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Getting Grief Right: Finding Your Story in the Sorrow of Loss, by Patrick O’Malley, Phd with Tim Madigan. Sounds True Publishing

This is a compassionate book written by a caring and thoughtful therapist. He starts with an explanation of how the accepted views of grief and recovery can actually further wound those already trying to deal with their grief and sorrow after the loss of a loved one.

 

Is there a “right” way to grieve? If you don’t go through the long-accepted theory of “stages” is there something wrong with you?

 

The author doesn’t think so. He has found a way for those in grief to discover a better way through telling their own story and coming from a path of love rather than from one of guilt for not doing it right.

 

He offers a self-help program for readers to write their story of healing and love, with guidelines for how to do this on your own that are clear and understandable. However, he also offers something that I think more self-help books should take care to do, and that is to provide clearly defined considerations for a decision to seek professional help.

 

As a practicing psychotherapist, I highly recommend this book for those seeking a path through their pain of grief and loss.

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

Review: James the Connoisseur Cat: A Novel, by Harriet Hahn. Kindle Edition. Open Road Media.

Well, I am a long-time cat person, so I was intrigued by this title as well as James’ portrait on the cover.

 

I soon was charmed by the British silver-grey cat named James and his good friends who introduce him to the good life (which he embraces wholeheartedly). Not sure my veterinarian would approve of James’ penchant for saucers of single-malt whiskey or his taste for gourmet ultra-rich foods. But this is a light-hearted book, so if you take it in that spirit and you like cats, this is a charming read.

 

It’s true that some of James’ exploits strain credibility. But at least the author does not have James actually talking to people, as is the case in some detective stories featuring feline sleuths.

 

If you like cats, and just want a little light reading with some amusing moments, this is a good book for you. I enjoyed it, although it’s true that the story is a little thin on plot and drama.

 

I gave it five stars because, as noted above, I am a cat person and I found this a fun read. Someone who is not a cat person would likely not be amused for long, and would probably award fewer stars.

Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal | The White House Wedding: A Solve-the-Mystery Blog Tour Clue #5 by Radha Vatsal.

Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal

ISBN: 9781492638926 | May 2017

Paperback | $15.99 U.S.

As the specter of the Great War hangs over the country, a promising young student turns up dead.

When Kitty Weeks’s latest assignment writing for the New York Sentinel Ladies’ Page takes her to Westfield Hall, a well-regarded girls’ school in New York City, she expects to find an orderly establishment teaching French and dancing–standard fare for schoolgirls in 1915. But there’s much more going on at the school than initially meets the eye. Kitty especially takes note of the studies of Elspeth Bright, the daughter of a scientist heavily involved in naval technology, who has inherited her father’s interest and talent for scientific inquiry.

Elspeth’s seemingly accidental death is a shock to the school community and to Kitty–and the more she finds out about Elspeth and her family, the more the intrepid reporter begins to believe that it may not have been an accident after all.

This book was reviewed April 30, 20117 on my blog.

Today, a special treat:

The White House Wedding: A Solve-the-Mystery Blog Tour by Radha Vatsal.

At 8:30 PM on Saturday, December 1915, President Woodrow Wilson married Mrs. Edith Bolling Galt. The new Mrs. Wilson would go on to become one of the 20th Century’s most powerful first ladies and shepherd the United States through turbulent times. In the course of this blog tour, I describe four different aspects of their wedding plan: The Location Jane Reads, Guest List and Attendants on Benjamin Clark. Ceremony and Officiants on J. Roslyn’s Books, Dress and Flowers (today’s post–see below). The wedding went off as arranged, except for one significant last-minute change. Your mission is to guess what changed and why. The answer will be revealed in the final blog post. For more on the president and Edith Bolling/Wilson’s relationship, see the Introduction on Katherine’s Chronicle.

BLOG POST #5: Dress and Flowers

President Wilson wore a cutaway coat with gray striped trousers. While the women guests wore colorful evening gowns, Edith Galt chose a somber black velvet dress that she had bought especially for the occasion in New York. She paired it with a velvet hat. The bulk of the decoration for wedding venue came in the form of flowers, American Beauty roses and orchids. The wedding canopy was lined with white heather. Elsewhere ferns, dwarf asparagus and American Beauty roses were intertwined and used in abundance.

 

Did Mrs. Galt opt for a more festive dress at the last minute? If not white, then something brighter to mirror the happy occasion.? Did the décor change from flowers to something more formal? A silk canopy perhaps, or statuary from the different states in the union? Was she persuaded to bow to a more patriotic theme and feature bows and red-white-and-blue bunting?

