Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Rather Remarkable Homecoming by C.A. Belmond (2011)

Well, it looks like this is the last one, as this is already seven years old, though it ends on the potential of another case to come. I could have kept reading these gentle mysteries where historical artifacts that I know little about play an important role in our charming couple's adventures. I was so happy with the last book that I tried to get this on my list for audio books, but my store did not have it, so I had to renew my long unused local public library card and check it out there. Read it over Thanksgiving weekend, so a few chores did not get done.

Penny and Jeremy got married in the last book and promised to not take on any cases involving family members, but when H.R.H. asks them to look into Penny's grandmother's cottage in Cornwall (I had to look it up and now know where it is), they could not resist. It was the place they met as children and both have fond memories of this house on the cliffs overlooking the sea. (I just recently finished the Library at the Edge of the World, which is on the coast of Ireland, but faced similar developer issues.) A historical society had tried maintaining the house, and should have first dibs on purchasing it, but developers have convinced the council that the cottage should be torn down and developed into a huge resort for tourists, so they have made life hard for the historical society. They turn to Penny and Jeremy to find some reason not to overdevelop the place. For a while they think Shakespeare might have lived there for a while, as no one knows where he was for certain years. I loved following Penny in her research through archives and old records, though some fell into her hands way too easily. When that didn't pan out, they followed other leads that took them to Madeira and a few other interesting places, but mostly they explored Cornwall, with its rich history. (I had to look up Madeira - had hear of the wine, but not of the island way off the coast of Morocco, but belonging to Portugal. Not exactly for my main bucket list, but if my health and money hold out, this would not be a bad place to check out.) In the process of saving the cottage, and the livelihoods and lifestyles of many of the townsfolk, they discover a notes from Great-Aunt Penelope's childhood that reflect her adventurous spirit even back then, and rescue Simon Thorne, a friend of Aunt Penelope we met in the first book, from a squalid nursing home. Rollo gets kidnapped while helping them, but all turns out well for everyone, except the bad guys. As a friend said, must be getting sentimental as we age.

A Rather Charming Invitation by C.A. Belmond (2010)

Another enjoyable Penny Nichols story. They are getting ready for their wedding and there are factions of Jeremy's family - his grandmother - and Penny's French side of the family vying for their attention and wanting to control the wedding. The French family offers a tapestry of a wedding for the ceremony and that sets off a hunt into the past of both the family and French royalty. So Penny's historical knowledge and sleuthing come into play again. We see some of the family members from the previous books and are introduced to new ones. I liked Honorine, who wants to get away from her family and the perfume business, so she knocks on Penny and Jeremy's door in London and ends up being their assistant for a while. When she goes on to her own life at the end of the book, I realize how much they need an assistant. Looks like there is one more book in this series.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (2017)

Obviously I chose this book because it was about libraries. This is about Hanna, whose marriage in London did not work out and she returns back home to Crossarra and works as a librarian in Lissbeg. These are small towns on the fictional Finfarran Peninsula, though there are plenty of peninsula's on the western coast of Ireland, with names very similar to the ones mentioned in the book. I of course like any librarian, especially those that work with under-served populations, so I love reading about her weekly trips into the countryside with her mobile library van. Unfortunately she seems not to have heard the current day library conversation about libraries being more than sources of books, but become community centers. I have seen that in my travels across the country. Her enthusiastic assistant Conor seems to realize this instinctively.

The story is about the usual developers wanting to develop a beautiful area to line their own pockets, but don't think about population it will affect. In helping her community unite to fight the developers, Hanna finds her own center and where she belongs. Her mother Mary Casey in her neon pink bungalow drives her nuts. Her daughter Jazz comes home occasionally and that is good while it lasts. Her ex-husband Malcolm still upsets her. One thing that helps is an old cabin left to her by aunt Maggie and Fury, the builder with his dog Divil, who helps her restore it. Conor and his friends, Sister Michael, Brian from the planning office - all help.

Maybe worth looking up some more books by Feliciey Hayes-McCoy.

My Bonny Light Horseman by L.A. Meyer (2008)

Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, in Love and War (Bloody Jack Adventures Book 6)

Another fun series of adventures in the life of Jacky Faber. This time she supposedly gets beheaded by the French, but is actually forced to be a spy, first as a dancer who entertains gentlemen, which leads her to be a messenger in the French army, where she follows Napoleon to a great battle in the east. She again shows her smarts and leadership talent and I get a glimpse into the workings of moving a huge army over long distances. The logistics of feeding, clothing, housing and entertaining armies has fascinated me for a long time, and this was a great description. Jacky's motley crew of farm boys joining the army was an interesting example. The set of skills she learns in each adventure come in handy in the next - like her riding a horse skills were useful here. Though staying technically true to Jaimey - and it is a constant challenge to maintain her maidenhood in these times and in the roles she ends up playing - she always finds someone to be sweet on and who comes to her rescue when needed.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

A Rather Curious Engagement by C.A. Belmond (2008)

I like these cozy mysteries. Penny Nichols and Jeremy continue to get to know each other and try to figure out how to spend their newly acquired inheritance. They are advised to do one splurge for themselves, and this leads to a purchase of a boat that leads to their first engagement as amateur sleuths for finding stolen art. This time it was a specific aquamanile, something I had never heard of, though I may have seen some in museums. They are jug-type vessels in the form of an animal or human usually used for water for washing hands. Anyway, interesting romp through southern France, Corsica, Italy, and England. I had to look up Lake Como and realized it was close to Lake Lugano of Rainis and Aspazija fame. Again, I like the research being done in libraries and archives, following family trees. Just fun.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Other Woman by Daniel Silva (2018)

I do not tire of these Gabriel Allon books. I was taking a long drive with an artist friend and was hoping there was something about art in this one, but this time the mentions of art were brief. This book was set in today's world, with all the weirdness that surrounds that and the influence of Russia again at the forefront. This time we learn more about the historic double agent Kim Philby who worked for British intelligence, but was actually working for the Soviets. Of course Allon is there to unearth another double agent, which seemingly would not affect Israel, but it all starts out with the murder of an agent that was finding it was time to quit, and the Israeli's went to pick him up in Vienna, where he was killed by a Russian. So Allon, even though he is head of Israeli intelligence, goes looking for the culprit.

