Thursday, September 29, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
I love incorporating video with the blog and this idea of a virtual community exercising their freedom to read joins people from all corners. What a great way to get involved and feel a part of a movement. There are already several videos loaded, several by young adults and children.
I included information from the website http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ website for your convenience:
How to upload your videos
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Copyright: September 2011; Berkley Hardcover; 336 pages
Series: # 5 in Royal Spyness Mysteries
Sensuality: Innuendo and some mild adult references
Mystery sub-genre: Historical Cozy/Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: 22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England
Setting: 1933 French Riviera
Obtained book through: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Lady Georgia is miserable in London in the middle of a bone-chilling winter, with her tightwad brother "Binky" and his pregnant bully-wife "Fig" taking residence at Rannoch Hall. Georgie is nearly starving but stands out in the cold to volunteer at the soup line rather than stay at the house with her belittling sister-in-law. Eventually the cold dreary weather gets to Fig and she manages a trip to the Nice on the French Riviera, expecting Georgiana to stay behind and close up Rannoch house - leaving her without a place to live as well as no money or food.
Fortunately the Queen calls upon Georgie and decides she must re-acquire an expensive diamond studded snuff box that a guest stole during a royal function. The Queen knows the man who did it and he is staying in Nice as well. While Georgie is there, maybe she can keep an eye on her cousin, the Prince as he is running around with that American married woman. The Queen pays for Georgie's train fare and she is off with her inept maid. On the train she makes friends with an old acquaintance of the family, Vera Bate Lombardi and her good friend Coco Chanel. Yes, that Chanel!
Once in Nice, she finds that she is not welcome at all with her brother. They expect her to tutor their children and be a full time baby sitter for them. Georgie can't get back that snuff box at this rate. She is out for a walk and encounters Vera and Coco who insist she must come stay where they are because there will be room for her. Georgie discovers her mother owns the Villa that Vera and Coco are staying at. Her mother is escaping the cold winter in Germany and the rising political tensions. The best thing, her mother's villa is next door to Sir Toby Gropper - the man who stole the Queens snuff box.
When Coco Chanel insists that Georgie model her final piece in a fashion show that will be graced with the Queen's diamond and pearl necklace, the reader just knows disaster is going to strike. Georgie falls off the cat walk and the Queen's necklace is stolen in the confusion. Georgie has to find the necklace in addition to retrieving the Queen's snuff box. Of course there is a murder that the french police suspect Georgie for. Oh, and then there is the smoking hot French Marquis, Jean Paul de Ronchard, who is persuing Georgie to keep things hot and interesting.
Georgie was sparkling in this addition to the series and hillariously funny. She never gives up no matter how bleak or impossible the situation, which can make for some outrageously crazy situations. I have only read one other book in this series and I had not been introduced to her mother before who is the opposite of Georgie, breezy, self-centered and a party girl who likes rich men. I loved the character of Coco Chanel who was avaunt-garde, yes, but unexpected in other ways. Jean Paul was a great character and I have to wonder if he will show up in another book to give Darcy more of a challenge for Georgie's affections. Darcy was not as present in this book which will be hard for the Darcy fans, but Jean Paul spices things up.
The plot was good and I was surprised by a revelation that Georgie uncovers in her investigation. The murderer and thief I only partially figured out, and did not get the motive for the murder right at all. I think this book will be a turning point in the series from the way some things were left. Will Georgie still live at Rannoch House or will she have to find someplace else to live? Will Darcy be more serious toward Georgie and so on? And the Queen's snuff box? You will have to read it to find out about that. I will say one of the scenes that had me crying from laughing so hard had to do with that expensive little collectable.
When you are having a really bad week and things are getting you down, turn to this book and it will have a smile on your face in no time. This is the book you want to read when you need to laugh so hard you are snorting! If laughter is the best medicine then this book should be prescribed for everybody's better health. I don't think I have ever laughed so much over a book. This book has a solid murder mystery to solve, a thief to unveil and enchanting characters to delight and entertain.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
This week Ken reviews a rather hard boiled Mike Hammer meets Dragnet mixed with the paranormal. In this reality vampires, ghouls, goblins, werewolves, and witches all exist and have legal rights. Ken really got into the spirit of the book (no pun intended) as you will find out.
This is a grittier book than is usually reviewed here with swearing, some gore, and a rough-around-the-edges policeman (Mike Hammer's attitude, even with women), but sometimes it is good to mix it up a little. After all, Halloween is approaching. Bwa ha ha! This book will also be one of the offerings in the Spooktacular Blog Hop giveaway at the end of October.
Author: Justin Gustainis
Copyright: 2011; Angry Robot (distrib. in the U.S. by Random House, Inc.); 382 pgs.
