30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson, read by Leslie, on 06/29/2014

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Sprinkled with fascinating details of turn-of-the-century New York City, Thompson’s old-fashioned mystery takes the reader from the mansions of Fifth Avenue to the flophouses of the Lower East Side. Sarah Brandt is a midwife who has been estranged from her wealthy family for years. When Alicia VanDamm, a young woman from a prominent family, is murdered, Sarah must return to the upper-class society she has scorned to find the killer. Haunted by her past and disgusted by police department corruption, Sarah takes it upon herself to avenge the girl’s death.

In keeping with the murder theme of the month and always looking for writers new to me, I took this from someone’s read list to give it a try.  I enjoyed how the author immerses the reader in the New York City of old, before subways and such, I love research that draws you in.  Sarah, a young widow, finds herself drawn back to the rich society she grew up in, in order to help Malloy solve the murder of a young girl she once knew.  I loved the richness of the characters and the imagery of the city  and how society used to work, that the author weaves together. Although I started to suspect who might have committed the murder, I was wrong about who and why. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good murder, with none of the gore.

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Murder on the Orient Espresso by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/27/2014

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It’s November and Maggy Thorsen, co-owner of the Wisconsin gourmet coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, is in South Florida at an annual crime-writers’ conference with her beau, local sheriff Jake Pavlik, who is due to speak as a ‘forensics expert’.

Maggy’s pledge to behave solely as a tourist becomes trickier than she anticipated when the conference’s opening night event turns out to be a re-enactment of Agatha Christie’s classic, Murder on the Orient Express. As Maggy and Jake reluctantly set off on the night train to the Everglades to solve the ‘crime’, it’s clear that, as in the original novel, nothing is quite what it seems. And amidst rumours of careers taken, manuscripts stolen and vows broken, it seems that in the Everglades – as in life – the predator all too often becomes the prey.

You would think that getting away from the coffee house would give poor Maggy a break from all those murders, but no, they just keep following her around.  This time, no one in her town becomes one of the victims.  After one of the train’s occupants is found outside the train, but inside a rock python, Maggy and Jake team up to save as much information as they can for the authorities, assuming they ever get back to civilization.  And no, I did not guess the murderer until the reveal, and even then the outcome was different than her other books.  For once, Maggy is not really on the list of possible victims, although she may think so.  Love these books and hoping she comes out with more!

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Triple Shot by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/25/2014

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There’s a chill in the Wisconsin air, and it’s a shot in the arm – a triple espresso shot – to Uncommon Grounds, the Brookhills coffeehouse owned by Maggy Thorsen and real estate maven Sarah Kingston. Their new autumn drink is a huge success. But two estate agents have died lately, and Sarah herself is under investigation for irregularities at her job. Then a stench begins to percolate through the coffeehouse, and soon it’s clear that corpses – like other bad things – do indeed come in threes.

Unbeknownst to Sarah and Maggy, there is a hidden room under their train station coffee house.  What begins as a thought that the foul odor emanating through the shop is a dead animal under the floor, it turns into a dead body stashed in the bathroom of the hidden room.  Used by Mafia members and with connections to the family of their friend Tien, they are set upon by a tv show host hoping for a comeback, ala John Stossel.  When another murdered real estate agent shows up, Maggy is worried for her partner Sarah, but she ends up being the one to discover the truth and the real killer.  Once again, until revealed, Balzo keeps her murderer under wraps!

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

A Cup of Jo by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/23/2014

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Maggy Thorsen’s heart, uncharacteristically, is swelling with optimism. Sure, her original Wisconsin coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, was destroyed in a freak blizzard. But, with new business partner Sarah Kingston, she’s found the perfect place to relocate to – a quaint railroad station that will soon be revitalized by a new commuter-rail connection. Sarah and Maggy hope that the station’s ‘Dedication Day’ will provide great free publicity. But their dream turns into a nightmare when the event manager makes her grand appearance on the day.

It’s Dedication Day for the new commuter line and the new Uncommon Grounds and wouldn’t you know it, Maggy finds herself immersed in a murder before the coffee house evens opens for the day!  I love the way Balzo writes, she doesn’t waste too many words going over past happenings in her books and she always manages to keep the reader guessing till the end about who dunnit.  This time, I did suspect who but not why.

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

From the Grounds Up by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/20/2014

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When Maggy Thorsen’s coffee house, Uncommon Grounds, is virtually obliterated by a snowstorm, she and her friend Sarah resolve to reopen – and Maggy’s found the perfect spot near the train station, just in time for the opening of the new commuter route. But when Sarah’s uncle dies suddenly, in the first of a series of ‘accidents’, it’s clear that someone doesn’t want Uncommon Grounds to reopen.

