The Sin du Jour catering crew is back, this time preparing for a goblin wedding. Lia and Darren think they haven't decided to sign on permanently withThe Sin du Jour catering crew is back, this time preparing for a goblin wedding. Lia and Darren think they haven't decided to sign on permanently with Sin du Jour, but that illusion is dispelled so quickly it can't even count as a spoiler.
This time their difficulty is not a hard to get ingredient. There is a challenge in making identical-looking dishes for both goblin and human guests, but that's not the problem, either.
The problem is what happens when a seasoning from the goblin menu is accidentally added to the human menu.
Rose Schrock has lost a lot over the past couple of years. Her husband's previously successful, respectable investment business adopted riskier strateRose Schrock has lost a lot over the past couple of years. Her husband's previously successful, respectable investment business adopted riskier strategies to remain successful in an economic downturn, and ended by sinking into bankruptcy and ruin, with the SEC asking pointed and unpleasant questions. When they could no longer continue financially, her husband's mother takes in their whole family, in the farmhouse he grew up in--but with a condition. This Mennonite family must return to the Old Order Amish faith in which he and she were both raised. They do it, and have a level of security, but then he abruptly dies in circumstances that might or might not be suicide.
It's a shock for the five children, both their younger three together and his two from his first marriage, and Rose is left struggling to pay off her late husband's debts, care for her cranky mother-in-law, and support her family. On top of all this, the eldest son, Tobe, who had worked with his father, has disappeared.
Rose needs to turn things around, and a chance encounter with an "English" couple, i.e., not Amish, needing a place to stay in town for a night or two leads her to the idea of turning the old farmhouse into a bad & breakfast inn.
Rose's mother-in-law, Vera, is appalled. Older daughter Bethany thinks it's crazy, while younger daughter Miriam thinks it might work. The twin boys are too young to really have an opinion. Neighbor Galen King helps her do the conversion of the finished basement into guest quarters.
They're all in for a year of revelations and changes.
What's key in this book is the development of the characters. Rose, Vera, Bethany, and Miriam, along with Galen King and his apprentice horse trainer, all have a lot to learn about their own and each other's strengths and weaknesses. Those lessons don't come only from each other, or from other Amish. The Amish and the "English" who come to stay at the Inn at Eagle Hill have a lot to learn from each other. It's worthy of note that Fisher does this without either sappiness or disrespect for either basic viewpoint. It's a warm, enjoyable story that shows some faith in human nature as well as in God.
I received this audiobook as a gift, and am reviewing it voluntarily....more
Larry and Frannie Shoemaker are off on another of their camping adventures with friends, and their two grandchildren, Sabet and Joe, are with them. AlLarry and Frannie Shoemaker are off on another of their camping adventures with friends, and their two grandchildren, Sabet and Joe, are with them. All seems well except for a little girl who rides her bicycle with very noisy training wheels that drive Larry crazy--until that very girl disappears, right after complaining to another camper that Larry frightened her.
Suddenly Larry, a grandfather and retired police officer, is in the minds of many of their fellow campers the prime suspect in a child's disappearance.
Frannie just can't leave the investigation to the police, and soon she has their friends, Mickey and Jane-Ann, involved in the search as well. With clues pointing in several directions, and the missing girl's frightened mother having latched onto Larry as, at least, her prime suspect, it's only a partial comfort when a familiar face from a previous adventure turns up to lead the official investigation.
Overall, this is a good, strong mystery, with nicely developed characters who are likable and engaging. There's some reference to past events, but that acts to give the characters more depth without making it necessary to read the previous book first. It is unfortunate that, early on, a critical event depends on one character acting decidedly out of character. It's commented on at the time, and never really accounted for. Regardless, though, it's still an excellent story. The icing on the cake for this audio version is the narrator; Michelle Babb has a voice that's both pleasant and strong, capable of cutting through road noise effectively for those of us who listen to books in our cars!
I received a free copy of this audiobook and am reviewing it voluntarily....more
Darcy Campbell, newspaper reporter on leave from her Dallas job following the death of her husband, is staying with her mother, Flora Tucker, in her hDarcy Campbell, newspaper reporter on leave from her Dallas job following the death of her husband, is staying with her mother, Flora Tucker, in her home town of Levi, Oklahoma. She came here for peace and recovery, but she and her mother have already solved one murder that they accidentally become involved with, and got a lot of news coverage because of it.
Now her mother has received a letter from Sophie Williams, of Amarillo, Texas. Her daughter Andrea married Gary Worth, of Levi, but disappeared without a trace two years ago.
Sophie wants the pair to investigate her daughter's disappearance.
Sophie is in pain over her daughter's disappearance, and Darcy and Flora are both kind and compassionate women. It can't hurt to take another look at the evidence, can it?
Of course, someone doesn't want them, especially investigative reporter Darcy, poking around, and it's not long before strange things start to happen. Along the way, they make new friends, new enemies, and possibly new love.
Manos and Burgess write about the landscape of Oklahoma and northern Texas in a way that makes it beautiful and real, while narrator Babb brings it to life with her voice. Darcy and Flora are both smart, capable women, and while identifying this as a "Christian" novel, they act on their values rather than preaching. My late father would recognize them as "good Christian people;" today's "Christian right," perhaps not so much.
This is a good mystery, and the characters are very much worth spending time with them. I liked them, and I think you will, too.
I received a free copy of this audiobook and am reviewing it by my own choice....more
Galathea Winthrop is the seventh child of a seventh daughter and a seventh son, and she is expected to be a prodigy of a mage. Her birth is front-pageGalathea Winthrop is the seventh child of a seventh daughter and a seventh son, and she is expected to be a prodigy of a mage. Her birth is front-page news. Everyone awaits the news of her first signs of the great magic that will surely be hers.
Little Thea proves to be a "magidim," i.e., apparently no magic at all. Ars Magica is the only subject she doesn't excel in at school.
Finally, as a teenager, after years of special classes and special teachers, her parents conclude they have no choice. Her father arranges one last "summer camp" of special tutoring, hoping to knock her magic loose at last, and if that doesn't work, she'll have to go to Wandless Academy, the school for those with no magic at all.
"Summer camp" gets moved up to April, and is nothing like what she expected.
When it's done and she returns home, her ideas have changed a lot, along with her feelings about going to Wandless Academy. And what she finds at Wandless brings new revelations.
This is a story of a teenager who has grown up disappointing the impossible expectations all around her, and discovering who she really is. Along the way, she also learns a lot more about her parents, her aunt, and the other adults around her.
It's a good plot, and good character development. I'd love to talk more about the "summer camp" experience, but what I'd say would be spoilerific, so I refrain.
In the first half of the 20th century, the word "computer" meant a person who did heavy-duty computation. During the Second World War and the years foIn the first half of the 20th century, the word "computer" meant a person who did heavy-duty computation. During the Second World War and the years following, this included doing the computation for missile development. When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was created, computers were in great demand there.
And at JPL, something special happened.
Many of the early computers hired there were women.They were working closely with the engineers, who were all men; women were simply not hired as engineers, no matter what their qualifications. The woman who became head of the computer department decided she would only hire women.
This was not an era of gender equality. Women expected, and were expected, to marry and become mothers. There was no maternity leave, so a married working woman who became pregnant had no alternative but to quit.
But the women working at JPL became a bonded group, as much a family as a group of coworkers. And over the years, they worked to professionalize themselves, and to professionalize their image in the minds of their male coworkers. As the first machine computers were developed and brought in, it was the women computers who learned to use and program them. Both before and after the arrival of the machines, it was the women writing the programs that made both missiles and rockets fly.
This book follows the lives, professional and personal, of the women who first were JPL's computers, and later became the programmers of computers, and finally were recognized as engineers in their own right. They were a major component of the growth of NASA, and the development of the space program. We get to see the tensions between their personal lives and their professional lives, as well as the role they played in pushing the robot-based exploration of the solar system--missions to Venus, Mars, and beyond. It's a complex and stirring tale, and an important piece of both social and scientific history. The early parts especially, for younger readers (and by that I mean readers in their thirties, not kids) is likely to read like an account of an alien, or at the very least foreign, society.
So much progress has happened in my lifetime. I'd hate to see us go backward.
This is Carrie Fisher's account of becoming Princess Leia, being Princess Leia, and how that affected her life, then and later. I had it marked down fThis is Carrie Fisher's account of becoming Princess Leia, being Princess Leia, and how that affected her life, then and later. I had it marked down for reading or listening at some point, but it was quite recent, and I had other things on my list...
