Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Why would I read Murder on the Orient Express? I have heard about this book my entire life, but I had never read any Agatha Christie novels.  I have watched and greatly enjoyed Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS.  This book appears on a lot of “must read” book lists. With a new movie now being made, I thought this would be a perfect book to investigate as my August Flicks Book and Movie Club selection.

The Orient Express is heading from the Middle East to Paris when a passenger is murdered in the middle of the night. The murder happened just before the train got stuck in a snowbank so the murdered must be someone on the train. Who killed this passenger and why?  Luckily Hercule Poirot, the great Belgium detective is on the case. 

Most of the chapters in this novel are interviews of all of the passengers on the train.  Unlike usual days this time of year, the train was fully booked with an eccentric cast of characters from across Europe and America.  Their interviews were entertaining, but Poirot’s unique interviewing style kept one guessing until the end what the answer would be.

I thought this made a good book club selection.  It was short and a book everyone had heard of, but hadn’t read.  The two that made it to book club also liked the book structure with the interviews being separate chapters.  They both liked Hercule Poirot himself as he was quite the eccentric character.  The other characters were also interesting and prompted discussion which was a favorite or most likely suspect when reading the book.  The ending was unique and provided a moral quandary that also made for a good discussion.  I also brought into the discussion the point that I found it interesting that a crime tied into the murder eerily paralleled the Lindbergh kidnapping.  When I checked the copyright of the book, it only took place one year after the Lindbergh case and probably made it very topical in its day.

Overall, I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express and thought it was a good mystery that provided a good source of discussion for a book club.  I think the unique characters and ending make this a classic book that is always good to discuss.

Favorite quotes:

“That implies a detached attitude.  I think my attitude is more selfish.  I have learned to save myself useless emotion.”

“I am not a Jugo-Slavian detective, Madame.  I am an international detective . . . I belong to the world.” – Poirot on himself.

“This was not a man who had to have information dragged from him.  It gushed out.”

What Agatha Christie novel should I read next?


Book Source:  I bought this at a used book sale years ago and finally read it as part of The Classics Club.

Anyone as excited about the movie as I am?


Monday, August 14, 2017

Death on the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst

Death on the Prairie is a perfect novel to take with you on a road trip to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites in South Dakota.

Chloe Ellefson is a curator at Old World Wisconsin.  A family friend asks for her help to determine where to donate a family heirloom – a quilt from Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Chloe decides to take the quilt on a road trip to the Laura Ingalls Wilder 
Symposium in de Smet, South Dakota that she has been invited to speak.  She invites along her sister Kari, who has always been the perfect sister Mary to her Laura.

As they begin their tour of the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesteads, they make new friends, but also notice a disturbing trend of unexpected violence at each stop.  What sinister plot is following the Laura Ingalls Wilder tour?  Is the quilt an actual Ingalls family relic?  What is troubling Chloe’s sister Kari?  What about her boyfriend Roelke?

I feel like this book was a love letter to all Laura Ingalls Wilder fans full of great tidbits. The story alternated between Chloe and Roelke’s viewpoint.  I liked how Roelke had a lot of deep thoughts about whether he should buy his old family farm or not and he also read Farmer Boy.  This blended in well with Chloe’s story.  I really want to learn more about this couple and their relationship, I need to read more of this series!

I enjoyed that the story was very much about sisterly bonds.  Chloe had always thought her adult sister was the way she thought was as a child. Chloe really finally got to know her sister as an adult.  Both sisters found out much more about each other; how they both envied each other and who they are as people.

I also liked the 1980’s setting for the book and the wonderful detailed website author Kathleen Ernst has for more information on all of her novels and this series of mysteries.  I definitely want to check out more books in this series!

Favorite Quote:

“In grad school I wrote a paper arguing that although Little House in the Big Woods is a novel, the historical processes Laura described – churning butter, butchering, maple sugaring – were authentic, and thus acceptable as partial documentation for historic sites’ programing.” – I had never thought about this before.  I thought it was very interesting.  I’ve always wanted to visit Old World Wisconsin and I want to even more now!

Overall Death on the Prairie is a great mystery with great characters and a great love of Laura Ingalls Wilder.


