The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig

Read: May 22 - May 28
Format: Audiobook 12 CDs equivalent 388 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: espionage, Napoleonic Wars
Category: The good old days - Histories
Genre: History fiction
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, SYLL, TIOLI, AUDIO
Stars: ★★★

This is the 5th book in the Pink Carnation series. In it the new Duke of Dovedale returns from his military service in India to assume his responsibilities and realizes that his young cousin has held his heart in his absence. But pledges that he has made to find and eliminate the Night Jasmine make his romance difficult.

The plot in this installment was most probably the lightest when in came to the French espionage and also involved more of the modern day romance between Eloise and Colin than the previous books.

The mystery side in this book took a backseat to the romance this time, but still an enjoyable experience.

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy

Read: May 16 - May 26
Format: Trade Paperback 416 pages
Source: My own shelves - ARC
Subject: War, occupation, love affair,
Category: Love and Marriage: a lifetime commitment - can't live without romance
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Stars: ★½

This book is a story of the German occupation of the Island of Guernsey and the relationship of one of the islanders with a German officer. There isn't much more than that to be said about the premise of this book, IMO.

Vivienne de la Mare is a middle aged wife/mother who is left on Guernsey with her two daughters and her aging mother-in-law at the start of WWII. Indecisive as to whether to leave for the British main island or stay, her decisions throughout are not too well throughout or are too compulsive. Vivienne's very passive personality and voice in the book doesn't lead to much activity to hold the reader. The love affair that develops between Vivienne and Gunther (a German officer) seems to be more an accident than passion.

I really had a hard time with this book. I like stories that have a bit more action and here Vivienne was constantly trying to re-think or analyze her feelings and I couldn't hang with her. 150 pages in and still nothing had happened - it's nice to have character development but there has to be action to go along with it. Others have raved about this book so I guess it just shows not every book is right for everyone.


Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews

Read: May 10 - May 20
Format: Paperback 312 pages
Source: Borrowed from Tutu
Subject: Wedding preparations, deceptive people, murder
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI,
Category: Something Borrowed/Something Blue - from friends/blue
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Stars: ★★★★

Meg Langslow heads back to her hometown to finish up the arrangements that are her responsibility as maid of honor for her best friend, her brother's bride, and her mother. Their weddings are all taking place within a 3 week time frame and Meg has to make sure that all the changes are managed and the brides discouraged from the impractical.

At the first pre-nuptial social gathering, Meg meets her mother's fiancé and his former sister-in-law who is a disagreeable woman who quickly alienates everyone she meets. 2 days later she's dead.

So started Meg's very amusing efforts to solve the murder so that the weddings aren't effected. Between the queen of Bridezillas and a dog that hates everyone, another bride who decides on a costume wedding 6 weeks before the event and calligrapher who has a few too many while addressing envelopes, and her mother who just seems to let everything slide by - even the death of a worker on a runaway lawnmower, the reader is held spellbound throughout. Definitely a series to continue in the future.


Altar of Bones by Philip Carter

Read: March 13 - May 20
Format: Trade Paperback 416 pages
Source: My own shelves - ARC
Subject: magical powers, conspiracies
Category: Blind dates: Will I like them? - new author/ARC
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS Stars:

Altar of Bones is about an altar made of bones (dah) which has magical powers and the bad guy with his girlfriend who want those powers. There is a veerrrry longggg chase throughout and conspiracy theories (Marilyn and JFK?) It lost me about halfway through.

This blind date was a definite "don't call me, I'll call you."


The Paris Vendetta by Steve Berry

Read: May 4 - May 18
Format: Audiobook 11 CDs equivalent 607 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Conspiratorial economics, Napoleon's treasure
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, Audio, SYLL
Category: Honeymoon - foreign settings/thrillers
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Stars: ★★★½

You want a good thriller… pick up any Steve Berry/Cotton Malone book and you'll have one. As usually Steve Berry has taken a small historical fact and woven a tale of international intrigue that will take the reader through the troubles of Napoleon and use them to highlight today's economic issues as well as expand the characters that readers have come to care for.

In this 5th Cotton Malone story, the story surrounds Cotton's best friend, Henrik Thorvaldsen, who is searching for the men that were responsible for his son's death. In tracking them down, Henrik gets involved in a dangerous plot by the Paris Club (a financial cartel) to manipulate the world's economy and make billions. Henrik's vendetta against his son's killers clashes with the vendetta of the head of the Paris club and Malone is caught smack in the middle.

