Genie and his older brother Ernie, from Brooklyn, are spending a month in the south with their father's parents. The first surprise is their grandfathGenie and his older brother Ernie, from Brooklyn, are spending a month in the south with their father's parents. The first surprise is their grandfather is blind--he didn't let their father tell them because he doesn't want anyone feeling sorry for him. The second surprise is no TV, no computer, and no wifi! This is particularly hard on Genie, who is overflowing with questions; he needs his Google. Luckily they soon meet Tess, a girl Ernie's age who attracts Ernie's attention because she's pretty cool, and Genie's attention because she has internet access. Genie also gets to know his grandfather better, particularly when his grandfather allows him into his private inside-outside room, full of plants and birds. Life unfolds at a leisurely pace, but there are always dramas, small and large. Genie worries because his carelessness caused the breakage of a model made by his uncle, who was killed overseas, and for something else his carelessness causes. Ernie worries because he's the big brother, and big brothers take the hits--and this time, it's learning to fire a gun when he's afraid. Their grandfather worries about things his blindness makes difficult, and about why his son refuses to talk to him. As the summer unfolds, so do some family secrets and truths.
I enjoyed this, though I felt the beginning was a bit slow--which is ok for me, but I'm not sure kids will have the patience while not a lot is happening. There's a lot going on under the surface, though--lots of common fears translated into multiple forms, and actions and consequences. While there is some small-town-quirkiness, and lots of description of a southern small town summer, this is mostly a family story about coming to terms with fears, consequences, and secrets. It's from Genie's point of view, and I thought it was right on target with how relatively small things can grow and grow in a child's mind. I also appreciated the gross factor in some of the incidents, which will mostly (but not exclusively) appeal to boys. ...more
There's a new arrival in the Cotswold village of Finch, and everyone's naturally excited and curious. The newcomer has an interesting hobby, metal detThere's a new arrival in the Cotswold village of Finch, and everyone's naturally excited and curious. The newcomer has an interesting hobby, metal detecting, and soon there's a crazy for it--but the items found on the village green often just spark rancor, bringing old arguments and tragedies to light. Meanwhile, Lori, exploring her attic, discovers a beautiful gold bracelet, and consults the former owner of the cottage--now deceased, but still writing away just for Lori. The bracelet was a gift from a regretfully spurned suitor, and Dimity asks Lori to find him and explain. The quest takes Lori to London, where she falls for Bloomsbury and befriends three elderly WWII vets and her lovelorn young tour guide. She's not so sure she wants to find Dimity's suitor, though--she suspects there's more to the bracelet than even Dimity knows, and it might not be a good secret.
I loved this series at the beginning, and it's still fun, but it is getting a bit diffuse as it goes on. It hits a lot of familiar territory, like WWII, which is becoming less and less believable since Lori, with a new baby, can't be much over 40. In the first book, published in the 80s, it was believable that she was 30 and her mother was 19 during the war, but now her mother would have had to have her at age 60 or something. I just find that gets in the way of my enjoying the story. But still, I enjoy lighter books, so I did very much enjoy listening to it....more
Former chief of police Kate Sullivan returns to her Minnesota (why is it always Minnesota? It's murder central, apparently--so many series set there)Former chief of police Kate Sullivan returns to her Minnesota (why is it always Minnesota? It's murder central, apparently--so many series set there) hometown to visit her daughter and grandchildren. While there, a young woman from a local art gallery is found murdered at the Pierce Estate, a mansion owned by the Pierce family. Randall Pierce also owns the gallery and had employed the murdered woman (Stacy, maybe?), so he's quickly arrested and Kate's daughter Liz is retained as his lawyer. She recruits her mother to investigate the murder, which Kate does despite massive friction with the sexist, ageist cop who replaced her as chief of police. Fine art is involved; there has always been a rumor that the original Pierce who built the mansion smuggled home art after WWII and hid it there. That rumor might be at the heart of the murder...or not. When not investigating, Kate is talking to her daughter and grandchildren, sifting through their troubles and being a good grandmother (including taking away her granddaughter's cell phone).
