The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Posted by on May 23, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

The Blue Castle by L.M. MontgomeryThe Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback and ebook
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: Paperback 1988 (originally 1926)
Pages: 218
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

At twenty-nine Valancy had never been in love, and it seemed romance had passed her by. Living with her overbearing mother and meddlesome aunt, she found her only consolations in the “forbidden” books of John Foster and her daydreams of the Blue Castle. Then a letter arrived from Dr. Trent — and Valancy decided to throw caution to the winds. For the first time in her life Valancy did and said exactly what she wanted. Soon she discovered a surprising new world, full of love and adventures far beyond her most secret dreams.

My Thoughts:
Here’s where I confess that I never read any of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books.It was in the midst of an online discussion of the recent television adaptation of Anne that a friend mentioned that Anne wasn’t her favorite Montgomery heroine. She said her favorite was Valancy Stirling in The Blue Castle. I had never realized that Montgomery had written any adult fiction. It turned out that my library had a copy so I picked it up on the way home.

This is just a lovely little romance novel and I absolutely agree that Valancy Stirling is a wonderful character. At 29 she’s resigned to being an ‘old maid’ and willingly submits to the demands of her overbearing family. When a letter from her doctor changes her outlook on life she decides that she’s no longer going to do what her family expects her to do.

While it’s far from my usual fare, I absolutely loved Valancy and this book. If you haven’t read it you must! If you do go looking for it I’ll warn you that some editions have truly awful covers.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson – Audio Edition

Posted by on May 19, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Norma? by Jeanette Winterson narrated by the authorWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson narrated by the author

Genre: Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 6 hours 7 minutes
Narrated by: Jeanette Winterson
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Jeanette Winterson’s bold and revelatory novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most acclaimed books of the last three decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is considered one of the most important books in contemporary fiction. Jeanette’s adoptive mother loomed over her life until Jeanette finally moved out at sixteen because she was in love with a woman. As Jeanette left behind the strict confines of her youth, her mother asked, “Why be happy when you could be normal?”

This memoir is the chronicle of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser drawer; about growing up in a north England industrial town in the 1960s and 1970s; and about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, which Winterson thought she had written over and repainted, rose to haunt her later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about literature, one that shows how fiction and poetry can guide us when we are lost. Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging – for love, identity, and a home.

My Thoughts:
I’m glad I chose the audio edition of this book. Author narrated audiobooks seem to be hit or miss for me. Jeanette Winterson is not a professional narrator but I think hearing this book in her voice made it even better than if someone else had narrated it.

I loved hearing her speak about how important books and reading were to her despite the fact that most books were not allowed in her home. Books and reading were not only an escape from her difficult childhood they were also her way out and ultimately her livelihood.

The first half of the book is about her childhood and her adoptive parents and her fundamentalist upbringing. She left home at 16 when she fell in love with her second girlfriend. Her adoptive mother’s statement is now the title of the book. It seemed proof that Winterson’s earlier exorcism hadn’t worked.

The second part of the book takes place years later and is about Winterson’s search for her biological mother. And her own struggles with depression.

This was a moving memoir and one that will stick with me for a while.

If you choose to read it I recommend that audio format.


4 stars 4/5 for the book

4 stars 4.5/5 for the narration

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The Stingray Shuffle by Tim Dorsey

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in 2017, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Tim Dorsey | 0 comments

The Stingray Shuffle by Tim DorseyThe Stingray Shuffle by Tim Dorsey

Genre: Crime Fiction, Humor, Suspense
Format: Hardcover and Ebook
Series: #5 in the Serge Storms series
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 303
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

When serial-killing local Florida historian Serge A. Storms is off his meds, no one is safe — not Russian hoods, Jamaican mobsters, spoiled frat boys, women’s book clubs, drug dealers, bad Vegas-rejected local lounge acts — especially when $5 million in cash in a bugged suitcase is still racing up and down the Eastern Seaboard. But in the oddball circus known as the Sunshine State, little things like astronomical body counts tend to get lost in the shuffle.

My Thoughts:
It’s been about a year since I last read a Serge Storms book from Tim Dorsey and it was just the kind of lunacy I was in the mood for. I have always described this series as Pulp Fiction takes Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through Florida and this fifth volume is absolutely all that and more.

It was the usual chaos that happens when Serge is off his meds. In this one Serge came up with some particularly inventive ways to kill people.

This series does not have a linear timeline at all. The suitcase full of money was introduced a couple of books ago. It was fun to get back to that storyline.

The spectacularly inept mob guys from several different countries were my favorite part.

This is violent stuff but in such a darkly humorous way that it just makes me laugh.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Black Hammer: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire

Posted by on May 16, 2017 in 2017, 5 stars, Book Review, Comics, Jeff Lemire | 0 comments

Black Hammer: Secret Origins by Jeff LemireBlack Hammer: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire with art by Dan Ormston

Genre: Superhero Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #1 in the Black Hammer series
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 184
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 1 is a compilation of issues 1-6 of the comic series
From the publisher:

Once they were heroes. Now, banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City lead simple lives in a timeless farming town. But as they attempt to free themselves from this strange purgatory, a mysterious stranger works to bring them back into action for one last adventure!

