REVIEW: A QUESTION OF GUILT, BY FRANCES FYFIELD

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Our first glimpse of Helen West, the prosecuting attorney in a complex murder case, reveals her studying the case files while she eats. The defendant, Stanislaus Jaskowski, of Polish origin, was a part-time private investigator, charged with the murder of one Sylvia Bernard, the wife of a solicitor, Michael Bernard. Mrs. Eileen Cartwright is listed as someone obsessed with Michael Bernard, and Jaskowski claims that she paid him to kill Sylvia.

In her office, which is comfortable but untidy, she works, and soon is joined by Geoffrey Bailey and his colleague, Mr. Ryan, where they go over the file.

The author lays out the cozy settings, gives vivid descriptions of the characters, and offers us an opportunity to listen in on the discussions in which they are involved in such a way that completely engaged me. Over the following pages, the plot unfolds, as even more characters are introduced and we come to see the intricacies of how they fit into the big picture.

Many of the characters were unlikeable. Jaskowski’s son, Edward, who had a secret liaison with Eileen Cartwright at some point; and even Ryan, the underling to Geoffrey Bailey, who makes some pathetic choices. Mrs. Cartwright’s pure evil is slowly unleashed on someone else. Who will save the day? How does Peter, Edward’s younger brother, fit into the rescue?

The twisted plot did keep me reading, and I liked the sections with Helen and Geoffrey the best. A budding romance between them kept things interesting.  There were numerous subplots and other characters that had peripheral roles in the story, and I could have done without them. Overall, I enjoyed A Question of Guilt: A Helen West Mystery, but sections of the story bogged down for me. An overall 4.0 stars.

BLOGGIESTA TO-DO LIST: GET READY!

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It’s time to sign up for Bloggiesta, coming next week, from September 18-21.

Since I have eleven blogs, I select one of them for the makeover at each event.  This blog is getting the works during this particular Bloggiesta.

Here’s a to-do list: (I will probably add some things as we go along).

 

  clean up labels/tags
  do two mini challenges
  change or fix one thing on your sidebar
  add a page (about me, contact, policy, etc)
  change one thing on your layout and/or look; create new blog button
  comment on other Bloggiesta partipants blogs
  participate in at least one Twitter chat

 

 

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What are you planning?  I hope you’ll stop by and chat.

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REVIEW: MIDNIGHT BETRAYAL, BY MELINDA LEIGH

41Lzk4jnPgLDr. Louisa Hancock has just started over in Philadelphia, as the assistant curator at the museum. She has left behind a troubling past and experiences that cost her the job as head curator in Maine. She has moved into a lovely condo in Rittenhouse Square and is settling into her routines.

And she is trying to look on the bright side of things. Unfortunately, some recent events in her new job have made it difficult, beginning with the attitude of Director Cusack who is a bit contemptuous in his remarks to her. But even more disturbing: Rikki, an intern at the museum, has gone missing. And shortly thereafter, her body is discovered and the murder weapon appears to be a replica of a Celtic knife that is part of Louisa’s exhibit.

As the police interrogate each of the employees, Louisa herself wonders if she might be a suspect. But when a second girl goes missing, another intern named Zoe, and the last place she was seen was Sullivan’s bar, owned by Conor Sullivan, someone Louisa had met while in Maine, suspicions are turned upon him. Circumstantial evidence points to him, but it is clear to Conor and to Louisa that someone else is responsible. Is someone setting him up?

There are a host of potential suspects, including someone Louisa once knew as a teenager…someone with whom she had a difficult past. And then there is a professor who may have made sex tapes with the victims….

Rapidly turning the pages of Midnight Betrayal led me down some interesting pathways, and I loved watching Conor and Louisa connect with each other, a bit of joy in an otherwise miserable time in their lives. But when Louisa goes missing, and when we finally discover who is behind it all, I was totally stunned. I love when that happens, and that extra layer of mystery made this a definite five star read for me. Recommended for all fans of the author, and for those who enjoy romantic suspense.

MY BOOKISH (AND NOT SO BOOKISH) THOUGHTS: SUBLIMINAL IMAGES

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Welcome to another Thursday, and the ramblings that make up My Bookish (and Not So Bookish Thoughts), hosted by Bookishly Boisterous.

After a week of reliable coffee everyday, I could stop lamenting last week’s defunct coffee pot and focus on something else.  Some new obsession.

Yesterday I finished reading Gringa in a Strange Land (click for my review), by Linda Dahl, where I revisited the 1970s through the character Erica Mason, living in Mexico and enjoying the food, drinks, etc.

 

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I didn’t focus much on the food in my review, but there must have been an undercurrent of subliminal images, because once I had finished reading and reviewing it, I knew I had to have some good Mexican food!

No, I didn’t hightail it down south, but around the corner from where I live is Antonio’s, a cute little hole in the wall place that serves up delightful cuisine.

 

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I didn’t have the fish tacos…but I love this picture and may have to go again for this item!  Naturally, I had a margarita, too.

I took half of the food home to have for lunch today.  Maybe I will then be over my obsession….and my current read is not likely to stir up any food longings, as it’s a gory, bloody police procedural novel about devil worship.  The Devil’s Foothold, by Marilyn Meredith, takes place in California’s Central and Northern parts, near my stomping grounds, and makes me feel right at home! 

