Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

One of the most common questions I get asked is "I'm missing Downton Abbey. What can I read that will take me there again?" There are so many books to read in this genre, but as I have found not all of them live up to their promises. I have, however, found a charming mystery series that makes me feel like Downton again.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver is the first in what is now a three book series or will be. New book out in October I think. It's perfect. It's so well written and it draws you in from the beginning.

Amory Aims is a great heroine and sleuth. I also want her wardrobe although I think I'd need to have her tall, slender body to pull most of it off. But that's not the point. Amory is helping out her ex-fiance to try to convince his sister that she shouldn't marry the man she loves. Gil, the ex-fiance, thinks the man is rounder and no good. Amory knows something about this because her husband, the one she ditched Gil for, is always traveling about doing things with other women. What happens is Rupert, the sister's love, is found dead and it looks like Gil did it.

The story that unfolds is wonderful. This is one of those books that I savor. I know so many people find a book they love and read it in hours, but when I find a book that I really enjoy. One that has a style and plot line that grab me, I tend to savor it. I read a bit here and a bit there because I don't want the book to end. Although as I write this there are two more novels so I could read faster and still have something to look forward to later.

If you want to be embraced by the world that was Downton Abbey I highly recommend this series. Here's hoping Ashley gets to write many more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

How many of you are like me and wish that they could actually enter a book? Slip into the pages and meet your favorite characters? Well you can....in a way. Jasper Fforde is a genius author who wrote the Thursday Next series and it's pretty amazing.

Any time you want to jump into a book and find out how your favorite characters or not so favorite characters are doing all you need to do is pick up a Fforde. In The Eyre Affair Thursday Next joins the literary crimes unit........yes, people commit literary crimes and someone needs to watch out for our favorite characters. You get to meet a slew of famous characters from Mrs. Havisham, Fanny Dashwood (she's later on in the series, but honestly one of my favorite scenes in all the Ffordes has to be the scene where she tells Thursday that she didn't want to push Marianne, Elinor, Margaret, and Mrs. Dashwood out of the house, but she HAD to for the story to continue and the girls to find their true love. It really seems like something she would say in real life to not be the villain.)

Thursday ends up chasing a villain into Jane Eyre and changing the story for all time. Is it for the better? I don't know. I liked St. John better than Mr. Rochester, but I am so in love with a beta hero. Those dark and brooding alcoholic dickbags can just go away. Okay, maybe I'm being harsh on Mr. Rochester. I suffer from what I call Bronte schizophrenia. When I'm reading or watching Jane Eyre I LOVE LOVE LOVE Jane Eyre. And yet when I'm not reading or watching it I'm wondering what the BFG is about it. (Although I know BFG is technically Big Friendly Giant ala Roald Dahl I like to use it in my world to mean big freaking deal). So I am two personalities about the Brontes.

Thursday also gives me one of my favorite heroes in Landon Park-Laine, which I found out once at a reading of Fforde's is actually a pun for landing on Park Lane or Park Place in American Monopoly. That's' the thing about Fforde, he's your grown up Norton Juster. Just as Juster played with grammar in The Phantom Tollbooth Fforde sends us literary and just for fun puns. Here's a note: There is never a chapter 13 in any of Fforde's Thursday Next books and chapter 17 or 18 always ends up with vampires or werewolves. Normally with Thursday's friend Spike. No pun intended I'm sure :)

So if you want the behind the scenes deal with your favorite classic characters pick up Fforde's series and enjoy! Let me know how much you love Fanny Dashwood or Mrs. Havisham in their reincarnations.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


I don't know how many of you know that I am an adult reference librarian at an urban library. The other day I was giving one of my colleagues a break and he was working in children's. He was looking for a book by Elizabeth George Speare and couldn't find it, so I took up looking for it and while I was standing in the children's section I saw The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I remember this book well from my childhood.It was one of my favorites and I remember reading it over and over again.

I decided to check it out and have begun reading it. I forgot how well a storyteller Elizabeth is. Once again I found myself wrapped up in Kit's story. There I am riding on the ship with Nat around climbing the rigging. So it made me think about my favorite childhood books. I decided that I would ask my godmother/aunt if she would buy me hardback versions of my favorite childhood books. 

Here are my top ten:

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi
The Story of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E L Koningsburg
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson....and yes, the one where she dies. 

So along with newer novels, older novels, favorites, and such I will also be reviewing some of these childhood classics. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 

What are your favorite childhood novels? What would you like to read again? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Questions From My Friend

For today's posts I asked a friend who was in a reading rut to tell me what he wanted to read and I'd make recommendations for him.

