Sunday, September 26, 2010

Three September Also Reads

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg This was a reread for the September book discussion at On the Porch Swing (Yahoo group). I liked this culinary memoir even more the second time around and have flagged several receipes to try out now that the fall cooking season has arrived. Click here to check out some of Molly Wizenberg's recipes and writings at her blog, Orangette.
Rating: 4.5/5 (Non-fiction Scale)

Most Eagerly Yours by Allison Chase
This was the September selection for the local Barnes and Noble Romance Readers group. Most Eagerly Yours is the first in a new series about four sisters who have the confidence of young Princess Victoria to carry out investigations with the utmost discretion. Nothing in this book tempted me to seek out/eagerly await the next installments.
Rating: 2/5 (Romance Scale)

Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart
After reading the 19th and 20th installment in the Death on Demand series, I thought it was time to go back, start at the beginning, and read forward. It was fun meeting Annie Laurance and Max Darling at the outset of their crime solving capers. Several of the recurring Broward's Rock regulars were introduced here, too. I read Death on Demand on my Kindle and appreciated very much not having to chase around the used bookstores or haunting inter-library loan to get this book. One click and I was good to read!
Rating: 3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd is the second installment in the Bess Crawford series. Readers first met Bess, a WWI army nurse, in A Duty to the Dead; and if you're a fan of the Masie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, you will probably like Bess as well.

From Publisher's Weekly (via
Starred Review. Set in the summer of 1917, Todd's excellent second mystery featuring British nurse Bess Crawford (after 2009's A Duty to the Dead) smoothly blends realistic characters with an intricate plot. When Bess accompanies Lt. Meriwether Evanson, a severe burn victim, from the Continent to England, she's surprised to spot the pilot's supposedly devoted wife, Marjorie, crying on another man's shoulder at a train station. After returning to saving lives under German fire in France, Bess is stunned to read in a newspaper that Marjorie has been stabbed to death in London. Soon after, the depressed lieutenant commits suicide by cutting his own throat. Unable to resist involving herself in the murder investigation, Bess seeks to identify Marjorie's unknown companion, the possible killer. In addition to supplying a challenging puzzle, Todd (a mother-son writing team) does a superb job of capturing the feel of the battlefield and the emotional toll taken on those waiting back home for a loved one's return.

When reading a mystery, I'm not obsessed with trying to outsmart the author's revelation of events and am content to wait to see the whodunit it play out. I did, however, have some inkings when reading An Impartial Witness; and I was almost right! :) The only thing I really wondered about was all the traveling around that Bess and her cohorts did. Driving up to London and back again and up again and back. To the battlefield in France and back to Portsmouth and back to France and back again. Would petrol have been so easily available for all these trips? Were the trips back and forth to France convenient to the plot or the reality of WWI nurse assignments?

I like my mysteries gentle and readily admit that I avoid any mysteries with the words "chilling," "sinister," or "dark and violent" in plot descriptions. Both the Masie Dobbs and Bess Crawford series fit my comfort zone. I'm looking forward to the third Bess Crawford and also want to check out Charles Todd's other series about Inspector Ian Rutledge.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Dedication: In remembrance...Samantha June 1995 5o September 2007 and Crystal November 1995 to March 2008 who gave so much to those who loved them.
First Line: As my train pulled into London, I looked out at the early summer rain and was glad to see the dreary day had followed me from Hampshire.

Book Extras
Charles Todd is the mother/son writing team of David Todd Watjen and Carolyn L.T. Watjen. Click here to visit the author's website or click here to see a listing of books in both the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford series.

For more information on An Impartial Witness, visit the publisher's page here.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

Several years ago I tried to read In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner. Perhaps being the mother of a single, out-on-her-own daughter colored my reaction, but I just couldn't bring myself to read past the opening sequence of events. So, I stayed away from Jennifer Weiner until I read the description of Fly Away Home. Granted, the pulled from the headlines plotline of the disgraced politician may have made this another pass; however, I put it on my library reserve list and did find the story good enough to keep me reading on a Saturday afternoon despite the less than enthusiastic editorial review from Publishers Weekly.

From Publishers Weekly (via
Weiner weaves a forgettable family drama with three weakly connected storylines: mother Sylvie Woodruff long ago sacrificed herself to become the perfect politician's wife, but the revelation of her husband's infidelity sends her off to reconnect with her old self. Her daughters aren't faring any better: recovering addict Lizzie is pursuing an interest in photography, but a childhood incident continues to trouble her; and dutiful older daughter Diana, an ER doctor, is escaping her blandly offensive husband via her own affair. The three women's crises function in parallel, and Weiner is unable to keep the narrative tension going when she hops from one character to another, largely because their issues are so tidily resolved and the women are never in real emotional danger--Sylvie's husband's affair is a "one-day story," Lizzie's narcotic slip is to take a couple of Advil PM (and an apology resolves the unresolved past), and the breakdown of Diana's marriage is dispatched as easily as Diana making a resolution to change her life. The lack of conflict and strong characters, and the heavy dose of brand names and ripped-from-the-headlines references, make this disappointingly disposable.

When all was said and read, it was wrapped a little too nicely. I'm much more intrigued with watching the tensions in The Good Wife. How will Alicia Florrick handle things this year?

Rating: 3/5 (Fiction Scale)
Dedication: For Joanna Pulcini and Greer Hendricks
First Line: Breakfast in five-star hotels was always the same.

Book Extras
Visit the author's website here.
Visit the publisher's page here.

Les at Lesley's Book Nook has written a review of Fly Away Home which pretty much echoes my experience. Please click here to read her review. While you're there, be sure to check out Les's new wheels!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr

After reading all of Robyn Carr's Virgin River books, I was looking forward to this stand alone, A Summer in Sonoma

From Publishers Weekly (via amazon)
Carr (the Virgin River series) brings four high school friends together in a slow-moving but charming story set in beautiful Northern California. Cassie is sick of searching for Mr. Right and ending up with Mr. Very Wrong. Julie wishes she didn't worry about money all the time. Marty misses romance to the point that she's considering cheating on her husband. Stoic Beth quietly struggles with health problems. Cassie tries to understand her feelings for a ponytailed biker, Julie deals with an unexpected pregnancy, Marty attempts to save her marriage, and Beth realizes breast cancer is not something she can hide. Though the leading ladies are not terribly well developed, their stories will strike a chord with readers. Male supporting characters add spark and help propel the plot to a predictable yet satisfying happy ending.

In retrospect, I should have let more time elapse between bidding farewell to Virgin River and welcoming another group of slightly flawed characters looking to find the perfect life.  Don't get me wrong, A Summer in Sonoma was a good story and true to Ms. Carr's form.  I have The House on Olive Street waiting in Mt. TBR, but I think I'll let some time pass before pushing it nearer the peak of the mountain.

Rating:  3/5 (Romance Scale)
First Line:  Cassie and Ken walked out of the bar together at seven-thirty.

Book Extras
Read Frech Fiction's review of A Summer in Sonoma here.
Visit the author's website here.