned sky on the cover.

This is the first book I've read from Brunonia Barry, but it won't be the last. I also have The Lace Reader, but haven't read it yet. I hope to rectify that soon.

Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to reading more books by this author.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2010. ISBN 9780061624780(Hardcover), 464p.

So Pretty It Hurts by Kate White

In So Pretty It Hurts, Bailey Weggins, true-crime journalist, gets an invitation for a fun, relaxing weekend getaway from her friend, Jessie. Bailey's boyfriend, Beau, is away doing his own thing, so she accepts. They are to spend the weekend at a music mogul's country house with a number of other guests, including glamorous, ultra-thin, and extremely moody, supermodel Devon Barr. When the group is stranded by a winter snow storm and Devon is found dead, Bailey suspects foul play and starts nosing around. That, however, puts her in the crosshairs of danger and she must use all of her skills to get out of this one.

    I really enjoyed reading this book. This is the sixth book in the Bailey Weggins series, but the first one that I've read. The story was suspenseful and entertaining. I especially liked the opening; it was superb. White really knows how to draw the reader in with her storytelling.

The book contained a wonderful cast of eclectic characters. Because some of them were from the entertainment industry and it's fringes, they could be as quirky as the author wanted them to be while still coming across as real. Bailey was especially good. She is sharp witted, sarcastic and is a little cranky (like me some days). I can relate.

The back of the book says "Bailey is a heroine who keeps us laughing..." I disagree somewhat. I found the book very entertaining, but I don't remember laughing all that much. Maybe I was cranky that day. ;)

One thing I found more than a little annoying was Bailey's obsession with Dylan apparent eating disorder. It got to be a little much and by page 100, I'd had enough. I know that was part of the story and it is a serious health issue for some women, however, in my opinion it was a little overdone and not my favourite part.

I generally don't like book with portraits on them and this one is no exception. I'd rather conger up my own idea of what the characters look like. I do, however, like the snow flakes and the bluish tones on this one.

New Words:
obsequious (page 59): submissive
prurient (page 196): unwholesome sexual interest

Favourite quotes:
...when a man drags his heels, it's generally a sign that he's not fully committed to the plan at hand. (page 136)
I've also read Hush (my review). I think I liked it a wee bit better than this one. However, that won't stop me from reading more from this series.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

So Pretty It Hurts by Kate White, HarperCollins, ©2012. ISBN 9780061576607(Uncorrected Proof), 318p.