Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Janus Stone: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths

I reviewed The Crossing Places in August of this year, and I've been wanting to read more of the adventures of Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist.  Finally, I had an excuse to read the second in her series, The Janus Stone.  And when I finished it, I immediately bought the next two.  I can't wait for Christmas break so I can devour them!

This novel begins about 3 months after The Crossing Places ends.  Ruth is nearing the end of the academic year at her college, and there's a dig going on in the area involving Roman finds.  What looks like a general dig soon turns into a mystery when Ruth is called to investigate another place:  an old mansion is being demolished to make way for a new set of apartments, and the skeletal remains of a small child have been found.  Both areas become entwined as Ruth and her friend, Max, find similar clues at each dig that indicate something foul is afoot.  Who is so fascinated with sacrifice and the god Janus?  

Oh, I so enjoyed this mystery!  And you have to read The Crossing Places first, since there are continuing story lines from that novel.  Detective Nelson is firmly in the thick of this mystery, too.  He certainly becomes a more well-fleshed out character in this novel, and a genuinely likeable man.  

As I've said before, I'm not much of a mystery gal, but I'm slowly dipping my toes into the genre.  I find it fascinating that now, after all these years of reading, I am interested in mysteries.  Haven't quite figured out why yet.  When I know, I'll let you know!  In the meantime, if you like mystery, England, and archeology, try Elly Griffiths.  

Available in paperback and e-book

Rating:  7/10

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

This is a novel that revisits the Nazi occupation of Holland during World War 2, and how it effects people 30 years later and a world away.

Move forward to 1980.  Nora de Jong returns home from work as a pediatric surgeon in Houston, Tx,  to find her mother murdered and her baby, Rose, missing.  Her mother has been shot in the head and her hair hacked off.  There is also a dead man lying in the house; someone Nora has never seen before.  The police quickly descend and try to discover just who this man is, and who would want her mother dead.  First and foremost, however, is Rose.  Obviously there were two people involved in this murder; why take Rose?  Nora is frantic to find her daughter and uncover her mother's murderer.

Nora's parents both came from Holland after World War 2, and never talked about their life in Holland, or their families.  Nora discovers  a metal box containing evidence that puts her mother in the dreaded NSB, a Nazi organization Nora's grandfather helped run with a ruthlessness towards Jews living in Amsterdam.  Was Anneke, Nora's mother, really part of this group?  And Nora's father--accused of murder and condemned to death after the war.  What happened?  

Nora quickly realizes the answer to her daughter's disappearance is tied to her parent's past, and she goes to Holland.  Of course, the father of Nora's baby lives in Holland, and he's the only person who can help Nora uncover her family's mysterious past.  

Meanwhile, the kidnapper is a bit of a bumbling person, terribly unsuited for the drama he's been thrust into.  And he has a nasty woman, literally scarred from her experiences in World War 2, bent on revenge and determined to stop Nora from finding her daughter.  

The novel is fast paced, a bit brutal in a few spots, and full of information about  Holland and Amsterdam's occupation by the Nazis during World War 2.  I think the novel being set in 1980 kept the bitter feelings of Nazi survivors  alive and   revenge stewing until it reached a boiling point.  The war wasn't so far away then as it is now in 2013.  Anyone who likes contemporary novels with a bit of a historical mix, anything about World War 2, or just a good novel about a women determined to find her daughter will enjoy this quick read.  

Rating:  7/10 for the historical background of Amsterdam and Holland during Nazi occupation; quick pace, and strong female character.  

Available in paperback and e-book.  Thanks to Harlequin/Mira for a review copy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sweet Expectations: A Union Street Bakery Novel by Mary Ellen Taylor

 If you haven't read the first novel in this charming series, The Union Street Bakery, you must stop right now, borrow or buy it, and read it.  

If you have, then you'll be happy to know there's another tale about the McCrae family and their bakery.  Beginning just after the end of The Union Street Bakery, this time the bakery is closed for a few weeks in order to undergo renovations to the kitchen.  Daisy has managed to turn the bakery around, and now her and Rachel are working really hard with Jean Paul, the new French baker, to finish renovations quickly.  While knocking out a wall, they find a metal box with recipes and photos of a young girl and two soldiers from the 1940's.  Who's Jenna?  And how is she connected to the bakery?

Daisy's life seems to be going along smoothly, but a major bump in the road is 
quickly making itself apparent.  Her plans are all up in the air and Daisy doesn't know what to do.  And Rachel is making the process of moving into the life of a single woman and away from a grieving widow.   

I have to say, when I first saw the The Union Street Bakery last year, I fell in love with the novel and talked about it in my book talks and had it on my staff recommends bay at work for quite awhile.  And I'm happy to report other people embraced the novel, too.  It did my heart some good when I saw a woman buying Sweet Expectations and I asked her if she'd read The Union Street Bakery.  "Oh I did, and I can't wait to read the sequel!".  

Here's my review of The Union Street Bakery.  Trust me, read it first; when you dive in to Sweet Expectations it will feel like you're visiting old friends.  Now just to wait for the next novel….

Rating:  8/10 for a feel good novel that portrays real issues, a mini mystery, and evolving characters.  And baking!

Available in paperback and e-book.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

Mia March has written a lovely novel about women making choices.  For Veronica Russo, it meant giving up her baby for adoption when she was a young sixteen year old mother.  For Bea Crane, it means traveling from Boston to the little town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine to find her birth mother.

How are they connected?  Well, Veronica is Bea's birth mother.  It's been 22 years, and Veronica has returned to Boothbay Harbor to face the place where she grew up, fell in love with a high school boy, got pregnant, and had her parents disown her and leave her at a home for unwed mothers.  She's always felt she did the right thing giving her baby up for adoption, but has always hoped to meet her daughter.  She's left her name, address, and phone number at the adoption agency every time she's moved around the country, but never received a call.  Now it was time to face the part of her life that has haunted her.  She's a waitress and is famous for her "elixir" pies: happiness pie, shoo-fly pie (drives someone out of your life), and amour pie.  People in town love them, and she's carving out a pretty good life in Boothbay Harbor, despite some people remembering the scandal from so long ago.

Bea finds out she's adopted a year after her mother has died, via a letter written on her mother's deathbed.  She goes through many emotions:  anger, despair, disillusionment.  Why did her parents never tell her the truth?  She's decided she has to find her birth mother and get some answers.

A film company is in Boothbay Harbor, and Colin Firth is rumored to be coming to film scenes for his movie.  Cue the crazy Colin Firth fans!  They're all gathering in town to spot a glimpse of the swoony actor.  Can Veronica find her own Mr. Darcy?  Can Bea come to terms with her true past?  And Gemma, a journalist from New York, who's come to escape a lost job and a surprising pregnancy.  How can she find happiness in Boothbay Harbor?

This was a good mental break book.  It touches on serious subjects:  teen pregnancy, adoption, and keeping secrets.  Throw in the film and all the craziness it brings to town, and the resulting references to all that is Colin Firth, and the story stays away from becoming maudlin.  It's all about embracing life, not being afraid to take chances, and knowing it's never too late to find happiness--even if you have to compromise with those you love in order for everyone to be happy.

Rating:  7/10; an enjoyable novel set in a charming small town with likable characters and tons of Colin Firth references.  From the author of The Meryl Streep Movie Club.

Available in paperback and e-book