Who knew she would be gone from us so soon?
All that said, I think in this case, the audiobook is definitely the way to go. We get Carrie Fisher's story, not just in her own words, but in her own voice. Selections from the journal she kept during the months of filming Star Wars are also included, read by Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, whose voice, at 24, is perhaps closer to Fisher's at the time she wrote them.
Carrie Fisher was just nineteen years old when she landed the role of Princess Leia in a low-budget space fantasy. It can be hard to remember either of those facts now--either that she was nineteen, or that it was a low-budget movie no one expected to be a hit. Certainly no one expected the kind of hit it became! When she was just barely an adult, and in some ways not very mature for her age, she was suddenly on an international stage. She talks honestly and insightfully about where she was then, how unprepared and uneducated she was (she had dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade), and how it affected her. She's honest about her mistakes, though she has also reached the point in life where you know it's pointless to be too hard on yourself.
She also talks about the later years, not in great detail overall, but about learning to be such a public person, and her interactions with the fans. She's wry and funny and ultimately kind there, too.
It's not a long book, just a bit over five hours in the audio version, but it's fun, and moving, and enlightening. I found a lot to connect with, here, and I treasure the fact that it is Carrie Fisher's own voice. With a very sweet, loving, devoted small dog of my own, I'd have loved to hear her talk more about her French bulldog, Gary, but that would have been way, way off topic for the focus of this book.
This book contains two novellas, "The Savage Ghost," which is, in fact, a ghost story, and "Waves of Deceit," a romantic suspense story with no fantasThis book contains two novellas, "The Savage Ghost," which is, in fact, a ghost story, and "Waves of Deceit," a romantic suspense story with no fantastical elements. It might seem an odd combination, but I enjoyed them both.
In "A Savage Ghost," the Savage family has jut inherited an actual Scottish castle, disassembled, shipped to the US, and reconstructed about a hundred years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Savage are looking forward to transforming it into a bed & breakfast inn. Oldest son Ezra is looking forward to being involved. The younger siblings, twin boys plus a younger girl, Melanie, are excited about living in a castle.
And then there's Lia, the oldest daughter, Ezra's twin sister. Lia has worked and studied to become a pastry chef, and is torn between family duty and the desire to fulfill her own lifetime dream, starting a pastry shop in Sacramento with her friend and baking buddy, Taylor.
When she discovers that her summer crush from last summer, Coop Montgomery, is in fact the gardner and landscaper hired by the recently deceased former owner from whom they inherited the place. she's even more torn. She doesn't want to give up her dream, which is in Sacramento, but Coop doesn't want to give up his, either, for which he's worked just as hard as she has.
But while they're working that out, they have to deal with one or two other distractions. Strange accidents happen; small items disappear and then reappear in odd places. The twin boys are the prime suspects for things that could be pranks. The boys swear they're innocent, but who else could it be?
They really ought to listen to Melanie, and eventually, Lia and Coop do. It's funny and sweet, and has just enough suspense.
"Waves of Deceit" is a very different story, having only romance in common with the other story. Shelby Nash grew up with a mentally unbalanced mother who never told her who her father was--and when she was sixteen, her mother died.
And her father's attorney, Alan Bradley, shows up at the funeral. Her father is billionaire industrialist Charles Grantham. Ten years later, she's educated, a successful project manager with a growing reputation, and really hates her father for the sixteen years of silence, neglect, and deceit. Along the way, she's lost a boyfriend she really loved, Wade Masters, when he reacted very badly to learning who her father was.
She and Wade are both still interested despite their bad breakup, but there's a real question whether they can work things out before someone really does kill her.
It's a short but effective story of romantic suspense, with convincing danger as well as
Now, she's got her biggest project ever, and Wade Masters is the lead architect on it. There's apparently a serious threat to her, which makes no sense, and she still hasn't ever met her father.
She also has no idea just how thoroughly she's been lied to.
Overall, recommended. They're both good stories and worth your time.
I received a free electronic galley of this book and am voluntarily reviewing it....more
Lia Anderson is back with another murder mystery about to absorb the intelligence, nosiness, and human concern of herself and her dog park friends.
A lLia Anderson is back with another murder mystery about to absorb the intelligence, nosiness, and human concern of herself and her dog park friends.