Here you go, Thomas!

Thomas: Over the last several years, I've come to really enjoy historical fantasy. Orson Schoot Card's Tales of Alvin Maker, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy, Michelle Sargara West's Sun Sword Archive, and Naomi Novik's Temeraire use historical research and settings to create compelling fantasy stories of alternate realities. What historical fantasy is available with settings different from these?

Rachel: Okay, so this is a little off topic, but I've got a book that could be historical fantasy and I really enjoy it. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. There's time travel and a throwback to Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat to Say Nothing of the Dog, which is one of my favorite underrated books.

Thomas: My husband and I like to listen to young adult fiction audiobooks on long car trips. We need things that are about 6, 12, or 20  hours (or a combination that come close to one of these lengths) with an entertaining story and clear voice. (Higher pitched voices tend to be easier to hear over road noise.)

Rachel: Here's I'm going to recommend two trilogies. The first is The Magician Trilogy by Jenny Nimo. The Snow Spider, Emlyn's Moon, and The Chestnut Soldier. All are based on old Welsh mythology that is updated for modern times. Also the Blue Balliett trilogy starting with Chasing Vermeer, then The Calder Game, and it ends with The Wright 3. A combination of art theft, mystery, and math. How can you go wrong?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

I don't know about you, but sometimes I need drama and a powerful love story to get me through my week and I've found that in Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson.

It tells the story of Lily, who is part of the aristocracy, but has a falling out with her family. She becomes an ambulance driver during WW I and is sent to France. Of course at the medical hospital she is at there is a childhood friend of her brother's, Robert, and what can you guess happens?

I really loved this book. The writing draws you in and when I pause in reading to get a drink, or let the dog out, or face the world again I am amazed that I am in not in war torn France surrounded by men who are dying and medical tents. Instead I find that I am in my apartment in northwestern PA. It comes as quite a shock. That's the great thing about Jennifer's writing. (I hope authors don't mind that I refer to them by their first names. I feel like I get to know them personally by reading their books, so I refer to them by their first names.) She totally transports you to World War I France.

The love story is also sweet and believable. You want to root for this couple even though there are some odds stacked against them because they are both good people. I don't know about you, but one of my problems with Downton Abbey, even though I watched all six seasons and own all of them on DVD, was at first most of the characters didn't have a lot of redeeming qualities. It was hard to like Mary at first although she did open up later in the season. There is none of that here. You like Lily and Robbie right off and continue for the book. Although at times I did want to hit Robbie, but I think part of that is my 21st century sensibility with the idea that woman can face danger just as much as men. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we try to place 21st century values on historic figures.

Jennifer's research is good too. I love historical fiction with lots of facts. It's one of the reasons I love Sharon Kay Penman so much. A good story with good historical detail is a winner for me! As a side note, Jennifer is a lovely person and I have contacted her on Facebook to get signed bookplates and she gladly sent them.

After reading Somewhere in France I felt that there was room left for a sequel and lucky for us, there is one! I read The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert years ago, which also screams for a sequel and sadly there was none.

Jennifer's books gets it's sequel After the War Is Over and I'll talk more about it in a later post, but if you want a good historical fiction book you can melt into for a while I highly recommend anything Jennifer does. She has three books out so far and I loved all of them.

Also it looks like After the War Is Over is on kindle sale right now at $6.99. Somewhere in France is $8.99

For the next post this week I'll take questions from readers. Tell me what kind of mood you want a book to put you in and I'll see if I can make a good recommendation.

Friday, July 1, 2016


I don't know about you, but growing up books were my best friends, and now that I've gotten older they also provide me with some of my most successful and happiest relationships.

Isn't it amazing what can happen to a person when they read a book? How words on consecutive pages can change you? Make you happy, make you sad, make you kinder, make you angry, make you change the world? Books are powerful and they should be because each book is a piece of the author that wrote it. And all of us know that words can be powerful. They can hurt. They can heal. They can make peace and they can make war.

So the point of this blog is to help you find a book for every mood. A book that can help you with the stage of your life you're experiencing now. I do have to openly admit that I don't always like to read books that make me sad. There is so much sadness in the world now that I like to read to be happy, but we will go over some sad books too.

I hope you enjoy having me as a your bibliotherapist. Think of it this way....books are cheaper than therapy....well unless you buy and hoard them like I do. But therapy and a good book are good for all us.

Enjoy the journey. The first book I will be reviewing, which will show up on July 5th is Jennifer Robson's Somewhere In France.

More to come....