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Valerie Adolph "Coast Journal" (Pacific Northwest)
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Death of an Old Master (Lord Francis Powerscourt Mystery)
Death of an Old Master (Lord Francis Powerscourt Mystery)
by David Dickinson
Edition: Hardcover

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great storytelling, 16 Jun 2004
This book is set in London in 1899. A leading art critic has been murdered. Now I hesitate to read books about the art world because either the writer talks down to the reader, or a non-art historian hasn't a clue what it's all about. This writer manages to explain the art world quickly, simply and effectively. I understood and I didn't feel patronized.
This is a good story; it moves right along with plenty of action. The characters are so well drawn that you don't even notice the writer doing it. The background is authentic and the various motivations very true to the time, the setting and the plot. The dialogue was crisp and the transitions barely noticeable.
This is John Buchan meeting Anne Perry, with the addition of a sense of humor. I really enjoyed it.


The Fugitive Queen: An Ursula Blanchard Mystery at Queen Elizabeth I's Court
The Fugitive Queen: An Ursula Blanchard Mystery at Queen Elizabeth I's Court
by Fiona Buckley
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good blend of fact and fiction, 11 Jun 2004
This is the latest in an excellent series of mysteries set in England during the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth. The writer shares a comprehensive understanding of the uneasy political and religious dynamics of the time, as well as life at court and the (very different) life in every-day Elizabethan England.
The plot is well designed and carried through and the characters are well-drawn and memorable. I enjoy the fact that the protagonist is a woman and the viewpoint is feminine rather than masculine. It's all too easy, when writing historical fiction, to gravitate to the masculine, with the hero mounting his steed and dashing off in all directions, with exciting chases and plenty of swashbuckling fights and battles. You'll find a little of that here, but mostly you'll find a woman just trying to do her best for her susceptible young relative and for her queen. It's just that she has an exciting time doing it.
Blending historical fact with dramatic and readable fiction is no easy task but the writer accomplishes it beautifully in this book. You feel the sad magnetism of Mary, Queen of Scots and the dedication and frustration of Sir Francis Knollys, her host and/or jailer.
I found this to be a really good read from a writer who really understands this period in history.


Pride and Prescience (Mr & Mrs Darcy Mystery)
Pride and Prescience (Mr & Mrs Darcy Mystery)
by Carrie Bebris
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Regency and mystery..., 1 Jun 2004
This book will be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates the gentle feminine wit of Jane Austen. The story and its characters are set in the Regency world left behind by Jane. This is a refined, drawing room tale, with overtones of detection and Gothic mystery.
The writer has tried to write in the same vein as Jane Austen, but there are a few jarring lapses. It's hard to maintain the accuracy and tone when you're a couple of hundred years after and a couple of thousand miles away.
The writer manages to convey the social scene and offers acute observation of social interactions. Some of her characters are less than finely drawn, though, and this can be a distraction. But the plot holds up well and this makes an intriguing story, interestingly told.


Bride and Groom (Dog Lover's Mysteries)
Bride and Groom (Dog Lover's Mysteries)
by Susan Conant
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Champion!, 31 May 2004
I've read all of Susan Conant's books and this is one of the best. Maybe the plot got a little confabulated at the end, but that's a minor point. This is a really good read for an animal lover. The writer has such warmth for her dogs, as well as for her human friends, that reading this is like basking in the warm sun. Even the villains were quite nice, you couldn't really hate and revile them.
The writer has assembled an interesting cast of characters who appear in this series, and she has the knack of getting her readers involved in their lives so that we really care about Rita's love-life and Althea's health as well as Holly and Steve and their dogs. For once I can actually remember who the characters are when I pick up the book again - I find them well drawn and very true to life. I enjoyed her digs at the intellectual elitism of the town, and her irreverent attitude to most things, including her own wedding.
This was a very pleasant, light read. The love of dogs shone through it and made me realize how much my own dog means to me.


