The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

Dear Fellow Reader,

I am interrupting myself with this post. In the last post, I told you that I was going to tell you about three new to me mystery writers that I had been binging on. Last week, I talked about the Alan Bradley series featuring Flavia de Luce. I also mentioned that I had not be able to readily download Alan Bradley’s final book in the Flavia de Luce series.

On Friday, I picked up the book at the library. The book, The Golden Tresses of the Dead. The book starts out at Flavia’s sister Ophelia’s wedding. There were a few hiccups during the ceremony but the big problem it comes time for Feely and Dieter go to cut the cake. Feely starts screaming and has to be taken away. Flavia runs up to check to see what bothered her sister so much. It seems there is a severed finger in the cake. Flavia, of course, takes the finger for analysis. She and Dogger feel that the finger was from the famous Spanish guitar impresario, Adriana Castelnuovo, who had died in the month or so preceding the wedding. But they are pulled off the immediate work of trying to find out how and why the finger ended up in Feely’s cake by the appearance the next morning of Mrs. Prill at their door. Mrs. Prill had consulted the local vicar and the local doctor who recommended that she seek the help of Flavia and Dogger. She is seeking their help because some very private letters have disappeared from her house. She needs to have the letters recovered. So, Flavia and Dogger have two investigations although the investigation into the missing letters quickly morphs into the investigation of Mrs. Prill’s murder.

I hate to say it but I had a problem with several parts of this book. First off, the chemical formulas that are discussed seem endless. I am impressed that the author learned so much about chemistry (What do I know? I assume he is correct.) but it seems overdone. Then the premise for the severed finger and the murdered woman is very twisted and they don’t really solve the crimes. They get to a certain point and turn the issues over to the police and that is the end of the book. I was pretty irritated.

So, last week I was telling you to read this series. I would still say that but I would skip the last book. I know it is hard to do but there are better books to read. Even for us who like to finish series, this is the time to let it go.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Miscellaneous Thoughts | Leave a comment

Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley

Dear Fellow Reader,

It is my age-old story. I have been reading but not writing. I have been on a binge reading cycle. And what got me here? I found not one, not two, but three new mystery authors and I have been busy reading their series.

I am not sure how I found the first author, but I will admit that the series had a slow start for me. It helped that most of the series was available immediately through my library on eBooks. The funny part is that now that I am ready to read the last book in the series, I am waiting to get it from the library. I

The first book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The stories take place in England in the 1950’s. The detective is 12-year-old Flavia de Luce. Flavia has not had a typical life. She lives in the family estate, Buckshaw, that is crumbling down around her. She lives with her father and her two sisters (Ophelia and Daphne) and two staff members, Mrs. Mullet (the cook), and Dogger. Dogger is sort of a butler and general overseer.  She has not had a lot of formal schooling but spends most of her time in the chemistry lab that her great-uncle had in the house. She has learned chemistry by reading all the books, journals, and notebooks he left behind. As a result, she knows a lot about poisons.

The story is told from Flavia’s perspective. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with people and (after all) she is 12 and her perspective is often affected by her age. But she is engaging in this first story and she gets better as the books progress.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I was going to continue the series after the first book. But somehow, I started reading the second book (I was probably avoiding doing something else.) And then I just kept going back to the stories between other books.  Flavia has really grown on me. I think she got better as the books progressed.

Next week’s mystery series also set in England but it is set in the years between the World Wars. Bring on Verity Kent! Another female detective. Oh my gosh, I just figured out that all my new series are female detectives. See, more of a streak than I realized.

The books in the series (in order) are:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A Red Herring Without Mustard

I am Half-Sick of Shadows

Speaking from Among the Bones

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’s

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place

The Golden Tresses of the Dead

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Miscellaneous Thoughts | Leave a comment

When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting

Dear Fellow Reader,

I am at a bit of a loss as to how to start this review. I think I have mentioned in the past that current books in the Romance genre contain more sex than they used to. Well, they contain sex. To my own ears, this makes me sound like a prude. This definition of prude appeals to me more than the one in my brain.

“A prude is a person who is described as being concerned with decorum or propriety, significantly in excess of normal prevailing standards. He or she may be perceived as being more uncomfortable than most with sexuality or nudity.” Wikipedia

In my mind, a prude is a taunt that is made to someone who doesn’t want to talk about sex. I am not sure if “normal prevailing standards” are involved. And in my defense, I don’t object to all sex in books.

As you may have guessed, today’s book has sex scenes. If that influences your decision to read the book then I guess, now you know.

When Sparks Fly is the story told by Avery Spark. She and her two sisters run Spark House, an event hotel. Avery is happy with her life. She co-owns a condo with her good friend, Declan McCormick. They have been friends since college and they have a group of friends from that time. Avery’s parents were killed in a car accident that occurred during a rainstorm. Avery has reservations about driving in the rain because of that.

