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Almost Home: The Chesapeake Diaries

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3.5 stars.I loved the first book in this series. Liked the second one a lot. This one was a solid "like".Certainly, I enjoyed returning to St. Dennis and all the characters from the previous books. I liked Steffie in her previous appearances, and had been looking forward to getting to know her better. Part of the problem was that I didn't feel like I had a deeper understanding of her character by the end of the book. Sure, she was fun to hang out with, and I really enjoyed the look into the working of her ice cream creation process, but I never felt I knew her as more than a good buddy.Part of the problem is all mine. The base story was a very standard romance plot-- girl falls in love with boy, boy moves away. Boy turns into man, girl turns into woman, but somehow something is missing in both of their lives until they meet each other again as adults.For someone that likes romance novels, I have very little patience with the ideas of love at first sight and that there are matches that are fated to be. On the other hand, these are such staples of the genre that it makes no sense to fault a book for containing them.Wade (the love interest)did have a creative story, one that I haven't seen before. It had moments of both predictability and of being over the top in what it asked me to believe, but mostly it was the blend of fun and touching that I would hope for.As with the other books in the series, the strength is in the characters and their relationships. I particularly like the links between friends that cross generations, and I think the way the books actually let some of the folks older even than me be real people is a very refreshing change of pace.If you've been following the series, go ahead and pick this one up. If you haven't, I'd suggest starting at the beginning.
Happy Ever After: Bride Quartet

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A very nice, comfortable read, and a pleasant end to the Bride Quartet.
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland

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Listening to this book was so cool!I've been a fan of fictional forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan since long before the TV show Bones. I like what she's able to do with contemporary bodies, but I'm always interested in the asides about her ventures with older, more historic graves.This book goes into many of the details of this process, using some bodies from colonial Jamestown.The book goes into details of isotopes, of bone measurements, and of soil composition. It then takes this information as well as details as to how the body is positioned, and what is found nearby, and builds a portrait of the life of this individual. An attempt is made to match this portrait to the historical record, trying to identify who has been located.The audience clearly is middle grade, but the information isn't so simplified as to be uninteresting. The age of the intended audience is clear when the narrator gives a brief explanation of negative numbers, but it usually is fairly universal.I came at this book interested in the scientific aspect, but the historical viewpoint also grabbed me. While listening, I kept thinking of the opportunities for a classroom unit featuring a truly integrated curriculum. I'm going to suggest it to the 5th grade teachers at my daughter's school, since they cover Colonial America as well as basic human anatomy that year.
Pirate King

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I feel like I need to write two different reviews for Pirate King-- one directed towards those new to Mary Russell, and one for fans of the series.I'm generally a proponent of reading series in order, and that does stand for these books. That said, most (but not all) of the Mary Russell books can stand alone fairly well, and this one is relies on the books that came before even less than the rest.In other words, if this book intrigues you, go ahead and stick your toes in here. You may well want to fill in the earlier books when you finish, but don't worry about that right now.This is a really fun read. It isn't so much a funny read as a comic one, and it never takes itself too seriously. I loved the pirates, the movie people, the crazy poet/translator, but most of all, I loved Mary Russell in the middle of it all.This book is less about the mystery than it is about dealing with a rather ridiculous situation with a straight face, solving the problems that arise without ever letting on exactly how odd the overall picture really is. The mystery is there to hold the book together. This book is much lighter on the character development than the usual Laurie R. King book, but the cast of characters are well put together and fun to read.For those looking at this book having read others in the series, I've got a few other notes to share. First, while Russell and Holmes don't develop as characters in this book, they are behaving in character. I was a little worried about that, but I needn't have been. Yes, Holmes and Russell do spend more of the book apart than together, but that isn't really a surprise at this point, is it?Although there are moments of humor in most (if not all) of the other books in the series, this has a decidedly different overall tone. It works quite well as a contrast to the previous 3 books, which were getting progressively darker. I don't mind if the series goes that way as a whole, but this is a nice break.I don't think this will ever be one of my favorite Mary Russell books, but I suspect I'll always approach it with a smile, in anticipation of a very enjoyable read.
The Mystery of Grace

