Monday, December 23, 2013

The Fathomless Fire by Thomas Wharton

Published by Doubleday Canada

My only regret is that I never discovered this series, The Perilous Realm sooner so I would have read the first episode earlier. The Fathomless Fire is the second of this trilogy. But for excitement and fascination, we are quickly whisked away into the current realm and all its secrets.

What happens to a story when it never ends, when for some reason the telling of the story is never finished? This is the heart of this trilogy and what makes it so interesting. Though this is the second book of 'The Perilous Realm' trilogy there is enough to connect the reader to the first and in my case, to cause me to want to read the first. I loved this book! Well written, well researched, the reader will find bits and pieces of stories familiar and not so familiar, just enough to follow what is going on.

Thomas Warton has given us an adventure to remember, with all the accoutrements to excite and thrill all ages. Dragons, ogres, dwarves bringing a brief touch of Snow White in a tangled web at one point. Young people leading us on unknown and hidden paths leading to danger or safety, which will it be? Nothing is ever as it seems. Our young human from our world is a hero, a pathfinder in the Shadow Realm. I can see so many bits and pieces of stories immersed, entangled, and disappearing throughout this book, many triggering memories of long ago. This is an action adventure story steeped in magic and fantasy. Reading the middle book first makes me long to read the first and the last; otherwise, I would never know what the beginning and ending would be. An imaginative and clever trip through a very special world.  This is a book I would have completely fallen in love with when I was younger. But wait a minute, here it is decades later and I love the whole concept of the book! It's like a fountain of youth for the mind and soul. Top of my wish list now: Book 1 and 3!

Thirteen Diamonds (Lillian Morgan, #1) by Alan Cook

Reviewed as an e-book

An interesting mystery at a retirement community. Give a senior a mystery to solve and some will surely sink their teeth into it--or it may come back and bite them! When a very popular man collapses and dies in the first hand of a bridge game, all are devastated, especially the women. The death is blamed on anaphylactic shock by a severe allergy to shellfish. Not everyone assumes the death is accidental. Bring on Lillian and her friend Tess, who are determined to prove it was murder.

Alan Cook has done a lot of unusual research to bring us this murder mystery. Mental games, a "perfect" bridge hand, friends and suitors all combine to solve the mystery...or to confuse it. Complicated connections in Lillian's own life adds both to the mystery and to her stress and her peace of mind. Several missteps along the way make the story more enjoyable. This is a quick, easy and entertaining read. I love the puzzle-solving aspect of the book, and I always enjoy learning something new. A touch of romance, a different way of looking at the lives of retirees, this is not a nursing home--this is a vibrant retirement community with individual apartments and individual interests all of which play a part in this quirky yet human book.

Codename: Chimera by J.K. Persy

 Reviewed from e-book

Chimera is usually thought of in terms of a monster from Greek mythology, but the research in this book has brought to light several other definitions. I must say that  this book held my attention right through with its action, mystery, non-traditional twists and turns and a possibly cursed antique--the Bellerophon, a  jewel-encrusted medallion.

When word gets out that the owner of said Bellerophon dies suddenly of shock in a part of town he would not be expected to frequent, we get into the meat of the story. The plot is rife with blindsides. This is a serious murder mystery that is fun to read. J.K. Persy has done a great job of befuddling. There are a few brain teaser puzzle questions thrown in for good measure, but it soon becomes clear that this entire book is a puzzle. When the answer becomes clear it soon proves it is not. Not only the search for the true nature of Morris Peterson's death, but what shows up in the search.

PI Kevin Kris, his assistant Penny, and friend Michael become totally immersed in the case, determined to solve the mystery at hand when Penny discovers a similar death under similar circumstances happened a few years earlier, throwing all the work they have done to the wind. This is a fascinating storyline, and I loved it. Well researched in many different areas from neurotoxin, suicide, to paranoid schizophrenia and mythical creatures of ancient Greece. Well-written, commanding one's attention, and at the same time the camaraderie of the principals is palpable even while the stress of the case is overwhelming.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dissever - Unbinding Fate Book One by Colee Firman

Reviewed from ebook

A fascinating paranormal mythology of two worlds in one; or is it? Colee Firman has created the history of a world that blends with our own seamlessly. Or so it seems for centuries, but there are always secrets. I enjoyed this book very much, unusual in many ways. The characters are very real even in this fantasy, perhaps because in appearance they are not so very different.

Imagine the excitement of waking up one morning in brilliant sunlight right  beside a beach when you went to bed in what could be only described as the coldest spot on earth. Your entire estate and all the people you know are right there with you in the heat of summer. How can this be? It is one of the many secrets that unfold for Addison Sanders, Addy as she is known, granddaughter of the Overseer. There are three distinct groups: humans, Akori and Mesen, a sub-group of Akori.

The story itself, besides the history of the Akori, is very much involved with the lives of a group of young people from the estate...their interaction, their romances, their journey through a (very) long life. It's about connections, trust, friendship and loyalty; and always the mystery. But life is not all fun and games for Addy. She spends much of her time working in the huge library for her aged grandfather, and training in martial arts and weaponry. This book grabbed my interest fairly quickly and as changes begin, the action moves forward faster and faster until it's impossible to put down. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment of this action-packed yet playful series.

 Note from author Colee Firman: Update available in Kindle format

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Goddaughter's Revenge by Melodie Campbell

Published by Orca Rapid Reads

A Rapid Reads book, lots of personality, humour, zany characters and a fun read, short and compact. The action and dialogue is so reminiscent of an old Black and White madcap movie set in modern day I knew immediately I would enjoy it. The characters are all written with their individual IDs intact and ready to go.

Melodie Campbell has an ability to take a storyline by the roots and shake it up with often hilarious results. This the second book I have read by this author, both from different series. Still, the author's innate ability to create fantastic stories is the foundation of both series.

Here we have Gina Gallow, the goddaughter of a Mob Boss and owner of her own jewelry store. Though she doesn't want to be part of 'The Family' business, she is not beyond eliciting help when she needs it, even enlisting her fiance in her capers. Who else would be burglarizing to steal fake gems to replace with the real thing? And what about the Lone Rearranger? Who but Melodie Campbell would pull off this zany story of family characters with their crazy personalities? Which comes first, loyalty to family or loyalty to the job? Loved this romp; Melodie, I will happily follow wherever your books will take me!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures - a Novel by Emma Straub

Published by Riverhead Books

From a summer playhouse theatre on a Wisconsin farm to an award-winning star, this novel is an intoxicating blend of the siren's song of the stage and the dreams of a little girl. Encompassing the life of Elsa Emerson over a period of close to fifty years beginning in 1929, this piece is less to do with star-struck wannabees and drug-addled has-beens but more to do with love of family and love of acting as Elsa becomes Laura Lamont. Several tragedies play out that propel Laura to become what she has always dreamed of, an actress. She marries one of the young actors performing at the summer theatre her father directs, and runs away to Hollywood with him. But she is always haunted with the memory of her sister Hildy, a sister whose dream Laura often feels she is living.

