Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The World of Bobbie Faye

I just finished Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey. This book was absolutely hysterical! I chuckled out loud several times. A must-read for any Evanovich fans. I actually think this is better than the recent Plum books. Bobbie Faye is Stephanie Plum amped up 50 degrees. There are a few similarities in the characters: Bobbie Faye as a very independent woman compares to Stephanie; Cam, her cop ex-boyfriend would play the part of Morelli; and Bobbie Faye's apparent hostage, Trevor could sort of be Ranger. Other than that, this book is purely original especially in the debacles Bobbie Faye gets herself into...in one day!

This book takes place in Louisiana and is filled with Cajun charm from French to voodoo. The course of the book is mostly one day, which seems unreal. It starts with Bobbie Faye's trailer being flooded and collapsing and her day just gets worse from there. She receives a call from her brother who has been kidnapped and needs her to bring a treasured family heirloom to the kidnappers in order to save his life. Bobbie Faye stops at nothing to reach her brother including robbing a bank, taking a hostage, demolishing a truck, running through a swamp, encountering a bear, and it only goes on from there (that's the first half of the book). There's mystery, adventure, suspense, and romance in this highly sarcastic, fun read.

The chapters are short so this makes for a perfect book for someone who can't sit and read for long periods of time. The beginning of each chapter has a quote from someone in reference to Bobbie Faye. Here are a few examples:

"I'm sorry, Mr. President, but even though you really like the governor of Louisiana, you cannot drop a civilian behind enemy lines. No sir, not even if she could take out the whole country."
-an anonymous senior aide to the president

"Sir, we do not draft civilians into our foreign service, even if you think she's of the devil and would make a good spy. Please do not offer her to us again."
--Elizabeth Smith, CIA undersecretary in a memo to the governor of Louisiana

"No, honey, you can't bring in Bobbie Faye as your show-and-tell exhibit for National Disaster Awareness week. I'd like to make it through this week alive."
-Ms. Pam Arnold, Geautraux Elementary's third grade teacher

I decided to pick this book up and read it because I received the second installment, Bobbie Faye's (kinda, sorta, not-exactly) Family Jewels as an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers group. I thought I should read the first one before I reviewed the second. And now I can't wait to read Family Jewels.

A few reviews

This is a pretty random assortment of reading here!

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn: This is the first Daisy Dalrymple mystery, and I thought it was lots of fun. These are set in the 1920s England and Daisy is a Town & Country reporter, shocking her family (I think her father is a baronet or something). Anyway, Daisy is likeable and I think Dunn evokes 1920s England well, at least to someone who's seen Gosford Park. The plot is well done. Daisy is at a family's country house when an apparent accident takes place. Daisy's photography uncovers a suggestion that it might have been murder. I'll have to find the second in the series--I think there are 16 or something. It was cute and well-written. I think cozy readers and those interested in historical fiction might get a kick out of this.

Duma Key by Stephen King: It's been hit or miss for me with recent Stephen King, but I had a hard time putting Duma Key down, even with 600+ pages. He's used his personal experience with recovering from a terrible accident and placed in on Edgar Freemantle, who loses an arm and scrambles his brain in an accident. His 25-year marriage ends, and when his doctor suggests "geographical therapy," Freemantle (randomly, he thinks) chooses Duma Key, an isolated island off the coast of Sarasota. He takes up painting with a vengeance, stunning gallery owners in Sarasota, and haunted by his phantom arm and the voices of the shells under his house, he begins to uncover the truth about Duma Key and its oldest inhabitant, Elizabeth Eastlake. His hired help, Jack, and Elizabeth's companion, Wireman (who has also suffered a head injury, as has Elizabeth), help him find the source of his talent. If any part of the novel dragged, it was pages 500-600 or thereabouts--the exciting conclusion was really kind of long. But I found Edgar's emerging talent engaging, and King did a great job of the terror gently creeping into the story.

Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber: I read the first of these, The Shop on Blossom Street, ages ago. It took me a while to get into this one. The intro in which Macomber basically explains everything that happened in the series so far was very long and dragged, but once I got into it, it was pretty fun. These are the most wholesome romance novels you've ever read, seriously, but they're also about the personal struggles of the various characters. She writes from the point-of-view of several, which is totally cheating, but it works for the stories she's telling. The prose is...saccharine is a good word to use here, maybe a really long Hallmark card is another way to put it. But if you're in the mood for uplifting, obviously telegraphed happy endings, and women solving their problems in a knitting group, this book is for you. I don't mean that as negatively as it maybe reads. I enjoyed the book, I did, it's just not particularly challenging and it's not my usual fluffy reading (very little sense of humor here). Anyway, Lydia owns a knitting shop and decides to have a class on doing prayer shawls. Each of the women in the class has a different problem going on, and everyone's happy at the end. There are really no surprises in this one, but it's pleasant and comforting.

I also zipped through How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich. She co-wrote this with a creative writing professor, to make it more credible, I guess. Anyway, the poor professor's parts are fairly dry, but useful and well-organized. The book is mainly Q&A with Evanovich, based on questions asked by fans on her website. It's often interesting to read how a writer writes, and Evanovich is funny and entertaining. As a writing book, it doesn't hold a candle to Stephen King's On Writing, but it was interesting, and samples of query letters and manuscript pages, and advice on joining groups and attending conferences, is worthwhile. All in all, not an essential read for writers, but a fun one for Evanovich fans.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Another Giveaway!

Maw Books is giving away some of the books in her collection in celebration of her 100th blog post. If you're interested, visit her blog and comment on her posts. You'll be entered each time you comment and can double your entries by posting on your own blog. Here is info on the giveaway and the list of books.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Stephanie over at The Written Word is sponsoring a contest to win one of five canvas bags with the book cover of Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs and one lucky person will win an Advanced Reader's Copy of Kate Jacobs new book. Jacobs is the author of The Friday Night Knitting Club, which I really enjoyed. I'm looking forward to reading Comfort Food. And I think there are a few of you out there who might be interested as well. So many of my friends LOVE the Food Network. I can think of several people I should recommend this book to. Now, I am sooo NOT into cooking, but I think this might be interestign. Jacobs' latest effort is about two women who end up co-hosting a cooking show together under not so great circumstances. Since I'm writing on my blog about Stephanie's contest, I'll be entered twice! Whoo hoo!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

I just finished reading this book yesterday. It tells the story of Rose, starting in 1968, who ends up at Saint Elizabeth's, a home for unwed mothers. She was married and found out she was pregnant. One day, she just decided to get in the car and drive across country and ended up at Saint Elizabeth's. In the end, she decides to keep her daughter and in fact, stays on at Saint Elizabeth's as the cook. The book is split into three sections: Rose's story, Son's story (Rose's second husband), and Cecilia's story (Rose's daughter). The title of the book is in reference to St. Elizabeth and the fact that all the pregnant girls that come there lie. They lie about who the father of their baby is, where he is, what they'll do when they go home, etc. Also, there are many lies of omission throughout the book, especially on Rose's part. But really none of the characters do much talking to each other. It's more of a dance around each other.

I picked this book up in the book store and read the prologue which describes a farmer who discovers a spring on his property. It turns out the spring has mystical healing powers and a grand hotel is built nearby to accommodate all the visitors to the spring. Eventually, the spring dries up and people stop visiting. The building becomes Saint Elizabeth's. I thought perhaps the spring would pop up again throughout the book or by the end. But it never reappeared.

