Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Frances Fyfield, a attorney in England, has written a long list of novels but this one is my own itroduction to her work.  It won't be the last one I read; I'm very impressed with her style, her characters, and her plot.

This is quite a mystery.  You learn a little at a time about the background of the lawyer who has jumped from a hotel balcony in a bright red skirt,  She had recently successfully defended a man accused of rape, torture, and kidnapping.  Unfortunately, his victim had been so destroyed by him and his lawyer that she committed suicide during the trial.  Afterward, the lawyer threatened to write a book telling the whole truth.  Her client was a horrible man, guilty as sin, who needed to find and destroy any information she had.

You meet her sister and parents and many other characters that you begin to feel you've known forever.  The sister, Henrietta, is called Hen.  She knows more about fabrics and fashion than anyone and makes her living sewing, designing and/or redesigning clothes, and cleaning stains from them.  She loves to take a still serviceable but outdated garment and make another out of it.  She tried to save her sister Angel but was unable to.

Descriptions of places, Hen's living quarters, a museum, the parents' home, and a, for lack of a better term, love nest are fascinating.  Having said that, I do believe that you will either fall under the spell and love this book, or find it much too slow.

The bad guy in this story is one of the most truly evil villains I've ever read about.  Thinking of him still gives me the creeps.  I guess it's kind of a delicious creepiness.

Source:  Publisher via Partners in Crime Book Tours

Friday, November 22, 2013


Product Details

This wonderful book is the love story of Robert Louis Stevenson (who liked to be called Louis) and his American wife Fanny.  It begins with her childhood and first marriage, a disaster.  The only good to come from her adulterous first husband was three children, Belle, Samuel Lloyd, and little Hervey.  When she had had enough of the humiliation of living in the miners' camp where her husband had blown all their money and where the prostitutes he spent most of his time with lived, she packed up the children and went to Europe hoping to learn to paint.  In Paris Hervey died of TB, and she learned of a lakeside resort where artists went for the summer so off they went again.  At the resort she met Louis.  He fell in love with her immediately but it took a while for her to return that love.

As the saying goes, the course of true love has its ups and downs, or something like that.  Fanny and Louis had a tough life, first because her husband made it difficult for her to get a divorce so they could get married.  Then there was always the major problem of Louis' health.  He had severe lung disease and would occasionally fall ill and hemorrhage from his lungs.  Fanny saved his life many times.  You may have the same problem I had with the fact that both Louis and Fanny smoked until the day they each died.  For such intelligent people to be so ignorant of the fact that smoke cannot be good for your lungs was hard to accept, but realistic in the late 19th century.

They eventually learned that the only time he was really healthy was when they were at sea.  Unfortunately, she was always seasick, but she insisted they take long cruises to the South Sea Islands for his health.  They lived on various islands for short times, then settled in Samoa.  (I had always thought it was Tahiti.)  They built a house on a large tract of mountainside land.  Louis was very healthy there and actually got involved with a dispute about leadership of the natives, most of whom loved him.  It was Fanny who fell ill there, actually suffering a horrible mental collapse.  She did recover but was never the same.

The fascinating part of their love story is how she sacrificed so much for him and yet he never recognized her writing talent, dismissing it as not good enough to publish.  Everything was done for him, to make it easier for him to write.  She gardened as her creative outlet.  Very late he realized that he had done her an awful disservice and tried to make up for it.  Family gathered wherever they were; it was vitally important to him since he knew he could never go back to Scotland.

This lovely book will be out in January, but you can preorder it now.  Horan's writing style rolls along smoothly and she captures well the deeply felt emotions Louis and Fanny endured.  The scene of his death practically had me in tears.  I encourage you to read this.

I've been on such a streak lately with wonderful books that you'll begin to think I like everything I read.  Not so, but I am getting better at selecting books.

Highly recommended
Source:  Won from LibraryThing

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I was surprised that only two readers entered my giveaway for Aunty Lee's Delights.  However, that does make selecting a winner for each of the two books easy, doesn't it?

Jill (Rhapsody in Books) and Kathy (Bermudaonion) will each receive a copy soon, but I will need your mailing address.  Please email it to me at freedomacres94 at frontiernet dot net and I will ship your copy right away.  By the way, there is a recipe as well as a nice interview with the author in the back.

Congratulations, Jill and Kathy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I requested this paperback book after reading Gore's A Criminal Defense which I enjoyed.  I wasn't disappointed at all.  Gore is a former private investigator and that shows in his plots.  His hero is Harlan Donnally, a good man trying to make up for what he sees as the errors of his father's ways.  Dad is a legendary Hollywood movie maker, famous particularly for a movie about Vietnam that Donnally believes got his brother killed in action.  

In this story Donnally's friend Mauricio Aguilera confesses on his deathbed to having lived a lie. His name isn't even his real name.  Aguilera tells his good friend that he killed his father when he was a boy because he came home to find his father molesting his little sister.  Then he took her to a sort of commune where he felt they would take care of her and not go to the police.  He has lived ever since wondering if she is all right and whether the police are looking for him to charge him with murder.  He hands Donnally a letter and begs him to deliver it to his sister.

That sets our hero off on a search that leads him into ever more fascinating stories.  There is a mentally ill man who was charged with murdering Mauricio's sister.  The system has abandoned the man and his life has been hell.  The people from the commune also have an interesting story and a sad one.  They are also hiding from the world.  Then Donnally picks up a thread in his investigation that will lead him to an organization of men who molest boys.  Donnally's world is a cruel one.  However, the local deputy where he lives is a bumbling fool determined to find evidence against him on anything and that provides a few smiles.  We need those light moments, and we also need the closeness Donnally finds with his Vietnamese girlfriend as an escape from the sadness.

