Friday, March 29, 2013


LOVE BLOOMS IN WINTER    by Lori Copeland
If you are looking for a somewhat interesting book to occupy an afternoon, this is for you.  Copeland is a best-selling author in the Christian romance field and a sweet romance is what you will get. By the second or third page you will know who are the "bad" guys and who are the "good" guys and you will know how it turns out in the end.  Getting there is the fun part. Mae, the object of the romance, is a long suffering small town postmistress raising her orphaned, brain-damaged brother. The impediments to the romance are a dotty neighbor, a pack of wild dogs, a train derailment, another train derailment, a snow storm, the little brother, a mother-smothered preacher and indecision on the part of the heroine.  The "good" guy is unbelievably good and the "bad" guy isn't very bad - mostly because Copeland keeps changing his personality! On one page he is a selfish, churlish, intolerant, chauvinistic bully and on the next page is a misunderstood, smart, savvy and deserving lawyer.

The writing is pedestrian, the characters are cliches, the Christianity is mostly platitudes and the plot is familiar.  If this is your cup of tea, you will love it. Otherwise, skip it for a better written, better plotted story.

Monday, March 25, 2013

SHADOW ON THE CROWN by Patricia Bracewell

SHADOW ON THE CROWN is an intricately plotted historical novel based on the early life of Emma of England, a little remembered queen of the medieval period. Emma, youngest daughter of Richard of Normandy and ancestor to William the Conqueror, is sent to England to marry the newly widowed and much older King AEthelred.  The marriage is supposed to prevent the Danish Vikings who are indebted to Richard from sacking English towns. 

Instead Emma discovers she is surrounded by intrigue, plots against the King, a Lord's daughter who insinuates herself into the king's bed, stepsons who resent her (and one who loves her), a husband who both ignores and abuses her, and in peril from the Vikings.

Well researched and well written, the novel is part mystery, part history and mostly intensely absorbing.  You will need the glossary at the beginning of the book for all the medieval words and the cast of characters to keep all the unfamiliar Anglo-Saxon names straight.  I longed for a more complete map with both medieval and modern names - who knew Jorvik was really the city of York. You will discover in the afterward that this is the first book of a trilogy which explains why the book stops with Emma still in jeopardy.  Then you will wait impatiently for the next book to be published!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys

OUT OF THE EASY     by Ruta Sepetys

OUT OF THE EASY tells the tale of Josie Moraine, the 17 year old daughter of a prostitute in 1950’s New Orleans. Sepetys gives a clear picture of the brothels, gangsters, and night life of the city while showing the life of a teen who is willing to work and sacrifice for something better.  Josie dreams of entering an elite college in the East and leaving her loser mother far behind.
Peopled with a madam who brooks no foolishness, a driver who cares for Josie, a famous writer broken by crime, two honorable male friends, prostitutes who vary from pigtailed to mute to kleptomaniac to sweet and kind hearted, to gangsters who murder and threaten to maim, to a mother who doesn’t deserve the term, to one prominent businessman who is murdered and one who seeks to bring about Josie’s downfall, the characters are clearly drawn with their speech and actions showing their character.
The plot is tight and carries the story quickly along. You will like Josie and root for her to succeed in her aspirations and her choice of boy friend. 
Although billed as a young adult novel, this work of historical fiction is not for anyone younger than 14 or 15.  Some of the situations and phrases are not for younger teens.  This is a good book for cross over to the adult reader.  Book groups will find much to discuss, especially the very obvious class distinctions and snobbery.  Crime, “juice” loans, college admissions and cost, friendship and loyalty, discrimination and perception are all addressed here.
Those who read and loved Sepetys’ previous book - BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY – will not be disappointed in this new and very different book.

Monday, March 18, 2013


A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate  by Susanna Calkins

I enjoyed this murder mystery with a bit of a love story entwined.  The story is engaging with hints dropped carefully without revealing the murderer until the end. I liked the parts about “newspapers” and “police” and thought they added depth and realism to the story.  

The main character – Lucy, a chambermaid soon elevated to Lady’s maid – is interesting with a backstory and a future that may include sequels to this book.  The supporting characters are well drawn and add to the story. 

The ending may not satisfy all, but does support the notion of sequels. Possible subjects for book groups might include the role of women in society, the lack of education or the ability to read, religious leaders as role models, how catastrophic illness is treated, marriage as political/monetary entity, the power of the press and the power of money and position.

Restoration England (1665 AD) is carefully portrayed with only one glaring “Yuck” (on page 59), a word that was unlikely to be on the lips of a chambermaid in a wealthy home. The everyday life of servants and gentry is clearly shown.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

LONE WOLF by Jodi Picoult

Lone Wolf   by Jodi Picoult

I loved the parts of this book that dealt with the wolves!  I learned a lot about the pack: its members, their roles, their calls (howls), how they eat, etc.
The “humans” were just not as interesting, perhaps because Picoult has written this book before. (In MERCY, she tells of a mercy killing with many of the same themes found in Lone Wolf.) The slowly revealed lies and omissions of Luke and Georgie, and, most importantly, Edward and Cara make this book resonate with family drama over the bed of the badly injured Luke.    
Joe, Dannie Boyle, Helen Bedd and Zirconia are interesting characters that I hope make further appearances in Picoult’s books. 
Picoult writes fiction drawn from headlines with sympathetic characters that tug at emotions AND she does it well.  You will find yourself trying to decide “what would I do” in a similar situation.  She is careful to make all options appealing and defensible.
The final chapter of this book offers an additional dollop of “what is really happening here” that animal lovers will find intriguing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The Pigeon Pie Mystery  by Julia Stuart

A light "cozy" mystery set in Great Britain

What a lovely book!  I enjoyed the descriptions of life in a "grace and favor" residence during the time of Queen Victoria. The characters are delightful and the mystery intriguing.  The only thing I thought lacking was the "romance" of Mink, the main character, an Indian "princess. I was glad to have the map of Hampton Court when Mink and Pooki were traveling about the grounds. I laughed often at the antics of the various residents.  Altogether a most satisfying read. I'm looking forward to more from this author.


Mr. Churchill's Secretary  by Susan Elia MacNeal

I enjoyed this historical fiction thriller/romance/mystery.  The main character, Maggie Hope, an English girl raised in America by a maiden aunt, becomes Winston Churchill’s typist after a murder. Although a mathematical genius, she is relegated to typing when she applies for a job as a cryptologist for the British government at the beginning of the Battle of Britain.

 After setting up the situation, the plot moves along quickly and is engaging. This is obviously the introduction for a series of war time thrillers with Maggie as the girl who saves England with her intelligence and pluck. 

Maggie and her roommates are carefully fleshed out, but the male characters quickly became confusing simply because they were not clearly differentiated.  The “romance” is not as well done as the mystery, possibly because I couldn’t keep the males straight – was it John or David who was falling for her? And then there was Chuck who was really a girl named Charlene. 

The historical details were interesting and integral to the plot. The details about Churchill, Number 10 Downing, the Blitz and MI5 added to the story. I’m looking forward to the next installment – at least three are in the works.