Cotton and Henrik become estranged as they battle the Paris Club members for different reasons but in the end I believe that they were emotionally on the same page.

As with all the Cotton Malone books, it was action-packed and whirled the reader through historical facts on a fictional road. One drawback, there was a new character introduced - Sam Collins. It seemed that Berry was trying to turn Cotton into a mentor so maybe Sam will be appearing in future books, however, it seemed to detract for the concentration on Cotton and his relationship with Henrik.

Overall, a solid addition to the series.


The Border Vixen by Bertrice Small

Read: May 10 - May 15
Format: Trade Paperback 416 pages
Source: My own shelves - bought at Barnes & Noble
Subject: arranged marriages, Scottsh border protections
Category: Going steady: Should we keep seeing each other?
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Stars: ★★★½

Mad Maggie Kerr is the heiress/granddaughter of Dugald Kerr, laird of Brae Aisir and keeper of the Scottish side of the Aisir nam Breug passage. Maggie has sworn that she will only wed a man that she can respect and to gain that respect the man must be able to outrun, outride and outfight her. Many have tried but been humiliated but when Lord Fingal Stewart, cousin of King James V, is sent to Brae Aisir with orders from the king to wed her, matters change.

Realizing that she cannot disobey the king, she signs the marriage documents but says that Fingal must still beat her before he can bed her. The struggle between the two is not just physical as they get to know each other and deal with the trouble times of that historical period.

Another Bertrice Small book to treasure!


The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison

Read: May 6 - May 9
Format: Hardback 410 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Animal Magic, arranged marriages
Category: The Kids have it - Young adult and children's books
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI
Stars: ★★★½

Prince George has a secret. He's fought to keep it hidden ever since his mother died when he was eight years old. But now it is getting harder and harder to maintain the private knowledge that frightens all the people in his kingdom of Kendel and forces him farther and farther away from his father and those that could care for him.

The prologue of this books tells the tale of King Richon who is transformed into a bear because of his mistreatment of animals and he will remain a bear, according to the legend, until he can be loved as he is - a Beauty and the Beast tale. But as the book starts, Prince George is a person who has inherited animal magic from his mother - the ability to talk to all animals in their own language (Dr. Doolittle eat your heart out). The ability to communicate with the animals has become a fearsome power and just the idea that a person has this magic could get them burned at the stake.

Now that George is betrothed to Princess Beatrice of Sarrey, he must travel to her father's kingdom to make the final negotiations for the arranged marriage. When he finds Princess Beatrice with her hound (they are inseparable), George realizes that if he is to have a true marriage, he must reveal himself to her and find out Beatrice's secret as well.

This story, beautifully told from the viewpoint of the Prince for a change, is of self-acceptance and tolerance of others. What a beautiful way to teach our young adults that differences amongst us is not something to be afraid of but to be treasured. Definitely a book for all ages.

The Treacherous Teddy by John J. Lamb

Read: May 3 - May 7
Format: Nook e-book 255 pages
Source: Barnes & Noble
Subject: neighborhood feuds, corporate development of rural areas
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI
Category: Something New - books acquired in 2011
Genre: Cozy mystery
Stars: ★★★★

In this fifth installment of the Teddy Bear Collector's series, Ashleigh Lyon is finally front and center with Brad as she uses her position as auxiliary deputy to help in the investigation of a murder that she discovers as she returns to the farm of Everett Rawlins searching for the identity of a car that sideswiped her police cruiser.

Sheriff Tina calls on Brad's expertise as a Homicide investigator and together the three team to find multiple motives and therefore, multiple suspects. At the same time as the trio struggle to solve the murder, Brad and Ashleigh are hosting a Teddy Bear Jubilee benefiting the local church. Trying to keep the victim's family happy along with the town officials and the corporate buyers of Rawlins' farm is a tough scenario.

What a wonderful series with a cozy police procedural and terrific characters that just gets better and better with each book. I heard rumors this is the last in the series, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that rumors are wrong. I want more!
Mailbox Monday was originally hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page, but is now a traveling meme and for the month of May Mailbox Monday will be hosted by Marireads! Go over and visit her to see what she got in her mailbox.

This week I received an ER book from LibraryThing. Funny thing is, this is the book for April ER batch that just closed not 2 weeks ago and it's already here. I'm still waiting for my March ER book from LibraryThing. Go figure, anyway here's what I got.

