Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scarlett's Review of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By, Maria Semple

Product Details
·       Hardcover: 336 pages
·       Language: English
·        ISBN-10: 0316204277
·        ISBN-13: 978-031620279

Book Description
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

My Review

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a rare book, unlike any other I've read. I read the first few pages, and my nose twitched (a sure sign I was on the scent of a good read).  I swatted Marshall Dillon, my annoyingly curious cat... and, a few dozen cracker crumbs, off my chest and eagerly turned the pages.

Bernadette, that lovely, self-absorbed, eccentric spotted me from behind those glasses of hers, winked, and pulled me right into her story.  What a story!  "Take me with you, Bernadette", I begged, as she planned her exploits.  I nodded in approval when she jobbed out her menial tasks to a nefarious guy-Friday in India.  I had her back when she sparred with her uptight, Suzy-do-gooder, neighbor whose undies were in a twist over berries and mudslides.  I itched to slap some common sense into her genius husband's lofty head, but knew it was too far up Ted's behind for easy access! I felt Bernadette's love for her daughter, Bee, as surely as I love my own.

I munched, read, reacted, pushed the cat...munched, read, threw the cracker box at the trash can...missed.  Didn't notice.  I read right through to the end, so tired that one eye rebelled and closed. I could not stop reading.  The style, perspective and presentation of the story were too compelling. The characters hopped right off the pages to make certain Bernadette didn't get the last word. I saw Bernadette as they saw her...and, my heart fluttered in alarm.  Her detractors couldn’t see the fine line between creation and destruction, or that walls are oftentimes the greatest evidence of fragility. They tore at her, seeking to expose her weakness. Sometimes when you rip away the prickly barriers what remains is too vulnerable to withstand scrutiny.   Bernadette had to go to save herself.  I saw that. As one who has a cave selected in the Algonquin for when I can’t take the stress any longer…I got it. 

My intense love affair with the book lasted right up to the ending.  What? Then, like many torrid affairs, it fizzled to mere infatuation. A complex character like Bernadette is just incapable of tidying everything up as nicely as the ending suggests.  Aside from my peevish point about the ending, there is no way this book deserves anything short of 5 of 5 hearts!  (By the way, mums the word about my forest hideaway! I don’t want my Editor to find me.)

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scarlett Reviews 'Tumbleweeds'

Book Description (per Amazon)

February 5, 2013
Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives. Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age. Told with all of Meacham's signature drama, unforgettable characters, and plot twists, readers will be turning the pages, desperate to learn how it all plays out.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145550923X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455509232

My Review

Tumbleweeds starts out very slowly, to the point that I almost put it down.  I’m glad I didn’t.  After plodding through the dry, obligatory, chapters where Meacham established the adolescent bonds between the three key characters of the story, I finally made it to the interesting parts.  I was hooked!  Oh, the shenanigans those three got themselves in to as true love developed in a triangle complicated enough to give Pythagoras a migraine.  Not me! I knew exactly which stud-muffin Cathy would pick.  Or, so I thought.  I munched on a couple more crackers, turned the page, and, “Huh?” 

Leila Meacham was not following the script I envisioned at all! She must be an admirer of Poe and Bronte: such was the angst she created —the plot twists cleverly wreaking havoc— ruining lives and setting the wheels in motion that led me, like a horse to water, down the herring-strewn path to the ending.  Meacham tossed so many herrings about that I felt I was at a fish market. I’ll be squeezing lemon juice on these hands for days!  Still, the ending was clever, if a bit contrived. Dare I say, fishy?  The convenient ending —and, Cathie’s ridiculous choice of man-candy— just irritated the heck out of me, so Tumbleweeds earned 4 of 5 hearts from this reviewer.

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Scarlett Reviews 'The Book of Madness and Cures'

by Regina O'Melveny

Book Description (per Amazon)

April 10, 2012
Dr. Gabriella Mondini, a strong-willed, young Venetian woman, has followed her father in the path of medicine. She possesses a singleminded passion for the art of physick, even though, in 1590, the male-dominated establishment is reluctant to accept a woman doctor. So when her father disappears on a mysterious journey, Gabriella's own status in the Venetian medical society is threatened. Her father has left clues--beautiful, thoughtful, sometimes torrid, and often enigmatic letters from his travels as he researches his vast encyclopedia, The Book of Diseases

After ten years of missing his kindness, insight, and guidance, Gabriella decides to set off on a quest to find him--a daunting journey that will take her through great university cities, centers of medicine, and remote villages across Europe. Despite setbacks, wary strangers, and the menaces of the road, the young doctor bravely follows the clues to her lost father, all while taking notes on maladies and treating the ill to supplement her own work.

