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Sunday, May 29, 2011


Exactly a week ago we let the ducks go free.  Mature enough and with enough feathers, it was time for them to learn about their new home.  My husband was in Providence helping our son assemble the pieces of his very large master's thesis presentation, so I enlisted the aid of my friend Candace.

While Candace took photos, I unhooked the end of the cage and tried to entice the ducks outside.  They just quacked and ran back inside the shed.  I went into the shed to try to shoo them outside but they still wouldn't leave the caged in area.  After about ten minutes we knew they weren't going to come outside on their own accord so I decided to wait until my husband came home to try to release them again.  For their protection, I had to close the end of the cage and hook it securely so predators couldn't trap the ducks inside.  That was my big mistake.

Let's face it, ducks are messy little creatures.  When I grabbed the end of the wooden frame to put the hinged door back on the cage, it was totally slimy.  Ewww, as you can see by my face in the photo, I'm a city girl, not a farmer, so, of course, I dropped the gate.  When I dropped it, it swung all the way down and inside the cage and whacked a big chunk off of the elaborate water system my husband had built to insure that the ducks had constant fresh water.  No more fresh water meant that the ducks would HAVE to come out of the cage.

Since I had absolutely no intention of climbing into the cage, I propped the gated end back up and Candace and I beat a hasty retreat into the house and waited to see if the ducks would come outside.  We waited, and waited, and waited some more, but nothing happened.  Without any water, the ducks would have to venture outside at some point but it was like that expression, "a watched pot never boils."

Candace went home and I went back to my book, checking every hour or so to see if the ducks had come out.  Finally, around dinner time, there was a lot of quacking and when I looked outside, our seventeen new ducks had left their cage, but now we had a new problem.  The two ducks we adopted from a family in Basking Ridge last year didn't want to share the yard or the stream with our new ducks.  They turned into total bullies and drove our new ducks into the tall grasses on the edge of the stream and wouldn't let them come out or get near the food.

It's now a week later and our cute new ducks are still in hiding and the two bullies are still "circling the wagons" to keep the newcomers from getting any food or even venturing into the stream.  I think we're going to have to catch the two adopted ducks and relocate them, so if anyone is interested in two fully grown ducks with poor social skills, just email me.  We'd be more than happy to deliver them to you.

Friday, May 27, 2011


by John Hart

Abandoned by their mother, young Michael and Julian spent their childhood in an horrific orphanage and boys' home called Iron House.  Michael is the stronger and more resilient of the two and he becomes his brother's protector.  When Julian is bullied unmercifully and finally snaps and kills one of his attackers, Michael makes it appear that he felled the bully.  Michael runs away from Iron House and begins his new life on the streets while Julian is adopted into a good home.

In his early teens, Michael is taken in by Otto Kaitlin, a NYC crime boss, and he begins his life as an enforcer, rising in the ranks by doing as he's told and killing when needed.  But Michael meets and falls in love with Elena who doesn't know what he does.  Now that Elena is pregnant, he wants a normal life with his new family.

Although Michael has the blessing to start his life over from the ill and aged Kaitlin, others in the organization won't let that happen.  Michael knows that the mob will go after those closest to him in order to keep him in line and he's doing everything he can to protect both Elena and Julian, who he hasn't been in contact with since he left Iron House.

Adopted by a career politician and his wife, Julian has become a famous author despite suffering with a mental illness.  The skeletons in Julian's adoptive family's closets add to the stress Michael is under in trying to keep his loved ones safe and Elena at his side.

Hart has written an epic story of family love couched in a thriller.  IRON HOUSE is an enjoyable read.

Pub. Date - July 11, 2011
ISBN 978-0-312-38034-2
432 pages
Available in hardcover, audio and eBook

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Now that I've been reviewing and blogging for fifteen months, I know it's become a little difficult to find an older book review.  With the help of my friend and Massachusetts author Saloma Furlong (who's on her book tour in New Jersey this week), I've made some exciting new changes to Monarch Book Reviews that hopefully will make it easier to navigate your way around my blog.

You'll notice that I've added a search bar at the top of the page.  You can now enter the name of an author, a book, key words or even the name of your favorite character to find a specific book review. 

Additionally, if you type in the word "blog", you'll get a list of all of my personal blog entries. 

If you scroll down, you'll see that I've added a new feature on the left of the page that shows the most popular book reviews or blog posts.

I hope you like the changes.  Please leave a comment or send me an email to let me know what you think.  Suggestions are always welcome!