Meh. This was fine, but nothing special. The characters are fine, the setting is well-described, but I'm just not into private investigator mysteries with lots of police involvement. My parents would probably love it, though!...more
Minnesota cookie baker Hannah's mother Delores is getting married in Las Vegas, and no one tells Hannah that the groom's best man is an old flame of hMinnesota cookie baker Hannah's mother Delores is getting married in Las Vegas, and no one tells Hannah that the groom's best man is an old flame of hers, Ross. Nevertheless, she falls instantly in love with him, despite the fact that for 17 books she's been co-dating Norman and Mike, who have both proposed, and whom she still loves. Ross is planning to move to Hannah's hometown as well. When Hannah gets back to Lake Eden, she still has to face a trial for vehicular manslaughter, but on the morning of the trial, she finds Judge Colfax murdered in his chambers. Of course she investigates (not thinking of Ross at all, despite being madly in love with him, apparently), and gets in over her head. And bakes a lot (the recipes are the star of this one, for sure).
What. The hell. Was that? Either Fluke owes a huge debt of gratitude to her audiobook reader for making her books so much fun as read-alouds (despite her tendency to give breathy baby voices to too many of the women), or this one was kind of phoned in. I mean, over 17 books Hannah's been seesawing between Norman and Mike, and her feelings for them are based on things they say and do--the relationships have developed gradually. My feeling is that Fluke threw up her hands and admitted what everyone knows, that there's no way Hannah can decide between/marry either one of them, so a new character is shoehorned in and within a few chapters, Hannah is wildly in love with him for no apparent reason other than he's not Norman or Mike. Yet she still expects both Norman and Mike to remain in love with her. I'm sorry, but that is so wildly selfish as to be unbelievable. Also, there were some majorly obvious clue drops. Overall, the mystery is fine, and the recipes are great, but this completely didn't work for me otherwise. So disappointed....more
Delaney, who hears books in her head, is upping stakes and moving from Kansas to Edinburgh, to work in a used-book store. It's a big adventure, but geDelaney, who hears books in her head, is upping stakes and moving from Kansas to Edinburgh, to work in a used-book store. It's a big adventure, but gets a little too big when the owner's sister is found murdered soon after Delaney's arrival. Delaney discovers that Edwin, the store owner, had trusted his seldom-sober, drug-using sister with a book of unfathomable value, and he refuses to tell the police about it because he's not sure if the man he bought it from--a friend--obtained it legally. So Delaney, who has landed on her feet thanks to a kindly cab driver who found her a cottage right next to his and his wife's, and who drives her around whenever she asks, decides to investigate. Despite knowing nothing about Edinburgh, Jenny (the murdered woman), Edwin, how police investigations in Scotland work, or even how to get a cell phone that works in Scotland.
Meh. I wanted to love this because I love Scotland, and the descriptions of places are good and you can tell the author did her homework, but I just couldn't buy most of this. Maybe I just can't sympathize with a gorgeous main character who has men falling at her feet to help her out? My main issue, though, was her supposedly magic ability to hear books. She makes a big deal out of it in the start of the book, but then the author seems to forget about it because it almost never comes up again. Until, for some unexplained reason, she loses the ability. It doesn't seem to perturb her much, and since she wasn't using it to solve any mysteries anyway, she (and the readers) didn't really need it. So WTH was it there for in the first place? I mean, if you're going to write about a character with a magical ability, and you make a big deal about it, you're kind of obligated to make it vital to the story. So...not a winner for me, alas....more
In 1242 France it seems odd that the most wanted criminals in the land are three children and their dog, but as travelers gather at a roadside inn toIn 1242 France it seems odd that the most wanted criminals in the land are three children and their dog, but as travelers gather at a roadside inn to exchange stories about them, Canterbury Tales style, their story emerges. Jeanne is a peasant girl whose village venerated the dog that saved her life when she was a baby, but was then killed by mistake. Jeanne has fits and sees the future, which is how she saves the dog's life when she sees it reincarnated--just in time to save it from men sent to kill it. Jacob is a Jewish boy with miraculous healing powers. His village is burned by Christians but he manages to flee, hoping against hope his parents have survived. William is a half-African oblate (like a monk), huge for his age, and with unnatural strength. Sent to take some books to another monastery, he has some wild adventures and then falls in with the other children as they set off on some unexpectedly wild adventures of their own--that lead them, rather unexpectedly, to their most-wanted status. Are they in the right? And who is the narrator, who is so eager for their story?