Book Source:  Purchased at Peninsula Bookman in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life by Pamela Smith Hill

I love the cover of this biography.  I had never seen this image before, Laura looks lovely and quite stylish.  I purchased this biography while vacationing in De Smet, South Dakota this past June.  It seemed a perfect read for our trip into the land of Laura.

This biography is not an in depth look at the details of Laura’s life, but more a look at what shaped Laura as a writer.  I was very interested that she had the idea jotted down for writing children’s’ book about her pioneer childhood back in 1902 after Pa’s death.  She saved her first foray into literature with a poem that she wrote in school.  It seems that becoming an author was a lifelong dream of Wilder’s.

Laura earned extra income as an adult writing articles on farm life for the Missouri Ruralist and other papers.  I found it interesting that she also was published in a major magazine, McCall’s, as well due to urging from her daughter Rose.

Laura and Rose had a unique relationship.  They actually both became established authors at the same time, but Rose was known on the national level, while Laura was local.  Rose pushed Laura to write and helped her when she first tried to publish her autobiography, Pioneer Girl.  Rose also helped herself to using Laura’s story from Pioneer Girl in her own adult fiction.  This caused understandable fiction in the family.  It was interesting that the biography noted that if they wouldn’t have been mother and daughter, Rose would have ended up in court due to plagiarism charges.

With Rose’s help, Laura crafted children’s books from Pioneer Girl.  Laura was a gifted writer and Rose was a gifted editor.  It was very interesting how they took a true story and fictionalized it to tell a tale.  There has been much debate about this through the years as well as on the true authorship of the books, but research has shown that Laura wrote the novels with Rose’s editorial guidance.  They had a great partnership.

Favorite quotes:           
                          
“I began to think what a wonderful childhood I had had.  I had seen the whole frontier, the woods, the Indian country of the Great Plains, the frontier towns, the building of railroads in wild, unsettled country, homesteading and farmers coming in to take possession. . . Then I understood that in my own life I represented a whole period of American history.”  - Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Did Wilder’s adolescence, spent describing people, places, and scenes for Mary, contribute to her development as first a storyteller and later a writer? “ – I’ve always wondered this myself.

“The snow was scudding low over the drifts of the white world outside the little claim shanty.  It was blowing thru the cracks in its walls and forming little piles and miniature drifts on the floor and even on the desks before which several children sat, trying to study, for this abandoned claim shanty that had served as the summer home of a homesteader on the Dakota prairies was being used a s a schoolhouse during the winter.”  - This was from a column Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in 1924.  She already had perfected her vivid descriptions that she used in her later fiction.

“Nevertheless, she struggled with the idea that her worked lacked artistry, that she wrote what sold rather than what would endure.”  Rose Wilder Lane.  I’ll admit, I’ve only read her fiction because of her mother and it lacks the artistry and enduring quality of her mother’s work.

Overall, Laura Ingalls Wilder:  A Writer’s Life is a great work on the process Wilder went through to create her classic works and the great partnership that Wilder and Lane had that allowed this work to flourish.  This is a must read for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans.


Book Source:  Purchased at the Ingalls Family Homestead in de Smet, South Dakota

Winner of A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

Congrats to Suko from the wonderful blog,  Suko's Notebook.  She is the lucky winner of A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White.  I really enjoyed this novel, to read my review, click on this link.

Thank-you to all who entered the giveaway, TLC Book Tours and author Roseanna M. White for allowing me to host this giveaway.


Friday, August 4, 2017

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White (TLC Book Tour) Review and GIVEAWAY!









It is always wonderful to find a new author that you greatly enjoy, and even better when you discover it is the start of a new series! A Name Unknown is set in England just before the start of WWI. Peter Holstein has a German last name, a German mother and Grandparents, and is also very close to the King of England. Is he a traitor or is he loyal to England?

Rosemary Gresham has been orphaned since she was a youth and has managed to survive by becoming one of the best thieves in England. She has helped to put together other orphans to become a family of thieves. She has just got an assignment of a lifetime, to determine whether Peter Holstein is loyal to England or not and for which she will be paid a princely one thousand pounds. Disguising herself as a librarian to help straighten out the disastrous Holstein family library, Rosemary finds herself drawn into Peter’s world. Will Rosemary be able to put her feelings aside to discover the truth? Who is out there trying to cause harm to Peter?

