Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: No Shred of Evidence

No Shred of Evidence No Shred of Evidence by Charles Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rutledge is sent to Cornwall to investigate the death of a young man. It's alleged that 4 young women attempted to drown him, and Rutledge is stymied in his investigation by a complete lack of evidence. During the course of his investigation, Rutledge discovers the existence of a mysterious young woman who had spent time in the small village but has since left. She may be connected to the murder, but no one claims to know her. Rutledge also becomes re-acquainted with Kate Gordon, cousin of his former fiancee Jeanne, when he's shocked to discover she's one of the four woman accused of killing the young man.

Rutledge is much less troubled by his past, and by the voice of Hamish, and he seems much more able to cope with the stress of being reminded of his history. It seems like a natural development. It was also refreshing to have him supported by his new boss instead of having to deal with his former supervisor.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Review: A Cast of Falcons: A Birder Murder Mystery

A Cast of Falcons: A Birder Murder Mystery A Cast of Falcons: A Birder Murder Mystery by Steve Burrows
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A scientist, Philip Wayland, has been murdered in a particularly gruesome manner on a public path through a private research facility owned by a wealthy Emirate prince. Wayland was a former employee at the research facility but left it to pursue similar and competitive research at the local university. Is there a connection? Dominic Jejeune's fugitive brother Damian observes a man falling to his death in northern Scotland and sends him an oblique message. Dominic agrees to hide his brother for a short time at his home, but is severely disturbed by the subterfuge. Is it interfering with his ability to do his job? And does Damian have anything to do with the smuggling of gyrfalcons or with the gyrfalcons owned by the prince? This is a rather convoluted plot, and I didn't find it as gripping as earlier books in the series. There are almost too many undercurrents in the relationships between Jejeune and his brother, his girlfriend, and his co-workers, and among his co-workers. However, I stuck with the book and was eventually satisfied.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review: The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley by Eric Weiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why do some places and times produce more geniuses than other times? Is there a set of requirements that must be in place in order to produce genius? Eric Weiner wanted to find out, so he visited seven places where genius flourished: Athens, Florence, Hangzhou, Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna, and Silicon Valley. In each place, Weiner interviewed local historians, philosophers, entrepreneurs, artists, and other experts in a variety of fields about what genius looks like, and why their locale supported genius. He discovered that genius appeared most often in urban settings where there was an intersection of uncertainty, chaos, money, education, and new cultures through immigration.

The writing was humorous, and full of interesting trivia. I found the chapters on Athens, Florence, and Edinburgh particularly interesting because I've traveled to those places, and as a social studies/history teacher I've taught about many of the cultures that created the places he visited.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Review: Cherry Ames, Student Nurse

Cherry Ames, Student Nurse Cherry Ames, Student Nurse by Helen Wells
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, so once in a while I revert back to childhood. This should actually count as 4 books --- the book from Amazon contained 4 Cherry Ames books -- Student Nurse, Senior Nurse, Army Nurse, and Chief Nurse. These were written in the 1940's and definitely reflect the culture of those years, but there is still something fun about the stories, simplistic though they may be. I read these as a preteen and like 1000's of other girls, thought about nursing as a career as a result. They are definitely unrealistic about the demands of a nursing career, as well as the ability of one person to hold as many different nursing jobs as Cherry does and do each job as well as she does, but they do a good job of exposing the different types of nursing available at the time. It might be interesting for someone to re-write the series to reflect the nursing possibilities of the 21st century and especially to include male nurses!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: We're All Damaged

We're All Damaged We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a Kindle First Reads choice. Andy Carter is devastated when his wife decides to divorce him. He runs away to NYC but is forced to return to his hometown of Omaha, NE a year later when his grandfather goes into hospice. Andy is a wreck, and he's done a good job of destroying his job and his relationships with his friends and family. His time in Omaha becomes a time of coming to terms with his losses and figuring out how to begin again. Andy's story is sometimes humorous, often depressing, but ultimately hopeful. I didn't really connect with the book, but I think that was more a generational and maybe gender disconnect than a problem with the writing.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review: Forever and a Day

Forever and a Day Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steamy romance #3. I think I've got my fill of this genre for a while. Good escape reading.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review: At Last

At Last At Last by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another quick steamy romance novel. Pure escapism.

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Review: Murder On The Ballarat Train

Murder On The Ballarat Train Murder On The Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Phrynne Fisher books are a quick, very enjoyable read. This is #3 in the series. Phrynne and her companion Dottie are traveling to Ballarat by train, when they and the other first class passengers are chloroformed in their sleep. Phrynne manages to get windows open in time to save all but one passenger who has gone missing. The missing traveler is found murdered by the side of the tracks, and of course, Phrynne is on the case.

