June 22nd, 2013


Books113-114: A Painted Doom and The Skeleton Room by Kate Ellis

Book 113: A Painted Doom (Wesley Peterson #6).
Author: Kate Ellis, 2002.
Genre: Police Procedural. Archaeology. Murder Mystery.
Other Details: Paperback. 336 pages.

Teenager Lewis Hoxworthy discovers a disturbing painting in a medieval barn; a discovery which excites archaeologist Neil Watson who is excavating the remains of an ancient manor house nearby. But when former rock star Jonny Shellmer is found shot through the head in Lewis's father's field and Lewis himself goes missing after contacting a man on the internet, Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson and his boss, Gerry Heffernan face one of their most intriguing cases yet. - synopsis from author's website.

Another intriguing mystery featuring the South Devon CID in which aspects of the past dovetail with the crimes of the present. This one features events from the time of the Wars of the Roses. I did feel that Ellis was teasing the reader a fair amount about the identity of the murderer in the final chapters. Still I didn't mind as it gave me a chance to guess who they were referring to though didn't spot the culprit.

I was amused when Wesley's friend Neil mentioned that he was about to gain his PhD and become Dr. Watson, which was very fitting as his pal Wesley is a big Sherlock Holmes fan and Neil quite seems to like the association given their team work on various cases.

Book 114: The Skeleton Room (Wesley Peterson #7).
Author: Kate Ellis, 2003.
Genre: Police Procedural. Archaeology. Murder Mystery.
Other Details: Paperback. 374 pages.

When workmen converting former girls' boarding school, Chadleigh Hall, into a luxury hotel find a skeleton in a sealed room, DI Wesley Peterson and his boss, Gerry Heffernan are called in to investigate. But within minutes they have a second suspicious death on their hands: a team of marine archaeologists working on a nearby shipwreck have dragged a woman's body from the sea. And it soon becomes clear that her death was no accident. ... Could the shipwreck and the Chadleigh Hall skeleton be linked to five apparently unrelated deaths that have occurred in recent years? As Wesley's quest for a dangerous killer reaches its climax, he finds the truth to be as shocking as it is unexpected. - synopsis from author's website.

Another well written intriguing murder mystery in which crimes of the past overlap with the present day. In this case the activities of the notorious wreckers of the Devon and Cornwall coast during the 18th century feature alongside a series of modern day murders.

I really love this series now and find I am quite addicted. I note that these past two novels in the series have been longer than the earlier ones; perhaps expressing the 21st century trend towards longer novels.
Book with cat 4

One Hen

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway (author), Eugenie Fernandes (illustrator).
(Book received for free for review from Kids Can Press.)

What a wonderful little book. Unfortunately I can't count it in my total for 2013 because it's a children's book. (I don't count short books, like graphic novels, comic books, or childrens' books in my total. However, in my end of the year count post, I'm going to create a section to make note of these books I'm not including in the official count.)

I was interested in One Hen because it was about a subject that's close to my heart: Microloans. I've posted about them a few times in my personal journal, explaining how a $25 loan could make a world of difference for someone, and the repayment rate is nearly 100%, so there's nothing to lose by lending it.

The story of One Hen explains how microloan system works from the borrower's end. A boy gets a tiny loan, just enough to buy one chicken. As weeks pass, his family eats some of the eggs (improving their diet), and he sells the rest. The loan is eventually repaid with the egg money, but he keeps selling eggs. Eventually he has enough for another hen, then another, then another. His family's diet keeps improving, and his money keeps slowly increasing.

Eventually he makes enough money to be able to go back to school (he had to quit when his father died), then based on his 'business' and loan repayment history, he was able to get a "real" loan and start a chicken farm, and eventually he had the largest chicken farm in Ghana, Africa.

There are two elements of the book that were tied for "best part". 1) It's based on a true story (and included a photo of man the main character grew into!). 2) I'm in love with the art. Not just bright, colorful, and full of character, it has elements of his dreams in the pictures, of symbolism, and other details.

If I had a child, I would more than happily read this book to them. It's positive, it has a (real!) happy ending, and it teaches them to be better people. I'm going to keep my eye out for other books by Kids Can Press; they all look like they'd be as good as this one.
  • Current Mood
    happy happy
miss plum

Book 115: Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Book 115: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19) .
Author: Janet Evanovich, 2012.
Genre: Chick Lit Crime Fiction. Comedy/Drama.
Other Details: Unabridged Audiobook (6 hours, 7 mins). Read by Lorelei King.

Geoffrey Cubbin, facing trial for embezzling millions from Trenton’s premier assisted-living facility, has mysteriously vanished from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Now it’s on Stephanie to track down the con man. Unfortunately, Cubbin has disappeared without a trace, a witness, or his money-hungry wife. Rumors are stirring that he must have had help with the daring escape . . . or that maybe he never made it out of his room alive. - synopsis from author's website.

