Saturday, February 27, 2010

'The Charm Stone', Lillian Stewart Carl, 2009, Five Star Publishing/Gale, Cengage Learning

Jean Fairburn, journalist, teams up once again with her significant other, ex-Scottish policeman, Alasdiar Cameron. They have traveled to Williamsburg, VA, to represent Scotland at a posh affair honoring Lord Dunmore, the last British governor of Virginia. Alasdair is the chief of security at Protect and Survive in Scotland and before Jean and Alasdiar depart for the event, find out that the copy of the Dunmore Witch Box has been stolen from Blair Castle back home. The original is in a Williamsburg museum, but two hundred years earlier, a charm stone went missing from the original Witch Box. The plot of the story revolves around the famous stone.

At the beginning of the event which occurs on Halloween, a suspicious death is announced and Lillian Stewart Carl proceeds to unfold a story of ghosts, shadows and murder. She is adept in weaving in so many interesting characters as well as the history of Williamsburg and the detailed descriptions of so many historical buildings.

Legends, myths and truths abound in 'The Charm Stone' and Carl shows her expertise in them and her vast knowledge of American history.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Hungry Spirits', Alice Duncan, June 2010, Five Star/Cengage

Alice Duncan's main character, Daisy Gumm Majesty is a delight who pretends to converse with spirits and does it for a living. The setting is 1921 after the Great War; Daisy's husband Billy was in the war for one year before he came home injured from bullets and shrapnel. But the mustard gas had the worst effect on Billy; he is unable to walk, breathing is difficult and he is miserable. Daisy and Billy live with her parents and her Aunt Viola (who is an excellent cook) in a bungalow in Pasadena.

Daisy is a self-proclaimed terrible cook and is quite surprised when she is asked by friend Johnny Buckingham, a minister with the Salvation Army, to teach a cooking class for women who are poor and some are war refugees. What Johnny really wants is Daisy's personality-kind and gentle-to teach these frightened women. Because of what happened to Billy, Daisy does not like or trust Germans. Her cooking class leads her into a mystery but also becomes an eye opener for Daisy.

Alice Duncan has given us a slice of life book in post-wartime with an interlocking mystery. She delves into the feelings of the survivors and the families who lost loved ones. 'Hungry Spirits' has substance in the story line as well as in each character. This book taught me quite a bit about that time, peoples' emotions and what a hard time it was for so many.

A great change of pace book, thoroughly enjoyable with great writing that holds your interest throughout. I highly recommend it; it's good for the heart and soul!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Bolt from the Dead, Diane A.S. Stuckart, 2010,Penguin Group

It is spring 1484 in the Duchy of Milan and Leonardo da Vinci is court engineer to the Duke of Milan. The Duke asks da Vinci to invent a flying machine and Leonardo hires Angelo della Fazia, a master craftsman to help him.

Delfina della Fazia is a star apprentice to da Vinci and uses the name Dino to help disguise her sex. After Dino's father Angelo arrives, a fellow apprentice Constantin is murdered and now Leonardo's project is at risk as well as the threat of more murders and war.

Written about Renaissance Italy, Stuckart exposes the reader to the life, customs and the social system of that time while weaving her tale.

'A Bolt from the Blue' is a different take on a mystery mainly because of the characters. But I had a difficult time associating with either Dino or Leonardo because they weren't convincing enough for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Confessions of A She-Fan, Jane Heller, 2009, Rodale, Inc.

Finally! A woman's perspective of being in love with the New York Yankees!
Being a die-hard Yankee fan myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jane Heller's book. The prologue had me laughing out loud with tears in my eyes.

Her story is an indepth look at her true feelings and devotion to the team. Early in the 2007 season, Jane decides to divorce the Bombers on grounds of mental cruelty and writes an article that gets published in the New York Times. It receives all sorts of reactions from ardent sports lovers everywhere. So Jane decides to find out whether she is a fair weather fan. Her journey takes her to every Yankee game after the All Star break and she regales us with the stories of this journey.

A great humorous read with insight into all the aspects of baseball that she experiences. I truly could not put this book down.

Wonder how Jane felt in Oct., 2009?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Duty to the Dead, Charles Todd, 2009, Harper-Collins

In his first of a new series, Todd introduces us to Bess Crawford, who joins the nursing corps at the beginning of the Great War. She gets a first-hand view of the war when she is sent to France and on the hospital ship Britannic.

Bess grows fond of a wounded lieutenant on the ship and promises to keep his dying wish by delivering a message to his brother. When she arrives at the family home in Kent, she is met with apathy from the entire family. A tragedy occurs that prevents Bess from leaving and leads her into a world of murder and secrets. Now her own life is at stake.

Charles Todd is a master of historical mysteries. His characters are so well reinforced that the reader can feel their pain, their losses and the desire for peace in a normal world.

His plot never wavers and his in depth descriptions totally hold the reader's interest. You will come away with an intense understanding of the people and the period.

If you have not read Charles Todd yet, you are missing some fascinating literature. I really enjoyed the start of this new series and look forward to more of Bess.

Todd's new book featuring Ian Rutledge in 'The Red Door' has just been published to the delight of all his fans.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Devils Island, Carl Brookins, 2010, Echelon Press

Mary Whitney and husband Michael Tanner are avid sailors living in Seattle on Puget Sound. They plan to go to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands off the south shore of Wisconsin and charter a sailboat. Michael's business delays his departure and Mary flies off alone. When she arrives in the Apostle Islands she feels a lure to Devils Island, which is isolated, uninhabited and rocky.

Her turbulent relationship with her ex husband Edwin Tobias has been a problem and Michael is concerned about her being alone. But Mary is looking forward to her solo time on the water before he arrives, not expecting or prepared for the events to come.

Carl Brookins is certainly an expert on sailing from every perspective as well as the geographical areas the book encompasses. Mary's character is strong, independent and interesting. However, I would have preferred more intrigue earlier in the book to accompany the fast pace towards the end.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Remains of Heaven, C.S. Harris, 2009, Penguin Books, Ltd.

Set in London in 1812, the Archbishop of Canterbury solicits Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Two brutal deaths have occurred in an ancient crypt and one of the deaths appears to be from the 18th century.

Sebastian begins delving into the situation and soon has a lengthy suspect list from the upper crust of London's society to the East End. He learns many secrets including those of his own family.

While she relates this story, Harris gives us insight into the social structure of the time, including clergy and lay people. The reader learns of the different personalities and how they deal with unearthed secrets and secrets they decide to keep.

'What Remains of Heaven' takes the reader to a time in history, Regency England, that is rarely explored in a mystery. Harris ties all the pieces of her plot together extremely well, building to a powerful ending. She takes us back in time and her presentation will appeal to readers.