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company (April 10, 2012)

My Review

I was so excited to finally receive The Book of Madness and Cures in the mail.  It was a book I’d requested from the publisher and I was beside myself with excitement when it arrived.  I love historical novels and, if you toss in a bit of medicinal lore sprinkled with early treatments for madness, you’ve got this clinician drooling! I couldn’t wait to read about the adventures of Gabriella Mondini: a 16th century Venetian physician determined to practice medicine during the Renaissance, when doing so could be construed as heretical.  Remember, most gals in the 16th century used needles for needlepoint, not suturing wounds!  Gabriella’s unseemly interest in such manly things is tolerated by the physicians in Venice only because her father, a renowned physician, acts as her mentor.  When he abandons her in pursuit of a personal quest, Gabriella is no longer permitted to practice the healing arts.  The tale of her attempts to find her father, and complete their book of cures for madness, moves the story along. I could scarcely contain my excitement as I settled in for, what I was sure would be, a delightful read.

It really should have been.  All the requisite pieces for a perfect story were there, yet, the story fell flat.  I regret to say that it just did not pull me in.  The dialogue, in general, was stilted and the interactions between mistress and servant were unrealistic for the Renaissance period.  Interesting case histories of patients suffering from madness are interjected sporadically throughout the book.  All-in-all, the clinical feel of the writing was such that it left me removed from the supposed distress of the protagonist. Still, this is a debut novel and O’Melveny certainly has talent.  Her next book, I’m sure, will flow more freely.  This one, however, earned 3 of 5 hearts from this reviewer.

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Scarlett's Review of 'I Couldn't Love You More'


  • Paperback: 432 pages
  •  Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  •  Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446584622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446584623

My Review

Jillian Medoff's poignant story, I Couldn't Love You More, is a cautionary tale of the risks of playing it safe, being the good girl, chasing after validation and being on the fence when it comes to commitment when your heart is not in it: it is trapped in the past.  When the power of an old lover holds the dangerous allure of what might-have-been, the quest for resolution and healing of old wounds becomes more important to Eliot than living in the here-and-now with a real man, his two children, ex-wife and the problems that go along with them.

Medoff teases out the dangerous trap of the 'in love' mythology as she unravels the ties that bind Eliot to each of her family members. Eliot's inability to leave the past behind begins to destroy her family.  Her fear of being left ultimately haunts her as she reacts to her old lover as if a stranger to herself. The 'real' Eliot was a wounded, misunderstood, child who would never compromise the emotional stability of her children.  Who is this new Eliot?  This stranger?  Eliot's internal dialogue pulls the reader in to this moving, human, story of a woman's confusion on her painful path to personal clarity. The ties that bind fray when boundaries stretch too far, then familiarity becomes foreign and one stands separated from those who once shared confidences.  The intimacy that sustained her is gone. Eliot senses the Earth shift beneath her when crisis confronts her family.  

I Couldn't Love You More is an incredible story! Most of the story reads in beautiful prose, with logical flow and a well developed story line. However, I must say that I felt the ending was too convenient.The resolution of all of Eliot's troubled relationships, after such a catastrophe, seemed unrealistic.  Aside from that, this story earned a well-deserved 5 of 5 hearts!

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Scarlett's Review of 'The Innocent', by David Baldacci

A well-written, fast-paced, action-packed, thriller!

Book Description
Publication Date: April 17, 2012

America has enemies--ruthless people that the police, the FBI, even the military can't stop. That's when the U.S. government calls on Will Robie, a stone cold hitman who never questions orders and always nails his target. But Will Robie may have just made the first--and last--mistake of his career.

It begins with a hit gone wrong. Robie is dispatched to eliminate a target unusually close to home in Washington, D.C. But something about this mission doesn't seem right to Robie, and he does the unthinkable. He refuses to kill. Now, Robie becomes a target himself and must escape from his own people.

