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A PLACE TO CALL HOME: THE BLOG TOUR

Book Description: A Place to Call Home

by Tania Crosse. Aria.

The heart-warming sequel to Nobody’s Girl.

An intense and emotive WWII story of love, courage and friendship in the face of the horrors and hardships of war.

Thrown together by tragic circumstances some years previously, Meg and Clarrie’s hard-won friendship eventually brought them both some sense of peace. But how deep do their feelings run, and how long can their happiness last?

The outbreak of war brings a new set of concerns and emotions, especially with the arrival of the evacuees who come to share their home and lives. Can they unite to form a bond powerful enough to sustain them through the darkest days of war? And what will happen when an enemy from Meg’s past comes back to haunt her?

Review: A Place to Call Home, by Tania Crosse. Aria.

 

England in World War II has given us much material for stories and books. This story starts in Summer, 1939 before war is officially declared, and ends in 1946 after the war has ended. The two central characters are Meg and Clarrie, and this book is a sequel to a story started in a previous book, Nobody’s Girl.

 

A Place to Call Home is billed as “an intense and emotive WW2 saga of love, courage and friendship” which is certainly true. This book starts three years after young Meg, orphaned in a tragic accident, came to live with Clarissa (Clarrie) and her husband Wigmore (Wig). But while the story of Clarrie and Meg is clearly central, there are other story lines here that tug at our hearts.

 

Clarrie has agreed to accept evacuees from London to her country home–a program that sent many children away from their parents to live in safer surroundings away from the bombings and trauma of London. We meet an endearing bunch of children, each coming with their own story, and then making new stories as their relationships in their new temporary home develop.

 

We have read much about the war, but the author has given us individual tales that are developed and appeal to our hearts, as many threads are woven into a complex tapestry of history and everyday life. Reading this brought home to me the realities of ordinary people carrying on their lives in extraordinary times. We in the US came a bit late to the WWII story, so we sometimes forget how the people of Europe and Britain were affected by this terrible story before 1941, when Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the midst of the conflict.

 

I myself was an infant in 1941, so my memories of those wartime days are those of a very small child. But I recall that my father, over age for military service, was foreman at a steel mill providing materials for the ships being built in San Francisco’s Hunter Point Shipyard; my mother became very creative in providing us with good meals while coping with rationing (the only time in my life I can remember eating mutton!). So perhaps my experience helped me to feel closer to the events in this book, particularly to the children’s stories.

 

Crosse is a gifted storyteller who has given us a warm and endearing story of people we come to care about. There is much detail that makes the experiences of the characters in historic times feel very real.

 

About the Author: Tania Crosse

 

Delaying her childhood dream of writing historical novels until her family had grown up, Tania eventually completed a series of published stories based on her beloved Dartmoor. She is now setting her future sagas in London and the south east.

Follow Tania

Website: http://www.tania-crosse.co.uk/

Twitter: @taniacrosse

 

Review: Best-Laid Plants: A Potting Shed Mystery, by Marty Wingate. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

Description (from NetGalley)

A trip to the English countryside turns into a brush with death for Pru Parke, the only gardener whose holiday wouldn’t be complete without a murder to solve.

Pru and her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, are long overdue for a getaway. So when Pru is invited to redesign an Arts and Crafts garden in the picturesque Cotswolds, she and Christopher jump at the chance. Unfortunately, their B&B is more ramshackle than charming, and the once thriving garden, with its lovely Thyme Walk, has fallen into heartbreaking neglect. With the garden’s owner and designer, Batsford Bede, under the weather, Pru tackles the renovation alone. But just as she’s starting to make headway, she stumbles upon Batsford’s body in the garden—dead and pinned beneath one of his limestone statues.

With such a small police force in the area, Christopher is called upon to lead the investigation. Pru can’t imagine anyone murdering Batsford Bede, a gentle man who preferred to spend his time in quiet contemplation, surrounded by nature. But as her work on the garden turns up one ominous clue after another, Pru discovers that the scenery is more dangerous than she or Christopher could have anticipated.

 

My Review:

 

After reading and reviewing several of Marty Wingate’s books, I am convinced that she is the Real Deal–an author to be watched and appreciated. This story starts small–with what seems a satisfying assignment and pleasant break for Pru and her husband. But the plot soon thickens, as they say, and we find ourselves enthralled in an intriguing and puzzling story.