Thanks for visiting Monarch Book Reviews and happy reading.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

THE SNOWMAN - Insp. Harry Hole Series

by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett

One of the finest Scandinavian policemen, Harry Hole, is back is this new release from Nesbo. 

During the first snow of the season in Oslo, a young boy wakes up to find his mother has disappeared.  Outside of his window there is a new snowman wearing his mother's scarf.  Harry Hole and Katrine Bratt are investigating the disappearance when another woman goes missing during a new snowfall, and again, a snowman suddenly appears.  But this time, the killer has added part of the woman's body to his icy sculpture. 

Harry received a strange letter months earlier that made reference to snowmen and a serial killer from early in his career.  He realizes that the anonymous letter is connected to these new murders but he doesn't yet know what the connection is.  As the investigation and murders continue, it's apparent that the killer is taunting Harry personally.  With his bosses and the press breathing down his neck, the race is on to find the killer. 

Nesbo continues to paint Hole as an intelligent and intuitive investigator, but at the same time a lonely and damaged man.  Harry still struggles with his drinking problem and his relationship with Rakel is all but over.  She has moved on, but Harry is having trouble letting go, in part because of the sexual tension between them. 

Darker than Nesbo's previous novels, THE SNOWMAN is a stunning and complex mystery that deserves to go to the top of your reading list.

Pub. Date May 2011
ISBN 978-0-307-59586-7
400 pages
Available in hardcover and eBook

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


by R. J. Ellory

When Catherine Sheridan is found brutally murdered, D.C. Det. Robert Miller is assigned to the case along with his partner, Det. Albert Roth.  Miller is a complicated and lonely man who has just returned to work following an IAD investigation into an earlier case.

Piecing together information from other precincts, it appears that there is a serial killer on the loose in Washington and Sheridan was the fourth woman killed.  Each of the victims was found with a ribbon tied around her neck and a paper luggage tag.  Miller's team quickly runs into a massive road block when none of the victims can be identified.  It's as if they never existed. 

Determined to find some answers in their search for the killer, Miller and Roth start at the beginning and review all four murders.  Even as the police are beginning to tie the murders to the death of a police informant during a drug sting years earlier, there are more murders.  Miller's team is quickly ensnared in an elusive game of cat and mouse with a man named John Robey, who they suspect is the man they're after. 

Concurrent with the police investigation, there is an interior monologue by CIA operative John Robey that harkens back to the Reagan era and the war on drugs that adds chilling political overtones to A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE.    

Ellory has written an intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing right up until the end. 

Pub. Date - to be released June 2011
ISBN 978-1-59020-318-7
488 pages

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I've been reading more books from Scandinavian authors lately.  The following paragraph is a reprint from my May 4, 2011 review of Arne Dahl's new book MISTERIOSO which will be released in July:

Ever since I read Stieg Larsson's wonderful trilogy I've discovered more authors from that chilly section of the globe. Perhaps it's because of the long winters that force them indoors, or just that the Scandinavian publishing industry has decided to follow the coattails of Larsson's amazing success, but whatever the reason and lucky for us, intelligent and intricate Scandiavian mysteries have reached our shores in abundance. Jo Nesbo of Norway, the writing duo of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom from Sweden, as well as Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland have all produced solid and enjoyable mysteries and thrillers that have been translated for the English speaking market.

I recently came across a fascinating article written by Wendy Lesser for SLATE (the online current affairs and culture magazine) which was posted May 11, 2011, entitled:  NORWEGIAN MOOD, What Makes Jo Nesbo's Books so Addictive.  Having just read NEMESIS and THE SNOWMAN, both by Nesbo, Lesser's article couldn't be more timely for me.  Of course, I read THE SNOWMAN first, which is Nesbo's latest, and had to scramble to buy his earlier books.  Apparently THE SNOWMAN is the seventh in Nesbo's Inspector Harry Hole series, but not all have been translated into English yet.  Nesbo's books are, in a word, terrific! 

I agree with Ms. Lesser's points about the intricate and satisfying mysteries coming out of Scandinavia and translated into English.  I agree that they are on average better than most other mysteries.  And yes, like many people, I was blown away by Stieg Larsson's trilogy.  But not all great mystery writers are from the Scandinavian countries.  In defense of some of my favorite mystery writers, I'd have to include books by the following authors with a proven track record of at least three books as being in the same intensely satisfying category:  Andrea Camilleri and Donna Leon of Italy, Cara Black, R.J. Ellory, Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos of America, just to name a few.

But this is not a global competition.  Any time an author writes a deeply satisfying and intelligent mystery, no matter what country he or she is from, as readers, we all win!