Laura's depth of soul is what brings her to fame as she portrays her characters. The title of the book I felt refers to the very descriptive telling of the story...a story told in word pictures. An upsetting incident with her family when she wins the Oscar leaves Laura/Elsa split, grieving and feeling a sense of betrayal to her family, especially to the memory of her dead sister. Laura is not quite the usual film star. Family means every bit as much to her as her career. She loves her children, her husband and her Wisconsin family but her mother comes just short of disowning her. Laura owes a large percentage of her successful career to her second husband, the director of her movies, but this is a good, honest and loving relationship, no shoddy affair, and Irving treats Laura's two girls as his own. When Laura bears him a son, the family is complete.

Emma Straub has plumbed the depths of Hollywood, TV and stage scenarios. From black and white to full color and 3-D, this is the 'Golden Age of Hollywood.' She explores how the innards of Hollywood work, how the directors achieve the best they can out of their actors, and how the actors immerse themselves into their characters. There is glamour in the book, but more, there is true life with all its ups and downs, the good, the bad, the true actors and the ones on the fringes of acceptance. It is certainly not all joy and lightness, especially for Laura and Irving, because of his delicate health. This book is a roller-coaster of personalities, despair, deep emotions of all kinds. This character-driven story is probably a truer view of the world of acting and movies than most, because it gets right into the heart of that world.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pelican Bay by Jesse Giles Christiansen

Published by Imajin Books
Review from e-book

Is he alive or is he dead? That is the question...
Well-written, suspenseful, hauntingly surreal and atmospheric twisting between paranormal and magical, this book took me by surprise. I really enjoyed the camaraderie between Captain Shelby and the young Ethan Hodges. But is he responsible for the death of Ethan's parents? The young man spends most of his time on the beach with his friend Morgan Olinsworth, so naturally he notices the strange rocks that have suddenly appeared out in the water. Very strange rocks; too well-shaped, too quickly making an appearance and too spooky, bringing goosebumps and shuddering at their odd arrival. What are these mysterious creations? Ethan is determined to snorkel down with Morgan to have a look. Some things are best left alone.

With the appearance of Captain Shelby, a grizzled old man of the sea who lives on a fishing boat as grizzled as he, a warning is given that some things should be left alone and never questioned. Captain Shelby has been a fixture for as long as any resident remembers and always old. His background, as far as can be discovered when Morgan the librarian does some digging, takes his line back to Norwegian roots transplanted to Newfoundland, but this doesn't solve the riddle, it increases it because the names are the same and there is no other history. The stories surrounding the Captain tear at the psyche. Is he responsible for the many odd storms, storms that can even bury a village or uncover a long-buried one? Or is this Atlantic coast village itself jinxed? So many questions, yet some will be answered. Where most citizens of Pelican Bay are fearful of Captain Shelby, Ethan feels connected to him, in fact he the feelings he has for the ancient Captain are those one would feel for a kindly grandfather.

Jesse Giles Christiansen has written this book constantly questioning the connection between Captain Shelby and the sea, almost one and the same. I'm sure Jesse must be an architect, because he has built this story in a well-planned manner with many levels of curiosity and suspense with a bit of horror thrown in for added structural support. Yet the connection between the Captain and Ethan is almost magical. There are so many different nuances to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am thrilled to learn this is the first in a planned series, and I will be first in line when the second installment is out, I can't wait.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hazardous Unions: Two Tales of a Civil War Christmas by Alison Bruce and Kat Flannery

Published by Imajin Books
Reviewed from e-book 

Personalizing the American Civil War
Two authors, two stories, two sisters; twins who, after the death of their father, must work as domestic help on different plantations. Money is needed for their mother and sick brother. Alison Bruce and Kat Flannery have personalized the Civil war with these diverse yet integrated stories. Two tales of how life goes on, albeit changed in nature by the war. This book provides an insight into how the people caught in the middle lived extraordinary lives, often far removed from what they have known before.

Well-written with definitive research, I really enjoyed the two stories told from the sisters' points of view. Although they are far from home and working in two different locations and two different types of domesticity, they try to keep in touch by letter, an almost insurmountable undertaking with soldiers from both north and south disrupting travel routes. Their stories show how love can be found anywhere at anytime, even in times of chaos.

Both stories are very different, and show entirely different ways of life and the threat to their existence. I think the authors have a winner here, great characterizations and fascinating insights. A war story that is more about the people and family dynamics than fighting, though the tension is still felt. An unusual telling, but brilliant.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Havana Lost by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Published by The Red Herrings Press
Reviewed in e-book format
Told in three parts: Part 1 1958 Cuba, Part 2 1989-1992 Angola and Part 3 Present Day Chicago. Three generations of a wealthy Sicilian/Cuban family through the strife and poverty of Cuba during the rule of Batiste, the revolution by Che and Fidel, followed by rule under Fidel Castro.

The daughter of a Mafia boss, Francesca/Frankie is determined to live her life on her own terms. She is about to be sent to America 'for her safety.' What choice does she have but to flee her home? To the background of rebel fighting, SanterĂ­a and Cuban fire in her blood, she has found the love of her life. On her father's orders, she is torn from the arms of her lover, probably the only man who can or will keep her safe, and she is devastated as she is shipped off to America. From this point the story veers to life after Fidel. An aside to this is sending Cuban troops to Angola, and we are thrown into the life of Luis, Frankie's lover. As one of the Cubans sent to Angola, a new thread is added by way of mining a newly coveted mineral. A map is the key to all that follows.

This book is not only an insight into the Mafia families and their connections to both Soviet and American 'providers' while Cubans starve. It is also a clear and defining history of the country over the past 50-plus years. A well-written, no-holds-barred history which is still happening. What is interesting to me is that often the very thing the Cubans have learned by assimilation to dislike and distrust about 'America,' is at the same time found in Cuba.

This excellent book cuts no corners, but at the same time has a fascinating tale to tell. The reader can not help but become a part of this family, and get a feeling of Cuba itself. Rooting for some, fearing for some, in awe of the acceptance of their plight and their resilience of spirit. Tension builds throughout the book. Superstitious as many Cubans may be, what reason should we have to be non-accepting of their grasp at whatever they feel they can trust? Little enough.

This Canadian reader immersed herself in the book with deep feelings of anger and sorrow, yet with happiness in the love that some found. Libby Hellman has caught my attention and taken me away to a different world...actually more like three different worlds, and I thank her for that. She made me feel the book, a myriad of feelings and touched my soul. I felt the music, saw the poverty, as well as the beauty. Highly recommend.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Alien Invaders: Species that Threaten Our World by Jane Drake & Ann Love

Published by Tundra Books
Illustrated by Mark Thurman
Reviewed for Edwards Book Club

This is an excellent book for all ages. Highly informative, beautifully illustrated, and innovative in its presentation. Never would I have known there was such a thing as yellow crazy ants! Fortunately in our area there are none...yet. They are, however, in North America in the South.