 

Next Up: Solution on Bookish Jottings

 

The new First Lady and Woodrow Wilson make a dramatic appearance in Murder Between the Lines, the second novel in the Kitty Weeks Mystery series, which features the adventures of bold newswoman Capability “Kitty” Weeks in World War I era New York. For more historical surprises, sign up for the Kitty Weeks newsletter: radhavatsalauthor@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

BLOG TOUR: The Summer House Party, by Caro Fraser

 

 

Review: The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser. Head of Zeus. Ltd.

 

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, Mr. Gershwin’s song informs us. This story begins in summer of 1936 when the days are gloriously hot, clothes are loose and light, and life becomes a little simpler. The seeds of this epic five-part story are sown in the elegant country house party in England between the two world wars,

Part One of the book concerns the 1936 house party and its immediate aftermath. Sonia, wife of famed artist Henry Haddon, is hosting a house party for a varied group of individuals. We first meet handsome young Dan Ranscombe, godson of Sonia and Henry, who accepts the invitation to stay at their spacious country home and meet a number of agreeable people. Dan was especially keen to enlarge on his acquaintance with Meg, Sonia’s niece. There were also Paul and Diana Latimer, brother and sister, quite wealthy and eminently social. Dan himself is Cambridge-educated and working as a local journal’s art correspondent, a job he finds marginally interesting and low paying. There is an older couple, poet Gerald Cunliffe and his fussy wife. Two other younger guests are Eve Meyerson, whom Dan knows as a fellow journalist, and a protégé of Sonia’s, Charles Asher. Once at the Haddon home, Dan meets Avril, Sonia and Henry’s 6-year-old daughter, and the lovely sixteen-year-old Madeleine, daughter of an old friend of Sonia’s, who serves as a general caretaker and nanny for Avril.

The interplay of characters evolves into an array of dramas that no one had envisioned at the start. Notably, the party ends abruptly with the sudden heart attack and death of Henry Haddon. That certainly puts an end to the party, but it is just the start of events kindled during the hot days of August.

The remaining four parts recount events of a ten-year period from 1936 to 1945. The characters of the house party are transformed by their experiences, but parallel to the individual stories is World War II with all its drama and tragedy, changing individual lives as it changes the society surrounding them as the years go by.

To go too far with description starts to become a spoiler. Suffice to say the story is intriguing and multifaceted, as we view these characters playing out the drama with its lifelike mixture of romance, heartache, tragedy, heroism, accomplishment and growth. The recounting is rich in atmosphere and detail, making for an absorbing reading experience.

Two Allingham reviews: The Fashion in Shrouds, and The Tiger in the Smoke Both by Margery Allingham. Ipso Books.

The Fashion in Shrouds, by Margery Allingham.  Kindle Edition

 

I am such a fan of Allingham’s books, and it is always a pleasure to read one. But it

is not so easy to write a review, as I find myself feeling inadequate to do her writing the justice it deserves. Once I’ve said her writing is masterful, what can I add?

 

This book is notable for the return of Amanda Fitton, previously met as a flame-haired teenager in Sweet Danger. It is six years later; she is now Lady Amanda, she has completed her education and she is an engineer at Alandel aeroplane company. Quite a strong identity for a young woman at the time this book was written.

 

Besides Amanda and Albert Campion, there is a host of memorable characters in this story. Albert’s sister Valentine is a prominent fashion designer with the very successful firm of Papendeik. There is the beautiful Georgia Wells, a gifted actress who is very self-absorbed and has some difficulty distinguishing her stage world from real life.

 

We enter the world of fashion with a luncheon at the Papendeik establishment, with Albert, Val, and Georgia Wells in attendance, along with Georgia’s larger-than-life husband Sir Raymond Ramillies, her leading man, and entertainment entrepreneur, Ferdie Paul, and Alan Dell, a genius at aeronautics.

 

The drama unfolds slowly but relentlessly as the web of relationships and life events unfolds. Center stage, as befits her, is Georgia (Lady Ramillies) and her complicated story of marriages and romantic alliances. Campion, it transpires, has been hired by the father of Richard Portland-Smith to find out what happened to his son, who was engaged to Georgia and then vanished without a trace. Subsequently, Georgia married Ramillies. When Portland-Smith’s body is finally discovered, his death is ruled as a suicide. But before too long, Ramillies is also dead under suspicious circumstances. From there, the ramifications of these two deaths have impacted most of the central characters in the story.

 

Albert Campion is challenged to unravel these mysteries and untangle the complex relationships here. In the process, the romantic lives of Valentine, Georgia, Alan Dell, Campion, and Amanda are also on view. This is an intriguing tale, a puzzling mystery, and a very satisfying read despite the negative events encountered by the players.