Dangerous Sea
Dangerous Sea
by David Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 25 May 2004
This review is from: Dangerous Sea (Hardcover)
The action in this mystery novel takes place on the maiden voyage of the liner Queen Mary, and the most interesting aspect of the book is the information that the writer provides about the ship. This is lucky because he frequently interrupts the action to take the reader on a tour of the kitchens or some other part of the ship.
Otherwise I found this book boring. There's lots of action, mind you, and at stake is nothing less that the future of the western world prior to World War Two. There are characters from the highest ranks of Britain (the detective is a Lord) and Hollywood. There's lots of action, with a violent storm at sea (get the symbolism? huh?) and dead bodies all over.
I won't reveal the plot because I've forgotten it already, but as you may have guessed the western world was saved by the strength and sagacity of Milord. We are truly fortunate that the British aristocracy has produced so many fine detectives.


A Garden from Hundred Packets of Seed
A Garden from Hundred Packets of Seed
by James Fenton
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant, 21 May 2004
This is a pleasant little book; basically a series of essays on the writer's one hundred favourite plants that can quite easily be purchased and grown from seed.
I enjoyed the personal approach to gardening and plants, and also the relaxed random-ness of it. The snobbery of design and planning, of garden bones and vistas, does not hold this writer in thrall. He knows and loves plants, and he wrote these essays about them.
In truth there isn't much substance here, but it makes a pleasing, quick read, and the book would make a nice little gift for a friend.


A Truthful Injustice
A Truthful Injustice
by Jeffrey Ashford
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent, 5 May 2004
This review is from: A Truthful Injustice (Hardcover)
This book works well on more than one level, juxtaposing truth and justice and offering insights into both within the framework of mystery fiction. We meet a thoroughly honourable policeman, faced with an ethical dilemma. We meet a family, full of well-meaning complexities and a son-in-law who is beyond their pale.
This is an English mystery and a fairly quick read. The writer doesn't bog down on his theme, his characters are portrayed carefully and there is a happy ending, if you care for such things.
This isn't great fiction but it's a competent piece of work, with more depth than usual, and it's a good read.


Hot Dog (Thorndike Paperback)
Hot Dog (Thorndike Paperback)
by Laurien Berenson
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A day brightener, 5 May 2004
I've enjoyed most of Laurien Berenson's books, and this one was better again. - she really is maturing as a writer. The dialogue is great and she brings just the right amount of "attitude" to Melanie Travis.
The plus is that this is a doggy book. Melanie inhabits a world of dogs and doggy people. If you've ever been part of that life you'll enjoy this book even more.
This was a delightful quick, light read - a day brightener.


Wine of Violence
Wine of Violence
by Outlet
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting new writer, 5 May 2004
This review is from: Wine of Violence (Hardcover)
This is a book from a new writer who has got closer than most to the true atmosphere of life in a medieval religious community. If you enjoy mysteries set in medieval days, give this one a try. The characters are solid and believable. The settings and dialogue are well-researched and accurate.
It's difficult, when you write a book about a time several hundred years ago, to portray accurately the feeling of a very different time while realizing that human nature is basically much the same now as it was then. There were greedy people, lazy people, untrustworthy people. We know the type, we see them and their effects every day. What we don't see is a huge section of the population desperately clinging to religion to save them from the fires of hell. The writer straddles this dichotomy very well.
Her characters are so well realized that I'm hoping to meet many of them again in future books


Hollyhocks and Honeybees: Garden Projects for Young Children
Hollyhocks and Honeybees: Garden Projects for Young Children
by Sara Starbuck
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful for teachers of young children, 20 April 2004
This book was written by three women who developed a garden for youngchildren in southern Illinois. They offer lots of ideas and suggestions,mostly based on their experience. The reader feels that they have beenthrough it all - applying for grants, working around bureaucracy, beingallotted an awkward piece of land, searching for donations. And they havecome up with a valuable guidebook that starts by answering the question"Why Garden?"
The second chapter deals with engaging children in gardening and the bookthen goes on to planning and building a garden, working with children inthe garden, frequently asked questions and a great section on universalgarden learning experiences that can be undertaken in any garden. Theseare really valuable to anyone teaching a child a love of plants andgardening.
The book ends with some recipes for eating what has been grown, andgenerous lists of references and resources.
This is by far the most useful book on gardening with children that I havefound. It is comprehensive and leads the reader from concept, through thechallenges to the many valuable learning experiences involved in gardeningwith children.


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