Friday, May 30, 2014

Tutu makes a boo-boo

My deepest apologies to dear Maeve Binchy and all my readers. One of my loyal and true friends was kind enough to point out that I had a huge mistake in my post about the wonderful book A WEEK IN WINTER. I can only blame it on my careless and missing proof reading. I've corrected the post title and continue to praise the book.

Mini Mention: A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

Just about everyone who ever read and loved Maeve Binchy's warm and loving stories about Ireland was devasted to learn of her death in July 2012.  According to her website, A Week in Winter is her last novel, finished only days before her death.

Binchy had the incredible ability to weave a disparate group of characters and motivations, put them in gorgeous surroundings to make a coherent story where the reader cared about each person, and the outcome for everyone.  On the cover, the publisher tells us
...follows the efforts of Chicky who, with the help of Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the place) and her niece Orla (a whiz at business), turns a coastal Ireland mansion into a holiday resort and receives an assortment of first guests who throughout the course of a week share laughter and the heartache of respective challenges. John, the American movie star thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian, forced into taking a holiday together; Nuala and Henry, husband and wife , both doctors who have been shaken by seeing too much death; Anders, the Swedish boy, hates his father's business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired school teacher, who criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone's relief; the Walls who have entered in 200 contests (and won everything from a microwave oven to velvet curtains, including the week at Stone House); and Freda , the psychic who is afraid of her own visions.
It's vintage Binchy, and a story I'll be able to return to again when I'm looking for a feel good read that doesn't sugar coat problems, but that provides a hopeful and positive slant. It's one I bought for my permanent personal library.

Title: A Week in Winter
Author: Maeve Binchy
Publisher:Anchor (2014), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 416 pages
Genre: character based storytelling
Subject: life choices
Setting: Ireland
Source: originally from library, ultimately purchased for my e-reader.
Why did I read this book now? I'm a fan of the author.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mini Mention: The Woman who Wouldn't Die by Colin Cotterill

Tutu is starting a new feature here on the blog.  Because I tend to read in series, it sometimes gets boring for me - and I'm sure for you too - to write reviews for ongoing story lines and the same set of characters.  So starting today, unless the book is just off the presses and I've been given a review copy by the publisher or author, I'm giving myself permission to do a "MINI MENTION" vice a review.

This series has been an enjoyable one up to now, so I was happy to see a new adventure on the shelf.  However, I have to say that this latest one disappointed.  I'm sure there are followers who were thrilled by the historical backfill of the French colonization of Laos and Madame Daeng's early life.  It just seemed like a lot of fill-er-up to me.  It may have been that I wasn't concentrating enough, and I'll probably try this one again later on. 

Same characters, same kinds of silliness and humor, but somehow it didn't work.  Maybe just a few too many spirits and ghosts.  If you're a fan of the series, you'll still enjoy seeing how Dr. Siri continues his adventures even after his "retirement".  If you've never read them before, don't start here....pick an earlier one.  In fact, this series builds so well it's best to start at the beginning.

Title: The Woman Who Wouldn't Die
Author: Colin Cotterill
Publisher: Soho Crime (2014), Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: mystery
Subject: Laotion history, missing persons, ghosts
Setting: Laos
Series: Dr. Siri Paiboun mysteries #9
Source: Public library
Why did I read this book now?  I like the series and wanted to stay current.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Months ago, I bookmarked this page featuring an incredible musical tribute performed by an extremely talented then 13 year old Melissa Venema in the Netherlands.

This weekend, we will be bombarded with flags, buntings, wreaths, and visual tributes galore to pay homage to all who are serving or who have served our country and its commitment to freedom.  It's important to remember that over the years, through many conflicts, hundreds of thousands of others around the world have also joined in that effort.

Today, please take a quiet moment to remember as you listen to the poignant rendition of "IL SILENZIO".  

I can't think of any better way to say thank you to all who have served and are serving.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Father's Day is Coming - a book Giveaway for a perfect gift!

 A major new biography of the fourth president of the United States by New York Times bestselling author Lynne Cheney

 For several years, I've been slowly reading my way through the biographies of America's presidents.  Too often, however, I find my progress impeded either by the lack of good solid historical research or a boring, academic dissertational style of writing.  I've been looking forward to this one and when Penguin's publicist asked if I'd like to run a giveaway and review the book, it only took about 10 keystrokes to hit the reply button and say "YES!" 

So faithful readers, we want to choose one lucky winner in time to get this and give as a Father's Day gift.  I don't have time to read and review it before then, but promise you a review sometime this summer.  For now let's just look at what everyone else is saying about this author and her latest work..
This majestic new biography of James Madison explores the astonishing story of a man of vaunted modesty who audaciously changed the world. Among the Founding Fathers, Madison was a true genius of the early republic.