Avery has the opportunity to make a pitch to her college alumni association for the event hotel. She has made plans with some old friends to meet and attend a game while she is at the college. Declan is going to go with her. She reminds him several times about the event. The night before they are supposed to go, she has a date. This is our first indication that Declan could possibly have feelings for her. He objects to the dress she is going to wear on the date. He thinks it is too revealing when she is going out with someone he doesn’t know. She wears the dress anyway and goes out. Declan goes out that night and gets drunk, picks up a woman, and leaves his car by the bar and takes an Uber home. In the morning, he oversleeps and then tells Avery that his car isn’t available. She had not wanted to take her car because she thinks she needs new tires and it is raining hard. She feels she doesn’t have any choice but to leave without him in her car.

Declan calls her while she is driving to apologize. While they are on the phone, a guy in a white truck causes a multicar accident and Avery is taken to the hospital. She has multiple injuries and will need full time care for several months. Declan announces that he will be the one to take care of her over the objections of her sisters.

It is during the caregiver intimacy where we move into a new phase of their relationship. But that is not the end of the story. They have problems that both need to face before we could move into a happy ever after.

The book is a quick, interesting read. I think that while working to their “happily ever after” they run into some real-life problems that they work through. The wrinkles help the story. I think it is a good fall under the covers reading book.

And last but not least, I was given a copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Talking Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Maid by Nita Prose

Dear Fellow Reader,

I find my thoughts turning to Fall. I don’t want to think about Fall but I see some signs that it is coming. The tree in the back has started to turn and as much as I hate it, the days are getting shorter. It has been so hot that it is hard to think that the inevitable change is coming but it is creeping in slowly.

I find that I am not looking forward to Fall the way I usually do. I have enjoyed my time in the garden this year and I don’t want it to come to an end. I have never really worked in a garden before but this year, I have planted and weeded, shoveled, and mulched. Let’s be clear, I have no idea what I am doing but I have gone for it with abandon. And how did this all start? I did it for the exercise. I was tired of riding my stationary bike and felt that being outside would be preferable. There must have been something that kept me going.

While I have pulled out a couple of gardening books, I am leaving those to winter. Look them over and make plans for next summer in front of the fireplace under a blanket. I am going to make a journal with pictures as to what I have done this year and what I want to do (so far) next year.

But I did read an interesting book this last week.

The Maid by Nita Prose will be published on January 4, 2022. I was given the book in exchange for my honest review. So, off we go…

The Maid tells the story of Molly Gray. Molly is a maid in a nice hotel. She is an excellent maid. Molly is not good with people. She can’t read facial expressions very well and tends to be very literal. She grew up living with her grandmother, who cleaned for a rich family. Her grandmother taught her to keep everything clean and neat and would explain things that people said or did to her. Molly’s grandmother died several months before the story opens and Molly is having trouble financially and socially.

Molly’s real problems start when while cleaning, she finds Mr. Black dead in his bed. The police detective does not understand Molly or her response to questions. We then find that perhaps there are some bad things going on in the hotel the Molly doesn’t understand.

Molly is an interesting character. She appears to be a bit simple, but appearances can be deceiving. There are several surprising twists that occur in the story.

I will admit that there was a time in the middle of the book that I was getting a little tired of Molly but then something would happen that would wake the story up and cause you to think. Some of Molly’s problems are very apparent to the reader and you think you can see what is going to happen next. But then there is something completely different, which is wonderful.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Talking Books | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert

Dear Fellow Reader,

August. Can it possibly be August already? While I want time to pass so I can go on vacation, I don’t want summer to go so quickly.

I seem to have taken up working in the garden this year. It has been good, and it has been frustrating. As usual, I just started without thinking about what I was doing. Just a few years ago, I remember saying that we wanted less beds around the house. We filled in one with grass. (Not entirely successfully…) And here I am this summer digging up grass to put in another bed. All in the quest to have more color in the back yard. And weeding NEVER stops, does it? And there are some more things that I would like in the yard. This is a sickness, I say!

And I have been reading. Although I have been watching the Olympics, so my reading time has been cut back drastically. Oh, next week…

This week’s book is one that I was given in exchange for my unbiased review. So here goes.

The Perfume Thief is a historical fiction book with a bit of a twist. The book takes place in Paris during the German occupation of World War II. Clementine is a 72-year-old American living in Paris. She has lived her life as a con artist. Clem, as she is called in the book, escaped to Paris and opened a perfume shop in 1930. She is known for her elegant suits, which she wears almost all the time. Despite her reservations, Clem agrees to help Zoe St. Angel find the book of recipes from Paris’s most famous perfumer. The book has disappeared. So has the perfumer but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope for him because he was Jewish. To help her search, Clem befriends Oskar Voss, a Nazi officer who thinks he knows all about Paris. Voss is living in the missing perfumer’s house. In order to keep Voss’s interest, Clem tells him her life story – some of which he appears to already know. She has to appear to be helping the Nazi so that she has access to search the house. She also lightly poisons him to make him sick and more dependent on her.

The book has a vast array of characters both in Clem’s present day in Paris and in her murky past. She has been in love once in the past and that relationship had a major impact on her life. She is contacted by her lover’s daughter so she knows that the woman has died.

Is this my favorite book of the year? No. It is also far from the worst book I have read and I did read the entire book. (In contrast to a book I was looking forward to reading and only got 1/3 of the way in and stopped. Sorry, Graham Norton! No review for your latest.) Once again, I don’t think you should put it on the top of your TBR pile but if you run across it, you could enjoy it.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in Talking Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment