Book Review: Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball

Cover for Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers' Ball

Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball by S.P. O’Farrell

Simone LaFray is an extraordinary 12 year old. At this tender age, she has been working as a secret agent for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Her mother is also an agent, and Simone inherited the keen observation and intelligence to become a good spy.

Adding to this amazing job, Simone’s father runs LaFray’s Patisserie, a celebrated sweet shop in Paris. Completing this family are younger sister Mia and bulldog Gigi.

Simone’s life is thrown a surprise when intelligence arrives that a famous thief is coming to Paris and may try to steal a painting from a museum. Agents from the Ministry are on the case, and Simone is asked to join in the effort to stop the thief. I won’t tell more about the plot, as I don’t want to give any spoilers.

Reading this book made me want to visit Paris and eat chocolate. Actually, the book provides an imaginative visit to Paris through the eyes of Simone LaFray, our narrator. Because of Simone, we get to see such wonderful places as the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay, and the Grand Palais.

And then there’s LaFray’s Patisserie. Famous for its confections, helmed by LaFrays for several generations. Simone’s father is now the chef, and he’s a whirlwind in the kitchen. O’Farrell delights us readers with the sights and smells of the shop so well that you can easily envision yourself in the kitchen, reaching out for a treat to enjoy.

This book is a treat to enjoy. As we follow Simone’s adventures, we learn of her thought process for which move to make next. We learn of her tender love for her family, her desire to help them, her wish to not stand out in a crowd (such as her sister Mia likes to do). She’s a capable spy, yet she is open to lean on more experienced agents for their wisdom.

Simone is a delightful character, and I had fun reading her adventures.


click click click
Jack buys gifts online
for friends and family
click click click
Finger taps
in a monotonous rhythm
click click click
All clicks and no play
makes Jack a dull boy.
click click click
Jack decides
to buy a new axe
to break the monotony.


Will it ever be possible to
convert ourselves to ones and zeroes,
then transmit our code like emails
and text messages flying with
blazing speed over networks
both wired and wireless?

We could be in Tokyo or San Diego
in a flash, rather than deal with
cramped leg room and bland
meals in airplanes.

Willy Wonka successfully
transmitted Mike Teavee in one
of his many inventions by
using television technology,
so why not the worldwide
web? Of course, there
was a sad consequence,
and poor shrunken Mike
had to be carried off by the
ever-helpful Oompa-Loompas
as they sang their rebuking song.

Also suffering was poor Jeff Goldblum
in The Fly as he found out what it
was like to try on another species.
So, too, when we return from
computer code to human,
would we pick up a little extra code
and become more computer-like
the more we travel this way?

If we do, then we would be
able to more quickly compute
income taxes and tips at
restaurants and surf for
silly cat videos without
a tablet or smartphone by
simply using the computer
of ourselves.

Book Review: Death on a Dirty Afternoon

Cover of Death on a Dirty Afternoon

Death on a Dirty Afternoon by Colin Garrow

Terry Bell recently quit his job of driving a taxi, since he inherited enough money to take it easy for a bit. However, there’s not much taking it easy when he discovers the body of his buddy Frank when visiting Frank’s house. Later, Terry returns to his apartment and discovers the body of his ex-boss Big Ronnie.

Terry is moved to investigate. To help out a departed friend and to clear his own name, since he’s a suspect in Big Ronnie’s murder.

I enjoyed Terry’s style of narrating this story. He comes across as sarcastic and hard around the edges, but with soft spots. His descriptions of things/people are often amusing. He’s closer to a hardboiled detective in a Raymond Chandler novel than to Poirot in an Agatha Christie story.

Terry tries to track down the killer of his buddy Frank and ex-boss Big Ronnie (ex because Terry recently quit work at the cab company). Us readers get to follow the reasoning behind Terry’s amateur sleuthing, and he gets in predicaments that a seasoned police detective might not. The story weaves in unpredictable ways. At least, I thought they were unpredictable. That had me guessing what would happen next, and I was entertained throughout.

I felt the setting was like a character in this novel with a cast of interesting ones. The story is set in a seaside English town, and the action happens in many different parts of it, each well described to give you a sense of the surroundings.

Speaking of local color, slang is used in the dialogue. Some words caused a delay in my reading, as I wasn’t familiar with them. I’m American, so I’m not used to the spelling. But after reading a while, I got into the rhythm of the story. Actually, the slang helped put me in the scenes. I wanted to hear the words spoken aloud — this would make a good audiobook. And a good TV series starring someone along the lines of Titus Welliver, who played Bosch.

If you’re a fan of hardboiled detective fiction, I’d recommend this book.

Smiling Octopus

With my poetry book nearly finished, I’ll be spending more time working on my blog. I’m going to try to blog every day, posting a variety of stuff: drawings, poems, book reviews, and flash fiction. Now and then, I’ll let you know what’s going on with my larger projects, such as when the poetry book is published.

Let’s see how many days I can manage with daily posting. I have some stuff already done, so I’ll be posting old and new material.

Today’s drawing is a smiling octopus: