Review: The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page

I love the Faith Fairchild series of cozy mysteries by Katherine Hall Page. The Body in the Sleigh is the eighteenth in this series and recently released. It has a bit of a Christmas theme, so this was the perfect time of year for me to be reading it. For those of you new to this series, Faith Fairchild is a caterer, mom, and wife of a minister, transplanted from NYC to the suburbs of Boston, where she has a Jessica Fletcher-like propensity for finding dead bodies and solving mysteries. The stories are fun to read – especially since I live in the same area as Faith does – and include yummy recipes, too.

This installment was a bit different from the previous ones. Yes, it does center on Faith and her family – vacationing for Christmas in their favorite holiday spot, a quiet island off the coast of Maine – but it is less “cozy” and more intense than the previous novels. Faith finds the dead body of a young woman who is part of an island family, but there are questions about her death (and about her life, too). At the same time, on Christmas Eve someone leaves a newborn baby in the stable of a local woman goat farmer, requesting her to “raise him to be a good man”. These two events are separate but intertwined. This novel has intense themes in it: drug abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, etc., but Page does a good job, as always, in making them into a powerful and enjoyable read.

This was a different type of Faith Fairchild mystery, but I liked it, even though it was somewhat sad and poignant.

I recommend it to those who enjoy cozies and the other Faith mysteries, just be prepared that it is not all light. I got my copy from the library.

On another note, we’ll be heading out of town to visit relatives for the holidays at the end of this week, so I’ll be off-line for a bit. I do hope to post – soon – a review of my first year of blogging!

Quick Review of THE STORY SISTERS by Alice Hoffman — and my final word on The Christmas Cookie Club

I love the author Alice Hoffman. I think I’ve read all her books. She is such an excellent writer and her characters are portrayed so vividly and multi-dimensionally. I was thrilled when I saw The Story Sisters: A Novel on the new acquisitions rack at my library. This novel is the story of three unique sisters, from childhood into adulthood. Each sister is deeply and vividly portrayed: talented, beautiful, flawed, and deeply human.

The reason that this is a “quick” review is that I cannot really say much more about the story without giving it away. This plot had many turns and twists. And let me be clear – this was not a light and happy read. These girls/women definitely had their moments of being troubled, tortured, and full of angst. There is abuse in this book – both physical and drug. It is not a knee slapper. However, it is beautifully written. Alice Hoffman has the ability to write events without “giving it all away” – and this makes this novel such an unforgettable and emotional read.

So – while I didn’t get the warm fuzzies from this book – I did really like it. It reminded a bit of how I felt when I read Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. I recommend it to those who like that type of “deep read”.

I give it 4 1/2 Stars!

And let me revisit The Christmas Cookie Club which I mentioned in my Christmas books post earlier this week. I loved it! Each chapter tells the story of a different member of the group and also gives the recipe for the cookie she brings, along with a bit of “food history”. It’s a great book about the bonds of female friendship, and it’s a holiday themed book that is well-written! Yeah!

New on my Nightstand….

The Farmer’s Daughter – short stories by Jim Harrison

The Body in the Sleigh – A Faith Fairchild Mystery – by Katherine Hall Page — LOVE this series of cozy mysteries!

The Crowing Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells – author of The Ya Ya Sisterhood

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chavelier

still going to read Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran!

Coming soon – my review of The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman and my final word on The Christmas Cookie Club novel!

A Challenge for 2010

One of the great things about doing this blog this year has been discovering all the wonderful and talented people out there in the world who are already blogging about books. Many of them also promote “challenges” — personal challenges to read. I’ve selected my first challenge to take on for 2010 – the support your local library reading challenge – hosted by J. Kaye on her book blog: I encourage you to check it out and sign up, too! I’m aiming for the “just my size” 50 books level.

Christmas Books

I noticed that several of my fellow book bloggers were blogging about Christmas themed books this month. Personally, I usually try to stay away from Christmas books as I find they fall into two categories ~ 1) the self-centered and recently single main character is forced to spend time with an elderly relative/friend. Said elderly relative/friend retrieves an item from the attic/basement/old desk and uses item to tell stories of his/her youth. Self-centered protagonist realizes that there is true love in life and he/she almost lost their chance at it with their recent break-up. All is resolved. Or 2) bitter protagonist (a la Scrooge) or perhaps depressed protagonist (a la George Bailey) has pretty much given up on living life until a series of supernatural events occur which help him/her to realize that life is worth living. All is resolved.