Don't let that sadness keep you from reading this excellent mystery though.  I was glued to the book and yet didn't want it to end.  The varied characters are beautifully drawn and seem real, and Donnally's reasons for every move are realistic though of course heroic.  The evil people in this story are truly evil; you'll hate them with a vengeance.  Please do read Steven Gore's books.

Highly recommended
Source:  HarperCollins

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Subtitled "A County Guides Mystery," this e-book is one of HarperCollins new Witness Impulse imprint.  I will be trying several titles from this imprint in the next few weeks, hoping that the books will be good reads.  This is a good start.

The story begins in London in the 1930s and then moves to Blakeney, a village in Norfolk County.  Stephen Sefton, our narrator, has been hired as an assistant to famous author Swanton Morley.  Sefton has no particular background for the position since he neglected his education, drifted, flirted with Communism when he thought he should do something serious, went off to Spain to fight in the civil war, came home disillusioned, and drifted again.  He is penniless and has no prospects when he answers Morley's ad in the paper.  This will change his life.

Swanton Morley is a pompous bore who talks nonstop whether anyone is interested or not.  He's also loud so no one can avoid hearing his sometimes controversial views, but he is oblivious to any objection.  His daughter, Miriam, has a small role in the story but since she is her father's exact opposite, she provides comic relief.

Morley has decided his next project, after countless books on various topics, will be a set pf guides to all the counties in England.  To research the series, he and Sefton, along with Miriam on occasion, will travel to all the counties.  They set off in Morley's car with his portable desk surrounding him, on which a typewriter is secured.  He talks and types, and makes me tired.  I just couldn't stand him at first, but eventually I was caught up in the story and could see the subtle humor in his stream of conscientiousness.  

I like Sefton.  He provides the common sense as well as the compassion Morley lacks.  There are photographs throughout the book, taken apparently in the 1930s.  The mystery doesn't begin until the 28% mark when they find the body of a Church of England minister hanging in his church.  At that point the story takes off and more interesting characters are introduced.  This isn't the greatest mystery in the world, but it is witty and a good read.

Source:  Witness Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Sometimes I wonder why I continue to read psychological thrillers.  I nearly had a heart attack reading this one.  When I know a character has a mental disorder so no one can predict what he or she might do next, it just scares the heck out of me.  In this expertly crafted thriller, I couldn't even decide which of my suspects was the threat for sure until late in the book.

The heroine is Julia Stilwell, a freshman at Stradler College in Pennsylvania.  She's a bit of a loner and certainly not like the other girls in that she doesn't care about make-up, the latest gossip, or even chatting about classes.  She does get along well with her roommate, and the fact that she always has a witty comeback to any remark helps.  Her roommate's boyfriend seems to have an eye for Julia but only once does he cross the line, and he has an excuse for that.

Then a girl is raped on campus and everyone is extra careful about only walking around with others.  Julia lives just off campus and ignores the need for caution but is nervous walking alone.  She has made a friend at music classes named Marcus and another one who works at the snack bar.  His name is Sam.  Both are a little odd, definitely  not popular, and that makes Julia more comfortable with them.

Julia's background provides the explanation for why she is the way she is.  I don't want to spoil the book by telling you about it except to say it gives her very low self esteem and a scar on her upper lip that inhibits her from playing her beloved trumpet.  In fact she had planned to play professionally.

All through the book I knew something horrible was going to happen, probably to Julia, but I didn't know when, how, or even why.  I read carefully, gleaning clues, and still I was surprised at the way it turned out.  This is really a good story, but don't read it at night alone.

Highly recommended
Source:  Publisher via Partners in Crime Book Tours

Monday, November 4, 2013


There is only one problem with Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski novels.  She can't write them fast enough for me.  Every time I think she's decide to abandon the series, finally another one is published and I'm happy again.

This one, Critical Mass, is her best yet in my opinion.  As usual, it takes place in Chicago and takes me back to that city I love.  However, there are flashbacks to Austria during WW II.  If you have read this series, you know that one of her best friends is Dr. Lotty Herschel who grew up in Vienna and escaped with many other children on the Kindertransport to London in 1939.  She lost her family in the Holocaust.  

Now Lotty is trying to help another woman, the daughter of another child who escaped with her.  She asks V. I. to help and with good reason.  What a messed up family.  The mother is a recluse who thinks evil people are after her.  The daughter is a drug addict.  Then there is a son, Martin, who is brilliant like his great-grandmother, Martina Saginor, a physicist.  He has disappeared suddenly and is probably in great danger.

I don't have room to go into the other people and companies involved in this great novel, but the story is gripping.  One truly evil character was a closet Nazi.  She delighted in torturing Jews such as Martina who were caught and imprisoned.  The last she knew, Martina was on a train bound for Sobibor for execution.  Whether you know the history of Austria during the Nazi occupation or not, you will be horrified.

One thing I enjoyed in this novel was getting to know Lotty better, as well as her friend Max.  It was edge of your seat time following V.I. as she tried to find Martin and learn the story of his family.  This story even takes V. I. and her musician boyfriend/neighbor to Vienna.

Highly recommended
Source:  LibraryThing win