Monday, March 30, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin's neighboring village of Ancombe is usually the picture of quiet English Cotswolds charm. Yet the arrival of a new mineral-water company, which intends to tap into the village spring, sends tempers flaring and divides the parish council into two stubborn camps. When Agatha, the new PR person for the company, finds the council chairman murdered at the basin of the spring, tongues start wagging. Could one of the council members have silenced the chairman before he could cast the deciding vote? Village gossip takes on a life of its own and Agatha must weed her way through the council members' alibis, promote the water company, and try to resurrect her love life, all while pretending she is over her ex-fiance, James Lacey.



This was the unabridged audiobook on cassette edition (4 cassettes/5.75 hours).

As charming and witty as always this brought a smile to my lips many times while listening! The thought of James with dyed blonde hair and an earring was too deliciously amusing! And to add to that him throwing a grill over is just perfect!The vicar's wife was lovely as always. She is always so smart and tougher than one gives her credit for. Poor Bill and his latest love. I don't think I could stand up to Bill's parents either! It was interesting to see Roy's shallow self again. I certainly don't like him, but he was a nice addition.

This one gets seven stars. Donada Peters did a lovely reading job as usual. She gets all the characters just perfectly. The story itself was quite nice and a nice change from the usual James and Agatha partnership. And it was great to have Agatha back home again.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tasha Tudor's Heirloom Crafts by Tovah Martin

In this magical sequel to Tasha Tudor's Garden, author Tovah Martin and photographer Richard W. Brown revisit Corgi Cottage, this time taking us inside to watch Tasha create the handmade items that are an integral part of her legendary nineteenth-century lifestyle.

Surrounded by authentic American antiques and collectibles and using original tools and almost forgotten techniques, Tasha spins flax, dyes wool, and weaves on one of her seven looms. With the help of friends, she dips candles, makes soap, and concocts herbal creams and lotions. She harvests wood for making baskets and fruit for canning, presses cider, and dries herbs and flowers.

Her Nubian goats supply her with milk for cheese and butter. Her bantam hens offer eggs for cooking and decorating. Stray feathers from her guinea hens end up as part of her toy owls. Her rambling cottage has its own marionette theatre and a built-in dollhouse, and all of the puppets and the dollhouse inhabitants were made by Tasha.

Whether Tasha is crocheting a piece of lace to edge her petticoat, sewing a dress copied from an 1830s pattern, knitting intricately designed mittens and socks, or working on a quilt, her hands are never idle. For this book, she has created a series of new paintings in the style that has made her one of America's best-loved children's book illustrators.



I must say that this Tasha Tudor book was infinitely better than the one by her daughter! It is by the same author and photographer as Tasha Tudor's Garden and is well presented. The text is quite readable and certainly does not make Tasha into some sort of saint. The photographs are also quite lovely.

This one gets seven stars for its readability and generous use of pictures which makes it infinitely more enjoyable.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Thursday, March 26, 2009

Drawn from New England by Bethany Tudor

Tasha Tudor's enchanting portrayals of the New England rural scene in her many stories and books have endeared her to generations of readers. In this book Bethany Tudor describes in affectionate detail the special world that her mother has created and made famous. The result is not merely the portrait of an artist, but also a celebration of her highly individual way of life.

Photographs, snapshots from family albums, book illustrations, paintings, and drawings, most of which have never been reproduced before, are an important accompaniment to the text. They reveal the true background of many of Tasha Tudor's books and introduce her family, as well as the Tudor's numerous household pets and farm animals. There are photographs of Mrs. Tudor sketching her children by the fireside, and color reproductions of the first exquisite little books she created for her own pleasure when she herself was a child. We also see her enjoying the many crafts at which she excels - weaving, sewing, gardening, making marionettes, and more.

Tasha Tudor has always lived according to her own lights. Rejecting commercialism, trends and fads in her life as in her art, she has cultivated the virtues of a simpler way of life of the country-dweller of a hundred or so years ago.