 

The Tiger in the Smoke (A Campion Mystery) by Margery Allingham. Kindle edition.

 

This review represents quite a leap in my experience of re-reading the Allingham books. In The Fashion in Shrouds (see above), Albert Campion is a young man with an emerging reputation, not yet married. Now, in The Tiger in the Smoke, it is at least twenty years later, and “Albert” is happily married to the Lady Amanda Fitton and has a family. Familiar characters are still present, but Lugg is now doing nanny duty for the Campion children, and Stanislaus Oates is Assistant Commissioner and head of Scotland Yard. The central theme of the story is the upcoming marriage of Meg Elginbrodde and daughter of the venerable Canon Avril. Meg lost her husband Martin in the war, and now is set to marry Geoffrey, but this happy anticipation is cut short when there are indications that Martin may still be alive. Enter Scotland Yard and ”Albert Campion”.

 

I think of Allingham books as skillful constructions–she is as much an architect as a writer. Clearly, the structure is in place, and she introduces us to it in her own characteristic fashion: word by word, phrase by phrase, as she builds her edifice before our wondering eyes. We meet memorable characters masterfully sketched in indelible lines with a few sentences. We encounter exquisite descriptive passages that are poetic in their deliberate beauty.

 

Along with the breathtaking beauty of the words, we meet a tale of great and overarching evil met by goodness, even Godliness, of equal measure. The London fog (the “smoke”) is an important character-the swirling grey mists permeate nearly every scene. The villain of the piece–the “Tiger” is a man whose worst qualities are only too apparent to Oates, although Luke, the lead investigator of the piece, does not fully appreciate what his superior officer is telling him about the character known as “Havoc.” But Campion knows.

 

It seems to me that Allingham has exceeded her own high level of achievement in this tale. Here is dramatically portrayed an epic battle between the forces of good and evil–magnificent, spellbinding, and relentless. The “evil” here is the character known as Havoc, while the “good” is the Canon Avril. The story comes full circle in the climactic scene between Havoc and Avril, and ultimately resolves in an extraordinary way. It is a terrible, but ultimately satisfying.

Review: Brew or Die, A Java Jive Mystery, by Caroline Fardig. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

When I reviewed A Whole Latte Murder, the previous book in this series, I remarked that our heroine Juliette Langley surely leads an interesting life. Having read this newest book, I would say that observation remains unchanged. Juliette is still beautiful and talented, with 2½ careers: manager of the Java Jive coffee house, solving mysteries, and dreaming of singing in the appropriate setting of Nashville.

 

There is at least one notable change here: Juliette is now a bona fide licensed private investigator. But she is still managing Java Jive and still juggling the presence of at least three interesting men in her life: her BFF Pete Bennett, police detectives Stafford and ex-fiancé Ryder Hamilton. In this story, they are all still present, but their status in Juliette’s life will change dramatically in the course of events.

 

Juliette get her first real PI case, but at the same time encounters an unexpected challenge at Java Jive with the suspicious death of barista Shane’s fiancée. Juliette certainly gets a workout in this book. Early morning baking, afternoons at Java Jive, and sleuthing at night: with this hectic schedule and sparse sleep, she remains beautiful, fascinating and energetic. Juliette manages to get herself in plenty of peril while pursuing answers to two different and challenging cases. In all this, she also finds time to write a new song, goes undercover as a glamorous bride model and as a swing shift cleaning lady.

 

Caroline Fardig has given us another wildly entertaining book to enjoy, with an appealing and feisty central character.  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

In this, the second appearance of “Albert Campion” we are treated to a masterful and sweeping mystery tale in the grandest of grand manners.

 

Mr. Campion is quietly enlisted to the aid of Judge Crowdy Lobbett. It soon becomes apparent that Lobbett’s life is in danger because he knows too much about a notorious underworld organization known only as Simister, which is legendary and known to be ruthless.

 

Judge Lobbett, his son Malcolm and daughter Isopel, are all taken to a remote manor of Mystery Mile for their safety. Arriving at Mystery Mile they are greeted by the (impoverished) lord of the manor, young Giles, and his sister Biddy.

 

Soon the judge goes missing, which is upsetting for Giles and Biddy, while Albert seems oddly sanguine about this turn of events. The seriousness of the situation is offset by the persistent efforts of a purported art expert who wishes to authenticate and sell an artwork for Judge Lobbett. He seems unable to grasp that Giles and Biddy are more concerned about their father’s life than any artwork. But the man is such a stubborn dunderhead that he is tolerated because that is easier than getting him to desist.

