Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Night Garden - Review

The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

The Pennywort gardens are famous for being wild and lush with rambling mazes a visitor could get lost in.  Olivia Pennywort is the custodian of the garden and has lived her whole life in Green Valley.  As she grew up she became more and more unreachable in every sense of the world.
Sam Van Winkle is as much of a part of Green Valley as Olivia but the Van Winkles are famous for being heroes.  Afraid he was the only Van Winkle who couldn't live up to the name and heart broken over the loss of love he fled Green Valley as a young man only to come back looking to heal.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I loved the cover at first glance and was intrigued by the magical garden.

My Impression:
Pros: The writing was beautiful.  The descriptions of the garden were lyrical and you could all but smell the flowers and feel the textures of all the plants.  The entire town of Green Valley is well fleshed out and the magical elements really work.  The characters have a lot of back story and a history together which adds a lot of depth to the developing relationship.

Cons; I never really felt like I connected with Olivia.  I understand why she is standoffish to those around her but it felt like she was so detached that I never quite connected with her.  I'm new to the magical realism aspect and I think I expected a warmer and overall happier book while this has a darker tone.

Overall:  This was a well written very descriptive book with fleshed out characters.  I didn't connect to it as well as I would've liked but I think some of the problem was due to my preconceptions going in.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, definitely!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I hesitate on this a bit.  While I didn't love it I think a lot of my issues were personal and due to expectations going in.  Maybe start with her first book?  I've heard wonderful things about it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dance the Moon Down - Feature

Dance the Moon Down by R.L. Bartram

First off here's the blurb:
In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father’s decision to enrol her at university that began to change all that. There she befriends the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future.
After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteers and within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria’s initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery.

Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustains her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.

Now it's no secret that I love a good World War 1 setting and when I saw that this book was inspired by journals and letters from the era I was intrigued.  When Robert Bartram contacted me about reading an excerpt I decided to give it a try.  I've found that sometimes historical fiction can read as too heavy and too emotionally wrought.  Given the heaviness of the topic that was definitely concern going into this.

With the first chapter and a teaser excerpt I found that wasn't the case.  While this isn't light and funny Victoria is a survivor and she's a fighter.  Bartram makes her become fully fleshed out within just a few pages.  Her reactions to some questioning felt genuine.  I only have one complaint - I didn't get to find out what happened next!

If you have an interest in historical fiction this is definitely one to look for.  I know I for one will be looking forward to finding out what happens between Victoria, Gerald and Lieutenant Fairchild.

Born in Edmonton, London in 1951, Robert spent several of his formative years living in Cornwall where he began to develop a life long love of nature and the rural way of life. He began writing in his early teens and much of his short romantic fiction was subsequently published in various national periodicals including “Secrets”, “Red Letter” and “The People’s Friend”.
Never one to let the necessity of making a living get in the way of his writing, Robert has continued to write for most of his life whilst holding down a succession of jobs which have included Health Food Shop Manager, Typewriter Mechanic and Taxidermist – Yes, you read that correctly.
His passion for the history of the early twentieth century is second only to his love of writing. It was whilst researching in this period that he came across the letters and diaries of some women who had lived through the trauma of the Great War. What he read in them inspired him to write his debut novel “Dance The Moon Down” and the rest, as they say, is history.

Robert is single and lives and writes in Hertfordshire.

Top Ten Tuesday - New Series I Want to Start

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday!  Today's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten New Series (from the last year or two) I Want to Start.

Now normally it's hard to come up with ten books or authors to fit whatever topic.  This week, however, it was hard to cut the list down to ten!  Some of these aren't the newest but they're all series that have come to my attention in the last year.

1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - I'm not much of a steam punk or YA reader but this series has had me dying to give it a try.  I love the fairy tale retellings mixed in with the steampunk stuff.  I'm hoping I'll love it as much as everyone else has!

2.  The Bess Crawfuord series by Charles Todd - English, 1920s, the first book is Bess trying to solve a mystery that took place in the past.  How can I not be reading this?

3.  The Hat Shop series by Jenn McKinlay - While McKinlay's cupcake series is good I absolutely love her Library series.  I'm looking forward to giving this new series a try.

4.  Consignment Shop series by Duffy Brown - I have a weakness for vintage clothing and really books about clothing in general.