Sensuality: Violence, Language, some gore (probably an "R" rating)
Mystery sub-genre: Police Procedural; Urban Fantasy
Main Character: Stanley Markowski, police detective
Setting: Present day; Scranton, PA
Obtained book through: Author for an honest review
He carries a badge. He’s like Joe Friday (played by Jack Webb) of Dragnet fame (“All we want are the facts, ma’am”) but with a lot more humor that goes along with his dry-wit and heart-felt emotions. Stanley Markowski is one of Scranton, Pennsylvania’s finest.
Stan takes us on a “ride-along” as we experience his life as a detective with an extra-ordinary unit. You see, life is not normal in his world. He not only carries a badge and a 9mm Beretta but also silver bullets, a crucifix, a few wooden stakes, and some holy water. Markowski tells us America has been having to deal with the supernatural element for over 50 years, and Scranton has a “live and let unlive” relationship with the supes. No more just lions and tigers and bears, oh my… More like werewolves, vampires, ghouls, goblins, trolls, and witches. Some of these supes can be rather sensitive. Officers must be trained in the proper manner, customs, and protocol to use when dealing with the various species. For example, it is very important to know when it is okay to use cuss words.
He’s a street-smart detective with the Occult and Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit – the Supe Squad. When things go bump in the night or a vamp puts a bit into crime, the savvy and dedicated Supe Squad are the go-to guys and gals. They’re supported by SWAT; not your typical door bangers with high-powered weapons, this bunch are called the Sacred Weapons and Tactics Unit and their unique arsenal includes splash-bang grenades.
Markowski and his trusted long time partner, Detective Paul di Napoli take a nasty robbery/hostage call involving some meth-head goblins. SPD consultant and white witch, Rachel Proctor, is called upon to unitize her special skills in ending this situation. Unfortunately, due to circumstances and a lapse in proper procedure, Paul is killed.
Stan gets a new partner. Karl Renfer is an experienced street cop, but an untested new detective. He strikes me as being kind of like Dragnet’s Bill Gannon (played by Henry Morgan), the witty but intelligent sidekick to Joe Friday. Karl appears to be a very competent law enforcer, but his courage might be questionable.
Then the “fun” begins. They respond to a call reference some Satanists holding sacrifices. Turns out to be a human sacrifice and demon summoning ritual. Markowski gets grabbed by a Hell spawn, but Renfer arrives in the nick of time, grabs one of the cultists, and yells, “Here’s dinner, Hellfu(#!” Stan is saved and any doubt as to Karl’s courage is laid to rest.
Next they catch a really bad one – a gruesome torture-murder. It’s unusual in that the victim is a supe. George Kulick was a wizard. An open safe, but money left intact. What was taken? Who and what really was Mr. Kulick? After several days of investigation, no leads, no evidence, and no witnesses, the case had reached a dead end. Only one thing to do – necromancy, which is legal with a court order. Rachel does the ritual. It worked…it didn’t work…a wisp of smoke, the outline of a man, then poof! Rachel collapses. Magic gone bad? Rachel in hospital heavily sedated and comatose. Poof again, and Rachel just disappears. How, why, where?
The murder investigation continues. Old and cold Ernst Vollman shows up. Strange character; claims that Kulick was killed because he was the guardian of an ancient and sacred artifact – the Opus Mago. A forbidden book containing potentially deadly magic, rituals, and conjurations for invoking and controlling the darkest powers.
Another murder – ritualistic, sacrificial, occult symbols carved into flesh. How many more sacrifices will turn up before the killer is run to ground? What insane ritual is the killer trying to invoke? For what purpose?
Some weird informants an other interested parties join the supe soup pot. There’s the irony of Christine, Markowski’s daughter. One cannot leave out the Witchfinders – the men in gray. Where’s Rachel?
New leads develop-some hinky, some like a slinky, and some like a switchback on a mountain road. Add some possession (and not of the druggie kind), some hoodoo and woowoo, some rock ‘em and sock ‘em, and you’re brought to one hellistic and ironic conclusion. But then, you know, the Devil’s definitely in the details.
One great read! Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, and Dick Tracy better watch out. Vivid prose with colorful details and gritty descriptions. Cop talk with some cussing, some bawdy language, some gore. Fast paced, meaty action and dramatic twists and turns laced with humor. Many “unique” characters. Magic, mayhem, and spells bouncing all around. Kicks like a splash-bang grenade! Justin Gustainis has given us one of the best supernatural cop stories I’ve ever read.
You know it wouldn't be complete with a book trailer video (rated PG)!
I had to share this classic!
Monday, September 12, 2011
- a book finder by grade level or an area of interest like mystery
- online and printable games and
- resources to help children read better
- collect reading points and get prizes
Parent's Place allows the parents to see how their child is doing and be a part of their adventure and resources to keep your child motivated.
