Archive | September 2017

Review: Asking for Truffle: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery by Dorothy St. James. Crooked Lane Books

Description (from NetGalley):

When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, The Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered any contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize—only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.

Rich and decadent, Asking for Truffle, the first in a new cozy series by Dorothy St. James, is sure to be a delectable read for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.

 

My Review:

Well, I liked this book before I started it because it is about one of my favorite subjects: CHOCOLATE!

 

Then I met Charity Penn, and followed her intriguing story. Starting with a mysterious letter and an invitation, her good friend offers to look into the matter with shocking results–he loses his life in a large vat of chocolate.

 

Stricken with grief and guilt, Charity decides to look into the death of her friend. From there, we are led a complicated course strewn with a whole school of red herrings–the suspect are plentiful, there are several possible motives. Through it all, though, Charity continues to be mystified about how she got into this situation in the first place. Along the way we encounter a satisfactory selection of fine chocolates, in various ways.

 

This is an entertaining and engrossing read, full of atmosphere and lots of questions. By the end, Penn has found some answers, but enough questions remain to ensure there will be more books to find all the answers.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing a copy to read and review.

Review: Cat Got Your Secrets: A Kitty Couture Mystery by Julie Chase. Crooked Lane Books

Book Description (from NetGalley)

Lacy Marie Crocker has settled into a comfortable groove back home in New Orleans, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, she’s busier than ever running a thriving pet boutique, helping her mother organize the upcoming National Pet Pageant, and untangling her complicated love life. But when delivering a king-sized order of dreidel-shaped doggy biscuits for a Saint Berdoodle’s bark-mitzvah, Lacy stumbles into yet another murder scene—and the last person to see the victim alive was her own father.

It’s up to Lacy to clear her dad’s name from the suspect list before Detective Jack Oliver has to cage him for good. But just when she starts pawing at the truth, she receives a threatening letter from a mysterious blackmailer bent on silencing her with her own secrets. And Lacy’s not the only one with bones in her closet.

Time’s running out in this deadly cat-and-mouse game in Cat Got Your Secrets, the delightfully funny third novel in Julie Chase’s Kitty Couture mystery series, perfect for “all those feline fanciers who love to read Rita Mae Brown” (Suspense Magazine).

 

My review:

Lacy Marie Crocker doesn’t really want to get into trouble. She is quite happy with her successful pet boutique, creating fashion and treats for the pampered pets in her community.

 

But when her father somehow becomes a murder suspect, Lacy Marie goes into full action mode. This is a delightful book, with pithy comments heading every chapter, an enticing mystery to solve, and yummy recipes at the end. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. My only comment is that some pictures of Lacy Marie’s pet couture (military tunics for Shi Tzu’s, eyelet capes for llamas (!)) would really add piquancy.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing a copy to read and review.

Review: The Choice: Embrace the Possible, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. Scribner.

Book Description (from NetGalley)

 

A powerful, moving memoir—and a practical guide to healing—written by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, an eminent psychologist whose own experiences as a Holocaust survivor help her treat patients and allow them to escape the prisons of their own minds.

Edith Eger was sixteen years old when the Nazis came to her hometown in Hungary and took her Jewish family to an interment center and then to Auschwitz. Her parents were sent to the gas chamber by Joseph Mengele soon after they arrived at the camp. Hours later Mengele demanded that Edie dance a waltz to “The Blue Danube” and rewarded her with a loaf of bread that she shared with her fellow prisoners. These women later helped save Edie’s life. Edie and her sister survived Auschwitz, were transferred to the Mauthausen and Gunskirchen camps in Austria, and managed to live until the American troops liberated the camps in 1945 and found Edie in a pile of dying bodies.

One of the few living Holocaust survivors to remember the horrors of the camps, Edie has chosen to forgive her captors and find joy in her life every day. Years after she was liberated from the concentration camps Edie went back to college to study psychology. She combines her clinical knowledge and her own experiences with trauma to help others who have experienced painful events large and small. Dr. Eger has counselled veterans suffering from PTSD, women who were abused, and many others who learned that they too, can choose to forgive, find resilience, and move forward. She lectures frequently on the power of love and healing.