 

Bit by bit, the tale unfolds for us, as Allingham tantalizes us with hints that offer glimmers but no real answers. Along the way, we do get glimpses behind the curtain of the “Campion” character and learn fascinating things about him. We have always felt he has Friends in High Places, but it now seems that he is closely connected with a European royal family, and we learn that his first name appears to be Rudolph. There is a suggestion of disinheritance, but there still seems to be access to regal treatment and facilities when the need is great.

 

In reading this book, one is aware of a masterful hand working skillfully on a large elaborate canvas. It is quite exhilarating to experience the creative process as it grows with each chapter we read.

Commentary on the Commenting Process

Today, I removed a post I had made some months ago, a review for a lovely children’s book called Abigail the Whale. I got some favorable responses, and for those I was grateful. But I also got a massive quantity of spam messages. Today, regretfully, I have deleted the Abigal review to turn off the spam machine on this post. For those who really care about the book, I am re-posting the review, below.

Review: Abigail the Whale. Written by Davide Call. Art by Sonja Bougaeva. Owlkids Books

I requested this book from NetGalley because it deals with a pre-teen girl and her anxieties, particularly around her body image. I am a licensed psychotherapist, and I know from years of experience how sensitive girls of this pre-teen and early teen age can be about themselves, and their body image in particular. In the story Abigail’s swimming teacher helps her with her problems through creative visualization technique. I use this very approach–visualization and mindfulness– with my patients, so I looked forward to reading the book.

Indeed, the book offers evocative pictures and conveys the idea of Abigail gaining self-confidence through her thought processes. For that, I can highly recommend it for girls of this particular age group. Abigail is a fortunate girl, to have a caring and wise teacher to guide her. The teacher helps Abigail to learn that “we are what we think”, and urges her to “Try it!” Abigail is a bit skeptical at first, but she is a brave and adventurous girl. She tries her hand at thinking, finding key words such as “light” and “water.” She also learns that whales can do pretty amazing things, like swimming and high diving. She finds that she is actually a–SUPER WHALE!

Good for Abigail! She finds that what she thinks is important, and she can help herself with her life’s challenges. It is very empowering to people of all ages to learn the power they possess to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.

 

This is an excellent, attractive and helpful book. I highly recommend it.

My thanks to author, artist, publisher and NetGalley for making a copy of this fine book available for me to read and review. My thanks also to Allison MacLachlan of Owlkids for resolving a question I had.

Blog Tour Review: A Death by Any Other Name: A Mystery, by Tessa Arlen. St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books.

I am very pleased to be a part of this Tessa Arlen blog tour, reviewing A Death By Any Other Name.

 

This is the second Tessa Arlen mystery I have reviewed that features Lady Montford and her housekeeper Mrs. Jackson, having read and reviewed the previous book, Death Sits Down to Dinner, in March 2016. Written in the style of my favorite Golden Age mysteries, Arlen’s books are richly told tales set in an important historical background.

The book starts with a list of the Dramatis Personae–a feature I have always enjoyed as it gives one a small preview and also can serve as a handy reference for the reader as the plot thickens.

The relationship between Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson is, officially, noble lady and capable housekeeper. Unofficially, they are comrades-in-arms as they pursue the mysteries that they encounter. Arlen manages this role-juggling act for our two leading characters very convincingly.

Tessa Arlen has chosen as the time line for this book the momentous days as the world teeters on the edge of the dangerous precipice that will become known as World War 1. This serves to heighten the drama for the reader, as we are in possession of of a historical perspective that Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have not yet acquired.

Set against this looming event, the story takes the two ladies to a earnest effort in aid of a cook erroneously considered responsible for the poisoning death of a visitor to her employer’s household. With her professional reputation shattered, her expectations for a successful life are in jeopardy.

Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson find themselves drawn into the world of the Hyde Rose Society, which is about to entertain an important guest persuaded somewhat reluctantly into a judging of tea roses. There is no shortage of intrigue and interesting characters in this story. Once again Ms. Arlen shows herself adept at sprinkling the scene with a tasty selection of best-quality red herrings. In the midst of the drama of the little rose society, and with a world war in the wings, we are thoroughly entertained by this well-drawn story.

As the title suggests, we find, as do our two leading ladies, that a rose by any other name . . .well, you know the rest. The solution is inventive and surprising.

As in Death Sits Down to Dinner, we are furnished with an afterword providing a wealth of historical background for the fictional account we have just enjoyed.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review and to Shailyn Tavella of Minotaur Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.