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Saturday, February 21, 2015

THE ART OF BAKING BLIND by Sarah Vaughan



Vaughan has created five very likeable characters in the contestants for the “Next Mrs. Eaden, ‘ although Mike seems like the required male, an afterthought serving only as a foil for Claire’s Jay. Kathleen Eadon, who appears in back flashes, is the glue that serves to highlight each of the other character’s flaws and perfections. The book is lengthy (over 400 pages) but is a “quick” read. You will want to know the conclusion of the contest, and the solutions to each of the contestant’s (and Kathleen’s) dilemmas. The pronunciation of Kathleen’s last name might lead one to believe that housewifely skills always produce an “Eden” in one’s life -- and one would be wrong.
 I hope in the finished book there is a glossary of the British cookery terms – and pictures of the wonderful treats the bakers create. The descriptions of the baking projects are scrumptious and will send you to the kitchen -- or hustling off to the grocery.  Book groups will find a “baker’s dozen” of topics for discussion – marriage, motherhood, cookery skills, self-worth, bulimia, miscarriage, contests , love vs sex, perfection and many more.
5 of 5 stars

Monday, February 16, 2015

A MOST INCONVENIENT MARRIAGE by Regina Jennings



This Christian romance is a quick, fun read despite its obvious plot flaws. You will have to suspend belief as you discover a family of Southern sympathizers who embrace a Northern “nurse” claiming to have married their son on his deathbed so she can nurse his ailing sister and tend to the family farm.  The tangled mess that ensues when the supposedly dead soldier turns up quite alive and engaged to a neighbor woman gives the plot its tension. The subplot of horse rustlers is much more believable and well thought out.
If you like Christian fiction and a bit of “squeaky clean” romance, you will enjoy this tale.  The neighbor children supply a good bit of humor and the love stories have numerous twists and turns.  All in all, a fine tale for the genre.
4 of 5 stars

Saturday, February 14, 2015

THE WELL by Catherine Chanter



THE WELL   by Catherine Chanter
THE WELL is several buckets of water too long.  The first 200 pages of the book were boring.  The last 100 were fast paced and absorbing.  The question   Are the last 100 pages worth the first 200?  If you like many pages of psychological wanderings to get to the real story then – Yes, you will like this book. If you just want your mystery to get to the point with logic, this book will drive you crazy.  The identity of the murderer was never really in doubt. 
The characters were unknowable until near the end of the book so a connection with the characters was difficult.  The one “knowable” person was Lucien.  The sub plot of drought was the link that held everything together, unfortunately, the drought was known only through inference.  A reasonable explanation of why the drought was everywhere except at the well was never addressed.  That leaves one with magic, psychology and an unsatisfying read.
3 of 5 stars for good writing but a plodding plot.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

THE LONG WAY HOME by Louise Penny



This was my first Inspector Gamache novel and that was a mistake. I should have read the preceding novels first! Even at the end of the book I was still sure I was missing important nuances of plot , conversation and place.
That said, I enjoyed this book. The mystery lurks into being in the first paragraphs and keeps one on edge for the remainder of the book.  The characters are well defined. The plot is rich with suspense and is logically rendered.  You will care about the characters and be surprised by the ending. There is humor in the characters, especially Ruth and Rosa, as well as humanity and empathy. 
If you know a bit about art and artists you will be ahead of the game.  If you know nothing about art and artists you will learn a lot about their temperaments and work styles. Neither instance will detract from the story.
5 of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE NIGHTINGALE by Krisitn Hannah



THE NIGHTINGALE  by Kristin Hannah
Do not be put off by the “women’s fiction” classification of this book. THE NIGHTINGALE is a well- researched, well written discussion of the realities, cruelties and decisions that face an ordinary family in Vichy France.  The book,  beginning in 1938 as war approaches, is told from the viewpoint of the surviving sister many years later.  The family, father and two sisters, is torn apart by their individual decisions when one sister and her children are forced to house a German officer in the family home in a small village after her husband joins the Allied Forces.  The father, remaining in Paris, attempts to continue the family’s bookstore, while the second daughter chooses to join the resistance.
Village life under occupation and the dangers of resistance are clearly shown.  The characters and situations are well developed and realistic.  The supporting characters are shown to be humans acting under extreme duress – the good are not always good and the bad are not always bad.
I would have preferred to learn more about Rachel and her plight after she is forced from her job early in the occupation. We never quite learn how she is able to survive and seemingly thrive with no money and no way to get any.
Book groups will have a plethora of topics to discuss, including what decisions they would make concerning “outing” Jews, lying to friends and family, fraternizing with the enemy, murder, resistance, and many others.
5 of 5 stars