NEMESIS - Insp. Harry Hole Series

by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett

I read NEMESIS after reading and enjoying Jo Nesbo's latest Harry Hole mystery, THE SNOWMAN (which I'll review next).

An Oslo bank is robbed and the thief holds a gun to a cashier's head.  He tells her to count to 25; the number of seconds he allows the manager to open the cash box.  When the countdown is exceeded by just a few seconds, the robber shoots and kills the cashier before disappearing with the money.

Inspector Harry Hole is investigating, joined by Det. Beate Lonn who has an interesting talent; she can remember every face she's ever seen. 

There are so many things going on in Harry's life.  His girlfriend Rakel is in Russia fighting a custody battle with her son's father.  While she's away, Harry has been contacted by a former girlfriend to get together for old times' sake.  He's determined to remain true to Rakel, but after meeting up with Anna Bethsen, he wakes up the next morning with a blinding hangover and no recollection of anything from the previous evening.  Harry's problems are multiplying and the story is heating up when he's called to the scene of Anna's apparent suicide that day.

Nesbo's intricate novel is as much about his imperfect and troubled lead detective as it is about the crimes he's investigating.  Harry is a recovering alcoholic who constantly battles his impulse to imbibe; something that is well known to police hierarchy.  He's also learning to work with Lonn who struggles with the ghost of how her father died in the line of duty.  Harry is dogged by Tom Waaler, a mean and narcissistic character and Harry's long time adversary.  Waaler wants nothing more than to take Harry down. 

Nesbo deftly weaves all of the plot lines together in a totally satisfying and intelligent mystery. 

Pub. Date January 2009
ISBN 978-1-616-83565-1
440 pages
Available in hardcover, paperback and eBook

Thursday, May 12, 2011


by Andrea Kane - to be released later this month in hardcover and eBook

Family court judge Hope Willis was just a small girl when her twin sister Felicity was kidnapped from their bedroom and never found. Now Hope's five year old daughter Krissy has been kidnapped and she's living the nightmare all over again.

Not satisified that the authorities can locate her daughter and against her husband's wishes, Hope contacts Casey Woods of Forensic Instincts to assist in the search. The police are also aided by psychic Claire Hedgleigh. While the police and Forensic Instincts are investigating, the family skeletons are practically jumping out of the closet.

Hope's father hasn't been seen in years but he shows up and admits he was involved in a mafia related money laundering scheme when Felicity disappeared. Hope's husband Edward has his own secrets and their nanny is hiding something as well; all of which send the investigation into different directions.

Despite the investigative twists and turns, THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE is a light mystery that's just too easy to figure out.

ISBN 978-0-7783-2984-8
400 pages

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

THE FIFTH WITNESS - A Lincoln Lawyer Novel

by Michael Connelly - available in harcover and eBook

Mickey Haller is using his car for an office, defending clients against foreclosure in this tough economy.  One of Haller's clients, Lisa Trammel, has been staging protests against the bank that's foreclosing on her home.  When the banker is found murdered, Lisa is the perfect suspect and Haller ratchets up his practice to deal with her defense.

Connelly still has Haller working with one of his ex-wives, who's seriously involved with his investigator.   He's added Jennifer Aronson to Haller's team, a bright-eyed, newbie lawyer who is the perfect foil for the cynical Haller. 

Lisa is a very difficult and unlikeable client who not only changes her story every time she speaks, but also creates even more difficulties for Haller when she hires a third-rate Hollywood agent.  Haller's life is complicated further by his relationship with his other ex-wife, Maggie, who's a prosecutor and friendly with the woman prosecuting this case.

Connelly deftly weaves the ongoing mortgage crisis into his new courtroom thriller.  I'm a fan of Connelly's, and I've read all of his books, but I have to admit that I'm more than a little tired of courtroom procedurals.  While THE FIFTH WITNESS is well written, the formula is old and worn. 

ISBN 978-0-316-06935-9
421 pages

Monday, May 9, 2011


Yesterday was too hectic to blog, but I hope all of you had a happy mother's day! 

Our son Robert and his wife Stacey came to visit yesterday to celebrate mother's day as well as Robert's 36th birthday.  Bill and Margo were in Rhode Island since Bill is finishing up his last semester of grad school and they weren't able to come down,but they made dinner for me last week in Connecticut which was so nice.

We all have funny and poignant stories from our childrens' childhoods and Stacey helped me remember this one recently.  (Thank you, Stacey!)

Thirty years ago when Robert was in first grade, we lived in Roselle Park, New Jersey.  He was a happy-go-lucky and precocious child who could read the newspaper when he was just two years old.  It was amazing!