At one point we jumped to an old woman in a village on a crag in Spain, and my friend was going - What! Did I miss something? - I just had to calm her and say, there will be lots of pieces to this story, but they will all come together eventually. And of course, they did.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (2010)

This Inspector Armand Gamache novel has three stories going at once.We start out with a tense moment, when Gamache leads his team into a dangerous situation, hopefully to rescue a hostage. We quickly understand that this did not go well and that Gamache has gone off to heal and recuperate in Quebec with his old mentor and Jean Guy Beauvior gets sent off to Three Pines, supposedly to also recuperate, though he is not fond of the town. This novel follows The Brutal Telling, where Olivier gets convicted of murdering a hermit in the woods. Olivier's partner Gabri keeps sending Gamache notes asking "Why did he move the body?" Gamache keeps mulling it over an finally sends Beauvior out to Three Pines to look into it - unofficially. So Three Pines gets barely a third of the story, but we still get to see our favorite characters, and it is interesting to see the effect Three Pines has on Beauvior. We also see that the health spa seems to be doing well.

Most of the book centers around Gamache in Quebec. He is doing research in the English Literary and Historical Society library (the Lit & Hiss for short), when a body is found in their basement, the body of a fanatic, looking for the bones of the founder of Quebec - Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635). It took me a while to realize they were talking about Champlain, as in the audio book the pronunciation in French is quite different than English and didn't get it until they mentioned the lake in Vermont. It was interesting to hear a bit about Canada's history, a topic I am sorry to say I know nothing about. Gamache is fascinated with some battle that was won by the British. Anyway, Gamache gets pulled into the investigation of this murder and we learn about the uncomfortable relations between the English speaking community and the French. Of course I loved the fact that much of the action was happening in a library and that clues were looked for in old books.

The third and more horrifying story gets woven between these other two, as Gamache and Beauvior remember the events that led up to their getting injured, and not just physically. Gamache keeps hearing Paul Moran's voice, as he was responsible for keeping him talking for hours, as there was some bomb set up to go off if the conversation stopped. Gamache is racked with guilt that he made mistakes, though as the story unfolds, it seems he still was the hero and did all he could in spite of being thwarted by a superior officer, avoiding a major catastrophe, far beyond the lives of a few good officers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (2008)

Another wonderful Inspector Gamache mystery. This time, we have Madeline die of fright in a seance at the awful Hadley house. The theme of this book is close friendship and envy, which gets played out by various couples in various ways.

(Obviously I did not have time to finish this review, but I do want all my Louise Penny books in the blog, though I read this back in the summer of 2016.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg (2017)

This was sent to me by my audio book store as a bonus, and I am always up for a strong female character. I read some Sherlock Holmes in my day, and though his deductive reasoning was fascinating, I found the books plodding and preferred Agatha Christie back in the day when there were so many fewer choices. This book takes on the same plodding style and I almost gave up on it, but was in the car a bit this past weekend and got through it. 

I am going to cheat and just copy the plot line from Amazon, just so I remember it: "... a new thrilling tale of the great detective's daughter and her companion Dr. John Watson, Jr. as they investigate a murder at the highest levels of British society. Set in 1914, Joanna Blalock's keen mind and incredible insight lead her to become a highly skilled nurse, one of the few professions that allow her to use her finely-tuned brain. But when she and her ten-year-old son witness a man fall to his death, apparently by suicide, they are visited by the elderly Dr. John Watson and his charming, handsome son, Dr. John Watson Jr. Impressed by her forensic skills, they invite her to become the third member of their investigative team."

Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer (2007)

Fifth delightful book in the Bloody Jack series. Our dear Jacky Faber is taken by the British at the end of the last book, as she returns a hero with the all of her classmates back to Boston after being kidnapped. Her classmates try to save her, but it is actually Higgins who saves her by engaging his actor friends to run a scam. Realizing she can't stay in Boston, she heads west with Higgins and Jim Tanner (she picked him up in Boston, a street kid, that she hired to mind her boat). The head to the Allegheny, where she has heard it runs into the Mississippi and down to New Orleans.

They are first joined by Katy, one of the servant girls at the school that was from a farm in Ohio, but just did not belong in the city and was heading west herself. Along the way they run into Mike Fink, a huge, tall tale telling, obnoxious drunk on a flatboat, but he does know the rivers. They steal his boat, pick up Clementine, Crow Jane, a Native American woman as cook, the Hawkes boys as crew, Yancy Cantrell (card shark) and his "slave"Chloe, Lightfoot and Chee-a-Quat, Reverand Clawson, Daniel, the Honeys, Solomon. You get the gist. Some start out as paying customers and then end up as part of Jacky's band. Others they rescue from nasty fathers, river pirates, and Solomon is a runaway slave. They spruce up the flatboat - Belle of the Golden West, make it a traveling entertainment boat. They arm it with small cannons that Jacky know how to use, as it is dangerous territory and those come in handy more than once.

So here we get a good history lesson on the life along the rivers of the US in 1806. The travel along the Allegheny, Ohio and Mississippi. They stop off in towns that are major cities now - Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, etc. I was surprised to recognize all the street names in New Orleans, so the French Quarter really is the old part of town. Slavery continues to be an issue that varies from state to state, individual to individual.