Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Vintage To Die For (Violet Vineyard Murder Mysteries Book 2)A Vintage To Die For by JM Harvey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A charming little cozy set in the wonderful Napa Valley of California, you just can't go wrong with this 2nd installment of JM Harvey's Violet Vineyard Mysteries. The author even manages to come up with a totally surprise ending just when you thought you had everything figured out.

I liked this a lot and will definitely be looking for Book 1 and any future books she writes in the series.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Home At Last

Hello friends and readers (if you are still out there). I’m sorry that it has taken me this long to get back into the writing mode but moving to a smaller living quarters was a real struggle; perhaps the hardest thing that I have done for years. It isn’t so much the move itself, but it is the disposing of 50 years of accumulated “stuff” that is difficult.

 It is now six months since we left our 2,000 sq. ft. townhouse in Brookstone and moved to a very nice 1230 sq. ft. condominium in a small town in the Fraser Valley. It’s a beautiful modern apartment and is convenient to all types of shopping, as well as an abundance of restaurants. Everything that a senior citizen needs to continue to live outside of a retirement home. And I’m happy to announce that we are very contented here even though, at this late date, there are still a few boxes to unpack. I’m not ashamed to say that they may just stay that way for the unforeseeable future.
In February, we treated ourselves to a good rest in the form of a fifteen-day cruise out of Los Angeles to the Hawaiian Islands and back. So between resting at home and resting on board a Princess Cruise ship, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up on a lot of reading and consequently heaps of good books to tell you about in the next few weeks.  Here’s a sample of one I especially liked while enjoying my days at sea.  Looking at the title of the book, perhaps it’s very fitting to review it here. 

Cassie Carter is trying to make a home for herself and her daughter in Seattle after fleeing from an abusive marriage in Florida. Even though she was pregnant at the time, her sisters have never really forgiven her for running off to marry this man that none of the family approved of. Both her parents are now deceased and she doesn’t feel she can approach either of her sisters for help.

She’s working hard to turn her life around on her own merits when a new man enters her life. Since he is in charge of the project Cassie is working on to get a new home in the Habitat for Humanity program, it is important that she get along with him. However, he has had his own bitter experience in love and for some reason seems to resent her. Everything seems pretty hopeless until one of her sisters contacts her and the healing process begins.

As usual, Macomber’s characters are complex and sympathetic. The story will appeal to anyone who enjoys a warm love story with no gratuitous sex.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Farewell to Brookstone

There comes a moment in the life of a senior when the writing is on the wall. No matter how much you love your home, you realize that you must downsize. The choices are limited. You can try to continue to go it on your own in a smaller apartment or make an even more drastic choice and move to an assisted living facility. 

My husband and I have opted for a self-owned condo in a new apartment complex directly across the street from a shopping mall. The mall has everything we could possibly need: from a Wal-Mart and a giant drug store; to a Best Buy; a Home Depot; a branch of the bank we use; and even a British Columbia Government Liquor Store. We can walk to it all.

A block away is the City Hall, the police station and a public library. Oh, and did I mention the ten different restaurants and fast food outlets also within walking distance. We do feel we have hit the jackpot in retirement living. 

Of course, it means leaving the lovely townhouse in its jeweled setting of forested green space and babbling brooks where we have resided the last twelve years. A place of respite as we both recovered from life threatening illnesses. 

Still even at this age, life is good and we look forward to a few more years of reading and travelling. Not quite ready for the old rocking chair yet.

For the next few weeks, I’m afraid my blogs will be rather spasmodic as we cope with ridding ourselves of years of accumulated “stuff,” the move itself, and a nice cruise we have promised ourselves to recoup from all this trauma.

Wishing you all the best until 2014.

Monday, November 3, 2014

An Excellent Mystery Series Where the Novels 'Stand Alone.'

If you know anything about me, you realize that I am very much interested in researching my family history. It’s an exciting and rewarding hobby and one that often provides an author with some great ideas for historical fiction novels. My own books are based on the few facts I have discovered about my Huguenot ancestors and their lives after fleeing France and settling in England.

Steve Robinson is an author who is also using genealogy as the basis for his books. He has come up with a great protagonist by the name of Jefferson Tayte who does genealogical research for a living. In each book, there is a mystery attached to his historical findings and he goes in search of the answers. Usually it’s where no man has dared to tread before and some of what he digs up puts the genealogist in grave danger. 

“The Lost Empress”  is the fourth genealogical mystery I've read by Steve Robinson. I love the technique he uses in writing these books. There is usually Jefferson‘s own story as he tries to unravel mysteries of the past; and then there are the actual stories of those who came before. The author manages to do an excellent job of interspersing the two. 

