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.

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.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A. Belmond (2007)

 A pleasant book about New Yorker Penny Nichols, a historical researcher (my kind of person) for movies finds out she has inherited something from her Aunt Penelope - an apartment in London and a garage with its contents next to a villa in southern France. But she has to do quite a bit of research to figure out what she really has inherited. She is helped along by cousin Jeremy, a lawyer, with whom she got along with quite well in a childhood summer holiday. Looks like they are still getting along... Of course they have the nasty ne'er do wells in the family who want to take away their inheritances, but it all works out in the end. Lovely romp through England, France and Italy.

Looks like there are more of these "Rather" books and it looks like they will continue with Penny and Jeremy, so I have another series to look forward to.

Friday, June 08, 2018

In the Belly of the Bloodhoutnd by L.A. Meyer (2006)

In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber

Jacky escapes from the Battle of Trafalgar, and as she is wanted by the British, she heads back to Boston to hide in the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls until things cool down. She finds that her friend Amy does not hate her, that Jaimy still loves her and all seems to settle down until the girls are taken on a school excursion to an island, but end up being kidnapped to be sold as slaves to African sheiks. I would say I learned less about history from this one, but it was a great psychological book on how this diverse group of girls that are used to having servants come together under Jacky's leadership to survive the voyage in the slave ship Bloodhound. They learn to work together and come up with some ingenious ways to keep their minds busy, spirits up, make their life on the ship tolerable, and even hatch escape plans. Many of them are made to reflect on what they think of slavery and the role of women in the early 19th century society. As Jacky thinks to herself at the end - those girls will go home much changed.

Four down, eight to go.

End Game by David Baldacci (2017)

These books keep me awake on the road and though the number of bodies at the end is horrendous, I still enjoy them. This time, Will Robie's and Jessica Reel's boss Blueman goes missing while on vacation in Colorado, so they go to investigate and find gun toting Coloradans with numerous cult like groups hiding away in the desolate plains of eastern Colorado.

As usual, we have an interesting cast of characters - Sheriff Malloy, who has come out from New York to be near her sister Holly who has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Then there is deputy Bender, who's mother Clare used to go out with Blueman and now runs a legal medical marijuana business. His sister Patty is one of the gun toting ones. Then there are the various cults - the skinheads, run by a guy named Dolf, another group run by King, and some other group that we don't really see. We also have a rich guy Lambert, who has catered to the rich survivalists and built luxury doomsday apartments in a decommissioned missile silo. Robie and Reel come into this chaotic world and try to make sense of it, getting almost killed at least a dozen times, but leaving a lot of dead bodies in their wake. They also seemed to have a thing going between the at the end of the last book, but that seems to have fallen apart. They do seem made for each other.

A Day in the Life or Marlon Bando by (2018)

I don't think I have ever just bought a book for political reasons, but when I heard John Oliver advertise this, I just had to go and order it. Of course it was sold out, so it took a while to get it. Cute and funny, VP Mike Pence's bunny falls in love with another male bunny and goes hopping off together with him. Wonderful. There is even a Wikipedia article out there explaining that this is a parody of a book written by Pence's daughter and wife - A Day in the Life of  the Vice President.