A Basketful of Bargains

A Basketful of Bargains
Life on Victoria Square #2

by Lorraine Bartlett

The book blurb says:
Iris Drake is an odd duck. She knows everyone at Artisans Alley arts-and-crafts arcade, but nobody knows her. When she walks into Gilda’s Gourmet Basket on Victoria Square, she’s a stranger there, too—but not for long. Yet she hasn’t to come to Gilda to buy her wares—she’s there to sell some of her own. All goes well until Iris’s secret is exposed. Should Gilda step in to make things right, or walk away from an unpleasant situation?

My opinion:
I just finished reading this neat little novella. Listed as 33 pages, it’s a quick read and well worth the effort. An inspiring story of the merchant who takes note of and befriends this strange lady with no money to spend and seemingly nowhere else to go. Totally out-of-date fashion-wise, it’s obvious Iris needs a friend. One day an incident in the store reveals why Iris seems so distant.

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Books: Reed Ferguson, PI

This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies
The Reed Ferguson Mystery Series, Book 1

by Renee Pawlish
Click here to view on Amazon.com

Reed Ferguson has always wanted to be a Private Eye and it looks like he’s finally getting his chance. Thanks to an inheritance from his grandparents he’s opened an office and hung out his shingle. Being a devoted fan of Humphrey Bogart and noir detective movies he hangs up a poster of Bogie and Lauren Bacall, as they appeared in The Big Sleep, on his wall “as a sort of inspiration.”

Enter his first real customer: a woman with a missing husband. Peter Ghering disaappeared on a business trip and his wife, Amanda, claims she wants him found. But does she really? Reed has some serious doubts by the time he’s heard her story. An inner voice is telling him to fear this femme fatale, but it’s his first real case, his first serious crack at being a professional gumshoe.

At least he tried to be professional but he’s new to this game and his skills are pretty amateur. Long on bravado, short on forethought. To complicate matters, what starts out as a simple investigation opens up a writhing can of worms for the new Sam Slade wanna-be. The wife hasn’t been up-front with all the facts; she’s actually hired him to expose the women her husband’s been dallying with on his business trips. Little by little Reed uncovers a plot and subplot that would tax Philip Marlowe’s private eye skills.

What really happened to the successful businessman? What will happen to his wife, who wanted him to disappear so she could inherit? And what will happen to Reed if he continues to be involved in this case? Some late night visitors make it plain that they won’t tolerate his efforts to ferret out the truth.

A very well written, well edited book. The writer obviously knows her craft and has constructed a plot that will keep a reader up late at night trying to find out how this story ends. No erotic or immoral scenes in this book, but some off-color language.

I’ve read several books now by this same author and one thing I do like about them is the paucity of dead bodies. There are some, but in the books I’ve read Reed mostly engages in finding lost spouses, pets (The Maltese Felon), etc. In that sense these stories remind me of the Hardy Boys. So if you like a tamer “noir fiction,” tones of Bogie mixed with the wit of Peter Falk and the impulsive courage of Frank & Joe Hardy, you will probably like this series.

Personal Note:
Up late last night typing up this book review when, around midnight, I started to notice a skunk-ish aroma. It grew increasingly powerful, must have had a disagreement with some other critter very nearby so we spend a pretty restless night trying to escape the smell. And with the temp outside almost freezing, you don’t open windows to air things out. 🙂

We’re also besieged by box elder beetles, a.k.a. “maple bugs.” They summer outdoors and once cool weather comes, thousands of them crawl into houses and other warm places to spend the winter. We vacuum them up steadily but there are always a dozen more when we look again.

Burying my head under the covers last night, I was wishing the skunk odor would at least fumigate the bugs. 😦

Free Book: Rescuing Finley

I have great news for readers who like an inspiring contemporary fiction story. Dan Walsh is one of my favorite writers and I see that his book, Rescuing Finley, is FREE today on Amazon.

Here’s my review of Rescuing Finley

Amy Wallace was a recovering meth addict, who lost her job and needed friends. Sad to say, two “friends” had in mind some shoplifting: they wanted to steal an expensive ring from a department store’s jewellery section. And they had in mind Amy should be the one to pocket the goods. Which meant Amy was the one who got caught and sent to prison.