Outwardly reserved, Madison was the intellectual driving force behind the Constitution and crucial to its ratification. His visionary political philosophy and rationale for the union of states—so eloquently presented in The Federalist papers—helped shape the country Americans live in today.

Along with Thomas Jefferson, Madison would found the first political party in the country’s history—the Democratic Republicans. As Jefferson’s secretary of state, he managed the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States. As president, Madison led the country in its first war under the Constitution, the War of 1812. Without precedent to guide him, he would demonstrate that a republic could defend its honor and independence—and remain a republic still.
WHO: Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author or co-author of twelve books, includes six bestsellers about American history for children and their families. Cheney’s most recent book is We the People: The Story of Our Constitution (2008).

WHAT:  Cheney, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, has been studying Madison since 1987, when she was a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. She has spent the last five years immersed in Madison archival materials, and the result is a lively, intimate, and compelling narrative that takes the reader through the history-altering events in which Madison played key roles. He was not only the Father of the Constitution, but the leader of the first Congress and President Washington’s most influential advisor. He used both positions and a political savvy unmatched since to secure passage of the Bill of Rights. In 1812, he became the first president to lead the nation in war under the Constitution, and he was not only as steady a commander-in-chief as the nation has ever known, he was a friend of liberty, refusing to silence those opposed to war, although many pressed him to do so.

WHY: Father of the Constitution, principle author of the Bill of Rights, founder of the first opposition party, secretary of state, and fourth president, Madison was both a far-seeing theorist and a masterful politician, who despite all he accomplished has been overshadowed by other Founders. Mrs. Cheney covers the sweep of Madison’s significant life, exploring his deeds, his mind, and his character to reveal the brilliance and determination that enabled this seemingly modest man to change the world. Debunking the myths that have burdened his reputation, she shows us the Madison lauded by his famous contemporaries—Washington, Adams, Jefferson—and loved by his glamorous wife, Dolley. are the rules for entering:

1.  Each entry should be a separate comment.
2.  Open to U.S. Addresses only - no P.O. Boxes.
3.  Leave a comment, including your email address, stating why you want to win.  NO EMAIL, NO ENTRY.
4.  Extra entries if you tell me how you follow this blog (if you follow in more than one way, make each a separate entry.)
5.  Another extra entry if you go to the Penguin book page and then make a comment telling me how many quotes are listed in the "praise" section. 
5.  Deadline for entries is 11:55PM EDT Sunday June 8th.  I will notify the winner by 6:00 PM Monday June 9th.  The winner will have only 48 hours to reply with a mailing address so that we can get this delivered in time for Father's Day giving.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Small Plates: Short Fiction by Katherine Hall Page

Katherine Hall Page has delighted me for several years with her Faith Fairchild mysteries. I love the character, the settings and the usually plausible plots. In this newest volume from Page, she has given us 9 fantastic short stories which amazed me in their ability to pack in character, setting and a good plot line in such a short span. The longest story was only about 25 pages long.

It's always difficult to review individual short stories but the variety of plots and time periods is quite interesting. THere are ghosts, great recipes (what else can you expect from Faith Fairchild?), murder plots that backfire, jilted lovers seeking revenge, a gorgeous Maine beach,and two-timing spouses; there are bloody knives and poisoned puddings; and there's a final story that is biblically inspired and touching. Perfect for a Christmas reading.

In each story, Faith manages to put in an appearance. Sometimes she is central to the story, in others she's sitting on the sidelines. All in all this is a thoroughly enjoyable collection and one which I intend to purchase for my personal collection when it's published.

Publishers Note: The novella "The Two Marys," included within, was nominated for an Agatha Award.  Katherine Hall Page is one of the only authors to have won an Agatha in all three categories: Best Novel (The Body in the Snowdrift), Best Short Story ("The Would-Be Widower"), and Best First Novel (The Body in the Belfry). The cookbook Have Faith in Your Kitchen was nominated for a nonfiction Agatha. The Body in the Bonfire and The Body in the Ivy were both nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel, and The Body in the Lighthouse was nominated for a Mary Higgins Clark Award.

. "The Would-Be Widower" was also nominated for a 2002 Macavity Award and appears in the mystery compilation Malice Domestic 10.

Title: Small Plates: Short Fiction
Author: Katherine Hall Page
Publisher:William Morrow (2014), Hardcover, 240 pages
Genre: Mystery, short stories
Subject: murderous relationships
Source: Electronic review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Why did I read this book now? A review copy was offered by the publisher and I'm a fan of this author

Saturday, May 17, 2014

We have a winner - The Promise

It's giveaway time, and the winner of a copy of The Promise is


I've sent her an email and she has until Tuesday, May 20th to get back to me with her mailing address.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and I hope you all get a chance to read and enjoy this delightful work.