Although the book took a slightly different course than I initially thought it would, I enjoyed it. It was a quick read. And I liked reading from the different character's point of view. Rose's character sort of annoyed me throughout the book because she was never happy and I'm not sure why she couldn't let herself be happy. But this puzzled the other characters as well. :-)

Since I haven't read her other books yet, I'm not sure how it measures up, but I liked her writing style and hope to read Bel Canto and Run in the near future.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lady Julia Grey

Have you discovered her? She's a Victorian lady of the royal sort whose husband dies rather suddenly. A year later, she decides to hire an inquiry agent(detective) to determine if hubby died as a result of foul play. The inquiry agent is a very handsome, very mysterious man named Nicholas Brisbane.

Deanna Raybourn is the American author of this rather offbeat mystery series. She uses British spellings for words like colour which put me off at first. It was hard for me to deal w/a contemporary AMERICAN author writing in Victorian English. However, once I realized the language fit w/the life and times of her books' setting, the spelling and quaint words like draughty just add to the books' charm.

Raybourn's very first novel is SILENT IN THE GRAVE followed by SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY. Lady Julia is a member of the very large March family whose family crest includes a hare as in they're all crazy as a March hare! Each family member is eccentric and barely accepted in English society because of the family reputation for being wild and crazy. Lady Julia really tries to live a "conventional" life but as she turns 30 and decides to investigate her husband's death, she ventures where no proper British lady would dare to go. She surprises even herself when she dresses as a man and visits a gypsy camp as well as samples Brisbane's hookah. She just gets caught up in all sorts of improper adventures!

There's nothing ho hum about the plots in these books. They are page turners w/plenty of plot twists and always a surprise ending. Brisbane makes his appearance in each book in his role as the inquiry agent and Julia's potential lover. He always disappears before the books end and before their love affair gets very far along. The author is very good at leaving the reader wondering if the love affair will ever get beyond the kissing stage. After all, it is the Victorian age!

This series reminds me of Dorothy Sayers' very entertaining Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries written in the 1930's. Peter Wimsey is a very proper English lord who just happens to be very good at detecting in his spare time. He meets the Lady Jane, also a rather unconventional member of British society, and they end up detecting their way through many mysteries. Sayers also keeps you wondering if Jane and Peter's relationship will ever blossom beyond detection. Aside from the gripping drama, Sayers and Raybourn give you an entertaining picture of British society in a funny, literate and thoroughly satisfactory way.

Monday, April 14, 2008

One of these things is not like the other...

I picked up Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer as a bargain book ($3.99--yay!). The reviews for this were really mixed, so I'd put off reading it. I do love Jennifer Crusie, whose Welcome to Temptation, Getting Rid of Bradley, Manhunting, and other laugh-out-loud contemporary romance-with-some-mystery novels have been very enjoyable, so I suppose I can blame Bob Mayer for this convoluted mess of a book. Mayer is apparently a military adventure-type novelist, and my guess is, not a very good one. I have no idea why Crusie, Mayer, and the publisher thought this was a winning combination. It's as if someone said, "People like peanut butter! People like pickles! Let's put 'em together!" Mayer appears to adore a certain word that begins with the letter 'F' and its variations (clusterf*** is a big favorite...I didn't count, but I believe he topped 20 incidences of this one alone). Now, I'm not offended by vulgar language, and I think in some settings, it's the way to go, but not in a contemporary romance novel. It just shows a lack of imagination on the part of the author--really? You couldn't come up with ANY other word to use? Besides, that annoyance, there are passages of military-speak that must be mind-numbing to most of Crusie's fans. Discussions of various weapons and military strategy just didn't go with the rest of the book. Speaking of which, the plot was confusing and convoluted, with an unnecessary and poorly explained plot by the bad guys and inexplicable responses by good guys. The best part of this book is a charming and adorable Wonder Woman Party for Lucy's niece, but even that is constantly interrupted by people knocking on the door in a tiresome fashion. I'm not even going to summarize the plot for you, just advise you to skip this one. They have a second collaboration called Agnes and the Hitman, that got much better reviews, and since I still love Crusie's humor, I may pick that one up at some point. But maybe at the library!

