Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English

By Natasha Solomon
Little, Brown, and Company
June 21, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-07758-3
368 pages

The best time for living in Berlin and being a Jew probably would not have been at the beginning of World War II. However, that is where Jack and Sadie Rosenblum found themselves with their young daughter, Elizabeth. The three of them along with Sadie’s immediate family asked to leave for England. The family was allowed three exit visas. It was decided that Jack, Sadie, and Elizabeth should go leaving Sadie’s parents and brother in a futile situation.
Upon arriving in London the family receives a pamphlet which attempts to give advice on how to best become English. Jack immediately discovers that the British tend to stay to themselves and do not really want Jews immigrating into their society. Jack thrusts himself into learning the language and the people. He is convinced that if he were accepted into a country club to golf, then he would be fully English. Jack also has never played golf in his life. He speaks only English, buys Savile Row suits, has an elegant vehicle, and owns his own carpet-making business. Continually, he is still trying to fit in and be a part of a country club, but not one club will accept this small Jewish man as a member.
Finally, Jack decides to take another avenue towards acceptance. Since no club will take him as a member, he’ll just build his own golf course which will entail others wanting a membership from him.
He quickly moves his wife and daughter to Dorset where they live in a “charming” house surrounded by land for the golf course. “Charming” is in the eye of the beholder as the house’s roofing leaks, there are birds in the house, no running water, and it is filthy. This is far from Sadie’s dream which was their home in London.
The characters are wonderful in MR. ROSENBLUM DREAMS IN ENGLISH. Each one has a distinct voice with their own quirky attributes that makes them flawed, but lovable. The writing is lavishing done. The pacing perfectly matches the story. MR. ROSENBLUM DREAMS IN ENGLISH is truly a gem.
Natasha Solomons based this story on her own grandparents. The affection and realism of each character is demonstrated on every page. I look forward to many more books by this author.

Teri Davis May 30, 2010

Remembering the Ladies

By Ann Covell
Outskirts Press
March 31, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5402-0
324 pages
$ 18.95

Jackie Kennedy changed how our nation views First Ladies. Her natural elegance and poise created an almost magical charm that made each person believe in the government doing the right thing for every person. The sequential First Ladies have taken her example and changed it to meet the needs of the times while constantly balancing the needs of their family, their husband, the press, and their country.

This was not so though for Martha Washington through Francis Cleveland. Their situations were much different with developing the country and customs. Without the luxury of modern appliances, many of the wives were caring for a large family, their own land, and now the added responsibility of being the hostess for a new country.

In REMEMBERING THE LADIES, each chapter focuses on the positive attributes as well as the challenges. Also important, were the ladies who greatly took time from their families to meet the needs for our country and the President. Why were some successful and others were barely surviving in the Washington limelight? From numerous slavery issues, to bigamy, assassinations, snubs, suffrage, and seating charts, each left their mark on the country is even some small way.

REMEMBERING THE LADIES read as fiction even though it is obviously factual and well-researched. Each vignette tells of the background, how they met their spouse, rumors, challenges, and a general overview about each person. With twenty-two subjects, the pictures help tremendously in relating to each. Also, there is much history into each presidency from the woman’s point-of-view, especially during a war or an economic struggle..

Ann Covell lives in both the UK and Spain. She spends time writing for regional magazines and newspaper in both countries. This is her first book.

Personally, I look forward to the next book in this series.

Teri Davis May 30, 2010

Sweet Misfortune

By Kevin Alan Milne
Center Street
Hatchett Book Group
June 10, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59995-297-0
288 pages
$ 19.99

Lasting happiness only, Nothing that fleets.
Please send suggestions to ……………….

“The world may be your oyster, but your oyster lacks the pearl.”

Sometimes life makes lemonade out of lemons. That is exactly what Sophia Jones has done. She owns a chocolate store and after being jilted at almost the altar, she went back to her store and created the “Misfortune Cookie” with a depressing fortune and covered with a bitter chocolate. To her surprise, these were a hit and people love them.

