Friday, March 30, 2012

Elegy For Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From Back Cove:r:

Early April, 1933.  To the costermongers of Covent Garden - peddlers selling fruits and vegetables on the streets of London - Eddie Pettit was kindness itself.  A little "slow," he was a gentle soul, more boy than man, with a gift for calming the most challenging horse.  His recent death in a violent accident has shocked his friends and neighbors.  They believe Eddie was the victim of foul play, but the police won't investigate.  Their only hope of finding the truth is Maisie Dobbs.

Maisie has known these men from childhood, when her father, Frankie, worked alongside them.  Determined to do right by Eddie, she plunges into the investigation.  They search for answers begins amid the working-class streets of Lambeth, where Eddie lived.  But before long, Maisie is following threads of intrigue to a powerful press baron, a "has-been" politician lingering in the hinterlands of power named Winston Churchill, and to the doorstep of a writer who is also the husband of her dearest friend, Priscilla.

In a series that is 9 books long so far, it's to be expected that at least one of them will in some way not be what you where wanting it to be.  Now granted this is only the 5th one that I've read so far, but I think it's safe to say that I finally reached that point with Elegy for Eddie.

I wish I could sit here and give you a point by point, detailed reason on why I was not able to connect with this one as much as the previous books, but I'm not sure I can.  On one hand, I found the mystery to be compelling.  I wanted to know why Eddie had to die and see those behind the killing punished for their crimes.  Sadly, both the reason for his death and the identity of his killer make both those things a bit harder to accomplish.  I understand why the author went this route with the book, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it.  The mystery itself was used more as a vehicle to tell a story that is more about the lead up to World War II than anything else.  Most of the action and characters revolve around the idea that Adolf Hitler is not the good guy some want him to believe.  They are concerned about a second great war that hasn't even been announced yet.  I found all of this fascinating, but wish the mystery wouldn't have had to be a third victim to the plot.

I think the other issue I had was in the character of Maisie herself, and this is where skipping some of the middle books may be kicking me in the ass (though I read the two books that precede this one.)  I found her to be a little too angst filled this time around.  She just can't seem to make up her mind or be happy with anything that is going on with her personally.  She is unsure of her romantic relationship, doesn't know what to do about her father, and is having a hard time dealing with the fact that she now has a lot of money.  Too much of the story was taken up with how Maisie seemed to be feeling sorry for herself, stuck in a malaise, and just a tad bit too whiny.  Now I know that a lot of the issues have to do with her experience in the Great War, the death of her mentor and improved fortune that resulted from that, and the fear that her country is going to be pulled into another war.  This book is all about transitions in that regard.  I just wish it wouldn't have been so painful to read.

Now I'm not saying this is a bad book or even an okay book, because it's better than that.  The writing is as great as it has been throughout the series, the story lines are intriguing  and never bore, and the supporting characters keep the pace moving at a brisk pace.  I guess what I'm saying is that in every series there are going to be books that don't make me coo with pleasure the entire time I'm reading them.  That's not a bad or good thing, it's just the way things are.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the wonderful opportunity to read and review these books.  Please visit the tour page to read reviews of this book and the rest of the books in the series since the entire month of March is being devoted to them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Pepe Le Pew

I'm must admit to feeling a little sad at this point in time.  The month is about over as in my trip down memory lane with some of my favorite Looney Toons characters.  I almost broke down and featured Bugs Bunny this week, but there are so many characters in the pantheon that I stuck to my guns and went with another character that doesn't get as much respect as Bugs, Daffy, and Porky.  I considered Speedy Gonzales, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, Sylvester &Tweety, and even The Tasmanian Devil (a character that always seemed to get on my nerves.)  Instead of those deserving characters, some more than others, I decided to go with one of my favorite skunks.  I'm in love with those adorable little faces, and I do have more than one favorite skunk character.  So with no further ado let me present Pepe Le Pew, the skunk with nothing but love on the brain.

