Saturday, June 23, 2012

50. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Hannah owns her own cookie shop which keeps her very busy along with dodging her mother's matchmaking efforts.  But she still finds time to help her brother-in-law, Bill, solve two murders that have rocked their small Minnesota town.  The whole plot is a little unbelievable as Hannah goes about town, questioning everyone with very little push back considering she is not a police detective.  And Bill lets her because solving the murder will help him get a big promotion.  Why his boss doesn't know that Hannah is the true crime-solver is beyond me.  Still, Hannah is likeable and her cookie recipes look great.  Rating:  3.50

49. 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie (Audio)

From back cover:
For an instant two trains run together, side by side.  In that instant, Elspeth witnessed a murder.  Helplessly, she stared out of her carriage window as a man remorselessly tightened his grip around a woman's throat.  The body crumpled.  Then the other train drew away.

But who, apart from Jane Marple, would take her story seriously?  After all, there were no suspects, no other witnesses  . . . and no corpse.

This is another great story written by the mystery master.  I love Christie's books and am amazed at how she was able to write so many with such differing plots.  This mystery was quite intricate and it really challenges Miss Marple's abilities.  But she enlists a friend, thirty-two-year-old Lucy Eylesbarrow who owns her own cleaning service, to help find the body.  Marple has figured out where a body would have been thrown from the train and Lucy gains employment with the family who owns the estate.  Eventually the body is found and the murderer discovered but it is a wild ride going through all the clues.  I would never have figured it out.  Through the book, two of the suspects show a romantic interest in Lucy.  After making the arrest, the chief inspector asks Miss Marple is she knows who Lucy chooses.  And she answers, Of couse, she knows.  And the book ends with that statement.  I'll bet Dame Agatha had a good laugh leaving us all hanging.  Rating:  4.25

Thursday, June 14, 2012

48. Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

With every book featuring them, I enjoy Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg more.  They're hilarious.  In this book, the two witches have decided to travel to Ank Morpork to find Agnes, a girl from their village who they believe should join them as a third witch.  Agnes, who is a very large girl with a beautiful voice and loads of common sense has gone to the city to join the opera.  Yes, there are shades of the Phantom of the Opera in this story, but so funny.  Opera characters are strange even by Discworld standards.  There are some murders which Granny and Nanny help to solve and they are able to make their pitch to Agnes.  I'm not sure if she changes her career, maybe in another book.  I surely hope to read more about the witches as they have really grown on me.  Rating:  4.75

47.Replay by Sharon Creech

Leo is not sure he fits in with his family who calls him fog boy or Sardine.  He spends a lot of time fantasizing which adds some fun to the book.  While searching through the attice, he finds his father's journal written at the age of 12 and it opens his eyes up to the man who seems so sad most of the time.  The book culinates witht eh family viewing Leo in his school play where he has the part of "old crone."  While this was not my favorite Sharon Creech book, it was still a fun read and a great book for kids.  Rating:  3.75

46. Death of a Dustman by M C Beaton

"When Mrs. Freda Fleming, tyrannical member of the Strathbane Council, appoints the dustman (trash collector) of Lochdubh to be the "environmental officer," Fergus Macleod becomes a bigger bully than he was before. He also specializes in blackmail as he uses the bits of information he finds in the rubbish against the local residents. No one is surprised when his body turns up in a recycling bin. That's when policeman Hamish Macbeth steps in to investigate, but he has a difficult time trying to get the locals to talk. And then, another murder complicates the entire process. Beaton once again entertains fans of the series with delightful escapades of the Scottish populace and a good mystery. She uses Hamish not only as the main character, but also as a foundation for learning about the culture, activities, and other people in the village. Clarry Graham, Macbeth's constable who specializes in cooking, lends additional humor to the story line."  Amazon review

Another Hamish McBeath mystery with colorful characters and a great mystery.  Rating:  4

45. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

In 1945, Marjorie and her college roommate, Marty, move to New York City to live and work for the summer.  They are able to get employment at famed Tiffany's, and this book tells about their adventures during that summer.  Even though teh country is still at war, the girls still manage to have fun, experience the city and learn more about the rarified world of Tiffany's.  Hart's memoir is a fun look at the end of WWII that gives a different perspective from other things I've read about this time.  Rating:  3.75

44. Maggie Again by John D Husband

In 1926, Maggie moves from Indiana to New York City.  Her three best friends, Tom, Alfie and Gordie hop a train to visit her and disappear.  At the age of 74, Maggie remembers her friends and wonders again what happened to them. And then, they are in New York, still 14, 15 and 16 years old.  This is a fun time travel story that was totally unexpected to me.  I really enjoyed reading about the 1920's, the stock market crash and then following Maggie through the years.  A great "what if" story.  Rating:  4.25

Sunday, June 03, 2012

43. Elizabeth and Hazel by David Margolick

This is not the kind of book I tend to read, but both my sisters recommended it along with my brother who left me his copy.  So I decided to read it to not be left out of any family discussions and am glad that I did.  The book covers one of the Little Rock Nine and the girl yelling at her in the picture that became a famous icon of that era.  Both girls are fifteen, one are wanting to get a better education so willing to brave the crowds of segregationists who oppose her attendance at an all-white school; and the other wanting to gain attention and be part of the in-crowd.  Mostly the book focuses on Elizabeth Eckford and her struggles attending school and the post-tramatic-stress syndrome she suffers for the rest of her life.  Hazel Bryan transferred out of the school shortly after the picture is taken and comes to grips with her shameful part in the episode later in life.  Their interactions are well-documented and the whole story is presented in a very interesting way.  The book educates without being boring.  I would have liked a different ending, but you can't get that with a book covering history.  It is a sad commentary on how cruel people can be and stresses the need for all of us to take an active part in making sure all Americans have the same advantages regardless of their race.  Rating:  4.5

42. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (Audio)

"I've lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn't supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It's been in Magnus's family for three generations. And now the very same day his parents are coming, I've lost it. The very same day! Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive :) !!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her "happily ever after" begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone's owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn't agree. He wants his phone back and doesn't appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other's lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents... she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life."  Amazon Synopsis

I admit that I found the narrator of this audio book to have a very annoying, chirpy, high-pitched voice.  It was hard to get into because of that.  However, the story is hilarious and I soon got into it.  I enjoyed the experience very much except for one problem. . . the profanity was over the top.  It's hard to ignore that with audio so I'm taking off a full point for it.  So it's a great story, fun characters and hilarious story . . .  with too much swearing.  Dang.  Rating:  3.75

41. How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

"Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eye, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit. But for 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all—especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, it isn’t at all what she thought it would be like, and she’ll have resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment?"  Amazon Synopsis

I've read several reviews of this young-adult novel that really praise it.  I found it very creative and different, but also annoying.  The story centers almost exclusively on Charlie's quest to rid herself of a fairy and get a new one.  There is a strong lesson about friendship which was nice and another one about accepting yourself or changing what you don't like.  But, in the end, Charlie still needs a fairy to really excel.  I wished it that part had been a bit different.  Rating:  3.5