Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: Bittersweet

Bittersweet Bittersweet by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not one of my favorite China Bayles books. Sam, married to China's mother Leatha, has been hospitalized just before Thanksgiving. Despite this, Thanksgiving dinner at the ranch is still on. Leatha and Sam had been planning to open their ranch up as a resort for birders' but Sam's uncertain prognosis is jeopardizing their plans. A young woman, Sue Ellen, has come to help Leatha, but she disappears after confiding to China that her soon-to-be ex husband is involved in some criminal activity.

The book describes the game ranching industry in Texas, and the plot involves the smuggling of animals onto some ranches, and the multimillion dollar breeding of game animals. China is involved of course in putting the pieces together that result in justice being done, but the ending of the novel is abrupt and unsatisfying.

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Review: Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles

Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles by A.L. Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! Halia Watkins owns "Sweet Tea", an upscale soul food restaurant in Prince George's County, MD. One evening, she and her cousin Wavonne discover the body of Marcus Rand in her restaurant with one of her cast iron skillets next to it. Rand is an investor in the restaurant, as well as someone involved in less than above board business deals. Halia panics, and she and Wavonne move the body out into an alley. Halia goes about her daily business, waiting nervously for the discovery of the body which doesn't happen. She eventually goes back to the alley only to discover that the body is gone. Halia proceeds, with the help of Wavonne, to investigate what happened.

This is a cozy and humorous story with great characters and food descriptions that make you hungry. Wavonne is a terrific character who reminded me a bit of Lula from the "Stephanie Plum" series - a larger than life, dramatic personality with attitude. I am looking forward to the publication of the second book in this new series.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review: Stone Cold

Stone Cold Stone Cold by C.J. Box
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just when I was thinking that perhaps it was time for Joe Pickett to retire, this book comes along. In this installment, Gov. Rulon sends Joe up north to Medicine Wheel on a "black ops" reconnaissance mission. Ostensibly Joe is going to deliver some ring necked pheasants for restocking, and help the incumbent game warden, Jim Latta, with some public relations work. In reality he's supposed to snoop around and find out all he can about a mysterious wealthy landowner named Wolf Templeton. Templeton has become the biggest landowner and power in the county, but the Feds are certain he's up to criminal activity. Joe is working with FBI agent Coons and he's told not to get involved with anything, report, and return. Of course, Joe can't not meddle. This was fast-paced, and there were a few surprising twists. I really enjoyed this one.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that grows on you. I had a hard time getting into it. Cormoran Strike, ex-military police, is now a private investigator. He lost a leg in Afghanistan, and is now trying to make ends meet, living in his office eating Pot Noodles and sleeping on a camp bed. His new client, John Bristow, claims that his supermodel sister Lula Landry, did not commit suicide despite the police investigation concluding that she did. Strike is asked to prove that her death was in fact a murder. The other main character is Robin, a secretary sent by the temp agency, who is secretly thrilled to be working for a private investigator. I had a hard time warming up to Strike. His characterization as a down and out loser was almost too strong. My opinion eventually changed, and I was definitely surprised by the twisty ending.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Review: Brooklyn

Brooklyn Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit this is one of the few times that I saw the movie before reading the book. In fact, I wasn't aware there was a book until I saw the movie. I LOVED the movie, and I LOVED the book. It's also one of the few times that the movie was as good as the book.

Eilis Lacey emigrates to the US in the early 1950's from her small village in Ireland where there is little work or opportunity. She has the help of Father Flood, a Catholic priest who has arranged for her to live in an Irish boarding house and had found her a job in a department store. He also arranges for her to go to night school where she studies bookkeeping and accounting. Eilis is at first extremely homesick but when she meets an Italian boy named Tony, she gradually adapts to American life. They begin to court, and he asks her to marry him. However, tragedy at home in Ireland strikes, and Eilis must make some difficult choices.

The writing is spare, but beautiful, and the author creates compelling characters. He also creates a definite atmosphere which mixes reality with compassion and charm. I applaud the screen adaptation of the book for capturing the same atmosphere.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Knit Two

Knit Two Knit Two by Kate Jacobs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This continues the story of the knitting group that gathered at Walker and Daughter. Georgia Walker has died, and this book picks up several years later. Each of the people introduced in the previous novel are dealing with their grief in their individual ways, but few have "moved on", including Georgia's daughter Dakota. It took me a while to reconnect with the characters, and at a few points I wanted to shake a few of them into their senses. It was an okay read.

Updated: Another book I've re-read without remembering I'd already read it. Liked it a bit better than the first time, though once again, it took a long time to reconnect with characters. Too many characters reflecting on the past, and not enough moving forward.

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