Tag Archives: summer reading

Have Faith

body in the birches

The Body in the Birches: A Faith Fairchild Mystery by Katherine Hall Page (William Morris, $24.99, 242 pages)

Prolific author Katherine Hall Page places her title character, Faith Fairchild, into the middle of an extended family squabble over a lovely Maine vacation home called The Birches. The Sanpere Island retreat has been in the Proctor family for many generations, its value increasing with each passing decade. The death of Priscilla Proctor Maxwell was the triggering event in the squabble. Priscilla, a pragmatist, left specific instructions in her will that nixed the notion of sharing the retreat among the various family members. She felt that would only lead to friction around who would use it, and when, and who would pay for the upkeep and repairs.

Paul Maxwell, Priscilla’s widower, has been directed to gather the extended family during July with the intent of selecting the best recipient of The Birches. The second most important character, Sophie Maxwell, a lawyer who’s taking a break from corporate legal life, goes to The Birches at the urging of her mother. Sophie and her mother are contenders for the retreat. The rest of the family runs the gamut from greedy to vicious.

Faith Fairchild, daughter of a minister and wife of a minister, is in the midst of a remodel to the modest Sampere Island vacation home that she, her husband and children cherish. During the remodel, Faith and the children are staying with a dear friend who happens to live next door to The Birches. Surprise, Faith stumbles across a dead body in the woods that separate the two houses. Thus begins Faith’s sleuthing.

Along the way, there are accusations, suspicions and the involvement of the great-nephew of Paul Maxwell that spice up the interactions of the characters. No spoiler alerts here!

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The Body in the Birches is a worthy read for a summer vacation at the beach or in the mountains. The author does an excellent job of creating a sense of place and peoples it with well-developed and interesting characters.

Well recommended.

body in the wardrobe amazon

The Body in the Wardrobe: A Faith Fairchild Mystery by Katherine Hall Page (William Morrow, $25.99, 237 pages)

This installment of the series features Sophie Maxwell as she begins to acclimate in her new hometown of Savannah, Georgia. Sophie has taken up residence in a house that is being fixed up by her new mother-in-law. Yes, Sophie has married. No, I’m not going to reveal who she has married as that will be a definite spoiler for readers who are working their way through the series and haven’t yet read The Body in the Birches. All you need to know is that Sophie is surrounded by a very tight clique of locals who delight in reminding her of her outside/Yankee status.

Savannah is possibly best known as a city with ghosts and spirits that haunt older homes. There are several references within this story to the wonderful book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. Sophie has her own up close and personal encounter with a dead man in the large wardrobe upstairs in one of the bedrooms of the house where she and her husband are living until they find a place of their own to purchase.

Sadly, few of Sophie’s new acquaintances, and most-notably her husband, do not believe that she has found a dead body. That’s because it vanishes before the police arrive in response to her call for assistance. There are more instances that set Sophie’s nerves on edge and she reaches out to her new friend Faith Fairchild for moral support and assistance. Faith is having a tough time dealing with her kids and husband. Together, Faith and Sophie bolster each other’s morale and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the disappearing body.

body in the wardrobe back

This book will be appreciated most by readers who love the South and have an acquaintance with Savannah. The author knows her topic and presents it seamlessly while putting her characters through their paces.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

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Who Let the Dogs Out

Three Guys to Take Along on Vacation

Who let

Who Let the Dog Out?: An Andy Carpenter Mystery by David Rosenfelt (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 336 pages)

And they’re off… Andy, Laurie, Rick and the two dogs are back with a strange dilemma at the Tara Foundation Shelter. Cheyenne, a lost dog, took up residence at Andy’s shelter only to be spirited away by a professional burglar.

David Rosenfelt is back to his funny and wise cracking self as he spins the tale of a murder and a missing pooch. This, the 13th Andy Carpenter mystery, is every bit as fresh and engaging as the ones that preceded it. Rosenfelt makes his characters vulnerable in a writing style that is easy to enjoy.