The histories of these invaders, from molecular size across the world to wild pigs in Hawaii are fascinating. It was interesting to learn about volunteer groups working together to control some of the faster moving invading plants. A map in the book clearly demonstrates the distances these species have taken to get to their new homes, with arrows going across the world from and to. This map did more to increase my awareness than I would have expected. Who knew that Giant African snails are known to eat stucco and paint on buildings? Not just in Africa, where they came from, but in the southern United States, as well as several other unfortunate countries. The book was a Finalist for the Ontario Library Association's Silver Birch Aware-Nonfiction, Nominated for the Red Cedar Book Award and Selected as a Canadian Toy Testing Council's Great Book.

This is by far the best book of its kind I have read. It is only 56 pages long in the format I have, is sturdy and colourful, but in a few words states the threat and the cycle clearly. It is not bogged down with a lot of superfluous words or confusing ecological terms and scare tactics. Everything is clear, precise, pictured, a well-written overall book by Jane Drake and Ann Love with wonderful illustrations by Mark Thurman that is enjoyable and educational at the same time.

Clara's Wish by S.M. Senden

Published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC
Reviewed from e-book

The "Roaring Twenties," oh, how they roared. But what happens when a young lady finds herself in that roaring, overblown time of release from the Great War, a time of bootleg, ragtime and partying? For Clara, it's both a blessing and a curse. For an overlooked, yet caring person this new life she finds herself in is so far from her knowledge or personality it is completely foreign to her. A grand adventure.

Beginning with a wish on a star, catching the bouquet at the wedding the family attends and meeting a young college man at that same wedding seems like a wish granted...or is it? Clara sees herself only as a wallflower, an old maid at the age of twenty-five, the girl from the farm no man wants, so when Erdman asks her to dance she is overwhelmed with surprise, joy and not surprisingly, eager but reticent to accept his approaches. After all, no young man has ever shown interest in her before. Be careful what you wish for, Clara!

This book spans several decades populated by many different types of characters. It takes the reader into the era completely. The complete opposites in Clara's life are palpable, as the background plot takes place in a rural farming area settled by Swedish immigrants, where little changes through the years, which makes Clara's life outside of home that much more exciting. When Clara suddenly disappears into the night, the community draws together in its sadness and caring for the family. The torch blazes bright and long as the families involved live through the decades with the shadow of Clara's disappearance always there. The author has told the story in keeping with the times, well-researched. A love story, a touch of the paranormal, a mystery and a story of deceit, vanity and mobsters. An interesting look into a world where immorality and trust can sometimes go hand in hand. S.M. Senden, in this trip through some of the most active decades you held my attention as I immersed myself in the mystery and a way of life I never saw.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Valentino Pier by Reed Farrel Coleman

Published by Raven Books - a Rapid Reads book
Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

For those readers who are unfamiliar with Raven Books' Rapid Reads, I highly recommend them for commuters, or coffee/lunch breaks. They are complete stories told in a condensed time.

PI Gulliver Dowd is not your usual protagonist. I love this character--tough, gritty with heart, his stature is short and twisted but don't underestimate him. I truly enjoy his characterization that is reminiscent of the old hard-boiled pot-boiler plots of his predecessors of the early days of pulp fiction.

This is the second Gulliver Dowd book I've read but was quite different from the first. In this outing the character's soft side comes forward without making him any less of a threat to his suspects or villains as the case may be.

Befriending a young boy, obviously a street kid, he helps him find his well-named dog, Ugly. A bond quickly begins to form between them regardless of Gulliver's hesitancy about pets, dogs in particular; but when the boy is attacked and near death it's Gulliver and Ugly who seek the answers. I enjoyed the book once again along with the characters old and new. Well-written series by Reed Farrel Coleman.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sweet Karoline by Catherine Astolfo

Published by Imajin Books

Today she killed Karoline. Didn't she? This book is a psychological first person journey within the mind of Anne. A very unique yet intriguing stroll of how she perceives herself, how she believes others perceive themselves, and how it all went wrong. But where did it go wrong, exactly? Does she really know? And though we know at the beginning of the book what Karoline's cause of death is, we do not know how it happened, we can only surmise from hints.

The death of Karoline puts Anne into a tailspin, one she doesn't know how to stop, and probably one in which she doesn't know if she wants to stop. Past, present and future all seem to be intertwined. When she finds a box of letters written by Karoline but purportedly written by Anne she begins a journey of discovery and madness. Most importantly, she must begin to discover herself and this is one thing she can do, though not without Karoline's hatred following her. She must have a true acknowledgment of self both good and bad in order to become her true self.

Finding her family is the first step to recovery from the depth of her self reproach. The journey is one of bewilderment and danger, loss of friendship and self. Who is really writing the diary? Is it Karoline or is it Anne? Why does her family, long unknown to her, calling Karoline the "other Anne?" But fulfillment is ahead as Anne begins to learn her family history, bond with her very ill mother and her siblings. There is so much she doesn't know and must learn as quickly as possible or her whole life may come tumbling down again. This book was written in a compelling manner. I found myself drawn in more the more I read. Life is never all it seems and truth is not always easy to seek, find, or accept. I fell in love with Anne and her family as well as the acceptance it brought. Catherine Astolfo has created a fine-tuned instrument that brings music to heal the soul.

Mr. Tea & and the Travelling Teacup by Leslie Matthews Stansfield

Published by Cozy Cat Press

"Polly" put the kettle on, we'll all have tea and mystery

This 1st-in-series book makes a wonderful debut. This book is fun and fancy-free, enjoyable even with a murder mystery to solve. At first I wasn't quite sure what the mystery was, then decided I'd fallen into Alice's rabbit hole. Amidst all the turmoil going on around them, Leslie Stansfield's characters are definitively fleshed out right from the start, very easy to fall in love with...can romance be far behind? I enjoyed the way the story rolled out from the first minute the teacup flew off the shelf to the decidedly vocal and psychic macaw.

The premise of the story dates back to the late 1800s with a string of unsolved bank robberies. But somehow the past is quickly passing the present! This story spoke to me on many levels including the despondency of the aging population at a time when most would rather be in their own homes, the lives of the people involved through inheritance of money stolen 100 years ago, what happens to it if it's found? The support the two sisters give each other after their mother dies, and what happens to her plans of a teahouse and a B&B now she is gone. Happily the girls do open a Tea Shop complemented with an unusually entertaining and talkative macaw, who introduces himself as Mr. T. soon changed to Mr. Tea.

