Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Beekeeper's Ball

The Beekeeper's Ball (Bella Vista Chronicles, #2)The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Isabel Johansen is about to open a cooking school on her family's sprawling hacienda in Sonoma Valley, California, when author Cormac (Mac) O'Neill roars into her life. Her sister and grandfather decided to hire Mac to write a book about her grandfather's life, particularly his role in the Danish Resistance as a teenager during WWII. Writing a biography means getting to know the family, and in spite of--or perhaps in reaction to--their calamitous introduction which resulted in an emergency trip to the doctor, rooted-in-place Isabel fascinates Mac, the perennial wanderer. Isabel is also drawn to Mac, but her disastrous past relationship and the secret she's kept since then have destroyed her trust in herself and her judgment, immobilizing her heart. Authors poke at secrets, however, and this one breaks free when Isabel's ex comes to town and threatens her fledgling business.

I love how Susan Wiggs slowly unfolds the story by alternating between present-day and the 1940s. Book two in the series fills in some of the details shared in book one and leaves plenty of room for book three, which I am eagerly awaiting. There are really two stories at play here: Isabel's personal growth and budding romance, and Magnus's survival as an orphaned teen determined to thwart the Nazis every way he can. Both absorbed my complete attention. This series should definitely be read in order, beginning with The Apple Orchard .

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story secondary. A little bit of swearing, allusions to sex but no descriptions.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Some Like It Witchy

Some Like It Witchy (A Wishcraft Mystery, #5)Some Like It Witchy by Heather Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems a beautiful day in the Enchanted Village, yet Darcy has a bad feeling that trouble is coming, and her instincts are proven right when she and her friend Cherise discover the body of Cherise's realtor, Raina Gallagher, upstairs in the Tavistock house. The house had only recently come on the market when its reclusive owner died. Rumors of hidden jewels from a famous heist decades ago have brought treasure hunters out of the woodwork, and Darcy must figure out whether they have anything to do with the murder.

The fifth installment of the Wishcraft Mystery series is just as fun as the first four. There is less in the way of character development in this one, but the main characters are still multi-dimensional, which I very much appreciate.

The plot twists kept me from guessing the killer, although I am pretty sure have figured out who the dove and The Elder are. I am looking forward to the next book in the series to confirm whether I'm right and what that will mean!

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, character & setting secondary. I only remember one swear word, otherwise it's totally a "clean read."

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Yes, Please

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The audiobook version is fantastic! Amy Poehler herself "reads" it, but it never feels like reading--more like she's just talking to you and telling stories. She also gets Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, and Patrick Stewart to read her chapter titles, Seth Meyers to read a chapter he's written (i.e. chat with Amy in the sound booth and read his chapter), Mike Schur(?) to chat with her about creating the TV show "Parks and Rec," and even her parents have small speaking moments. It's a very humorous book.

Fair warning, though: Amy has a potty mouth much of the time and apparently spent much of her twenties and part of her thirties stoned, so it's not suitable for tender ears. I could only listen to it when my toddler wasn't in the car.

I might have given it 5 stars if it weren't for the abundance of swearing and my disappointment in Amy for all the drug use and smoking. Everyone has their own journey to get to where they are today, and I wouldn't have wanted her to lie about her life, but for me it was heartbreaking to know that she had done so many stupid things in her younger years--a hero falling off a pedestal, I suppose. Such a waste--think of all the (much funnier) things she could have written and performed during those years if she hadn't been stoned! She's really proud of the Upright Citizens' Brigade (UCB) improv company she helped found and is still involved with, but some of the stories she tells about them are appalling--like pressuring their entire audience to smoke pot before they would start one particular performance. Dude, if you have to be stoned to enjoy it, it's probably not that good!

Still, if you're debating between reading and listening to this book, I'd recommend listening. Hands down, no question.

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