Fleeing the scene, Robie crosses paths with a wayward teenage girl, a fourteen-year-old runaway from a foster home. But she isn't an ordinary runaway-her parents were murdered, and her own life is in danger. Against all of his professional habits, Robie rescues her and finds he can't walk away. He needs to help her.

Even worse, the more Robie learns about the girl, the more he's convinced she is at the center of a vast cover-up, one that may explain her parents' deaths and stretch to unimaginable levels of power. Now, Robie may have to step out of the shadows in order to save this girl's life . . . and perhaps his own.

Product Details (per Amazon) 

·        File Size: 678 KB
·        Print Length: 433 pages
·        Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0446572993
·        Publisher: Grand Central Publishing 
·        Sold by: Hachette Book Group
·        Language: English
·        ASIN: B006VFLIYK

My Review

David Baldacci puts the reader through a fast-paced obstacle course in The Innocent, never allowing time to decompress as the story unfolds in terse chapters, averaging about 3 pages in length.  This rapid-fire delivery gives the reader a feel for Will Robie’s complicated life.  We begin to feel conflicted about Will.  He’s a “stone cold killer” and all, but, geeze, the guy’s life stinks! …and, all for the good of the country?

Hints of chinks in Will’s armor become evident as he deviates from his usual MO of kill-or-be-killed and becomes the protector of a young girl.  His humanity creeps further out from hiding when he admits his attraction to two, very different, women.  As he lets down his guard and interacts with them, his social skills are laughable.  His idea of seductive repartee is just shy of a grunt…yet, we understand.  The poor guy’s charisma has taken a beating: his charm blunted by years of trying to avoid bullets and bombs. Who has time for such nicety's? If Will reaches the ripe old age of 45, it will be a miracle …and most likely from the vantage point of a coffin.

The part of The Innocent that stretched reality too much for me was the concept that this “stone cold killer” has latent altruistic tendencies that would make Gandhi humble.  I mean, really, I’ve reared 4 teenagers and the only thing that kept me from killing them was a fear that my gene pool would die out!  So, how can I believe a killer would put up with Julie: a cheeky 14 yr-old, wise-cracking, smart-a##, girl who thinks she knows everything?  Come on, wouldn’t he just shoot her with his trusty Glock and be done with her?  I’m tempted, and I don’t have his creds. (BTW, I’m kidding about my children, of course.  I would never harm them. They are my last line of defense against Nursing Home admission.)

On the subject of ‘shooting’, there is one part of the book that, I must say, I found troubling and extremely offensive. Early in the story, Baldacci included the gruesome murder of an infant.  I almost stopped reading the book at that point. This inclusion contributed nothing to the story line and certainly distanced me from the book, and author. Aside from that disturbing fact, the book is well written and engaging.  Over-all, The Innocent earned 3 of 5 hearts from this reviewer.

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Music of Wheels Rolls Over You...

I don’t normally write music reviews, but just try to stop me from writing this one!  Wheels, a group of five young musicians from Yellow Springs, is too exciting to over-look.  A band that shows promise of becoming a ‘super’ band began with a couple of young men, Sam Salazar and Rory Papania, tinkering around with instruments at Friend's Music Camp, when they were in elementary school.   
The duo developed into a trio when Jamie Scott added his many talents, and later became a quartet with an unusual twist when Sam Crawford added his voice and his stand-up bass.  The group rounded out to an unstoppable musical vehicle with five wheels when Conor Stratton: guitarist, vocalist, sound 'mixologist' and composer, joined the group.
Wheels has become a musical phenomenon in the greater Dayton area.  The skill of these boys is astounding. The band is so successful, I think, because each member brings not only vocal and musical gifts to the group, but each contributes written compositions.  The result is a blend of five styles, harmonies and instruments that has a unique flavor of Americana, folk and rhythm & blues suggestive of Neil Young, Bob Dylan and America. Anyone who listens to the melody and harmony of ‘Tired Eyes Waltz’ is sure to hear suggestions of the great harmonizing bands of the 60’s, particularly the Beach Boys and Beatles.  