This book is well-paced, with strange happenings in the Tea Shop; thieves, murder, break-ins, strange hints from Mr. Tea, especially as he greets with "Hello Ladies!" the very dead but lively night visitors only he sees, the Guthrie Sisters. All in all, I think this is going to be a fascinating and enjoyable series, I predict a long run.

Seed No Evil by Kate Collins

Published by Penguin Books Imprint: Obsidian

Fast paced race against time in this humorous but deadly Flower Shop mystery
What could be lovelier than living in a beautifully quaint small town and owning your own Flower Shop? But wait, there is even more to embellish Abby Knight's peaceful and beautiful life; the oh-so-handsome Marco Salvare, local P.I. and business owner who just happens to be Abby's fiance. With only two weeks to the wedding and a sudden horrible death where Abby's mother volunteers at an animal shelter, dark clouds seem to threaten this awaited union. But what can be accomplished in two weeks with her mother a prime suspect as the person who found the body? Is it murder?

Business is down, Marco seems distracted, and all Abby's wedding plans seem to be thwarted. Kate Collins devoted time and space to character input rather than direct and perhaps misplaced action, centered as it was around the problems threatening Abby's family, her wedding and her happiness. Not that action was missing, Abby and Marco work well together on the investigation. I enjoyed the book, it was different, more personal as we see new facets to family members. Full of verve, the families combine talents to perform a miracle and pull off the wedding. The book drew me in for the people as much as for the mystery, and it definitely was a difficult case.

The book actually involved more plotting, character development and humor as cousin Jillian "practices" the stages of pregnancy. The end result is both sad and happy and the book is certainly satisfying with a warm feeling regardless of the nature of the crime. I look forward to the next installment with Abby and the romantic Marco as a married couple. Will it affect their relationship? It remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Trailer for Children of the Fog by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

My review of the e-book CHILDREN OF THE FOG, only 0.99 cents until August 18, 2013 at can be found by clicking on the title here.


Black Loyalists: Southern Settlers of Nova Scotia's First Free Black Communities by Ruth Holmes Whitehead

Published by Nimbus Publishing
Reviewed for Edwards Book Club

This historic non-fiction book has increased my awareness of many things I didn't know or recall, both in 1700s America and in Canada. Ruth Holmes Whitehead has done her research well, and from very good sources. She has written the book in three major parts: the Slave Trade years; the British-American skirmishes of the 18th century and finally the American Revolution; and the eventual escape to freedom in Nova Scotia, slaves and freemen alike. Many of the original slaves were a mixture of three or more races: African, Native Americans primarily of the south and whites. These are basically the divisions of the book, but there is more to each part than I am including. There are also some photos, drawings, prints and records included in the book.

What I find fascinating is the number of Black Loyalists whose family tree has been recovered and recorded, even occasionally going right back to Africa. This is amazing research. There are many citations and quotes in the book, perhaps a few more than necessary but all give an excellent picture of life in these centuries.

This is the first known record of biological warfare being used (in the wars of the late 1700s). The virus which became a part of the wars was smallpox, and it was indeed used as a targeted weapon. So, we have the horrors of slavery, the horrors of war, and possibly the biggest killer, smallpox.

Part three brings us to the final routing of the British from the Carolinas and other southern provinces. From this point negotiations begin between the Americans and the British. Negotiations meaning mostly the fate of the slaves, freed or not, as this was almost the only "currency" left, the land being totally devastated.

This section also brings us to the early part of the movement of the Black Loyalists and escaped slaves toward what is now Canada, to Nova Scotia, the establishment of Black settlements, and the group of Black Africans that had paired up with these slaves and with Native North Americans. Loyalists who requested a return to Africa carried on to settle in Sierra Leone. This movement becomes a source or resource for genealogy today and some people are able to actually trace their ancestry to the original lands in Africa from which they came.

It was not all smooth sailing to eventually reach this northern clime however. Many were "dumped" at separate and often barren locations along the way. The author is to be commended for the amazing research she has done putting this cohesive work together both in the book and in the Nova Scotia Museum. There is so much more than I can say in this book, excellent coverage of a difficult time in North American history.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Do or Diner - a Comfort Food Mystery by Christine Wenger

Published by Penguin Books imprint: Obsidian

Trixie Matkowski is thrilled but very nervous when her Aunt Stella practically gives her the vacation spot of her childhood, Sandy Point, with an offer she won't be able to resist. And she doesn't resist. She is now the new owner of the Silver Bullet Diner, Victorian house, summer cottages, bait shop and a huge chunk of valuable waterfront land.

This is the first book in a new series The Comfort Food Series, and in many ways this cozy is as comforting as apple pie.  The Diner is especially meaningful to Trixie, who loves to cook. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and trustworthy and this 24-hour Diner is always full. In a small resort town one doesn't usually expect anything out of the ordinary to occur. But this small town is not without its share of mysteries and murder.

On her very first day the food inspector dies in the Diner kitchen. This definitely is not a good omen! Especially when it turns out that he was poisoned. When word gets around the small town, Trixie suddenly finds herself with lots of food and no customers, except for the enticing cowboy Ty, Deputy Sheriff Ty Brisco. Just what Trixie needed in her life...not. Hadn't she just divorced from Deputy Dog...oops, I mean Deputy Doug? Doug the cheater? Definitely Ty is a man she should avoid, even though they have agreed to share a friendly lost dog that has decided the Diner is home.

Determined to solve the mystery and get her clientele back before she goes bankrupt, Trixie does some investigating on her own. Naturally, Ty does not want her doing this, but she does turn up a few leads and evidence, sometimes by hilarious means. Christine Wenger writes with a flow I enjoyed, great characterization, description, humor and mystery. It is my opinion that the series will do very well, and those recipes that are included sound wonderful. Comfort food indeed.  4 1/2 stars

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Dead Man Spoke of Bees by Randal Koster

Reviewed from e-book

I completely enjoyed this entertaining and fascinating Private Eye book! A genre within a genre not normally included in this type of book, but it suits me fine to have some scientific bantering around, and such a variety of sciences. I'm sure my fascination was because of the main character. Randal Koster has created a most unlikely yet exceptional protagonist. What do you do when you suddenly realize that you are the appointed prime suspect in a murder case? Why, go to a coffee and donut soiree in the morgue at the police station of course. mix and mingle with the cops!

Charlie Blackwood aka Chester, Knight of the Round Kitchen Table seems destined to be in the right place at the wrong time. A scientist and mathematician by trade, he has decided to try his hand at detecting. Don't let the math and science terms get to you, just plough on through them and they'll sort themselves out, in fact you may be surprised at what you know.

