Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hear Me, Feel Me by Ann Axisa

Love spans from life to the hereafter, hear her, feel her

I feel comforted having read this winsome story of a family who has suffered too many losses at once. A tale of 3 sisters who have lost their mother too soon, a marriage that failed too soon, a sister who left behind her 2 sisters too quickly, and a son with a father who doesn't know he is one. Now suspend your disbelief for a moment and relish in this imaginative story by Ann Axisa.

Bonnie is living in what she calls "halfway heaven," a place to learn and adjust, a place to watch over loved ones, and sometimes even interact with them. She is being mentored in this place that is neither here nor there by her spirit guide, Robert. Bonnie is able to communicate with her sister Laura, but not sister Mia, although before long she will feel her touch. She is seen and heard by her 3 year old son, not as unusual as one might think. She left so quickly she is confused and angry. She attends her own funeral and is amazed at the wonderful comments she hears. Over the next little while Bonnie pays a visit to Max, her son Sam's father. Max, totally taken unaware, is able to both hear and feel her. Bonnie has to learn if Max will take an active part in Sam's life. She has a plan.

This is a delightful story about a subject we all fear. Under Robert's tutelage she is granted a few moments to visit her mother in the spirit realm, partially to help her with her anger at being dead with no place to call home. I really enjoyed this very different book. It touches on several subjects with lightness and some levity. With no time frame given between Bonnie's death and the final outcome for all, it may seem that some things happen too quickly in relationships. But fear not, all is as it should be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Death in Four Courses - a Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette

This deliciously entertaining book based in Florida, is a murder mystery taking place over the duration of a conference of food critics and cookbook authors. The attendee characters run a gamut of restless, snobbish, overzealous, and friendly, but all have secrets buried and the star speaker has just announced that there should be clarity and transparency in the writings of all, basing it particularly on transparency of who the original recipes come from. One might expect this to be a reasonable statement, but he goes on to naming names and explicitly states he will expose all their secrets over the next few days.

At first glance this seems like it will be a high-class conference, but once we get into the meat of the book, comfort meals are more readily embraced when the arrogant yet esteemed food critic, star of the conference, ends up dead. How many cooks cherish their grandmothers' recipes I wonder? It seems that not only traditional home cooking revolves around these treasured memories, but some of the cookbooks also feature original recipes from the past, but whose past?

This is a question that runs through the story and appears to be related to a further death. Was it murder or suicide?

Our plucky food critic reporter, Hayley Snow, on her first major assignment for "Key Zest" to the conference, befriends some of these authors and food critics, and of course, is the first to discover not one but two bodies. Accompanied by her mother with whom she has had a volatile relationship for years, these two play off each other beautifully. As their relationship changes during her mother's visit, the partnership becomes serious yet playful as they involve themselves in solving these murders, a matter that is causing some major stress for Hayley, particularly when her mother goes missing, and in her blooming relationship with the very handsome and very protective Detective Nate Bransford. But how can they leave this alone when one of their long-time friends is being investigated for murder?

I really enjoyed reading this book, the second in the Key West Food Critic mystery series. It is well-written with good solid characterizations, great descriptions of place, and as a bonus a few recipes are included which I'm sure I'm going to enjoy as well. I'm sure this series by Lucy Burdette will soon be on the menu for many readers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Return to Finkleton by KC Hilton

Who controls time? In this, the second Finkleton book, the magic begins with a new secret uncovered. Robert finds out the hard way, first playing with the old clock, spinning the hour hand, and then by breaking it. How did he become 35 years old? He's supposed to be 10 years old. This isn't right! And how will he fix the clock and return to normal, is it even possible? How time flies! Robert is shocked to discover his sister and brother have also aged by 25 years.

We travel around Finkleton and discover everything has changed, and not for the better. Teamwork is needed to return Finkleton to its wondrous and happy days of wonderful weather, just the right weather to produce the best crops in the world, and to restore Miss Caroline's house, which was destroyed by lightning. As the Finkle children discovered in the first book, they must not keep secrets from each other and they must trust each other to work as a team. Otherwise, a serious mistake can leave disaster in its wake, and that is exactly what they now face together.

The children, adults through a large portion of this book, must find a way to turn back the clock. Together they are able to fix the clock but there are more secrets to be learned. At least they have learned that the "bad" man, Mr. Lowsley, has not been giving them trouble over the past 25 years. Finding the new secret room with even more books, even the books are magical. But who are the two young men Robert saw who look so familiar? And, what exactly does Miss Caroline know and why? Are there really fairies? Ah, this question must wait for another episode of life in the magic town of Finkleton. Another wonderful tale for young people, with life lessons hidden in the adventures. Recommended for ages 9-12, I find it an enjoyable series for any age, perhaps some memories of the childhood left behind. Another winner for KC Hilton.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Killer Critique by Alexander Campion

Who is killing the Restaurant Reviewers of Paris? That is the question for Paris Judiciaire Commissaire Capucine Le Tellier, young, empathic but definitely capable of getting to the bottom of the dark side of Paris. The difficulty in part is that she knows many of the victims and suspects through her husband, a restaurant reviewer himself. It appears very early on that there is a serial killer with a purpose. But the strange part is the method of the murders with variations on a theme. Also, they seem to happen in the midst of a large number of people, often the same people.

Naturally, Capucine is afraid for her husband as she and her team work to catch the killer, even with their hands somewhat tied by order of the "Juge d'Inspection" who has forbidden them to interrogate anyone. A man we will soon love to hate. This adds more spice and personality to the story. The main characters are well-drawn and despite their individual quirks, are all assets to the series. Alexander Campion certainly knows his food, wine and characters.

The book was enjoyable, my only criticism is that the flow is often interrupted by the overuse of long and rarely-used words requiring the reader, if he/she wants to get the full feel of the story, to keep a dictionary close at hand. I am a logophile myself (lover of words), but guessing at some (somewhat obvious: susserated, vertiginously, tintinnabulation), or stopping to look others up, is not pleasurable for the average reader. This intriguing and entertaining storyline may not run as smoothly as it could, with these hiccups in the flow. Personally, I am unable to refrain from looking up words I am unsure of. After all, that's how I learn them, but this book almost teeters on the edge of too far, which is a real shame because I'm sure no author would want his/her reader to feel intimidated, but mesmerized as the story unfolds.

I must say though, that once again I have learned something new (other than a handful of words), I was fascinated with how curare darts were made, and in particular how long they remain poisonous.

The several French phrases sprinkled throughout conversations are to be expected, and are mostly recognizable. After all, not only does the series take place in France, but the author has lived and worked in France. I do not refer to the names of the dishes, wines and other beverages, they are what they are and either recognized or explained.

All told though, the storyline is taut and keeps the reader's attention, the solution to the crime keeps one guessing, and the characters are well-fleshed, which is, perhaps, its saving grace. Alexander Campion has created some very interesting characters and a deliciously tantalizing series to be savoured. Would I read another in this series? Definitely.