Saturday, December 3, 2016

An 1900’s American Dream

Annie Wood, a maid, arrived in New York with her wealthy, titled, English lady and her daughter, and a dream of becoming a lady’s maid, a higher status position. Annie’s employer is staying with the Friesen family where the servants appreciate a rigid hierarchy that makes the lady’s maids, who are Annie’s traveling companions, comfortable.

Seeing the excitement in New York and making friends with Danny and Iris, brother and sister employed by Friesen family, Annie longs for better opportunities. Danny and Iris feel the same way, and spurred by an unpleasant incident between Annie and a member of the staff, the trio escapes from the Friesen mansion and takes to the streets. Nothing goes as planned. They’re robbed and with no place to go are taken in by the Tuttles who run a bakery.

Danny and Iris elect to stay with the Tuttles, but Annie sees a chance to better herself. She applies for a job at Macys and is accepted. Here her talent for altering and designing clothes blossoms as does her love for a Sean, who is a salesman for Butterick Patterns.

This is an American Dream story. Annie typifies the immigrants from Europe and elsewhere who saw a better future in America and were willing to sacrifice for it. Annie and Sean are likable characters. Their romance is engrossing, particularly since both remain committed to waiting to start a family.

There is a villain who pursues Annie and a myriad of colorful characters. I particularly enjoyed the background on New York at the time and the details about the fashion industry.

If you enjoy Christian historical romance, this book is well done. I recommend it.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Darla Cavanaugh Investigates a Hate Crime at Ole Miss

Darla Cavanaugh and her husband, Dr. Stephen Nicoletti, are on the verge of adopting a baby girl from China, but Darla must leave immediately or the adoption won’t go through. A call from Mississippi Governor, Wilson Burnett, derails her plans.

An Afro-American student and Burnett’s adopted daughter, who was just inducted into a previously segregated sorority, has been found hanging from a tree on the Ole Miss campus. This immediately appears to be a hate crime, but as Darla and her partner Rita Gibbons investigate the case becomes more complicated.

Darla and Rita are enjoyable characters. Darla is all business, but Rita provides some comic relief. She’s a red-neck and proud of it. I love the way she punctures the pretensions of the society girls in the sorority.

The setting is well described giving a good background for the question of whether this was a lynching, or a crime with a different motivation. The complications of the segregated sorority, a white supremacist group, and the governor’s political enemies, provide a number or twists. I was not surprised by the ending. It’s not easy to guess, but the author provides enough clues that you feel satisfied by the outcome.

I recommend this book if you enjoy mysteries with believable female detectives.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nine Principles for Improving Your Health

Effortless Healing is a well researched book written by a qualified health practitioner. Dr. Marcola has had success treating patients with his nine principles for health. The principles include information on: drinking water, eating veggies, burning fat for fuel, exercise, the sun and vitamin D, your biome and your gut, sleep, going barefoot, and avoiding some health foods. It’s all good advice, but I wouldn’t use the adjective “effortless” to apply to much of it. If you’re familiar with Interval Training, which Dr. Mercola suggests is a good form of exercise, you know it takes a great deal of effort and desire to keep at it.

While I agree with most of what Dr Marcola says, I do caution the reader to get additional sources. Many medical studies are cited, but like most medical studies, they are correlational. This type of study allows you to see two or more factors appearing together, but you can’t say what the underlying cause is.

I also have a problem with arguing from how wonderful the diet of our ancestors was. Contaminated food and water have been available for a very long time. I agree that we are doing things to contaminate the soil, water, and air, but we also have increased longevity well beyond what most people could expect throughout history. Because we're living longer, we're also seeing more age related diseases. 

I enjoyed the book, but I don’t think Dr. Marcola makes the case for effortless health. Like most things worth having, it takes work and dedication.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The First Tume Aaron and Shoshana Work Together

The Samson Team is in trouble. A mission was poorly executed and now they’re saddled with Shoshana, a disgraced agent. Because of their past errors, the team has been given a task outside the Mossad. If they fail,they can be disowned.

