Book Recommendation: Asylum

20150810_112241 20150810_112250

I recently finished Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir and I knew immediately that it was going to end up in the Book Recommendation section of my blog.

As I’ve done for several of the books I’ve recommended, I won Asylum on Facebook during a book launch party for another author (not Ms. De Beauvoir). I wasn’t able to get to it for a while because I was busy reading so many other books, but once I finally sat down to read it I loved it.

Asylum is the story of Martine LeDuc, who works for the City of Montreal as the marketing director. Martine wakes up one morning to find there has been a fourth victim in a series of brutal murders in the city. As the mayor’s liaison to the city’s police department, Martine is tasked with making sure the police are looking day and night for the killer and reporting the department’s progress to her boss. These killings are, after all, a huge smudge on the city’s reputation. The police put a man in custody for the murders, but Martine is convinced the man is innocent of the crimes. Working with a detective on the force, Julian Fletcher, she begins to investigate the crimes on her own, following clues that lead her straight into Montreal’s past.

Martine delves into a dark period of Montreal’s history that has been buried in the memories of some, forgotten by others, and is rarely spoken of in polite company. It is the systematic conversion of some of Montrel’s most unfortunate orphanages into asylums, institutions for the mentally ill. In the asylums these children, known as the Duplessis Orphans, were the unwitting and terrified human subjects in monstrous “medical” experiments that were performed at the behest of some very influential people and organizations both inside and outside of Canada.

As the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, Martine finds herself in danger that she didn’t see coming–danger that threatens to turn her into the fifth victim.

This book was a fascinating read. The Duplessis Orphans really did exist, and many of them really were human subjects for bizarre drug experiments. Jeannette de Beauvoir has woven a story combining history and fiction that had me on the edge of my seat. From the beginning right through to the breathless climax, the story moves at a fast pace. The characters are complex, and the setting is incredible. Though I did eventually guess who the killer was, it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the story one single bit (mostly because I wasn’t sure of it until the end). I suspected almost everyone at one point or another.

And bonus: if you like French, you will find much to love in this book. Snippets and phrases in French are sprinkled liberally throughout the book, and I found myself reading those parts out loud and repeatedly just to hear the lilt of the language. It’s gorgeous.

I hope you’ll check out Asylum and let me know what you think. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it recently, if you read it please consider leaving the author a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Authors appreciate reviews, and I’m sure Ms. de Beauvoir would love it!

Until next week,

Amy

 

Book Recommendation: Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth

20150726_172520

The book recommendation I have for you this week is part of the Amish Bed & Breakfast series by Tamar Myers. Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth, which takes place in Hernia, PA, is a great read with an intriguing mystery and some laugh-out-loud moments to boot.

The book is filled with quirky characters, not the least of which is Magdalena Yoder, our intrepid innkeeper. When both her parents died in a car accident, they left Magdalena the family home, with the caveat that Mags’ younger sister, Susannah, be cut in for a share of the property when she became responsible enough. An iffy prospect, at best. Magdalena turned the home into the PennDutch Inn, an Amish Bed & Breakfast where guests are treated to an “authentic” Amish experience during their stay (including an added fee for the fun of cleaning their own rooms and making dinner one night of the week).

Susannah, who left the faith temporarily when she married a Presbyterian, is back at the PennDutch Inn and generally gets in Magdalena’s hair with her flirty ways, her immodest bling, and her dog, Shnookums (his name says it all). There’s also Freni, the stubborn and on-again, off-again cook for the PennDutch, and her husband, Mose, who has his hands full dealing with Freni.

And that’s before we even get to the guests, who are a clever mish-mash of people thrown together (perhaps not so much by chance) during the opening week of deer-hunting season in the county. Magdalena has her hands full with the dietary demands of the guests, as well as their personalities, which range from sweet to down-home to brusque to downright mean. And when the bodies start piling up, Magdalena has to figure out what on earth is going on behind the closed doors of her inn.

I loved this book. As with many of the books I read, I downloaded this one on my Kindle when it was free during a marketing promotion. And I’m so glad I did. Tamar Myers has given the reader a light-hearted glimpse into the life of an Amish innkeeper, complete with the concessions Magdalena has to make to the preconceptions much of the world has about the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish. Myers has written a fun mystery that kept me guessing to the end, with humor and a light touch that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Oh, and did I mention the book includes recipes for such things as chicken and dumplings, buckwheat pancakes, and cocoa mocha cake, to mention a few?

What are you reading? I’d love to hear!

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. In addition to her Amish Bed & Breakfast Mystery Series, Tamar Myers has also penned the Belgian Congo Mystery Series, the Den of Antiquity Series, and several stand-alone books. I intend to read as many as I can!

Book Recommendation: Death Runs in the Family

 Blog 2

Ready for another good book recommendation? I just finished Death Runs in the Family by Heather Haven and I really enjoyed it.

Death Runs in the Family is the third book in the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries series, the first two being Murder is a Family Business and A Wedding to Die For. I first heard of Heather Haven when Death Runs in the Family was available for a free download on Kindle, and I’m happy to report that I will gladly purchase the other books in the series.

It is the story of Lee Alvarez (short for Liana) who, along with her mother and brother, works for Discretionary Inquiries, their family-owned investigative service.

When the story opens, Lee is being rudely awakened by the appearance at her front door of her ex-husband’s current wife, a beautiful and beguiling young woman who is desperate for Lee’s help.

The young wife has arrived simultaneously with some very bad news for Lee and her family, and the two events dovetail to create a whirlwind of danger, revenge, and villainy. I don’t want to get into a plot summary and spoil any of the details, but I will say that there’s murder, gambling, and catnapping.

Need I say more?