 

Wingate’s books all read so smoothly, and flow so seamlessly that our attention is caught and held. That is true of Best-Laid Plants (and by the way, the witty titles are part of the charm of this author’s work). Without providing spoilers, I would just comment that it has a most glorious ending. I found this book thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable.

Review: The Prague Sonata, by Bradford Morrow. Grove Atlantic.

Description (from NetGalley)

Music and war, war and music – these are the twin motifs around which Bradford Morrow, recipient of the Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has composed his magnum opus, The Prague Sonata, a novel nearly two decades in the making. In the early days of the new millennium, pages of a worn and weathered original sonata manuscript – the gift of a Czech immigrant living out her final days in Queens – come into the hands of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist whose concert piano career was cut short by an injury. To Meta’s eye, it appears to be an authentic eighteenth-century work; to her discerning ear, the music rendered there is commanding, hauntingly beautiful, clearly the undiscovered composition of a master. But there is no indication of who the composer might be. The gift comes with the request that Meta attempt to find the manuscript’s true owner – a Prague friend the old woman has not heard from since the Second World War forced them apart – and to make the three-part sonata whole again. Leaving New York behind for the land of Dvorak and Kafka, Meta sets out on an unforgettable search to locate the remaining movements of the sonata and uncover a story that has influenced the course of many lives, even as it becomes clear that she isn’t the only one after the music’s secrets. Magisterially evoking decades of Prague’s tragic and triumphant history, from the First World War through the soaring days of the Velvet Revolution, and moving from postwar London to the heartland of immigrant America, The Prague Sonata is both epic and intimate, evoking the ways in which individual notes of love and sacrifice become part of the celebratory symphony of life.

 

My review:

As a lifelong musician, I was drawn into this epic tale immediately. Also, I was interested in the Prague setting, which becomes very real as the author leads us on a journey filled with vivid description of the setting and fueled by a thorough knowledge of the history and events in this notable city. The story is told in such a dense fashion, moving randomly from past events to more recent without preamble, that it became challenging to keep track of all the threads, when what I really wanted to know was the fate of this sonata that our heroine Meta makes such a concerted effort to reunite. Does she succeed? No spoilers here–you’ll have to read the book. But it’s well worth the effort!

Review: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker. Scribner.

Description (from NetGalley)

 

The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

But an explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Among so many other things, within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and immensely accessible, Why We Sleep is the crucial account on sleep that will forever change readers’ minds on the subject.

 

My Review:

A good night’s sleep. Something we all want, but for many it proves elusive. As a practicing psychotherapist, difficulties with sleep are something that nearly all my patients report. Until now, I really didn’t know what to tell them.

 

The material is admirably arranged into four parts. Part 1 “This Thing Called Sleep” is all about what sleep is; Part 2 “Why Should You Sleep” enumerates the benefits of sleep, and the negative effects of insufficient sleep; Part 3 “How and Why We Dream” is, clearly, about dreaming; Part 4 “From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed” is all about what keeps us from sleep and what can help–and how important sleep is to our society as a whole.

 

This is an important book. I am so impressed with it, I feel it should be required reading for everyone. I certainly plan to recommend it to all my patients. I also plan to read it again; Dr. Walker offers so much here that one reading can’t really take it all in. And this publication is certainly timely: it has just been announced that the Nobel Prize this year for Medicine is given to three circadian rhythm researchers. What is so important about circadian rhythm? Read this book, and find out!

 

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 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.

 

 

Review: The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love, by Mel Schwartz. Sounds True Publishing

Book Description (quoted from NetGalley):

In his new book, psychotherapist Mel Schwartz asks readers the question he’s been asking his clients for over 20 years:  How would you like to experience your life?  It’s a simple question, and yet, many of us believe that our goals and desires are unattainable. Until now.

THE POSSIBILITY PRINCIPLE offers a revolutionary approach to how we can live the life we choose—free from the wounds of our past and the constraints of our ingrained beliefs and thoughts.  It’s a blueprint for how to overcome anxiety and depression and shows us how we can thrive in our relationships and develop authentic self-esteem.

Mel Schwartz proposes that we have been stuck living within an outmoded 17th century worldview. He writes that most of our struggles come from living under the template of Newton’s mechanism paradigm which addicts us to certainty, and in turn, results in the epidemic of anxiety. This need for certainty also thwarts our ability to change as we resist uncertainty. Additionally, this outdated worldview has convinced us that we are separate and disconnected from one another—reduced to being the proverbial cogs in a machine. The consequences of this are depression, failed relationships and a general sense of meaninglessness.  Enter THE (NEW) POSSIBILITY PRINCIPLE!