However, I figured I’d give some Christmas books a try. So this week I chose three to read from the library: The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Perlman, The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber, and A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid. I tried to pick books that would not follow my above formulas! I’m just finishing the Cookie Club book, so that full review will follow soon.

I first read A Dog Named Christmas. Now I have to admit: I love dogs. The cover alone grabbed me: a sweet black lab sitting in the snow in front of a farmhouse. This story centers on a family with a special needs son who take a dog home as part of a Christmas week foster program. I figured they would love the dog and want to keep him. I did worry that the dog would die or the son would die or they both would die (NOT what I wanted to read). However, this story was a nice read. At points it moved slowly – I believe this may be the author’s first work – but I was able to read the whole thing in a few hours. And SPOILER ALERT – the dog does not die, so you’re safe there if that is an issue for you (as it is for me!).

Then I read A Perfect Christmas. Now first let me say that I love, love, love Debbie Macomber. Her Promise, Texas books are my favorites from her, along with the Blossom Street books. She’s considered a romance writer, however, I don’t find her books about romance as much as about human relationships. I thought this book looked interesting: it’s about a young professional woman, Cassie, who goes to a professional matchmaker – to the tune of $30,000 – in order to meet her perfect match. She’s feeling pressured that so many of her friends at her age are already married with children, etc. I’m sure many of us can relate?! However, I really didn’t like this book. In fact, I pretty much hated it, which kills me since I love Debbie as a writer so very much! I found the characters in this book SO driven to find a mate that all the rest of their life was paling by comparison. The main character had a wonderful nuclear family, good friends, a great education and job and apartment, and yet it was all deemed rather worthless since she didn’t have a boyfriend/husband. That really bothered me. (Don’t get me wrong — I love my husband and children more than anything, but before I had them I certainly didn’t feel like my life was worthless or I was a failure since I was single!). What a message this book sends! Additionally, I felt the character of the matchmaker was pretty much a caricature. He was the typical analyst who cannot analyze himself – the one who seeks mates for others since he feels there is no mate for him. Bleh! I really disliked his pedantic character and couldn’t imagine SPOILER ALERT why Cassie fell for him. Anyhow, this book was a real disappointment. I’d love to hear from other Debbie Macomber fans if they’ve read it.

Lastly, I am reading The Christmas Cookie Club. This story is about a group of women friends who do a cookie exchange yearly. Different chapters are told about different women in the club. So far, I am liking it! It’s well written, I have to say, and I saw that the author was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for a previous work. I have to say the first sentence totally threw me and turned me off, but I kept reading (I don’t usually give up after the first sentence!) and am glad I did!

Okay – there are three books for you to consider this year. I’ll write and update on Cookie Club when I finish it.

Happy Reading!!

A Thank You….

Recently my friend Amy Clark gave me a shout-out on her blog and wow did my numbers go through the roof! I had a record number of hits that day, with an increase ever since. So here’s a big THANK YOU to my dear friend Amy!
Those of you who know me well, may remember Amy from when she lived in MA and we were friends (doing theater in the “old days”). Well, she is a blogging queen these days – running a very popular website of all sorts of good things, especially for at home moms and people who appreciate being frugal! She has all sorts of great ideas, craft ideas, recipes, Freebie Fridays, and occasionally even an article by yours truly, so check it out at! 🙂

REVIEW: The Heretic Queen: A Novel by Michelle Moran

For my online bookclub, we read for November Michelle Moran’s The Heretic Queen. I had received this book free in an online giveaway, and was thrilled since I loved Moran’s Nefertiti (reviewed on Aug. 18) . This novel centers on the story of Nefertiti’s supposed niece, Nefertari, as she marries Ramses the Great and seeks to become chief wife. She is a strong and intelligent young woman (and by young I mean in her teens). It was fascinating to read of her collaboration with Ramses in running the kingdom, her ideas on policies, and her accompanying Ramses to war (an event based in fact). At the end of the book, Ramses has created for Nefertari her tomb at Abu Simbel, one of the greatest tombs still standing today.

I loved this book! I really enjoy reading of Ancient Egypt, and Moran makes it come alive with vivid details of daily life and strong and varied characters. I highly recommend this book to readers who like reading historical fiction of this era.

I give it 5 Stars!

What’s On My Nightstand….

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran (review coming soon!)

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran (I won these books, signed, online – I LOVE this author!)

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman (I’ve read most of her books)

U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton (LOVE these mysteries!)

and a few Hamish MacBeth cozies….