Again, many thanks to  TLC tours for the opportunity to host the giveaway.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Audio Review: The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

Dorothea Benton Frank is one of my favorite authors of the genre often called "Southern Fiction."  This one did not disappoint as a work of fiction.  I won't say I liked the main characters, and I certainly didn't like the early choices made by Leslie Anne Greene Carter, the protagonist, but once she escaped the bounds of a manipulative, selfish and thoroughly unlikeable husband, I found myself rooting for her to develop her backbone and stop being a doormat.

Let's recap the story from the publisher notes on audio book case:
Leslie Anne Greene Carter is The Last Original Wife among her husband Wesley's wildly successful,Atlanta social set. His cronies have all traded in the mothers of their children they promised to love and cherish—'til death did them part—for tanned and toned young Barbie brides.

If losing the social life and close friends she adored wasn't painful enough, a series of setbacks shake Les's world and push her to the edge. She's had enough of playing the good wife to a husband who thinks he's doing her a favor keeping her around. Now, she's going to take some time for herself—in the familiar comforts and stunning beauty of Charleston, her beloved hometown. In her brother's stately historic home, she's going to reclaim the carefree girl who spent lazy summers sharing steamy kisses with her first love on Sullivan's Island. Daring to listen to her inner voice, she will realize what she wants . . . and find the life of which she's always dreamed.
Told in the alternating voices of Les and Wes, The Last Original Wife is classic Dorothea Benton Frank: an intoxicating tale of family, friendship, self-discovery, and love, that is as salty as a Lowcountry breeze and as invigorating as a dip in Carolina waters on a sizzling summer day.
I'm of the same generation, background and education as Leslie Anne Carter, but I would never ever have put up with the demeaning life she endured married to Wes, skimping on spending, ignored in favor of the golf game, and treated like hired help.  I was alternately cheering for her to tell him to pound sand and plant his golf clubs where the sun doesn't shine and hoping that perhaps the two of them would get counseling, that he would somehow be able to give up his obsession with golf, and they might be able to salvage their relationship.  The resolution the author allows at the end is one I found satisfying emotionally and should be one that most readers can accept.  I won't spoil your enjoyment by telling anymore.

It was an enjoyable read, very well done in the audio format by narrator Robin Miles.

Title: The Last Original Wife
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher: Harper Audio (2013), narrated by Robin Mil
Genre: Southern fiction
Subject: marriage, women's roles
Setting: Atlanta GA and Charleston SC
Source: public library audio download
Why did I read this book now?  I am a fan of the author and my sister recommended the book.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Orphans of Race Point

Since I finished reading this about 10 days ago, I've been heard to remark several times that this is the summer read of the year.  The Orphans of Race Point reminds me of Gone Girl, but IMHO, it's way better with much more likeable characters.  It's a fantastic love story, a very disturbing mystery, set in a gorgeous and fabled area,  and an all-around good read.  So I'm thrilled to here on the TLC Blog Tour telling one and all how highly I rate this one.   Let's look at the publisher's blurb:
Set on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a suspenseful page-turning saga of love, murder, and the true meaning of faith from the author of the acclaimed The Liar’s Diary.
Set in the close-knit Portuguese community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, The Orphans of Race Point traces the relationship between Hallie Costa and Gus Silva, who meet as children in the wake of a terrible crime that leaves Gus parentless. Their friendship evolves into an enduring and passionate love that will ask more of them than they ever imagined.

On the night of their high school prom, a terrible tragedy devastates their relationship and profoundly alters the course of their lives. And when, a decade later, Gus—now a priest—becomes entangled with a distraught woman named Ava and her daughter Mila, troubled souls who bring back vivid memories of his own damaged past, the unthinkable happens: he is charged with murder. Can Hallie save the man she’s never stopped loving, by not only freeing him from prison but also—finally—the curse of his past?

Told in alternating voices, The Orphans of Race Point illuminates the transformative power of love and the myriad ways we find meaning in our lives.
Now I do think on the back cover the publisher has misled us a tad bit on how the story progresses, but I won't spoil the outcome by pointing out the descriptive oopsie.  It will make a great book club discussion point.

I was drawn to this one by my fondness for the setting - Cape Cod; the characters - a large inter-related Portuguese family/community (I married into that group); and the promise of a good mystery. Patry has given us all three elements with crisp prose, flawed characters with eminently likeable personalities, and a mystery that at first doesn't seem like a mystery.  The reader goes along believing that this is just a tragic love story, and doesn't realize until well into the dark despair of the star crossed lovers that all may not be as it seems.  The main characters Hallie and Gus grow from young preteens to adulthood while navigating the treacherous shoals of adolescence guided by a variety of community parental figures who each had his/her own problems. I was rooting for an outcome that wasn't to be.  Each of these characters was flawed; each had numerous redeeming qualities; each needed something the other was not capable of giving.