The writing is fun, tense, informative and suspenseful with surprising characters. Every type of emotion is realistically shared with the reader. From the first action the tension builds and takes the reader along with the characters. A final revelation of the garbled last words of the dying man the story begins with explains much of the plot...or does it? A veritable potpourri of a plot, very entertaining.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Some Day the Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be No More by A. Brian Peckford

Published by Flanker Press 
A very well-written memoir of the life of A. Brian Peckford, Newfoundland's third Premier from the time Newfoundland was still separate from the Confederation of Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador became a province of Canada in 1949). He has a humility about him along with empathy, something he was born with but apparently seems to have honed in his work both in teaching and social work. He saw the hardships facing his people and never lost sight of that. But he can also be a force of reckoning and is fearless when it comes to politics. Never losing sight of his main goals, to help his province grow and flourish, bring his people out of their poverty and fight for their rights to their own resources. There are many times his earlier careers prove helpful, aside from the fact that in his earlier positions he made it a point to meet and sincerely assist these people to get the help they needed, one way or another.
Once Brian Peckford gets into his Premier years, his passion really shines through. As a social worker in the past, he came to be known throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and easily made the conversion to political door-knocking in every tiny settlement, isolated fisherman's cottage, town, and city. He made it a point to get to know the people personally. I wouldn't hesitate to guess that he has probably been one of the best and most honest Provincial Premiers anywhere in Canada. His foresight, his quick and decisive actions, are the signs of a truly caring man who acts almost as fast as he thinks.
Brian's writing is as powerful and clear as his oration. It is not full of convolution, but precise. What he has to say is forthright, clear, and definitive. The latter part of the book, with his multiple attempts at interaction with the federal government and non-action from the federal government, is as suspenseful and full of twists and turns as any piece of fictitious mystery would be. But this is real life, not only the memoir of Brian Peckford, but of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the struggle to truly be a "have" rather than "have-not" province, to have its own say in the management of its own resources. The book contains an Epilogue with documentation and notes, also a copy of the Atlantic Accord Memorandum of Agreement. And the sun did shine. An amazing story of an amazing man and his supporters, I definitely recommend this book.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Black Water (Book 2 in the Pat Tierney Mystery Series) by Rosemary McCracken

Published by Imajin Books
Reviewed from ebook

I was hooked in the Prologue, and I knew right then that I would enjoy this book. The characters are well-formed, with faults and strengths as real people have. The action begins quite quickly, while Pat Tierney is still reeling from the disclosure that her daughter Tracy has 'come out' and moved in with her partner Jennifer Collins, or Jamie as she chooses to be known. Now suddenly the whole world seems to have turned upside down as the police call to ask for Tracy, and because she loaned her car to Jamie, they are both immediately considered 'persons of interest' in a murder case in Braeloch, some miles north of where they live in Toronto.

To make matters worse, Jamie has disappeared but Tracy's car is still at the scene. Because Tracy has been told by police she can't leave town, Pat finds herself in Braeloch, meeting Jamie's mother Veronica, a good thing because after talking with her, Pat finds she is now able to put Tracy's life choice into perspective. But she is unable to locate Jamie and fears something has either scared her off or something has happened to her. She is absolutely sure Jamie is not a murderer. This is bolstered after a chance meeting with an old friend and confidante, Sister Celia, who knows Jamie and her family and also knows the victim well as an employee at the Church.

Pat, a financial advisor, comes up with a plan thanks to her employer at Norris Cassidy,  and positions herself at the newly opened branch in the town of Braeloch. So begins the search and chase, the sleuthing to find a killer...and hopefully Jamie. Murder is not the only thing Pat will find taking her attention. When her family is threatened, it's a whole new ballgame and she finds herself on the run with her kids. Will she be able to work out the numerous oddities that turn up? Rosemary McCracken's writing is descriptive, the camaraderie amongst many townspeople brings Pat comfort and some of the unusual characters bring some humor and pathos to the mix. An interesting storyline with surprises in store for everyone.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lost Drag Strips - Ghosts of Quarter Miles Past by Tommy Lee Byrd

Published by CarTech

An excellent and colorful trip down memory lane. Almost everyone in North America will have, at some point, heard, seen or driven a Hot Rod, Dragster, Formula 1, Sprint or any variation of racing vehicles. For me, I remember hearing the races on the mud flats, but only saw the vehicles on the road when they weren't racing. Afficionados will enjoy the well-written histories of the tracks and racers. Readers who don't know a stock-car from a sprint-car will become well-versed on the many different styles and how they evolved.

There was a lot of research and interviews involved in writing this book, I congratulate Tommy Lee Byrd on a very informative book written with such feeling. The photographs, from actual collections by the people who lived, crewed, and drove at the speedways are fabulous. The storyline is historic, factual, nostalgic and intriguing. Hard to put down, unusual in this type of book. A tribute to the author and the innovative drivers and their crews. This is not just about the drag strips or what happened to them. It's also about how the vehicles from streetracers and hot rods to the dynamic race cars of today have brought about changes and inspired the automotive industry for all makes and models of cars on the roads now.

As a teen in the 1950s, I grew up in the heyday of the growth of the sport in Canada. I found in reading this book that I wish I had seen more. I was fascinated by the speed at which changes were made in the industry and on the track to get more out of the vehicles. The growth in length of the old dragsters to the elongated parachuted dragsters of today is all documented. The death knell came for the old original community tracks and even many of the later safer tracks as the value of property increased, and in some cases population grew up around the tracks and then complaints of noise, smell and traffic "bothered" the very people who moved in next to tracks. I was actually surprised to learn that most tracks were on leased land.

I highly recommend this book to all racing car enthusiasts, those who remember the early days and those who like to learn a little bit of exciting North American vehicle and racing history. Those were the days! But not the last.

For more about Tommy Lee Byrd's photos

Buried Secrets at Louisbourg by Jo Ann Yhard

History, mystery, action and adventure for these teen heroes. An action-packed treasure hunt in historic Louisburg Fortress where the British and the French fought for control of Cape Breton Island, a prime harbour and cod fishery in Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1770s. At that time, it was a part of New France. Now it is federally protected.

Young Fred has discovered some old papers from his great-great-great grandfather's journal documenting a story of surviving a shipwreck and a map to a treasure he has buried. This is like a godsend to Fred with his family in dire straits and his mother ill with cancer. If he can only find the treasure. The map is very clear, but the buried treasure now sits in a federal heritage site. He and his friends go to an open house at the Fortress at Louisbourg, the biggest reconstructed site in North America. The public is allowed to do some archaeological digging, but unfortunately not in the area where Fred's three-times great grandfather buried his treasure. From the first moment an overzealous re-enactment soldier finds them digging to the end of the book, the teens are on a thrill-ride of trying to avoid detection by the assortment of villains who are after them.

With his mother working in the restaurant despite her illness, his father seeming to act in a clandestine manner with one of the men watching their every move, and so many eyes watching them, the young people are on high alert...yet, three of them only know a very small part of the story. What other secrets are buried at Louisbourg?