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the French skunk named Pepe Le Pew, is his quest to find love in all the wrong places.  He has fallen in "love" with with a female black cat, a male cat, a female dog, a wild cat, and even Sylvester.  Now in poor Pepe's defense, they all disguised themselves as a skunk in order to trick somebody else.  It should also be pointed out that in most of those cases, once the truth comes out, Pepe doesn't care.  He's still in "love" and isn't going to take no for an answer.  He's an equal opportunity lover, though a bit on the needy side.

Now most of his affections are for Penelope Pussycat, the poor black cat who always manages to have a white stripe painted down her back.  I could never figure out how the poor creature could always find mishaps around white paint.  If I were her, I would have avoided the color white at all costs.  For the most part Penelope wanted nothing to do with Pepe.  She would run and run while he chased after her like a miniature stalker.  It wasn't until later that Penelope and Pepe showed their true colors.

After a bit of time, once Penelope started to return his feelings and became a bit more aggressive, Pepe started to flounder a bit.  He may want love, but he wants to be on the doing the pursuing.  He doesn't like being chased nor does he actually want the love given back.  Once Penelope starts to return the feelings, Pepe wants nothing to do with it.  It's an interesting dynamic to see the roles reversed.

Either way, pursuer or pursued, Pepe is one of those characters that will never go away.  He is a part of pop culture and he deserves to have the spotlight on him no matter what he does.

Silent Victims by Lynda La Plante

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

Chief Detective Inspector Jane Tennison has moved up the ranks, fighting every step of the way to break through the station house's glass ceiling.  Now, on her first day as the head of the Vice Squad, a case comes in that threatens to destroy everything she has worked for.

As Vera Reynolds, drag queen and night club star, swayed onstage singing "Falling in Love Again," a sixteen-year-old rent boy lay in the older man's apartment, engulfed in flames.  When Tennison's investigation reveals an influential public figure as her prime suspect, a man with connections to politicians, judges, and Scotland Yard, she's given a very clear message about the direction some very important people would like her investigation to take.  Suddenly, in a case defined by murky details, one fact becomes indisputably clear - that for Tennison, going after the truth will mean risking her happiness, her career, and even her life.

Every good journey must end.  I'm still not sure why, but that's what I've been told my entire life.  So needless to say, my time with Jane Tennison has sadly come to an end.  I'm still not sure why only three books were written or why the American version of the show had to come to a swift end.  Tennison is one of those characters that deserves to live a long and healthy life, one where she always comes up on top despite those rooting for her failure.

With Silent Victims, Lynda La Plante moves Jane from homicide to head the Vice Squad.  She knows she is going into the job with something to prove and she is bound and determined to do so.  When her investigation into the death of the 16 year old rent boy leads into murky waters, Jane is warned to keep a narrow focus.  It's only as she digs deeper into the lives of those who surrounded the young man does Jane begin to realize that their is something much bigger going on.  Why was an investigation into public figures and male prostitutes buried before she got to the department?  Why is a man who runs a teen shelter supposed to be so hands off?  Who is keeping secrets they would rather have stay buried?  It's by asking those questions that Jane will either destroy her career or finally prove that she deserves to be where she is at, maybe even something a little higher.

What I adored about Jane is this final installment is that she finally decides to play the game by the rules the "boys" established years before.  She gets down on there level and comes out on top.  She shows that she is not someone to be trifled with and isn't above playing dirty to get what she wants.  I love her. I want to go out and get drunk with her.  She is truly a character that will stay in my head for a very long time.

I will admit to having a few trepidations about the storyline itself though.  I'm always a little leery when authors start diving into the gay community, presumably one that they don't know much about.  Now granted, this is a side of the community I'm not all that familiar with either.  I know a few drag queens, but that's about the extent of it.  I will say the author played up to a few stereotypes, but I don't think it was done in any way that didn't push the plot along.  She did include a gay officer, and I'm not sure if this was meant to dampen the stereotypes down a bit, but he was a nice addition to the book.  He didn't get a lot of page time, but it did allow me to not see any bigotry behind the other characters.

