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THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE: a Potting Shed Mystery ~Marty Wingate

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

“’And in landscape gardening,’ Repton wrote, ‘everything may be called a deception by which we endeavor to conceal the agency of art and make our works appear the sole product of nature.’”

Master Gardener Marty Wingate adds another mystery in the garden for Texas born Pru Parke to dig into and find the root of the problem.  I so enjoyed the first book in the series, THE GARDEN PLOT ,  I was delighted to be sent THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE by TLC Book Tours   for review.   I received an uncorrected, unproofed e- copy so that I could share my excitement during the holiday season with you.

Pru Parke has returned to England to find a master gardener position and restore an historic garden back to its intended splendor.  As luck would have it, Pru and a Police Detective discover a romantic connection and that makes her restoration job at Primrose House even more delightful an opportunity.  The house has already been restored as Hugh and Davina have purchased Primrose House from the Earl of Hamilton.  They are so happy to hire Pru to muster the gardens and are able to give her the hundreds of years old master plans (1806) from the original designer – Humphrey Repton.  His plans are in what is called The Red Book and they contain beautiful descriptions and watercolors of his original concepts and ideas.  Pru hides the valuable book in her cottage on the grounds.   Right away little, strange events begin to happen.

The descriptions of the gardens and the work of digging holes, finding hundreds of roses, repairing masonry walls, dozens of heritage apple trees and terracing the hillside draw an incredible image to the mind’s eye and one can nearly smell the earthy ground work and the greenhouse heaters.

Scary moments begin to happen as are an integral part of any mystery.  There are lights at night and strange noises and then the shed catches fire.  The local newspaper starts a blog about the garden restoration and repeatedly mentions in the post are being singled out for disruption.  The project is damaged and stopped several times and with a deadline fast approaching the pressure is on to discover the culprit.

There is a secondary mystery in THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE as Pru searches to discover if she has any relatives living in England after the death of her British born mum.

The eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex fascinated the gardener from Texas who is being severely tested along with her well – meaning  crew – Ned, Liam and Fergal Duffy, Ivy and Robbie and then all the police.  There are some good pub scenes and the secondary characters add some serious problems and that good British humor and whimsy. The language was fun and kept the pace of the story progressing, developing and moving the reader from cup of tea to cup of tea.

The book was incredibly entertaining and a fun read.  I enjoyed THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE from cover to cover.

From the book jacket:

“Marty Wingate writes about gardens and travel, and she has now combined those two loves with her passion of mysteries.  Mary’s how-to-garden information is available in books, online, and on the radio.  She lives in Seattle with her husband, who shares her love of travel and is always ready for on-the-ground research into pubs and English beer.  Learn more about her at marytwingate.com

Marty Wingate Facebook

Related:
The Garden Plot
Supreme Justice
Ryder
The Fixer Series

GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeely

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

“’Divorce,’ she said, “is a disease caused by the lies of feminism and secular humanism.’” (Catholic school teacher’s words to middle school boys; early pages of uncorrected, advanced copy)

GHOST HORSE is a book I found hard to read and yet very worthwhile.  It came in the loveliest package, with a folder full of publicity material and extra resources.  The font was precise and extremely small on my review advanced copy and there were no page numbers.  I thought it was a young adult book, now I know this book needs discussion because there is a surface story and then the recording of societal change which is impacting our current lives with tremendous relevance.

Buddy is a 12 year old boy who is being torn apart with the normal feelings of the changes in a boy’s life, by his Catholic education, by his physician father’s return after 12 years of being away, by his sparing, controlling grandmothers, and by the transitions the USA was making in the turbulent 1970s.  He can see how hard his mother is working and how smart she is and well trained as she runs a pathology lab and teaches.  Margot supports her own mother and is buying a house for her.  There is not adequate childcare or transportation for her son and she must work extremely long hours because her pay is not equal to men’s income.  Dad wants a divorce and custody of Buddy, Jimmy is a physician wanting a huge, fancy house and he runs his own cancer/pathology lab.

