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Book Reviews

The Convivial Codfish

My review of The Convivial Codfish by Charlotte MacLeod

 

convivial codfish

 

At Christmastime in Boston, a thief targets the local scrooge.

The angry old men of the Comrades of the Convivial Codfish club celebrate yuletide doing what they do best: eating, drinking, and greeting the season of giving with a spirited ‘bah, humbug!’ Though well past sixty, Jem Kelling is a relative infant compared to some of the club’s elder statesmen, and he has waited decades to host their annual Christmas scowl. And during his first evening as Exalted Chowderhead, he is thrilled to find the wine abundant, the chowder superb, and the humbugs as lusty as ever. But as the night winds down, Jem is horrified to find that the ceremonial Codfish necklace has vanished — right off of his neck!

His nephew-in-law, art investigator Max Bittersohn, is convinced his new uncle was the victim of a practical joke. But when the old man takes a hip-snapping tumble, Max is forced to conclude that one of the scrooges is trying to perpetrate a deadly Christmas jeer.

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Black Beauty

My review of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

 

BLACK BEAUTY

 

Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse tells the life of a horse from being a young colt running carefree through the fields through his working days pulling a cab. Along the way he talks about his various masters and companion horses at each stop of his life. This edition contains a color watercolor print at the beginning and black and white sketches by Wesley Dennis at each chapter head.

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The Bilbao Looking Glass

My review of Charlotte MacLeod’s The Bilbao Looking Glass

 

bilbao looking glass

 

Sarah finds a strange mirror that, though unbroken, proves to be very bad luck

According to Max Bittersohn, he and Sarah Kelling have witnessed enough murder and unhappiness, so it’s high time they got married. And though Sarah hasn’t yet agreed to such drastic measures, she invites Max to summer with her at Ireson’s Landing. But they haven’t been in the house ten minutes when they stumble upon summer’s first mystery—a mint-condition, antique Spanish mirror that is tremendously rare and valuable. Sarah has never seen it before and she doesn’t know how it ended up in the summerhouse, but the sleuthing couple will soon find this looking glass to be more troublesome than anything Lewis Carroll ever invented. As the zany Kelling clan descends on Ireson’s Landing, Sarah and her beau try to uncover the mystery of the Bilbao looking glass—a quest that is disrupted when a vicious next-door neighbor is found hacked to death with a woodshed ax. By summer’s end, Sarah and Max will learn that some murders can be solved simply by looking in the mirror.

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Descendants 2

This is my review of Descendants 2 the Junior Novel

descendants

 

Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay may be the children of terrible villains, but they’re fitting in amazingly well on Auradon.
Well, at least most of them are.

For Mal, the pressure to be royally perfect is too intense, so she returns to her rotten roots on the Isle of the Lost. But Mal soon finds that her archenemy, Uma, the daughter of Ursula, has taken her spot as self-proclaimed Princess of Evil. Even worse, Uma has a plan to destroy Auradon-and a gnarly gang of pirates to back her up!

It’s a classic battle between wicked and evil . . . and these kids are made for trouble.

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Rights of Man

My review of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man

rights

 

The Founding Father’s most influential work: an impassioned defense of democracy and revolution in the name of human rights.

Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.

In Rights of Man, Founding Father of the United States Thomas Paine makes a compelling case in favor of the French Revolution. Written in response to Edmund Burke’s highly critical Reflections on the Revolution in France, its forceful rebuke of aristocratic rule and persuasive endorsement of self-government made it one of the most influential political statements in history. Paine asserts that human rights are not granted by the government but inherent to man’s nature. He goes on to argue that the purpose of government is to protect these natural rights, and if a government fails to do so, its people are duty-bound to revolution.

Originally published in two parts, in 1791 and 1792, Rights of Man was a popular sensation in the United States, while in England, its incendiary views were seen as a threat to the Crown. For its erudite prose and rigorous argumentation, it remains a classic text of political thought.

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Dead Men’s Hearts

My review of Aaron Elkins’ novel Dead Men’s Hearts

DEAD MEN'S HEARTS

An ancient skeleton tossed in a garbage dump is the first conundrum to rattle Gideon Oliver when he arrives in Egypt. There to appear in a documentary film, he expects an undemanding week of movie star treatment and a luxurious cruise up the Nile with his wife, Julie. But when Gideon discovers a tantalizing secret in the discarded bones—and violence claims a famous Egyptologist’s life—he is thrust into a spotlight of a different kind. Plying his calipers as the world’s foremost forensic anthropologist, Gideon’s investigation of the goings‑on leads him through the back alleys and bazaars of Cairo and deep into the millennia‑old tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

As the puzzle is painstakingly pieced together, Gideon will find that the identifying traits of a cunning killer are the same now as they were in the time of the pyramids: greed without guilt, lies without conscience . . . and murder without remorse.

Dead Men’s Hearts is the 8th book in the Gideon Oliver Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

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Curses!

My review of Aaron Elkins story in the Gideon Oliver series, Curses!

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Mayan ruins in the Yucatán . . . a secret room in a tomb . . . age‑old skeletons. To anthropologist Gideon Oliver, the renowned Skeleton Detective, the invitation to join the archaeological excavation of Tlaloc promises two months of paradise on Earth.

That is, until an ancient series of Mayan curses against desecrators of the site is unearthed. When the first one comes to pass (“The bloodsucking kinkajou will come freely among them”), it is taken by all as a practical joke. But by the time the fourth one is apparently consummated (“The one called Xecotcavach will pierce their skulls so that their brains spill onto the earth”), nerves have begun to fray and suspicions and discord are mounting.

The steamy jungles weigh down on the band of eccentric anthropologists as one by one the curses continue to materialize. It takes Gideon’s special talents for deduction—along with the enigmatic insights of Mexico’s one and only Mayan Indian inspector of the state judicial police—to resolve an ancient riddle and a modern, murderous mystery.

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The Palace Guard

My review of Charlotte MacLeod’s The Palace Guard

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When a museum guard takes a tumble, Sarah and Max find a forgery

It has only been a few months since Sarah Kelling’s elderly husband passed away, and she is struggling to adapt to life as a penniless young widow. To make ends meet, she converts her stately Boston home into a boardinghouse, a decision that brings something even better than money: the company of art-fraud investigator Max Bittersohn. The budding couple is standing on a balcony, recovering from a second-rate concert at a third-rate museum, when something plummets past them. The museum has been robbed, and a guard has fallen to his death.

Dozens of priceless paintings have been stolen and replaced with forgeries, and to recover these masterworks will mean tearing the lid off the quiet life of the Boston upper crust. But it is a chance Sarah and Max must take, lest they join the guard on his long trip down.

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Champion Dog: Prince Tom

My review of Champion Dog: Prince Tom by Jean Fritz and Tom Clute

champ 001

This is the true story of a loveable, under-sized blonde cocker spaniel with big ideas. Prince Tom, who lives in Adrian, Michigan, with his owner, Tom Clute, spends his life surprising people, doing the impossible, and adding new titles to his name. Today he is one of the most famous dogs in the country with an official name so long that it takes two breaths to say it. (Try it.) Prince Tom III, Companion Dog, Companion Dog Excellent, Utility Dog, National Field Trial Companion.

(excerpted from the dust jacket of the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club edition)

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