In addition to this main case, Stephanie accepts an assignment from Ranger to serve as his bodyguard for a series of events leading to the wedding of one of the men who had served with him in Special Forces. However, things take a dangerous turn when Ranger and the groom begin to receive threats that appear to be sent from someone with knowledge of their former life. Added to this are the usual antics of Lula, Grandma Mazur and other recurring characters, along with a few other skips for Stephanie to track down with her usual ineptness as well as her conflicted feelings about the men in her life.

I found this one of the best of recent outings with a fun combination of danger, mystery and romance. Sure the books are written to formula but it is a successful one and still has a freshness for me. I've certainly enjoyed the journey from the first book that I read last April to now as I finish the last section of this latest offering. Now along with other fans of the series I have to wait until the autumn when Stephanie Plum #20 appears.

Books 16-18

16. Tevye's Daughters: Collected Stories by Sholem Aleichem. It was neat reading some of the stories that inspired one of my favorite musicals, "Fiddler on the Roof." My respect for the musical grew; the writers really nailed Aleichem's character Tevye, a well-known milkman who sells butter, cheese and milk to neighboring villages. Not all the stories deal with Tevye and his family, which includes his wife and his seven lovely daughters. Yes, there are seven- five of whom we learn more about, a six is named, and a seventh unnamed mentioned early on. There are other short, standalone stories that often read like parables, many of them darkly funny. One of the more memorable ones concerns two young, ill-used maids who decide to sample the goodies intended for their employers' Purim feasts and unwittingly start a feud between the two families. The stories concerning Tevye are conveyed either as letters between the milkman and the author, or by chance meetings between the two. The stories usually concern Tevye's daughters and their relationships with their suitors. Each challenges Tevye's traditions but while he is a conservative man, he also is fully aware of how the world is changing. Those who have seen the musical know what happens with his first three daughters: one marries a suitor that was not arranged by her father, one marries someone from outside their village and winds up leaving the family forever when the new husband is imprisoned, and the third marries a Christian and converts. The stories of the fourth and fifth daughter also are related, that of Shprintze and Bielke. Their stories, also, are very sad for different reasons. The stories are darkly humorous (although sometimes heart-wringing), and often have very pointed commentary. For example, there's another short story about a wealthy man who was known for giving away kind words and clucks of sympathy when his less-off neighbors would approach, but what is pointedly not given is money or any useful help. This seems to be a common theme in several of the stories.

17. The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro. This was a very quick read, and hard to put down. Shapiro mixes fact with fiction as skillfully as her main character Claire mixes paints for her canvases. The book opens with information on the Gardner Museum art heist - which remains the largest unsolved art theft in history. Claire was a child when the art thefts occurred, but today, she has her own problems. Claire makes her living at making copies of masterworks for an online company, cast out by most in the art world after a scandal involving her and her late ex-lover. Then one evening, the owner of a very prominent gallery comes to visit, and he has a proposition. He asks her to use her skills as a reproduction artist to make a copy of a Degas piece. Claire, whose specialty is Degas, is the ideal choice. The twist? She is to make the reproduction from the actual Degas work - one of the pieces stolen during the Gardner heist. In return, Claire is offered a lot of money and the chance to have a solo show at his gallery- and thus emerge from the shadow of the scandal. Claire agrees but begins to wonder about the deal early on - especially when she begins to suspect that the painting she is working from itself might actually be a forgery. Of course, nothing goes quite as planned, and Claire finds herself trying to get behind the mystery of the painting, who might have actually created it and why, and trying to regain her good name. The author goes into a lot of detail on art forgeries and reproductions, which is fascinating and a bit disconcerting. Makes me wonder about her assertion about the number of forgeries that could be hanging on the walls of museums even now, although after seeing a local exhibit on Michelangelo, and the steps used to determine the levels of authenticity for his works, I am thinking Shapiro is probably correct.

18. Guys and Dolls: The Stories of Damon Runyon. This is a different collection of Runyon's short stories from the volume I read earlier (although several stories, such as Dancing Dan's Christmas and Little Miss Marker, are repeated here). I obtained this book primarily for the short story, The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, which the musical Guys and Dolls is partly based on, the part being the story between Sky Masterson (in the story referred to as The Sky) and mission worker Sarah Brown. The musical largely sticks true to this storyline, although I do like the showdown between Sarah and Sky in the Runyon story a little better; Sarah shows a bit of moxie when she basically beats Sky at his own game. Another interesting detail is the revelation about Sarah's father being a drinker and gambler- thus her passionate hatred for those vices. It adds a layer of interest to the character. Also was interesting that Abernathy really is Sarah's grandfather (I think, but then again the term could have been used as slang. I got the impression at least there was a family relation but there is room for doubt.) Love the humor and word play in these stories. I think another favorite was Palm Beach Santa Claus, which was hilarious. This collection's stories are lighter- only a few are sadder, like The Lily of St. Pierre, Little Miss Marker and Johnny One-Eye.