Friday, May 30, 2014

Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles, #1), by Jeffrey Archer (audiobook read by Roger Allam and Emilia Fox)

I discovered this series almost by accident but based on this first book I'm quite excited about the rest (okay, I've read the second one and it's not great, but I'll get to that review later).

The Clifton Chronicles is meant to follow 100 years in the life of Harry Clifton, so we at least know he doesn't die in the first few books (one would assume). The first book, Only Time Will Tell, deals mainly with Harry's childhood and parentage (the identity of his father will continue to be a recurring theme in the next few books). I liked the 'mystery' aspect of the book: What happened to Harry's father? Who is Harry's father, in fact? Who are the secret benefactors in Harry's life that have given him and his mother helping hands throughout? It's a lovely bit of storytelling.

Silent Voices (A DI Vera Stanhope Mystery), by Ann Cleeves

I love a British mystery. There are many British mystery series that I love to read, and plenty TV adaptations that I love to watch, but few that I love in equal measure. Either the show does no justice to the books, or else it's so good that I hate to admit I like it better than the original stories. But the ITV adaptation of Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope mysteries hits just the right balance, and I love them both.

Reading Silent Voices was like watching an episode of Vera, except all of my extra questions about the characters were explained (I know, this sounds obvious, but I'm not sure how else to say it). The tone was the same in the book as it is in the show, so if you've seen the show and hate it, you might not like the books at all.

Murder Past Due (A Cat in the Stacks Mystery), by Miranda James (Dean James)

I didn't hate this book, but it definitely had some problems. On the one hand, I found myself speeding through it to find out what would happen next. The main character is a librarian, the victim is a successful author, and the "cat in the stacks" is a Maine coon, a breed I'm very familiar with here on the East Coast, so all of these were good elements for me. But the way they were handled was inexpert, bordering on lazy.

First of all, none of the characters was well developed at all. The main character, Charlie Harris (who is apparently a fan of author Charlaine Harris...might he have been named after her?), is a fifty-year-old archivist at a university library who has recently returned to his home town of Athena, Mississippi, boards college students at his house and takes his cat everywhere with him (literally EVERYWHERE). And know you know everything about him. What does he look like? No idea. What does he like to eat? Um...not important. Does he have any hobbies? Uh...paperwork? I'm guessing he wears sweaters year round because that seems dull to me, but I really don't know. Miranda James never bothered to tell us. Oh, but we do know that he likes the Hardy Boys and Peyton Place (PEYTON PLACE!) because apparently his cultural references are all from the 1950's and '60's for some reason.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Good Dog, by Todd Kessler (illustrated by Jennifer Gray Olson)

Well I knew I had to get this book as soon as I saw that it was about a dog named Tako because that was also my dog's name when I was a child. What are the odds? And I'm so glad I did. Both my daughter and I were completely charmed by this tale of a lonesome dog who finds a family and eventually becomes a hero.

My favourite part: I love the fact that Tako's owners, the Lee family, have a bakery that is constantly being sabotaged by the greedy corporate baker up the hill, because I think it's very funny that someone so obsessed with money would choose to open a bakery in the first place. Plus all of his baked goods are completely joyless, which I also think is very funny (How do you even make a sad cupcake? Somehow he manages it).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ten Lords A-Leaping: A Father Christmas Mystery, by C.C. Benison (audiobook narrated by Steve West and Jean Gilpin)

Ten Lords A-Leaping is like a combination of several genres of cozy mystery: it's an English country house murder; it's a vicar mystery; at times it's a sexy romance mystery that has the sleuth lingering over impure thoughts (which was kind of weird in a vicar mystery).

One thing it is NOT is a Christmas mystery, which is bull crap as far as I'm concerned. Not only do I LOVE Christmas cozies, I had every reason to expect that this would be one. It's called Ten Lords A-Leaping, the third in a series that started--of course--with Twelve Drummers Drumming and Eleven Pipers Piping. As if that weren't Christmasy enough, the sleuth's name is FATHER CHRISTMAS! And this one was published in December! Why WOULDN'T I expect it to be a Christmas mystery? But alas, no, it does not take place at Christmas time.

Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World, by Ann Downer

Wild Animal Neighbors:
Sharing Our Urban World
Author: Ann Downer
Publlisher: Lerner Publishing/ Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2013
View on Amazon

Source: NetGalley

At Home with Modern June: 27 Sewing Projects for Your Handmade Lifestyle, by Kelly McCants

If I can make these, then literally anyone can

I don't consider myself much of a seamstress (I was going to say 'sewer' but then I realized that 'sew-er' as in 'one who sews' is indistinguishable from 'sewer' as in 'where poop goes'...which is probably why people say 'seamstress') but I can mend torn clothes, sew a hem, and make simple things like doll clothes or pillow covers. But even I found the projects in this book easy. As in, really easy. So easy, in fact, that I probably didn't need a book to tell me how to do them (like make a place mat or a simple pair of curtains).

At the same time, if you are someone who loves the look (or idea) of handmade items for your home but have absolutely no idea where to begin, this book might be perfect. The photos are aspirational and--as promised--modern, even though they're referencing a nostalgic time gone by. For instance, the author refers to her grandmother as "the only person she ever knew who wore an apron" then shows you how to make an apron. It's the book for people who find Pinterest exciting but too complicated.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Skeleton in the Closet, by M.C. Beaton

I've never read an M.C. Beaton mystery that didn't star either Hamish Macbeth or Agatha Raisin, so I'm glad I tracked down this stand-alone novel. It's charming, and written in a style that reminded me of Michael Palin's novel, Hemingway's Chair (which I read years ago and absolutely loved).

The story revolves around two people trying to solve a years old train robbery rather than a murder, though a few people are killed--or nearly killed--along the way. I liked Fellworth and Maggie as the sleuthing couple and almost wish Beaton had given them their own series. They could have been a folksy Tommy and Tuppence, or a shabby Nick and Nora Charles.

Keep reading for a sort-of-but-not-really-and-actually-not-at-all *spoiler*...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback Thursday! The First Book I Ever Loved

I got this book from the library when I was about three and it was love at first sight. It was the first book I ever learned to "read" all the way through, meaning that I memorized all the words and when to turn the pages. When it was time to return it, my mom didn't have the heart to tell me I couldn't have my favourite book anymore so she marched me into the children's section of the Colchester Regional Library in Truro, Nova Scotia, and told me to 'read' the book for the librarian. She figured--correctly--that the librarian wouldn't have the heart to make a three-year-old part with her new favourite book either. The librarian was sufficiently charmed and stamped the book "DISCARD" right then and there so my mom could buy it for me.