5.  American Heiress in London by Laura Lee Guhrke - While not all of Guhrke's books have been homeruns for me And Then He Kissed Her is one of my favorite historical romances.  I have the first 2 in this series but have yet to start it.

6.  All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness - This is another one that I don't know why I want to read but I really really do!

7.  Charles Lenox mysteries by Charles Finch - I have the first one of this series for years and have yet to read it!  I read an interview by the author over at Bookwyrm's Hoard and really enjoyed what he had to say.

8.   Book Retreat Mysteries by Ellery Adams - It's a book themed inn!  It has books, it has murder, it has an inn.  How could I resit?

9.  Gideon's Cove by Kristin Higgins - I read some of a Kristin Higgins book and while I didn't love the characters I really enjoyed the writing so I'm looking forwarding to trying more from her.

10. Thunder Point by Robyn Carr - Some of my favorite bloggers are basically composing odes to her books and I have yet to read a one.

What series has been on any of your TBR for far too long?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Deadly Tasting - Review + Giveaway

Deadly Tasting by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

Rating: 3.5
Source: Blog Tour
Description:  When a body of an elderly man is found with 12 neatly arranged wine glasses and only one filled wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in.  With the help of the local police and his assistant Virgile, Cooker is on the hunt of a killer who has a connection to Bordeaux's complicated past.  As the bodies fall and the wine glasses fill up Cooker is racing against time and a killer.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  The premise appealed to me.  Also, how could I resist a book that mixes murder and wine?

My Impression:

Pro:  I was a little worried going in because this is a translation and my luck with those has been decidedly mixed.  However, I needn't have worried.  The writing style and pacing is smooth and this is a quick entertaining read.  There was a slightly formal feel to the book so that it read like a classic mystery which really appealed to me.  Benjamin Cooker is an interesting character - he's a well recognized expert in his field and has the ego that goes along with it - so I really appreciated the bit of humor dealing with the cabbage soup diet imposed by his wife.  It brought the character down a bit and definitely humanized him.  I did see that this was #4 in a long going series.  I haven't read any of the previous books but I don't feel like that was a problem.  While you do get the sense that this isn't Cooker's first case there isn't any knowledge that you're missing as a reader by starting at this point in the series.

Con:  While the book felt like a classic mystery the end took a darker turn that surprised me a bit and maybe didn't quite fit.  I would've liked to have had a little more setup to what happened.  Everything made sense and was fit the story so this is just a minor quibble.

Overall:  This was an interesting mystery series that I am looking forward to read more of.  If you enjoy wine, France and murder mysteries this is not to be missed!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely to any mystery lover!

For the Giveaway:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Post - Oct 19

It's Sunday!  Time to link up with The Caffeinated Book Reviewer for The Sunday Post!

What I Got:

A somewhat slow week with only one book from NetGalley!

Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper - the first in a new cozy series that I've been wanting to get my hands on since it came out a few months ago (paperbackswap)

Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams - while I've read another book by this author this is the first in a new cozy series involving a bookish Inn.  (paperbackswap)

House on Blackberry Hill by Donna Alward - This is a contemporary romance set in a small Maine coastal town.  There's a crumbling mansion, a ghost and a contractor so I'm definitely looking forward to reading it!  (paperbackswap)

A Haunting Dream by Joyce and Jim Lavene - I've really enjoyed the 2 books in this series set in the outer banks of North Carolina.  Looking forward to reading this one. (paperbackswap)

Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King - it's a cozy involving a book club!  I've definitely been in a cozy reading mood lately and this one sounds really good!  (NetGalley)


Reading:  The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen, The Bone Room by James Vitarius and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.  I'm enjoying all of them though they are very different books. 

Listening:  I've slacked off on audio books lately for some reason.  There wasn't time to listen while we were on vacation and I haven't gotten back to working them into my schedule.  I was really enjoying The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister and really need to get back to it.

Watching: So many shows!  I finished CSI:NY on Netflix and have started re-watching Criminal Minds.  I'm not sure if I ever watched a lot of these early shows so that's been fun.  I've also started watching Stalker which wins the award for show I really should watch while home by myself at night.  I really like the show but I don't like how they're making the main guy have stalker tendencies.  I like my crime shows without much character drama.  Still loving NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans.  We've also been enjoying The Middle and Modern Family.  The Middle really cracks us up because each of our kids is like one of the kids on the show to the point that even they recognize themselves.  It's extremely exaggerated of course but it's very funny.