Raising a family and pursuing her art career while living in a centuries-old farmhouse without running water or central heating was arduous but, as this book testifies eloquently, wonderfully rewarding. She and her family exemplify without pretension a life-style that many people dream but do not know how to realize. Readers of all ages will welcome this book's insights into the life and work of one of America's most beloved and admired artists.



This was certainly a very romanticized view of Tasha Tudor's life. The tales of Tasha's childhood as a poor little rich girl were hardly palatable.

Although I sincerely dislike Tasha as a person, I must admit that she was a very talented artist.

The author's writing style was very simplistic and the book read more like a children's book than anything else.

When discussing the move from Connecticut to New Hampshire she talks about multiple stops for picnics, etc. as if the trip took days. I mean, really! The entire trip couldn't have taken more than five or six hours. Hello! It was Connecticut to New Hampshire, not Connecticut to California!

What really annoyed me the most was how she harped on what a tough life Tasha had with no running water or electricity. Come on! This was the 50s and 60s - the 1950s and 60s! It's not like she couldn't have had central heat, running water, and electricity if she chose it - she chose that life. She was no saint living in a hovel with no other options!

Okay, I do have to admit that the highlight of the book for me was the pressing of butter from her goats in the butter molds. That was pretty cool, and the resulting product quite pretty. It's all very Martha Stewart.

This one gets six stars. The pictures and illustrations were quite nice and kept the book from a five star status. The daughter seems to be just as in her own world as the mother, so the text leaves quite a bit to be desired. Thankfully it was a fast read.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers' attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger's new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with and introduction, notes, and illustrations by J.K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump," and of course, "The Tale of the Three Brothers." But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter.



This was marginal at best. It seemed to be just another "let's milk Harry Potter for all it's worth while it's still popular" piece of trash. The stories were short and there was so much white space margins around them that they probably could have fit on two sheets of letter paper if typed properly! The "notes" from Dumbledore were not entertaining and quite uninformative.

This one gets six stars for the fact that it was at least short, and thankfully, a quick, easy read. It's really quite sad that this is what Rowling has come to - milking Harry Potter for the last few dollars instead of coming up with new material like a real author.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin's marriage was put off when her ex-husband, who she assumed was dead, showed up - very much alive. Fortunately, he was murdered thereafter, and Agatha solved the crime. Now she is off to Cyprus to track down her ex-fiance. Instead of enjoying their planned honeymoon, however, they witness the murder of an obnoxious tourist. Two sets of terrible tourists surround the unhappy couple, arousing Agatha's suspicions. And, much to James's chagrin, she won't rest until she finds the killer. Unfortunately, it seems the killer also won't rest until Agatha is out of the picture. Agatha is forced to track down the murderer, try to rekindle her romance with James, and fend off a suave baronet, all while coping with the fact that it's always bathing suit season in Cyprus.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (5 discs/5.75 hours).

It was nice to see Agatha and James away from home. But James can be such a jerk! Really, Agatha should just give up on him - he doesn't seem to actually care for her, and he's constantly running off. Just let it go already!

I did miss Bill and the vicar's wife, though. But it was a nice vacation of sorts from the usual. Charles was a fun change in the story. It love that he's so cheap! And he's so funny that he doesn't care what people think and says exactly what he thinks. He's so very House. Perhaps not as hot though.

This one gets seven stars for the nice story and change of pace. It was very enjoyable and a great listen. Donada Peters did a lovely job, as usual, with the reading.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Saturday, March 21, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin is tying the knot with James Lacey before he can have second thoughts. After all, her first husband must be long dead of alcohol poisoning. But Jimmy Raisin hears the news in his cardboard residence in London and reaches the village of Carsely just in time to stop Agatha from committing bigamy. Promptly jilted by her groom, Agatha pushes Jimmy into a ditch - where he is later found strangled. Even the Local Ladies' Society believes her - or James - to be the killer. Soon the unhappy couple, thrown together again by their investigation of Jimmy's insalubrious past, are risking life and limb - not to mention love - as they ferret out dark doings that make Carsely the multiple murder capital of the English Cotswolds.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (5 discs/5.5 hours).