Sophie’s parents were killed in a car accident on her ninth birthday so she has difficulty aging as she meets each birthday. For her 29th-birthday, her best friend, Evalynn, accompanies her to work and spends the day helping, really “munching” throughout the day. However, Sophie was not prepared for Evalynn’s surprise. When her former fiancé, Garrett, appeared in the shop, Sophie was really wondering about why Evalynn would allow such a thing.

When Garrett broke off their engagement, Sophie was given no explanation. He just disappeared from her life. Now Garrett wants a date with Sophie to explain his actions. She comes up with an idea about what happiness is and if he wants the date, he will have to place an ad in the local newspaper asking for people’s responses about happiness. If she receives one hundred acceptable answers, she will go on the one date with Garrett. If there are not a hundred, oh well.

SWEET MISFORTUNES is Sophie’s journey into what caused her parents’ death and what will make her happy. This is also just fun to read. Sophie’s pessimism is so realistic and her attitude makes the character likable, but spunky.

This book is for anyone who needs to get over the past to move on with their life. The storyline is romantic, yet comical. SWEET MISFORTUNE would be the perfect summer beach book.

Teri Davis May 30, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Death Without Tenure

By Joanne Dobson
Poisoned Pen Press
January 2010
Hardover, ISBN: 978-1-59058-585-6, 240 pages, $24.95
Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1-59058-709-6, 240 pages, $14.95
Large Type Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1-59058-586-3, 340 pages, $22.95

After spending six years teaching at Enfield College, Professor Karen Pelletier is finally seeing an opportunity for security, she is eligible for tenure. After publishing many articles, she feels that this should be a logical next step and that there should be no objections. She feels betrayed when she learns that she is not favored for receiving tenure, but that another professor who has published nothing will be the choice. He has one advantage that she does not have. Professor Joe Lone Wolf is from a minority.

What’s the logical thing to do now? She immerses herself in her classes and prepares her box for the tenure application process anyway. With her daughter traveling in Nepal and her fiancé in Iraq, Karen is grateful for her friendship with Earlene, the dean of students at Enfield to take away some of the loneliness.

Unfortunately, Joe Lone Wolf is found dead. So who would gain the most by his death? Karen quickly discovers that she has the most logical motive for wanting someone dead. Her logical choice then is to investigate his death before she is arrested for it.

The character of Professor Karen Pelletier was exceptional especially with her personal relationship with two students. One was a Muslim woman and the other was a coal-miner’s son whose college and future depended strictly on his scholarship.

By my count, this is the sixth mystery to feature Karen Pelletier, an English professor at Enfield College. Other books in this series are QUIETER THAN SLEEP, THE NORTHBURY PAPERS, THE RAVEN AND THE NIGHTINGALE, COLD AND PURE AND VERY DEAD, and the Agatha finalist, THE MALTESE MANUSCRIPT. Being that this is a part of a series, I was surprised at how well this novel worked as a alone without knowledge of the previous books. The characterizations are well-written and not repetitive or skimpy.

The pacing is quick. The book is engaging and enjoyable to read. The only unclear stem was the computer that was taken by the police. Another computer, a laptop, magically appeared but apparently did not have the job related information that was needed. If something was important to keep, wouldn’t most of us have the information backed up on a flash drive?

Joanne Dobson lives in Brewster, New York and teaches English at Fordham University.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


By Tom Jokinen
Da Capo Press
Perseus Books Group
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-306-81891-2
280 pages

The most expensive purchases for the average American in their lifetime is in order, their house, their car, and their funeral. At least with a house and car, there is something physical that you can touch and expect the envy of your friends and neighbors. Most of us can understand the house and the car, but who is envious about someone’s casket or urn? What choices do you have?
Tom Jokinen is/was a journalist who decided to research the funeral business. His initial plan seemed to research and write an updated sequel to Jessica Mitford’s THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH which was published in 1963. His plan was to work inside a funeral home/ crematorium and to learn about the basics of this industry. Also, Mr. Jokinen even attended a conference for mortuary directors in Las Vegas.
With a humorous voice, CURTAINS is informative and thought-provoking. The practical aspect was eye-opening about what really happens during a cremation. Also, the choices are amazing and I was surprised about some aspects that were previously unknown to me. What really happens to a body after dying is graphically and lightly discussed.
Critically, yes, the book is about the funeral business, but I expected some mention of the donations of organs and bodies choosing to be donated for scientific research.
My concern was that this research problem is biased and does not really discuss the importance of closure during the grieving process. Though morbid, I found the book fascinating in the discussions.
This book is for anyone who is still undecided about whether to be cremated or to be buried. What are the customary practices for your area? CURTAINS allows you to visit the back rooms of the mortuary and to view the process from the business aspect. The knowledge about the customary practices allows each of us to best choose what is best for each of us.
Overall, I enjoyed this book of reflections about the business of dying, rather than a dying business.