A local author has disappeared from a literary convention in Texas, just as Lia is building a float in his honor for a parade at home. It appears that he's been kidnapped, but there are no real clues leading the police anywhere. And obviously it has nothing to do with the Cincinnati police or the Mt. Airy Dog Park gang, right?
Except that Lucas Cross, bestselling author, is really Leroy, a local man, not at all literary, acting as the front for Fiber and Snark.
Fiber and Snark is a group of local knitters who sell their goods to raise funds for a local cat rescue. Leroy's disappearance is bringing "Lucas Cross" entirely too much attention, and the ladies are afraid they could be not only found out, but accused of defrauding the public. The ladies want him found, but they can't talk to the police.
So they approach Lia.
It's bad enough when Leroy is merely missing and this isn't even a Cincinnati case. Lia is still in a tricky position, keeping such a big secret from her almost-live-in boyfriend, Cincinnati homicide detective Peter Dourson, even as their relationship grows deeper and Peter is looking for some permanence. It gets a lot worse when the body of one of the Fiber and Snark ladies falls out of the decorative gun on Lia's float during the parade--dead.
It's a very good mystery that kept me involved. I love how Lia and Peter's relationship continue to grow and develop, along with the personalities and relationships at the dog park. Newsome and these books keep getting better and better.
I received a free copy of this audiobook, and am reviewing it voluntarily....more
Everything is finally going smoothly for Melanie Trenholm. She's married to Jack; their twin babies are beautiful; she loves her stepdaughter, Nola; sEverything is finally going smoothly for Melanie Trenholm. She's married to Jack; their twin babies are beautiful; she loves her stepdaughter, Nola; she's finally headed back to work as a real estate agent, work she loves.
There is the small issue of getting phone calls from an unknown number, at odd hours, with no one there. She has some suspicion that these calls are, like the ones from her grandmother, from someone who has died.
Then a hole opens up in her back yard, and the contractor who has been doing the restoration on the historic home she inherited says there's a cistern down there. She can't just have it filled in. There might be historically significant artifacts, and her friend, Sophie Wallen-Arasi, a professor of Historic Preservation at the College of Charleston, will not let her hear the end of it if she just buries them again.
Even more unsettling to her future peace of mind, though it doesn't seem so initially, a new client arrives in her office at the very start of her first day back to work at the end of her extended maternity leave. Jayne Smith looks oddly familiar, but says she just has one of "those faces," so that people often think they must have meet her before. She's an orphan from Birmingham, who grew up in foster homes and has no clue who her parents were--but she's just inherited a house in Charleston. And not just any house; it was the home of Caroline Pinckney, a wealthy and historic family. The house is also historic--and Jayne wants no part of owning an historic house. She wants to sell it as soon as possible, and buy a modern condo.
Melanie basically agrees. She's reconciled to her own historic home--now that the ghosts she and her mother, but not most of their friends and family, can see and hear, have been laid to rest. She hopes there are no ghosts to deal with in the house on South Battery.
But there are. And those ghosts are hiding a terrible secret.
This is a complicated tale of hidden relationships and characters growing and revealing themselves. We learn fairly quickly that Melanie has more than a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as being very insecure; the reasons behind this unfold more slowly. Her relationships with her parents are still rebuilding after a long separation, and much as she and Jack love each other, she's still not really secure in that relationship. Her cousin Rebecca is a special kind of torture.
And all this is before we know anything about the Pinckney family, and the secrets Melanie's mother Ginette hasn't told her. Or what the ghosts are hiding.
The characters here were satisfying and likable, though some readers may find Melanie's OCD and insecurity annoying, and the plot definitely kept me involved. This is apparently the fifth in an ongoing series, and this was clear as I was reading it, but I didn't find it an obstacle to understanding what was going on. There's enough background included to support the current story, but not enough to distract.
Recommended for a low-key, comfortable read.
I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley, and reviewed it voluntarily....more
On a seemingly normal day, everything starts to go wrong.
All over the country, and the world, there have been people sick for the last week with sometOn a seemingly normal day, everything starts to go wrong.
All over the country, and the world, there have been people sick for the last week with something that feels flu-like, and includes appalling migraines. Now people are reaching the critical point of the illness: what temporarily relieves the pain of the headaches is killing people.
And a lot of people have guns.
