Saturday, June 21, 2014

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

Romancing the Duke is the first book in Tessa Dare's new series Castles Ever After. It's clearly "historical fiction" but the exact time in history is not specified. 

I enjoyed this breezy entertaining romance, but it's not what I'd call accurate historical fiction. Aside from the setting (a mouldering castle), the clothing, and the fact that the hero is a duke blinded in a duel, it's a modern romance. The heroine is quite modern, what she and the duke get up to is quite modern, and the whole subplot involving a group of people who dress up like characters in a book and travel around together felt thoroughly modern. I actually liked the subplot, I just didn't buy it in whatever time period this novel is supposed to be set in.

Romancing the Duke has many elements of a fairy tale. Recommended for anyone who enjoys historical romance with a modern heroine and who isn't too concerned about details.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell

A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die is the first book in Edith Maxwell’s Local Foods cozy mystery series. (The second book, ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, came out in May 2014.)  It’s not a great first book, but I’ve found that mystery writers often don’t write a great book until the second, third, or even fourth book in their series. A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die is a promising start to a series.

Cameron Flaherty is a former computer programmer who got laid off. Around the time she lost her job, her great uncle had to give up his farm, and Cam decided to give farming a try rather than look for another corporate job.

I enjoyed the descriptions of Cam’s work on the farm, of the farmers market, and of the food cooperative. I liked that Cam sells organic produce but is not 100% committed to the locavore movement (eating only local foods). She’s unwilling to give up coffee, as indeed I would be.

Cam’s fledgling romance with a local chef is a bit dull. In fact, I kept expecting her to end up with state police officer Pete Pappas, as there seemed to be more chemistry between Cam and him than with the chef. The chef kisses Cam on the cheek more than once, and that always makes my eyes roll. Who does that? One plot twist that had me chuckling is the three characters who turn out to be illegal immigrants – from Brazil, Poland and Sweden. Sweden, really? He must be the only illegal Swedish immigrant in the U.S.

There was an entirely unnecessary bit concerning Cam’s suppressed memory of being in a fire, and the resolution of the murder is wholly unoriginal. Still, the series has potential.

If you are a cozy mystery reader looking for a new series or a mystery reader who is also a fan of the local foods movement, you might want to check out A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die.

There will be a discussion of A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die at En Season CafĂ© (2900 W. Main, Galesburg) on June 19 at 11:30 am. Copies of the book are available at the Galesburg Public Library’s Check-Out Desk. Lunch is $10 paid in advance at the library’s Reference Desk. Come join us for a meal and a book discussion!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

On the advice of a fellow librarian, I chose Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves as the June discussion book for the library's Tuesday/Thursday book discussion groups. It was an excellent book and an excellent choice for discussion.

I have not read any other books by this author but had certain preconceptions based on the reputation of The Jane Austen Book Club. My preconceptions proved untrue. This is an interesting, heartbreaking, deeply thoughtful book.

I generally don’t like a book that jumps around in time a lot, but Fowler did a good job of spinning out her tale, starting in the middle and going backwards and forwards as the story required it. The narrator, Rosemary, felt like a real person; at times I wondered if this book was semi-autobiographical (it’s not, at least not concerning the Big Reveal plot point). This is the story of two parents and their three children, and how the separation from one of those children affected the others for the rest of their lives. But that doesn't really get at the plot of of this book - really, you need to read it for yourself.

There are little passages throughout the book that are perfect touches. For example, on page 66: “Unfairness bothers children greatly. When I did finally get to see Star Wars, the whole movie was ruined for me by the fact that Luke and Han got a medal at the end and Chewbacca didn’t.”

I was thoroughly engaged by Rosemary, her story, and the information about animal research. This is not a black and white book; there are lots of gray areas. I highly recommend it.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is available at the Galesburg Public Library as a book and an audiobook on CD.