29 July 2010

Dirty Rotten Tendrils

By Kate Collins
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, October 2010
ARC courtesy of Kate Collins

Reality TV has come to New Chapel. Or, at least the winner of America's Next Hit Single has. Cody Verse has returned to sue his former writing partner; however, court proceedings are halted when Verse's lawyer is found dead. The suspects are rounded up, including Cody Verse, his former writing partner, his partner's grandparents, his celebrity girlfriend, and Attorney Dave Hammond. Hammond hires private detective Marco Salvare and flower shop owner Abby Knight to clear his name and off we go into adventure number ten of the Flower Shop Mysteries.

Collins had me giggling a fair bit whilst I read this book - her use of puns and wordplay is always spot on but she outdid herself here (writing partners Chapper and Verse got me going). And any time Abby's extended family makes an appearance, I'm all for it. After all, these are the characters we've grown to love and their position in the story can either help or hinder Abby's investigation.

It's all here: a mystery to solve, a romance to enjoy, and some jaw-dropping plot developments. Dirty Rotten Tendrils is not available until October, so mark your calendars!

28 July 2010

The Return Journey

By Maeve Binchy
Publishing history:
Delacorte Press hardcover edition published March 1998
Dell mass market edition published June 1999
Dell Trade paperback edition / June 2007

The good thing about short stories is that if you don't like them, they are finished quickly. The bad thing about short stories is that if you do like them, they are finished quickly. The short stories in this book are perfect; they end in a satisfactory place, but you always want to know just a tiny bit more about the characters.

"The Home Sitter" tells of a couple who hire Allie to house-sit for a few months while they are away. The husband is besotted with Allie, which brings out feelings of insecurity in the wife who immediately concludes the two will have an affair. To make matters worse, they return many months later to find Allie has befriended every neighbour, something the couple has never done.

In "Package Tour" friends Shane and Moya spend many months planning a trip together. A romance slowly simmers but, as the departure date nears, Shane and Moya discover that the choice of luggage and how one packs can make or break a relationship.

"Cross Lines" is a story of travellers who judge each other by how they are dressed, but change their initial impressions after being seated together on the plane.

Binchy writes her characters as real human beings with believable story lines. As always, her stories are a treat to read and easy to recommend.

21 July 2010

Garden Spells

By Sarah Addison Allen
Published by Bantam Dell
Bantam Discovery trade paperback edition / May 2008

Claire Waverley lives by herself in the old family home where she runs a successful catering business, the success of which comes from the magical herbs and flowers grown in her garden. Claire was brought to this house when she was six by her mother who later abandoned her and her sister, Sydney, to be brought up by their grandmother.

Sydney left town when her high school sweetheart broke up with her. Ten years later, with a child of her own, Sydney is drawn back to the life she swore she would never have again.

Now, Claire and Sydney have to come to grips with their past and decide how to deal with the Waverley legacy.

Sarah Addison Allen takes you into a magical world where eating apples can tell your future, where you glow with colour when you're in love, where unexpected presents will always have a future use, and where the world is perfect when multi-coloured sparkles rain down on your face.

Simply put, this novel is enchanting.

19 July 2010

Sleeping with Anemone

By Kate Collins
Published by New American Library
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, February 2010

Episode nine of the life and times of Abby Knight, owner of Bloomers Flower Shop and part-time sleuth, is yet another clever mystery by Kate Collins.

Abby's flower shop is trashed, three attempts are made to kidnap her, her mother's art keeps getting stolen from Bloomers, the flower shop receives a burning brick tossed through a window, Abby receives threatening mail, and Marco decides Abby needs twenty-four-hour protection. Plus, the Knights and Salvares are putting pressure on Abby and Marco to get engaged. Plus, plus, Abby is protesting against Uniworld's use of hormones in cows. Plus, plus, plus, there's a murder.

As usual, Collins has written a terrific story involving mystery, suspense, friends, family, and love of the Marco and Abby variety, which means you can't put it down until it's done and then wonder what you'll read while you're waiting for the next installment.

16 July 2010

Tell It To The Skies

By Erica James
Published in Great Britain in 2007 by Orion Books,
an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Lydia has a secret past. She lives in Venice now and nobody there knows anything about her. But, as always, the past has a way of catching up with you when you least expect it. For Lydia, the past becomes the present twenty-eight years after leaving England. It all starts with a glimpse of a face Lydia thought she would never see again.