I love the characters and the attention to details about 1920's culture. The plots are not very involved, but there's an air of fun about the books that I enjoy as much as I enjoy the PBS series based on the books.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: Death of a Travelling Man

Death of a Travelling Man Death of a Travelling Man by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Hamish MacBeth series is such a pleasure to read and this installment in the series was no exception. Hamish is annoyed that one of the perks with his promotion is the arrival of his constable, a housecleaning fiend who is disinfecting and polishing everything in sight. All the cleaning is disturbing Hamish's lifestyle. The second annoyance is the arrival of a "traveler" and his girlfriend who have parked their gaudy old bus in the manse backyard. Hamish is sure that he's up to no good, but he can't find any proof. With the arrival of the traveler, things in town start going wrong - money is stolen, morphine is stolen, and the minister loses his faith. And then, the traveler is murdered. Of course, Hamish manages to solve the crime in his usual unorthodox way. This is a quick, cozy read and as usual, filled with humor.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: The Washingtons: George and Martha, "Join'd by Friendship, Crown'd by Love"

The Washingtons: George and Martha, The Washingtons: George and Martha, "Join'd by Friendship, Crown'd by Love" by Flora Fraser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a well-researched book about the relationship between George and Martha Washington. The author relies on a lot of primary source material - letters between George and Martha, and letters about them from family, friends, and colleagues. I didn't gain any new insights or have any revelations, and in fact, it felt a lot like reading a textbook. I stuck with it, hoping to find some clues to solving a family mystery. Supposedly my mother's family is connected to the Parke-Custis family, and we were told that "You're related to Martha Washington's children." So far my research hasn't turned up any links. That's the main reason I read the book.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Review: Lucky in Love

Lucky in Love Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first of 3 stories set in Lucky Harbor, WA. Molly Quinn, ER nurse, has a reputation for being the "good" girl in her family and for helping others, and she's tired of it. When "Mysterious Cute Guy" shows up in town she decides to practice being a "bad" girl. This is a very predictable and enjoyable romance novel, a little heavy on the "mind-blowing sex" scenes, but otherwise a good escape read. Since novels 2 & 3 are included in the volume that I picked up in the library, I'll probably read the others.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review: Journey to Munich

Journey to Munich Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In this Maisie Dobbs installment, she has returned to England, still mourning the loss of her husband. She reluctantly accepts a job from British intelligence impersonating the daughter of a industrialist/inventor who has been imprisoned in Hitler's Germany in Dachau. Her mission is to bring her "father" home. While in Munich, Maisie is also attempting to contact Elaine Otterborne who has abandoned her husband and infant son, in order to persuade her to return home. But Elaine has a completely different agenda.

This book was only okay, and may have been written to get Maisie back into the private investigations business. Or perhaps the author has gotten tired of the character? At any rate, the plot didn't excite me and I felt like Maisie spent way too much in introspection, and not enough time actually interacting with other people. I suppose though that might make sense since she still is in mourning. At any rate, I found the book less than gripping.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: Off The Grid

Off The Grid Off The Grid by C.J. Box
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great story! Nate Romanowski has been approached by a shadow government operation to spy on a potential terrorist group operating in Wyoming's Red Desert. In exchange for his services, all federal charges will be dropped. Joe Pickett gets involved when Gov. Rulon asks him ostensibly to track a rogue grizzly, but in reality, spy on Nate. In the meantime Sheridan Pickett's roommate persuades her to join a group of college volunteers working on a secret project also in the Red Desert. Needless to say, the lives of all of them are jeopardized as the reality of what's happening in the desert is revealed. The scary thing about this book is the fact that the scenario laid out is very realistic!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Review: Deliver Her: A Novel

Deliver Her: A Novel Deliver Her: A Novel by Patricia Perry Donovan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book from the April KindleFirst offerings. It's the kind of book I probably wouldn't have picked up at my library, but I liked it more than I expected to.

Alex Carmody is 16, deep in grief over the death of her best friend in a car accident. Her mother Meg is worried sick about her. Alex has taken up with a poor choice of friends, has been fired from her job, is skipping school, and may be involved with drugs. She refuses to go to counseling and appears to hate her mother. Meg's marriage is on the rocks too. Her husband wants a divorce and he refuses to see that his daughter has a problem. At her wits' end, Meg secretly arranges for Alex to be transported to a private school in NH where she can get the help she needs. On the way to the school, there is a serious accident and Alex goes missing.