Now I know this will be my last new foray into the field with Jane, but I'm looking forward to the day when I'm ready to pick up all three books and give her a chance to amaze me once again.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other review on this and the previous two books.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 3/26/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Diary Of An Eccentric. 

I'm always surprised by the truly nice and genuine people that I have had the privilege of knowing through book blogging.  What I really love is when one of them, who clearly knows your taste in books, emails you and offers you a few books they are sure you will love.  That was the case when Beth of Beth's Book Reviews offered up a few vintage mysteries that she thought I would enjoy.  Needless to say I was a very happy boy when I got the package in the mail, opened it up, and saw what was inside.  She graciously sent a long paperbacks of The Red Lamp by Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Mountain Cat Murders by Rex Stout, and The Silent Speaker by Rex Stout.


I'm a very bad young man (okay, maybe not so young man) who has a nasty habit of walking into bookstores and walking out with more books than he should.  I innocently wandered into Barnes & Noble  and let that heady aroma get to into my head.  I did manage to leave the store with only one book in my hand, a trade paperback of Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie.  However, while I was in the store, I ordered three more books for home delivery.  I picked up trade paperbacks of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, and The Monk by Matthew Lewis.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Witch Hazel

When I drew up plans for themes and what characters I wanted to use for the year, today's character was going to be featured in October as part of the Halloween characters.  The entire month was going to feature nothing but my favorite witches.  Since then though, I've decided to be a little more fluid in October and not pigeonhole the characters I want to use.  Since I'm featuring my favorite Looney Toons characters this month, I'm not sure how I could let Witch Hazel wait another 7 months to have her time in the sun.

Witch Hazel is another one of those characters that never got used as often as she should have been.  She was the antagonist in three different Bugs Bunny cartoons, and then only appeared in a few other cartoons throughout the years.  It's a shame really since Witch Hazel has to be one of the funniest characters in the entire pantheon of Looney Toons characters.

When we first meet her, she is a witch who enjoys eating children.  Not very funny or nice, but the trouble she gets into with Bugs Bunny is both those things.  Bugs rescues the children and once Witch Hazel discovers the hero is in face a rabbit, her taste in food changes.  She does everything she can to get Bugs into her cook pot instead of the youngsters.  What follows is a wonderful romp full of mishaps, broom crashes, and hilarity the likes of which doesn't happen often enough.

In each of her further encounters with Bus, Witch Hazel just can't get the upper hand on the rascally rabbit.  Thankfully she is able to keep a wonderful sense of humor and more often than not, laughs at her own foibles.  She is the classic witch in looks and in behavior but that doesn't stop her from transcending those themes and becoming one of my favorite Looney Toons characters of all time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Lesson In Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From Goodreads:

In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs’ career goes in an exciting new direction when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities “not in the interests of His Majesty’s Government.” 

When the college’s controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote’s death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance. 

To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain’s conduct during the war, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—in Britain. 

Well here I am again, writing a review for a Maisie Dobbs book, the fourth one in about a year.  And once again, I'm not going to be able to say anything negative about the book.  So needless to say, this review is not going to be overly long.  I wish I had paragraphs and paragraphs to say.  I wish I was able to expound on the cleverness and themes being explored in this book, as well as the others.  The problem with that is I've never been one to read too much into any book.  I tend to read in order to enjoy the story, not to over think the issues the author is exploring.  I know that may seem a bit shallow to some, but I learned a long time ago that if I think about what I'm reading too much, I no longer enjoy the book for the story alone.

A Lesson in Secrets, moves Maisie into a new field of work.  Because of her previous work with various government agencies, Maisie is now finding herself working for the more clandestine branches.  She is approached to go undercover at a college and find the sources of the rumors spreading around like wildfire. She needs to figure out what elements in the college threaten the stability of her country.  She quickly enmeshes herself with her students and the other professors.  When the college president is found with a broken neck, Maisie takes it upon herself to find the killer and determine if the death has anything to do wither her assignment.