Ever since he finished high school Chaz wanted to sign up with the Marine Corps. His mother protested angrily when he told her, “I signed up today. It’s for two years — but they’ll go fast.” She needed him to help her survive. And what about Finley?

Chaz was Finley’s whole world, the one human who loved him. Chaz’s mother barely tolerated Finley in her small apartment. We understand through his eyes how abandoned and confused he was when Chaz left — and never returned. Finley couldn’t know his master’s life ended on a battlefield, but he knew something was very wrong. Lost in her own grief Chaz’s mother couldn’t deal with a dog — especially a huge one like Finley. Feeling guilty but desperate, she dropped him off at an animal shelter.

Chris Seger’s life as he knew it also ended while on a mission in Afghanistan, when he stepped on a land mine. A permanent ticket home — minus one leg. Stateside, after months of therapy, he found work with an understanding and flexible employer, but he wrestled constantly with PTSD, depression and the nightmares. Then a pal suggested he look into this new program: service dogs for the disabled.

Dan Walsh does an excellent job of taking us through Chris, Finley, and Amy’s lives as they struggle to start again. Then he brings them together in a winning story of forgiveness and healing. At the same time he walks readers through a great program where prisoners work with dogs, training them as companions for veterans with PTSD.

I found this a terrific, heart-touching book and shed quite a few tears as I watched the story unfold. Five stars from me.

Book Review Blogs

Welcome to the weekend, everyone! After days of cloudy skies and two disconcerting white blankets of snow this week, today we have sunshine again. Our birds are almost all back and we hope that spring has come at last.

On Saturdays it’s my goal to write a book review, or an article on some other blogger. Today I’ll cover both. Over the past few months I’ve met some interesting bloggers who do book reviews so, for those of you who are avid readers, I’ll post these links today.

Alyssa at “To Read Next” does a review on the book All the Light We Cannot See and gives it a “five-thumbs-up rating” (says Mrs Malaprop.) Click here to read.

The Redheaded Book Lover does a review the intriguingly titled, The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault. Read it here.
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And Sam has just started Bedtime Book Blog where she reviews the bedtime story books she’s reading to her five-year-old twins. I think it’s a great idea for concerned moms to share info on children’s books. Here she reviews the works of children’s author Roald Dahl

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Please note:
I haven’t read every post on each of these blogs, so can’t say I endorse everything these writers have posted, or will post.

Books: Pennies From Burger Heaven

Written by Marcy McKay
SkipJack Publishing, Dec 2015

2016 USA Best Book Awards Finalist, General Fiction

This poignant story of one street kid’s search for her mother has lots of danger and suspense, twists & turns.

Life on the streets of Remington, Texas, is rough and raw at best. It becomes sinister after Copper’s Mama, a homeless prostitute, disappears one morning. Her daughter, Copper (Penny), blessed with abundant nerve — and a good deal of scared — sets out from their cemetery “home” determined to find her. She heads into the inner city they know so well, slowly untangling the web of her mother’s past involvements, hoping one of the threads will lead to Mama.

If the reader doesn’t want to be dragged through the mire of a ghetto — the crime, drugs, gang wars, predators and hookers — then don’t read this. Language isn’t a stream of profanity, but there’s enough realistic dialogue. God, Jesus and religion get a lot of bad press. There’s your stereotype phony televangelist visiting ladies-of-the-night when he’s not singing “Amazing Grace.”

That said, McKay has been accurate in her portrayal of the living conditions among the homeless and the people who prey on them, as well as the confusion about religion that exists among those who never attend a church or open a Bible. Coming from a non-religious background as I do, I see the thinking of my own people in this story.

For me the real hero isn’t so much the I-can-do-it-myself, spit-in-your-eye Copper, but rather the Detective who tries so hard to grab this scrawny little alley cat who’s clawing, kicking, and lashing out at him and everyone else. He tries to grab her from the streets before her life is destroyed as her mother’s was. Copper suspects his motive for his interest in her: what connection could this cop have to her mother?

Thanks to some supernatural — you might say divine — intervention, this kitten is granted another of her nine lives. On one hand, you somewhat anticipate the ending, yet all the slimy twists and turns — and final revelations — are totally unexpected.

Marcy McKay has penned a sequel to this book; this hasn’t been released yet, as far as I can tell. Marcy McKay is a frequent guest contributor to The Write Practice site, where she gives tips and exercises for improving your writing skills.