Robert usually accompanied me on trips to the supermarket and each trip was fairly routine.  After one trip for groceries, he was very quiet on the way home and at dinner he angrily told his father and me that he was never going back to the A&P in Union again.  When we asked him why, he insisted that he "didn't like that man" at the supermarket, but he wouldn't tell us why.  His actual words were, "I hate that man"!  As alarming as it sounded, I knew that Robert had definitely, positively been at my side during our entire shopping trip, so it just didn't make sense.

Determined to find out who the man was, my husband convinced Robert to go back to the supermarket with him to see if the man was still there, possibly an employee of A&P.  Off they went and I wish I had a real photo instead of just a mental image of their trip; six year old Robert clutching the hand of his 6'4"  father as they marched up to the store, George ready to take this threatening man apart limb by limb.  They actually didn't even have to go inside before Robert spotted the man who had upset him so much. 

Supermarkets had just begun to place the framed advertising placards on the fronts of the shopping carts.  George brought Robert home and when they explained to me what had happened, we couldn't stop laughing.  There, on the very front of one of the shopping carts was an advertisement that featured Judd Hirsch extolling the delights of Yoplait FRENCH!  We discovered that Robert was so upset and angry because he couldn't understand why he couldn't read the words, "YOPLAIT YOGURT EST DELICIEUX".

Robert's love of language has never wavered and we began to buy him the French books featuring Tin Tin and Snowy, in both English and French.  Robert started French classes in middle school and continued through college.  He spent a year in college in France before obtaining his first master's degree in French from Yale University.  This past Christmas Stacey gave Robert an original print ad featuring Judd Hirsch in the Yoplait Yogurt ad, which she's going to have framed for their new home.

Thank you, Judd Hirsch, for being the catalyst for Robert's bilingual education, a role you never knew you played.

Friday, May 6, 2011


The ducks are now one month old.  We moved them to their outside pen where we'll keep them until they're mature enough to be released into the stream.  My husband is very clever and he converted our garden shed into a home for Huey, Dewey and friends. 

As you can see, there's an outdoor space for the ducks to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine and still be protected from predators.  At night they walk up the ramp to get inside by the glowing red heat lamp.  They seem to be enjoying their new home and some nights you can hear them partying until the wee hours.

I was in Connecticut this past week with my friend Sue Ostergaard.  My friend Candace Alderton, the ducks' godmother, was taking George to dinner on Wednesday when they called me to tell me that one of the white ducks was limping.  Our ducks have no political affiliation but Candace quickly called Daisy "the lame duck". 

George found a veterinarian in the next town with a fowl expert.  On Thursday he was able to take Daisy to their office.  After keeping her overnight, the vet discovered that Daisy has a sprained ankle (?!?) and needs to be isolated from the rest of the flock until she recovers which should take about ten days.  They provided a painkiller and anti-inflammatory that we have to administer with a syringe which Daisy isn't too happy about.  Hopefully, she'll make a full recovery and return to her friends. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


by Arne Dahl - to be released July 11, 2011

The powers that be have decided to use Det. Paul Hjelm as a scapegoat following his handling of a hostage situation at the immigration office.  Although Hjelm diffused the situation, it wasn't by the book and he knows he's in trouble. 

Fully expecting to be unemployed, instead he is picked to be part of an elite team  of officers from across Sweden; hand picked because of their ability to think outside the box.  The six member team is led by Jan-Olov Hultin and has been assigned the task of trying to identify and catch the killer who has been executing Swedish businessmen.

With seven different egos to deal with, it takes the team a while to coalesce, but once they're up and running they're quickly immersed in their task.  Following the theme of many Scandinavian novels, the team's investigation finds them wading through ties to the Russian mafia as well as dealing with the national problem of the Swedish  fear and loathing of immigrants.

Ever since I read Stieg Larsson's wonderful trilogy I've discovered more authors from that chilly section of the globe.  Perhaps it's because of the long winters that force them indoors, or just that the Scandinavian publishing industry has decided to follow the coattails of Larsson's amazing success, but whatever the reason and lucky for us, intelligent and intricate Scandiavian mysteries have reached our shores in abundance.  Jo Nesbo of Norway, the writing duo of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom from Sweden, as well as Arnaldur Indridson of Iceland have all produced solid and enjoyable mysteries and thrillers that have been translated for the English speaking market.  Award winning Swedish author Arne Dahl joins this esteemed group and MISTERIOSO is the first book in his crime trilogy. 

ISBN 978-0-375-42535-6
352 pages