Although Fred actually found the box wth the treasure, the problem is to keep it safe until they can take it home. But are they committing a crime, taking something from a federal heritage site even with the documents? Mai thinks they are and is terrified something bad is going to happen. Jo Ann Yhard makes the adventure exciting with this well-written book. History, mystery, action and adventure all rolled into one. With a cat and mouse chase on a replicated 1770s sailing ship at sea, Fred and his friends must escape the villains, but how? All other passengers left the ship in the only launches. Exciting fare aimed at young to mid-teens, but others would enjoy it, too. I look forward to reading other books by this Canadian author.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Published by Quirk
Vintage Photos from Collections listed
A most peculiar book, monsters and shadows, are they all based on Jacob's grandfather's fears as a Jewish child in Poland pre-WWII and the only one of his family to survive? He was sent to an orphanage on an island in Wales in the earliest part of the war. But according to Jacob's grandpa, this was no ordinary home. This, Ransom Riggs' first novel, grows on you as you read. There are several vintage photographs to go along with the stories Jacob has heard all his life of the wonderful and unique home, the safe place. The children most certainly have special abilities one could call peculiar, but Jacob is not sure how much to believe now that he is in his teens. Stories of circus acts, stories of terrible monsters, can they possibly be real? Some very strange things can turn out to be real and some that seem real are not to be believed.
When his grandfather dies a horrible death and Jacob catches a glimpse of what he has only heard of before, he begins to suspect there is more to the stories. With his last breath, his grandfather cryptically tells him to go to the island, so he can be "safe", and gives him a date: September 3, 1940.
So begins this incredible journey where reality and unreality meet head on. If it weren't for Jacob's father's compulsive interest in Ornithology, and the island noted for its birds, the journey might never have begun. It's on the island where the story really takes on a life of its own. A story of lightness and darkness, magic and horror, atmospheric, a life that only Jacob appears to see. Ransom Riggs will entertain you, transfix you, make you think a bit about spatial displacement, where seemingly ordinary children can be truly extraordinary (especially if one is invisible) and everything you thought was a fairy-tale of ogres and monsters in the woods can be true. I really enjoyed this wonderfully strange journey into the author's imagination... or is it all true...
Copies of authentic Vintage Photos used in this novel and provided from various Collections are listed in the back of the book attributed to the Collectors where known. These photos spread throughout the book provide a real backbone to the story.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

Published by Bethany Books

I love this book! A good old English romp with mystery abounding. Fans of the old-type English mysteries will find this debut series reminiscent of bygone eras, Dorothy Sayer's Lord Wimsey in particular comes to mind.

Placed in the year 1932, a not so typical rich, single young heir Drew Farthering, whose best friend Nick is the son of the butler, lives with his mother and step-father in the family mansion. On the eve of one of his mother's spectacular parties, three young girls arrive from America for a visit. One of the young ladies is the niece of Drew's step-father and a beautiful handful she is. But Drew is not the only admirer at the party. The fiend after prey, Lincoln, has also got his eye on the prize, much to her consternation. Between Madeline, Drew and Nick, he is disgraced and disappears outside with Drew's mother. Shortly afterward, Drew and Madeline stumble across Lincoln's body, or is it? Difficult to tell since his head is blown away.

This is the beginning of a story that will take the reader through many twists and turns. Julianna Deering writes with all the wit the English delivered in pre-WWII mysteries. Nostalgia overtakes me as I read.

As Drew and Nick, sometimes assisted by Madeline, decide to try to solve what has become a string of crimes, there are more mysteries, more deaths. Are they related? It's a possibility, but difficult to link. The more they investigate, the more danger they are in. Yet, the young people feel they are close to the solution often, only to find it to be a red herring. Will they learn the culprit or culprits before the police? Will they learn the true victims of the case? An exciting yet labyrinthian chase through odd places gives added excitement to the quandary. Too many suspects then suddenly too few suspects. Fun and games until it hits too close to home. A different twist to the old-style mystery keeps it fresh. With a surprising ending, I really enjoyed it and look forward to more in the Drew Farthering series.
Disclaimer: I won this book in a contest on Library Thing. I was not influenced in any way, the words and rating are mine alone.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

10 Plants that Shook the World by Gillian Richardson

Illustrated by Kim Rosen
Published by Annick Press

Gillian Richardson has done a great deal of research and interviews in writing this amazing book. She clarifies what you might know and tells  you what you don't know about the history of these plants. Though a grandmother, I learned more than I expected from this book that is geared mostly to school children, something I always look for in a book--something new. The illustrations are fun and will add to the pleasure for young readers.

I would not have guessed pepper was once worth as much as gold, nor that corn in its original form could have been around 80,000 years ago. Not only that but how important corn has been, not just for eating but in so many products used in the past century.

There is a lot of human history, not always happy, packed into this book along with the history of these ten plants. This is education at its best; fun, exciting and a pleasure to read. There is a Map of Plant Origins, Bibliography and other suggested reading. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in learning about the way plants have changed the world, be it in food, industry or medicine. Who knows? Maybe a young reader will become an ethnobotanist!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Murder Past Due - a Cat in the Stacks Mystery by Miranda James

Published by Berkley Prime Crime

Great interaction between all players, lots of suspense!
This is the first book in Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks series, reprinted. Let me say first that I loved the interaction between Diesel, a rescued Maine Coon cat, and the other characters in the story. So much so, that I want a Maine Coon cat! The book is well-written and characters fully formed, not always found in the first book of a series. There appears to be a good balance among the characters.

The storyline was full of suspense and twists right to the end. When best-selling author Godfrey Priest is killed, it soon becomes clear that almost everyone had a reason to kill him. A mean-spirited and hateful snob of a character not above stealing another's works, it is a wonder he lived so long. Sadly, he leaves behind the one person who might have cared about him, his newly discovered son Justin, who just happens to be boarding at the home of our main protagonist, Godfrey's old high school acquaintance, Charlie Harris, librarian and book archivist and owner of said cat. Without Charlie's help with Diesel's assistance, the crime might never have been solved.

This series has it all, compassion, spite, good, bad, and characters that bounce off each other in many ways. A great start to a new cozy series.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Timmy the Fish - a Positive Anti-Bullying Message by Sean A. Kollman

Illustrated by Alicia C. Mattern
Dedicated to Sean A. Kollman (deceased)

In these troubled days, it's a joy to see a picture book aimed at young children, particularly in the early grades, with an anti-bullying theme they can understand. Timmy the Fish, with its adorable illustrations, is just that book. Children can probably relate to this book easier than to one featuring other children. When Timmy is bullied by bigger fish he has feelings of fear and sadness, but this all changes when he meets the biggest and oldest fish and learns that he had been bullied, too. Their friendship solidifies as Brutus the Largemouth Bass tells how he was able to free himself of the bullies. With Brutus' kindness, Timmy is happy that he can rejoin his young friends in the school without fear. At the back of the book there are some helpful links about dealing with bullying. An unusual take on a serious problem, this illustrated short story stands on its own as entertainment and education.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dirty Work by Reed Farrel Coleman

Published by Raven Books

What a great new character in this Reed Farrel Coleman Rapid Reads book. These books, for those who may not know, are complete stories that can read in a long commute (not driving LOL.) This one grabbed me right away, with its physically flawed hero. PI Gulliver Dowd's honest toughness reminds me somewhat of a Humphrey Bogart type of PI. I loved this quick read very much; from the strength of character, his honesty, his heartbreak, and his genuine outlook on the hand he has been dealt. Searching for a missing teen, all these traits come to the fore. Gullie, as his friends refer to him, is a character I would definitely like to read about again. The storyline was tight, characters deftly written. I would love to read a Gulliver Dowd series, hopefully it will be in the works.