I loved the mystery. I loved the characters and the way the author developed their relationships, I thought the pacing of the story was perfect, and I even learned some Spanish! I found the family threads easy to follow, even though this was the third mystery in the series (normally I like to start at the beginning of a series, but there’s really no need to with this one).

The story takes place in several spots, including Las Vegas, Palo Alto, and one other locale that would spoil the ending if I reveal it. And speaking of Las Vegas, I learned about some of the seedier business deals that are transacted in Sin City, too.

The author ties all the plot lines together nicely at the end, so I put the book down feeling satisfied and ready to pick up some of her other novels. I hope you’ll give Heather Haven’s books a look and let me know what you think!

Until next week,

Amy

Book Recommendation: Senseless Acts of Beauty

20150615_174609

It’s been a while since I posted a book recommendation on my blog, so I thought it was time for a new one. And do I have a good one for you.

Senseless Acts of Beauty by Lisa Verge Higgins is a beautifully-written story about friendship, loss, love, the passage of time, the emotional upheaval that can go hand-in-hand with adoption, and the secrets that can be unearthed when a child goes looking for his or her birth mother.

Sadie, a fifteen-year-old adoptee and runaway, is looking for her birth mother. Tess, a trucker to whom life hasn’t been kind, is looking for the daughter she gave up fifteen years ago. Their lives intersect in the town of Pine Lake at Camp Kwenbeck, a camp run by Riley Cross. Riley is an old friend of Tess and an adoptee herself. A towel from the camp is the only connection Sadie has to her birth mother and she has come to the camp looking for clues and a connection to her own past.

Sadie, full of anger and slow to trust, sees Tess as a threat.

Tess, full of memories and quick to don armor when faced with tough questions, is hell-bent on protecting Sadie from the runaway life that she led as a young adult.

Riley has her own problems, not the least of which are her overbearing but loving adoptive mother and her fight to keep Camp Kwenbeck afloat financially.

The book held my attention from the very first page. Lisa Verge Higgins has presented a raw and honest picture of what adoption can look like and the struggles that an adoptee can face when looking for a birth parent. The language is real and heartfelt, the pacing is just right, and the ending is exactly the way it has to be. The relationships among the three women in the story are complex and beautiful, but there are also other relationships explored in the book, too: between Riley and her mother, between Riley and her ex-husband, between Tess and her old nemesis in the Pine Lake police department, between Tess and her own mother, and between Sadie and her adoptive family. Each relationship is filled with rich, though not wordy, detail; each is a part of the lives that the women now lead.

If you’re looking for contemporary women’s fiction, either for yourself or as a gift to a woman in your life, consider Senseless Acts of Beauty. It was a bit of a break from the types of fiction I normally read, and I’m so glad I read it! I found Lisa Verge Higgins’s writing style similar to that of Kristin Hannah.

Incidentally, I won the book on a Facebook launch party. For those of you who may not be familiar with a FB launch party, it’s usually a three- or four-hour event that takes place entirely online. The author of the book being released hosts other authors and special guests on a dedicated FB page and fans are invited to ask the authors questions about anything–their books, where they like to go on vacation, what they like to eat, how they do their research, etc. The authors almost always have giveaways of their books or other book-related items to people who leave comments during the party, and I’m happy to say I’ve won several books this way. I highly recommend the FB launch party as a great way to learn about other authors and possibly snag some goodies!

20150615_174623

Until next week,

Amy

Book Recommendation: The Vintage Caper

The Vintage Caper

The comments to last week’s post got me thinking about the books I review on my blog and how I go about deciding which books to review. Here’s what I concluded: when I tell readers about a specific book, I shouldn’t really call that post a “book review” because I’m not a book reviewer. I’m just a reader who loves to share the books I think are great.

In other words, if I enjoy a book and I think there are other people out there who would enjoy reading it, too, then I’ll recommend it and write about it. If I read a book and don’t enjoy it, you won’t find it on my blog.

I keep it to myself. I know very well how a writer feels to read a less-than-positive review, and I’m not going to ruin another writer’s day by writing one.

So from now on, my book reviews will be called “book recommendations.” That’s because I won’t review a book that I can’t recommend.

That takes care of the housekeeping issues for this week. Let’s move on to the real reason for today’s post: my recommendation of A Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle.

I loved this book!

As its title suggests, this book is a caper, not a hard-boiled thriller. It’s a story that contains a bit of a mystery. There is criminal activity, yes, but there’s no violence, no sex, and I think the limited amount of swearing is in French. It’s a fun, light-hearted story that doesn’t take long to read and that peels back aspects of French culture in a way that reveals much about the differences between France and America. I found these parts of the book to be especially interesting.

A Vintage Caper is the story of Sam Levitt, a former lawyer-turned-criminal-turned-good-guy who also happens to be a wine connoisseur. He is hired by an insurance company to investigate the theft of a fortune in wine from the cellar of prominent LA lawyer Danny Roth, a thoroughly unlikeable character who uses bullying and threats to get what he wants.

In his search for the wine, Levitt travels to Paris, Bordeaux, and Provence, following leads that he finds with the help of Sophie Costes, a Bordeaux-based agent specializing in wine insurance. Their job is to find the wine, but they manage to creat a twist that makes for a surprising and very satisfying ending.

Peter Mayle is the author of quite a few books about Provence, an area of France I’ve always wanted to visit– even more so now that I’ve read this book. His other books include A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence, Encore Provence, Provence A – Z, Anything Considered, Chasing Cezanne, Hotel Pastis, A Good Year, French Lessons, Up the Agency, The Marseille Caper, and A Dog’s Life. I want to read all of them!

If you do check out A Vintage Caper, let me know what you think of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. The release of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is less than a month away! Stay tuned for links to my guest blogs and interviews!