Despite some violence and gross-out moments, I loved this. I love unusual structures in stories, so the story-told-through-others'-stories appealed to me. I also think the author got the earthy flavor of the Middle Ages, and their sense of belief in the rather unbelievable tales of headless saints and dragons and so forth, as well as their ignorance of much of the wider world--including brown-skinned and/or Jewish people. I liked the questioning that ran through the story, which might appeal to someone of devout religion who yet has a logical streak that can't quite accept the state of the world in light of God's supposed goodness. I also enjoyed the humor and heart, and the delightful characters. I don't think this will appeal to everyone, and I'll have to use the promise of lethally-farting dragons to "sell" it in booktalks, but I'll give it a go!...more
Continuing her search for her missing brother Jared, Dessa and her friends have finally found the mystical floating island of Astaroth where he mightContinuing her search for her missing brother Jared, Dessa and her friends have finally found the mystical floating island of Astaroth where he might be. Managing to fly up to the island, they discover a world they never suspected, where the three inhabitants await the visits of the enigmatic Toymaker. Dessa, of course, investigates. Meanwhile, one of the King's men back on the mainland has been ruthlessly pursuing a redheaded boy who seems to hold some kind of secret.
This is a great series, lots of fun and adventure and peril, and gorgeous artwork--great for fans of the Amulet series by Kibuishi. The island is extremely similar to Laputa from the Miyazaki movie, so I'm wondering if that was the inspiration. Anyway, can't wait to see what happens in the next volume!...more
It's an exciting time in cookie baker Hannah Swenson's life. Not only is she engaged, with her wedding coming up in very short order, but she's particIt's an exciting time in cookie baker Hannah Swenson's life. Not only is she engaged, with her wedding coming up in very short order, but she's participating in a baking competition on the Food Channel in New York. When the competition is moved up and the venue made mobile--whomever wins the first round, the show will go to their hometown for the rest of the challenges--Hannah rolls with it, and of course she wins and the show moves to Lake Eden, Minnesota. She has another advantage in that her business partner's aunt knew the head judge, Alan Duquesne (sp?), when he was Alan Duke, and knows what kind of food he likes. This serves Hannah well as she makes a rainbow wedding cake flavored with jello, among other things. However, because this is Lake Eden, of course the head judge is found dead with a slice of that cake in hand (or nearby), and now Hannah has to juggle getting married, participating in the show, and solving a murder. Before she ends up as the next victim.
I skipped the book before this one because I had gotten frustrated with the series going the route of becoming depressing, and only picked this one up because once again I was out of audiobooks. I'm glad I did, because this is a return to the lighter tone of the others, but also now think I have to go back because all of a sudden Hannah has thrown off the two suitors she's had for the other 18 books and is marrying someone else altogether. WTH? Without reading the prior book, I'm kind of not buying it. I kept expecting him to get murdered or to murder someone and go back to status quo. I won't say if that happened or not. I did enjoy the details of this, as I have for the other books--lots of fun recipes, and I've already written down one to try. I also liked the details of how a Food Network competition works (at least, I'm assuming the writer did her homework). I'll admit I skipped the lengthy section of Hannah-in-peril at the end because that's not why I read the books, plus I couldn't believe that Hannah would do the INCREDIBLY STUPID thing she did to wind up in peril. I just didn't buy that she could possibly be that stupid--it was just contrived so she'd end up in unnecessary peril. But anyway, other than that I enjoyed it....more
With regret, I've decided not to finish this one. I've loved the series, but what I loved were the characters and the mystery, when they were actuallyWith regret, I've decided not to finish this one. I've loved the series, but what I loved were the characters and the mystery, when they were actually mystery novels. Now that Daisy is a spy, I'm just not interested--not my genre. Oh well!...more
Sophie and her best friend Grace, along with engineering expert Trista, have already solved one major (murder?) mystery in Luna Vista, and now they haSophie and her best friend Grace, along with engineering expert Trista, have already solved one major (murder?) mystery in Luna Vista, and now they have another on their hands. The town is going nuts prepping for their Winter Sun Festival, with its flower-covered floats in the big parade, and the Royal Court of princesses and pages. Sophie and Grace are decorating floats when the head of the festival is discovered dead, by means of an animatronic s'more on the Girl Scout float. To solve the murder, Grace convinces a majorly reluctant Sophie that they have to try to get spots as pages, so they can be on the spot in the Ridley Mansion near the Float Barn. Sophie has no interest in most things girly, nor does Trista, but Grace convinces them and to Sophie's amazement, they are actually chosen. From there, they have to conduct their sleuthing in between putting together emergency makeup packets, getting herbal tea for the queen and her princesses, and going to photo shoots. Can they solve the mystery before someone else gets killed? How about before one of THEM gets killed?