Teri Davis May 22, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010


By Maggie Sefton
Berkley Prime Crime
June 2010
ISBN: 978-0-425-23438-9
304 pages

Some people seem to have the knack to instantaneously know people. Kelly Flynn has that ability. She has successfully settled in Fort Connor, Colorado and is working as an accountant. She is successful enough that she has the time to pursue her interest in knitting and even helps out at the House of Lambspun. Her life is perfect, almost, except for her boyfriend being in financial straits and not accepting any assistance from anyone.

Kelly lives near a golf course and has an unusual incident one night when she discovered someone on her back patio who is not responding to any conversation. The young woman is hospitalized and treated for drug abuse. As the woman, Holly, attempts to change her life, she also becomes involved with the people at the House of Lambspun. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, Holly, is found dead near Kelly’s house. Why? Apparently she died due to a drug overdose. So, who gave her the drugs? Kelly is determined to find out.

SKEIN OF THE CRIME is the eighth book in this series of knitting mysteries. The book is easily understood as a lone novel, however, the character relationships and images probably would have been more distinct if the other books are read prior to this one. Without having read the first book, I found myself floundering with images of each character. This is a common problem with series. How do you describe and introduce the characters without boring your loyal readers? There is a character list at the beginning of the novel, but it does not have any physical descriptions which I personally need. Along with this is a slight problem of Holly’s physical description. For the first hundred pages, she is blond. Then, she is “dark-haired” and finally she returns to being blond.

The novel also has a recipe for carrot cake and directions for how to knit a scarf. Along with various knitting procedures and the cooking of delicious dishes, this is an enjoyable book. I would categorize SKEIN OF THE CRIME as a cozy as it is fairly low-keyed and low-violence. The crime is one of distributing drugs so that is dangerous but not terrifying.

Maggie Sefton lives in the Rocky Mountains with her daughters and dogs.

The series begins with KNIT ONE, KILL TWO as the introductory first book. NEEDLED TO DEATH, A DEADLY YARN, A KILLER STITCH, DYER CONSEQUENCES, FLEECE NAVIDAD, and DROPPED DEAD STITCH complete the first seven books of “A KNITTING MYSTERY”.

Would I consider reading another in this series? Yes, I definitely enjoyed SKEIN OF THE CRIME.

Teri Davis May 15, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010


By Mark Schweizer
St. James Music Press
March 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9844846-0-7
192 pages

Who said that reading always has to be serious? Definitely not Mark Schweizer.
THE ORGANIST WORE PUMPS is the eighth book in his set of liturgical mysteries set around the Episcopal Church of St. Germaine which features the protagonist, Hayden Konig. The books are well-written and just fun to read. Even though this is book eight, this novel can be enjoyed without reading the first seven, but you’re missing many laughs by not reading all of them.

THE ORGANIST WORE PUMPS continues the story of Hayden Konig who lives in a rural town located in the mountains of North Carolina. For an assortment of reasons, Hayden is independently wealthy but continues to be employed as the head of the local police department while also being choir director and organist at the Episcopal church. He also keeps his gun in the organ bench.

Hayden dreams of being a writer and continues his mysteries by using the actual typewriter that was also used by Raymond Chandler. His story lines are weekly edited and reviewed by the choir members during the sermon.

While the church is looking for a new leader, they discover that a former-employee who has now risen to bishop, would like to return to be the leader of St. Germaine and the congregation is grateful for the blessings of receiving Bishop Gaylen Weatherall. Reluctantly, though, the congregation also has the burden of a disagreeable new deacon, Donald Mushrat.