Summer Wind: A Novel by Nancy Thayer

Heat Wave
by Nancy Thayer


Unerringly perceptive, superbly written, every page packed with the warmth and compassionate wisdom that have become Nancy Thayer’s trademark, Heat Wave tells the moving story of a woman who, after her seemingly perfect life unravels, must find the strength to live and love again.

Making the startling discovery that her family finances are in dire straits is only the latest shock endured by Carley Winsted after her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack. Resisting her in-laws’ well-meaning overtures to take in Carley and her two daughters, the young widow instead devises a plan to keep her family in their beloved home, a grand historic house on the island of Nantucket.

The solution is right at Carley’s front door: transforming her expensive, expansive house into a bed-and-breakfast. Not everyone, however, thinks this plan prudent or quite respectable—especially not Carley’s mother-in-law. Further complicating a myriad of challenges, a friend forces Carley to keep a secret that, if revealed, will undo families and friendships.

When her late husband’s former law partner keeps showing up at the most unexpected times, Carley must cope with an array of mixed feelings. And then, during a late-summer heat wave, the lives of Carley and her friends and family will be forever changed in entirely unexpected ways.

Lyrical, emotional, dramatic, and ultimately wonderfully uplifting, Nancy Thayer’s latest novel is compelling from its first page to its last.

This should be a good one!


Amelia's War by Ann Rinaldi

Read: May 1 - May 3
Format: Hardback 263 pages
Source: Public library
Subject: historical accounts, Civil War
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, SYLL, TIOLI
Category: The good old days - Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Stars: ★★★★

I am a Marylander. I was born in Maryland, grew up in Maryland, married in Maryland, and have always lived in Maryland. So when the book opens with "Mama and I were Southerners, but not Rebels. We were for the Union but not the Yankees. You have to be from Maryland to understand it."

I understand.

And yet I don't, and because of that, this book expressed my feelings about the Civil War in many ways. In this fictional account, Amelia Grafton is a pre-teen who lives in the "northern" Maryland town of Hagerstown during the Civil War and it is her personal dilemma which is told so beautifully in this book. Because of its location Hagerstown was frequently "visited" by both the Confederate forces and the Union Army. Amelia's best friend is a Southern sympathizer while her father is whole-heartedly for the Union. Her Mother believes that everyone should be treated with kindness whether they are Yankees or Rebels and the family takes in Aunt Lou, an escaped slave, and try to aid her in her run to freedom.

So there are many conflicts for a young girl to face and then when her brother runs off to join the Union forces, Amelia still feels an inner turmoil. Amelia wants to do something to make her contribution to the war effort, but can't decide what that should be until her moment of truth arrives and she has to do something to try to save her town when a ransom is demanded by the Confederate Army general, the uncle of her best friend.

In readings depicting the Civil War, a reader cannot believe that there is even the slightly possibility of avoiding ugliness. War is ugly and no matter how it might be romanticized by writers, the ugliness will creep through and smack you in the face. In the end, even though Amelia makes her contribution, it isn't without that ugliness reaching out to smack her in the face.

Yes, the book is a romanticized depiction of the real-life ransoming of Hagerstown, Maryland and the manner in which the tale is told is geared more toward the Youth for which the book was written, however, for this Marylander it presents the dilemma that was faced by many during the Civil War in an all too clear light - do you support your state or the nation? IMHO, in that time period, states had a much greater pull for their citizens then a national identity did. Rarely if ever, when asked would someone say they were an American, no they were a Virginian or New Yorker, or Georgian, or Marylander. What a wonderful book to show our youth that decisions are not always easy and that peer pressure should not make them race to a decision.

I want to thank Linda (Whisper1) and VictoriaPL for their recommendation of this book.


Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Read: April 30 - May 2
Format: Audio 9 CDs 9 hrs equivalent 304 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Black Death
Category: The good old days - Histories
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, Audio
Stars: ★★★

This book, which is a fictional account of the 1666 Black Death event in the Derbyshire village of Eyam, is basically a story of faith and survival. The main character, Anna Firth, loses her husband in a mining accident, then her children to the Black Death. Rather than wallow in self-pity and depression she battles the horrors of the plague alongside of the rector's wife. Her gentle spirit, though wounded by her own circumstances and past experiences, keeps her busy helping others throughout this devastating time.

I had heard that Geraldine Brooks' books were something to be treasured because of her writing style but maybe this story is not the best one to judge that by. I found it very slow, with little action, and kind of boring. Nothing much happened except for people dying and what would seem to be normal village political animosities. Not sure that I will pick up another of her books anytime soon.