Ah, Agatha Raisin! Only she could have a drunkard husband show up in time to ruin her pending nuptials! It would have been too tame to actually have the marriage go through as expected!

Bill Wong was lovely as usual, although his taste in the nasty Maddie was sorely lacking. Maddie was such a bitch! Although, are there ever really any nice policewomen in novels? They all seem hard and bitchy. Perhaps I have yet to come across the perfect novel featuring a charming policewoman.

James and his behavior were typical. Really, he's becoming quite wearing on the nerves. The vicar's wife was her usual self. It truly would be nice to know someone like her!

This one gets seven stars. It was entertaining and light and quite enjoyable. Donada Peters did a spectacular job, as always, reading the book.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Death of a Dustman by M.C. Beaton

The garbage collectors in Britain are still called dustmen, and Lochdubh's dustman is an abusive drunk named Fergus Macleod. When Fergus is put in charge of a recycling center and dubbed the "environment officer", Constable Hamish Macbeth smells trouble piling up. Sure enough, Fergus becomes a bullying tyrant with his new power, issuing unwarranted fines and blackmailing residents. And when his body is found stuffed in a recycling bin, no one's sorry, including his long-suffering family. But the lawman's inquiries hit a wall when he finds that many wronged residents are strangely reluctant to spread the dirt on the nefarious dustman. And when violence strikes again, Hamish must quickly sift through the litter of lies and dark secrets...before a killer's grime overruns the town.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (5 discs/5 hours).

I loved that no one saw anything during the time of the murder because they were all inside watching Inspector Morse. The idea of the villagers watching Morse was just too perfect!

I didn't much care for the reader. He was okay, but certainly not as good as Davina Porter. Perhaps that affected my enjoyment of the story also. He was just rather bland.

This one gets seven stars. It didn't hold my attention as usual. I just wasn't feeling it for some reason - perhaps because I'd listened to the Christmas book that came before it out of order and that threw the time frame off slightly for me. Who knows. I did like Clary though. And Hamish and his underpants!! Poor thing!

Rating: ★★★★★★



Friday, March 6, 2009

Death of an Addict by M.C. Beaton

With their engaging plots, mellow Scottish ambiance, and droll humor, the Hamish Macbeth mysteries always provide readers a bonnie time. The charming antics of their hopelessly unambitious and love-crossed hero have earned the series a dedicated following. Death of an Addict continues the Hamish Macbeth tradition of superb entertainment, with some fascinating twists.

When a recovering addict dies while recuperating near Lochdubh, our red-headed hero suspects foul play. To complete his investigation, Constable Macbeth must leave his idyllic home and travel to Amsterdam to match withs with big-time drug dealers.

Fans will enjoy seeing a new, tougher side of Macbeth as he dons smart suits and falls in love with is gorgeous superior officer. With her authentic accents and impeccable timing, narrator Davina Porter provides the perfect voice for this series' wonderfully quirky characters.



This was the unabridged audiobook on cassette edition (5 cassettes/6.25 hours).

Really, Blair continues to be simply unbelievable with his behavior! Daviot is typical management who can't see past all the brown-nosing to the incompetence and malice beneath.

It was actually a relief not to have the usual Priscilla drama going on. Although, poor Hamish and his visit with the "student" in Amsterdam! Only Hamish! Too funny! Olivia wasn't fabulous, but she was an interesting addition to the book. I can only imagine Priscilla in drug dealer's girlfriend chic. She'd probably have fun with it, but fool no one!

I wonder if the club Lackey's was a shout out to the Lackey characters on the Hamish Macbeth TV series that was airing around the time this was published. I'd like to think it was.

I just love Angela Brody! She seems like someone you'd really like to have as a friend despite her cooking skills!