I loved the idea of Maisie branching out into a field of work that seems like a natural progression of her abilities and training.  Her old mentor, Maurice, was actively involved in clandestine work and it is only just that Maisie follows in her teacher's footprints.  I'm intrigued to see where the author takes this idea as the lead up to World War II gets even closer.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the wonderful opportunity to read and review these books.  Please visit the tour page to read reviews of this book and the rest of the books in the series since the entire month of March is being devoted to them.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 3/19/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Diary Of An Eccentric.

The lovely Deb of The Reading Frenzy also moderates the Fiction General Discussion Board on the Barnes & Noble's book club site.  She had reviewed Bereft by Chris Womersley on her blog and it was a book I  thought I may really enjoy.  So when Deb emailed me and asked if I wanted to participate in a conversation about the book in May for the B&N board, I jumped at the chance.  When I got the ARC in the mail the other day, I was even more excited.

I received a trade paperback of Asgard Park by Ronald Simonar from the publicist for review.

I received a trade paperback of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I need to learn to never go into Best Buy without an actual goal in mind.  Friday, when I decided to meander into the store, I really had no clue what I was looking for.  So when I ended up walking out with Underworld: Rise of the Lycans on DVD for $4, Celebration by Madonna (think The Immaculate Collection plus her newer hits), and a Triple Feature CD featuring 3 of Whitney Houston's albums for $9, I was lucky to get out without even more.

I guess I've been in a music centered mood lately.   I took a trip to the flea market today and walked out with 9 vinyl records for $1 each.  Only three of them were for me.  I picked up Winner In You by Patti Labelle, Whenever You Need Somebody by Rick Astley, and Magic by The Jets.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Sniffles

This weeks choice was a little harder for me to decide upon.  I wanted to do a mouse this week and the Looney Toons have two of them that I adore with all my heart and soul.  I didn't want to do two of them this month, so I flipped a quarter and the cuter of the two won.  So with no further ado I present you with one of the cutest characters to ever grace my television screen, Sniffles.

Now I know that Sniffles never became a huge star in the Merrie Melodies/Looney Toons pantheon, but he is one of my favorites of all time.  There was just something so refreshingly naive about him that I took to him like a cat with a saucer of milk.  I think if you were to use one word to describe our young hero it would be adorable.  Cute, sweet, precious, precocious, innocent, and huggable would also be appropriate words to use.

I have seen quite a few of his cartoons, though I'm pretty sure not all of them, but I think my favorites would be the ones he hung out with the bookworm.  Their adventures, whether with characters from books or trying to steal an owl egg, were some of my favorites.  They were two friends that I wanted to hang out with myself as a kid.  I wanted to get lost in a world where anything could happen and adventures where just around the corner.  Now I know his naive way of thinking got Sniffles into trouble more often than not, but he always managed to find a way out of his current predicament.

Now I know some of you might be thinking that Sniffles is a bit annoying, and I can understand where you may be coming from with that.  Towards the end of his cartoon run, they turned him into a regular old chatterbox who couldn't shut up to save his life.  He talked at such a rapid rate, for so long that even the most kind hearted fan could have been a little miffed with him.  I, however, do not have a fickle heart when it comes to Sniffles.  I actually found his chattering made him, it at all possible, even more endearing.  Though I know that alien in the Space Jams movie did not think so when he squished the poor little guy.  I would take Sniffles, even with his later motor mouth, over the crass and crude cartoons that grace TV today.

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

Synopsis From Tour Site:

Boston, 1868. The Civil War may be over but a new war has begun, one between the past and the present, tradition and technology. On a former marshy wasteland, the daring Massachusetts Institute of Technology is rising, its mission to harness science for the benefit of all and to open the doors of opportunity to everyone of merit. But in Boston Harbor a fiery cataclysm throws commerce into chaos, as ships’ instruments spin inexplicably out of control. Soon after, another mysterious catastrophe devastates the heart of the city. Is it sabotage by scientific means or Nature revolting against man’s attempt to control it?

The shocking disasters cast a pall over M.I.T. and provoke assaults from all sides—rival Harvard, labor unions, and a sensationalistic press. With their first graduation and the very survival of their groundbreaking college now in doubt, a band of the Institute’s best and brightest students secretly come together to save innocent lives and track down the truth, armed with ingenuity and their unique scientific training. 