 

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Do you find yourself caught up in book scenes involving food…or how about those movies where everyone is sitting around eating Chinese food out of those cartons?

I am highly suggestible, I must admit, so it’s best if I have some kind of healthy snack to eat while reading or watching movies. (Who am I kidding here?  I am more likely to order out whatever food is on the screen!).

Speaking of movies, I am so excited about the upcoming movie This Is Where I Leave You.

 

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I read the book last week, and loved it!

What else are you thinking, pondering, or obsessing about today?  Come on by and let’s chat!

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REVIEW: GRINGA IN A STRANGE LAND, BY LINDA DAHL

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In the 1970s, young artists, writers, and musicians expressed their independence and creativity in a variety of ways, so when Erica Mason, a young twenty-something, moved to Mexico to study, to explore, and to create, it was all part of the counter-cultural experience for some young people her age.

She landed primarily in Merida, on the Yucatan peninsula, where other expatriates had converged, although her explorations extended to the locals, especially if they were good-looking and enjoying their own creative expressions. She moved around from place to place, occasionally, to Oaxaca, and to Belize. In each place, she would settle for a bit, connect with others, and experiment with whatever was happening.

Drugs were a part of the scene, and while at first, Erica believed she was exploring and expressing herself, it soon became such a regular part of her life that imagining herself without the substances seemed unlikely.

Gringa in a Strange Land is one young woman’s journey, including some of the worrisome events that happened, like robbery, minor scrapes of one kind or another, and the constant concern about money. Through Erica’s eyes, we can feel as though we are experiencing her adventures along with her. She sees the people, the places, and transfers the images onto the canvas, while also assimilating the feelings of her subjects. Learning and growing, she is ready to move back to the US, where she can hopefully continue with her art. I also read and enjoyed the subsequent novel, Cleans Up Nicely: A Novel, in which Erica spends time in New York, struggling with her drug abuse issues.

Even though I enjoyed this book, there were tedious aspects that made me wish that Erica would realize the dangers of the cycle she was in, and finally make a decision to move on. 4.0 stars.

MY BOOKISH (AND NOT SO BOOKISH) THOUGHTS: MORE COFFEE, PLEASE!

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Here we are on Thursday again, ready to celebrate our Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts, hosted by Bookishly Boisterous.

This morning, my trusty coffeepot sounded as though it was gasping out its final offering.  And even as I inwardly groan at this now untrustworthy beast, I realize that I bought it when I moved into this condo…and that was SEVEN years ago.  So I guess it has served me well.

But, of course, that means I’ll be coffeepot shopping today.  I’m just happy I got a full coffeepot this morning, as me without coffee is not a happy beast.

 

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I feel like Lorelai, in Gilmore Girls...ever seen her frenetic search for coffee?

So here I am chugging away on my first cup of coffee, and with delight…when suddenly, the battery in my wireless mouse dies!  Oh, my, can anything more irritating happen before I finish this post?

No worries, I am well supplied with batteries, and I quickly changed it.

But some days are like that, aren’t they?  I’ll be walking across the room and knock something over, or trip on my own feet, and then, quite gracefully, sit down on the desk chair…and miss!

Clumsy much?

Perhaps these things happen because I haven’t had ENOUGH coffee?  Or maybe because I wasn’t sleeping through the night…instead, I might have been reading this book, which I finished and reviewed:  This Is Where I Leave You,(click for my review), by Jonathan Tropper…coming to the Big Screen later this month.

 

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After I finished this one, I started reading The Good Girl, but haven’t gotten very far…yet.  More today.

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I woke up too early this morning (5:30), a reminder of my working days—those three decades of dragging myself to that stress-filled job—and instead of going back to sleep, I got up.

Only to struggle with the coffeepot, but we’ve been there already!

Do you have weird dreams after reading into the night?  I do…and sometimes they are filled with scenes from the books, embellished with moments from my past that have been changed up and fictionalized, almost as if I am rewriting history.  I think I’ll try to have a safe and calm morning.  How about you?

 

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REVIEW: THE HOME PLACE, BY CARRIE LA SEUR

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She thought she had escaped her broken family and the detritus of her life in Billings, Montana. But Alma Terrebonne, a successful lawyer living in Seattle, finds herself roped back into the family left behind, with all of its lies, secrets, and crippling memories.

On an early Sunday morning in January, a phone call takes Alma back, to the sad consequences of her sister Vicky’s party-loving life, and the eleven-year-old niece who needs her.

How will Vicky’s death change everything about Alma’s life? Will the old family homestead bring back good memories as well as bad? And who, if anyone, has taken Vicky from them? Her brother Pete and her grandmother Maddie, as well as the bitter and angry aunt and uncle, Walt and Helen, will arouse the bitterness of the past, as well as bring more questions in the present.

I could not stop turning the pages, as secret after secret is revealed, and then, just as I finally started to suspect what would come next, the stunning surprise was more malevolent than I had imagined.

The author takes the reader along for a ride as we explore the Big Sky country, with the gorgeous land, and as we learn of the threats that landowners are facing from those who wish to grab their mineral rights, we feel a righteous indignation for those who stand firm to protect what is theirs. The Home Place: A Novel is an evocative tribute to family, its bonds, and the heritage that allows them to stay connected, despite the secrets that often threaten to damage them all. Recommended for those who enjoy family drama, a little mystery, and the thrill of uncovering the secrets of the past. 4.5 stars.