Month: December 2014

“The Cat Who Sniffed Glue” by Lillian Jackson Braun

“The Cat Who Sniffed Glue” by Lillian Jackson Braun

Jim Qwilleran and his cats Koko and Yum Yum are three of my all time favorite book characters. This book is the 8th in “The Cat Who” series.

First some background: Jim Qwilleran is a newspaper reporter with a hobby of unraveling mysteries. Koko and Yum Yum are his two Siamese cats, both of whom came to him during the course of solving a mystery. The cats have a tendency to uncover clues. Qwilleran in a previous book inherited a fortune on the condition that he live in the town of Pickax, an upper Midwest mining town, for five years.

In this book Qwilleran has joined the local community theatre group which is preparing a production to be performed in the new theatre space at the Klingenschoen mansion. Koko meanwhile has developed an interest in glue, specifically licking the glue off of envelopes and stamps. He has also developed a bad habit of tilting a painting of a ship which hangs over the sofa.

One night a couple of the actors fail to show up for rehearsal and then the community finds out that Harley Fitch and his wife were shot in their home. The Fitch family has deep roots in Pickax and the father runs the local bank. Harley and his twin brother David are being groomed to take over when their dad retires. The police suspect a group of teenagers from nearby Chipmunk. Harley and David’s mother is so upset she has a stroke and dies in the hospital. Their father then goes out and commits suicide rather than live without his wife. Finally, the group of teenagers from Chipmunk are killed in a car-train accident. The community assumes this is the end of the story but Qwilleran thinks there is more to it and Koko is still tilting that painting. And so, the snooping begins!

If you are looking for an action-packed thriller than this is not the book for you. But if you like a mystery with well developed characters and a little quirkiness, and especially if you like cats than I think you will really enjoy this book and the others in this series. Happy reading!

“And there was another mystifying detail: Koko had been excessively attentive to Harley at the birthday party … less than twenty-four hours before the murder—almost as if he knew something was going to happen.” — The Cat Who Sniffed Glue

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“Little Miss Sure Shot” by Jeffrey Marshall

“Little Miss Sure Shot” by Jeffrey Marshall

What a charming and delightful account of Annie Oakley’s life! I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to really get a feel for one of the icons of the American West. Annie Oakley was someone I had heard of and knew she was famous for her marksmanship but I had never heard the story of her life before. Being a bit of a history buff I was very excited to read this book and learn more and the author did not disappoint. Jeffrey Marshall grabs your interest from the beginning with a recounting of the period in her life when she was suing Hearst Corporation for libel and keeps you interested with his engaging writing style. He then relates the story of her life from the day she fired a gun for the first time until her death. He relays the events in her life that formed her into the star she would become. I especially enjoyed the way he was able to portray her scrappy but inquisitive personality and also that of her devoted husband. I was mesmerized by all the rich and powerful people this little lady was able to meet during her years with the Wild West Show and how she was able to step into a man’s world and not only play their game but beat them at it. Annie Oakley was a truly remarkable person who never let her fame get the better of her. I think she is still a shining example for girls even in the 21st century. If you enjoy American history or just like a good story you will really like reading this book. I highly recommend it.

“Carolina Sunshower” by Kat Spencer

“Carolina Sunshower” by Kat Spencer

This book is a memoir of Kat Spencer’s life; the obstacles she was born into and how she overcame them. The story is told not as a continuous narrative but as a series of vignettes that build the characters up in the reader’s mind. The conditions of her childhood were at times very desperate but throughout there is ray of hope that keeps you wanting to read to find out how it all turns out.

Kat grew up in Dirks County, North Carolina. She was born to parents who had little education. Her mother is a factory worker and her father picks up work where he can when he’s not drunk. Her father seems to have one great moment of parenting when as a first grader he promises Kat to pay her $50 if she has a perfect attendance record for the year. Kat takes him up on that offer.

We see over the years how her father sinks deeper and deeper into addiction, at times being absent from the home for months, and providing very little in the way of financial support. Kat’s mother on the other hand works tirelessly at a factory to provide for her children so that they can attend school and have a better future.

I found this story to be very well written with a narrative that kept me coming back to see what would happen next. I also found Kat to be very inspiring. The way she pushes herself to achieve an education in spite of being in an environment that would cause most to give up. She has no role models in her family to follow but she finds a way to put herself through 4 years of college and a masters degree program. Kat goes on to build a wonderful family of her own.

If you enjoy reading true stories, as I do, then I think you will like this book. I would also recommend it for anyone who needs a little inspiration to get past a tough spot. The human spirit can be so resilient at times and this story is a good example of that.

“‘You are the only hope for this family.’ A seed of hope was planted.” — page 1 “Carolina Sunshower”

“City of Liars and Thieves” by Eve Karlin

“City of Liars and Thieves” by Eve Karlin

I am totally in love with this book! It’s scheduled to be released in January and you MUST get a copy. Eve Karlin has carefully researched the events surrounding the murder of Elma Sands in 1799 New York City and brilliantly crafted a fictionalized version of events. This story involved Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, two rivals for president of the United States.

Elma Sands arrives, as a young woman, in New York City to assist her cousin Caty with running a boardinghouse and caring for her children. She soon develops a relationship with one of the boarders, Levi Weeks. Meanwhile, Caty’s marriage is getting shakier by the day as her husband becomes more and more focused on money. Levi works for his brother Ezra who is a builder who wants to hold political office. Ezra and Aaron Burr are hatching political schemes to gain control of New York City politics and further their own ambitions. Levi know of these schemes and reveals them to Elma. When word gets back to Ezra that his secret has been revealed Elma’s life is in danger. One night Elma goes out with Levi, telling Cary they are to be married that night, but she never returns. When her body is discovered in one of Ezra Weeks wells a few days later all suspicion is on Levi and a trial quickly ensues. But all is not as straightforward as it at first seems.

Eve Karlin has created a wonderful version of the events. Her characters just jump from the pages and her descriptions of the conditions of the time or the courthouse drama are riveting. I think any reader will find something to love in this story. Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end that describes how each characters life played out after the trial. This book really spoke to my history/crime buff side. I’m giving this one 4 out of 4 stars for being a truly great creative work. I hope to see more from Eve Karlin in the future.