This is a book that’s an excellent read over a lazy weekend or during a week away on vacation.

Well recommended.

World gone by

World Gone: A Novel by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow, $27.99, 320 pages)

Indeed, the world of his third book in a trilogy by Dennis Lehane has gone by. The time is World War II and the settings include Cuba and Tampa, Florida. The fact that a war is raging affects both the good and evil people who move through this tale. The notion that war takes the best men for duty thus leaving the less competent behind at home is applicable to gangs of criminals. This is an aspect of war that has never occurred to this reviewer before.

The location during Lehane’s chosen time frame is not one this reader considered particularly compelling or relevant for today. Perhaps with U.S.-Cuban relations resuming the connection between the main character, Joe Coughlin, and Cuba has some merit. Coughlin has business challenges not unlike his counterparts in the legitimate business world.

Dennis Lehane is a very well known author (12 books, four of which have been made into movies). He seasons this tale, World Gone By, with abundant background and biographical information about his characters – thieves, murderers, and extortionists. The pace is slow and a bit plodding. As the plot develops, the reader becomes aware of the human foibles and quirks of these “bad guys.” They should be despicable but Lehane sympathetically portrays the people behind their life situations.

Recommended for Lehane fans.

dead simple

Dead Simple: The First Thriller in the Acclaimed Roy Grace Series by Peter James (Minotaur Books, $9.99, 457 pages)

Claustrophobia warning! Author Peter James casts his story lines one by one to set up a race against the suffocation death of Mike Harrison, a bridegroom and prankster, who is being dealt some serious playback by his buddies just days prior to his wedding.

Crisp dialogue with the right balance of details and description keep the action going. A third person narrator leads the reader through the crash of the bachelor party van and the deadly aftermath. Readers will settle in with Detective Superintendent Roy Grace while he addresses the disappearance of Mike Harrison.

Dead Simple is the first in a nine volume series by James featuring Roy Grace. Clearly, this thriller has piqued this reviewer’s interest. Here’s hoping the rest of the series matches up with this splendid beginning.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Yesterday When I Was Young

Time Flies: A Novel by Claire Cook (Touchstone, $24.99, 303 pages)

“…nobody knows you better than someone who knew you back then.”

Time Flies (nook book)

If you’re about to attend a high school or college reunion, you may want to prepare yourself by reading Claire Cook’s rollicking and engaging tale. (Cook is the author of Must Love Dogs, which was made into a film with John Cusack and Diane Lane, and Wallflower in Bloom. She began writing at the age of forty-five.)

This is the story of Melanie, a happily married woman living in a beach town in New England. She’s happy until her husband informs her that she’s being dumped for another woman. Melanie is so crushed that she refuses to work out the separation/divorce arrangements with her husband.

It appears that Melanie is going to wallow in her pain and discomfort — augmented by heavy doses of alcohol — until she gets an e-mail message from Finn Miller, a guy that she had a crush on in high school. This is the same guy who barely noticed her back in the day. Now Finn tells Melanie that he’s been having dreams about her (“…we started making out… Was I a good kisser?”) and can’t wait to see her at their upcoming high school reunion.

To get to the reunion, Melanie and her BFF B.J. decide to drive a classic Mustang through several states; this in itself is a fun ride. “After accompanying Melanie and B.J. on their hysterical road trip, readers will feel like they’ve made friends for life.” (Kirkus Reviews) B.J., a self-anointed expert, produces some funny lists of things that one should and should not do at a high-school reunion. But she and Melanie are equally unprepared for what’s about to happen once they encounter their former friends and classmates.

“I hadn’t realized just how many hopes I’d pinned on the reunion until the bubble burst. It was ridiculous, but it still left me feeling lost and rudderless.”

What does it mean that Melanie suddenly goes from having no one to three different suitors? And how is it that “know-it-all” B.J. crashes and burns during prime time? You’ll need to read this uplifting chick-lit book to find out. Suffice it to say that Claire Cook’s novel helps to explain why some must revisit the past before being ready to encounter — and accept — what life holds for them in the future.