My Thoughts:
I know. Another Lemire. I can’t help it I love his work and this one is no exception. This is the first trade paperback collection of this new series. Lemire wrote it and Dean Ormston did the artwork. In fact, Dean Ormston did the artwork after suffering a brain hemorrhage that affected the right side of his body. He’s right handed and had to recover from having his drawing hand partially paralyzed. It’s a bit of a superhero story about the making of a series about superheroes.

This is a superhero story but with a distinct Jeff Lemire feel to it. The characters’ superhero days seem to be behind them. They are living in a farming community and hiding their identities and talents. How they got there and whether they can leave is unknown. Each issue focuses on one of the main characters and both gives their background as well as filling in bits and pieces of the story.

This is clearly an introductory and stage setting book with much of it devoted to filling in who the characters are more than moving the story forward. It’s a twisty story too. Time and space shifting keeps the settings interesting and give Dean Ormston plenty of opportunities for creating different scenes.

I’m hooked and highly recommend this. I don’t think I’ll be able to wait until the next collected edition is released. I’m going to have to subscribe to the individual issues of this series.

a9741-rating_5stars Rating 5/5

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Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy

Posted by on May 12, 2017 in 2017, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Julie Hyzy | 0 comments

Buffalo West Wing by Julie HyzyBuffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy

Genre:Cozy Mystery
Format: Mass Market Paperback and Ebook
Series: #4 in the White House Chef series
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 275
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

With a new First Family, White House executive chef Olivia Paras can’t afford to make any mistakes. But when a box of take-out chicken mysteriously shows up for the First Kids, she soon finds herself in a “no-wing” situation. After Olivia refuses to serve the chicken, the First Lady gives her the cold shoulder. But when it turns out to be poisoned poultry, Olivia realizes the kids are true targets.

My Thoughts:
This is a fun cozy mystery series in which the main character, Olivia Paras, is the executive chef at the White House. The added political elements and the insider view of the White House makes it interesting blend of culinary cozy mystery and the unique setting.

It has been a while since I read the previous book in the series there’s really not that much ongonig story so the time lapse wasn’t a problem.

This time around there’s a new President and family in the White House. The book opens on Inauguration Day. After having a good relationship with the previous President and First Lady, Ollie wants to make a good impression but soon feels like her job might be on the line because the new First Lady doesn’t seem to like her much.

Often in cozy mysteries I get annoyed when the protagonist ends up in a dangerous situation merely because of their own stupid choices. In this book I appreciated the fact that Ollie’s involvement in the mystery and the ensuing chaos rather organically. She just happened to be in the right/wrong places for logical reasons.

I enjoyed this one. I’ll probably continue with the series.

3.5 starsRating 3.5/5

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Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith – Audio Edition

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in 2017, 3.5 stars, Alexander McCall Smith, Audio, Book Review | 0 comments

Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith narrated by Lisette LecatPrecious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith

Genre: Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Series: #17 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2014
Length: 9 hours, 49 minutes
Narrated by: Lisette Lecat
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Changes are afoot at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, where Mma Makutsi, who has recently been promoted to co-director, has been encouraging Mma Ramotswe to update to more modern office practices. However, an unusual case will require both of them to turn their attention firmly to the past. A young Canadian woman who spent her early childhood in Botswana requests the agency’s help in recovering important pieces of her life there. With only a faded photograph—and, of course, some good old-fashioned detective skills—to guide them, Precious and Grace set out to locate the house that the woman used to live in and the caretaker who looked after her many years ago. But when the journey takes an unexpected turn, they are forced to consider whether some lost things may be better off unfound.

Busy as she is with this challenging investigation, Mma Ramotswe can always be relied on to come to the aid of her friends—who seem to have a special knack for landing in hot water. Mr. Polopetsi, an occasional assistant at the agency, has made an ill-advised business decision that may lead to serious trouble. And next door at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Fanwell, the junior mechanic, has become helplessly attached to a stray dog who proves to be a bigger responsibility than he can handle. With Mma Makutsi by her side, Mma Ramotswe dispenses help and sympathy with the graciousness and warmth for which she is so well known, and everyone is led to surprising insights into the healing power of compassion, forgiveness, and new beginnings.

My Thoughts:
I’m still enjoying this series seventeen books in. I’ve never read the print editions because Lisette Lecat’s narration is a lot of the reason I like this series

These are sometimes classified as mysteries but despite the fact that the main character is a detective the mystery part of the book is rather light. I consider the series light general fiction.

They are about relationships, friendships, and a love story about the country of Botswana. Precious Ramotswe is the kind of woman I’d like to meet for tea and an afternoon of chatting. She loves her husband, she’s fiercely protective of her friends and she’s immensely proud of her home country of Botswana.

This time around the case involves a Canadian woman who lived in Botswana as a girl and would like to find her childhood nanny. As usual the outcome is not as straightforward as originally expected. There is also the stray dog and a business opportunity that could be troublesome.

I just enjoy listening to these books as I’m driving. It’s good entertainment and Lisette Lecat is wonderful. The voices she does for the characters are wonderful and I’m glad I don’t have to figure out how to pronounce some of the names.


3.5 stars 3.5/5 for the book

4.5 stars 4.5/5 for the narration

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