The music of Wheels is so compelling it rolls over you, overcoming you. Before you realize it, you’ve fallen victim to a ‘hit’.  You can’t run.  You find yourself rocking and swaying, elbow-to-elbow with kids that look like they still might carry hall passes. Age, and all that nonsense, fades behind the exuberance of their music and the energy it creates in the crowd.  I must admit that I’m not one for crowds. But, standing in a crowd, listening to them, while being squished by excited fans, is quite an experience and one I would recommend. There is nothing like it. 
Just listening to Sam break out on the mandolin (yes, you heard me right) and cut loose vocally on Sticks and Stones’, hearing Rory singing about Those Days’ , or watching  Sam Crawford's fingers flying on that bass fiddle in  Only’,  was enough to make me a fan.  But, when Jamie started jamming on his harmonica in I’m Goin Back’, with its hints of gospel, and pulling at my heart with his touching vocals of ‘Sit Down’ and My Ohio’ : about his fear of leaving home, and I listened to Conor sing his haunting ballad,'O Sara… I was gone!  Memories of jamming to Crosby Stills Nash & Young (‘CSNY’ to those who lived it!) took me over any thresh hold of restraint and made me a die-hard fan. So, don’t get between me and my autographs, if you know what’s good for you! 

I’ve never been a ‘groupie’ in my life but, I realized I’d become one when a lady tried to edge me away from my turn at the autograph table after one of their recent performances, saying she’d ‘driven all the way from KY’. She wasted valuable time trying to play on my sympathy when we could have been chatting up the band. (FYI, it did her no good at all.  She had to wait her turn!) 

I’m not the only Wheels nut rolling around trying to push my way through crowds at their standing-room-only performances.   You’ll be just as hooked when you check out this site to listen to and buy these great songs.  Become a fan, share this post on your blogs, follow their blog, and ‘like’ these talented musicians on Face Book. Do what you can to promote this group of young men.  Tweet about them.  Become part of the grass-roots organization that will help these boys fulfill their dream of creating music that is true to their creative instincts and inspiring to their audience.  Treat yourself to their album and try to get admission to one of their next performances.  But, don’t get between me and the entrance.  No cuts allowed! I get mean when I’m trying to get my Wheels’ groove on.  
Buy their original CD, Fields on Fire’ on their website and look for their CD, 'Big Feeling' which is being released in AugustYou can buy the CD’s at one of their upcoming shows, or stop in and buy them at: · Brother Bear and Toxic Beauty Records in Yellow Springs
· Omega Music and The Record Gallery in Dayton
· Shake It Records in Cincinnati

Contact Conor Stratton  for details on booking Wheels for special events.  Take a look and listen to this video clip and you’ll realize booking them is a solid investment.

Here’s a sampling of what others are saying about Wheels

“Wheels (Yellow Springs, OH) have been tearing up the summer festival scene and it seems that everyone is taking notice. Even Donna Jean Godchaux of Grateful Dead fame came out to see the band perform... The guys sounded better than ever as they played tunes from their debut CD Fields of Fire.”
“They have a sound that is similar to the leaders of today’s folk revival, namely Mumford and Sons, Dr. Dog and the Avett Brothers, with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, and instrumentation similar to American Beauty-era Grateful Dead; something to please every music lover’s sensibility.”
“When I first arrived at Canal Street Tavern Sunday, May 27, I could barely believe my eyes. We were there to see the group Wheels for the second time in less than a week so I was expecting a decent crowd. But the last time I saw a crowd like this at Canal Street was at the last Werksgiving a year or two ago... Perhaps their youth is the first thing you notice about the band, but that quickly goes away the moment the boys pick up their instruments. These guys take the stage with the confidence you rarely see from young artist... The guys from Wheels have a bright future ahead of them and it was an honor to be a part of this great night. ”
 “If Brian Wilson had started the Beach Boys in 1930′s Kentucky, they would have sounded like Wheels. The Yellow Springs folk prodigies possess a maturity and depth far beyond their years. They sing songs of love lost and nostalgic ballads for sweet home Ohio. Hearing them, you’d think they’d been playing bluegrass their whole lives.”

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scarlett's Review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

Somewhere deep in a forest ravaged by the effects of mining and milling…an unlikely band of creatures readies to make a stand!

Book Description 
(per Amazon)

Set in a rainforest of an unspecified continent, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is a tale littered with colourful and enjoyable characters, conspiracies and unlikely friendships between the species. Told through the eyes of animals the narrative explores the predatory world of deception and greed. The book carries an important missive: ‘Beware of predators in the guise of friends’. It has been described as witty and fascinating and as a story for children and adults alike. Mungai, the central character, is a jungle creature of indeterminate origin, who creates a cunning master plan allowing him to find ways of passing through life without too much cost to himself and as little effort as possible, and at the expense of others not as strong minded or as clever as he is. He goes all out to achieve his objectives, regardless of the consequences, as he sets out to destroy the rainforest for personal gain.