A car accident caused by a family of skunks injures Gaylen and Hayden. For Hayden, he cannot play organ or type for a few weeks. For Gaylen, hospitalization and recovery are slow and an inconvenience for everyone. This means that during the Advent season, he will have to listen to another organist lead the congregation into the Christmas season. Being a musician, no one plays quite any selection quite the correct, or your own, way.

These books are fun to read. They’re laughable and enjoyable. The only suggestion I would have would be to have a short synopsis of each of the previous books to refresh the memories of the characters who have been developed and better known through each novel instalment.

Mark Schweizer has a doctoral degree in vocal performance from the University of Arizona. He has worked extensively with regional opera companies and has also appeared as the bass soloist with the Robert Shaw Chorale. He currently is the director of St. James Music Press while writing this series, as well as Christmas opera librettos, choral selections, and several children’s musicals.


Teri Davis May 10, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dead Forever Awakening

Author: William Campbell
Copyright 2010
Glyd-Evans Press
Paperback $ 14.95
ISBN 978-0-9717960-2-7
270 pages

What if when your body died, you could continue living but in a new, younger, healthier body? Would you be agreeable to life this way? This body would strictly be a shell for the mind to continue to live. However, life is seldom as simple as this and with immortality there is a price, as slaves without any individuality, creativity, or thinking.

What would you do if you awakened to find yourself in a situation where you are about to be burned alive and at the last moment, someone dangerously rescues you just in the nick of time. However, your challenge is that you can’t seem to remember why you are in the situation or why are you being rescued.

DEAD FOREVER AWAKENING is about a group of rebels who are fighting for their freedom. Dying is not an issue, since you can have a new body when needed. The fear is amnesia which erases past memories and lives. As you learn more, you begin to understand why you were rescued. You have knowledge and skills that are valuable to this group. When will you finally remember all your lost memories?

In the action adventure, the pace is non-stop race from being back in the hands of authority and always questioning the position and actions of the rebel group. The characters are a little odd, but extremely realistic and likable. The personal voice is the strength of the novel in that you feel as if you really live in the main hero’s body with him.

AWAKENING is the first in the DEAD FOREVER trilogy. The story will continue in the second book of this trilogy which will be called APOTHEOSIS and the third book is RESONANCE.

William Campbell lives in Oregon and works in the technology field.

I look forward to the next two novels to complete this trilogy.

Motherhood is Murder

By Diana Orgain
Berkley High Crime
Penguin Books
March 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-23373-3
307 pages

One of the challenges for parents of newborns is having quality adult time together. That’s why Kate
Connolly is intrigued and eagerly accepts an invitation to possibly join a new-mommy club on a dinner
Cruise. Unfortunately the cruise results with the death of one of their members. Having previously
assisted with a criminal investigation, Kate finds herself drawn to the investigation wanting to solve
the death. She conveniently omits the fact the she does not yet have an investigator’s license. Also,
she is beginning to realize that investigating a murder might endanger your family as well as yourself.

While adjusting to life with a seven-week-old baby, Kate sees this as the perfect opportunity to launch
into her career as a private investigator. She is hoping to temporarily “borrow” or use the license that
belongs to one of her mother’s boyfriends.

While investigating, Kate discovers that many people had reasons to kill Helene. Between a mother
being literally excluded from the group for a two-year-old biting a baby, someone else cancelling a
building project add-on to their house which is the financial dependence for another family, a possible
affair, and the relationship with a midwife that just doesn’t seem logical. It appears that everyone has
secrets and possibly reasons for wanting Helene to be dead.

When Kate is asked by one of the members to investigate one of the group’s husband’s possibility to
having an affair, she views this as her opportunity to become a successful investigator on her own.

Kate is a wonderful character with common characteristics that are easy to relate to with each reader.
Her husband is amazingly is completely supportive is all her decisions, never once questioning any
decision or choice in her investigation that directly affects their lives.

Diana Orgain was lives in California and has already pursued a career in the entertainment business.
Just like her character, Kate, as she became a writer, she found herself pregnant.

MOTHERHOOD IS MURDER is the second in a series by Diana Orgain. You do not need to read the
previous book to understand the characters. This novel is a quick, easy, and a cozy read. I look forward
to the next novel in this series.