The story is presented from both Meg's and Alex's points of view. Alex's character was pretty believable, while Meg's was a little less so. The plot was interesting enough to keep me up past midnight to finish it, though I thought the ending was a bit too neatly wrapped up.

All in all, a decent KindleFirst read!

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Knitting with Nelkin Designs

As you can tell, I really like Laura Nelkin's knitting designs.  Here are three projects I've knit since January that are her designs.

I finally finished this:

It's the Crucero Shawl from Laura Nelkin, knit in Anzula Breeze in aqua. I LOVE her patterns.  I started this in January and finally finished it Friday night.  It's in the blocking process right now.  This shawl was tricky for me --- it starts in the center with a circular cast-on which gave me no end of trouble.  And then for some reason, I couldn't get the hang of the pattern which was full of yarn overs and dropped stitches.  I love knitting with beads but they slowed me down --especially the placed beads in the last sections.  Finally, the beaded crocheted edging had me at a snail's pace.  Crochet and I are not friends.    But I really love this!

I knit these Traversus socks in February, also a Laura Nelkin design.  These are from Opal 4-fach and I mostly knit them on the beach in Punta Cana, DR.

And for fun, I knit these  Artichoke French Mitts in January, yet another Laura Nelkin design!  I used some yarn I'd had in my stash forever - Artful Yarns Shakespeare.

Finally, I am swatching for another of her designs - Las Cruces sweater from her Novus Collection.  I'm using Noro Taiyo Sport for this.  Here's the swatch that's drying.

And here's the yarn I will be using.

I have at least 3 other Nelkin designs in my knitting queue, so stay tuned!

Review: Death of a Glutton

Death of a Glutton Death of a Glutton by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hamish MacBeth never fails to entertain, nor to solve the crime with minimal effort! Checkmates, a matchmaking service, has booked rooms for a group of potential matches in Priscilla's hotel. The co-owner of the agency manages to offend and irritate the entire group by her gluttony and disgusting table manners. When she is discovered dead, with an apple stuffed into her mouth, all the clients are suspects. In his inimitable way, Hamish quietly solves the crime much to the horror of his nemesis DCI Blair.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: At the Edge of the Orchard

At the Edge of the Orchard At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting book, much of it dark, but eventually redeemed by hope. James Goodenough and his family emigrates from Connecticut to northwestern Ohio in hopes of a better life in the 1840's. However, his marriage is unstable, and he and his wife establish a hardscrabble farm in the Black Swamp, a very difficult and inhospitable place. James hankers after the apple orchards of his father's farm and attempts to establish his own orchard of Golden Pippins, sweet eating apples. His wife Sadie is addicted to the apple jack she makes from "spitters" and she is jealous of the time, energy, and love her husband spends on his sweet apples. Their life is hard, and though she bears 10 children, she loses most of them to swamp fever. She looks forward only to the visits of John Chapman who brings her husband apple seeds and sapling, and brings her the coveted apple jack. Their story comes to a horrific end, but their son Robert escapes and heads west. He winds up in California, and finds a calling working as a seed collector for an English nursery. He is weighed down by his family history but eventually finds redemption.
This book is peopled with real characters - John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed), William Lobb, and others. Tracy Chevalier brings the time period (1840s & 1850's) to life, and also manages to evoke the wonder of nature through the redwood and sequoia trees that Robert falls in love in.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: Flying Too High

Flying Too High Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am enjoying this series which has been turned into a PBS show from Australian tv. The tv show is very true to the books.

Private investigator Phrynne Fisher is attempting to prove that Bill McNaughton is innocent of killing his abusive father. She is also involved in helping to recover a kidnapped child. While the plots are fairly basic, I love the details about the time period (1920's). The author creates a believable setting with her descriptions of clothing, furnishing, transportation, and culture. There is also a lot of humor in the books, and her characters are very likable. Bring on #3!

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Review: Blood Orange

Blood Orange Blood Orange by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

China is drawn into a missing person investigation when her bed and breakfast tenant disappears, turns up several days later, and then is involved in a horrific traffic accident. Meanwhile Ruby's sister Ramona has fallen in love with the missing person's husband, Ruby has visions of a mysterious door that China needs to avoid, and McQuaid is off on a mysterious job that had China thinking he may be having an affair.

I enjoyed this installment more than the last couple of books in the series. I think it's because for a change, China was on her home turf, and there was more involvement of all the characters.

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