I did and didn't like this one. I thought it was too long, for one thing, and I had a hard time getting into it--it was one I had no trouble putting down and listening to something else for a while. Also, the narrator really killed it for me. Her voices were terrible, I'm sorry to say. Sophie and Grace were fine, but most everyone else just sounded like bad SNL impressions. The "popular" girls in particular all sounded like the worst possible impression you could do of a 1980s Valley Girl (WTH?), so it was impossible either to like them or take them seriously. The one character with a vaguely Scandinavian last name sounded like the Swedish Chef transplanted to Fargo. Again, WTH? What I did like was the wonderful world-building with all the setting details. A parade is a great setting because it's so full of colorful details, and the author really paints a vivid picture of everything. I thought the mystery was fine, too--though for a while she did fake me out that it was going to be the obvious person, whom I never suspected. It turned out to be the one I suspected right away, though, which I'm not sure is any better. But I've read a ton of mysteries! And I'll admit, I fast forwarded through the spots of massive humiliation and too much suspense, but that's just me. I think kids will probably like it, even if I was leery about the uber-non-girly Trista suddenly liking how she looked in a pretty dress. News flash: it's okay not to like wearing pretty dresses! It's also okay to like wearing them, of course, but it would be nice to have characters who really don't and who aren't converted into something more socially acceptable by discovering a sudden liking for taffeta....more
Impoverished royal cousin Lady Georgiana Rannoch is in desperate need of sunshine during a wet January in London. With a commission from the Queen toImpoverished royal cousin Lady Georgiana Rannoch is in desperate need of sunshine during a wet January in London. With a commission from the Queen to retrieve a stolen snuffbox from Sir Toby Groper in Nice, Georgiana gladly sets out for the south of France. To her surprise and relief, her wealthy mother is already there, sharing her villa with Coco Chanel, and they invite Georgiana to join them--and their villa sits just above Sir Toby's. Things don't go quite as planned, however. At an ill-fated fashion show where Georgiana is reluctantly modelling, she takes a fall and someone takes the opportunity to steal the priceless necklace she wears--borrowed by Chanel's friend from the Queen. Then after a yacht trip with the obnoxious and lecherous Sir Toby, Georgiana flees to the much pleasanter arms of a marquis she's just met, but later finds Sir Toby dead in his own swimming pool. And when she thought it couldn't get worse, she's arrested for the murder. It's up to her to solve the murder to save her own life, now.
I enjoy this series, with all the wonderful period and setting details and colorful characters. I didn't like this one quite as much because I hate it when the detective gets arrested--it's so stressful to read--but I enjoyed everything else. It was particularly satisfying when Georgiana got to flee the dank and unwelcoming villa of her half-brother and his wife, with another lecherous host (not her brother) and the intention that Georgiana be governess to the resident children, to join her mother and Chanel on the coast. I enjoyed the romance as well, though I knew perfectly well she was wrong about her erstwhile suitor, Darcy, and she'd just regret it if she did give herself to the marquis! I won't reveal if she did or not. Enjoy!...more