What's especially notable about this book is that Hayton does it without making it a polemic on either side of the gun issue. It isn't about guns, or gun owners, being either good or bad, responsible or irresponsible. It's about what a new and nasty disease does, and the desperate measures people are driven to as they try to understand what's going on, and how to survive. We follow two young high school students fleeing an active shooter at their school, a mother who's searching for her three-year-old son, carried off by her husband when he inexplicably took off in their car, shooting at the neighbors, and a young man, home from work with a terrible migraine when the pain gets so bad that no measures seem too extreme in getting the serious painkillers he clearly absolutely needs to have. How these people come together, in conflict and cooperation, is the core of this story.
It's worth noting that this is the first entry in a series. This episode comes to a reasonable conclusion, but it's clearly only the first episode.
I received a free electronic galley from the author and am reviewing it by my own choice....more
Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi have been working together at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency for several years now. Over that time, Mma MakutsPrecious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi have been working together at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency for several years now. Over that time, Mma Makutsi has gone from secretary to co-director, largely through her own determination and assertiveness. Charlie, originally one of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentices, has been let go from that position, and is now Mma Ramotswe's very part-time assistant--and is starting, at last, to grow up. Fanwell, the other apprentice, is on track to be a qualified mechanic, and is also maturing. Mr. Polopetsi is a volunteer part-time assistant, contributing his special skills when he's needed and not filling in as a chemistry teacher in the schools. Then one day Mma Ramotswe finds out from her friend Mma Potokwani, matron of the orphan farm, that Mr. Polopetsi has a new money-making business scheme, the Fat Cattle Club, which sounds very much like a pyramid scheme. She's got to find out what's really going on before he gets himself into serious trouble.
A new client also appears, a Canadian woman named Susan Peters, who spent part of her childhood in Botswana, and would like to find her old home, and her old nursemaid. She paints an idyllic picture of her memories of her early years there, and Mma Ramotswe is happy to help her.
As always, this is a slower-moving, quiet story, more focused on the characters and relationships than intense mystery-solving. It's what I love about these books, and why they remain popular after seventeen entries in the series. Mma Ramotswe is wise and kind but not infallible; Mma Makutsi is difficult, often insecure and suspicious, but ultimately loyal and sound.
I love these books for their gentleness, their character development, and the recognition that people can be good even though we're all flawed.
No St. Mary's assignment goes the way it's supposed to. Never.
The historians of St. Mary's investigate major historical events in contemporary time (dNo St. Mary's assignment goes the way it's supposed to. Never.
The historians of St. Mary's investigate major historical events in contemporary time (don't call it "time travel.") This time the assignment is really simple, and very popular; they'll be observing Rome when Caesar has moved Cleopatra into his home in Rome.
The same home he shares with Calpurnia.
They're just going to observe conditions. It's a peaceful day. What could possibly go wrong?
But this is the St. Mary's crew. Max, Peterson, and their colleagues always have way more excitement than they're supposed to.
It's a lot of fun. I particularly like Taylor's narrative voice and Ramm's narration. Recommended.
It's Christmas Eve at St. Mary's Priory, and nothing is stirring at all--except that Max, Peterson, and Markham are off on another unauthorized assignIt's Christmas Eve at St. Mary's Priory, and nothing is stirring at all--except that Max, Peterson, and Markham are off on another unauthorized assignment, this time to rescue senior historians Bashford and Grey, who vanished in 12th century Jerusalem ten years ago. (St. Mary's researches important historical events in contemporary time; don't call it "time travel." That would be vulgar!)
The missing historians aren't 12th century Jerusalem; that at least is clear. But Max has a theory, Peterson has a plan, and Markham is supplying the crucial bacon sandwiches. (Markham, a security officer, has been their best provisioner from the beginning.) It'll be a quick in and out, and correctly timed, they'll be snatching Bashford and Grey from where they've only just been dumped. What could possibly go wrong?
This is the St. Mary's crew, and the answer is everything. And it doesn't stem from lack of professionalism, preparation, or intelligence. On the contrary!
No, it's just a combination of professional historical curiosity and being natural magnets for trouble. Also the fact that everywhere they go is historically important--in this case, right into a major battle in Boudiccea's rebellion against the Romans...
Their determination and Max's sidewise view of their challenges and sry sense of humor make these stories hard to resist.