After having her first coffee house demolished by snow and her last remaining partner wanting to get out of the business, Maggy isn’t sure what to do.  In steps her friend Sarah, with not only a building for her but a business proposition.  With what seem to be accidents happening around them, Maggy and Sarah continue to plan, unaware of who is behind the accidents until it’s almost too late.  Another good, quick read, I can’t put them down!

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Brewed, Crude and Tattooed by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/19/2014

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Maggy Thorsen, co-owner of the Brookhills coffee-house Uncommon Grounds, is trapped in a shopping mall by a snow storm which cuts the electricity and phone lines. She finds the body of Way Benson, a local developer and owner of the mall. Maggy’s discovery unearths other refugees of the storm and it seems that more than one of these people has a motive for killing the arrogant Way. Then there is another murder.

Another great Maggy Thorsen mystery!  As a late snowstorm traps Maggy and her mall neighbors together, they discover the body of the owner of the mall and all wonder who could have killed the man, with lots of potential suspects.  The mall is getting ready to be sold, unbeknownst to Maggy, and she works on her list to narrow down the killer.  A quick read, Balzo keeps you wondering till the end.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Bean There, Done That by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/17/2014

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Brash, sassy Maggy Thorsen, amateur sleuth and owner of a Milwaukee coffee shop, is back in another high-speed adventure. Her bitter divorce still rankles, even after all this time, so she is shocked when her ex-husband Ted’s new trophy wife, Rachel, drops by the coffee shop and asks Maggy to help her find evidence that Ted is cheating on her.

I find myself going through all the Maggy Thorsen books I can find, they are that enjoyable.  Again, I did not see the ending until Maggy figures it out in the end.  I love the way Balzo makes you wonder if anyone that Maggy trusts is really the murderer.  The only thing to say is that if she were a real person, she would either have to be super nice or just a real sucker to help out her ex’s new wife.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Grounds for Murder by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/14/2014

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Set in Milwaukee at a scaldingly competitive trade show for the coffee industry, egos and tempers are already steaming over such burning issues as store rivalries, product quality and employee poaching. But events reach a head when coffeehouse-owner Maggy Thorsen discovers a body under a table at the conference centre.

Maggy is back, this time in charge of a coffee trade show, and once again, finds herself involved in a murder.  Who knew coffee could be deadly?  She bounces ideas about the murder off her friends, at least the ones she doesn’t suspect, and manages to always irritate the new sheriff, Jake Pavlik.  If you want a fast, good read, these are the books for you.

 

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Balzo, read by Leslie, on 06/12/2014

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Patricia Harper is dead, killed by a hot-wired espresso machine, in Uncommon Grounds, her very own gourmet coffee store! Maggy Thorsen wants to know who killed one of her partners.

As I was looking for some good mysteries to read, I happened upon this book and not only did the cover intrigue me, but the review on the front had me at the words Nancy Drew.  I found the book to be a quick read, well written, in that I could not guess the culprit until they were revealed at the end.  Sandra Balzo keeps you guessing through out the book and I highly recommend them to any mystery fan.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery, Teen Books

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, read by Leslie, on 06/09/2014

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Princess Solveig and her siblings are trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen fjord, along with her best friend and an army of restless soldiers, all awaiting news of the king’s victory in battle, but as they wait for winter’s end and the all-encompassing ice to break, acts of treachery make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst.

I found this to be a good mystery for any age, not just teens.  It’s not often that you find a well written book set in an old Nordic setting, but it was not a dry book by any means.  Solveig, the middle child between her older, beautiful sister and young brother, the heir, finds herself not only trying to define who she is and wants to be, but trying to solve the mystery they find themselves involved in.  As all well written mysteries should, this one keeps you wondering who is behind it all til the very end.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, read by Leslie, on 06/06/2014

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“FBI Agent Kate O’Hare is a force of nature, and she’s lived for one thing and one thing only: to put the slippery conman known as Nicolas Fox behind bars. Nick is a fed’s worst nightmare: exceptionally talented in his line of work, known the world over for being able to pull off some of the most dangerous, high-profile cons. In a cruel twist of fate, Kate’s bosses at the FBI force her to covertly partner up with Nick to take down big league crime. Their adventures continue in this exciting second novel in the series”

 

The second in the series of these collaborators, I enjoyed it as much as the first.  The main characters, Nicolas and Kate, once again team up to uncover who has stolen a Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian and recover it in time to avoid an international disaster.  The sparks between the characters are as evident to them as to the readers but they maintain a delicate balance to stay within the bounds of their duties.  A thoroughly good, and fast, read.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, read by Leslie, on 06/02/2014

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FBI Special Agent Kate Winslow uses her own schemes to outmaneuver charming con man Danny Cole, who becomes an unlikely partner when her next mission pits her against a formidable adversary.