The Teacher's Lounge contains many free tools to assist in the classroom - how great is that!
- Find a book: Search for books or create a booklist for your students.
- Prize Library: Create a prize for your classroom or approve prizes your students have earned.
- My Classroom: Keep track of all the students in your classrooms, create contests and teams, develop quizzes and reading reminders for students and more!
- Reports: View reading reports and create letters you can send to your parents to highlight a student’s reading progress.
- Quizzes: Find and preview a quiz or view samples of reading quizzes.
Since I love including videos - here is a short clip on tips for encouraging reading.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Alessandro De Quincy, the Earl of Saybrook is enlisted by an underhanded government official to investigate in spite of his war injury to his leg. Nevertheless Saybrook had been in the intelligence branch during the war and is sharp and devious. He sees through Arianna's disguise, just in time to save her from a bullet. He decides that she can be of use in the investigation and they reluctantly join forces to determine who tried to kill the Prince and why.
While this had all the ingredients to have been a good regency romance, the author kept the romantic tension in the background and focused on making a suspenseful mystery which paid off exponentially. Arianna is a heroine that you route for immediately. She has been through the school of hard knocks and survived with vengeance driving her. She picked up many skills along the way including the use of disguise from a theater group and especially how to fight dirty to survive. She has hardened herself and believes that she has no heart anymore after the things she has had to do in life. Trust does not come easily at all, and she sure doesn't trust the aristocrat Saybrook, after all, it was an aristocrat that murdered her father.
Saybrook has never been the same since the war and his injury. The assignment tossed to him by the government is clearly to let him be the fall guy for any missteps in the investigation. Saybrook takes this new lease on life and is inspired to get to the truth and not be used as a convenient scapegoat. The Saybrook character is just complicated enough with glimpses of his personal pain yet fire for life.
The plot has plenty of twists and surprises making it suspenseful. Who killed Arianna's father is not who anybody expected and that goes for the person who made the attempt on the Prince's life. The motivation for all this becomes clear as the story plays out.
The climatic confrontation with the killer is a nail-biter and gets the blood pumping, so kudos there. I must confess I didn't expect this level of writing, plot and character development that was balanced and polished throughout. I feel this should have been released in hardcover and spotlighted by the publisher more.
This novel contains drama, mystery, intrigue, adventure, smuggling, an influential criminal ring, history, sharp wit, and a touch of romance all blended seamlessly. I found this novel easily rivaled the Sebastion St. Cyr series and for me may (may) have even out done it. If you enjoy historical mysteries with plenty of suspense and intrigue, Sebastion St. Cyr, Charles Lennox, the gaslight mysteries with Sergeant Frank Malloy, or the Lady Emily mysteries I think you owe it to yourself to read this novel.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Happy Labor Day to all you hard working folks, enjoy a day intended to draw attention to the working person and acknowledge your invaluable contributions. My heart goes out to all of the multitudes of unemployed, I hope you find work soon.
Shelf Love reviewed The Gyrth Chalice Mystery by Margery Allingham and shares "features the rather Wimsey-esque sleuth Albert Campion with loads and loads of excitement."
How Mysterious! reviewed The Water's Edge by Karin Fossum.
Fair Dinkum Crime reviwed The Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin and says "The winner of the Australian 2011 Ned Kelly Award for best crime fiction. Set in rural Australia after World War One in a world that even in remote Australia will never be the same."
It's a crime! (Or a mystery…) reviewed An Agent of Deceit by Chris Morgan and shares it "was recently longlisted for the CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for 2011 and this first novel has been compared to the work of Le Carré."
How Mysterious! reviewed The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill
Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review
Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Death Cloud by Andrew Lane and shares "I feel that Andrew Lane is creating a young Sherlock that will easily live up to the daunting legend of the established and loved adult Sherlock."
Book of Secrets reviewed Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend.
Booking Mama reviewed The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie as part of her cool down with AC challenge.
Thoughts in Progress reviewed Murder by Mocha by Cleo Coyle.
Beth Fish Reads reviewed English Tea Murder by Leslie Meier
Book of Secrets reviewed A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady. She shares "In addition to the interesting mystery and great characters, I really enjoyed the rich descriptions of the sights and flavors of New Orleans."
Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker. She shares "This is the first in what is currently a series of two. Set in France in the town of St. Denis. It portrays a village style of policing. A very enjoyable read if you like cozies."
Thoughts in Progress reviewed The Cosy Knave by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen.
An American Editor reviewed Fatal Liaison by Vicki Tyley and says "I call her the Australian P.D. James."
Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review
Booking Mama reviewed the historical thriller The Borgia Betrayal by Sara Poole.
Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves. She shares "This is #4 in Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet and really the best of the lot. You do need to read all four in order though to get the best out of them."
Rundpinne reviewed Long Gone by Alafair Burke and says it "is a tantalizing and taught suspense thriller that will take readers on an exciting journey".
Booking Mama reviewed The Devil Colony by James Rollings (A sigma Force Novel) and shares "Rollins combines violence, suspense, superstition, history, and science in a very good action thriller. This is a large 474 page novel that moves quickly with plenty of shooting, explosions and volcanic action."
Reactions to Reading reviewed Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson and shares "Almost a fairytale for adults this is crime fiction at its haunting best."
Rundpinne reviewed Creep by Jennifer Hillier and says "In this psychological thriller, Hillier has made her first mark in the suspense genre an extraordinarily memorable one."
Thoughts in Progress reviewed Silent Enemy by Thomas W. Young.
Booking Mama reviewed The Sixes by Kate White. She says "THE SIXES had a great mystery, intriguing characters, and lots of suspense; and it honestly kept me guessing until the very end."
Kings River Life interviews Avery Ames
Mysteries and My Musings interviewed Sara Sue Hoklotubbe
Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Copyright: June 2010 (Jenevacris Press) 320 pgs
Series: 1st in Dorothy Parker Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: Dorothy Parker - based on the American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist, known for her wisecracks
Setting: 1920s, New York
Obtained Through: Library Find
A well known Broadway producer is found dead with the appearance of having choked on a small tomato. Dorothy Parker remembers that Reginald Ignatius Pierce, RIP, is allergic to tomatoes and she is instantly suspicious. Dorothy drags a willing Robert Benchley to the deceased's rooms above his theater to investigate. They find that Reginald was a collector of Egyptian antiquities, and that they aren't the only ones sneaking in to look around. Hidden behind velvet draperies, they watch while first an Oriental man and then an actress search the room.
The authorities have not recognized Reginald's death as a murder, but they can't deny foul play when the lead actress in Reginald's play is found in Reginald's Egyptian sarcophagus. Another death follows soon after. Three murders and Dorothy, with the help of fellow members of the lunch club that became known as the Algonquin Round Table, doggedly follow clues. Some of the members are the most recognized and celebrated reporters in NY and they start digging up plenty of information on suspects, but how it all fits together is elusive. There is a missing Egyptian artifact from Reginald's collection that may have been stolen from an archeological dig that might explain Reginald's death but not the other two.
This book is presented in a slightly different manner. Sprinkled throughout are pictures of the NY landmarks that play a significant role in the story and pictures of members of the Algonquin Club. I found this added to the illusion that the reader was entering Dorothy's world. Additionally, the writing style affects the breezy language and popular slang to further transport you to that era when jazz artists and flappers coined modern terms. It is a heady mix and an escapist pleasure.
Dorothy is presented with wit and sarcasm sprinkled with tremendous insight. The life she lived is believably recreated including the escapades of the Marx Brothers, the late nights of theater and dinners, even the famous speakeasy they drank at all serve as backdrop to the investigation. I appreciated that Dorothy's reported affairs are not highlight in this story, rather she is a wounded soul who relies on her friends as her most cherished part of life.
The supporting cast of Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Columnist Frank Pierce Adams, "The New Yorker" creator Harold Ross, and the Marx Bros. are all portrayed with humor and a nod to their historical reputations. Dorothy's Boston Terrier named Woodrow Wilson is pure delight.
The mystery has its interesting twists and I did not see the underlying theme for the murders until it was revealed. Although it seems the story contains a fair amount of mad-cap rollicking, I was surprised that there are no frivolous scenes, there was always a clue or a person that would be important later.
I enjoyed my trip to New York's roaring twenties era and will be returning for another dose, soon I hope. Agata Stanford has captured the excitement of New York and the wild twenties with humor, a solid plot, never dull characters, mixed with large dashes of danger and adventure.
Before summer is gone I wanted to share this amazing recipe.
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (17.5 ounce) pouch sugar cookie mix
2/3 cup raspberry baking chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
NOTE: the raspberry baking chips are available on Amazon if you can't locate them locally. Otherwise you can add & beat in 2 teaspoons of raspberry extract to the egg/cream cheese mixture, then the cookie mix per the instructions... fold in some white chocolate chips.
In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy with an electric mixer, then beat in the egg until thoroughly combined. Mix in the cookie mix, then stir in the raspberry chips. Drop the dough about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets with a tablespoon or small scoop. Lightly pat the cookies to flatten.
Bake in the preheated oven until the edges of the cookies are lightly golden, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool before serving.
From AllRecipes.com by Mis7up.