This one gets seven stars. It was interesting to see Hamish abroad, almost like a vacation. Quite fun and entertaining, even with Blair's antics. Davina Porter did a lovely job, as usual. She makes listening to the Hamish Macbeth books a true pleasure.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆



Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beat the Reaper Spring Cleaning Audiobook Giveaway!

This time I'm giving away my gently used audiobook on CD edition of Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell .

Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital. He has a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa is a hit man for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Protection Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you'd want to see in your hospital room.

Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squilante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might - just might - be the same person...

Now with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours - and somehow beat the Reaper.

Spattered in adrenaline-fueled action and bone-saw-sharp dialogue, Beat the Reaper is a debut thriller so utterly original you won't be able to guess what happens next, and so shockingly entertaining you won't be able to put it down.




Contest runs from March 5, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST March 31, 2009. Winner will be announced April 1, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to three entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Seriously, I'm not going to track down your e-mail address! If you do not leave your e-mail address in the comment you will be disqualified!
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
Good luck!



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital. He has a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa is a hit man for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Protection Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you'd want to see in your hospital room.

Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squilante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might - just might - be the same person...

Now with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours - and somehow beat the Reaper.

Spattered in adrenaline-fueled action and bone-saw-sharp dialogue, Beat the Reaper is a debut thriller so utterly original you won't be able to guess what happens next, and so shockingly entertaining you won't be able to put it down.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (6 discs/approx. 7 hours).

I won this in a contest so I felt obligated to listen to it and review it. It really surprises me what gets published!

While this was mildly amusing at points, and probably a more accurate hospital drama than I'd prefer to think about, it was still just marginal. It was more like the Sopranos on crack visit the hospital. There just seemed to be an inordinate amount of superfluous swearing and graphic violence, so much so that it really took away from the story rather than adding to it.

This one gets six stars. It was good,but not great. The characters were interesting, but not engaging. I just wasn't feeling it. I was neither shockingly entertained nor unable to put it down.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Strangers by Dean Koontz

They were strangers
A handful of people. From different backgrounds, living in different towns and cities across America, they had nothing in common - except fear.

They were victims
Cold and stark, an unknown terror gripped their dreams and turned their days into living nightmares.

They were chosen
And they could not escape. Deep in the heart of a sprawling desert, a dark memory called out to them drawing them into the Tranquility Motel - where the terrifying truth was waiting...



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (24 discs/30 hours).

This was a stunning audio presentation of the book! Even though the reader was rather stilted at times and paused in inappropriate places, breaking up the flow of the text, he was really quite good. He'd have to be to encourage anyone to make it through the entire book!

The story was masterfully woven, as with any Koontz. I love that his books, no matter what the characters have to go through to get to that point, ultimately end with a message of love and hope for humanity. The book is somehow even better in that it was originally published in 1986 and yet the messages within it are still valid, perhaps even more so, today.

The only thing that bothered me was Ginger's hair color. Really, I kept thinking of her as a redhead!

This one gets nine stars. It was a wonderful presentation of an even more amazing book. At the end of the book you just felt peaceful and joyful at having had the experience of reading it. It was just that good. Granted it was so long, but after slogging through the seemingly superfluous beginning stories, it was all worth it.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Sunday, March 1, 2009

February Cookbook Giveaway Winners!

And the winners of the February Cookbook Giveaways are:

  • The Young Man and the Sea: Mindy
  • A Great American Cook: Sara

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you to all who entered!



March Romance Giveaway!

This time I'm giving away a copy of Twelve Across by Barbara Delinsky.



Contest runs from March 1, 2009 to 11:59 PM EST March 31, 2009. Winner will be announced April 1, 2009. Open to US residents only.

To enter - earn one entry for each of the following activities (up to three entries per person):
  1. Leave a comment on this post. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Seriously, I'm not going to track down your e-mail address! If you do not leave your e-mail address in the comment you will be disqualified!
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
Good luck!



March Romance Giveaway!