Fatally Flaky & Dare to Die

Carolyn Hart and Diana Mott Davidson are two of my favorite “cozy” mystery writers.  Both have their latest in series out last month and both are wonderful.  Davidson’s Fatally Flaky is the continuing story of caterer Goldy Schultz.  I love this character and the messes in which she gets caught.  This time she is planning a wedding and going undercover at a spa.  As always the book includes recipes for great food.

Hart’s Dare to Die, a Death on Demand mystery, is another in her series with bookstore owners Annie and Max Darling.  When an old friend returns to the island after many years, an old death and new mystery bring friends together in an unexpected and deadly way.  Annie and Max must find out all the past secrets before they become the target.

I love both writers and am always excited to see the new books in the series.  If you haven’t tried Davidson or Hart, start at the beginning.  You won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget we will be meeting to discuss People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks this Saturday (July 3rd) at one o’clock.  Everyone is welcome!

The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry was another wonderful tale.  Barry is able to create such realistic and complicated characters that are a joy to read.  I was really able to connect to the characters and watch how they grew throughout the story.  The character Towner goes back to her hometown of Salem to find her missing aunt.  While she is there another girl goes missing, and it is assumed that the two cases may be related.  Towner, who is a notoriously unreliable narrator, finds that once home she is forced to re-exam the past that she ran away from, and find a way to come to terms with it.  And, naturally since this story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, there are witches and other fun supernatural aspects.  This was a delightful and exciting read.  I had a really hard time putting the book down, especially once I got to the last hundred pages.

And, if you enjoy this book, check out Barry’s second book The Map of True Places.  Both stories take place in Salem, and there are repeating characters in both stories.  You don’t need to read them in any order since they are not technically a series, just the same small town.  Check out our review of The Map for True Places on June 20th.

If you are looking for more of our book reviews, or just fun book tidbits, follow us on Facebook.

The Garden Heist

The Garden Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser is a compelling true story of art theft and the people who work for years tracking down the missing works.  Isabella Stewart Gardner created her own museum adding a stipulation that no artwork could be added or changed.  Now, where there were once three Rembrandt’s, a Vermeer, and several Degas, empty frames hang as a reminder of the missing pieces.

In almost 20 years, none of the $300 million worth of paintings has ever been seen.  From the original police investigation through the art detective Harold Smith’s investigation and death, Boser finally puts all the pieces together.  One of the more fascinating parts of the story is that a few of the most famous pictures were not taken.

This is just one of the books in my obsession with art, theft, and forgeries and it was great.  If you like nonfiction or good mysteries, this book will not disappoint.  Stayed tuned for Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo.

The Ranger’s series

The following was written by one of our frequent shoppers; thanks, we always love to hear what others have to say about books.

Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

This author lives up to my ideas of the Australian individual – fast moving, lots of action and great characters.  In Book 1, we meet an apprentice in training as they prepare to be chosen for individual life fields.  Unfortunately, young Will is totally unsuited for his dream of Battle School; and the archetype Battle School classmate is a bully who has made his life unhappy for a long time.  As the “runt” of the litter, he gets chosen last; and for the Rangers – a mysterious career that most people wouldn’t choose and don’t understand.  Immediately Will demonstrates his aptitude for the Rangers by trying to sneak into the King’s chambers to see a paper he wasn’t supposed to review.  His mentor catches him and lets him know that the way he got to the Chambers is what makes a Ranger.  Maybe this won’t be so bad; and the adventure begins.

Book 2:  The Burning Bridge

Two other apprentices (the bully from Battle School, Horace, now turned friend) and Gilan, his mentor’s prior apprentice join Will in his appointed task as a Ranger: protecting the kingdom.  An evil man who has plotted for years now has a plan to bring down the King and rule the kingdom.  Will, Horace, and Gilan play a large part in thwarting the plans; but Will and a maid servant get kidnapped by the local Vikings, called Skandians, who had joined the evil one.   Will demonstrates his loyalty and ability to defend his own, Ranger traits.  Did we mention the horses of the Rangers, trained to assist their riders?  The sturdy small horses are extra smart and trained to be helpful in detecting ambushes and attacking fiends who would hurt their riders.  The bond between horse and rider is very strong and they become characters themselves.

Book 3:  The Icebound Land

Life as a slave in Skandia is not a bowl of cherries and Will is set up to become addicted to an herb that can cause his death.  The maidservant aids him in escaping and helps to cure the addiction.  In the meantime, his mentor, Halt with the help of Gilan tries to find Will to restore him to the kingdom.  There are many adventures along the way for both parties.  When finally reunited, Will determines to assist Skandia in besting the hordes (think Mongols) trying to overrun the country.

Book 4:  The Battle for Skandia

The title expresses the storyline.  This series never stops moving along at a very brisk pace but the interplay between the characters is terrific.  The entire series brings back fond memories of an ideal of loyalty, friendship, duty and honor that we wish the world could be like today.  The war results in a bonding of allies for the future between Araluen (Will’s kingdom) and Skandia.