“Reading Claire Cook might be the most fun you have all summer.” Elin Hilderbrand. True. Grab this read before the summer is over!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Charming, engagingly quirky, and full of fun. Claire Cook just gets it.” Meg Cabot

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Coming Up Next…

Time Flies (audible audio lg.)

A review of Time Flies: A Novel by Claire Cook, author of Must Love Dogs and Wallflower in Bloom.

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Coming Up Next…

Proof of Guilt (small)Lost

A look at mysteries that may be perfect for summer reading!

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Fire Lake

The Lake House: A Novel by Marci Nault (Gallery Books, $16.00, 386 pages)

The Lake House (nook book)

In The Lake House, two women, generations apart, struggle with finding a true home — a structure and a place in their hearts. The older woman, Victoria Rose, is a beautiful and talented actress who chose to leave her home by Lake Nagog near Acton, MA, at the end of World War II. Victoria was escaping the smothering and predetermined life that lay ahead for her. Being a wife and mother within the confines of a wealthy and isolated community held little appeal for her. Now in her seventies, she returns to Lake Nagog to heal the deeply felt pains of loss brought on by the death of her granddaughter.

Heather Bregman, a successful 28-year-old newspaper columnist, is suffocating in her relationship with fiancé and agent Charlie. Heather is a travel writer whose adventures are exciting and challenging. She feels invisible and hardly cared for when Charlie neglects to pick her up at the airport after a long trip.

The backdrop for the intersection of the lives of Victoria and Heather is a small, closed community on Lake Nagog. Until recently, the ownership of the lovely cottages that border the lake has been passed down through generations. Now, one of the cottages is sold to an outsider to the consternation of the elderly residents. To make matters more volatile, the new owner is Heather! She has broken her engagement to Charlie and hopes to find a more stable and meaningful life along the lake.

Both Heather and Rose are outsiders of a sort. Each of them is yearning for a life that feels just right. Their efforts to fit in and settle their lives form the basis for the tale. Author Marci Nault is a master of layered detail and sentiment. She knows just when to pull back from an excess that would break the spell she has cast.

The Lake House is an excellent choice for a summer vacation read.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher. “A richly textured novel about love, friendship, and second chances that spans generations.” Mary Alice Munroe, author of The Summer Girls.

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Cucumber Castle

Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter (Blotto, Twinks #1) by Simon Brett (Felony & Mayhem, $14.95, 211 pages)

The treacherous footman Pottinger has been impaled by a dagger in the library!   “Who by?” asked Blotto.   Then remembering that he had been at Eaton, he amended his question to, “By whom?”

The back cover of this book might read, “Camp and spoofy, while altogether enjoyable!”   No serious effort is required to read the rather small volume that author, Simon Brett, hails as “the first Blotto and Twinks mystery.”   The publisher is Felony and Mayhem which is a clue to the tone of their books.

Blotto and his sister Twinks are the son and daughter of the Dowager Duchess of Tawcester (pronounced “taster”).   Being dim-witted and handsome is Blotto’s curse and blessing.   His sister Twinks is both beautiful and brainy which makes her the detective while he is merely there as window dressing.   The period piece is set in England between the first and second world wars.   The Dowager Duchess follows through on the obligation of her landed gentry’s class by entertaining house guests of lesser social standing.   The ex-king of Mitteleuropa and his entourage are beginning to outstay their welcome when the inevitable happens.   A murder victim is found quite by accident by Blotto is his ancestral home.

The mayhem and subsequent murders that occur serve to heighten the potential for puns, class snobbery and altogether good jokes.   Author Brett has been a fixture in British radio and television.   He has also written three detective novels prior to this, and his latest, Blotto, Twinks and the Dead Dowager Duchess (Blotto, Twinks #2).   Brett definitely qualifies for the designation “prolific.”

The volume size and excellent writing make this book ideal for summer reading.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Brett’s latest is a complete wow…  comic in an ebullient yet still sardonic, P. G. Wodehouse way…”   Booklist

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