The Choice weaves Eger’s personal story with case studies from her work as a psychologist. Her patients and their stories illustrate different phases of healing and show how people can choose to escape the prisons they construct in their minds and find freedom, regardless of circumstance. Eger’s story is an inspiration for everyone. And her message is powerful and important: “Your pain matters and is worth healing: you can choose to be joyful and free.” She is eighty-nine years old and still dancing.

 

My Review:

As a psychotherapist, I was looking at this book from at least two perspectives: the first, my response to a truly amazing and moving life story; the second, how Dr. Eger’s book might be used to help patients facing traumatic memories.

I am in awe of Dr. Eger–she demonstrates an extraordinary degree of resilience combined with an equally rare gift for forgiveness. Some have said that, when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. But Dr. Eger has made a lemon soufflé.

I work with patients who have traumatic histories, and find that often they are so enmeshed in their past pain that they cannot move past it, nor are they able to put it out of their memory by accepting that it is past, cannot be changed, and the only direction to move is forward. But that is a message that many cannot process. I have found also that for some patients, hearing an inspiring story does not give them more courage, but rather they feel discounted or take it as a personal failure that they cannot move forward as this other very brave person has done.

It is abundantly evident that Dr. Eger is an extraordinarily gifted individual, and for those fortunate enough to work with her toward their own healing, they are blessed. So, I would tell patients about this book, and suggest they might find inspiration in it; those who can accept this exceptional story and choose to follow the lessons it offers might be very much helped by it.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to read and review.

Review: The Man of Dangerous Secrets, by Margery Allingham writing as Maxwell March. Ipso Books.

Book Description:

 

He was haunted by the face of a girl, a girl lovely beyond all imagining, with stark terror in her wide grey eyes.

 

Robin Grey is Scotland Yard’s inside man – handling matters requiring a delicacy, integrity, and secrecy outside the jurisdiction of regular government offices. He is a man of details, of observation, and of intuition.

 

While lurking about Waterloo station on a mission for the Foreign Office, Grey’s interest is piqued by a suspicious looking character. Tailing him, Grey catches the man shove a fellow passenger onto the train tracks. Rushing to intervene, Robin Grey never stops to think that saving the victim might ensnare him in the same sinister plot.

 

Heiress Jennifer Fern is cursed: tragic accidents have claimed two past fiancés, and she would have lost a third had it not been for Robin Grey’s heroic actions. Terrorized by the torment that stalks her, Grey is drawn to this young woman and feels honor-bound to help her. Tempting fate, he goes undercover to solve this deadly mystery.

 

But if loving Miss Jennifer Fern means certain death, can Grey protect her, and his own heart, before history repeats itself?

 

My review:

 

In this early book, Margery Allingham (“Maxwell March”) presents us with a character that seems a precursor of her famous Albert Campion. There are differences–while Albert is an independent agent, Robin is a Scotland Yard man. Robin also does not have quite the mystique of “Albert Campion” (which we are told is a pseudonym for a man of many names and, apparently, some high royal connections).

 

But the story is well told, and grips us early on with a dramatic rescue and the presence of a lovely damsel in distress who, of course, captures the heart of young Robin. There is an archenemy, The Dealer, in this story, unseen and achieving his goals through the use of a near-diabolical blackmail scheme. Allingham’s gift for fine descriptive passages and creating an undercurrent of suspense and great evil is evident. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say too much about the story itself as it unfolds without dropping spoilers. The villain has one stupendous secret, and Allingham has given some tantalizing hints along the way for the observant reader. It’s also challenging to determine just who are the good guys and who are the villains. Allingham does manage to create some chilling dangers and inventive escapes for our young lovers (and we are pretty sure that they, at least, are good guys).

 

In short, this book demonstrates that Allingham showed her mastery of suspenseful writing early on; her powers developed throughout her years of writing.

 

My thanks to Camilla of the Margery Allingham Estate for providing an advance copy to read and review. The book also includes a bonus: the later Allingham story, The Tiger in the Smoke, which I have previously reviewed.