Although this book is part of a series, it stands alone just fine. One of Tayte's clients thinks that her recently deceased grandmother may have actually been a woman who supposedly drowned when "The Empress of Ireland" floundered and sank in the St. Lawrence River in 1914. Taking what pictures the granddaughter has given him and what info he can dig up on the internet, Jefferson is off to England once more to speak to the descendants of the lady who drowned. When he is met by definite hostility, he is convinced that the family has a shameful secret they do not want unearthed.

You can't help loving the somewhat overweight and uncoordinated Jefferson with his love of chocolate bars and his timidity of aggressive women. Enjoyed this read and look forward to the next Tayte book.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Good Book that Doesn't "Stand Alone."

I often mention how happy I am when I see that a book I have really enjoyed belongs to a series even though it stands alone. When I'm finished reading, I can choose whether or not to go back and devour all the books that came ahead of the current one I'm reading. 

Sometimes, though, the books is so dependent on everything that came before that it is not so enjoyable. My review today is of "Harbor Island: A Sharpe and Donovan Mystery."  Although it is well written, it doesn't fall into that category.

When Emma Sharpe, Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, gets a call from a woman she has never met to meet her alone on one of Boston Bay's harbour islands, she was very hesitant. But Rachel Bristol was adamant that she had some information on an art thief that Emma has been tracking. So she decided to risk the meeting. After texting her boyfriend, fellow FBI agent, Colin Donovan, she follows her informant's instructions only to find the woman shot dead in a pool of blood.

This sounds like it should be an excellent and suspenseful read and it would have been had I known anything about what came before. "Harbor Island" is the fourth novel in the "Sharpe and Donovan" series written by Carla Neggers. I felt that I would have enjoyed the book much better if I had read the earlier novels. Some sequels can easily stand-alone and still be an enjoyable read but I didn't feel this was one of them. There are too many references to people I haven't met, and incidents that occurred in the other stories without enough explanation. Other than that, the writing is excellent. The characters, once you have them figured out, well drawn, and the descriptions of a variety of settings superb.

I'm sure if I had read some of the earlier books, I would have found this a 5-star read. Unfortunately I didn't. I suggest that you go back and read the others before you try this one. I'm going to give this series another chance by reading "Declan's Cross," the first in the series.

Just a hint in case you haven't read her other books: in the copy of "Harbor Island" that I have, there is a novella at the end of the book entitled "Rock Point." I think it may be helpful to read that first. It will give you a better understanding of one of the most important characters.

Deer Island, MA
                                Boston Harbor islands from the air

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Did you ever read the novel, "The Good Earth"   by Pearl Buck? I did many years ago, but it is so long ago that I have pretty much forgotten what it was about, except that the setting was 19th century China. Now an unpublished novel written by Pearl S. Buck and titled “The Eternal Wonder”  has recently come to light.  

The hand-written manuscript was discovered in January of 2013, forty years after the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature winner's death. It was revealed among the contents of a Fort Worth, Texas public storage unit sold for unpaid rent. When the buyer discovered both a handwritten and typewritten document written by Pearl Buck, she alerted the writer's family and after some negotiations, sold it to them. They have authenticated it as her work. Her son, Edgar Walsh, decided to have the novel edited and published even though his mother died before she was able to revise it.  

It is probably a first or second unedited draft, but in spite of the fact that it is far from perfect and not up to Mrs. Buck's usual standard, still the family feels it is important to bring this last novel to the public. This therefore is something a reviewer must take into consideration.

It is a strange tale with rather an oversimplified plot. In fact, it seemed more of a fable than a novel. The hero, Rann Colfax is remarkably and improbably clever. A genius from birth, it would seem. Learning comes so easy to him that he has mastered several languages by the time he is in secondary school. He is much too intelligent for his classmates and teachers, which leads him to wonder about the meaning of life and the part he will play in it.

When his father dies while he is still young, he decides to get his education through books and travel rather than attend a university. In the process of his adventures, he becomes fabulously wealthy through two inheritances. One of them quite improbable.

Throughout the novel, there is a fairy-tale quality. Rather like an Aesop's fable with a lesson that Pearl Buck wanted us to discover and take to heart. The final pages make it clear what this lesson is.

As I read the opening, I wasn't sure that I would like the book at all. But as I continued, it became quite enthralling and in the end, I was left with a great deal to think about. While it isn't in any way up to par with her other works, I find it still gripping enough to deserve four stars

Pearl Buck Birthplace 2

Pearl Buck's Birthplace
By Beeflower (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons