Review: Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue

This novel is totally different from the other novel, Room, which I read by this author. Frog Music is set in 1876 San Francisco during an extended heat wave and smallpox epidemic. The events are based on the real life unsolved murder of Jenny Bonnet. The story is told from the viewpoint of Blanche Beunon, a young exotic dancer who came with her lover Arthur Deneve from France, where they had both been circus performers. Jenny, the murder victim, dresses in men’s clothing at a time when this was a crime and rides around on a high wheel bicycle. She catches frogs for restaurants for a living and befriends Blanche after knocking her down with her bicycle. This accident sets the plot in motion leading to Jenny’s murder and Blanche’s efforts to find the culprit. I listened to the book on CD and the narrator, Khristine Hvam was excellent.

RATING: * * * A good read

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot: A Spenser Novel, by Ace Atkins

This is the third Spenser novel by Atkins, who was chosen by the Parker estate to continue writing about the Boston-based tough guy detective. This time Spenser is called upon to solve the kidnapping of nine year old Akira, son of Kinjo Heywood, one of the New England Patriots’ marquee players and his divorced wife, Nicole. Spenser again relies on strong and silent types Hawk and Z as the team to watch his back and his girlfriend–Cambridge based shrink, Susan–for insight into Heywood’s family and entourage. Part of the fun for us locals is the Boston location. Heywood’s McMansion is on Heath Street in Chestnut Hill and Spenser is all over our area to find the bad guys.

RATING: * * * A good read

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

In the early 1800s, Sarah Grimké and her younger sister, Angelina, became the most infamous women in America. Kidd takes their story and eloquently weaves it together with their family slaves in Charleston, SC. At 11, Sarah is “given” a slave named Handful (Hetty). What develops, who is a slave to what, and how the women in this book work through their many issues is deeply moving and beautifully written.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: LAG

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Review: By its Cover, by Donna Leon

Another fine effort by Leon, 23rd in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series. Set in Venice, Brunetti stops for coffee, mineral water or wine, despairs of the rampant Italian government corruption and the damage cruise ships are doing to the foundations of Venetian buildings. This time the crime is missing books and missing pages from books belonging to a rare book library. A very real problem in the library world, Brunetti and his staff follow the slim trail of evidence to a seeming dead end and then another more serious crime is committed. Understated, well written and not filled with violence as some of today’s mystery writers seem to think necessary.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: kh

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Review: The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food, by Adam Gopnik

In this book Gopnik covers the centuries-old history of the restaurant and cafe as well as larger questions about the meaning of food and the sense of taste. He and his family have lived in Paris and they are featured in some of the chapters with a few recipes for favorite meals. Having done a huge amount of research for these topics, Gopnik presents it all in what I found to be way too much detail. Several of the chapters were originally New Yorker essays and profiles. I listened to the audio book which is narrated by the author.

RATING: * * OK

Reviewed by: kh

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Video Book Talk: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

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Review: Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
Louisa and Will are an unlikely couple – and what she eventually does for him makes one never forget the title of this book. Me Before You. A heartbreakingly beautiful story of love.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: LG

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