I've starting reading Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swenson mysteries from the beginning, and I'm having a great time with them. I think I may have read as many as the first 3 when they were first out, but I can't remember who the killers were, so it's like reading them for the first time. The first, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, has been re-released with a bonus 100+ page novella at the end that was pretty cute, and some additional recipes. I baked Peach Almond Muffins adapted from the Peach Bread recipe in Key Lime Pie Murder. Yum! Basically, I just dumped the batter into 18 muffin cups instead of 2 loaf pans and cut the baking time. Fantastic.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men is part of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I've read good things about him as an author so I thought I would check this out. It's the story of nine year old Tiffany Aching. She lives in the hills on her family farm. Her Granny was a shepherd and a witch. Tiffany soon learns she also has the gift. Her younger brother gets kidnapped by the Queen of another world, and she begins her journey to get him back armed with a frying pan, talking toad, and an army of red-headed little men.

At first glance, this book seems like a fun young adult fantasy. I was about half way through it at the start of today and I tried to keep plugging through, but ended up skimming the last half. I stopped skimming and read the last several pages. I really wanted to love this book, or even like it. I think I only mildly enjoyed it. It was humorous. And I enjoyed the descriptions of the worlds and monsters. I also like the idea of Fairy tale monsters coming to life. My biggest problem with it is the language of the Nac Mac Feegles. It has a Scottish base and it got a bit tiring reading it as it was written. I think I would have enjoyed this much more if it were just stated that they spoke with a Scottish accent and then written with regular English. Instead it was written in the Scottish dialect and I found myself having to slow my reading down to catch what they were saying. This greatly annoyed me! Hmm....maybe I would really enjoy these books more as audiobooks! I'll have to think about that.

So now, I have A Hat Full of Sky sitting here from the library and I'm debating whether to read it now, or skip it all together and go right to Wintersmith.

Naptime is the New Happy Hour

This book by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor has a healthy dose of humor, sarcasm, and parenting advice. Her first book Sippy Cups are NOT for Chardonnay is an hysterical look at parenting in the first year. This sequel takes a look at toddlerhood and I suspect she will have a third book out in another year or two about raising twins. ;-)

Wilder-Taylor lives in Los Angeles and she captures the Mommy Culture there perfectly. Having lived there for almost 6 years, spending 3 of those in the Mommy World, I can honestly say her portrayal is right on! I found myself chuckling every few pages and nodding my head in agreement to her tips and anecdotes (yeah, LOVE the Target One Spot and kids really do think there is magic healing power in Disney Princess Band-aids!).

However, this book will translate across the board, whether you live in a big city, podunkville, stay at home or work. Read it! I think all moms go through those feelings of guilt about something or other, have no patience on some days, hate those seemingly "perfect" mommies because they make you feel inadequate. Wilder-Taylor says it all and tells you how to deal with those feelings....hence, the happy hour. :-) It's just nice to know that you're not alone. If you're looking for a fun, light-hearted look at parenting, pick this one up! And the first book too if you haven't read it already.

Oh, and for further reading, Wilder-Taylor has her own blog here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Okay, somebody else post something, quick, so I stop hogging the blog! I don't know what it is, but I've been reading a lot lately, at the expense of my knitting (I just started Matt's birthday socks, and his birthday was almost two months ago).

Anyway, I know Holly reads this series, and has probably already read this book. I thought it was an excellent entry in a cozy series. Besides the murder mystery, there were several fun subplots: What's behind Moishe's odd behavior? What is Hannah's mother's Secret Project? Will Hannah choose Norman or Mike or even Ross, who still sends her gifts? Will Hannah enter the 21st century world of cell phones and computers with internet access? Some amazon reviewers complain that Hannah's dithering over the men in her life is annoying, that it's unbelievable that she resists computers and cell phones, that the mystery doesn't happen until past 100 pages in. But to me, the fun of this series is small-town life in Lake Eden, Hannah's family, and Hannah's life, and those things don't bother me that much. This is a really fun cozy series. And oh yeah, there's a murder, and that part of the story was well-done, too. There are a few cookie recipes I think I'll be trying, though I'm not really a casserole (hot-dish) fan, so that's about it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement

Holly sent me excerpts from the improbably named Blaize Clement's most recent (and third) Dixie Hemingway mystery, Even Catsitters Get the Blues. It seemed well-written, with an interesting sleuth, so I picked up the first in the series, Curiosity Killed the Catsitter. This was surprisingly dark and complex for a cozy mystery series. Dixie was a sheriff's deputy on Siesta Key (off the Sarasota coast) until the deaths of her husband and daughter sent her over the edge. She regrouped and started a pet-sitting business. When she finds a dead man in a client's home, she's sucked back into the world of investigation, both as a suspect and a person with some inside scoop. I thought Clement pulled off the edgier heroine in a cozy setting quite well. The lifestyle and characters are Siesta Key were an interesting setting, Dixie is sympathetic, and the mystery complex and satisfying. There was one Clue (that's a capital C, as in "Scooby Doo, you've found a Clue!"), let's call it a MacGuffin, that Dixie comes across without recognizing its significance. That's fine, but as it became increasingly clear that the MacGuffin was really important, it started driving me a little crazy that Dixie wasn't picking up on it. However, since she had quite a bit going on and I was paying more attention to details as a reader, I tried to let it go. At any rate, I thought this was a fun, really well-written mystery, and I'll be picking up #2 in the series! I'd recommend it to cozy mystery fans who are open to a little bit edgier book, and even to private detective-type novel fans who aren't usually into cozies.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Public Service Announcement

I forgot to mention that bn.com is having a buy 2, get 1 free sale on all bargain books. This means 3 hardbacks for around $10-12! I was excited about this and grabbed a couple i had been meaning to read but hadn't wanted to pay $25 for. Unfortunately, you only get one free, no matter how many you buy.

I'm currently reading Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by the improbably named Blaize Clement. Fun!

And now for something completely different...

What Looks Like Crazy by Charlotte Hughes was a fun diversion, and a great break from the intensity of the Lippman novel. Hughes is co-author with Janet Evanovich on the Full House series, which I've enjoyed (though not as much as the Stephanie Plum books). When I see a no-name sharing author credit with a bestseller, my jaded opinion is usually that the no-name did all the work and the big name is there to sell books. It doesn't really matter, because I like Charlotte Hughes' writing, and if it hadn't been for Evanovich, this book likely wouldn't exist. Comparisons between this new series and Stephanie Plum are inevitable, but I didn't think this was a knockoff. Kate is a funny, smart, neurotic psychologist with relationship issues. In her job, she encounters plenty of "nutcases," as her wealthy receptionist Mona calls them, and they bring lots of fun to the mix. Kate's mother and aunt own a junk shop (from which Kate's condo is decorated) and they bring another element of fun. Kate's two exes bring in the obligatory romantic element. Hughes is a little drier in her wit, less laugh-out-loud and farcical, but it's a different kind of funny, not a lack of funny, if that makes sense. I think this is a good beach read, and I look forward to the next one.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

This was a gripping, well-paced mystery (I hesitate to call it a thriller since no one is really in danger) that begins when a woman is apprehended leaving a car accident. She alludes to the Bethany sisters (whose disappearance thirty years before was never solved) but clams up without sharing her identity. She eventually claims to be one of the sisters, and the book is extremely well-paced, using flashbacks to explore the parents and sisters at various points during the thirty year gap. The current characters, a social worker and two cops, one who retired after the Bethany case (and to a lesser extent, an attorney) are well-fleshed out and the impact of the disappearance on their lives is believable. It was hard to put this book down. I really wanted to know who this woman was and what happened to the girls. I recommend this to anyone who's a fan of suspense.