Other characters added a layer of complexity and richness portraying relationships full of love, caring, all the while bedeviled by the misunderstandings that often develop among teen-agers and their friends and parents.  Nevertheless, the plot twists aroused my interest early on, ensuring that I wasn't going to do anything but read for almost 24 straight hours.

Although it's long, Orphans of Race Point moves along through several generations of family secrets and revelations to an ending that may not be what every reader is looking for.  That resolution however, is one that satisfied my need for closure, forgiveness and redemption for most of the cast.   It certainly kept me up reading well past my normal bedtime.  I could not put it down, and can't stop urging everyone I meet to go get this one.

 Patry Francis is a new author for me.  I immediately went out and got her first book The Liar's Diary.  It's going onto the summer reading pile for sure.  You can learn more about Ms. Francis on her webpage.

Title: The Orphans of Race Point
Author: Patry Francis
Publisher: Harper Collins (2014), paperback, 544 pages
Genre: romance, mystery
Subject: secrets, murder, dysfunctional family life
Setting: Provincetown Cape Cod
Source: publisher review copy
Why did I read this book now? I was invited to review the book by the publisher.

Many thanks to Trish Collins of Harper Collins for providing the review copy and inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour.  You can see future stops on the tour here.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mini shout: Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

 I recently discovered this series thanks to online friends at  The first of the series, subtitled "A Novel of the French Countryside" was as pleasant a read as a stroll through a small French town and a stop at a local bistro for wine and cheese, or a cafe au lait with a brioche.
Benoît (Bruno) Courrèges, is not only chief of police of a small village in the south of France, he's the ONLY policeman. He knows everyone in town, he loves to eat, he has a dog named Gigi to add some color to his personality, he's probably at the top of the area's eligible bachelor list, and he really doesn't have a hard life because there's no real crime in this town.

Suddenly, a retired North African, beloved by all in the village is murdered, and Bruno must contend with the appearance of the "helper" crime solvers from higher up the crime-solving food chain, and must adjust his thinking about what he knows about the victim. To say the least, his quiet life is upended.

I enjoyed this one- it reminded me of M.C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth series, or Alexander McCall Smith's First Ladies Detective Agency books. I'll be looking for at least one more by this author to see if the entire series is worth pursuing.

Title: Bruno, Chief of Police 
Author: Martin Walker
Publisher: Vintage (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy police procedural
Subject: murder, secrets
Setting: south of France
Series: Bruno Courreges
Source: Public library
Why did I read this book now? recommended by friends

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review : Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchum

I can't read Jenny Milchum at night when I'm about to go to sleep. Her scenarios are far too creepy. Her books are scary but not so creepy and scary that I can't believe every bit of what is happening. Her first book, Cover of Snow, drew me right in, even with its alarming premise, and kept me reading far into the night. This newest one, Ruin Falls is even better.

Milchum gives us the primary victims of domestic abuse (more mental and pyschological than physical but every bit as real) and sprinkles in some secondary ones whose stories weave in and out. For a while, I couldn't quite see how they all fit together, but Milchum does an excellent job of lacing the story lines. Once again, she uses the wooded Adirondacks as her setting. It is obviously an area where she is comfortable exploring and describing.

I really don't want to spoil the plot, so I'm going to give you only the teaser the publisher is giving us:
When Liz wakes up one morning in her hotel room to discover her two children Ally and Reid aren't in their beds, her mind races, imagining a million worst-case scenarios, playing out her every nightmare. When she discovers that the kids were taken, not by some anonymous monster in a ski mask but by her own husband, Paul, her frantic worries turn into desperate questions. Unable to comprehend why the man who had been her trusted partner would willingly take from her all she loves most, Liz throws herself into the search for her kids. Her investigation uncovers a disturbing incident from her husband's past and she begins receiving ominous threats, warning her to stay away. No more able to abandon her search than stop breathing, Liz digs deeper into her husband's secrets-only to discover that Paul's plans are far more extreme than she ever could have imagined.
Drawing on all the publicity today about the back to the earth movement, environmental protection, conservation of resources, sustainable agriculture, and retreat from worldly contamination, this one combines these issues with twisted personalities in a scenario that is so well written it's more than believable--it can scare the living bejeebies out of any one who is a parent.  Just published this week, this one should be headed for your must read list.

Title: Ruin Falls
Author: Jenny Milchum
Publisher: Ballantine Books (2014), e-galley 352 pages 
Genre: pyschological thriller
Subject: eco-terrorism
Setting: The Adirondacks, NY
Source: e-galley from publisher via Edelweiss
Why did I read this book now? The publisher offered it for review and I enjoyed the author's previous work.

Note : I also had the chance to sample this in audio. Cassandra Campbell does a fantastic job of delivering the variety of emotions the author portrays in her writing.  If you're an audio fan, be sure to check this one out.