I loved this book. Rosemary and Peter were fantastic characters. I really loved going through Peter’s writing process. I loved that he had a stutter and was socially awkward, and that this could lead to feelings in the village that he was a traitor. I loved that Rosemary was his complete opposite, a tough cookie that isn’t afraid to say what she feels. I also love that Peter had a profoundly deep faith that he was able to share with Rosemary as well as with the King. Faith was woven throughout the story seamlessly. It was a wonderfully written Christian Historical Fiction novel.

It was an interesting period of historical fiction for me. I had never thought about Germans and their descendants living in England having to prove their loyalty. I had also never heard about authors being asked to include national pride in their books – I really enjoyed the afterward explaining this.

My favorite quotes:

“Rosemary Gresham may have been a thief, but she was a thief who preferred to work in broad daylight.” – A great first line!

“Fiction is a way to express mankind’s deepest heart. His fears. His hopes. His failings. His successes. Fiction is truth . . . in a pretty wrapping.”

“Because just like our logic tells us these rocks fall and gather and join the other rocks below, so our faith tells us our prayers whisper in God’s ears and gather and join the prayers of the other faithful.”

“It seems like yesterday. And a century ago.”

“And the best sort of villain is smart and subtle and so very tricky that you don’t even know he’s the villain, because he thinks himself the hero in his own story.”

“Don’t wait around for life to happen to you, Peter. Give it a good chase.”

Overall, A Name Unknown was an intriguing Christian Historical Fiction novel that had a great arc for both of the main characters and also included intrigue and great secondary characters. This is the first book in the Shadows Over England series and I can’t wait to read the next one!

What book have you read about an author at work? Did it make you want to become an author or run the other way?

Book Source: I received a review copy as a part of the TLC Book Tour. Thank-you!  For more stops on this excellent tour check out this link.

Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a copy of A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States and Canada.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday August 11th!

Please make sure to check the week of August 14th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham




“Mommy, is that man going to take his shirt off again? He’s so handsome.” – Penelope, six years old.

I’ve been watching Poldark from last fall as I always seem to be slightly behind on my TV viewing. I’m also trying to read the corresponding books to get me ready for Season 3 this fall. I typically watch it while folding clothes. My six-year old daughter Penelope now likes to come in and see what I’m watching as she finds Poldark very handsome. Although I’m watching Masterpiece Theatre, Penelope makes me feel like I’m watching a daytime soap opera. Poldark’s shirt does seem to magically disappear almost every episode, but hey, a man gets hot working in a copper mine!

Besides the excellent television adaptation, I have been enjoying the Poldark historical fiction book series by Winston Graham as well. I wish that I would have discovered this book series sooner, but I am enjoying it now! It is set right after the American Revolutionary War. Ross Poldark was fighting with the British and came back to America defeated only to find his fiancée now engaged to his cousin. The series covers the lives of Ross and friends and foes that intersect his life. The Poldarks are copper / tin mine owners as well, and I find the storylines about the mining very intriguing.

Jeremy Poldark is the third book of the series. It picks up right where Demelza ended. Ross is in a very dark place after the death of his only child Julia and finds himself at the wrong end of the law as he goes to trial accused of inciting a riot and making the locals salvage the contents of two ships that ran aground in the previous book. His wife Demelza uses her skills to try to help Ross out, but his enemy George Warleggan is on the other side trying to make sure Ross ends up at the end of the hangman’s noose. Will Ross make it and will the Poldark family be able to get over the personal affronts that happened in the past to get together as one united family? Will Ross be able to get his mine going and profitable?

I enjoyed the actions and all of the characters in Jeremy Poldark. Demelza is one of my favorites. I love her strength. She’s a fish out of water in Ross’s world, but she is a good person and is able to win the love of everyone. I also loved how Doctor Dwight Enys has a love story of his own after the tragedy that befelled him in the previous books. The characters have large story arcs that encompass love, tragedy, and copper mining, but they also have smaller stories that I love as well. For example when Ross’s cousin Verity has to meet her step children for the first time and the awkwardness that ensues. The TV series did an excellent job of adapting this book.

Favorite quotes:

“Her nature always preferred the straightforward settlement to the lingering suspicion.” - This passage is about Demelza, I feel the same way!

“Resentment and bitterness and old grudges were dead things that rotted the hands that grasped them.”

