Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two New Books I Cannot Wait to Read!

I will be reviewing these two books next week. This author has been compared to Daphne du Maurier and Diana Gabaldon. 

These are her first two books published in the United States. 

The Winter Sea
by Susanna Kearsley

This book has two parallel storylines and takes place in Scotland. She nails the dialogue, capturing the rhythms of the local "Doric" speech. 

The Rose Garden
by Susanna Kearsley

This book takes place in Cornwall and reminds me of what I love about Kate Morton's writing. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sequel to Pug Hill--Just OK

A Pug's Tale
By Alison Pace

Genre: Women's Fiction, Adult

Note: I enjoyed the funny and warm-hearted book, a rom-com called Pug Hill

Review: This sequel revisits Hope, an art conservator at the Met. Her boyfriend lives in another country and only the adorable pug Max is in NYC to keep her company. She finds a fake "Pansies" painting by Henri Fantin-Latour, which threatens her job, but the clues come in too slowly for my taste. Thriller this book is not. Many of the sentences were overly long--could've been accomplished in 1/3 of the space without the extra wordiness, which slowed the pace to blah-ness. Sometimes funny and clever, but not often enough.

"Pansies" by Fantin-Latour

Song to Read by: Some French accordion music by Robert Doisneau:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Remember the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?

Sisterhood Everlasting
by Ann Brashares

Info about the book: This book takes up 10 years later, after the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series ends.


Review: Lena, Carmen, Bridget, and Tibby are almost 30-year-olds now. Tibby lives in Australia with Brian. She has fallen out of touch with the group, but she invites them to reunite in Santorini. Lena is a teacher and artist in Providence, while Carmen is a TV actress, and Bridget lives with Eric in San Fran, while still feeling restless. At first, I was reluctant to read this book, because I heard one of the characters dies and I couldn’t bear to find out who, but once I started reading, I felt at home with these familiar characters and couldn’t stop reading.  

Genre: This book is released as adult fiction, however, readers of the Pants series who have grown up with the series will be interested. Deals with some heavier and more adult issues.

Song to Read By: Several chapters have epigraphs from songs by The Shins. Check out “Gone for Good”:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Christmas Comes to Buckshaw! Flavia's Back!

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
By Alan Bradley

About the Book: This book is the fourth in the Flavia de Luce series, and my favorite so far. The series is listed as Adult Mystery, but YA and middle grades readers 11 and up would enjoy as well, because Flavia is an 11 year old sleuth who loves chemistry and is bullied by her sisters. Flavia is witty and fearless as usual!

The Review: Christmas at Buckshaw brings a film crew making a movie (Father is trying to pay off debt and hold onto the family estate). All of Bishop’s Lacey village is snowed in for two days after attending a charity play of Romeo and Juliet. Meanwhile, Flavia has a plan to trap Father Christmas and prove once and for all that he exists. As the village sleeps in the foyer, Flavia creeps to chat with the star actress, who she has befriended, but she finds her, guess what, murdered. She must enlist the help of her dreaded sister Daphne to solve the mystery.

Fun Facts: Don't worry, the next book in the series (still untitled) is due to be released in March 2013! The sixth book in the series, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, will be published in 2014. The title of the book comes from the epigraph, an excerpt from the famous poem about The Lady of Shalott.

Song to Read By: Toccatta by Paradisi (Flavia's favorite song):

Friday, February 17, 2012

What do a Gypsy’s crystal ball, fishy smell, and a lobster pick have in common?

A Red Herring without Mustard
By Alan Bradley

What do a Gypsy’s crystal ball, fishy smell, and a lobster pick have in common?

They are all clues in the third murder-mystery to be solved by the incomparable Flavia de Luce. Remember, I recommend this book for mystery lovers of all ages, 11 and up. That includes MG, YA, and adult mystery lovers!

Review: I loved returning to Bishop’s Lacey and the local eccentrics, from Father the Stamp Collector to Dogger the Gardener. Flavia wanders further afield and almost gets confined to her house during this investigation, but she finds out more about Harriet, her deceased mother, when she visits the house of a portrait painter. This book seemed the longest of the Flavia books—towards the end, I just wanted to find out what happened, though I enjoyed her foray into an underground tunnel. Maybe I was just overly excited to start the fourth book, where a film uses Buckshaw for a set.

Song to Read By: Flavia mentions that her sister Ophelia plays this song on piano for Porcelain. Anton Dvorak's Gypsy Song, Opus 55 number 4:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Fun and Funny Memoir about Friendship!

MWF Seeking BFF: 
My Year Long Search for a Best Friend
By Rachel Bertsche

If you are twenty-or-thirtysomething girl, you will love this book! If you have ever moved to a new city or searched for new friends, you will relate to Rachel's quest. Rachel finds herself married and living in Chicago, but without a BFF in her zipcode. She longs for a relationship like she has with her camp and high school friends. Throughout the memoir, Rachel intersperses research about the science of friendship, which adds legitimacy to her quest. She braves improv classes, friend rental services, and "blind dates" as she goes in 52 dates in search of "the One"--her new best friend.  You'll read on to find out if she meets her new BFF, but also because she is the companion you've been looking for!

Inspiration: While I'm not going on any girl-dates, this book inspired me to finally start a book club and check out, both of which I've been meaning to do. 