I won this book from the LibraryThing Giveaways batch for February 2013 in exchange for a short honest review.l

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Submerged by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Published by Imajin Books
Review based on pre-release e-book 

You don't just read a Tardif book, you live it.

From Whale Song to Children of the Fog, Multi-talented Cheryl Kaye Tardif has consistently taken us on many exciting journeys. Different stories, but always with something new to learn, a fact I enjoy. Now suddenly we find ourselves immersed in her latest book "Submerged." Once again she allows us to get to know the new characters then plunges us into terror and keeps our hearts pounding. There are many heroes in this book, including a very convincing ghost, and hints of other paranormal activities.

Rebecca has no idea she has anything to fear. All she wants is some peace of mind, a couple of days of rest and solitude away from home as she waits for her husband to sign their divorce papers. A small hitch in her plans when her sister can not keep her children for the weekend means that she will have to take them with her.

"Submerged" dishes up a dash of reality, some pinches of the paranormal, a splash of romance and mixes it into a heart-wrenching terror-filled plot that will have you on the edge of your seat. Will the broken "superhero" Marcus arrive in time to save Rebecca and her children? Is it possible to find a new beginning after deep trauma and guilt? You don't read a Tardif book, you live it. With a deft hand she has us caring what happens to her characters. A taut suspenseful plot to rev up the adrenaline.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Dose of Tia by Dina Mauro

A Dose of Tia - How a Woman and Her Rescued Dog Embraced Life Through Volunteering - and How You Can, Too.

I don't normally read animal stories, they usually have me crying throughout much of the story. But as a staunch supporter of animal rescue, whether retired working animals, abandoned pets or wildlife, when I was approached to do an honest review, I knew I had to take this one on. One reason is the full title (as shown in the heading above).

This book is written from the heart as a journal. It taught me many things, but mostly that your heart never empties. The more you give of your heart the more your heart fills.

Looking for something to fill her time as her family grew, as well as their three rescued dogs, Dina Mauro began to think of what type of hobby she could do that would include her dogs and her love of children. Perhaps volunteering at a childrens' hospital would give her what she needed.

As it happened, after training with her dog Tia, an English Pointer, as a pet therapy or visitation team, she learns that there is a five year waiting list of volunteers who wanted to work with children. Dina, though disappointed, sets out to think through her interests in life, and how they would fit best as a volunteer team. She tries various hospitals, nursing homes and finally hits on the Swedish Medical Centre.

This book is uplifting, full of wonder and humor as this team begins to realize that they take away more than they give in blessings. The gift of life, good or bad, the gift of giving, the gift of healing and being healed in return. Often we think of hospitals as a place of sadness and pain, but one thing I take from reading this book is that hospitals are very much alive, and those fortunate enough to have a visit from a volunteer team will find their spirits lifted.

With each report she puts in to the lead volunteer, Jim, Dina adds a note telling him what she has learned that day. A heart-warming story and one that could be just what a reader could be looking for. How to live a rich and full life and embrace it. This animal story was truly well worth reading for everyone. For me, I was taken out of myself, looking at life differently. For those wanting more information, Dina has included a few resources at the end of the book.

Blonde Demolition by Chris Redding

Published by Imajin Books
Reviewed from e-book

Bombs, carnivals, terrorists, romance and a past that returns with a vengeance.

Chris Redding knows how to start a book off with a bang, and the action never stops. Firemen, carnivals, fundraisers and the past all mix together into a wild ride.

When Firefighter Mallory disarms a bomb in the beer trailer at the fundraising fair, her action and cool head creates questions. How did she know what to do and why did she seem so calm? Out of the past comes her old partner from Homeland Security, a part of her life she had retired from, and none of the firefighters are aware of. Trey shows up hidden in her car, and he is under orders to bring her back into the fold. No matter her former feelings for Trey, it is going to be a hard sell, much of which Trey is unaware.

This book is packed with danger and action, targetting children as an act of terror, but targetting Mallory specifically. Who is aiming to take Mallory out of the equation? How can she be a threat when she is no longer working for Homeland Security and to who? Along with the ramped up action, there is still time for humor and love, but there is also a tug-of-war for Mallory's heart. Will she be able to overcome the deep hurt that Trey is not even aware he has caused and return to her past where she is needed? Or will she continue building on a budding romance with Jesse? This book will get the adrenaline flowing, questions will be answered in unusual ways, all leading up to a tense but unexpected ending.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chasing Suspect 3 by Rod Hoisington

Our feisty protagonist Sandy Reid is back and about to face her most frustrating case yet. Excited to take on her first murder defense case, she is happy as a lark, but the sun sets too soon on this lark's happiness.

First she learns that faithful lover Chip may not have been so faithful.  She has found an intimate diary that describes far more about sex than she wants to know...especially since it is supposedly the extremely personal diary of Chip's "ex-girlfriend." From this point on everything goes downhill like a toboggan on ice, and learning that the woman of the diary is the sister-in-law of her client is the snow-bank Sandy crashes into. She finds it hard to focus on anything else.

In her usual go-for-it, sink or swim manner, Sandy is tackling a case that seems to commit itself to failing. Her client acts completely unaware of the trouble she is in, and half the time doesn't even appear to listen to what Sandy is asking or saying. Will this woman, in the midst of divorce with the deceased, be credible? Every time she opens her mouth something completely off-the-wall comes out. Is she delusional? Is she even aware that she is the prime suspect, possibly the only suspect?

Rod Hoisington has applied his heroine to a complicated plot and well-written story that covers more ground than one might expect; the case thought so simple swings around at a wild pace in different directions multiple times. Always intriguing, he brings in several new characters, some friendly, some dangerous, some you may want to wring their necks. Different jurisdictions play a part in the action, too. This is the fourth in the Sandy Reid series, each deals with distinctly different types of crime and villainy, and never disappoints. This one keeps its promise to the reader with a twisted plot and surprise ending. An entertaining and wild ride through the tantalizing legal world.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dark Water by Chynna Laird

Published by Imajin Books

Chynna Laird has filled this many-faceted book with a story that mirrors so much of life and cuts very deeply into subjects relevant today. Suspenseful and compelling yet heart-warming. A young mother disappears shortly after her husband is killed on a peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan and the book centers around her family, her friends, and even the community where the family summers every year. Many of the lake campers start talking about an old Indian legend about the Watcher of the Lake. Clues are found, but they confuse the issue even more. Some are locked away in the mind of her youngest daughter, Sage, who  has not spoken a word since her mother disappeared.