Led by “charity scholar” Marcus Mansfield, a quiet Civil War veteran and one-time machinist struggling to find his footing in rarefied Boston society, the group is rounded out by irrepressible Robert Richards, the bluest of Beacon Hill bluebloods; Edwin Hoyt, class genius; and brilliant freshman Ellen Swallow, the Institute’s lone, ostracized female student. Working against their small secret society, from within and without, are the arrayed forces of a stratified culture determined to resist change at all costs and a dark mastermind bent on the utter destruction of the city

I've been dreading this review more than you can ever possibly know.  There is just something about being last that I find horrifying and just a little intimidating.  What if I'm the only one who didn't care all that much for the book?  Do I really want to be responsible for ending a blog tour on a slightly sour note?  Now I can't say I read every review before mine, but of the ones I have read, I do think I'm going to be in a very small minority on this one.  The worst part, the reasoning behind my dread, is that I really can't give a logical, well thought out reason for what I'm about to say,

I actually think I've used this analogy before, or at least something akin to it, but here it goes anyway.  Let's say you are really in the mood for tomato bisque with cheese tortellini and spinach.  It's all you have been thinking about all day at work.  You can already taste the sweetness of the tomato, feel the warmth of the soup as it gives you the comfort you have been so desperately needing.  But when you get home, all you can get is clam chowder.  Now you still like chowder, but it's not what you were craving all this time.  It just doesn't give you that happy feeling you know the tomato bisque would have given you.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I think The Technologists was good, it just didn't do anything for me.

Now I thought being a total wimp and leaving it here, but then I realized that is a pretty cowardly thing to do.   If I'm going to even tell one person that I didn't particularly care for this book, I should at least try to give some sort of reason why.  I think my biggest issue is that I'm just not that into science fiction.  Now I know this isn't science fiction in the way we have come to view the genre.  It's not a story about interstellar space travel with tentacled aliens bent on the destruction of Earth.  Honestly, I wouldn't have even tried to read such a book.  I'm using the term in the same manner I would use it to describe a book like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.  And honestly, I think I had about the same reaction to both books.

Where they both shined for me was the actions scenes.  The Technologists features science taken to a destructive and cruel usage in order to fulfil a unfathomable amount of greed and a twisted sense of revenge.  These were the parts of the books that had me hooked and drawn in the entire time.  I wanted to witness the scenes on the docks, the destruction in the financial districts, and the final action scene left me in awe of the magnitude of it all.  But that's where the good times ended for me, a lot like my reaction of the Verne book.

What I didn't care all that much for where the characters.  I guess Marcus and his friends are interesting and intelligent, but they really never became fully three dimensional for me.  I cared enough about them to where I didn't want them to die, but I didn't really care what happened to them after the book concluded.  Though I must say really quickly that I did find the author's notes about where these young characters came from, and how they were based in reality pretty interesting.  Where I really got lost, was in the usage of some of the secondary characters.  I still don't get the point or the need behind the way a victim of the destruction is turned into a one dimensional villain that is almost killed off as soon as he starts to get dangerous.  I'm sure he had a usage in the forwarding of the story, I'm just still lost on what that was.

Now after all these words covering my whining about me not loving this book, I do have to say a few other things.  Though I promise to be quick about it.  I have another book by this author sitting on my bookcase right now, it's been there for a good year or two actually.  Reading this one has made my desire to read the other all that much stronger.  While I may not have cared for this type of story all that much, I loved the way this author puts a story together.  There is an ebb and flow to the narrative that I really enjoyed and I love the way he is able to bring a time period and a city to life in such vivid color.  It's an ability I admire and respect in an author so I never tire of reading their work  I also enjoyed his use of language and the actual crafting of storyline.  There is a natural order to the whole thing and the direction of the plot points were organic, not forced.  For those two reasons alone it was a pleasure to read, despite my lackluster response to it.