GHOST HORSE is about a time when the folks in Houston, Texas were just exploring big changes in expectations and culture and yet it is a place where one could delineate the classes and futures clearly.  The Mexicans lived in one area, the whites another, the wealthy even another location and the Negroes had their own place on this earth.   There were even more categories such as conservative Christians and trailer trash; people spoke one way at home and the well-educated spoke another way in public.  The Priests and teachers were eager to spread the message of anti- change, violence and hate.   How is a boy to find himself and figure out who he is and what his true relationships are; Buddy becomes extremely confused trying to make sense of who he is and what he needs to do?

Thomas H. McNeely is a writer and a professor and he grew up in Houston during this time of turmoil.  It took him 14 years to write GHOST HORSE.   The boy’s confusion comes right off the page and into the mind with the concise puncture of incredible words and feelings exquisitely placed on the page.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, fundamentalism, bigotry, economic inequality, hatred and violence coming at Buddy at every moment of this boy’s day haunting him like the GHOST HORSE – where is the escape?  Would it be in making a movie about the GHOST HORSE with your Mexican friend?

TLC Book Tours and Gival Press  sent me an advanced copy to review of GHOST HORSE.   The story pushed a great many personal feelings to the surface for me.  I was back working at as an Adult Educator in the South and thinking about all the threats I received and how angry people were and how many refused to even acknowledge the problems – how quick to blame and hold on to their perceived values.  Paula Dean, the southern chef, reminded me last year when she said, “we used the ‘N’ word at home all the time”;  she was ostracized.  Our feelings are just masked now and we can see the backlash to change with the election of President Obama.   Baby!  We have not come a long way.  We need these reveals and yet we cower like a 12 year old boy and keep it to ourselves until we find a point of outrage and release.

Thomas H. McNeely is a very interesting person and the winner of numerous awards.   GHOST HORSE has been nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has won the Editor’s Choice award at Amazon.

Related:
The Signature of All Things
The New Men
Margaret Fuller
Supreme Justice

PAINTING JULIANA: A Novel ~Martha Louise Hunter

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

“Husbands have refinanced the family home and moved the equity into their business; quite often, they will set up separate bank accounts with separate mailing addresses.  It is called insurance.” He pauses soberly. “You would think more women would do it, instead of being stupid, trusting imbeciles.” Chapter 6


PAINTING JULIANA is definitely about a Texas housewife which reflects the Texas attitude and spirit about women, and then it is not.  It is a story about dreams, careers, lawyers, light and dark, wind and tornados, canvas and brushes, mental health and psychological abuse. The story is Juliana’s experience of her lawyer husband throwing her out of the house and telling her they are getting a divorce.  She has only what she can grab in 20 minutes and put in her car and by the time she gets to the gas station her credit cards are cancelled and she has only the funds in her wallet.  She is court ordered to leave her 14 year old twins with their father.  He invents lies to tell the daughter and the son.  It takes the whole length of the book and Juliana figures it out and gets a very classy revenge.

Our first introduction to Juliana she is a seven year old and about to start second grade and a dream sequence/ nightmare begins to frighten her awake each night.  The dreams begin when her mother hangs up black – out curtains to keep the outside – outside.  Her mother has experienced so much racism that she has become an agoraphobic and she never goes outside.  Juliana’s parents are both CPA’s and she is not aware that her father is a painter, whose parents insisted he get a safe career and not paint.  He has lost his dream and his beautiful wife insists that he release his painting activity even more.

The writing is fairly fast paced and I think that helps the story move forward and not drag; the reader truly wants to know what happens next and is left guessing the outcome often.  There is a great deal of adultery in the story and subtle but stealth nasty maneuvers using the law.   Partners appear to be working with the other, yet we find that maybe these actions are part of their destruction.  This is Hunter’s first novel.   I think her writing will get better and I am looking forward to her second book.   My copy of the book is an uncorrected proof and had several unfinished sentences and abrupt transitions, which I am sure the editors will correct before the sale copies are sent to stores.