This is but a small issue in a larger one because Sage suffers from a specific type of SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). Her mother is/was a clinical psychologist, well versed in taking care of her younger child all while teaching her older daughter Freesia what works, what doesn't, and how to calm Sage in one of her terrors. Freesia is 16 years old as the story begins one year after her mother's disappearance and the girls are living with their grandparents. Fortunately for them, they are in a good family situation with their grandparents. Full of fun and mischief, yet caring and comforting, they too are able to work with Sage. When a lone girl who seems familiar begins to show up watching Freesia more than she is comfortable with, they finally have it out and become friendly in a way. Mizu wants to help look for clues.

The reader may feel they have a grip on who committed the crime, now upgraded from a disappearance. But there are so many possibilities. The peace-keepers on the mission with Freesia's father all have issues. All have been treated by her mother for PTSD. While it was called a mysterious disappearance, all kinds of rumours surfaced. Now it is surmised to be foul play, anyone might be suspect. Nothing is really as it seems.

This is not just a murder mystery, there are too many odd sequences and discoveries. Who is Mizu, how does she find clues others miss? I found a lot in this book to keep me glued to the pages. I love learning something new, and also have an interest in SPD. With so much going on the storyline could easily have been lost, but it is all held together with personalities, relationships, the feel of the lake and forest, sailing and swimming, living normal lives during a time when there is precious little normalcy. Aside from the background of the mission in Afghanistan, this story takes place in Canada, I loved the book through all its passion, trauma, laughter and love. That is what life is about after all, don't you think?

Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie by Laurie A. Jacobs

Illustrated by Anne Jewett
Published by Flashlight Press

Grandma Tillie is everychild's imagination with her many personae. Sophie and Chloe, her granddaughters, love their baby-sitter when they know it will be Grandma Tillie. Laurie A. Jacobs seems to know exactly the kind of Grandma children will love to play with, because when Grandma Tillie comes, she is not alone. She is anyone and everyone and a barrel of fun. Anne Jewett has done a fine job of creating the perfect image of Grandma Tillie with her illustrations in this hard-cover picture book.

She might be Tillie Vanilly, Chef Silly Tillie, or maybe Explorer Chilly Tillie. Whatever or whoever Grandma Tillie is, she is an entertainer and story-teller, a Grandma that any young child would love to have. An endearing childrens' picture book, lovingly created in words and illustrations, bound to be a hit.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pobble's Way by Simon Van Booy

Illustrated by Wendy Edelson
Published by Flashlight Press

Pobble's Way is a delightful picture book that tells an enticing story. Pobble loves to take magical walks through the woods around their cottage, especially between supper and bedtime with her Daddy. With rich imagination and beautiful illustrations, we follow them on their path. Everything is magical as they go along.

It is winter and there is so much to see. Mushrooms become frogs' umbrellas, But when Daddy picks her up onto his shoulders, something soft and pink falls from her pocket, and now the animals find something magical, wondering what this can be. With snow on the ground and the trees bare, each animal tried to decide where this came from.

This is a colourful adventure picture book for youngsters, written beautifully and the pictures will hold their attention as they follow the story along. I happily recommend this book for young children. This is Simon Van Booy's first children's picture book. Read it to them and enjoy it along with them. I'm sure it will become a favourite.

Dead Mans Hand by Luke Murphy

Published by Imajin Books  

Luke Murphy's debut fiction kept me off-balance most of the way through the book. I was surprised with the beginning and equally surprised by the ending. This high-powered, fast-paced murder mystery is placed in the city that doesn't sleep, Las Vegas. Plenty of suspense and few clues which tend to lead nowhere. Which suspect can be trusted, is there a rogue politician or cop in the mix that might be suspected of complicity? This is the theme that will keep the police hog-tied as corruption rears its oversized head. It quickly becomes a series of murders that will keep the reader(s) on their toes. Cut to the bare bones, the mystery of the crime seems to be easy to solve, but is it?

From the title it is obvious that the story revolves around gambling and casinos. Too many casinos, it would appear. One lone cop in charge of this case, Detective Dale Dayton, believes in the innocence of the most probable suspect, Calvin Watters. At the same time, his sergeant continues to draw a few lines he can't cross. Dayton does not appear to have a winning hand, not even a full deck. About this time the reader will question who is actually on the right track, because the murderer hasn't stopped at one death and time is running out.

There are several twists and turns in the story. Just when you think you've got it right, you're thrown another curve. The characters are so well-drawn that the reader will easily be double-guessing who did what, when and where. How many have been set up to take the fall? Who is pulling the strings that tie the hands of the homicide division? Are these really "perfect" murders? An exceptional first novel, gritty storyline to sink your teeth in, wonderful characters to root for or against. Excellent first book in what hints at the possibility of future adventures with these unlikely characters. I certainly hope so, this could be a fascinating series! Kudos to Luke Murphy, great job!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak (1878-1942)

Originally published in Polish as "Kajtus Czarodziej" in 1933
Illustrated by Avi Katz
English translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Published by Penlight Publications

At first glance only, I was not too taken with this book. I did not like the attitude or the smoking of this young boy. However, on realizing first that this was another era and second, that it was taking place in a different culture of which I knew little, I sat back and refocused. I'm glad I did.

Kaytek's real name is Antek, but a chance encounter changed his name, so as far as the schoolboys and Antek himself decided, he went by Kaytek. He is a boy who is very clever, too easily distracted, full of energy and questions, disruptive, and in general what we might say today as hyperactive or even ADHD.

Keeping in mind that he is growing up in pre-WWII Poland where poverty is prevalent and imagination is an escape, it is no wonder that Kaytek's only desire in life is to become a wizard. Through being a wizard, he comes to learn many of life's lessons as a result of his many failures due to lack of thinking things through.

The book has its charms, and is a good look at how children interact in a way we now call "bullying." Entertaining as it is, Kaytek often creates pandemonium with his wizardry. He must learn through his special abilities how to be rational, how to think of others, how to avoid capture, and so much more. On the flip side, we see how adults, particularly in this time period, treat children, use them as providers, physically abuse them, and allow them no rights.

Overall, once into the book I could soon see that it is basically a fable, a morality tale. We all grew up with similar books and stories, this one just happens to be more in depth and with more to say. I'm not sure what age this would appeal to now, 80 years later. Possibly 12 and over. It is an interesting read about a time and country not too many people in North America knew much about in the 1930s. There is a very good Translator's Afterword which  I found very compelling, explaining why and how the author, Janusz Korczak, a champion for childrens' rights, wrote a book of this nature.