I would like to thank Lisa of  TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page so you can read other reviews.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Birds Of A Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Maisie is on another dangerously intriguing adventure in London between the wars.  It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress.  When three of the heiress's old friends are found dead, Maisie must race to find out who would want to kill these seemingly respectable young women before it's too late.  As Maisie investigates, she discover that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.

I guess the first thing I have to say is how much I love the title of this book.  There are so many different plays on this theme throughout the book, so I found it to be a rather clever title.  The first, and most obvious connotation is that of The Order of the White Feather.  An organization started by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald that encouraged women to hand out white feathers to young and old men who had not signed up for the military during World War I.  It was basically calling them cowards which shamed many men to join up and go to their deaths.  It's an example of activism taken in the wrong direction.  The other major, at least in my opinion, usage of the term would be to lump Charlotte Waite and her three dead friends into one cohesive group.  They are four young women who banded together at a young age, four young women who made some very bad decisions and are now paying for it with their lives.

When Maisie is hired by Joseph Waite to find his missing daughter, she isn't prepared for the journey that search it about to take her on.  It will take her from the convent of a former mentor to the rooms of a convalescent home for maimed and scarred veterans of the war.  She will have to figure out not only why Charlotte fled the perceived safety of her home, but why these young women are turning up dead.  She must use her brains and intuition to piece the puzzle together in the hopes of keeping the last remaining young woman alive.  Secrets from the past have consequences in the present, a lesson that Charlotte is trying her best to run from.  Maisie's job is to make sure that lesson doesn't kill Charlotte as well.

Of the three Maisie Dobbs books I've read, this is the one that fits the "traditional" flow of a mystery novel.  It has a structure to it that I did not find in the other two books, but there is still a fluidity to it as well.  There just seems to be an aura of gentleness that emanates from the page that keeps the flow of the book from getting bogged down.  I'm not even sure that gentleness is the right word in this case, sympathy may be a better term to use.  Even when the murder is revealed, as a reader all I feel is sympathy for the person.  I understand and empathize with the killer's motive and pain.  What they do is horrific, but the place the actions come from is one of agony.  I feel sorry for them, and while the person needs to pay for what they did, I found myself wanting that payment to be less severe than I normally would.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the wonderful opportunity to read and review these books.  Please visit the tour page to read reviews of this book and the rest of the books in the series since the entire month of March is being devoted to them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Foghorn Leghorn

I'll admit it right now, I have a weakness for cartoons.  Now I'm talking about the crappy ones that our children are watching nowadays.  I mean  really, have you seen this crap our kids are watching.  The animation is horrible, looks like a 4 year old with a computer did it.  The story lines and characters are mediocre at best and most of them are pointless.  What I love are the cartoons I grew up with, whether they were made in the 80s or before, the older cartoons where done by those who obviously loved what they were doing.  The animation was brilliant and well done, no sloppiness to them, and the characters entranced you.,  This month I'm going to be revisiting some of my favorite cartoon characters, the character that I could never imagine my life without them in it.  Even better I'm going to narrow it down to some of my favorite Looney Tunes gems.  You won't see Bugs, Daffy, or Porky mentioned during the month.  As much as I love those three, I want to focus on some others that don't get all the attention.  Starting us off is my favorite rooster, Foghorn Leghorn.

Now I know what you may be thinking, why would anyone like the obnoxious, loud Foghorn Leghorn.  It's because of that behavior that made him a favorite since the first time I laid eyes on him.  He seems to go through life with one goal in mind, to have fun.  He doesn't really care, at least at first glance, what others may think of him and his behavior.  He just wants to live life and enjoy it.

I guess some of you would even be able to call him a bully, at least as far as The Barnyard Dog is concerned.  I will have to admit that more often than not, Foghorn was the instigator in their little squabbles.  But he wasn't totally to blame, I can remember many times that Barnyard Dog was ready to pick a fight of his own.  Now because Foghorn was the source of their troubles, his tricks normally backfired on him.  More often than not, he was the loser of the two.  I can still see Foghorn losing his feathers, pretty much every time the two mixed things up.