How can a woman endure so many problems at once and remain emotionally open and parent her children in stolen moments and car pool?  Alzheimer’s, no money, parent’s house in disrepair, only an old Indian motorcycle to drive, bills piling up, brother angry and not helpful and then this reoccurring dream; Juliana holds on – barely.  The divorce papers fly out the window, Texas sized problems and no true friends.

tlc logo TLC Online Booktours and Martha Louise Hunter,  sent me a copy of PAINTING JULIANA  for review and it was quite the exciting read and a warning to lots of women who are ignoring what is happening to them or are living someone else’s dream.   A woman finding her true self, the extremely hard way – PAINTING JULIANA

Martha Louise Hunter Online
Martha Louise Hunter on Facebook 
Martha Louise Hunter’s Blog

PAINTING JULIANA was a finalist in the Writers League of Texas Mainstream Fiction Contest.

Related:
The Fixer 
Little Island
The Idea Of Him
Bellagrand

THE CONTRACTORS: A Jon Cantrell Thriller ~Harry Hunsicker

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014


THE CONTRACTORS is a 510 page contemporary thriller which I spent 3/4s of my weekend reading.  Thrillers are not often a choice I would make for reading pleasure; I have many readers who enjoy this genre very much.  I use these books to practice my analysis skills and to keep my thinking skills at peak performance.  How was the pace?  Did the story connect and was I able to understand the characters and their role and function?   Was I sent to do some extra research and discovery? Was the story revealing and did the dialogue flow and move the story forward?  Was violence and sex used appropriately or was it just for titillation? Are the female characters possible or just caricatures? Was the story line interesting and engaging?

THE CONTRACTORS moves at an amazing pace and the characters are very real and believable.  Yes, I was sent to the search engines several times to follow DEA investigations and Immigration statistics and I was overwhelmed by the number of drug related violent deaths in the Dallas, Texas newspapers.  The number of weapons in our environment has been overwhelming me since the SANDY HOOK tragedy.  THE CONTRACTORS has put all this information into a fictional study of the new way we as a country are doing business.  It reveals how violent, disorganized, deadly, costly, and destructive rogue sub-contracting groups are to our lives and how they produce even more deadly-destructive results.

Our society is being destroyed as we increase the number of disenfranchised or disposable citizens and we keep pursuing the ‘War On Drugs’. We keep arming with fancier and fancier weapons, vehicles and spy tools, para-military vigilante groups and then pay them on commission. Bounty Hunters! All sanctioned by Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney during the previous President Bush’s administration.  In THE CONTRACTORS it has reached viral levels of destruction, mayhem, and incompetence which are astounding.  Who really cares?

In the middle of reading THE CONTRACTORS, I paused to watch the Super Bowl with friends. This respite, from an into the middle of the night reading session, to watch a football game on TV was a fabulous contrasting story balancing out the intensity of the read.   Here was a young team with no “stars” of which none were a first round draft pick, being coached by  one of the oldest coaches in the NFL – “Who is thought of as a college coach” – working deftly as a team and creating a win.  None are paid extreme salaries, none of the players were chosen before the 7th round, and yet the team worked together and created a win. One could witness the teamwork in action.  Washington State has not had many National Professional sports wins – 1980s basketball, 2004 Women’s Basketball and now 2014 Super Bowl. The State was hungry and the celebrations were noisy and prolonged.  I finished reading THE CONTRACTORS about 2am and the fireworks were still exploding across the Sound.   Way to go Seahawks!  Way to Go Seahawks!

Here is the lesson for me: As a State we work best when we are a team effort.  Our healthcare, schools, science, transportation, social services and environment are best utilized when we were working with a spirited team.  Our public schools were in the top 10 in the nation just a few years ago, but now as sub-contractors have moved in to all our systems and institutions our public schools have dropped to 47th and people are racing to set up private schools and transporting their children. (ALEC)  The War on Drugs has destroyed several of our cities and the road from public education to privatized prisons is paved with gold for a few.   THE CONTRACTORS just points out how far advanced the decay is in Texas and how quickly other states are following – racing down this path.

I love to read even books not in my favorite genre like THE CONTRACTORS.

tlc logo I received a copy of this book for review from TLC Online Book Tours and the author.  I know a number of my readers like a good contemporary, thriller and THE CONTRACTORS certainly filled that genre.  Thank you for the opportunity.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Recommended Reading: (many more reviews under the recommended reading tab up top!)
The FIXER 
The Condors Song
The Alligator Man 
The Stranger You Know