I picked this one up because I love all her books and I was not disappointed.  Evanovich manages to insert the snarkiness that I love about her Stephanie Plum novels, yet make this a different book, altogether.  I would recommend this one to anyone who likes her books.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Hide and Seek by Kate Messner, read by Leslie, on 05/30/2014

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For five hundred years the Jaguar Cup, sacred to the Silver Jaguar Society, was hidden in a cave on the coast of Costa Rica–so when a fake copy shows up on display in America, it is up to José, Anna, and Henry, junior members of the society, to travel to Costa Rica and rescue the real cup from thieves.

A fast-paced story, sure to keep readers engaged to the last page, trying to figure out who the bad guys are.  My only question about the books so far is, if the Silver Jaguar Society is supposed to be as secret as the parents claim, why do so many people know about it?  Not something my students will probably pick up on, they will enjoy this story, both boys and girls.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton, read by Leslie, on 05/25/2014

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Twelve-year-old Frankie Joe Huckaby, forced to live with the father he never knew, a stepmother, and four half-brothers in Illinois, starts a delivery service to finance his escape back to his mother in Texas, not realizing he is making a better life for himself than he ever had with her.

A very good story on blending a family, I enjoyed the way that Frankie found ways to deal with his situation positively.  A great story to show kids that lashing out is not the only way to deal with difficult situations.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Thriller/Suspense

The Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki, read by Leslie, on 05/21/2014

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Seventh-grader Timothy July and his new friend Abigail try to break a curse that is causing them and others to be tormented by their greatest fears brought to life.

If you have students who like to read scary stories that give them shivers, this is a great book for that. Timothy and Abigail have just met and need to learn to trust each other quickly if they want to break the curse that haunts Abigail and now, Timothy. There is just enough edge to it to possibly give them real nightmares!

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, read by Leslie, on 05/14/2014

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With love and determination befitting the “world’s greatest family,” twelve-year-old Deza Malone, her older brother Jimmie, and their parents endure tough times in Gary, Indiana, and later Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression.

I tried but could not find the appeal of this book, as I did with Bud, Not Buddy.  I just found it too unrealistic, the more I read, mainly with the father.  I think young readers will not see those aspects to it but will enjoy seeing the family overcome each obstacle tossed in it’s way.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, read by Leslie, on 05/14/2014

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When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.

I loved the form in which the author wrote this book.  The chapters are short but contain so much in those short amounts, it will appeal to kids who don’t normally like long chapter books.  The fact that she based it on a true story will be another hook for some kids.  It really makes you think about zoos and how we treat our fellow creatures.  I can see why it won the Newbery award.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

The Young Healer by Frank N. McMillan III, read by Leslie, on 05/08/2014

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“What starts out as just another day becomes anything but that for Feather Anderson. Her beloved grandfather, a traditional Lakota healer, pulls her out of class one snowy morning and takes her on a traditional vision quest in the heart of New York City in hopes to find the perfect Lakota medicine. It becomes the most magical day of Feather’s life as she saves her little brother’s life and earns her newly-given secret Lakota name”

A good story, I think that both boys and girls will enjoy reading it, the Native American traditions that are written about are sure to inspire research for some students.  While it seems that Feather and her grandfather pack a lot of stuff into the length of one day, I really enjoyed the story.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, read by Leslie, on 05/05/2014

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Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.

Not a fast paced book, but a good story of building friendships and trust.  Georges isn’t fond of the way his name is spelled, his dad loses his job and they are forced to move to an apartment, where Georges meets Safer and his sister.  Georges isn’t sure what to make of Safer but they eventually overcome their differences and Georges comes to admit to himself that his life is not he has been painting it to be, in his mind.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Paranormal

Blue Moon (Dead City #2) by James Ponti, read by Leslie, on 05/01/2014

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Molly is ready for more nonstop, undead action in this follow-up to Dead City, which Kirkus Reviews described as “a fast-paced read for those who like their zombies with just a little fright.”

If you like zombie stories with a little intelligence to them (zombies, that is), you’ll enjoy this series.  Molly and her team are once again on the prowl for dangerous zombies in New York City.  When they stumble upon a zombie plot to take over the city, they get a little help from some of their zombie friends, including Molly’s mother.  Lots of action and appealing to both boys and girls.