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 Amazon.com 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