Beyond his dysfunctional relationship with Barnyard Dog, my favorite interaction for Foghorn is with Henery Hawk, the young chicken hawk.  Despite Henery always trying to eat him, Foghorn seems to take a more paternal, if slight amused, interest in the boy.  It's one of the most fascinating relationships in all the Looney Tunes universe to watch, can't get enough of it.

Foghorn never seemed to move beyond the barnyard though.  He is one of those characters that seems to have his own little universe that none of the other major characters seemed to crossover into.  But his barnyard antics are more than enough for my enjoyment.  I love how he tried to woo Miss Prissy, though normally for the wrong reasons.  Because of that he also took a paternal interest in Egghead, Jr., Miss Prissy's young son.  Where his relationship with Henery was born out of amusement, his relationship with Egghead was, at first, born out of self interest.  I do think, and I can be way off base on this, that he ended up caring for the young chicken on his own merits.

Foghorn, Barnyard Dob, Henery Hawk, Miss Prissy, and Egghead, Jr. are the types of characters that I wish were still be creating now.  I have gotten Aidan to watch old episodes of Looney Tunes and he seems to enjoy them.  How much of his enjoyment is real and how much is humoring me, I'm not really sure.  Hopefully I will be able to teach him what true cartoons are, even if it's one character at a time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

The daughter of a struggling greengrocer, Maisie Dobbs was only thirteen when she was sent to work as a maid for wealthy London aristocrats.  But being bright and thoughtful beyond her years, Maisie studies her way to Cambridge, then serves as a nurse on the Front during the Great War.  Now, it's the spring of 1929, nearly ten years after the Armistice and Maisie has just opened her own detective agency.  Her first assignment, a seemingly open-and-shut infidelity case, will reveal a much deeper, darker mystery, forcing Maisie to revisit the horrors of the war and the ghost she left behind.

It's been almost a year since I read and reviewed my very first Maisie Dobbs book, The Mapping of Love and Death.  I remember it like it was only yesterday.....  When I opened the package from the publisher I knew I was going to be in for a very special treat.  At the time, and don't ask me why, I had no clue it was part of a series, let alone the 7th installment.  When I was finished, all I knew was that I needed to read the rest of them.  I needed to know how the story began.  Thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours, I was given that opportunity this month.  I am reviewing the first, second, eighth, and ninth books. I'm still need to get my hands on the rest of them to fill in the middle section but I figure this will give me a broad base of knowledge for now.

As soon as I got this year's package, with all four books, I dug in and found out for myself how it all began.  Maisie makes her debut in her self titled book and I must say I was transported once more to a world of violence, murder, deception, and this overwhelming sense of peace I experience when I'm with her.  It's a strange feeling to have when horrible things are happening to good people on the pages of a book, but there is something so calming about the character and the way the author writes, that I can't help but relax and enjoy myself more than normal.

I love this introduction to Maisie and where she came from.  Her father, trying to give her a better life now that her mother was dead, asked around and found her a place for service.  She doesn't want to do it, what 13 year old wants to leave home and work, but she does it for her father.  She works hard and makes a place for herself within the household.  Maisie has a inquisitive, sharp mind and has been sneaking into the library to read the books.  When she is discovered, she fears she will be thrown out and sent back to her her father.  Instead, she is given the opportunity of a lifetime to learn and grow at the feet of one of the most brilliant minds of the time.  She develops quite a mind and is accepted into college.  It's while in college though that her life changes.

Through a mutual friend she meets a young man, a doctor who is on his way to France to work on the front lines of the war.  Maisie feels a deep sense of duty and it's not long before she enlists herself as a nurse.  It's that war time experience that greatly shapes the rest of her life.  Things don't quite work out the way Maisie hoped they would, instead it developed in the way she knew it would.  She comes back home from the war a different person, one smarter and pained by her experiences.