Through extensive research and dozens of client success stories, Mel reveals the profound benefits of aligning with the core principles of the emerging participatory worldview—derived from quantum physics. They are:

  • — The uncertainty principle. Mel shows us that by embracing uncertainty, we become free to be the driver of our change process. Uncertainty is where the realm of new possibilities lie.
  •    — Potentiality. Reality exists in a pure state of potential. So do we, but we don’t recognize it. In the nanosecond before we attach to our next thought, all things are possible. Mel shows us how to see our old thoughts and not become them, freeing us to access new thinking and a new future.
  • — Inseparability. Quantum physics reveals that the universe is thoroughly inseparable. Opening to inseparability enables compassion and empathy to emerge and relationships to thrive. It also provides a profound sense of meaning and connectedness, as everyone is an integral part of the whole.

When we alter our view of reality from the picture of Newton’s lifeless, disconnected machine-like universe to an inseparable and participatory worldview teeming with possibility, we become the master of our life.

 

My Review:

As a psychotherapist, I am well aware of what has been called the human negativity bias. Our brains are equipped with an alarm system to help us survive the ordeals of past jungles: when presented with a Siberian tiger, your choices are fight it, run, or simply be too frozen to move. Trouble is, our early warning system is not as intelligent as our “smart” brain–so anything that even faintly resembles that tiger puts into the fight, flight or freeze scenario. Thus, since it is the negatives that could threaten our survival, we humans tend to notice first what can go WRONG. Pretty soon, we have gathered a whole flock of negative possibilities, and it’s hard for us to let them go.

That’s where Mel Schwartz’ idea comes in from a whole new direction. Inspired by elements of quantum physics, he has developed a whole system focused on what can go RIGHT. He has given us a marvelous new tool to help ourselves, and for therapists to apply to work with their patients.

I applaud this well-thought-out approach!  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas, by Michelle Griep. Barbour Publishing, Inc. Shiloh Run Press.

This book, set in England, 1851, had me guessing from the start. We are introduced to Clara Chapman and then to Ben, living under vastly different circumstances. Each receives a mysterious invitation to a 12-day house party at an unknown manor house, with a promise of meaningful reward at the end of their stay. Just who Clara and Ben are is the first of many questions that arise. As I kept reading to find out what would happen next, more quirky characters made their appearance.

 

This book moves at a brisk pace and kept me reading and entertained from beginning to end. I enjoyed the experience, and apparently this is the first in a series of stories with a Dickens Christmas theme. I am intrigued, and left wanting to find out what happens next.

 

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

Review: Miss Seeton Quilts the Village: A Miss Seeton Mystery, by Hamilton Crane, Heron Carvic. Farrago.

Well! Lady Colveden says it for all us fans of Miss Seeton in the opening lines of this book: “Welcome back, Miss Seeton!” After a 20-year gap, we now have a NEW Miss Seeton story to read: Book 22 in the series, I believe.

 

I don’t know who is actually “Hamilton Crane” these days, but this author has created a seamless flow from the last book to this one. In Book 21, “Bon Jour, Miss Seeton” Lady Colveden’s son Nigel meets the lovely Louise, daughter of a French comte. At last, after encountering a grand offering of sweet young things, Nigel has met and wed Miss Right (Louise).

 

So now Miss Seeton and Plummergen can get on with business. The village, inspired by Louise’s stories of the French Bayeux Tapestry, decides to put together its own needlework version of Plummergen history, with all inhabitants invited to contribute a piece. Miss Seeton’s role is to create an overall design incorporating all the individual offerings.

 

Seems a pleasant activity, but we know our Miss Seeton. It’s not long before she is creating her mysterious drawings and encountering hidden artwork and other artifacts of an earlier time. Soon we are looking at a Satanic Henry VIII, Nazi radio paraphernalia, priest’s holes, mysterious foreigners, and Scotland Yard put to work on what proves to be a task with a hidden agenda. Superintendent Delphick and his stalwart Scotland Yard forces, once again, find answers in Miss Seeton’s cryptic drawings.

 

This is a most entertaining story, and our Miss Seeton comes through again, the bad guys are routed, and the village presents its completed quilt for all to admire. But at the end, there’s one stray thread left dangling . . .

 

Oh well, we will just have to wait for the next book.

 

My heartfelt thanks to NetGalley and Farrago for providing an advance copy to read and review.