Pegasus Secret

It is always amazing when I am putting away books customers bring in and I find a series I have not heard of nor read.  Today was one of those days.  Someone brought in a book by Gregg Loomis and I glanced at it to see what section it should be put in and I saw that it was a mystery that included history, religion, and secret societies.  This was just up my alley, and then I saw that it was part of a series.  When I looked on the shelf, we had the whole series and the first one started out in Rennes-Le-Chateau in France.  So, needless to say I had to read Pegasus Secret.

For those of you who haven’t read The Da Vinci Code or seen the movie, this is where a very small town priest in the 1870’s discovered something that changed his life and the life of the town.  He built roads, buildings, brought in water, etc.  All this was done in a parish that had so little money that he was doing most of the church repairs himself.  After reading The Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail, I was lucky enough to have some friends in France and we took a little trip to Rennes-le chateau.  The town was interesting – on the top of a hill with precarious roads, one-way streets (that really were two way) and not much else.  The church was truly the strangest one I have ever seen.  When you walked in the door, there was a red devil pointing to the holy water.

The floor was a black and white chess board and the stations of the cross all had some weird stuff. The entire area around Rennes-le-Chateau has thus become the focus of increasingly sensational claims involving the Knights Templar, the Priory of Sion, the Rex Deus, the Holy Grail, the
treasures of the Temple of Solomon, the Ark of the Covenant, ley lines, and sacred geometry alignments.  All and all, a fascinating subject that I can’t help but continue to read about.

Written by Tricia

Fiction Summer Reads

If you are looking for any great summer fiction reads, try some of these:

Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha– Sayuri is forced to become a geisha when her family can no longer afford to support her.  She then enters a world of competition and servitude.  This is such a well written novel that you feel every emotion that Sayuri goes through.  I also found it interesting to learn about the training and the culture surrounding geishas.

James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces (forget the controversy and read it).  Frey’s family sends him to rehab after his descent into drugs takes a another terrible turn.  He captures the feeling that an addict goes through perfectly, and writes so well that you never want to put the book down.  The sequel My Friend Leonard is written very differently and yet is also a great read.

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees-Taylor gets trapped in Tucson, Az when her car breaks down.  The auto repair store that she takes her car to also happens to be a sanctuary for Central American refugees, and it doesn’t take long for Taylor to adopt a little girl.  Overall, this is just a fun read and a great story.  The fabulous sequel is Pigs in Heaven.

July Bookclub Readings

Just to let everyone know, our next book club meeting will be July 3rd at 1p.m..  We will be discussing People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.  This is a fiction piece about rare books and the hidden mysteries that may be locked away in them.  This is a favorite of ours, and we hope you enjoy it as well.

After that, we will be discussing the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris on July 17th.  This is a paranormal fiction series that involves vampires and many other supernatural beings.  Join us even if you have only read the first book,  Dead Until Dark.  Everyone is welcome!

The Map of True Places

I just finished reading Brunonia Barry’s The Map of True Places and absolutely loved it.  I was completely absorbed into the small town, and was quite sad when the story ended.  The story is about Zee’s return to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts  to help take care of her father, and to recover from the loss of one of her patients.  Previously, Zee had been working as a psychotherapist in Boston.  She had be working closely with a Bipolar patient who tragically committed suicide, leaving Zee feeling guilty for not being able so save her.  Now Zee must come to terms with the past and find a way to move forward.  The novel has many depressing topics, but overall I didn’t find it that sad.  I did, however, find the novel to be rich with tidbits about 19th century shipping, boat navigation, witch lore, and even a bit of Irish lore.  Not to mention, filled with quotes from Hawthorne and Melville.  How can you not enjoy a book that references classic authors.  Now I am off to read Barry’s previous novel, The Lace Reader, so that I can return to Salem.

The Space Between Us

I have never felt a title to be more appropriate for a novel then Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us.  This novel is about a middle-class Indian woman, Serabai, and her house servant, Bhima.  Together the two face many family struggles and rely on each other to overcome the obstacles.  The two women forge a bond unlike any other, but are forced to deny their relationship due to social standing and cultural prejudices; thus, this denial creates spaces between the two women.  Umrigar weaves a tale of hardship, disappointment, nostalgia, hope, and love.

Robert Dugoni Visit and Book Club

Tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 16th) we will be visited by Robert Dugoni.  He will be doing a reading and a book signing starting at 5 p.m..  We are all very excited for his discussion, and hope you will be joining us as well.  Dugoni’s newest book is Bodily Harm, which came out last month.

Saturday, June 19th, is our next book club meeting and we will be discussing A Sweet, Separate Intimacy:  Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1920.  We will be joined by Susan Cummins Miller who is the editor of the book.  This is a compilation of 34 women writers who published during the settlement years of America.  There is a variety of styles in this book ranging from non-fiction to poetry.  It should make for  a great discussion, not to mention the insight that Miller will be able to give.  The meeting will begin at 1 p.m..