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Every time I read a book by Charles de Lint I'm reminded how much I enjoy his work. This is a rather unusual ghost story. I find de Lint's work to be rather sweet, even when tackling very harsh subjects, and this book fits that pattern for me.I loved the character of Grace. Life hasn't been easy for her, but she's found her own path. Many people looking at her find her tattoos to be off-putting, but to her, each has a meaning, and is a celebration of her life. She and her mother were never able to connect. Her mother wanted her to find a nice lawyer and settle down, and Grace wanted to be doing something herself. Thanks to the strong bond she forged with her grandfather, she found her calling in working with old cars.At first, I thought the story would equally belong to John, since the book starts with him and his ill-timed meeting with Grace. Although he's an interesting character as well, the story belongs to her.Grace's world is wonderfully built. I think it draws from several mythologies, but most of it is new to me, and I don't know how much is directly from de Lint's imagination (I think most of it is). Wherever it originates, it is fantastic to explore it with Grace, as she tries to understand its secrets.This is the first time I've tried one as an audio book, and I'm quite pleased to find they work well in this format as well. The narrator did an excellent job. de Lint has a very nice rhythm and flow to his words that drew me in even further, since I don't like to take the time to appreciate the language when I read in print.
A Drop of the Hard Stuff

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3.5 stars.I suspect my rating would have been much higher if I'd read any of the previous books in the series, if I knew and was already invested in the character of Matthew Scudder. I have the first book of the series in my shopping cart, and plan to meet Matthew properly soon-- I saw lots of promise in this book.The mystery here is secondary, and that's fine with me. It provides something for Scudder to do while he deals with the real meat of the book-- facing one year of sobriety. It also gave an opportunity to introduce characters that I assume play a bigger role in the earlier books. I didn't have any issues with the search for the murderer, and it was well integrated into the other aspects of the story.A Drop of the Hard Stuff is evidently filling in back story for the lead character of this series, and focuses on Scudder's looking back over this year of sobriety, and what it took for him to get there and stay there. Much of the book takes place in AA meetings-- some of this time sets up the plot, but more of it deals with the ins and outs of life as a recovering alcoholic. This was interesting, but I never quite formed a full connection with Scudder. I hope to do so in the future.
Raising Wrecker

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Wrecker was a wonderful story about what it means to be a family.None of the characters in Wrecker had lives that had gone as expected, and I really enjoyed seeing each of the stories unfold as I read through the book.Wrecker can't live with his mother-- she's in jail, and will be for a long time. His uncle agrees to take him in, only to realize that he can't care for his wife, suffering from some form of dementia, and this extremely active 3 year old boy, determined to live up to his name.The neighbors step in to help out-- first overnight, then for a few weeks, and so on. These aren't just any neighbors, but a group of four dropouts from society living on a small farm in the Redwood forests of far Northern CA. Each has their own reason for living there, each has a reason for being drawn to Wrecker--and in some cases, for keeping a distance from him as well.Wrecker explores the stories of many of these characters as forming a new family forces them to face who they have been and who they want to become. It also tells the story of Wrecker's mother, and particularly her relationship with Wrecker-- from his birth, the decisions that landed her in jail, and the effects of realizing he was growing up with no contact with her.Although the strength of the book was this range of characters and their interrelated stories, there were moments when this was the weakness as well-- I wanted to spend more time on one story rather than moving on to another. In general, the approach worked well.Much of the flavor of the book came from the setting-- I grew up at roughly the same time but in very different places. I had to keep reminding myself that it is part of the same world I lived in. This very small community near a tiny town seemed completely different from anything I've known, but still was very real and vibrant.
Married With Zombies

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A light but funny read.It was my first zombie book (and I've never watched a zombie movie either), and I don't think I'll ever be a fan of the genre. However, the fight against the zombies made a great backdrop for this couple working through the issues in their marriage.The highlights of this book are probably the chapter headings, which feature some fairly standard relationship advice, modified slightly to be relevant to the situation at hand: "Never go to bed angry. Terrified is OK.". "Plan romantic getaways. Or just getaways".As I think back on it, there's several aspects of the book that seem even weaker than I thought while reading it, but I don't care. I had fun while it lasted, and that's what I was looking for!
Rolling Thunder

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I always enjoy this series! This one doesn't disappoint, and may actually be moving the characters along even more than usual.
Legend in Green Velvet

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I enjoy reading an Elizabeth Peters romantic adventure, and this one was no exception. I'm not sure how I managed to miss it until now!Susan has a passion for Scottish history, (and so I learned a number of tidbits as the story advanced) and this leads to a case of mistaken identity, and gets her embroiled in a nasty affair, with bad guys trying to kill her. Luckily her wits and the resources of the guy that gets dragged into this with her are enough to keep them a step or two ahead.Bonus points for a brief appearance by an inconvenient and adorable ginger kitten.
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