Raised partly by her parents, partly by her grandparents, but mostly by herself, Lydia does what she can to make life bearable for her and her sister, Valerie. Not able to trust easily, Lydia has few friends and those friends she has suspect Lydia's life is not quite what she's letting on.

Known for her beautiful romance novels, Erica James has taken a chance with this book and has written a cruel and heart-breaking account of a childhood nobody should have to endure and of a life spent trying to make it better. As always, though, James has written a book you can't put down until you reach a happy ending.

11 July 2010

Evil in Carnations

By Kate Collins
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin group (USA) Inc.
First printing, February 2009

Abby Knight, owner of Bloomers Flower Shop, convinces her roommate, Nikki, to attend a speed dating event. Nikki picks the smarmiest guy in the room and then kills him. Well, that's what the police think. So, Marco and Abby band together to try to get Nikki off the hook.

What I like most about this novel is that both Abby's and Marco's families play a role, which always brings a fun and interesting flavour to Collins' books. I like the interaction of the main characters with their families and what that brings to the investigation, as well as the part the families play in the love lives of Abby and Marco. Pure fun.

But, back to the mystery at hand. Did Nikki really kill her date? Or do Abby and Marco find the killer after investigating a wide array of suspects? Once again, Collins has filled her novel with lots of juicy characters, a good plot, and a fun Abby and Marco storyline.

Shoots to Kill

By Kate Collins
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, August 2008

Let me just say upfront that this is by far my favourite Flower Shop Mystery (#7 in the series).

Abby Knight, owner of Bloomers Flower Shop, has her identity stolen and is a suspect in a murder investigation. This was a brilliant plot by Collins and it had me intrigued from the first page because it was actually more than Abby's identity that was stolen, it was her life, her looks, and possibly her boyfriend, Marco Salvare.

Besides the regular cast of characters - Lottie, Grace, Marco, Nikki, and Abby's parents - this book has two of the most interesting characters Collins has ever written: siblings Elizabeth and Oliver Blume. These characters are so well written they bring out a parade of emotions in the reader; you enjoy them, are irritated by them, feel sorry for them, wish something more for them.

While I wanted the mystery solved, I was sorry to come to the end of this book. I was so caught up in the characters and what makes them tick that I could have read more. If you only read one book in this series, read this one. But, really, just read them all.

A Rose From the Dead

By Kate Collins
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, December 2007

Abby Knight is the owner of Bloomers Flower Shop. She shares an apartment with her best friend, Nikki, and she dates PI hottie Marco Salvare. How does a florist get involved in a criminal investigation? In this episode of the Flower Shop Mysteries (#6 of the series), Bloomers has a booth at a funeral directors' convention. A murder occurs and the police suspect Abby's friend, Delilah Dove.

Throwing herself full tilt into the investigation to clear her friend's name, Abby gets herself mixed up with twin pranksters, an eco-warrior who believes in "green" burials, and a harpist who likes to record the sound of departing souls. Of course, Marco is there every step of the way.

I like the way Collins always plays Abby and Marco off each other - the banter is realistic and you can see their love lives progress throughout the series.

While Abby's escapades usually take place around the court house square, this book takes place mostly at the funeral directors' convention. Collins manages to make a convention about death an interesting place to be and some well placed jokes and puns about the funeral industry in general brought a smile to my face.

A good plot with some interesting twists, lots of fun along the way, and another murder solved by Abby Knight (or was it Marco?).

01 July 2010

A Vintage Affair

By Isabel Wolff
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
First Canadian Edition 2009

After working in the textiles department at Sotheby's for a number of years, thirty-three-year-old Phoebe Swift decides to take her clothing expertise and open a vintage clothing shop. Running the shop consumes all of Phoebe's time, which is fine by her as her personal life is a shambles - she's single again, her parents have divorced, and now Phoebe has a baby brother. And she carries a huge, painful secret with her always.

In the course of viewing and purchasing vintage clothing for the shop, Phoebe meets Therese Bell, a woman in her eighties who carries her own huge, painful secret.

This book is so much more than meets the eye. The cover has a romantic feel, the tag line is full of romance, so you're fully prepared to read a lovely romance novel. But the secrets these women hold, how their friendship develops, and how their secrets are finally revealed will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Wolff's descriptions of the clothing in the book are exquisite; you can see every detail, every stitch, come to life. But the personal stories of two women are what keep you turning the pages. Well done, Ms. Wolff!