“She felt that if she was not careful she might become a part of the mob in the yellow dark, be caught up in it and lose her individual purpose and volition, being sucked toward the window with each wave that broke.”

“’Maybe it’s because I’m from common stock, but I want the home about me: candles burning, curtains drawn, warmth, tea, friendship, love. Those are what matter to me.’” Another great quote from Demelza.

“Human beings were blind, crazy creatures, he thought, forever walking the tightrope of the present condemned to ever changing shifts and expedients to maintain the balance of existence, not knowing even as far ahead as tomorrow what the actions of today would bring.”

Overall, Jeremy Poldark was an excellent book and the Poldark series is amazing historical fiction. I love the setting and the characters. The TV series is doing a wonderful job of adapting these novels. I have the next three books on my night stand – hopefully I’ll be reading them soon!

What novel do you enjoy that has been adapted into a TV series?

Book Source: Purchased from Amazon.com

Hex on the Beach by Gina Lamanna


Lily Locke is living the daily grind in Minneapolis when one day she meets her two eccentric Aunts after passing “a magical assessment for normal folks” test that had been left on her desk. They whisk her away to “The Isle” a magical island in the middle of Lake Superior. There Lily learns that she has inherited the duties of “The Mixologist” from her grandfather. A non-related wizard had taken over duties after her grandfather’s death, but had ended up dead. Once Lily arrives on the Isle, new mysterious deaths start to occur. Will Lily be able to fulfill her destiny? Who is responsible for the mysterious deaths?

I was intrigued by this novel as it promised a mix of Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum. I agree with both, although it was more heavily Stephanie Plum in a magical world. Several elements rang familiar such as Lily’s eccentric Grandma and a mysterious guard of the island named “Ranger X” that seemed brooding and magnetic just like Ranger in the Stephanie Plum series.

I liked this book – it was light hearted fun, just like the beginning of the Stephanie Plum series. Quirky characters, light romance, mystery, all of these helped to make the book compelling and fun. I’ve already purchased the next book in the series!

I highly recommend this book looking for a light escape read for the summer!

Favorite Quotes:

“A rising star at a hotshot marketing agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota, all Lily knows is she’s a PowerPoint guru, an Excel ninja, and a coffee-maker extraordinaire. Not to mention she’s next in line for a huge promotion.”

“Lake Superior spanned as far as I could see, and I understood why it might be called a great lake. The water sparkled and glittered under the sun, the blue so deep and dark it mesmerized me in a dangerous way.” – I love this description of Lake Superior!

“My reputation is the fault of nobody except myself. And if people want to think I’m bonkers, so be it. I’d rather be underestimated than overestimated, ain’t that right?” – Lily’s Grandma Hettie.

“He left the room, the door closing on his way out, and took a piece of my smile with him.”

What novel is your favorite escape read?

Book Source: I purchased this e-book from Amazon.com for my kindle.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Cottage at Firefly Lake by Jen Gilroy (TLC Book Tours)



Are you ever able to truly let go of the past?  As a teenager Charlotte Gibbs loved visiting the family cottage on Firefly Lake.  While her father was distant and off having affairs, Charlotte loved the simplicity of time spent at the lake with her mother and sister.  Most of all, she loved Sean Carmichael.  Friends as children, they grew into teenage lovers that imagined a world together.  Unfortunately, events took them in other directions.

Now eighteen years later, Charlotte is unexpectedly back. Now a war torn journalist, Charlotte is back with her sister and nieces to sell the family cottage after her mother’s death.  Sean is now a divorced Dad with a teenage son who still has feelings for Charlotte.  Will these two be able to resolve past differences?  And will Charlotte sell the cottage to a developer who will put the Carmichael’s out of business?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was a perfect light read for the car on a recent family vacation.  I enjoyed that both characters had depths and issues to work through.  Sean has the responsibilities of raising a son and keeping a family business together while Charlotte has her own demons from her PTSD to work though.  I was intrigued by the storyline that you aren’t quite sure why the two of them broke up and I really wanted to know.  As the story progressed, it pealed by the layers until the full story was told.
 
The Cottage at Firefly Lake is an enjoyable romance with intriguing characters and storyline. It’s the perfect light read for your summer vacation.

Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!

 The Cottage at Firefly Lake is the first book in the Firefly Lake series. The next book, Summer on Firefly Lake, comes out on July 25, 2017.