Off the Blog:

The Tornado has taken to reading lately and it's beyond adorable.  The other night I went to check on him and he was sound asleep and surrounded by books and yesterday he was all excited about his bookmark.  It's fun to see reading starting to click with him.

Not much going on other than that.  I've had some allergy issues and have been spending some time at the dentist which hasn't been much fun though I love the new dentist I've started going too.  It seems I have a teeny tiny mouth and I have 2 molars that don't fit so it appears that oral surgery is in my future.  Not looking forward to it though I don't think it will be a big deal.

We went to a pumpkin farm today which was lots of fun.  They have all kinds of animals, this big trampoline thing and all kinds of other things for kids to play on.  We took a hayride out to pick pumpkins and ended up with 3 pretty good sized ones.  The Tornado wants to carve them with a Star Wars theme to go with his costume.  He decided he wanted to be Jango Fet from Star Wars and absolutely in love with his costume.  I've had to talk him out of sleeping in it 2 nights running.  It'll kind of be a miracle if it survives until Halloween.

On the Blog:

What's Gone On:
Monday: A new small town romance series - Going Home by Stacy Finz
Tuesday: The Top Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit
Wednesday: The first entry in the Asperger's Mystery series The Question of the Missing Head
Thursday:  Some Egyptian history with The Woman Who Would Be King
Friday: Linkups with excerpts from The Bone Room
Saturday: A Weekend Cooking Linkup with Recipes and Road Stories

What's Coming Up:
Monday: Review for Deadly Tasting - A murder mystery set in France involving wine!
Also, a feature of a wartime historical fiction that looks promising.
Tuesday: Top Ten New Series I Want to Start
Wednesday: The Night Garden - Review
Thursday: The Bone Room - Review
Friday: the usual linkups
Saturday: TBD

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Recipes and Road Stories - Review

I'm linking up with Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking.  I love food and books and so books about food are something I can never pass up!  So when I was contacted about reviewing Recipes and Road Stories: Life on the Road with Sisters Hannah and Caroline Melby I jumped on the chance!  Hannah and Caroline Melby are sisters who make up the Bluegrass duo HanaLena and have been travelling and cooking since they were in their teens.

I liked the layout of the book.  For each chapter there are around a dozen short stories and at least that many recipes.  The stories are loosely related by timeline and then the recipes relate to the stories.  There are recipes for everything from snacks, to desserts, to main dishes and everything else you can think of and the name of the person who contributed the recipe.  Some recipes (like Deer Steak and Gravy or Pickled Sausages) didn't grab me but there are others (Fried Oreos, Mama Ruby's Chicken Salad, or Inside Out Chocolate Cake) that I can't wait to try me.

I hadn't heard of this group before receiving this book and while I did enjoy the songs on their website - especially Picket Fences - I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I would have if I was already a fan or familiar with bluegrass in general.  There are a lot of names mentioned and many of them are probably pretty big names in the industry.  However, the story telling was so natural that it didn't feel like name dropping.

If you're a fan of this group or enjoy bluegrass music I definitely recommend this one.  However, get in the print version.  This is a book you want to pick up and flip through!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Linkups: The Bone Room

It's time to link up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

Book Blogger Hop Question:
You're going to Halloween party and you're going to take a book along just in case you get bored.  What book would you bring?

My Answer:
Well since Halloween parties are normally pretty loud I don't think I'll be able to fully focus on my book so I think I'm going to take a book of short ghost stories like Classic Ghost Stories by Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker et al or maybe The Canterville Ghosts by Oscar Wilde.  That way I don't have a long complicated plot to keep track of it.

Today's book is The Bone Room by James Vitarius.  Now I read the first 2 chapters of this medical paranormal thriller for a feature I did back in July (here).  I was thrilled when I had an opportunity to read the whole book and so far I'm really enjoying it.  I'm planning on having the review up next Thursday.

The Beginning:

"Dr. Ezekiel "Zeke" Oswald was sure that the bone was broken."

From approximately page 56 - 15% on my Kindle

"He had already drunk half a bottle of vodka when the phone call came."

So would you keep reading?