Author Website and Blog:

Song to Read By: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Miley Cyrus:

Monday, February 13, 2012

The 2nd in the Series Doesn't Disappoint

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
By Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce returns and doesn't disappoint. A genius puppeteer arrives, and Flavia helps him set up a puppet show at the local church. Suspicions stir at the Ingleby Farm (where son Robin was hung in mysterious circumstances in Gibbet wood years before). This book delves into Flavia's character, her loneliness, feelings about her deceased and adventurous mother Harriet, her distracted father, and evil older sisters. 

Performance Day brings more than entertainment--murder and mystery, what else? We get to know the town of Bishop's Lacey even better. But with such a long list of suspects, will Flavia ever solve the mystery?

Fun Fact: The setting is so well-developed, I almost didn't believe it when I found out that author Alan Bradley had never set foot in England before writing the first book. 

Song to Read By: "End Title" Shawshank Redemption Soundtrack composed by Thomas Newman:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Heart Flavia de Luce! A hilarious heroine, chemist, and mystery-solver!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley

The review: This is absolutely the best book I have read in months. This mystery will have massive appeal for middle grades, YA, and adult readers, who love clever, funny, slightly diabolical narrators. It all starts when a jack snipe (with a stamp on its beak) is found on the porch of the English country estate of Buckshaw, where (almost) 11 year old Flavia lives. Next, she discovers a body in the cucumbers. Flavia loves poisons and chemistry and she ends up applying her knowledge for the good of humanity. With her trusty stead (bike) Gladys, she flies around the town of Bishop's Lacey finding clues. Another bonus: the lively cast of eccentric characters in the town of Bishop's Lacey. 

Reading Level: This book is published for adults, but Flavia is a precocious 11 year old. YA readers who love mysteries and advanced middle grade readers would enjoy this book!

Author website and more info: . There will be 5 more books in this series. Three are already released, and the next will be released in 2013. Recently the editors ordered 4 more books in the series on top of that, bringing the total to be published in this series at 10 books! 

Song to Read by: Flavia loves this song--the Toccatta by Paradisi:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Will your dream job actually be dreamy?

Second Time Around
by Beth Kendrick

Genre: Women's Fiction

 This novel is a chick-lit cupcake for the evening. Not a hearty meal of literature, but a delectable dessert you will love devouring. If you were an English major in college, you'll relate to the main characters, who, ten years after their graduation, find themselves adrift and slightly unhappy in their "careers." Then their friend gives each of them $250,000 to pursue their dreams. The realities of running a B and B and renovating a house plague Southern belle Brooke. Other friends are baking cakes, writing novels, and planning weddings, but these dream jobs come with conflicts as well. The four friends are living together in their old college town, with sprinkles of romance and mystery on this cupcake of a novel. Super cute-- read it!

Author website:

Song to Read By: "Science and Faith" by The Script:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Creepy, Supernatural YA Mystery!

The Glass Demon 
By Helen Grant

 Review: Lin, a 17 year old girl, must move to Germany with her father, mom-figure Tuesday, baby brother Ru, and older sister Polly. Her father, a medieval scholar, is searching for the famed, but lost and cursed, Allerheiligen Glass. 
Lin wishes she could stay in England with her friends and her normal life, her last year to study for A-levels. Their new home, Kreuzberg Castle, is isolated, surrounded by creepy woods.  Lin is reluctant to befriend neighbor Michel Reinartz, but ensuing events will bring them together. When they first arrive, they discover a dead body surrounded by broken glass. This theme repeats and Lin's family is in danger. 
I like Lin's character (her moodiness, cleverness), and I was "on the edge of my seat" while devouring this book in 2 days!

Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery, YA Fiction

About the book: Helen Grant's two books are published as adult fiction, but have won awards as being adult fiction books with special interest for young adult readers. Her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, features 11 year old Pia, also a mystery. I will review this book next!

Author website:

Songs to Read By: "The Grey" soundtrack preview by Marc Streitenfeld

Friday, February 3, 2012

Will a Restless Travel Writer Settle Down?

The First Husband 
by Laura Dave

Genre: Adult Novel--Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction

Intro: I read and enjoyed Laura Dave's first novel, London is the Best City in America and so I was excited to read her latest novel. Her wry sense of humor and realistic characters are the literary answer to chick lit. The characters are smart and sassy, but not addicted to shopping.

 The Review: Dave's books delve deep into the sticky relationship issues we don't want to talk about. She takes things that could be our worst fears (settling down, being left by a long term partner) and addresses them in this book. The main character in The First Husband is a travel writer who travels 200 days a year. 

After her five-year boyfriend Nick breaks up with her abruptly, Annie marries a chef in Los Angeles and moves to small-town New England just a few months later. Her new home and husband come with several unexpected snags (mother-in-law and her husband's long-term (13 yr) ex-girlfriend), not to mention the freezing weather. 

Will she adjust to her new life or follow the allure of a job in London as a travel expert?

Author Website:

Song to Read By: "For the First Time" by The Script

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Piecing Together a Mystery

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery

For all of your word-lovers out there who want to be immersed in the obscure world of lexicography and dictionary-making, pick up this book. A fun, witty mystery with two twentysomething characters trying to find their way in the world while solving a mystery left behind by one of the dictionary's former employees. Philosophy major Billy and her co-worker Mona are lively realistic characters. I wish they were my friends so we could have word usage debates together!

Author website: 
I also recommend her next book, In Search of the Rose Notes

Song to Read By: "Scythian Empires" by Andrew Bird