Now normally I'm not a huge fan of flashback scenes, let alone a whole middle section of a book devoted to just that.  When the book opens, Maisie is just opening her business and is investigating her first real case.  A man is concerned his wife is cheating on him and wants to find out details.  Through this investigation, Maisie uncovers a something far worse.  A haven for the men who were horribly disfigured in the war may be in fact something far more sinister than that.  Men have died with only their first names, and Maisie is bound and determined to find out what is really going on behind the walls of The Retreat.  The stories she encounters is what triggers her flashback, and for me it worked.  Devoting the entire middle section of the book to her past doesn't feels out of place or redundant in anyway.  It serves as a bridge to understand where Maisie is coming from and where the final pages of the book will leave her.  She grows and matures through the course of narrative and finally comes to terms with the horrific loss she has been running from since the war.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the wonderful opportunity to read and review these books.  Please visit the tour page to read reviews of this book and the rest of the books in the series since the entire month of March is being devoted to them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn (Plus Giveaway!)

Part Of The Synopsis From Back Cover:

Ian Hunt is a police dispatcher in East Texas.  Just as his shift is ending he gets a call from his fourteen-year-old daughter - who was declared dead four months earlier.

The call is cut off by the man who snatched her from her bedroom when she was seven.  A basic description of the kidnapper is all Ian has to go on.

The trail leads to a local couple, but this is just the start of Ian's fight to get his daughter back.  What follows is a bullet-strewn cross-country chase from Texas to California along Interstate 10.  

I can't recall a ton of books that I've read over the last few years that deal with a father doing everything they need to do to protect their child.  Other than Cormac McCarthy's The Road, my brain is a little stumped trying to remember another book that I've read, that deals with the specific relationship of father and child.  I don't even think I could name a book I've seen reviewed somewhere else in the last few years that reflect such a perspective.  I could name off tons of book that deal with mothers protecting or rescuing their kids, but not fathers.  I'm not sure if it's just that I'm not being exposed to the books, or if it's because they aren't being written.  Whatever the explanation, when I read the synopsis of this book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

From the get go, Ian and his fight to get his daughter back kept me on the proverbial edge of my seat the entire time I had the book open.  It was one of those reads that I didn't necessarily want to put down, and only did so under duress.  Ian is a emotionally crippled man who has had to deal with the abduction of his daughter seven years ago, a horrific experience that has destroyed every other relationship he had.  His wife left him for another police officer.  The relationship with his son, who was in high school at the time of the abduction, is damaged beyond repair.  Ian could not help but blame him for his sister's abduction.  He never wanted to feel that way, but sometimes the brain really has no control over how someone is going to react.

From the moment Ian receives that phone call, he is racing against time.  He doesn't know what the kidnapper will do now that he is in danger of being found out.  When the bodies of 3 other female toddlers along with the nightgown Ian's daughter was wearing the night she disappeared are discovered on private property, they get the break they need.  I'm not going to even get into how the bodies were discovered because it's the result of one of those seemingly random events that can get you into trouble, even if you don't realize it at the time.  But the way it happens is brilliant and never seems to be unbelievable.

When the initial contact with the suspect ends up with two officers dead and Ian in the hospital, it's up to Ian to get his ass in gear and save his daughter on his own.   He leaves the hospital and sets out on a crusade to get his daughter and his life back.  He does something that I'm sure some out there would find to be over the top or out of character, but I'm pretty damn sure I would have done the same thing Ian does.  If someone had knowledge of where my son was at, and would not spill the beans, I would do everything I had to do to get that information.  Rescuing my son would comes first, consequences can be dealt with after my child was safe.

What follows is a car chase across barren deserts and abandoned towns.  It's a chase filled with violence and blood shed.  Innocent people lose their lives along the way, people who were just trying to do the right thing.  It's a bloody journey that I would pray no father would ever have to make, but it's a journey that any father should be willing to embark on in order to protect their child.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page for other reviews and additional chances to win your very own copy.

Now onto the giveaway.  One lucky reader will win a copy of The Dispatcher.  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your email address.  It's as simple as that.  The giveaway will end on 3/15/12 at 11:59 PM CST.  I will select the winner using and will then email the winner.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be picked.

Challenges: A-Z