The task is to kill a former Nazi living in Argentina. It seems a relatively simple hit, but when Shoshana, through her psychic abilities, perceives another plot shaping up, the task of the Samson Team becomes more complicated.

This short story tells of the first time Shoshana and Aaron worked together. I liked both characters and could see why Taylor decided to keep them in the series although he originally planned to kill them off.

If you’re a fan of Taylor and the Taskforce, this is a must read. It’s also a good introduction to the series. The writing is good and the action keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I received this story from Dutton for this review.  

Bullying, Loss, Freedom, and Friendship

Bullying by Hollis is the terror of Robert’s school days. The start of eight grade is worse than ever, Hollis decides to flush him down the toilet. Robert has an unlikely rescuer, Nathan, the new boy in school. The incident results in parents being called to school to deal with the problem. Robert’s parents are willing to back off, but Nathan’s dad is having none of it. Bullying is wrong and he calls the principal on it.

From this beginning, Robert and Nathan become fast friends. They stick together through personal loss and all the angst of teenage boys growing up and learning about the world. Robert is timid, but Nathan prizes freedom. He wants to fly like the kites his father makes.

The novel is filled with the joy of friendship and the tragedy of loss. The characters are very well conceived. Hollis gives you someone to dislike and Nathan is someone you’d like to have for a friend. I enjoyed the book. The juxtaposition between everyday life, friendship, and tragedy is a heavy mixture. It keeps you reading.

I highly recommend this coming of age story. The setting is well done and the characters come to life.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Queen Victoria Comes to Life as a Real Woman

For a scholarly biography, this book reads more like fiction than a dry historical text. Victoria was a head-strong, decisive woman who enjoyed life and took her job of ruling the British Empire very seriously. Although this book covers her role as a monarch, it also shows her as a woman who was madly in love with her husband, Prince Albert, gave birth to nine children, and as an elderly widow had a relationship with another man, John Brown.

I have read several biographies of Queen Victoria, but this one is my favorite. I particularly enjoyed seeing the difficult relationship she had with her mother and her mother's lover. Some biographies skim over her early life, but getting a good look at how Victoria was treated by the pair who wanted to remain in power is illuminating.

The book is quite long, around 500 pages, but it's so well written and entertaining it keeps you reading. Another bonus in this book comes from the author's use of previously unpublished sources. Victoria kept extensive diaries and copies of her correspondence. Her youngest daughter, Beatrice, came into possession of these documents and was horrified. She felt they presented her mother in a bad light, so she rewrote as much as possible and destroyed parts she felt were particularly bad. However, before the archivists gave the material to Beatrice they photographed the pages. The author was lucky enough to get permission to use this material in the biography. The result is that Victoria is much more real than the picture of a chubby, stern-faced, woman dressed in black.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Murder in the Open House from Hell

Sam Turner feels more secure as a real estate agent. Her boss Everett Sweet seems to think well of her. When he assigns her an open house in Arlinda's most exclusive neighborhood, she thinks she's arrived. She evens dreams of selling the house during the open house, although Everett says no one in the agency has been able to do that.

Sam arrives at the home full of plans, but nothing comes off the way it's supposed to. None of the potential customers are interested in buying the house. One brings a dog with fleas, another wants to be sure the new owner will take care of the trees on the property line, and a couple steal all the precious objects setting around. However, the worst comes when Sam decides to bake cookies and finds a finger in the refrigerator, which leads to a body in the back yard.

The characters are the best part of this cozy mystery. Arlinda abounds in zany residents, and Sam fits right in. She tries hard, but everything she touches seems to have a hilarious hidden problem. The mystery is hard to guess. The author drops clues along the way, but it takes until the end of the book to put them all together.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a good one.

I received this book from Net Galley and Random House for this review.