On his travels Mungai encounters an equally ruthless and selfish creature, a boa constrictor called Goa, and together they go in search of innocents to use to implement their designs. They subsequently meet, befriend and manage to convince all manner of creatures to join them in their venture with promises of great rewards in return for small labours. The creatures believe their efforts to be beneficial to the environment and look forward to the promised bounty. Before too long some notice their hard work continues but the rewards are not forthcoming and they begin to realize, with some input from the good outsiders they have teamed up with, the two legs, that what they are involved in is not good for anyone. Dissatisfaction begins to burgeon and rebellion is fast approaching. Mungai finds out, all too late, that those he shamelessly inveigled into his plans are not as naive as he first thought and the tables are turned. The perpetrators become the victims as Operation Equinox is devised and executed.

Product Details
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1469935163
ISBN-13: 978-1469935164
Kindle Edition File Size: 264 KB
Print Length: 191 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1469935163
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English

About the Author
Having grown up in the Mediterranean and having later lived and worked in various countries, Amelia Curzon eventually settled permanently in the United Kingdom. She is the mother of two grown children who provide her with much of her inspiration in life. Amelia's interests include horses and all other animals, the environment, reading, and of course writing. Amelia has been writing short stories and poems since childhood and had created and narrated many stories to her own children in their younger years. Insomuch as her stories have always been about animals it seems only natural her first novel be written for the genres children and teen and contain lots of four legged creatures.

Amelia wrote the first draft of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor a few years ago, proudly sent the finished product to a handful of traditional publishers and after only 3 rejections felt totally defeated. Silly! But that was then. The story was put safely away. After setting up and building up her own company, she forgot all about the manuscript. Until that is, her son found it, read it and passed on to his sister to read. Between them they persuaded Amelia to try again. Spurred on by her children's faith in her, she decided to approach the task of re-editing and updating and the mammoth and mind boggling mission of self-promotion. Armed with bucket loads of good, and some bad, advice Amelia plunged headfirst into the daunting world of self-publishing. Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is now published as an eBook on Amazon and soon to be in paperback on Createspace.

My Review
Amelia Curzon has created a beautiful fable in “Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” that warns of the effects of destruction of the forest in a fashion that is innocent, entertaining and compelling.  Curzon delivers a message of conservation and preservation that comes through from the perspective of woodland creatures that have been taken in by the false promises of corporate land developers.  But not all that glitters is gold, and the grass will not remain greener on the other side if the sun scorches the Earth because the shade of trees is gone.  Well, blah…blah…blah! Mungai, Curzon’s antagonistic protagonist, couldn’t care less if the forest and the stupid woodland creatures survive, or not, he has a lucrative retirement plan to implement!

Mungai (a creature of unknown origin who changes his scent for nefarious purposes to suit his greed) and his slimy, slithering sidekick, Goa —a boa with delusions of grandeur— have other ideas for the wealth hidden in the woods.   Goa’s speech impediment presents a problem when they set about convincing the trusting creatures of the forest that it is in their best interest to get on board the fast track toward financial stability. But, Mungai is the real mouthpiece of the not-so-dynamic duo.  Mungai’s manipulations of the innocent creatures of the wood puts me in mind of  politicians during Election Year: his platform (and scent) changes to please his audience as he tells them what they want to hear, all the while manipulating them with flattery and empty promises, for his own purposes.  Goa lisps out just the right spin on Mungai’s political campaign, “Diverthity ith always refwething,” likely thinking less of social reform than of eating the subservient creatures.  While Mungai keeps a mindful eye on Goa, lest she eat away at their work-force, he spins his yarn about making his woodland friends wealthy gold miners and makers of fine furniture.

A few of the creatures begin questioning Mungai’s motives, it all sounds too good to be true. There must be some reason that Mungai “hates pigs”.  But, Mungai and Goa are so convincing that even Bodger, an old Badger whom the creatures trust, is taken in. Caw-Caw, the crow starts to think Bodger’s become a little dodgy, and so takes matters into his own claws.  The crow devises a plan to save the woodland creatures from Mungai’s devious exploitation, and his two-legged friend, Duggit, digs it!  Caw-Caw and Duggit lay the groundwork for Operation Equinox!  The woodland operatives set to work, heads, beaks, claws and paws together.  They consult a red-bottomed Oracle, enlist the aid of the Oracle’s brother Captain Gerald Rupert Horatio-um- Peanuts-Brice-Copperbottom, “three eager beavers called Bucky, Brewster and Bracken, another large brown bear known as Bilboa, and a grouchy, but really quite friendly old wolf, aptly named Gruffy” and many other woodland creatures to set their plan in motion.

Does it work?  Is Bodger really dodgy?  Does Swallow (an unfortunately named bird) finally tempt Goa beyond restraint? Does the Oracle’s hind-end get redder when he advises Caw-Caw on tactical maneuvers? Do Caw-Caw and his cohorts capture Mungai and his lisping sidekick, Goa?  You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out.  “Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” earned 5/5 hearts from this reviewer, hands, paws, and claws, down!

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Disclosure:  I purchased this book.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scarlett's Review of Murder in Half Moon Bay

Something’s fishy at the Ritz…and it doesn’t sit well on a cracker!  

Book Description (per Amaon)

Publication Date: April 10, 2012

When a shocking murder disrupts the West Coast Garden Club Society's second annual conference, gardening columnist Jillian Bradley joins with Chief Frank Viscuglia to help in the investigation. Could it be the mean spirited conference director? Perhaps it's the wealthy widow on the make for her next husband; or maybe the killer is the haughty business woman who shows no regard for her brow beaten husband.

Set in beautiful Half Moon Bay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Jillian moves through the exclusive hotel property, local nurseries, colorful restaurants, and private mansions searching for the truth, pausing with her friends for cups of afternoon tea along the way. She uncovers a series of mysterious events that lead to solving several murders, both past and present. With the help of her garden club friends and her Yorkshire terrier 'Teddy', Jillian discovers not only a killer, but a far greater menace that could threaten us all.

Product Details
·         Paperback: 178 pages
·         Publisher: CreateSpace (April 10, 2012)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 1452882088
·         ISBN-13: 978-1452882086

My Review

Murder in Half Moon Bay, (Jillian Bradley Mysteries, No. 1) is an entertaining, fast-paced, read. Nancy Jill Thames’s clever protagonist, Jillian Bradley, doesn’t miss a beat.  She, and her garden club friends, arrives at the West Coast Garden Club Society’s Annual Conference in Half Moon Bay expecting to relax, spend the weekend gleaning gardening tips, whiling away pleasant hours surveying plant specimens, and sampling great food.  Jillian quickly realizes there is something fishy going on at the Ritz…and she’s not talking about fertilizer! The soil at the Ritz-Carton doesn’t need enrichment.  Bodies are popping up over there faster than bean sprouts on steroids!  Good thing Jillian is not only a gardening expert, but a VERY good listener, a keen observer of detail…and a list-maker.  Put all that together, stir in the ‘contributions’ of Teddy (Jillian’s little Yorkie –who may just be telepathic!) and you’ve got yourself a great potting mix for a budding detective. 
As Nancy Jill Thames’s delightful story unfolds, a botanist might prove more useful than the FBI or the local police department.  All sorts of cross-pollination seems to be going on, what with social butterflies flitting around, landing in who knows whose room, and things taking root where they never should have been planted!   I’m not one for spoilers, but there are weeds that need pulling at the Ritz-Carlton and Jillian’s just the gal for the job. She and her friends waste no time. They get to work, digging in the dirt, to solve the mystery.
I enjoyed Thames’s family-friendly mystery very much.  This charming book earned 4/5 hearts. I would have given it 5/5, but one of the plot points troubled me.  As brilliant as Jillian clearly is, I couldn’t see a police chief allowing her to question suspects, until later in the series —after she establishes her stellar reputation as a sleuth. That trifle aside, Murder in Half Moon Bay is the sort of book to enjoy on a rainy day, snuggled in a recliner with a nice cup of Jillian’s favorite, Lady Earl Grey, tea.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a clever mystery that’s not soaked in blood and gore.  I look forward to reading all of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries.

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Disclosure:  I requested this book of the author and received it as a gift.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.